Author of Middle Grade novels about friendship, family, and figuring out where you fit in.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Build Your Own Story (And Win One, Too!)

Earlier this month, I had the privilege of presenting to each of the third grade classes at a local elementary school. (They've always been so incredibly kind to me at that school -- I couldn't ask for more support!)

Rather than rambling on and on about how a book is made, I led an interactive activity called, "Build Your Own Story," where the students and I... well, built our own story.

I gave them one category at a time (characters, setting, what does the character want, what's in the character's way, how does the character try to get what he/she wants) and they raised their hands and gave me some really creative and brilliant answers! Here are some (abbreviated) ideas that they came up with:

Princess Sally, who lives in a kingdom made of gold, wants to find the treasure that's hidden under all the gold. But what will she do about the evil witch who tries to stop her?

Detective Looker is investigating a robbery in a museum when another detective gets in his way. Who will solve the mystery first?

A chicken named Bob dresses up as a human in order to go to school with the children in his town, but he gets caught and is sent home. How will he find a way to go to school when chickens aren't allowed?

They came up with great endings for the stories, too. I'm so impressed with the fun story ideas they had! "Build Your Own Story" was a success, and I hope to do more presentations in the future.

Another exciting event happening this month is the Goodreads Giveaway for WISHING FOR WASHINGTON. If you'd like a chance to win a signed paperback (giveaway ends Thursday, Dec 4th) then feel free to enter:

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Wishing for Washington by Shelley Sly

Wishing for Washington

by Shelley Sly

Giveaway ends December 04, 2014.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter to win

Any other interesting or exciting things going on lately? Feel free to share!
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Monday, November 17, 2014

There's No Place Like the Library

I mentioned a few weeks ago that I'm moving across the country. While I'm very excited and ready to move on, there are some things I'll miss about where I live now. One of those things is, of course, my town's library.

It's the place I always go when I need a change of scenery. I have a certain table where I regularly sit and do my work, and after a few hours, I pack up my stuff and wander through the juvenile fiction section. Sometimes, I'll grab a middle grade book and settle in a nearby chair for an hour. Other times, I'll just check out a stack of novels and read them over the course of a week.

The feel of the library is pleasant, too. There are lots of windows that bring in just the right amount of light. People are friendly (but quiet enough that they don't distract me.) It's comfortable.

These are all things I'll likely be able to experience in my next town, though I'll miss the charm and familiarity of this one at first. But the last time we moved, I was bummed about leaving that library behind. (It was a very spacious one with a winding staircase in the center of the room!) Just like last time, I'll move on and make my new library my new hangout.

The more I think about it, the more I can't wait to see what the next one is like!

So tell me, what are your libraries like? Do you have a routine that you follow when you go to the library, or do you do something different every time?
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Monday, November 10, 2014

Writer is Evolving!

If you think that's a weird post title, that's because it is.

I'm referencing the Pokemon video games, specifically the screen that shows your Pokemon evolving from one form to the next. It's a magical moment for people who play this game. The cute little animal they've cared so much for and trained so diligently has finally transformed into a more powerful and capable beast.

Writers evolve, too. But our evolution is usually less obvious and isn't accompanied by suspenseful music.

Sometimes, when I'm feeling brave enough, I'll go back and scroll through old short stories and manuscripts. It can be helpful to take a look at how far I've come. (It can also make me cringe and close the documents before I'm even done reading them.)

Here are some things that I frequently found in drafts from years ago:

- Excessive adverbs with dialogue tags. (Example: "What a fabulous idea!" she exclaimed excitedly.)
- Lots of telling instead of showing. (Example: "I was mad at him." "Her gift made me happy.")
- Forced, unnatural character introductions and physical descriptions.
- Unneeded banter that doesn't propel the story forward.
- Too many characters in a story, many of which aren't relevant to the plot.

And lots more.

By pointing out the flaws in my early writing, I'm not saying I'm a perfect writer now, or even close to it. Currently, one of my weaknesses is that I don't describe my settings as well as I should. (Thank you to my hardworking and honest CPs for helping me see this!) I'm also guilty of dipping back into my former bad habits, such as including extra characters and occasionally telling instead of showing.

But I have evolved. I'm better than I used to be. And just like the types of Pokemon that have multiple forms, I will continue to evolve.

Fellow writers, in what ways have you evolved?

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Monday, November 3, 2014

Moving On and Moving Away

The past couple of months have been very busy around here. We're working on moving across the country, and every step of that process (packing, doing home repairs, looking at houses on the opposite coast) has been time-consuming, but also kind of fun.

Anyway, that's my latest excuse for not blogging as often as I should. *wink*

But despite all the busyness, I've still been able to make progress in the writing world. I'm editing a MS based on CPs' suggestions (while also continuing to receive feedback from new CPs) and simultaneously drafting a super fun WIP. I honestly adore the projects I'm working on, and would devote even more time to them if I wasn't getting ready to move.

