Sunday, December 31, 2017

What I Leave Behind...

Hey, that sounds like a good book title.

It's the subject of this blog post. I'm not going to wax prosaically about my goals and hopes for the new year (I have to do that for my post on Smack Dab in the Middle blog so I'm not going to cheat and do it here too. Besides, more is learned looking both back and forward. Here's what I (happily in most cases) leave behind:

1. Politics. National, local, within groups, with family, with anything. Let's all move on.

2. Hurts. Whether physical - my knee and stomach- I've taken charge of my ailments and thankfully can say that I'm feeling better, emotional - I'm singing that "Let It Go" song a lot under my breath, professional - I'm following New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick's mantra: "We're onto the next game" or personal - not comparing myself, my achievements to anyone else. I have my own universe with many possible alternative paths.

3. Some manuscripts. Either the time is not right to revise them, or I'm simply not feeling it, they'll collect dust in the drawer. I'll move onto new projects which excite me and are a better use of my time. Who knows, maybe 50 years after my death a family member will discover them and I'll be hailed as a literary icon. (Hey, it could happen!)

4.  Stupid arguments with people who only want to argue, not seriously discuss a subject. I mean really, Deflategate was bogus and some NFL fans need to freaking move on. Trump is the president, work with what is, not what you wish was. NJ will always suck at reducing taxes, electing governors, and cleaning out corruption. There are so many more, but you know this.

5.  Things that don't fit. That means cleaning out the clothes closet and donating them, or drifting away from friends who are heading in opposite directions, getting out of organizations/groups that aren't beneficial anymore, and anything that wastes my time, like books that bore me, movies that I have no interest in, and doing things I don't want to do. You get the pic. Anything that doesn't fit only ends up hurting you.

Moving on is the theme. Next week, it's a fresh start. New list of possibilities. An open arena of experiences to try. A world full of people to meet.

Photo courtesy of 

Wishing you all the best for 2018-


Monday, December 18, 2017

I'm going to cheat a bit- I'm recovering from a stomach bug and I really need another nap so this is going to be easy and quick.

Photo courtesy of Pexels

I'm working on a new manuscript (my NaNo project) and these are the things I'm discovering about it:

1- I need to fill out the details. What time of day is it? What is the main character wearing? What shade of dingy is that white wall?

2- I figured out the element that runs through all three books (did I tell you it's a trilogy?) And it fits together sooo nicely.

3- For a time I was stumped about the third book- the hook that worked with the other two. (No, I'm not telling you because the idea is too new. Some things I don't share.) But, then, Eureka! I found it! I know where I'm going with the third book after this second one is done.

4- I know it's a great concept; a nice twist on something traditional, which will appeal to boys and girls, and it's a bit sci-fi, a bit fantasy, a bit contemporary. (No aliens, wizards, time travel, space craft, zombies, magic, or vampires, werewolves, or shapeshifters. What's left? Ah, that's the secret.)

5- Surprisingly, I'm hitting road blocks with editors and agents. Hmmmm. But, I believe in the concept and hope I can get it polished and contracted before someone else beats me to the finish line.

Next Monday will be a year-in-review as I look back on my successes and... unsuccesses.

Till then,

Wishing you Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, Happy Channukah, and a Happy New Year!


Tuesday, December 12, 2017

I.C.E. for Authors and Artists

Like the Ghost of Christmas Future, the specter of death will someday visit us. I know, gruesome thought, but we are all of this mortal coil. And no, this is not an attempt to sell you life insurance, or donate your body to science (although that would be cool).

Everyone should have an ICE folder; In Case of Emergency. Many people, including me, have a folder I can grab as I exit. I've notified everyone in the immediate family where it is (not that they'll remember). It contains the necessary vital info: financials, important documents, phone numbers of family, doctor, schools, accountant, lawyer, pastor.

If you died, or became incapacitated, you may have set guidelines for your physical body, but what about your body of work? Here are 6 things you need to consider:

Who will contact your agent in the event of the worst kind? Whoever will be handling your affairs needs to know the name, address, phone number and agency (in case the agent has moved on). Keep this important info with your other legal documents. The same holds true for a publicist.,

What about your editor? If you're in the midst of a rewrite, or launch, they need to be notified so they can take the appropriate action. (You might want to check your contract to see what it says- it's possible that any advance might have to be repaid if the book isn't finished. Leave a copy with the other legal documents for reference.)

Authors have many business contacts- conference/workshop/store hosts, etc. who will need to be contacted immediately that you won't be attending. Always leave numbers and names of contacts for such events in a handy place (on the refrigerator?). And don't forget, that if you're going the Indie route by CreateSpace, Smashwords, or other vehicle, they will need to be notified. However, a death certificate and possibly a Power of Attorney or other legal document giving you authorization may be required to cancel or access accounts.

Your actual works- have you decided what is to become of them? Will they die with you? Even if you aren't published, that doesn't mean that they never can be. You could leave them to someone to publish after your death. I made my sister my 'artistic' beneficiary, with the expressed hopes that even if she went Indie just for the family, that certain manuscripts would be published (notably my Evolution Revolution series, but that's pubbed now, so I have to update my 'wish list.') Or, you could designate that they remain part of the estate and stay within the family to pass down. Just make a provision for your work like you would your jewelry. No matter what, put it in writing; it's best if it's part of a legal Will, with a copy of any provisions about your works, sent to whomever will handle  your artistic matters. You should consult a lawyer about specifics; this is only an advisory to seek proper legal protection.

Maybe someone shares your passion for literature. They might be the perfect person to handle your author affairs. Again, I designated my sister not only because she's one of my biggest fans, but because she understands the importance of my wishes for my works. Lawyers won't get involved in that unless there is a contract for a film, TV series, licensing, etc.

Finally, (and I shouldn't even have to mention it), but make sure there are copies of your work in secure places. What good is it if everything is on a flash drive, but it's in your desk drawer and your house burns down? What good if you have multiple copies on your laptop, but it's stolen? You could store it in the cloud (after the leaking of Hollywood celeb pics, I'm not too sold on cloud security), but there are other formats to save your work, rather than bulky, vulnerable paper copies. (One cheap way is to email it to at least 2 accounts. Make sure someone you trust has the password, or you leave it with your other important documents.) A list of where all your works are will ensure that they are protected.

As a former paralegal specializing in Estates and Trusts, I've seen too many examples (even in my own family) of messy estates where assets were fought over, stolen, or neglected because there were no binding legal guidelines. People felt uncomfortable talking about final disposition of their assets. If you don't decide what happens with your property, the state will (and each state is different, so don't depend on a verbal discussion you had with someone at some time, in another state, etc. See how confusing it can become?). Even if you make a simple list and make the direct people involved aware of your wishes, it can go a long way toward guaranteeing that your manuscript babies are provided for.

