"There is more treasure in books than in all the pirate's loot on Treasure Island." - Walt Disney

Friday, August 18, 2017

Fiction Fallout and New Goals

Between taking a huge decrease in summer time work, and a larger increase in nonfiction projects previous to that, my fiction writing has been minimal so far this year. Aside from a few small pieces and a "flash fiction challenge" that I gave myself in May, my fiction output this year has taken a nose dive.

This weekend I'll be attempting to jump start my fiction goals by revisiting some old first drafts that have been collecting dust in my drawer, or on my hard drive. I'll be reassessing my goals for the rest of this year, something I do every few months. I hope you do the same. I want to complete several of the unfinished stand alone pieces, continue a series I let grow cold, and try a new genre.

I also want to get back in the habit of visiting with you, my readers and fellow bloggers. I must admit, I took a large break from visiting on social media this year - too much negativity zaps my creativity. However, I think I can safely return to you dear friends. If you'd like a visit, and promise there will be no rants, please leave a comment and link below.

By the way, if you are looking for submission possibilities check out https://writingcareer.com/

How are your WIP's coming along? Are you setting any new goals lately?

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Vestiges of Summer

As I mentioned previously, we returned from our summer travels two weeks ago - just in time for me to teach a week of writing workshops for our local Girl Scout troop.

Since I don't believe in giving assignments that I myself am not willing to do... I began writing poetry again. We tried a few timed writing exercises. It's been a while since I've written any poetry, so I thought I would share one with you. Here is a first draft  I produced in a 10 minute activity period. Thoughts and suggestions are welcome!

Pictures are of a few stops along this years travels from southeast Texas to southwest California and back again. You can see more photos on my facebook and instagram pages.

Vestiges of Summer

I travel this path of life
Always looking forward to summer
That scrap of time when I have my girls to myself
Not needing to share them with as many obligations
Enjoying our seasonal journeys across America
Dreaming of the days when our sojourns to different states
Will become explorations of other countries
Only when touring elsewhere
Do we see the true value of home
Discovering other creatures, cultures, and customs
Developing a true moral compass
Dictated by our souls rather than recitation.
New sights, sounds, sensations stir the imagination
Which way should we go?
One day I won’t be there to guide
Wintery shadows come to all
For death, indecision, and pain provide balance
I pray the beauty and love I share is enough
To leave you excited for your own legacy
Inspiring your mastery of voyaging through being.

I'd love to read your thoughts on this poem. Do you enjoy reading and writing poetry?

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

IWSG: Pet Peeves

It’s time for another group posting of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group! founded by Alex J. Cavanaugh. Time to release our fears to the world – or offer encouragement to those who are feeling neurotic. If you’d like to join us, click on the tab above and sign up. We post the first Wednesday of every month. Your words might be the encouragement someone needs. You can also join us on twitter using the hashtag #IWSG, or on the Facebook page.

Now, IWSG hosts have changed up the format in an effort to make it more fun and interactive.Every month, they will announce a question that members can answer in their IWSG Day post. These questions may prompt you to share advice, insight, a personal experience or story. Include your answer to the question in your IWSG post or let it inspire your post if you are struggling with something to say. 

Don’t forget to visit others that day to see their answers. Want to join, or learn more? Visit our - Sign-up List.

JULY QUESTION: What are your pet peeves when reading/writing/editing?

MY ANSWER - There are several things that bother me as a reader/writer/editor: 
1) When writers put two spaces after a period.
2) When another author/editor/agent doesn't get back to me in the time frame which they set or we have agreed upon.
3) When writers use the same words or phrases over and over and over and over again.
4) Cliches
5) When I catch myself doing the very things that drive ME crazy ;-)
What pet peeves do you have?

Monday, July 31, 2017

Wrapping Up Summer

Last week I taught a series of writing workshops to a group of third through twelfth graders. Some of them truly amazed me with their grasp and love for storytelling. They also inspired me to write several new pieces. I'm excited to see where those current inspirations lead me.

The kids were really excited to see each other again after missing their friends for most of the summer. Classes at the local school officially resume on August 16th, but many of them are already returning to the campus for summer football, band, and other various activities.

