YA Author Rendezvous

Creativity Unleashed: Books for the young and the young at heart



Tools of the Trade

First posted at Young Adult Books Central.

By Michelle Lynn

A painter has their paint brush. A sculptor has their clay. What does this have to do with indie publishing? Just like that painter and that sculptor, a writer is an artist. Artists create. They create beauty, tragedy, the illusion of reality. They show us how things are and how things should be.

As creators, we must use what is available to us – tools of the trade. A lot of this can be said for both indie published authors and traditionally published ones. No matter the size of the publishing house you have behind you, there are certain things you must do for yourself. Writing, for example.

Still, there are some tools that will be used more by indies who must make their own advertising graphics, choose their own Amazon key words, and handle their own marketing. I’ve listed seven of my favorite “brushes” for our form of artistry.

  1. ScrivenerEvery author no matter their publishing path can benefit from this tool and that’s why it’s at the top of my list. It isn’t free, but it is very affordable. Scrivener is a writing program. It’s used in the same way many people use Word, but there are benefits. It’s a bit more stripped down than Word, simple and easy to use. The best part about it is the way it organizes your book. These novels we write can reach into the hundreds of word pages. Have you ever forgotten something you wrote and had to scroll through the entire document to find it? In Scrivener, documents are divided into chapters that you can name and move around at will. They also provide character building templates so you never again have to wonder what color eyes you gave a character in some previous chapter.
  2. Canva Photoshop is expensive and kind of confusing if you ask me. Canva is an online tool that allows you to import images (or buy stock photos from them) and manipulate them, changing colors and adding text, to create ads or promotional images. It’s easy to use even for an image illiterate like myself. I’d be lost without canva.
  3. KDP RocketAre you wanting to write a book that has a jump start in popularity? This is called writing to market and many indie authors are doing it. KDP Rocket is a program that helps identify trends and fads in the marketplace to allow you to jump on board. That’s only one of its many features. It can also help determine which keywords would give your book the largest boost. And have you ever wondered about the kind of money certain books are bringing in? Now you can see exactly how each book in the Amazon marketplace is doing to help you decide which genre you’d like to jump into. It can be fun. The program isn’t free, but it can be worth it for indie published/ self-published authors.
  4. Social media management programs – there are many of these including Buffer andHootsuite. As authors, we’re expected to maintain a presence on so many different platforms that if we aren’t careful, all of our valuable writing time will be sucked away. These programs streamline social media. They allow you to post the same thing across different platforms with a few clicks. You can plan ahead, down to the minute, your posts to Facebook and Twitter. I can schedule an entire month’s worth of posts in about an hour. The small fee is incredibly worth it.
  5. The Emotion Thesaurus – Really, I could put the entire series and the connected website here. The Emotion Thesaurus is a book that has a page dedicated to any emotion you can imagine and describes things like body language of feelings associated with it. The series also contains books for character traits and settings. The website connected to the books is called Writers Helping Writers and has more resources in one place than you can even imagine.
  6. Calibre A completely free ebook management program that I always find some use for. As an indie, you will most likely be sending out your own review copies. Calibre allows you to convert them to any format that is requested from you so they can be read on any device. This has been helpful to me because I also help other authors by reading their work. Many of them send it in Doc format which doesn’t read so well on my Kindle. Instead of having to read on my computer, I can easily convert it to the format I need.
  7. Bookfunnel (or Instafreebie) – Do you send out review copies to your advance team? Do you give away ebooks in large giveaways? Whenever you need to send a book, wouldn’t it be easier to just send a link and then have the reader download the book on any device they prefer? That’s what these sites allow. They also let you collect emails of the people who download your book which is invaluable if you’re focused on building a large Newsletter (which you  should be).

There are so many great resources for writers out there and with the rapidly growing indie publishing industry, more are popping up all the time. None of these replace the best resource available, though. Other authors will forever be the best source of marketing advice and support as well as critiques and cross-author promotions.

The tools are out there to make a go of it in this industry. The biggest thing I’ve learned is to never be afraid to try the new ones that come along. Experiment, see what works for you. Don’t be afraid of technology and never ever think social media is a waste of time. In the crowded market, we need to be everywhere. We must make it as easy as possible for readers to see us and get ahold of our books. As indies, we don’t have the huge teams behind us, but in today’s world, some successful authors are finding they don’t need them.

Don’t forget to check out our other posts HERE.

See Michelle at the Young Adult Author Rendezvous HERE.