Photo courtesy of


Monday, December 4, 2017

To Mountain Tops and Paths Not Chosen...

I have climbed the mountain. And won.

I finished my middle grade novel, a sequel to a previous NaNoWriMo project. 50,066 words. In late afternoon on the 30th of November. Was it a smooth ride? Heck no. But here's what I took away:

1- I digressed from my outline. The characters refused to comply with my wishes and led me down a different path. Obviously they knew the story better than I did, so I followed their lead. Good thing!

2- Even though we ventured on the path not (originally) chosen, we finished up in the same place. The ending was almost exactly like my outline, just a little more twisty.

3- It wasn't as hard as I thought it would be, even with holidays, family and church obligations, author events and traveling, and plain housework. Someone told me, "You could do NaNo every month." If I'm inspired by a book, I probably could. Not that I'd want to. I'm taking December a little easier.

4- It wasn't as easy as I thought it would be. I'd planned on doubling up on the word count for several days so I could spend days prepping for Thanksgiving, enjoying Thanksgiving, and for days on the road at events. Somehow I ended up busting my butt on several days to catch up. After the first week, I was always behind. Nothing like a little motivation.

5- I'll continue to do NaNoWriMo. I may not finish (I actually didn't one year!), but I find it a good exercise in writing madly. When I get a deadline, I know how to handle the pressure, how to prioritize, and how to push forward through seemingly unpassable obstacles.

Now it's December and while I'm not writing as much, I'm still doing blog posts, marketing, and querying. I won't start revisions on this project until January, when I'm snowed in, the house is quiet and bare of decorations, and I can focus on all the ugly that lurks in the manuscript.

If you didn't finish by November 30th, that doesn't mean you can't finish it by the end of the year, so keep plugging along and we'll talk about revisions in January.


Monday, November 27, 2017

Staring Down the NaNoWriMo Deadline...

Well, NaNoWriMo is almost over. I have 4 days to write 14,622 words, or 3,656 words a day.

I probably won't make it.

But I'm not going to sweat it. I'm not giving up on my project, and I'll give it a shot. Here's why I'm not going to beat myself up if I don't make my goal:

1- Who the heck picked November for NaNoWriMo? Between Thanksgiving and Christmas and other end-of-year holidays, it was insanity to pick this month. Sometimes I feel it's a bit of an unfair challenge, like only people who 'really' want to finish their novel will succeed. Why didn't they choose March? Nothing going on in March but snowstorms and nasty weather, and everyone hoping for an early spring. That makes much more sense. So, with all the other time requirements I have to fulfill, I can only squeeze in so much more.

2- I'm going to finish this project. Just because I don't finish it in 30 days doesn't mean a thing. I've written a number of novels in 30 days, so I know I can do it. I just don't have to.

3- When a novel is written, that's only half the story. There are plenty of novels sitting in drawers or closets (and I'm guilty of that), that need a complete overhaul. NaNoRevMo (revision month) is in June. JUNE???? When there are graduations, weddings, vacations, yard work? Seriously some people planning this whole thing are calendar-challenged. If NaNoWriMo was in March, the NaNoRevMo would be in October. Perfect. Am I the only person to think of this? Revising in December is also hard, but to finish off my NaNoWriMo novel? I can totally do that, I only have 14,522 words to go.

4- If I choose to finish this novel later, it's because I have several projects in the air and if one of them comes to fruition, it's going to take my time and attention. I'm querying agents, doing blog posts, doing book events. If my one big project comes through, all those listed above will go on a back burner, along with family dinners. So, it's a matter of priorities.

5- There's always next year, if I feel so inclined, but I usually don't wait until NaNoWriMo to write the next book, I'll write it after and before November. I do NaNoWriMo for fun, to challenge myself and cheer on others. I'm not going to let it give me heartburn or sleepless nights.

Next post, I'll let you know how I did. In the meantime, I'm encouraging you not to give up, as I won't. Some will succeed, some won't, but in the end, it all depends on finishing the novel, not how fast you got it done, and polishing the novel, not just sitting back after the writing.


Tuesday, November 21, 2017

It's Time to Talk Turkey!

I'm a little behind in my NaNoWriMo words (about 3,000 and it only looks to get worse with the holidays coming). I have to clean and cook for family coming both on Thanksgiving Day and the 3 days after. I have meetings and bell practice, then there's the Thanksgiving service at our church on Wednesday night when I'm playing bells (and one piece is a real doozy). Plus I want to watch the Thanksgiving Day parade. Phew!

So I'm going to cheat and just post a cute pic:

I wish you all a day of peace, family, friends, or other loved ones, and bountiful blessings.


Monday, November 13, 2017

Almost Halfway There...

Hey! If you're doing NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) you're almost halfway there! A little behind? A little ahead?

I'm on course, (unless I don't write anything today, then I'll be behind) but anything can happen. I've had book events on two weekends, so I brought notes and wrote in down times. I have family visits that will take me out of state, so I'll have to plan around that.

Suppose I don't finish....?

So what? I will keep going. I will get there, and that's the point: TO FINISH (even if it takes more than 30 days).

I've wandered away from my outline...

And? Is the story moving forward? Are you writing? Sometimes our mood, the characters, a sudden inspiration changes the course we plotted, kind of like a rogue wave or a sudden wind. If you like the direction (it's okay to be scared, racing through unknown waters scares all of us), stay with it. Isn't life about the journey, and not the destination?

My character is coming out different than what was in my head...

Your character is growing up, becoming their own person. This is a tough 'parenting' call when you have to let your babies go their own way versus where you want to send them. They may falter, even fail, or have terrible things happen to them; it's okay. That's life. If this child has become a stranger, talk to them and watch them, get to know them.

The plot is speeding by! I'm almost to the end of the story with no where else to go and I won't reach 50,000 words...

Whoa, slow down! It's okay to reach the end of your plot. You've got the bones. Now add a little flesh. Is your setting fully mapped out so that a reader will feel like they are on the street where the hit-and-run occurs? Will they feel the chill ill wind when they turn down that dark alley? What about the five (some argue six) senses? Does your character taste the bitter bile as they realize the horror of what they've done? Can they smell the sweet tartness of lemon cookies hot out of the oven at their grandmother's house? Go back to any chapter that seems thin and add some stuffing. No one likes a lean turkey on Thanksgiving, don't give them a skinny story.

I've lost my muse...

Maybe take a step back- spend a half hour, reading the last few chapters you've written, or maybe even the whole thing. Sometimes immersing yourself non-stop in the story helps you pick up the energy, the momentum, that you've lost. It's not easy starting, stopping, starting, stopping; it almost goes against our creativity. Don't despair, don't give up. If reading through doesn't spark some words, write a chapter about a character/setting/scene that won't end up in the story, like a flashback to a childhood incident, a terrible fire that spread through town, a confrontation that should have happened. Spread your wings. At best, it'll jump start you. At worst, maybe you have the seeds for a sequel or completely different story.