Even when I have no time at all to work on writing -- and yes, there are days like that when it's all about packing boxes and cleaning -- I've still got writing on my mind.

As I fill box after box with a bunch of my belongings, I think about what these objects say about me as a person. It's a good form of showing. I could write a scene of a character packing his/her own boxes and show the reader just who that person is.

When I flip through real estate listings, I think about the settings of future novels. So far, all of my manuscripts have taken place on the east coast, where I've lived my whole life. I can't wait to change the scenery!

I might be quiet here and there as I spend less time at the computer in the coming weeks, but my mind will still be wandering, pondering, and creating.

Writers, what keeps you busy besides writing? Does anyone have experience with moving a long distance? Any advice?
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Monday, October 6, 2014

Silly Ideas

The other day, I was deep in thought about something trivial -- I was thinking about how teens today communicate. They text, they Facebook message, they use whatever apps they have on their phones... and none of that was how I had communicated with my friends as a teen. I had a basic cell phone, but texting regularly would be expensive.

So, back then, we did what everyone was doing: we used AOL instant messenger. Boy, do I cringe when I think back on those days. (Any of you guys have a "buddy list" back in the day?)

Thinking about instant messaging reminded me of this dumb story idea I had when I was in middle school. It was called "Instant Message," and it was about an 8th grade girl who had the power to mentally instant message people. Well, no, she could only mentally message one person in the whole world: this boy in her class who she had a crush on.

I think I only wrote the first scene of this story before losing interest. Please don't ask me what the plot was besides a girl mentally IM-ing her crush during Spanish class, because I really have no clue!

But as silly as that idea was, I'm glad I had it. It didn't turn out to be a bestseller (or published at all, or even finished) but it was an exercise.

It may take a dozen ridiculous ideas before I come up with one that's decent, and that's okay. I even have completed novels that I consider to be exercises. I'm not ashamed. I've grown as a writer over the years, thanks to having a lot of practice. And I'll continue to do so.

What silly story ideas have you had that you ended up not pursuing? Did you use AIM back in the 90s/early 2000s? How did you communicate with your friends as a teen?
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Monday, September 15, 2014

That's Out Of Character

Several years ago, I subbed for a fifth grade teacher on a regular basis. I got to know her students well, and still remember most of their names even today. But one boy in particular stood out to me. We'll call him Travis.

Here are some of the things Travis liked to do:

- Make fun of his classmates and call them names.
- Talk back to teachers.
- Roll his eyes whenever a new assignment was given.
- Act like he didn't care about anything or any person.

I thought I knew exactly who he was. He was a bully and a troublemaker. It seemed like every time I turned around, he was doing something he wasn't supposed to be doing.

One day near the end of the school year, I was on my way to the classroom after having lunch, and Travis caught up to me in the hallway. He surprised me by making conversation.

"Guess what? I saw [whatever horror movie was in the theaters at this time] last weekend. Did you see it yet?"
I shook my head. "I don't really watch horror movies. I'm too much of a wimp."
His expression softened -- a look I'd never seen on his face before, complete with a sincere look in his eyes. "Don't call yourself a wimp, okay? It's not true. You're not a wimp."
He walked away.

Now, if I were writing a character like Travis, I would have thought the above dialogue was way out of character for him! This is the boy who called his classmates wimps all the time. This is the boy who had no shame in being disrespectful to teachers. But out of nowhere, just that once, he got all... nice.

Maybe there's a story arc I'm not aware of. Maybe something about our conversation tugged at him in a certain way, reminded him of something else in his life, and made him react the way he did.

I think of Travis every now and then when I write characters who seem like they'd be predictable, but could end up surprising someone in the smallest way.

Have you ever thought of real life people in terms of what they'd be like as a fictional character? Have you ever looked for a story arc in real life?
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Monday, September 1, 2014


So, once upon a time, I wore a lot of black. Who am I kidding, I still do! But years ago, I wore black clothes almost every day and was criticized for it. (Which only made me wear more black.) But anyway...

This book rocks in more ways than one! ROCK 'N' ROLL PRINCESSES WEAR BLACK by Kelly Polark is a seriously cute book that I can so relate to. Here's more about it:

Music class and recess totally rock, but being teased in school and ignored at home totally stinks. Stefani Lucas is a rockin’ sixth grader who loves music and dresses like a mini hipster in all black, but there's one thing cramping her style - her lame baby brother who manages to hog all the attention from her parents.

When classmates tease her about her clothes and even double dare her to (gasp!) wear another color, Stef decides a minor makeover may be in order. Can Stef change for others and still stay true to herself?

(Summary from

I liked Stef a whole lot. I'm always thrilled to see a female protagonist who isn't afraid to be different, and who shows readers that there are more important things than looking a certain way. And Stef was a good example.

Besides the characters, I loved all the music references. It's clear that the author really knows her rock! I admit, I'm not always familiar with artists that kids are into these days, so some classic bands were a nice change.