Super Cool Toys and Apps for Writers

writer  By K.R. Conway

Looking for cool Christmas ideas for the writer you know?

I taught at the Young Writers Workshop (which is part of the Cape Cod Writers Center Summer Conference) and I’ve gotta tell ya – my class of crazies totally rocks.

I have eight of the brightest, wildest teen writers this side of Hogwarts. They are tackling everything from twisted retellings, to high fantasy dragon shifters and dream thieves, to awesomely wicked horror and family murder and magic, to bookworms-turned-assassins, to glorious contemporary dramas. I look at my class and each writer there is dedicated to their story, their characters, and (amazingly), one another.

Thank heavens there isn’t a story-slam at the end of this because my clan of teen writers would wipe the floor with ya!

In just a couple of days, they have joined forces to pull the best stories and voice from each of their manuscripts, offering twists and turns and solutions to one another that the creator never saw coming. I’m showing them my personal tricks of the trade and they are intent on getting it right. They are determined. Fearless. They are true story-crafters and can write circles around many adults.

Because all writers should indulge in a few tools of the trade, I am listing a couple awesome apps and toys for my class here on my website. Of course, you TOO can steal a peek . . .


Lists For Writers:


Index Card:


Aqua Notes

Fisher Space Pen

Laptop Cooling Pad

Neo2 Alphasmart

Storiarts clothing

Woodlands End Table

Dragon Speech-to-text software

iworkz Foldable Keyboards (for writing on the fly)

Author K.R. Conway has a page on the Young Adult Author Rendezvous Website HERE.

Christmas Book-list for Boys

book-boy-2   By T.D. Shields

When it comes time to shop for gifts – whether at Christmas or any other time of year – I often go looking for a good book to share. I love reading so much that a new book is always a welcome gift, so I like to do the same for other people. Of course, the problem with giving books is that sometimes it’s hard to know what to give!

In light of that, I thought I’d share some suggestions and maybe you’ll find some books on my lists that are new to you or perfect for the reader in your life.

I’m going to start with a list of books for boys. It can be tough to find books for boys, so I went to the source. I have three boys (ages 6-10) and I asked for a list of books they love and/or would want to find under the tree this year.

Recommendations from the 6-Year-Old

  • This kiddo loves the Doreen Cronin books about the animals on Farmer Brown’s farm. His favorite is Duck for President, but he’s also a big fan of Click, Clack, Moo and Giggle, Giggle, Quack.
  • Another favorite is the Pete the Cat series by James Dean.
  • And though he’s getting a little old for the Sandra Boynton board books, he still likes to look through them now that he’s old enough to start reading them for himself. Cute stories, funny pictures, and easy reading-levels make these a good fit for my beginning reader.
  • And, of course, don’t forget the indie options you can find on our YAAR website. There are lots of fantastic choices there!

Recommendations from the 8-Year-Old

  • It’s sad but true, 8-year-old boys love gross humor. That why this kiddo loves the Captain Underpants series by Dav Pilkey. I’ll admit that I don’t particularly enjoy it when he wants to read me a funny (to him) section about mega-farts or Professor Poopypants, but I do love it that he enjoys reading these so much.
  • Another hit with the 8-year-old set is the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series by Jeff Kinney. The first couple of books in the series have been made into movies, but there are plenty more books in the series. Kids who enjoy the movies could get hooked on the books.
  • For some reason it’s become a big thing for kids to spend time on YouTube watching OTHER people play games like Minecraft. I don’t get it, but I’ve given in and let the kids watch some of them. Dan TDM is a hugely popular star of Minecraft YouTube videos and now he has started writing books as well. If it means that my kiddo is interested in spending less time watching videos and more time reading, I will buy the book – so we picked up Trayaurus and the Enchanted Crystal when it came out last month. It was a big hit at my house, so your little Minecraft fanatics might enjoy it as well.
  • In the non-fiction area, this kiddo really enjoys a series of books called Who Would Win by Jerry Pallotta. These books take two animals that spark kids’ imaginations – for example, a killer whale and a great white shark – and analyze the animals’ temperaments, abilities, and other characteristics to determine which would probably win in a fight between the two. Maybe you have to be a kid to really appreciate them, but my son finds the books interesting and entertaining – and he even learns something along the way.
  • And once again, don’t forget the great indie options! We haven’t read all of these (yet!), but we’re working on it. Both the eight-year-old and the ten-year-old really liked The Monsters Anonymous Club and have plans to read The Chosen.