I'll be enjoying the last two weeks of summer with my girls. We still have school shopping, annual check-ups, and a few other necessities to attend to in the next two weeks. I'm sure we'll also be enjoying several more summer reads - I introduced them to the Harry Potter series for the first time in June which turned out to be appropriate timing as it's the 20th anniversary.

While I'm not ready to send my girls back to school yet (is that normal?), I am ready to resume a schedule for my writing. I'll talk to you all again on Wednesday for the annual IWSG post!

How about you? How are you spending the last few weeks of summer?

Monday, July 24, 2017

Swing of Things

I'm back from vacation and attempting to get back into the swing of things.

The end of a vacation is always bittersweet. I hate that I'm leaving a relaxing environment of no worries. I hate that I'm leaving behind family I get to see so infrequently. I hate that I had to leave behind the beautiful southern California weather.

However, I'm happy to be back sleeping in my own bed again. I'm happy trying to return to a routine. I'm excited about getting back to writing!

This week I'm teaching the local Girl Scout troop a series of classes on writing. Today, we covered writing poetry, short stories, autobiographies, articles, and essays. I enjoyed sharing some of my published works with them. In turn, their enthusiasm and own beautiful creations inspired me to begin writing some new pieces today.

I'm looking forward to the rest of this week when we will be working on novels, screenplays, memoirs, and cookbooks. In all, I'd say this is a wonderful way to get back to reality.

How is your work coming along? Creating anything new lately? Have you taught any writing classes?

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

I'm Alive!

Thank you to everyone who has been commenting or emailing me. I'm doing well, and enjoying some much needed vacation time with family.

I have to be honest though: I haven't been writing much in the last few weeks. I'm reading some good books which I'll share with you later, but for now I'm just enjoying time and experiences (you can see more photos on my facebook and instagram pages). I hope you are all able to do the same. I'll post again when I land back in reality. Happy Summer!

Are you enjoying any great summer reads, or new experiences that might influence your writing?

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

IWSG: Valuable Lessons

It’s time for another group posting of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group! founded by Alex J. Cavanaugh. Time to release our fears to the world – or offer encouragement to those who are feeling neurotic. If you’d like to join us, click on the tab above and sign up. We post the first Wednesday of every month. Your words might be the encouragement someone needs. You can also join us on twitter using the hashtag #IWSG, or on the Facebook page.

Now, IWSG hosts have changed up the format in an effort to make it more fun and interactive.Every month, they will announce a question that members can answer in their IWSG Day post. These questions may prompt you to share advice, insight, a personal experience or story. Include your answer to the question in your IWSG post or let it inspire your post if you are struggling with something to say. 

Don’t forget to visit others that day to see their answers. Want to join, or learn more? Visit our - Sign-up List.

JUNE QUESTION: What is one valuable lesson you've learned since you started writing?

MY ANSWER - learn all you can, keep writing, but always write for yourself first, and never throw ANYTHING you write away. Rules, market fluctuations, fan opinions, submission calls, and people in charge are constantly changing. If you write for yourself first, and don't give up, you will always be satisfied. Also, don't let rejections get to you. Sometimes it can take years to get a piece published - my record is 20 years later :-)

What valuable lessons have you learned?

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Happy Fourth of July!

I will be spending time with friends and family this weekend. Hopefully, I'll have a chance to squeeze in some reading and writing time as well. How will you be celebrating?

Reading any good books right now? Recommendations?

Saturday, June 24, 2017

IWSG: Offering Support, Education, and Opportunities

If you're not a member of the Insecure Writer's Support Group I highly recommend you check out the website at http://www.insecurewriterssupportgroup.com/  Voted as one of this year's best 100 websites for authors, they have a wide variety of offerings for anyone interested in writing.

In addition to regular blog posts to educate, encourage, and inspire you in the craft of writing, this group of writers is super supportive with social media, marketing, and connecting with agents and editors.

They have several such great opportunities this summer such as a goodreads book club where you and interact with other readers, writers, and ask questions of the author of the book the group is reading.

Submissions are open to all current and new members for an anthology on Writing for Profit. You can learn more about that here. Deadline is July 31, 2017.