Now I must tend to my muse because where my story is headed? Well, I never saw that coming and I'm on the edge of my seat, waiting for my characters to finish their tale...

Keep writing! Keep Dreaming!


Monday, November 6, 2017

5 Pick Ups For Midlist Authors on Book Events

Authors do book events: conferences where they present workshops, book festivals where they sign books and interact with readers, library appearances, etc. Sometimes, they're a lot of fun and very successful.

Other times, not as much.

Here are 5 things I've found that are generally, but not always, true:

1- When you're a midlist author (as most of us are), if famous authors are invited to the same event, you can expect to have much lower sales. People come to see famous people. That's life.

2- While everyone's gushing over the famous people, you will have a lot of empty time, sitting at your table, wishing for a reader to buy your book. Use that time to get to know your tablemate. You make new friends and connections, you share information, and maybe can network and cross promote. 

Table-mate and new friend, young adult author Jennifer Wolf Kam

3- At events like conferences where you give presentations and then have time until the book signing session, use those minutes wisely. This weekend, at nErDcampLI, while my writing colleagues were giving their workshops, and because there wasn't one that I was interested in, I found myself with two empty hours so I used that hour to work on my NaNoWriMo novel. You can bring revisions that need to be finished, outline a new novel, read a book for research or pleasure. I know people that knit when they have some free time. 

Workshops don't fill all your time; have something to do!

4- Your GPS may make a mistake... so print out the directions anyway. Seriously, I was going to Long Island and my GPS wanted me to take the NJ Turnpike South. (No.) On the way home, it wanted me to go from the Long Island Expressway, through Manhattan, one of the tunnels, and then into NJ. (Are you freaking crazy??? Go through MIDTOWN?) Plan a backup route...

5- Always carry a granola bar or something to eat, because there may be food issues- you have to get your own and maybe you're not near an eatery or don't want to drive in unfamiliar towns, or they provide food but you can't eat it because of sensitivity issues or preferences. Usually there is bottled water available, or water fountains, but keep at least one bottle with you.

Till next week!


Monday, October 30, 2017

The NaNoWriMo Dash!

Countdown! Today and tomorrow are the last days for your #NaNoWriMo prep. Have you done your character sketches so you know not only what your characters look like, but what their favorite food is? What's their darkest secret? What are they afraid of? What song makes them tear up? Even if you don't use that info in the final draft, just having it gives you a familiarity with the character so you can zip-write scenes. When you're stuck on where to go next, reading a character sketch may give you an idea for a scene. Write the scene, figure out later if you want to keep it, change it, or move it. It still satisfies your word count and may lead you exactly where you need to go!

Same with your world building sketch. Even if your novel takes place in your home town, you'll need to make a note of things for easy reference- is a road closed off that could give your character a problem- that can be a scene. Is a landmark being torn down? What season is it? Has the US changed its government from republic to martial law because of an apocalyptic event? If your setting is a different time period, or on another planet, then you'll need good notes on economic, governmental, social, and other systems.

As for my outline, sometime I have one sentence for the chapter- "On their date, he discovers she's a monster." I can work those specifics out as I write- no need to outline every detail because you don't want to interrupt the creative flow and shut down all the possibilities that suddenly pop into your head but you ignore because you have 'THE OUTLINE.'

Sometimes though, you need more than one sentence, maybe several because of changing points of view, a leap in time, or a number of things that must happen in the chapter. That's good- you have an idea of what you want to write. Just remember the outline isn't written in stone. If you go off kilter and don't like what you've written- don't erase it! It counts as written words and you may use bits of it, or the scene entirely elsewhere. Plus, if you keep deleting words because they don't fit at the moment, you may never achieve your NaNoWriMo completion.

So make those notes, sharpen those pencils, X out time on the calendar. We got this!


Tuesday, October 24, 2017

It's MY Work, MY Copyright!

Many artists (writers, musicians, illustrators, songwriters, etc.) who have their copyrights infringed can't fight back- the cost of litigation will bankrupt them, possibly ruining them financially for the rest of their lives. I have seen it happen, I know someone whose work was stolen and she could never recoup.

In early October, a group of congressional representatives consisting of:

Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D, NY)
Rep.Tom Marino (R, PA)
Rep. Doug Collins (R, GA)
Rep. Lamar Smith (R, TX)
Rep. Judy Chu (D, CA)
Rep. Ted Lieu (D, A)

sought to address this gross injustice.

According to The Authors Guild in their newsletter of October 18, 2017, Reps. Jeffries and Marino introduced the Revised Small Copyright Claims Bill, in which:

     "The legislation would give authors a much-needed tool to combat copyright infringement without having to go to federal court- an extremely expensive proposition for even the most straightforward copyright cases, and one that few authors can afford. If the bill is passed, individual creators and other small copyright owners will have the ability to enforce their rights without hiring a lawyer or travelling to federal court. This should effectively place copyright remedies for the first time within the grasp of an entire class of creators who otherwise could not afford to avail themselves of the legal system."

Anyone who's had to hire a lawyer for any reason knows how prohibitively expensive even a single consultation can be. To fight against an artistic thief who has a stranglehold on your work, never mind against the resources of a large corporation, under current judicial and regulative conditions, is all but impossible. This situation needed to be addressed- and should have been decades ago.

Known as the CASE Act (the Copyright Alternative in Small-Claims Enforcement Act of 2017), this bill is an updated version of a preceding bill, but that bill did not make it to the Congressional floor before the session expired.

The Authors Guild support, along with input from "public hearings, written commentary from authors, industry groups, publishers, technology companies, scholars and other stakeholders" helped shape both the early and current drafts of the bill. Conditions and provisions of the legislation include:

1- any tribunal is voluntary.
2- engaging in a tribunal does not affect either party's right to a jury trial.
3- the Copyright Office must expedite registration certificates; such certificates being a prerequisite to enter a tribunal.
4- a provision that allows the copyright holder to request a subpoena which could compel an Internet service provider to disclose the identity of the person/user accused of the infringement.

The last provision, says the Guild, is an especial boon in the fight against Internet piracy.

Mary Rasenburger, executive of the Authors Guild, thanked the bill's creators; "Their persistence on behalf of this nation's creators is a testament both to the importance of the creative community and to their recognition of that importance," and for "hearing the concerns of the nation's authors, photographers, songwriters, and other creators and taking action."

In addition to the desperately needed and long overdue legal remedy, Rasenburger concluded that "Congress, by passing the CASE Act, would demonstrate its recognition that individual creators and small copyright owners are the backbone of the creative economy" which is something we creators already knew.

In order to give the bill a boost towards passage, write, call, or email your congressional representatives and express not only support for the CASE Act, but demand they actively push to have it passed. This bill benefits the true owners of copyrighted materials- so do it today!


