Back to School

It’s that time of year again: Back to School! And because I run an elementary school library, it’s back to school for me, too! I’ve been very productive this summer with my writing, completing the first three books in my new series for girls, ages 8-12: Evie and the Volunteers. I will miss the extra summer writing time but look forward to seeing all of the little faces at school. Next week several children’s book authors will be participating in a back to school blog tour. More information to come. Until then, check out the first book in the Evie and the Volunteers series.

 

Be the Vet – 7 Dog & Cat Stories – Test Your Veterinary Knowledge by Dr. Ed and Marcy Blesy

richardrblake

Be the Vet Be the Vet – 7 Dog and Cat Stories – Test Your Veterinary Knowledge
By: Dr. Ed Blesy and Marcy Blesy
9780615930046, $ 7.99, 2013, 50 pages
Reviewed by Richard R. Blake

An Entertaining Teaching Tool for Pet Lovers

Seasoned veterinary Dr. Ed Blesy and his wife Marcy collaborate in “Be the Vet” a unique concept of heart- touching stories, creative diagnostic assignments for readers ages 9 – 13, with informative recommended treatment plans.

Each of the seven stories features an incident where a family pet has an unexpected medical emergency and the need for a veterinarian. Marcy is a gifted story teller. Her writing is sensitive and age appropriate, stimulating creative curiosity and empathic compassion from her readers.

I became very interested in Jingle the cat’s story. Although Jingle was eating the same amount of food she was losing weight. The family noted she was drinking a lot more…

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Favorite Tear Jerker Books

                                                               Bridge_to_Terabithialittlewomen200px-Where_the_red_fern_grows_1996

 

When I receive reviews from the readers of my YA novels, I admit that I get giddy when people express that the books made them cry. I mean, like I’m high-fiving with myself and doing backflips down my hallway. Well, maybe I’m being a tad bit melodramatic, but I do like to induce emotion. When that happens, people are connecting with the characters. So, my thought for today is this:  What books have induced you to a fit of emotion so strong you babbled over with enough tears to fill your kitchen sink?  Yes, I have a problem with that melodrama thing again….

For me, there are three books I read in my childhood that I can distinctly remember sobbing through:

1. Where the Red Fern Grows

2. Little Women

3. Bridge to Terabithia

 

Please share your picks.

BE THE VET, Children’s Book Lets Kids Be the Doctor

Do you like dogs and cats?
Have you ever thought about being a veterinarian?

Place yourself as the narrator in seven unique stories about dogs and cats. When a medical emergency or illness impacts the pet, you will have the opportunity to diagnose the problem and suggest treatment. Following each story is the treatment plan offered by Dr. Ed Blesy, a 16 year practicing veterinarian. You will learn veterinary terms and diagnoses while being entertained with fun, interesting stories.

This is the first book in the BE THE VET series with the second book to follow in spring 2014.

For ages 9-12

 

 

Accountability: What Every Writer Needs, Otherwise Known as a Good Kick in the Pants

Accountability…Unless you are a writer under contract for a book needing revisions, there really is little accountability for the writer who is still at the beginning of her writing career.  While I have a picture book under contract and submitted all necessary revisions, I don’t have any current book deadlines looming.  I don’t want to be a one book author.  I have other stories to tell.

 

I have a young adult novel, completed, sitting in a drawer after getting nowhere with publishers or agents, though I beat out 4000 people in last year’s Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award Competition to make the top 1000.  It needs major rewrites, which is quite daunting considering the novel is 65,000 words (roughly 250 pages).

 

I started a middle grade novel over a year ago.  It is literally in the last chapter of the rough draft, and I daily think, “Today’s the day I will finish the rough draft.”  And every night I say, as did my favorite literary character Scarlett O’Hara, “Tomorrow is another day.”

 

Time marches on.  It’s amazing how I find time to blog, time to check facebook, time to twitter, time to do laundry (sometimes), time to make dinner, time to be with my family… You get the picture.  So, why don’t I just finish the last chapter?  Because of accountability.  I have none.  That, and I am afraid.  Afraid that I will finish the novel and the rewrites that follow, that I will send queries to agents and publishers, who will, in turn, send me curt rejection notices that say, “This is not for me.  Please don’t take this to be a reflection of your work, but…”  Blah, blah, blah.