I think middle grade readers will enjoy this fun and fast read, as well as adults who wear a little too much black...

You can find ROCK N ROLL PRINCESSES WEAR BLACK on Amazon,, and Kobo. Check out Kelly Polark's blog, too!
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Monday, August 25, 2014

Emily Ungar, Author of LIBERTY BELLE, Guest Posts Today!

Today, we have a special guest with us -- Emily Ungar, author of the middle grade novel LIBERTY BELLE, which was just released on August 12.

You can learn more about LIBERTY BELLE below, but first, Emily's here to talk about her favorite childhood books:

I really enjoyed Shelley’s recent post on favorite childhood books. As soon as I saw her image of those familiar worn covers, I felt an instant comfort. I loved all of the Beverly Cleary books, Boxcar Children, Babysitters Club, Sleepover Friends, The Gymnasts...I could go on forever! Books have always been an incredible source of comfort for me. Back when I had more time, I prided myself on alphabetically organizing my bookshelf, and within the alphabet I would also organize by series. Because my family moved around a lot, books were things I could take with me that made me feel like I was at home no matter where we were living.

I’d like to share some of my favorite middle grade series and why I fell in love with each:

The Sleepover Friends (by Susan Saunders)

This was a lesser-known series, but I loved it. It was a contemporary book about 4 friends. One wanted to be a famous film director. Another only wore outfits with red, black, and white. It’s funny the little details about people that we remember. Reading this series as a 10-year-old gave a glimpse into the splendor of teenhood--shopping in the juniors’ section, wearing yellow leg warmers (eeek!), and roller skating on Friday nights.

Babysitters Club (by Ann M. Martin)

This series is classic for anyone born into the late 70s or early 80s. You have a terrific cast of characters, strong plotlines, and no shortage of babysitting drama. Plus, how cool was it that Dawn was (as she called it) “bicoastal?” The idea of living on both coasts was pretty exotic!

The Gymnasts (by Elizabeth Levy)

I wasn’t a gymnast. In fact, I’m terrified of even doing a somersault. But there was something awesome about the group of young gymnasts who competed in events and did things I couldn’t do, like rub chalk on their hands and fly around on the uneven bars or do a back handspring from a vault. Plus, in the Halloween edition there was a gymnast in a hot dog costume. Now what other book can boast that?

The Mandie Books (by Lois Gladys Leppard)

I didn’t read too many historical books as a middle grader, but I loved the Mandie books. The main character was a turn-of-the-century girl who along with her beloved Uncle Ned solved many mysteries. It was a really sweet and suspenseful series that I read over and over again.

There are so many other series and standalone books that I adored, and I wish I’d kept more of them like Shelley did. Thanks for walking down memory lane with me, and I urge you to revisit those innocent childhood reading days of reading your favorite book under the covers with a flashlight!

Thank you for sharing, Emily! I hadn't read the Gymnasts or the Mandie books, but I loved the others.

Here's more about Emily and her fantastic-looking book, which I've read the beginning of and can't wait to read more:

On the same day she turns twelve years old, Savannah moves away from everything she’s known in sweet, sunny Georgia to preppy Washington D.C. Not only will she miss her best friends Katie and Tessa, Savannah will start a new school. She soon discovers that her schoolmates love to brag—about their clothes, their parents’ governmental connections, and even who has the in with the school authorities.

Unhappy and lonely, Savannah decides if she can’t make life better, she can at least make it sound that way. Soon she is living in the childhood home of George Washington, riding in the limo of the vice president’s daughter, and even moving into the former Luxembourg embassy.

All is well until she learns that her true friends from Georgia are coming for a visit. Now Savannah must create the life she’s been talking about in her letters—and fast! Will Savannah find herself or lose her friends?

Buy the book here:


And also check it out here:

Anaiah Press:

Rafflecopter Giveaway!

Please note, this giveaway is only open to residents of the US

a Rafflecopter giveaway

About Emily:

Emily Ungar is a graduate of Indiana University, where she majored in journalism. After living in seven different U.S. states by the time she finished college, she now lives in Indianapolis, Indiana, with her husband and very curious twin toddlers. When she isn’t chasing after her twin boys, Emily loves to curl up in a chaise lounge with a book in one hand and a lemon cupcake in the other. Emily loves connecting with her readers, so she welcomes you to say hi on her blog at

Twitter: @emilyungar

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Monday, August 18, 2014

Dear Old Friends, AKA Childhood Books

During one of my most recent trips visiting my mom, I had the pleasure of going through an old box of books.

It felt like reuniting with old friends!

These were just some of the familiar faces I saw. I wanted to hug them.

Perhaps my favorite discovery was the very first book I'd ever read on my own (besides picture books and early readers): Ramona the Brave by Beverly Cleary

I remember sitting at my desk in first grade and opening this book for the first time. My teacher (one of the best teachers I'd ever had) praised me for challenging myself and reading above grade level. She pointed out that I was the only one in my class who wasn't reading a picture book during silent reading time.