Thursday, October 19, 2017

5 Good Things About Failing NaNoWriMo

It's October- and besides monster movies, football injuries, and early Christmas commercials, it's time for all the NaNoWriMo buzz. For the unknowing, National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo, takes place during November- where by writing 1,667 words a day, aspiring novelists hope to present a fully written novel of 50,000 by the 30th.

But some never finish.

Here are 5 good things about not finishing:

1- You started. You attempted. If I had a nickel for all the people who told me, "I'm going to write a novel" yet never even wrote a line, I'd have enough nickels to buy a very large overpriced frappucino. For so many people, beginning is the hardest part. Like Mary Poppins said, "Start at the beginning, it's the very best place to start..."  You've done that. Kudos!

“Happy are those who dream dreams and are ready to pay the price to make them come true.” -Tupac Sahkur 

2- Doing any amount of writing let's you know your characters better. It's like what I call the 'E-Harmony of dating your character.' By starting to write your novel, you know a little bit more about them; not everything because writing, like dating, takes time to get to know your character. If you've written one chapter, that's like one date. Several chapters, a month of dating. Even after you finish the novel, you don't know everything about your character (sequels...). I know my hubs still surprises me after so many years and that discovery (usually) makes life more fun.

3- You're in the groove. Okay, so 1,667 words a day are hard; you have family, jobs, obligations. We all have situations that demand and steal our time. But if you got into the habit of at least writing even 100 words a day, and it becomes like that cup of coffee (or tea) that you must have every morning, you're creating a positive writing atmosphere and lifestyle. My first novel took 10 years to write as I juggled a full time job, college night classes, a house, and a husband. I wrote, in my car, on my lunch hour. (Yes, even in winter when it was cold! New Jersey winters can be brutal!) But I wrote almost every day. Use the smallest bits of time efficiently and consistently.

4- The word police didn't come banging on your door to take you away. This is a purely voluntary undertaking. While colleagues and friends may say, "Did you finish that novel yet?" you are not required to finish in that month's span. Maybe a family or friend needed you. Was there a move? A sickness? A lottery win and you were on the beach without access to your notes? Whatever the reason (and I'm sure it was a good one), you didn't finish. Even if you didn't have a good reason, that's your business, but don't let it prevent you from picking up where you left off. Finish the novel over the next month (yeah, good luck in December with all those holidays), next year- or if you're like John Grisham and me, the next 10 years to finish it. There are no NaNo police interested in your word count productivity. Don't put stress on yourself. There's always next year, and that's cool.

5- Look at what you've learned. Maybe 1,667 words are too much. Maybe you need a break after a week of intense writing. Maybe this novel won't work and you need to fix a major plot problem. Maybe you've met some people and get along well enough to start a new critique or support group. Maybe your novel needs to move from middle grade to young adult. Maybe a thousand different things that will change your novel-or you. This experience of not finishing could be a blessing, a boost, a life-changing epiphany for you. Embrace it, use it. And march onward.

So, there's always next year. Maybe by not finishing (I won't say fail because you haven't), you know what you need to do, or not do, to complete your next attempt. Let me encourage you join a NaNo prep class (go to the NaNo website, they can hook you up. I just gave a class at our local library). Take the year, or a month, to prep, make notes, outline. There's no law against finishing in six months.

But finish that novel- it's a dream you can make come true.


Monday, October 9, 2017

Good Intentions

I deliberated quite a few hours over whether to write about the Dr. Suess controversy- several authors felt part of a mural was racist. People have a right, and I think, an obligation, to be upset over racism in any form.

Especially when the racism is deliberate.

But was Theodore Geisel's illustration deliberately racist?

At the risk of getting vilified by everyone on Twitter and some in the book world, I don't believe the intent was there.

And To Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street, the book at the center of the controversy, has a depiction of an Asian man with chopsticks, pointed hat and slanted eyes. Yes, it's a stereotype. Yes, it should not be among the illustrations featured. But the book was written, according to the very authors whose boycott led to the cancellation of the celebration, over 80 years ago.


Are we to start scrubbing our artistic history?

How much literature and other art, would survive?

Movies- made in China- by Chinese directors, actors, producers, etc. have used this same depiction; I have seen it. Should we ban those movies? Are they to be labeled racist traitors for their uses of the image?

I think it comes down to intent. Dr Suess had many wonderful titles promoting acceptance and diversity, like The Sneetches. His books promoted not only diversity, but conservation and inclusion. The Washington Post quoted the three authors:

"The career of Ted Geisel, writing as Dr. Seuss, is a story of growth, from accepting the baser racial stereotypes of the times in his early career, to challenging those divisive impulses with work that delighted his readers and changed the times. It was our hope that the administration of the new Seuss-ian institution would be able to take inspiration from Mr. Geisel’s journey and find creative ways to allow children of all backgrounds to feel welcomed (or, at the very least, provide context for this hurtful painting)."

The museum easily could have added a small sign as suggested by the authors and the celebration of a man who wrote wonderful stories for children, and grew- as the authors stated, would not have been cancelled. I think everyone lost out.

That part of the mural will be replaced, but I think of all the children and even adults who lost out on a wonderful day with many planned activities. There are some who want to ban Dr. Suess altogether, and that makes me sad. He was human, and we all are on a journey of growth. Who among us can say we always got it right?


Monday, October 2, 2017

Groovin' On a Monday Afternoon

Actually the song says Sunday afternoon, and I started this on Sunday, but it's Monday when I'll finish it. I claim poetic license.

After a frenetic and frantic summer, I got out of the groove of the writing business. I had a lot of commitments and events that stole my time. Plus, yes, I have to admit, I was discouraged. I've been querying agents (one hand has more fingers than I got agent responses), revising older manuscripts, and trying to get my Evolution Revolution Trilogy into schools and libraries. (Yeah, hitting a brick wall there.) Indies get no respect (but I've cried this mantra before and have to move on). It's so easy to tell someone to 'just keep writing' when they have writer's block (even though that's the best way to break it- write about anything, just write).

But what if you don't have the incentive to write? That's where I was. I had ideas. I had beginnings. I had outlines. But no will. I languished.

So I weeded my gardens, refinished the floor in the guest room then painted and spiffed it up, painted the master bedroom, started painting the hallways, read some books, worked at fixing up our church parsonage, hung out with some friends, and lastly, decorated for Halloween. Hardly a speck of writing in there. (Grocery and To Do lists don't count as writing unless it's for a character or plot).

But everyone's back in school or to work. My pool is closed up and it's too cold to hang out on the patio. My knee's had enough of the painting (although I do have to touch up the hallway paint where I spackled a dent.)

Time to get in the groove. Now. Okay, I'm going. *Sits there. Sigh...