Recommendations from the 10-Year-Old

  • The ten-year-old is an avid reader and loves adventure. He devoured the Harry Potter books before moving on to a new fantasy series called Fablehaven by Brandon Mull. It took some work for him to get through them all, but he loved the stories so much that he persevered. They are really fun books; my 13-year-old daughter and I read and loved them too!
  • Now that he’s finished with Fablehaven, the ten-year-old has moved on to a new series by Brandon Mull, The Beyonders. This is another fantasy series and while I haven’t had a chance to read it yet, my son tells me that it’s really great. He’s finishing up book 1 and already checking to be sure that he’ll be able to get book 2 right away.
  • He also likes the Magic Tree House series by Mary Pope Osborne. This is a great series because it mixes a fun adventure story with real facts and figures about various topics, so kids can learn while they’re entertained. There are a lot of books in this series, so it could keep your kiddo busy for a while!
  • Though he loves fiction and fantasy books, my son is also a big fan of non-fiction as well. He likes anything to do with animals. He recommends any animal book from National Geographic because there are lots of interesting facts. He also enjoys Wild Kratts in book and video formats because of the wealth of animal facts.
  • When it comes to the YAAR indie offerings, I’m planning to introduce this kiddo to several of the titles in this section. I think they’ll be right up his alley!

That should be enough to get you started!

You can see more about author T.D. Shields in her interview HERE!

T.D. Shields has a page at Young Adult Author Rendezvous HERE!

Find Young Adult Author Rendezvous on Facebook HERE!

Happy Holidays from everyone here at the Young Adult Author Rendezvous. We hope you’re reading good books, eating good food, and enjoying time with good people!

It’s National Dog Day – Do you know your Harry Potter dogs?

Written by Cynthia Port.

In honor of Rowling’s latest release and National Dog Day, let’s see how many dogs of the Wizarding World YOU can name.

A pair of adorable pups probably come to mind right away: Fang and Fluffy.

Fang - Harry Potter - National Dog DayFang is described as a Boarhound, but that is actually another name for a Great Dane, so yes indeedy, Fang is a giant, black Great Dane. I imagine him like the tallest Great Dane in the world, George, who was 7’3” long from his rubbery nose to the end of his ouch-my-face-is-not-a-windshield tail.  Sadly, George passed away in 2013, but he will forever live on in the scratches he left at the top of his family’s refrigerator. It doesn’t seem fair, but large dogs do not live as long as smaller ones. I hate to think how many raw steaks Hagrid will need to hold over his swollen eyes when Fang must leave him.

Fluffy - Harry Potter - National Dog DayFluffy is the large, vicious, three-headed dog that guarded the Philosopher’s Stone and could only be tamed through music. I love the idea of a three-headed dog.  You get three times the adorable, loving stares and only one part of the . . . you know.  In The Philosopher’s Stone, Hagrid explains that he got Fluffy from “a Greek chappie.”  Rowling is showing off her impressive knowledge of ancient myths and legends with this off-hand remark, as Greek mythology is replete with three–headed canines, also known as hellhounds.  The most famous of the pack, Cerberus, guarded the entrance to the Underworld.

Hercules -Harry Potter - National Dog DayA Greek amphora from 500 BC showing us Hercules taming a two-headed Cerberus, (apparently by singing to him since I don’t see an instrument).  I’m not sure what happened to head number three, but I guess you can afford to lose your head when you’ve got a couple of spares.

Ripper - Harry Potter - Natonal Dog DayRemember him?  Maybe not, because despite his impressive name, he is a decidedly non-magical creature.  Ripper is the favorite of Harry’s Aunt Marge’s twelve bulldogs. He once chased Harry into a tree, which wasn’t very nice, but he also sunk his teeth into Vernon’s leg, so there’s that.

Crup - Harry Potter - National Dog DayWhat?  You didn’t think of Crups?  That’s okay, they only get one quick mention in The Order of the Phoenix, as creatures studied in Hagrid’s Care of Magical Creatures class.Flying Jack Russell - Harry Potter - National Dog Day

Crups are wizard-bred dogs that look like Jack Russell terriers, except that they have forked tails.  Popular singer Celestine Warbeck is known to be a breeder of Crups. The Jack Russell in this picture may or may not have a forked tail, but he sure looks magical! Accio Crup!!