This beloved book has my name on the inside cover AND includes little check marks next to each chapter title in the table of contents. It must have been quite a task to finish my very first non-picture book!

Which books were special to you when you were little? Did you happen to keep any books from your childhood?

(Please note that this is a scheduled post. I'm not around today to visit blogs, but I'll see you guys as soon as I can.)
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Monday, August 4, 2014

Writing With Chronic Illness

Hey everyone, before I point you in the direction of Misha Gericke's blog, where I'm a guest today, I'd like to share one thing:

My book, Wishing for Washington, has been entered in a contest held by IndieReCon. The category is Best Middle Grade Book of 2014. If you feel like voting for Wishing for Washington, that would be way awesome and I'd be your friend forever:

Anyway, onto today's topic...

I'm at Misha Gericke's blog today, talking about ways I manage to keep writing while chronically ill. Please feel free to check it out at:

Misha's got a very engaging and popular blog, so I encourage you guys to check out the other posts, too!

See you over there!
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Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Hello from the Revision Cave

It's dark in here.

I knew my manuscript needed work, but I didn't realize how much.

So. Much.

It's funny, before I started writing seriously, back when I was just scribbling down stories for fun and only sharing them with a few people, I didn't realize how exhausting and arduous the editing process is. I thought it was just like the editing process we had in English class:

Step 1: The teacher reads what you've written and crosses out misspelled words, adds in punctuation marks you missed, etc.
Step 2: You write a new draft, incorporating those changes.
Step 3: You're done.


I had a conversation recently, in the past few months, with someone who thought the same thing. This person isn't a writer, and they thought when I said I was editing for days, that all I was doing was checking for minor errors. Which is a part of the revision process, yes. But what I happened to be working on was not as simple. It's more like:

Step 1: Receive notes from critique partners and consider their suggestions.
Step 2: Rewrite your first chapter.
Step 3: Take out that scene later in the story that your CPs said wasn't working and write something new in its place.
Step 4: Rewrite your first chapter again.
Step 5: Change your character's reaction to an event based on the new scene you wrote.
Step 6: Now revise all of the later chapters based on the character's new reaction.
Step 7: Rewrite your first chapter again.

And it keeps going.

Never mind all the grammatical edits that happen later on.

But you know, I'm okay with being smack in the middle of this misunderstood and complicated process. I'm okay with wanting to rip my hair out because I can't think of a way to make this scene work. (Please remind me later that I said this, okay?) It's part of my job.

If this is a "rough day at work," I'll take it. Because this is something that writers can, and do, get through.

Anyone have any tales from the revision cave?
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Thursday, July 24, 2014

All Of Your Questions, Answered!

This week, my critique partner and friend, Kristi Wientge, interviewed me on her blog. She's a fantastic person and everything you could hope for in a CP, so I encourage you all to go visit her at Moments-n-between:

It was SO kind of her to do this, and she came up with some superb questions! Just a warning: my answers are a little on the long and rambling side. But we've covered pretty much everything. If there's anything you've wanted to know about the process of publishing Wishing for Washington, this interview is where you'll find it!
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Monday, July 21, 2014

The Way You Talk

Have you ever been in a conversation -- or overheard a conversation -- and heard someone say a phrase or word that just sticks with you?

When I was in college, I had a philosophy professor who had a very quirky way of describing things. He was an older gentleman, very kind and easy-going (and very forgetful... he gave us the same assignment a few times in a row... oops.)

We worked in groups in that class, and when my group (3 other girls and myself) was finished with our work, we'd talk and talk. Sometimes our discussions got lively and full of dramatic storytelling. Every time our professor walked by and heard us gabbing away, he'd always say the same thing:

"So much drama! What is this, the soaps?"

And we'd all laugh with him.

The soaps?

I love it. It was such a part of my professor's character to describe things like that. I wouldn't have immediately thought of soap operas when overhearing college students talking dramatically, but he did.

Something made me think of that class the other day, and I realized how we all have our ways of talking that are specific to us. I'm sure I have plenty of quirks that I'm not aware of. And if you're a writer, it's a good idea to be mindful of characters' vocabularies and preferred phrases, too.

What are some peculiar or interesting phrases that you've heard?
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Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Review of WISH YOU WEREN'T by Sherrie Petersen

If you love Middle Grade, love science and space, and love to be taken on an adventure, then please -- read this book!

A summary of the book, taken from

Marten doesn't believe in the power of wishes. None of his have ever come true. His parents ignore him, his little brother is a pain and his family is talking about moving to Texas. Not cool. So when he makes an impulsive wish during a meteor shower, he doesn't expect it to make any difference.

Until his annoying brother disappears.

With the present uncertain and his brother’s future in limbo, Marten finds himself stuck in his past. And if he runs out of time, even wishes might not be enough to save the ones he loves.