My messy desk, which needs to be cleared before I can work. Add that to the list.
I have to revert back to a trick that I share with a few of my friends. The To Do List. I find it easier to mix the tasks up rather than list Writer Things to Do, Household Things to Do, Mom Things to Do. On the list are: Put up blog post (working on that now), spackle holes/paint in bedroom where I removed extra curtain rod (that's drying; later I'll sand and paint), I have to call the orthopedist for that stupid knee (I'll get to it...), and at 1 pm I have a conference call. Those are the things I have determined I MUST get done today. Additionally, I need to do the first revision pass on my Frankenstein short story for Leap Books anthology, Thus Are Our Souls Constructed (deadline is December, so go check out their website for details).

I already have some things halfway done, like this blog and fixing the holes in the walls.

See? Halfway done; spackled and sanded, ready for painting.
 The bed is made, kitchen cleaned, house straightened up. Damn, gotta wash that kitchen floor. But by writing this blog, being forced to do it every week (sometimes better late than never), it kept me writing at least that little bit and I can build on it now.

I'm going to call the orthopedist and get that off my list. Then, I'll make the holes disappear. Look at Frankenstein short, and then it will be time for my conference call.

Groovin....on a Monday afternoon.


Tuesday, September 26, 2017


Here's the one little secret I've been holding in; Publishers Weekly said they were going to review Evolution Revolution: Simple Machines! And they did!

Anyone who is in the publishing business knows it's not easy to get a review- but I got one for my Indie! It'll be out this week! AND it's highlighted in a boxed section- which means more attention for Jack! (imagine loud SQUEE here).

"...Readers will enjoy the banter among the animals, as well as the way Jack develops into a leader as he wrangles uncooperative animals into going along with his plan. Daniels’s elegant b&w spot illustrations appear throughout, adding to the story’s appeal." 

They give a brief synopsis and while they thought there were too many adjectives/ adverbs, they said in their email:

"Of the hundreds of self-published titles received each month, only a handful of the very best are selected for review."

I think they like me! And Jack! I know for sure they love Cathy's illustrations, so I'm going to put some here for you to enjoy.

And from Evolution Revolution: Simple Plans:

And from Evolution Revolution: Simple Lessons:

For everyone involved with Jack and his success, a 


Now I've got to get back to work. Who knows, maybe contract, agent, and movie offers will start rolling in! ;)


Monday, September 18, 2017

Thank Yous and Other Dead Traditions

I understand we now live in a digital world. Calling replaced letter writing, email, then texting replaced calling.

I miss Thank You, Happy Birthday, Get Well, Congratulations, and other important occasion notes.

My collection of unused thank you and personal note cards. 
A quick note saying thank you, or this gift is for you because-, or get well, or simply thinking about you, is such a joy to receive. It sticks out in the mail amongst the bills and junk, and instantly one recognizes the time, thought, and effort that went into it: selecting the card, ruminating over the words, writing it out, affixing the stamp, and mailing it. It's a very labor intensive task. It makes one feel special at that moment.

I miss getting those personal notes. Yes, texting is more expedient, and you can put cute little pics or emoticons, but it's not the same as a written communication. There is no elegance in texts. If it weren't for automatic spell check, our language would have devolved completely into 'lol' and other acronyms by now, so I guess we owe Apple, Samsung, and other phone manufacturers or software producers our thanks for saving proper language.

As a child, I hated writing out the thank yous to grandparents for birthday and holiday gifts. A truly awful thing for me was my grandmother calling me and asking, "Did you get the birthday gift I sent you?" I'd stammer a bit, and as soon as I could, I'd write that thank you. I learned to send it before that call came. And after my wedding and bridal shower, I had such a cramp from writing names, addresses and a personal note to every gift giver or attendee.

But that changed. I looked forward to getting those little notes, so I started sending more. I still include a personal thank you when I send out copies of my books to those who agree to review them or giveaway winners. Realistically, winners should be thanking me. I bought the book, hosted the giveaway, and mailed it to them, but I can't help thanking them for taking the time to enter and showing interest in my book. I wish I could send a written, not typed, thank you to everyone who bought a copy, convinced the library to stock one, or mentioned my book.

Besides free books, I've sent baby, bridal, and birthday gifts, with never received even an email acknowledgment. It seems manners are as dead as dinosaurs. Hold a door for someone, and they waltz through, not even acknowledging the courtesy (to which I say loudly to them, "You're welcome." Most have the decency to look embarrassed for the discourtesy. Sadly, when driving on the roads I don't expect anything more than for people not to kill or maim me, but in conversations, whether in person or on social media, courtesy is dead. Hiding behind technical anonymity, people are as rude and nasty as they accuse others of being.

Even my courtesies are dwindling. I used to send a follow up email to people who received a copy of my book several weeks later; "Did you get the book?" They'd reply, "Oh, yes." I wish they would have responded on their own and sooner. I no longer follow up (unless it's for a review) because I've sent a thank you in with the book, and if that doesn't make you respond, then you've forgotten basic manners and started the return to caveman ways, and nothing I do or say will change that.

More and better ways to communicate, yet we do less of really connecting. It's really sad, isn't it? But I thank you for listening.


Monday, September 11, 2017

Memories...Of the Way We Were...

It's hard to remember life before September 11th, 2001. The least I can do is remember and pay tribute to all those who were killed on this day 16 years ago. In the World Trade Center. At the Pentagon. In the airplanes. On the ground, trying to help and save others.

Every year, I put out a candle for just a little light on a dark day...


Monday, September 4, 2017

Schooling Hades...

            The chartreuse shirt sailed across the room, landing near the To Be Donated pile. I was so done with it. Just a few more shirts and I was done sorting and packing for college.
            College! In a few hours I’d be on my way to Chapel Hill and the University of North Carolina. I’d given up fashion marketing and opted for Psychology- Abnormal Psychology. Meg chose to stay in the city and go to the New York Film Academy. Me, I needed space – and distance – from all the memories. For the past two years I’d done nothing but trip over the Greek gods and drowned in their drama.
            I thought wistfully about Caz- Castor. As a demi god, there was always some distant relative in the pantheon that had a grudge and was looking to put him under some kind of curse. He’d said goodbye and that he’d see me in what amounted to a century in human years. That was so not going to work for me. Sighing, I resumed my packing. It was probably best to leave all things Greek here.
            “Where’s my ski jacket?” I muttered.
            And there I was, wearing the latest slope must haves, lounging in an overstuffed chair near a cozy fire. Golden, gem encrusted cup in my hand. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw someone else’s manicured, long fingered, strong hand.
            I knew without looking it was him.