Want a chance to pitch your manuscript or idea to agents and editors? Check out the Twitter Pitch Party: here. This will take place on July 27.

This is such a friendly and supportive group that I would recommend to anyone.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

The Write Support

It's time once again for the annual southeast Texas The Write Support. You're all invited to attend this day of writers helping writers. ATTENDEES will include fiction, nonfiction, and poetry professionals.

The Write Support
June 24, 2017
10 am – 4 pm
Howells Furniture Conference Room – 2nd Floor
6095 Folsom Dr, Beaumont, TX 77706

COST: FREE to all TGCW members. For all others, the cost is $10 at the door. Table space may be limited and will go to the first to reserve, please RSVP to Sylvia Ney. 

10 am – 1 pm              Bring your latest manuscripts and questions to share for honest feedback, and to encourage needed reviews. This is strictly time for critiques, edits, reviews, and general work on your manuscripts.
LUNCH                      On your own at your discretion. There are many restaurants within a five mile radius of this location.
1 pm – 4 pm                Come sell your books, and check out the work of others, ask questions, make connections, learn current industry news, or seek more critiques. This afternoon is geared more toward the publishing and purchasing aspects of writing, but anyone is welcome to continue to work on their own projects.

Hope to see you there!

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Universal Connectivity

Today I'm over at the Parallels blog talking about my 2015 short story "WIN", and how so much of what I foretold may be closer to a reality than even I realized when writing it.

If you have a chance, please stop by and share your own thoughts!

Monday, June 12, 2017

17 New Orleans French Quarter Literary Hot Spots

I’ve enjoyed several trips to New Orleans, but my most recent trek over Memorial Day weekend focused on literary locations I thought I would recommend. You can, of course, pay to take a guided walking tour, but I just chose to do a bit of research beforehand and walked along exploring myself.

Hotel Monteleone – 214 Royal St. http://hotelmonteleone.com/ – Popular among the New Orleans literati, this hotel lobby is filled with several window displays of books written by authors who stayed, dined, or drank while writing here. Among the alumni are Hemingway, Faulkner, Tennessee Williams, Eudora Welty, Anne Rice, and John Grisham. I suggest you peruse the beautiful displays and then take a spin on the slow-spinning Carousel bar.  

Art of Dr. Seuss – 716 Bienville - one of our first stops was quite by happy accident. As we left our hotel, headed toward Jackson Square, we came across this delightful gallery. I highly recommend a stop for any Seuss fan.

Steamboat ride down the Mississippi River – Canal St. in front of Jackson Square -   http://www.steamboatnatchez.com/ - Mark Twain wrote a lot about the Mississippi River. We enjoyed a three hour dinner and tour on the Natchez steamboat.

Preservation Hall – 726 St. Peter St. - New Orleans is the birthplace of Jazz. If you’ve ever read Tom Sancton’s Song For My Fathers then you might want to stop by the Preservation Hall jazz club where Sancton learned about the masters of this music which in turn spurred his memoir of a white male’s obsession with jazz in a pre civil rights era.

Faulkner House – 624 Pirates Alley, next to Saint Louis Cathedral – this former home of William Faulkner, Nobel and Pulitzer prize-winning author is now a bookstore. He lived and wrote here in the 1920’s during the height of French Bohemia. The current owners have lovingly restored this building and turned it into one of the premier independent bookstores in the country.

The Skyscraper Building – 638 and 640 Royal St. - Supposedly the first four story building in the French Quarter, Sir Washington Cable lived and set his 1873 story, “Sieur George” here, propelling his tales of Creole life to success. Ninety years later, next door, John and Lou Webb published works by William S. Burroughs, Jack Kerouac, Henry Miller, Allen Ginsberg, and Lawrence Ferlinghetti in their pioneering “Outsider” journal, and the first book of a young poet named Charles Bukowski.

Pontalba Apartments – formerly a mid 1920’s salon of Sherwood Anderson’s, Somerset Maugham, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Carl Sandburg, William Faulkner, and others congregated here overlooking Jackson Square. It is likely that some of the works which appeared in Double Dealer literary journal were originated here.