WISH YOU WEREN'T by Sherrie Petersen is the kind of book that stays in my mind long after I've read it. The characters were very real to me and their dialogue was fun and humorous. Marten, the main character, is easy to relate to, and his little brother is exactly the kind of little brother you'd see in real life (you know, cute and annoying at the same time.) I think my favorite character was Marten's best friend, Paul, who reminds me a bit of myself. I enjoyed the characters' adventure and can't wait to read more by the author!

I gave this book 5 out of 5 stars on Goodreads, and highly recommend it!

Check out the book on Amazon here, or learn more at Sherrie's website.
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Thursday, July 3, 2014

The Paperback Is Out!

Just letting you guys know that Wishing for Washington is now available as a paperback!

(Yup, those are my copies!)

The back cover is all pretty with clouds and stars and stuff. And it feels amazing. Like, the smoothest book I've ever touched. But I might just be biased.

Anyway, if you or someone you know would like a copy, you can find it on Amazon!

Now that my book baby is out of my hands, I'm focusing on other projects. Editing one manuscript while drafting another. Fun!

What is everyone working on this summer?
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Sunday, June 29, 2014

Gift Ideas for Writers

(Said in announcer voice) "Do you have a friend or family member who is a writer? Are you struggling to figure out what kind of gift to give them for their birthday or a holiday? Well, struggle no more!"

My birthday was last week, and my family gave me the most fun and creative gifts! So, if you need a gift for the writer in your life, here are some ideas:

My mom bought me a WRITER T-shirt and WRITER tote bag! I can't wait to show off to everyone that I do what I love. They're from the TV show Castle, which I also recommend to writers.

My sister gave me a bunch of writer-related goodies. Besides a cute notepad, lined paper for lists, and neat-looking pen, I also got...

...some magnetic poetry, to give me ideas when I'm stuck on a scene, and...

...a notepad for when I get ideas in the shower! Holy cow, I've been saying for years that I need this!

I encourage you all to Google these items and consider them for either yourself or a writer friend. I know I look forward to using them!

But one gift I received that you can't buy came from my grandmother.

She made me a ceramic girl who is reading a copy of Wishing for Washington! Yes, she printed out the front and back covers of my book and glued them on! And that's not all...

...even the inside of the book is the dedication and first page of Wishing for Washington! My grandmother is so creative. I'm in awe.

So, needless to say, I have the most thoughtful family ever, and I love them.

What are some gift ideas for writers that you've seen, received, or come up with yourself?
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Monday, June 23, 2014

What Would We Do Without Our Friends?

Sharing a book with the world can be a scary thing. You've worked so hard on it, and then it's time to release it into the wild. It's out of your hands.

But something that makes publishing a book much less scary is the support of friends and family. I'm so grateful for the people in my life, for the encouragement they've provided and enthusiasm they've shown. I couldn't do it without them. (Which is why my acknowledgements section is so long -- a lot of people have helped me on this journey!)

I'm also very thankful for my fellow writers. My blog and Twitter buddies have helped me in many ways: providing feedback, cheering me on, giving advice, and overall reminding me that writing does not have to be solitary. We can share this process instead of feeling lonely.

Two writer friends in particular have been super generous and have featured WISHING FOR WASHINGTON on their blogs:

- Jemi Fraser, who is always above and beyond sweet and always does so much for others. She's been such a lovely friend and is such a positive presence in the online writing world. Everyone who knows her can agree -- and if you don't know her, please go check out her blog!

- Beth Fred, who has beta read for me and provided really good feedback. She's also someone I can talk to about whatever's going on in my life, and who has given me great insight into the indie publishing world. She's always kind enough to feature other writers on her blog and has some thoughtful posts, so I also recommend checking out her blog!

A giant Thank You to many others who have tweeted, shared on Facebook, added on Goodreads, and all the other amazing things you guys do! I appreciate every single thing. Really.

* While we're talking promotion, I am eager to feature more MG and YA books on my blog, so if you or someone you know is interested in promoting your/their book, just comment or send me an email. *

So tell me, in what ways have your friends (or family or writing community) been helpful or invaluable to you?
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Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Wishing for Washington is now on!

I know the official release date for the e-book was supposed to be June 18, but yesterday I decided I'd play around on Amazon. The mobi (Kindle) formatting was all done, and there was nothing stopping me from actually publishing it.

So I did.

If you're interested, you can check it out here. If you're not sure if you'd like it or not, you can read a sample on

I kept thinking I still had a week before the release (though I guess I could have waited a week before fiddling with Amazon), so I wasn't really prepared to announce it today. It definitely feels surreal.

The Nook version and print version are still in the works, but both will definitely release this summer. Then we'll see if I can format the book for iTunes. I've got a busy month ahead!

What summer releases do you guys have your eye on? I've got a long To-Read list, but I'm always looking to add to it. (Has anyone with a long list actually made significant progress? If so, can I borrow your reading superpowers?)