            Delaying the inevitable confrontation, I sipped the drink; mmmm, chocolate mint, of course my fave, and without even glancing over I said, “Are you allowed to be here? Isn’t Persephone waiting for you in a boudoir or something, wearing black leather, and ready to fight?”
            “Cherie.” His fingers pulled my free hand to his lips where he rubbed his teeth against my knuckles.
            I tugged, but he refused to let go.
            “You know that when she’s in another realm, I can be here. I thought we might have some winter fun, since I’m usually in Tartarus during your winter. I miss all the best skiing.”
            I rolled my eyes and couldn’t stop from looking at him. He smirked and with that slightly crooked smile that had been known to conquer all female resistance—except mine and Meg’s, I snorted.
            “You have to power to make perfect ski conditions anywhere, even Hawaii if you wanted,” I retorted, “so just return me back to my room. I have to finish packing for school.”
            He pouted a bit, then frowned. “I don’t understand why you bother with the whole” and he waved his hand tiredly, “school thing. I can give you all the knowledge in the world.” He snapped his fingers, and suddenly, I. KNEW. EVERYTHING.
            I could solve global warming. Ok, that was cool, Meg would be thrilled. It's one of the things she worries about.
            Finally I knew how to fix my computer glitches. Wow, that was handy. No more desperate calls to every geek I know at 2 a.m.
            I could tell Stephen Hawking where he was wrong. I would be a media darling.
            Euclidean Geometry actually hurt my brain. And when would I ever use that?
            All that knowledge was too much for my mortal brain stem. “It hurts!” I grabbed my head and moaned. A migraine would have given me relief.
            He snapped again and the knowledge was gone. Relief! He leaned forward, peering at me, his sparkling green eyes gazing deeply into mine, a stray auburn lock falling into his eyes making him look way too irresistible. “I can kiss it and make it better,” he breathed.
            Evil dude- most certainly, but holy Helen-of-Troy he was hot.
            That’s how he gets his victims, he charms and seduces them. Have some backbone! Meg’s not here to pull your butt out of the Greek fire!
            Taking a slow, deep breath and clasping my hands together, I replied, “No, I’m good, but you can give me a genealogy chart so I can keep your family straight. That would help a lot when one pops up and I don’t know whether to beg for mercy or offer them a cookie. Or, you could just tell me where I’ll be working in six years when I’m done with school so I can plan my wardrobe accordingly.”
            He huffed and stood up, stretching all glorious 6’4” of him. “Don’t worry about the family, they have more interesting things to do than keep track of your whereabouts.”
            Ouch! Forgotten already! I didn't remind him that it never stopped Persephone and Demeter and a few others from sticking their immortal noses into my earthly business.
            He leaned against the mantle. “And I can’t tell you the future. The three fates get rather pissy and change everything just to prove how powerful they are, and for messing up their ‘vision.’ A daisy gets stepped on and poof! All life could be wiped out by a meteor. They’re bitchy enough to wait until a new humanity rises out of the slime.” He crossed his arms over his chest, his toned abs and pecs lovingly gloved in his Under Armor.
            It’s enough to make a girl’s mouth water- unless she knows him for the scheming, lying snake he is.
            “So what’s the big deal with the whole college thing? I can give you whatever knowledge you need.” He waggled his eyebrows. “Or teach you myself... There are many delights...”
            Regretfully, I put down the hot chocolate and stood so I could look him almost in the eye.
            “Hades, some things have to be experienced. Everything I’ve read about you doesn’t come close to what you’re like in the flesh. At college I get to meet people from so many different places, different cultures. I get to be on my own, and try to balance school and responsibilities and time. I can't get that staying comfy at home.”
            “You did all that last year and the previous one,” he huffed, “when you had your scholarship to that alternative high school, worked for me, and still managed to ace your classes. Even when I whisked you off to Tartarus, as my guest, you managed everything.”
            I wrinkled my nose. “You mean as your captive.”
            “Guest, captive, very good friend, whatever title suits you.”
            I took a step back. “Not that good a friend. Anyway, it’s all about living my life, on my own terms. Learning to make good decisions, living with the consequences of bad ones. Where’s the fun in suddenly knowing everything, but never having experienced it?”
            He tilted his head. “Maybe I should experience some of this college.”
            I practically jumped up and down. “Oh, you’ll love the University of Alaska! Skiing, snowshoeing, the Iditarod. Just leave Cerberus at home, he doesn’t play well with other doggies.” The three-headed guardian of Tartarus was a big wuss- unless another dog came near.
            Hades looked puzzled. “But I thought you were going to the University of North Carolina.”
            I narrowed my eyes. “I am. If you want the complete college experience, you have to go where you don’t know anyone. And no using your super powers. Learn the old fashioned, mortal way; read, study, write a paper.”
            His brows dropped down, hooding his eyes. “I see. You don’t want me going with you.”
            I held up a finger, counting. “Let’s see: psychotic wife.” Up went another finger. “Insane mother-in-law.” Third finger rose. “You use your powers to get anything you want.” Another finger stood. “You’ll ruin any chances of me getting a date while you,” and I glared at him, “romance” your way through the student and academic body.” Finally, the thumb. “And who knows what will happen to the fate of mankind if your other wacky relatives drop in. Remember the havoc all of you created in NYC?” Poor Meg was branded a lunatic, mumbling to store windows when it was a communication portal so we could talk while I was in Tartarus. Some people still remembered that.
            He shrugged. “Yes, well I guess Persephone and some others might misunderstand that I was simply indulging my curiosity.”
            He’d be indulging all right, and not in the academics.
            He waved a languid hand and I was back in my room, amidst the chaos of heaped clothes and new bedding to be packed. 
            On the bed was a box, beautifully gift wrapped in gold, with a tag that read, “Sharisse, no tricks, I promise. L, H.”
            Should I believe him, and open it, or go by past experience?

Don't know the whole story? Catch up- first with 

Then with 

And tell Sharisse if she should open the box...

And if you're going back to school, have a great year and much success!


Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Back to School... Sort Of

No, I've given up the idea of that MFA (have you seen the cost???)

The sons are going back to school within the next week (color me ecstatic).

For me, it's back the the routine of events, workshops, and panels. Back to solving the problem of why this manuscript was a pass for editors/agents.

Here's the first event! 

Come talk books, see books, get books, love books! Hope to see you there! And if you can't make it, won't you please support the authors by spreading the word? Maybe pass along the info? Thanks!


Tuesday, August 22, 2017

One at a Time...

Once a year, usually in September, I clean my kitchen cabinets. It's a job I hate. I have to sort through boxes of food and throw anything stale out (recycling the boxes), go through dishes (how many water bottles do we need???) and decide what appliances/gadgets to get rid of (veg-ini anyone?). Then I have to clean the cabinets on the inside and clean/polish the outside. It's time consuming. No one notices unless I don't do it. And no one else will do it for me. (Well, I could pay someone I guess, but would they do it the way I like it?)

To do it all at once is overwhelming. Too many cabinets, drawers, and time. But it has to be done (with 3 boys in the house, it gets to be a mess).