Antoine’s Restaurant – 713 St. Louis St.  http://www.antoines.com/ - Author Frances Parkinson Keyes wrote prolifically about Louisiana, but found her biggest success with the murder mystery Dinner at Antoine’s. This beautiful restaurant has been serving patrons since 1840. If you’re not up for the full, and somewhat pricey, meal there bakery can also be visited. We enjoyed a delicious and refreshing break at:

Antoine’s Annex – 513 Royal St. http://www.antoines.com/antoines-annex.html

Tenneessee Williams Homes – After a brief stay at 429 Royal St, the writer is said to have stayed in an attic apartment at 722 Toulouse St, in later years at 632 St. Peter St, before finally settling in a townhouse at 1014 Dumaine St. These locations can all be seen today.

Ignatius Reilly Statue – 819 Canal St. at the entrance to the former D.H. Holmes Department Store (where the book begins) - Ignatius J. Reilly is the main protagonist in John Kennedy Toole’s comedic masterwork A Confederacy of Dunces. In the novel Reilly bumbles around a slightly fictional New Orleans, running into a menagerie of local color. With the strong narrative ties to the city, it is no wonder that the Pulitzer-Prize-winning novel would be honored on its streets. If you look and find him missing, don’t worry, he is sometimes moved indoors for Carnival, or other highly tourist packed times. http://www.thedepartmentstoremuseum.org/2010/05/d-h-holmes-co-ltd.html

Bourbon Orleans Hotel – 717 Orleans St. – Quadroon balls are believed to have been held here in the early 19th century. In a system known as “placage,” wealthy Frenchmen were introduced to potential mistresses who were one-quarter African-American (Quadroons). Arrangements for financial support, education, and housing were reached here, and these socially accepted relationships often lasted for the lifetime. Accounts of this appear in many books, including Anne Rice’s Feast of All Saint, Isabel Allende’s Island Beneath the Sea, and Old Creole Days by George Washington Cable.

Anne Rice – if you’re a fan of Anne Rice or her Witch or vampire books, then you might consider taking the Anne Rice tour. http://annericetours.com/

Café Du Monde – 800 Decatur St. – Since 1862 many tourists and writers alike have enjoyed coffee and beignets at this famous café that is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Café Beignet – 334 Royal St. – while the above is probably more famous, it stays busy and loud. Some writers prefer this cafe which offers a larger menu selection, and smaller crowds.

Jean Lafitte Museum – 419 Decatur St. – one pirate who has inspired many stories is the notorious Jean Lafitte. While there are several national parks and museums dedicated to this privateer, one such locations resides in the French Quarter. https://www.nps.gov/jela/french-quarter-site.htm

Laura Plantation - This last location isn’t technically a part of New Orleans, but it’s not far from the city. Inside one of the slave cabins here, built in 1840, is where the ancient west-African tales of Compair Lapin, better known in English as "Br'er Rabbit," were recorded.  This is also one of the few remaining plantations that is not painted in the traditional “white” we think of, but is instead painted in vibrant hues often used by true Creole families.

Ever been to any of these? What are some of your favorite haunts in New Orleans?

Wednesday, June 7, 2017


It’s time for another group posting of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group! founded by Alex J. Cavanaugh. Time to release our fears to the world – or offer encouragement to those who are feeling neurotic. If you’d like to join us, click on the tab above and sign up. We post the first Wednesday of every month. Your words might be the encouragement someone needs. You can also join us on twitter using the hashtag #IWSG, or on the Facebook page.

Now, IWSG hosts have changed up the format in an effort to make it more fun and interactive.Every month, they will announce a question that members can answer in their IWSG Day post. These questions may prompt you to share advice, insight, a personal experience or story. Include your answer to the question in your IWSG post or let it inspire your post if you are struggling with something to say. 

Don’t forget to visit others that day to see their answers. Want to join, or learn more? Visit our - Sign-up List.

Did you ever say “I quit”? If so, what happened to make you come back to writing?