Ron's Patronus - Harry Potter - National Dog DayThat’s right, Ron’s Patronus, his alter-self, is a dog—a loyal if not altogether bright creature. The choice of a Jack Russell for Ron was a sentimental one, because Rowling once had one for a pet. Going with the red hair theme, I would have picked an Irish Setter, but that was probably too obvious. So obvious, in fact, that my patronus is probably a dog . . .

The Grim - Harry Potter - National Dog DayThe Grim is the omen of death in the form of a giant, shaggy black dog that Harry didn’t actually see.  Oh, he did see a dog, but it didn’t turn out to be the Grim, and Harry did not die.  Several dogs could be the source of Rowling’s Grim, including the Black Shuck of English folklore and the Cu Sith of Scottish mythology, both of which signal death.  Grim - Harry Potter - National Dog DayThere’s also the Church Grim of Scandinavian and English folklore, a guardian spirit that guards churchyards after being buried alive there for that purpose. Shudder.  A description of the appearance of the Black Shuck at a church in Suffolk, England in 1577 starts with: A Straunge and Terrible Wunder wrought very late….

There is also mention of two dogs owned by Hermione’s parents after she modified their memories and sent them to live in nice, safe Australia (and I’m going to pretend they were dingos), and Hagrid compares baby Aragog to a Pekingese in size. How sweet. Additional dog mentions occur in the Harry Potter films, video games, companion books, and on Pottermore.  You can learn about them all at

Dinky - Harry Potter - National Dog DayIt’s no surprise that dogs sniff their way into Rowling’s books; if humans cannot live without the furry, tail wagging wonderfulness that is dogs, why would wizards want to do so?  Only problem is, Dinky, the Great Dane in my middle grade book series, can’t stop drooling over the fact that Fang is also a Dane.  Suddenly he is a Fang Fandog!  Down Dinky, down!  Yes, I will get you a Fang poster for your doghouse, but in the meantime, my face is not a windshield!  Ow!


Plein Air Painting

Rita Goldner - Plein Air Painting - Young Adult Author Rendezvous 1Written by Rita Goldner.

In the near future I have two trips planned, one a mini family reunion in the cool mountains, and one with my kids and grandkids at a lake. Both times I’ll bring my little plein air set-up:  a folding chair, sun umbrella, paints and brushes, a watercolor tablet and a small folding easel. I’m anticipating feeding my other passion (besides writing and illustrating children’s books).

For me, nothing beats exploring nature, with either a two-hour painting, or a quick pencil sketch in the middle of a hike.  In my obsession, I coax other people to join me, especially those who say they have no ability. I fully intend to push a paintbrush into the hand of each grandchild old enough to know which is the fuzzy end.

I’ve painted outdoors a lot, and taught a few beginner classes, so I’ve condensed the process into a few basic tips, to make it quick and enjoyable (One doesn’t want to spend more than two hours, because the shadows will have shifted)

1.First make some decisions: Should your painting be taller or wider, what to include/omit, what is the most important part. (the focal point)Rita Goldner - Plein Air Painting - Young Adult Author Rendezvous 2

2. Divide your canvas/paper into thirds lengthwise and widthwise, with a big tic-tac-toe.  Pick one of the four intersections to put your focal point, and this area will have the darkest darks and the lightest lights next to each other.

3. Make 3-4 small (2-inch) thumbnail sketches, just pencil, no paint, to break up the space into interesting shapes. Have five to seven shapes, and they should fit together like puzzle pieces. See my example of 5 shapes. Don’t think of a shape as a “thing”, but as a patch that’s different in value from the surrounding patches. (Value means light or dark.)

4. Make the light/dark patches form a balanced abstract pattern, leading the eye around.

5. Have a limited palette of 3-4 colors, and fill in your big shapes. Later you can break some of them down into smaller shapes, but keep them close in value. Have some hard edges and some soft blended edges.

6. Vary brushstroke size and direction.

Most of the readers of these blogs are already expressing themselves is a creative way, writing. So it’s not a big stretch of imagination to think you’ll have fun plein air painting, too. A passer-by once asked me if I got a better finished product painting outdoors or at home and I said “Who cares? This is so much fun I won’t stop even if it turns out bad.”

Note: I belong to the Arizona Plein Air Painters, and they welcome non-members and prospective members to their paint-outs. The upcoming paintouts are on their event page:

Rita’s blog and website can be found here.