 

And just like my young adult novel, this new middle grade novel will be destined to use up office drawer space, buried away for no one to ever read.  Yes, I know, if you never try, you’ll never succeed.  Right?  After all it took 99 rejections before my picture book was offered a contract. So, tomorrow is another day.  And tomorrow I will finish this novel.  Well, maybe by the weekend.  And now you all know, so please hold me accountable.  Ask me about it.  Make me squirm with embarrassment if I don’t finish.  Be parental.  You have my permission. Thank you.

Wilson the Dalmatian: Victorian Carriage Dog Book Review

In today’s publishing world even authors from large publishers have to do self-promotion to sell more books unless you’re an author like  J.K. Rowling or Nicholas Sparks.  It’s even more crucial for new authors from small presses to market themselves.  What better place to start, (other than family and friends who really have no choice) than with local authors who share your passion for writing?

 

When I started to seriously consider writing as more than a hobby, the first classes I took were in the local Coloma library from local author Ami Hendrickson.  She has a strong passion for writing and great expertise about everything from the writing process to social marketing.  A published author of many non-fiction books about horses, Ami recently published her first children’s chapter book, Wilson the Dalmatian:  Victorian Carriage Dog.  I offer my honest review of the book below.

 

Wilson the Dalmatian:  Victorian Carriage Dog is a short chapter book that introduces the reader to Wilson, a carriage dog in the 1840s, whose job it is to protect his wealthy owners and family from highway robbers by riding alongside their fancy carriage to warn of and ward off danger.  Wilson forms a strong bond with Robert and Anne, the children in the family.  When they visit town for the day, Wilson experiences the sights and sounds of the hustle and bustle around him and helps to bring his family safely home again at day’s end.

 

The reader will fall in love with Wilson.  I did.  The author does a wonderful job capturing Wilson’s loyal character.  We learn not only about the job of a carriage dog during Victorian days but also of his ability to do his job well while still enjoying the life of being a dog.  The pace moves quickly, and the reader roots for Wilson and knows he will uphold his duty well.  While I admit I found myself wanting Wilson to be challenged a bit more, I realize that the author was most likely attempting to introduce the audience to a different kind of “working dog” while giving him a personality at the same time.  She did that well,  both educating and entertaining.  I hope she has a series in mind to teach children about the various uses of dogs historically.

 

I recommend Wilson the Dalmatian:  Victorian Carriage Dog to history and dog enthusiasts alike.  Children and adults will love learning about Wilson, the unique guard dog of his time.

 

The book is available for Kindle download on Amazon at this link.  http://www.amazon.com/Wilson-The-Dalmatian-Victorian-ebook/dp/B005V0BCII/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1331818090&sr=8-1

 

The cost is 99 cents.  Please support a local author and enjoy your dollar well spent.

Freelancing Fun: Learn How to Geocache

In addition to blogging and working on my middle grade novel, I have been doing a lot more freelancing recently.  I love it.  In the last two months I’ve interviewed the director of Lory’s Place, a police officer, a private investigator, a lab tech, a gym teacher, a deli owner, and a Whirlpool engineer.  Whew!  Not only am I honing my writing skills, but I am learning a lot, too.  I have a great working relationship with a local editor, so I have been blessed to get many of my pitches accepted.  She is even assigning me stories including a story I just completed on night safety for women.  It really stretched me out of my comfort zone, but I’m really happy with the final product and a little stretching is good every now and then, wouldn’t you say?

 

My most recent published article is about geocaching.  This world-wide treasure hunting “sport” is a newfound hobby for my family.  We love, love, love it!  Want a surefire plan for making your kids think you are cool?  Then introduce them to geocaching.  They will love it, and learn, without even knowing it!  And even if they figure that part out, they won’t care because they will be having so much fun!

 

Check out this link to learn more about geocaching.  Thinkspring!

 

http://www.michianafamilymagazine.com/Lakeside-Magazine/March-2012/Geocaching/

Where do you like to read? In the bathtub? How about a tree?