P.S. Some of you guys offered to blog about the book, which is awesome. I'll be emailing you soon with all the info.
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Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Review of BINGO SUMMER by Dawn Malone

Middle Grade is my favorite genre by far, and though I don't have the opportunity to blog about every single MG book I read, I do want to make a point of sharing ones that really stand out to me.

BINGO SUMMER by Dawn Malone is a book I wanted to blog about even before I finished it. Not only because Dawn and I are email buddies, but because I can picture many different kinds of readers, kid and adult, who would love this book! The story is fascinating (what kid -- or adult -- doesn't dream about winning the lottery and getting rich?) and the characters and voice are spot on. Since Summer, the main character, is in eighth grade, this book would appeal to older tweens/young teens as well as kids in elementary school.

A summary of the book, taken from

On her thirteenth birthday, Summer Haas scratches the lottery ticket her mom tucked into her birthday card and the down-on-their-luck family become instant millionaires. Then the attention gets crazy in their small Illinois town, and the family moves north to ‘disappear’ in the Chicago suburbs. Summer’s new home might as well be on the Moon, it’s so different from where she used to live.

Suddenly, Summer is a candidate for student council, trades her t-shirt and jeans for mall-brand clothes, and throws a party for her entire grade even though she didn't invite a single guest. Everyone wants Summer to be someone other than herself, including the super-popular Suri who Summer hopes will be her new best friend. There’s Mara who wants Summer to forget about competing with her for third base when softball season comes. And Summer just wants to avoid Dink and Anna even though she has more in common with them than she wants to admit.

But when Mara discovers how Summer’s family made their millions, and threatens to tell the whole school, Summer needs a friend more than ever. Can Summer fit in AND stay true to herself?

Check out the book on Amazon here! (Or if you want to hear more gushing, read my Goodreads review here)
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Monday, May 19, 2014

How Do You Read e-Books?

Hi friends, before I talk about today's topic, I wanted to let you know that WISHING FOR WASHINGTON is now on Goodreads! You can add it to your To-Read list if you'd like.

Today, I have a question for anyone who reads e-books: What kind of device do you use to read them? Do you have a Kindle, Nook, iPad, or another device?

I'm wondering because I'm in the final stages of formatting my e-book, and I've noticed some subtle differences between mobi (Kindle) and epub (Nook). Due to these differences, the mobi version has been much easier to code than the epub, so the Kindle version might release earlier than the Nook. (But I'm actively working on the epub version to try to release them at the same time.) I haven't begun to format the book for iTunes, but that's something I plan on doing as well.

So, I was wondering which devices you all use, and if any non-Kindle users feel like they miss out if e-books are Kindle exclusive?

For the record, I read e-books via the Kindle app on both my iPad and my Android phone. Even though I like reading on the iPad better, I read most often on my phone.

And, of course, I still read print books. Gotta love the feel of a book in your hands!

EDIT: As Nick reminded me in the comments, I do plan on having a paperback version of WISHING FOR WASHINGTON available in addition to the e-books. The paperback will just release later. (Tentative date: July 2).
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Wednesday, May 7, 2014


I announced a few posts ago that I have a middle grade novel coming out called WISHING FOR WASHINGTON. And that's basically all I announced.

So, without further delay, here's everything else about WISHING FOR WASHINGTON! Starting with... the cover:

Isn't it pretty? It's all thanks to Steven Novak of Novak Illustration! He's got some amazing skills! (You can click on the image for a larger version, if you'd like.)

So, what's WISHING FOR WASHINGTON all about? Here's the summary:

As punishment for playing doorbell ditch, twelve-year-old Tallia Thompson and her goofball brother Isaiah are shipped off to their grandparents’ house for half the summer. There’s nothing fun about being stuck in Maryland, a.k.a. Snore-a-land, except for one thing: the close proximity to Washington, D.C.

Tallia would do anything for Isaiah, and what he wants most is to meet the President of the United States. So together, they formulate a plan to get to the White House--a plan that involves spending a bit of money and concocting a bunch of lies. And, ultimately, a plan that ends up changing Tallia’s perception of her family forever.

The tentative release dates are June 18 for ebook and July 2 for paperback. As I mentioned in a previous post, my chronic illnesses can sometimes slow me down, so these dates are just estimates for now. I'll let you know closer to the time if we're still on schedule.

(If you're interested in blogging about the book sometime around the release dates, please let me know! I'd be happy to promote your blog or book in return!)

Thanks for stopping by and checking out my cover! Any other sweet cover releases going on lately? I'm a real fan of pretty-looking books!
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Monday, April 28, 2014

No Spoilers, Please!

Before I get to today's subject, I just want to let you guys know that I now have a Facebook Page! I'm not asking you guys to "like" it or anything, but if you do, please feel free to plug your own Page's URL in the comments so I can "like" you back.