My Answer: There have been a few times I have thought about quitting. An overwhelming numbers of rejections at one time, a really MEAN rejection letter from a highly acclaimed publication editor, and a terrifying health diagnosis have all instigated periods where I quit writing at different times in my life. Yet, just like so many of you, I couldn't really quit. Writing is an addiction, a catharsis, and a passion. I'm sure I will continue writing until I die, or lose my mind... whichever comes first ;-)

Have you ever quit writing? Are you back on the wagon, or done for good?

Friday, June 2, 2017

Falling Short

In the middle of May I mentioned a new goal: Taking a spin off of Ray Bradbury's famous advice, I wanted to write 20 flash fiction pieces by June. I fell short of my goal. 

While it's easy to make excuses: end of school year madness, other unexpected deadlines moving up, unexpected health issues - the truth is, that's life. It would be easy to blame myself for FAILURE, and fall into a funk of depression which further induces writer's block, but you can't play the blame game with yourself. JUST DON"T! Evaluate what you've achieved so far, set new goals, and keep moving. 

If you're interested in how much of the goal I met:

- 5 COMPLETED flash fiction pieces which I submitted.
- 4 completed drafts ready for final edits.
- 7 extremely rough drafts needing a LOT of work.

That's 16 total, but I'm not sure if some of the first drafts will make it. I'm just not feeling them. I intend to keep plugging away, producing more, and submitting more. I usually produce less in the summer since the kids are home with me, and I tend to spend time traveling and playing with them as much as possible.

How are your goals and WIP's coming along? What victories are you celebrating? Are you setting new goals?

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Weaver's Needle

I just finished a truly enjoyable tale...

Weaver’s Needle is an enjoyable Christian Mystery book that begins in New Orleans, Louisiana and continues in the Superstitious Mountains of Arizona. I’ve visited both locations and enjoyed the author’s depiction of setting, her use of characterization, and the overall plot worked well. If you’ve ever enjoyed a good treasure hunt, then this is the book for you.

Landry Parker, former army MP, is a recovery specialist. Retired NOLA police officer Nickolai Baptiste is now a recovery specialist as well. These competitors are hired to track down a stolen map. Stakes are increased along the way as danger becomes increasingly real for both of them. The development of the story was believable and enjoyable with a very satisfying ending.

This is the first Robin Caroll book I’ve read and now I’m anxious to check out her others.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Barbour Publishing and was under no obligation to post a review.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Memorial Weekend Writing

It's the start of Memorial weekend in the USA, and the last opportunity to prepare a submission for a few anthology calls:

1) Southeast Missouri State University Press and the Warriors Arts Alliance have joined together once again to create the sixth volume in a series of anthologies about military experiences. The JUNE 1st due date is fast approaching. For more information: http://www.semopress.com/events/proud-to-be-writing-by-american-warriors/

2) Southern Writers magazine is hosting it's 6th annual short story contest. There is a $15 entry fee, but you have a little more time with this one since it's not due until JUNE 15th. Complete details can be seen: http://www.southernwritersmagazine.com/shorts.html

3) Chicken Soup for the Soul is seeking submissions for five different anthologies. The first is due MAY 31st, but if that's too soon for you the other four are spaced between now and October 31st. More information can be found: http://www.chickensoup.com/story-submissions/possible-book-topics

I'm not sure I'll be submitting to any of these since I'm currently finishing work for a few magazines, and working to meet my personal flash fiction goals (see previous posts last week for more information on this).

I hope you all enjoy a wonderful weekend with friends and family. Happy Writing!

What projects are you trying to complete? Any big plans for this holiday weekend?

Sunday, May 21, 2017

8 Habits for Becoming a Prolific Writer

I recently gave a talk to a writers group about becoming a prolific writer. Prolific may have different meanings to different people. After all, what number do you assign to prolific?

Is it someone who has written over 100 stories, but never shown them to anyone? Is it someone who has sold over “X” number of books? Or is it someone who can write in a variety of genres, for a variety of publications?

The truth can be any of these. However, if you are pitching an idea to an agent, editor, or publisher, they are going to want you to answer three very important questions.

1)      How does this project meet their needs?
2)      What have you published before?
3)      What other projects do you have in the works?