So, I set a goal of one cabinet a day. If I miss a day because of other obligations, then two the next (even if it's the two smallest, it's still two). Eventually, it gets done and I am relieved for another year (until someone spills something and doesn't clean it up).

It's the same with this old manuscript I'm trying to revise from adult paranormal to new adult. It's a mess (I didn't think so, but several years of dust collected on top of it while hidden in the closet). I need to get rid of clutter, throw out anything that's bad, and reorganize what I keep. Like the cabinets, the manuscript must be organized and workable.

But I so don't want to do this, it's overwhelming (and I'm sure anyone who knows me knows I HATE multiple revisions). This manuscript is 385 pages. To do it all at once, I think I'd rather clean the cabinets. But like the cabinets, if I do one, two chapters a day, it will get done. With no deadline, there's no panic. Plenty of time. Maybe too much time because I don't feel any pressure. Some people, like me, work better under pressure so I'll impose one on myself. I want to be done with cleaning the kitchen by the time school starts in September. I want to be done with this revision by November so I can work on my NaNoWriMo project. In between I have scheduled book events, blogs to write, bell practice/performances, holidays, family obligations, and who knows what else will come up.

Here's my attack plan:

1- Inventory. (What do I have in the cabinets, what's in the story outline?)
2- Check what's no good. (Is that box of crackers stale? Is that plot thread working?)
3- Empty the trash. (Yep, box of crackers and can of nuts have to go. And that character is dead to me.)
4- Rearrange what's left. (All crackers on one shelf, straighten out plot hole left by dead & gone character.)
5- Restock. (Buy new crackers that everyone will eat, add details to smooth out plot changes.)
6- Polish. (Coat of wax on wooden cabinets, read through for any grammar, spelling, or other mistakes.)
7- Start the next project. (Cleaning out closets, working on NaNo project.)

Now I have to clean two cabinets and revise two chapters since I spent yesterday reading, thinking about what to write for this post, and doing physical therapy for my knee (nothing serious). No excuses, just gotta do it.

Keep cleaning- cabinets, manuscripts, whatever...


Monday, August 14, 2017


A new blog! (for me). I'm joining the ranks of peeps at Smack dab in the middle blog! I'll be joining Holly Schindler, Jane Kelley, Deborah Lytton, Ann Haywood Leal, Darlene Beck Jacobson, Lizzie K. Foley, Sheila O'Connor, Claudia Mills, Irene Latham, Platte F. Clark, Jody Feldman, Sarah Dooley, and Dia Calhoun. I am in such esteemed company- they have written numerous wonderful and award winning middle grade books. These are some pretty big footsteps to follow, but I'm game!

I'll be posting on the 29th of the month. There are monthly themes this bevy of middle grade authors write about, but they'll be expanding to reviews, interviews with teachers and librarians and guest posts. And, if we have a good idea outside the box, you'll see that. I've already planned out my first post, and you can be sure I'll mention it here. I'm still keeping this blog (unless I have a bestseller that sells millions and I can hire a personal assistant to do it for me).

Also changing- my new website is coming! I've been working on it, with lots of help from the Authors Guild. You'll be able to go and see it soon. I'll be doing a giveaway, so stay tuned! I hope you'll stop by when it's up and running, and leave a comment. Until it's completed, I'll still be here, with all the pages and my posts.

Until then, I'm kind of setting up new events (check the "What's Up?" page) and working on public relations while I try to iron out the final kinks in the website and the migraine-inducing process of getting Evolution Revolution: Book 2, Simple Plans and Evolution Revolution: Book 3, Simple Lessons onto Smashwords. (It is my premonition that a computer-tech glitch will give me an aneurysm.) It's hard getting rivals (CreateSpace/Amazon vs. Smashwords to cooperate. Man, it's one of the things I hate about Indie publishing.)

While our country and the world is in chaos, I wish you a few moments of peace. I hope this helps:

Keep hopeful and compassionate,


Monday, August 7, 2017

5 Random Tips About Querying Agents...

Re: mg fantasy query for Agent X

Yep, I'm still slogging along with the agent search. That's normal; very few people accept/get accepted by the first agent who responds. Being that this is my second time around, here are five random tips I've learned about querying agents:

1.  Make sure the agent handles what you write. Okay, they like and want middle grade sci fi, which you have at least one complete manuscript. But suppose you have an idea for a young adult historical fiction that you're really excited about- only the agent you're looking at or who responded doesn't do historical fiction? I foresee three choices: one, you forget about it because their guidelines specifically listed no historical fiction. Two, you write it and self publish. (I don't think this goes over very well with agents...). And third, you work on it and when you feel the time is write, break up with your agent and shop it around (but check with agent to make sure they haven't changed their minds. Or, they might not represent it, but will let someone in their agency handle it.). It's your call.

2. Read. Their. Submission. Guidelines. This seems like a no-brainer, but even wise authors make the mistake of 'skimming over' the guidelines. I've automatically assumed every agent wants a short bio, short synop, and the first 10 pages of the manuscript within the email, no attachments, and use the word 'query' in the subject line. Almost all the time, those are the basics. Recently though, I had one agent who asked for first 50 pages. Another wanted to know what was the last book I read, and what author influenced me the most, etc. Gotta read it ALL. Every time.

3. Even if agents say they always respond to every query, don't hold your breath (or become like Harry Potter in front of the Mirror of Erised, waiting...waiting...). Sometimes things happen and the agent can't keep that promise. You shouldn't put your life and writing on hold for someone who may never know you're at home, waiting in your prom dress, for a date that will never knock on the door. Keep sending queries out. Most won't acknowledge unless interested, only a few will send an automatic "we got the query" with the footnote not to bug them with follow-ups, and a very rare few send a personal email- eventually. Keep submitting to other agents. Life is short.

4. Make sure your short bio and concise synopsis are current. I recently sent out a query package only to realize the bio didn't have my latest book. (I'm still finding variations on my computer, social media and other websites that list my old agent.) Check. It. First. Before you attach/copy. If you can, have someone who knows you well read it. Also, make sure the manuscript sample is the correct number of pages; don't try to be sneaky and add more. The excuse 'you have to see how this chapter/situation/conflict ends' won't work. Sending more than they initially requested shows that you can't/won't take direction. And, I think it's more of a cliff hanger if you suddenly end on something like, "As the door creaked, she turned around and saw-" Saw what??? Your sample should be interesting enough to catch their attention. If not, revisions or submitting to another agent are called for.

5. Don't ask a friend who has an agent to 'recommend' you to theirs. Everyone who doesn't have a famous relative or their own fame has to go through this process. You have to do the work of querying. The information helps establish communication and interest. Your friend's agent may not be right for you, even if the agent repped 50 Shades and everyone wants to sign with them. Read agent and agency bios and/or meet them at a conference. Most of the time, there are no shortcuts in querying. So come join the rest of us and we'll slog through this together. First person to get an amazing agent buys the drinks.