So, several months ago, I was browsing Twitter when I saw a tweet about a TV show I watch. The tweet said something along the lines of:

OMG I can't believe [CHARACTER] was killed off on last night's episode of [TV SHOW]!!

...and I hadn't yet seen the episode. Thanks for the spoilers, random Twitter person. You're un-followed. (Not really, but I was momentarily annoyed enough that I considered it.)

The thing is, yeah, it was pretty lousy. I was really into that TV show and wish I could have experienced the shock of this character dying without hearing about it beforehand. The episode was ruined for me.

But when I was finally over it (weeks later...), I realized that being sensitive about spoilers is a good thing. It means that we care about the story. We're invested. And as a creator of stories, it always makes me happy when people appreciate a writer's work. In the case of this TV show, while I love the acting, it's really the writing that draws me in. I wanted to completely immerse myself in the script writers' world and feel emotions as if the events actually happened.

Now, when I hear someone say, "No spoilers, please!" I know how important that is. And I won't spoil anything. I promise.

Have you ever had anything spoiled for you? How did it happen? (Remember not to give away what the spoiler was, if it's something that fellow readers might not have seen/read yet.)
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Monday, April 14, 2014

So... I Have A Book Coming Out!

Yup, you read the title right!

I unofficially announced this on Twitter last week, but here's the official post:

My debut middle grade novel, WISHING FOR WASHINGTON, will be released this summer through my small business, Frolloway Press.

Woo hoo!!

I know it's all pretty vague right now, but trust me, more details will be coming soon, including the actual release date and a summary. I'm working on a whole bunch of things at once right now. And you know what? I love it.

My decision to self-publish was one I made over the course of many months. Actually, close to a year. I wasn't necessarily set on self-publishing this particular book from the start, but I became quietly interested in the idea of going indie a while ago. A few factors contributed to this:

1) The biggest reason is that, as regular/long-time readers know, I'm chronically ill. I have been on a sickening rollercoaster the past two years, going from doctor to doctor, hospital to hospital, taking a year off work and then finally cautiously returning to a part time job.

I'm sure there are traditionally published writers who are also chronically ill who still manage to do everything just fine. I, personally, felt like I couldn't make a promise to meet deadlines and carry out responsibilities, not knowing if I'd suddenly get hit with a few weeks or months of daily pain. I wanted the freedom of being my own boss. I still have self-made deadlines that I've been meeting so far, but it's a lot less pressure for me this way.

2) I like to be in control. I guess this goes along with the feeling of not having control when your health stinks, but I'm okay with giving up some pretty "big" things, like having my book on store shelves, if it means I can decide things that are more important to me. The exact day my book releases. What exactly my cover looks like. How soon to release a second book.

I have a business plan (including a marketing plan) and a calendar filled out for the next eight to ten months. And it feels awesome to plan all that out!

I can't wait to share more with you all as it unfolds. I appreciate the support I've receive so far, too. You guys are great!

ONE LAST THING: My book isn't the only one to release in 2014, obviously. So, instead of making this all about me, me, me... feel free to share any other 2014 releases you're excited about!
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Monday, March 24, 2014

Why Did You Love That Book?

I've been thinking a lot about the books that children choose to read. I work with kids, and it's always interesting to see which books they take out of the library, buy at the book fair, or borrow from their teacher.

Everyone has different tastes. I've seen kids reading fantasy, adventure stories, contemporary stories, graphic novels, joke books, and various other non-fiction books. (The girls seem to prefer how-to books on crafts, while the boys seem to gravitate toward non-fiction about things like sharks and spiders, from what I've noticed.)

No single book is going to attract everyone, and no reader is going to love every book.

With that in mind, I've thought about which books really grabbed me as a kid. I can't narrow it down to just one book, but there were three series that I absolutely loved:

1) The Babysitter's Club

2) Sweet Valley Twins

3) Abby Jones, Junior Detective Mysteries

I enjoyed the first two because they were familiar. They were longer series that featured the same characters over and over, so I felt like I knew the babysitters and the Wakefield twins in real life.

But the third series was short, only three books. I read them over and over. I really connected with the main character, Abby, and I basically wanted to be her. (I went through a very short phase where I considered being a detective when I grew up, all because of those books.)

I'd love to hear what your favorite books were as a kid, and why you loved them so much. Did the characters feel like old friends? Was the setting or situation something you would have liked to experience yourself?
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Monday, March 10, 2014

You Share A Name With My Character!

I've recently made a new acquaintance who shares a name with one of my characters. One of my favorite characters, in fact. It's not an insanely uncommon name, but it's not one you hear everywhere. So, when this person introduced himself, I might have been grinning like an idiot. Which might have been creepy.

If you're a writer, you probably understand this. Our characters feel real. We think of them just as often as we think about actual people in our lives. It's part of the job.

If you're not a writer, this might sound weird. It might sound like no big deal, like someone sharing a name with an imaginary friend you had as a kid. Or a stuffed animal, or a doll, or whatever. But a character (especially a major character) is more than that. Think of them as the toy you loved. Maybe that one doll you had to bring to the table for every meal, or that stuffed animal that you dragged around by its ears since you were a toddler.