You don’t have to be the best in the business, or even a full time writer to become prolific. Keep these eight tips in mind on your journey to becoming, or remaining, a prolific writer:

1)      Volume - The best way to get published is to write – A LOT. Write EVERY day. You must commit to getting something new down each day. Set a goal, and increase it over time. The more you produce, the more you will submit, and the more you can publish. Sure, some writers have hours of uninterrupted time to devote to their craft, but those writers who produce the most volume don’t wait for those continuous blocks of time. They squeeze in ten minutes while waiting for an appointment. They draft a quick thought or idea on the paper they keep at hand, or on their phone while waiting in lines. Any time or place you might otherwise be idle can turn into moments of productivity.
2)      Outline – I’m a pantser at least 50% of the time. I always start with an idea, feeling, character, etc and write from there. Once I’ve gone as far as that inspires me, I know it’s time for a set of goals for the story, if not a full outline. This can help eliminate wasted time, detours, and full on writer’s block. Curious how the professionals do it? Review these notes and diagrams showing how some of the most famous authors of all time prepared their work: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2326630/Notes-diagrams-famous-authors-including-J-K-Rowling-Sylvia-Plath-planned-novels.html
3)      First Draft – give yourself permission to write the story YOU want, without worrying about editing, publishing, trends, or readers. Complete your whole idea before worrying about mistakes.
4)      Rewrites – it’s rare that I share anything I haven’t gone over at least FOUR times to check for clarity, believability, and fun. Then, I may have several others go over it before submitting. Even the best editors often need another set of eyes to offer feedback.
5)      Inner Turmoil – we are often our own worst enemy. Internal debates, concerns, and downright fears can take over and prevent us from moving forward as professionals. This can happen whether you’re a beginner, or a multi-published award winning author. The cure is to keep writing, have faith, avoid distraction when possible, and socialize with other writers for support.
6)      Read – A LOT! Gather inspiration, learn techniques, and find pure enjoyment for writing again when you read every day.
7)      Multiple Projects – too often we get caught up in focusing just on our book, or our current article, but the true sign of a prolific writer is someone who writes in multiple formats for multiple paychecks. Remember, the more places you’re seen, the more likely you are to get hired by others.

8)      Marketing – it’s all up to you! Social media, branding, and public speaking. Writers may be shy, solitary creatures by nature, but you can also be your own best proponent for success. Need some guidance on this front? Check out Hope Clark’s The Shy Writer Reborn.

So, what are you doing to become a prolific writer? Any other advice on this topic that you would like to add?

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Goal Update

Last week I mentioned my new goal. Taking a spin off of Bradbury's famous advice, I want to write 20 flash fiction pieces by June. I thought I would share an update for the past week.

As of today, I have:

- 2 COMPLETED flash fiction pieces ready for submission.
- 2 completed drafts ready for final edits.
- 3 extremely rough drafts needing a LOT of work.

That's seven total for the last week. While I'm proud of that, I would be prouder if all seven were ready for submission. However, I'll take what victories I can, and keep plugging away. I still hope to have 20 pieces before June 1st.

If you want to read about my original goal, see my first attempts at flash fiction, or read some thoughts on setting goals - click here.

How are your goals and WIP's coming along? What victories are you celebrating?

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

New Goals

I won't be posting here as much for the rest of this month; certainly no where near the 26 posts I had for April. However, I am still writing. 

In addition to the work I'm producing for several other publications, I have set myself a new goal this month. I'm taking Ray Bradbury's famous advice: "Write a short story every week. It's not possible to write 52 bad short stories in a row."

However, instead of writing 52 short stories in a year, I am going to attempt to write 20 flash fiction pieces by June. I don't have much experience with this length, but I have attempted a few. If you have time, and wouldn't mind offering some feedback, you can read those here:

Romance - Madame Tooshkas Spell
Romance - Masters in Love
Romance - Love's New Beginning

Horror - I've Had a Great Time, But...  

I've talked before about goal setting, new experiences, and how both can help not only your writing, but your life overall. To read more:

Take A Chance
New Experiences

Goal Setting
Reevaluating the Plan
5 Ways to Become a Better Writer

My article in this months Thrive magazine: 8 Tips to Control Blood Pressure Without Medication

How about you? Are you setting any goals, or trying new things?