Till then, keep querying.


Monday, July 31, 2017

This Is Dedicated To The One I....

...Love, am related to, working with, want to remember, am obligated to, have to name because the family will harass me if I don't, want to impress, want to embarrass, etc.

You get the idea; people dedicate their books to others for a variety of reasons. I've dedicated my books to my family (because my husband and kids had to live with me and eat lots of leftovers, and my mother had to listen to me whine about no love for Jack), to former teachers (you can blame them I went into writing because of their encouragement), my former co-author and agent (keeping good working relationships is important!), and finally, ME.

Yep, I dedicated Evolution Revolution: Book 2, Simple Plans, to me. I wrote this series over 10 years ago and through the agonizing process of submitting to editors and agents, doing numerous revisions, and worrying about it dying a lonely, unloved death, I Indie published. Rough road, not recommended for all, but it was something I felt I had to do. So kudos to me. Here it is:

To: Me. I've dedicated books to family and friends, even animals. I've worked so hard to make this dream-this series-a reality. So here's to me!

For the final book, Evolution Revolution: Book 3, Simple Lessons, I just had to dedicate it to my illustrator, Cathy Thole-Daniels. Here's the full dedication:

To: Cathy Daniels. Her illustrations showed Jack's spunk, Collin's compassion, and the features of each animal that made them a character that won't be forgotten. She never complained when I made changes, although there weren't many to make because she understood immediately what I wanted. Many people have remarked on the beautiful covers, which attracted them to buy the book. So a gigantic thank you for giving my project of love your best work. If Jack ever pops up again, he knows he's in good paws.

It's not easy trying to decide to whom you will dedicate your book. Name one cousin, another will get mad. Leave out a critique group member, and they may leave the group. Mention both editors but not a publicist or agent, and it's awkward. (I think my next dedication will be the agent who signs me and the editor who buys the book. Is that enticing anyone....?)

Here are some others borrowed from the BookBub website (here):

"This book's dedicated to everyone you hate. Sorry. Life's like that sometimes." (Ruins, by Dan

"For my father, who is not evil. Well, maybe a little bit." (City of Ashes, by Cassandra Clare)

"This is not for you." (House of Leaves, by Mark Z. Danielewski)

This is my favorite- I wish I'd thought of it because it applies to my family (from, The 30 Funniest Book Dedications):

"To those who inspired it and will not read it." (They don't cite the author, but I will be happy to put it in when I find out who this genius is...)

And finally, same site, but no author attribution: "Dedicated to everyone who wonders if I am writing about them. I am."

(There were some really funny ones, but the language...)

So when dreaming up your own dedication, whether you need it right now or are only planning ahead for when that time comes, just think: you can write what you want- and the publisher and copyeditor may not be able to edit it! Be creative, but remember that once it's in's forever.


Monday, July 24, 2017


I'm giving away 5 copies of Evolution Revolution: Book 3, Simple Lessons starting today! The books are in stock, so I'm ready to give some away!

Here's a little teaser:

Evolution Revolution, Book 3:
Simple Lessons
By Charlotte Bennardo
Chapter 1
Over The Hill
Jack the squirrel looked at the picture his human friend, Collin, held up. Rolling anything round he understood. He used rolling to move the nuts closer to his tree and rocks to stop construction machine wheels. Wagons he understood. Collin built one for him.
But Collin wasn’t showing him anything new. Jack hopped closer to Collin, his tail flicking expectantly, his black eyes wide with curiosity.
“I don’t understand what he’s trying to show me,” said Jack.
Rat wiggled his few whiskers. “Too bad we don’t have Bird.”
“Rat,” said Jack, “Bird can only repeat human words she knows. She can’t ask Collin why.”
“Not yet,” said Rat, going over to a small table with a soft cloth in a heap, perfect for a sleep. “Wake me when you learn whatever Collin teaches you.” He closed his eyes.
“No sleeping, Rat! Now that you’re here, you’re going to learn too, so I don’t have to be the only one teaching the others.”
Rat grumbled and mumbled a bit, but moved closer.
“Jack,” said Collin, bringing the squirrel’s attention back to the picture. Collin propped the picture against the wall and dragged a long shallow plastic box closer.
Jack stepped over, sniffing it. Dirt. Then he looked back at Collin, waiting.
Collin leaned over the box. Using his hands, he scooped some dirt onto the table. Slowly a pile rose. Collin smoothed it into a hill, then patted it firmly down, like beaver did with mud on his dam.
Jack looked at him.
“Inclined plane,” said Collin.
Jack looked at the hill.
“Inclined plane,” repeated Collin.
Jack blinked. And stood there.
Collin pulled out a new wagon, exactly like one that Jack stole.
Is this Rat’s wagon?  
Making a little finger man, Collin pulled the wagon up the hill with a string harness.
Up, thought Jack. I know what up is. I want to learn something new.
Getting bored, Jack checked his fur for fluffiness. And bugs.
Collin put the wagon back at the bottom of the hill and held up the harness for Jack. Jack leapt over to the wagon and stepped into the harness. Collin put a chunk of banana, covered in creamy nut mud, at the end of the table.
No nut chunks? chattered Jack, disappointed. Collin always used nut mud with chunks. He refused to eat.  
Collin held it out to Jack.
Jack ignored him.
Looking at the banana, Collin smiled. “Sorry, Jack, no more chunky peanut butter left. It’s this or nothing.”
Jack heard the soft tone in Collin’s voice, but he was still annoyed. It was his favorite treat. But not today. No nuts!
“Are you going to eat that tasty bit, or can I have it?” asked Rat, hungrily eyeing the banana.
Jack twittered. Better something than nothing. “I’ll share,” he offered grudgingly. Dragging the wagon, Jack went around the hill toward the snack. When he came to a stick lying in his way, he stepped over. Jack stopped when the wagon refused to roll forward, and looked back. He waited for Collin to move the stick.
“Easy, Jack,” said Collin as he picked up both Jack and wagon, and set them on the base of the hill he made over the other end of the stick. “Up, Jack, up,” said Collin, giving the wagon a gentle push. Understanding the up motion of Collin’s hand, Jack pulled- and he and the wagon went over the hill, over the stick. Jack turned around, forgetting the banana. The wagon went over the hill which was over the stick...

Find out how Jack's story started with Evolution Revolution: Book 1, Simple Machinescontinues with Evolution Revolution: Book 2, Simple Plans, and winds up (for now...) with Simple Lessons.

Please leave a review or mark it as To Read on Goodreads, maybe share the love by reading it with a kid, recommend it to someone. Jack wants to meet more good people! 
Now it's back to  writing, revising, and querying. Poolside. But it won't all be chill; I have words to chop, characters to pester, and agents to email. 
As Jack would say, it's back to whuck!