 

 

This week in my school library the students are being rewarded for filling the pirate’s treasure chest full of jewels awarded for taking accelerated reader tests.  It’s taken the classes (18) all school year to accomplish this challenge, and they have done a great job.  So, this week the library is a deserted island, safe from the pirates roaming the sea, and we’ve been laying out basking in the sun and warmth of the water.  We can dream right?  It is February in the Midwest after all.  The kids have been reading on pillows and beach towels spread out in the library.  Even the teachers are getting in on the fun sitting under a beach umbrella in beach chairs.

 

In my son’s classroom at a different school, his teacher is making a special bulletin board with kids pictured reading in unique locations.  My quirky humored son wanted to read in a tree.  See the picture above.

 

A teacher in my school has a claw footed tub in her classroom.  One can often spot kids lying on pillows and quilts, reading while dangling their feet over the edge.

 

Personally, my favorite spot to read is also in the tub, but with water and bubbles.  It’s the most relaxing, private place in my house at the end of the day.

 

So…where’s your most favorite place to read?  And why?  🙂

Model the Joy of Books: Little Eyes are Watching

My little readers

I recently asked the staff that I work with to tell me their favorite childhood books.  I used the information to make a “School Favorites” Reading Wall in the library.  The children have been very enthused to learn the favorite books of their beloved teachers, principal, and secretary.  I found many of the books within our school library, and the children have been checking the books out this week.

 

To see the kids so excited made me think.:  how we as adults model reading may be more important than we realize.  Yes, my own kids see me read.  I’m a writer, so I’m a reader by nature, but I haven’t had many discussions with them about what I read when I was their age and were it not for my daily job in a library I wouldn’t be up on the newest  generation of favorite books available to my kids.   I’m trying to bridge the gap between old classics and new classics in my job, so shouldn’t I be doing that in my own family, too?  Shouldn’t we be having discussions about favorite characters and what type of plot keeps them wanting to read more?  I listen to their incessant chatter about what’s happening in the virtual world of this and that video game, so why can’t we have those conversations about books?
 Here is my to-do list:

 

1.  Read more to my children.  You can never be too old to be read aloud to.

2.  Read not for the mere sake of completing a homework assignment but for the joy that books can bring.

3.  Talk about the characters, plot, etc., what they like, what they don’t.

4.  Enforce electronic shut-off before bed, so reading time becomes a valued ritual.

 

What ideas can you add to model the importance of reading in your home?

Chicken Soup for the Soul Challenge: Submit Your Story

I am issuing a challenge to myself and to you.  In my many attempts at publication when I started really writing three years ago, I submitted an essay to Chicken Soup for the Soul for one of their many books.  It didn’t get accepted, but I tried again.  I was notified that my essay “The Light-Saber Vs. the Dandelions” had made the final rounds for the Chicken Soup for the Soul:  Devotional Stories for Mothers book.  In October 2010 the book was released.

Now, here’s your challenge:

 

Have you ever wanted to see something you’ve written published?  Have you never written anything to share before but know that you have something important to say?  Then, submit an essay for an upcoming Chicken Soup for the Soul book.

There are no guarantees.  I have been rejected (which means you hear nothing as they get so many submissions); I have been told I made the final rounds (for the Pre-Teen book) and then had my story replaced by someone else’s better story (ouch); and I have had a story published.  But the experience each time was gratifying.  Just as an athlete must stretch out and use her muscles to stay strong, so must a writer stretch her writing muscles.  Each time I write I get better.  I learn. I grow.  So, give it a try.  You never know.  The people at CSFTS are delightful to work for.  You get a small stipend.  And the experience of seeing your name in print is amazing!  So, as Nike would say, Just do it!

Go to the link below.

http://www.chickensoup.com/form.asp?cid=possible_books 

Possible upcoming book topics as of February 2012 are “Independent Women,” “New Friends,” “Parenthood,” and “The Power of Positive.”  Story guidelines and an online submission tool make the logistics simple.  Now all you have to do is write!  And even if your story doesn’t get accepted, there are many other wonderful writing journals looking for essays.  You just never know.  Good luck, and get writing.