Saturday, May 6, 2017

The Heart-Shaped Life and Devoted

I have not finished reading The Heart-Shaped Life, but I have enjoyed it very much so far. This is beautiful, hardback, and full of high-quality gloss pages. Every page is a devotion specific to each day of the year. I have found this book to be a beautiful love centered reflection of God and His will for our lives. While I have never before ready anything by Karen Moore, I am now very interested in getting my hands on one of her other books. This would make a good gift for yourself or a loved one.

I love that Devoted: A Girl’s 31-Day Guide to Good Living with a Great God is written by a nineteen year-old. Too often, books for young girls are written by mature women who become preachy towards teens and new adults. Jacksons book is written by a young woman experiencing the same issues as others her age, and sharing why she has made decisions for a God centered life despite the pressures, popularity, and even ease of other choices. As a bonus, each chapter features personal and group questions, challenges, and hand lettered art pages that readers can enjoy coloring. I highly recommend this for the young lady in your life.

I received a complimentary copy of these books from Barbour Publishing and was under no obligation to post a review.

Friday, May 5, 2017

15 Books for Cinco de Mayo

May 5 is Cinco de Mayo, a celebration of the Mexican army’s defeat of French forces in the Battle of Puebla. In addition to celebrating the day with chips, salsa, guacamole, and cerveza why not spend some time reading about the culture this holiday represents? Here are 15 suggestions:

El Perro Con Sombrero: A Bilingual Doggy Tale - By Derek Taylor Kent (author) and Jed Henry (illustrator)  Ages: 3–7
If you want to familiarize your kids with some easy Spanish words, there’s no better way than through the story of Pepe, a street dog who becomes a movie star when he acquires a snazzy sombrero. But Pepe, aka El Perro con Sombrero, has to watch out for his rival enemy, El Gato con Zapatos! Each page includes the story in both English and Spanish, so kids can see the relationship between the two languages.

Viva Frida - By Yuyi Morales Ages: 4–8
Frida Kahlo is the most recognized female Mexican artist, and her exceptional life is portrayed in an unusual way in this book,, in which Yuyi Morales combines ultra-short bits of text (“I see”) with mixed-media artwork that portrays bits of Kahlo’s story. Viva Frida was the winner of the American Library Association’s 2015 Pura Belpré Illustrator Award, which is presented annually to a Latino/Latina illustrator whose work best portrays, affirms and celebrates the Latino cultural experience in an outstanding work of literature for children and youth. It also received a Caldecott Honor.

Salsa: A Cooking Poem - By Jorge Argueta (author) and Duncan Tonatiuh (illustrator) Ages: 4–8
Make sure you have some chips on hand before you open this picture book, in which a brother and sister go through the steps of making their own homemade salsa. After reading it with your kids, you can see if you can replicate the book’s success in your own kitchen.

Papa Gave Me a Stick - By Janice Levy (author) and Simone Shin (illustrator) Ages: 4–8
From delicious foods like paletas and salsa, move on to music, and the tradition of the mariachi. In this book, Antonio wants nothing more than a guitar so he can join a mariachi band, but his father only gives him a stick. He takes it and sets off on a series of trades that’ll hopefully end with him receiving his coveted guitar. After reading it, see if you can make your own maracas or other instruments from materials you have at home.

Finding the Music: En Pos de la Música - By Jennifer Torres (author) and Renato Alarcão (illustrator) Ages: 6–10
Another look at the mariachi for slightly older children, this story follows a girl named Reyna who breaks her grandfathers guitar-like instrument called a vihuela. As she travels throughout her neighborhood to try to get it fixed, she learns more about her abuelito and the kind of music he used to play. After this and Papa Gave Me a Stick, see if you can look up some mariachi videos on YouTube to show your kids the real thing.

Sage Carrington: Math Mystery in Mexico City - By Justin Scott Parr Ages: 9–13
This book has everything: a smart and savvy heroine, STEM puzzles and a tour of some of the greatest sites in Mexico. To solve a math-related mystery, tween detectives and best friends Sage and Isabel traipse across Mexico with their families, stopping at sites like the pyramids at Teotihuacan, the temples of Chichén Itzá, the Olmec ruins of San Lorenzo and the island of Cozumel. This is the second volume in Sage Carrington’s adventures, which start with Sage Carrington: Eighth-Grade Science Sleuth.