That special one.

That's what characters are like to some writers.

We don't always have physical representations of our characters, (unless our books have been made into movies, and there's merchandise to go along with it, but that's not majority of writers), so it's hard to express how significant these fictional beings are to us. We don't have a string of wallet photos like people do for children or grandchildren. (Is that still a thing these days, with smartphones and all?) We don't have many ways to show it.

So believe us when we say, it is usually totally awesome when we find out that you share a name with one of our characters. It might make us smile like we're morons. Just go along with it, okay? We appreciate it when you understand.

Any writers or non-writers have any related experiences to share?
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Monday, February 17, 2014

Overheard Conversations

A few years ago, I was heading into a Subway restaurant when I overheard the conversation of two people passing by. They were a father and daughter; the girl was maybe 5 or 6 years old.

"Daddy, let's get Subway!" she said.

"No, sweetie," he responded. "Daddy doesn't like Subway."

The little girl gasped. "How come you don't like Subway?"

"Because," he said, a firmness in his voice, "Daddy just doesn't like it, okay? Just like how Daddy doesn't like..."

That was all I heard. They were out of my range of hearing, and I was about to open the door to Subway, anyway.

Like I said, that was a few years ago, but it is still bugging me that I didn't hear the rest. Why doesn't he like Subway? What was he going to compare it to? "Just like how Daddy doesn't like..." What? McDonald's? Burger King? Something else, maybe, that isn't a fast food restaurant?

Overhearing conversations is one of my favorite ways to get ideas for characters. I don't go around eavesdropping on people, but I do love when I happen to be around interesting people while going about my business. The "Subway" man and daughter haven't inspired me to write anything in particular, but other situations have.

If nothing else, it's helpful to pay attention to the rhythm of a conversation. How long of a pause is there between each person speaking? Do they cut each other off? Do they make sounds like sighing or grunting in their dialogue?

And if I only hear part of a conversation, maybe it's better that way. I can fill in the rest.

"Daddy just doesn't like it, okay? Just like how Daddy doesn't like Quiznos. Sandwiches are evil, you know that."

Anyone else enjoy overhearing conversations? Have you gotten any good ideas that way?
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Monday, January 27, 2014

My Characters Now Eat Seafood (Re-Post)

I'm going through old blog posts from the archives and have decided to re-post a few. Here is one from 2010:

I hate seafood. It's unfortunate, because I live in such a seafood-loving area. I've never been able to stand the smell and the texture of the food. Luckily, I married a man who doesn't like seafood either, so I'm not forced to be around someone else eating it in the house.

Because I find seafood so repulsive (no offense to those who enjoy it, which is most of the world, I think), I never wanted to make my characters eat it. I couldn't stand to write something like, "the waiter brought them their food, the smell of FISH wafting through the air..." because, ick, I don't think I could finish the scene. My characters aren't me, and thus, they don't have to hate seafood too. But it was much more convenient for me if they did hate it, so I wouldn't have to write about it.

But unfortunately for my sad, picky-eating self, I wrote a story in which the main characters love fish, and for a reason. My latest story (well, back in 2010... remember, this is a re-post) is about pets who can communicate with humans. There's a scene where the human protagonist eats lunch with a group of animals. The dogs are eating chicken or some other meat, the birds are eating seeds, and the cats... are eating fish. Of course.

I wasn't going to make the cats allergic to fish, or not in the mood for fish, or plain don't like fish like their dear author over here, but I had to be authentic. (Well, actual authenticity would involve everyone eating bland pet food, but I wanted it to be a little more interesting than that.)

So, I detached myself from my central characters and gave them permission to like things that I really don't like. Sure, I've had my differences with my characters before -- how boring would it be if I only wrote about a bunch of Shelleys? -- but I'd never made them love a food that I totally hate. The mark of a picky eater and picky writer, I guess.

Any readers find it hard to read about something that you really can't stand? Any other writers find it challenging to make your character like something that you definitely do not? Anyone else hate seafood?
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Monday, January 6, 2014

A "Medley" Of New Things

Happy New Year! I hope you all had a wonderful holiday season.

The past month was crazy busy for me, hence the quietness on the blog. But I'm back and ready for an exciting new year!

I anticipate a bunch of new things coming up in 2014. In fact, something big has already happened, three days into the new year -- we adopted a dog, Medli.

She's a two-year-old chocolate lab mix. She's a total sweetheart (loves everyone -- adults, children, dogs and cats) and is proving to be a fast learner. I think she's going to make an awesome writing partner!

Besides the new addition to our family, there will be a few more exciting changes this year, or at least that's the plan. One of those changes might be something writing-related. I'll be sure to make an announcement once everything is in place. For now... I've just got a lot to look forward to!

How was your holiday season? What are you looking forward to this year?
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