Eddie Red Undercover: Mystery in Mayan Mexico - By Marcia Wells (author) and Marcos Calo (illustrator) Ages: 9–13
If Sage Carrington whets your kids’ appetites for Mayan mysteries, go for another round with this mystery starring seventh-grade sleuth Eddie Red. Red has a photographic memory, but while his parents are at a conference in Mexico, he needs to team up with a local girl name Julia to set him straight about Mexican history in order to solve a mystery. Like Sage Carrington, this is Eddie Red’s second adventure; his first took place in New York City for Eddie Red Undercover: Mystery on Museum Mile.

Gabi, a Girl in Pieces - By Isabel Quintero Ages: 14+
For teens, Gabi, a Girl in Pieces tells the story of a Mexican American 16-year-old in crisis. Her diary entries explain how she deals with her drug-addicted father, her pregnant best friend and her ultra-religious aunt. The novel has won a slew of prizes, including the Young Adult Library Services Association’s 2015 Best Fiction for Young Adults award and the 2015 Tomás Rivera Book Award, which honors authors who create literature that depicts the Mexican American experience.

Across A Hundred Mountains, by Reyna Grande Any
The realism of this story of a young girl traveling from Mexico to the United States to find her father can  be credited to to author Grande’s firsthand experience: she entered the United States from Mexico as an undocumented immigrant to join her parents in 1985 when she was 10 years old. The tale of Juana’s crossing, told in spare, clear prose, won Grande an American Book Award.

Caramelo by Sandra Cisneros Any
Cisneros previous work, which draws on her experiences growing up in a Mexican immigrant family in Chicago, is still a top choice for students and readers of any age. But in Cisneros’s 2003 novel Caramelo. young Lala is growing up in a Chicago-based Mexican American family when her parents decide to move to San Antonio. Written in lively language and infused with vibrant culture, stories, and humor, Caramelo is about as close as you’ll get to finding a fiesta in a book.

Before the End, After the Beginning -  by Dagoberto Gilb Adult
Gilb, who grew up in Los Angeles as the son of a Mexican immigrant mother, worked as a construction worker before beginning his literary career, sharing with readers a slice of life not often seen in contemporary literary fiction. This most recent story collection includes a brave, funny, and fierce fictionalized account of a man who wakes up in the hospital after suffering a stroke, inspired by Gilb’s own medical crisis.

What You See in the Darkby Manuel Muñoz Adult
Muñoz reimagines the filming of 
Psycho in Bakersfield, California, a town not far from Dinuba, where he grew up. He intersperses chapters from the perspectives of Alfred Hitchcock and Janet Lee with the story of the murder of a young Mexican American woman named Teresa by her white lover, events that play out at the same time Hitchcock is creating his fictional horror masterpiece.

Still Water Saints, by Alex Espinoza Adult
Espinoza’s debut novel tells the story of Perla Portillo, the owner of the Botánica Oshún, a store selling saints candles, herbs, and charms to help ease the problems of the residents of Agua Mansa, a fictional Southern California town. And boy do they need their good luck potions—their problems escalate throughout the book, which keeps readers turning the pages.

Night at the Fiestasby Kirstin Valdez Quade Adult
Her debut fiction collection, 
Night at the Fiestas, is set mainly in Mexican American communities in New Mexico. She writes unforgettable stories of characters at a crossroads, from an unmarried, pregnant young woman trying to maintain order in the office of a Catholic church, to a Stanford-educated daughter of field hands seeking some respect, to a down-on-his-luck man who portrays Jesus in a reenactment of the crucifixion in a New Mexico town.

The Miniature Wife And Other Storiesby Manuel Gonzales Adult
This is a smart, and funny, debut story collection which includes a story in which a man returns from work to find his wife “shrunk to the height of a coffee mug,” another in which a man who feels like a zombie from years of office work in a cubicle actually becomes a zombie, and one in which an airplane circles the Dallas airport for decades without landing.

How are you celebrating today? Have you read any of these?