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Jenny’s Dad’s 1-Ingredient Vegan Burger

Healthy Vegan Lentil Burger Recipe by Cynthia PortWritten by Cynthia Port

I write what I know, and since I know me and I write humor, my books make fun of all the ridiculous facets of me.  The facet I’ll tell you about today is my relationship with healthy eating.  I know . . . what could possibly be funny about that?  But trust me, following this food lifestyle gets ridiculous faster than eating purple cabbage will turn your pee pink.

All my life I’ve been a foodie; I love to cook and plan meals.  For the past 4 years I’ve been a gluten free vegan foodie cooking almost entirely from scratch. This of course had to make it into my books, which it did, in the form of the dad of a protagonist.  He doesn’t even have a name, actually – so far he’s just “Jenny’s Dad”.  A confirmed health nut, he runs the “Incredible Bulk” co-op, its shelves stocked with bags and boxes of powdered and freeze dried foodstuffs that would be really good for you if you could somehow convince yourself to eat it.  His favorite after school snack to make for poor Jenny is rice cakes with partially melted “not-cheese” globs, washed down with carob un-milk.  And did I mention the “Just the Flax” crackers made with flax seeds, flax germ, flax meal, puffed flax and essence of flax? Nom nom!

In the spirit of Jenny’s dad, here’s a recipe that sounds pretty terrible, but is actually really, really delicious.  With only ONE, all natural, whole food ingredient, you can serve it to all of your food challenged friends without worry.  Actually, that one ingredient is just the base.  To that you will add whatever spices and flavorings you desire.  Add Mexican spice and you’ve got a crispy, protein and fiber-rich taco filling.  Add Italian spices and make up some vegballs for your spaghetti.  Cook up some patty shapes and then crisp them up on the grill at your next backyard get-together (but bring some extras because everybody will be curious to try one!).  Once cooked, they freeze beautifully.  Here we go!


Healthy Vegan Lentil Burger Recipe by Cynthia Port1 cup Urad Lentils (small, black-skinned lentils available in any Indian grocery store or on-line.) You can get them with or without the skins, but the skins do add some flavor.  Okay, I admit, this is a weird ingredient, but it’s el cheapo and it’s also the only required ingredient, so CHEF-UP AND FIND IT!!

PREPARATION: Soak the lentils in water for 90 minutes to 2 hours.  While they are soaking, read all about how amazing urad lentils really are:

After soaking, drain the lentils in a colander and scoop a generous third of them into a food processor.  Add ¼ cup water and grind till you get a fluffy paste (3-4 minutes).  Add another third of the lentils and another ¼ cup water and grind for 1 minute.  Add the remaining lentils and grind for just a few seconds.  Having lentils that are fully ground, partially ground, and whole gives the patties more texture and crunch.

Water amounts vary depending on how long you soaked and how thoroughly you drained, so it’s hard to give an exact amount, but use enough water till the thickness of the mixture is somewhere between peanut butter and chocolate pudding.

That’s it!  Now just stir in salt and spices.  I use 3/4 tsp salt and a teaspoon of paprika (for coloring). For Indian flavor, add curry powder (or a mix of cumin, coriander, black pepper, red pepper, turmeric).  For Italian, add dried basil, oregano, black pepper and garlic powder.  For Mexican, use chili powder, cumin, oregano and black pepper.  There’s no raw animal products in here, so feel free to taste as you go until you get the spiciness you want.

Heat a nonstick skillet (I use cast iron because, again, health nut) to medium high and add oil (canola or coconut is great).  Drop batter into the pan and watch how it sets up like magic as it cooks (because lentils actually are magic). Cook on the first side till nicely browned and crispy, then flip, adding more oil if you need it.  Use about a 1/3 cup for veggie burgers, smoothing into a patty shape.  Drop by the teaspoon for vegballs and do not flatten.  For taco filling, make thin patties and then slice them up into fajita strips when they are done, tossing on extra Mexican spices just before serving.

That’s it!  Now go make some.  Jenny’s dad will be so proud of you, and your body will be grateful for all the anti-oxidants and fiber!


My New Year’s Resolution

new years resolutionWritten by George Sirois

By the time you read this, we’ll be more than halfway through the first month in January. If you’re like so many people in the world, you hit the ground running with your new year’s resolutions on January 1, and this is around the time when the gas starts to run a bit low, that projects you are started don’t seem as much fun anymore, when it’s getting easier to start using a treadmill at the gym because they’re no longer all occupied.

I get it. I’ve been there. And when I started my little “39 Bucket List” last August when I turned 39 and wrote down all the things I wanted to accomplish before I turned 40, that enthusiasm for what I was going to do took a big drop when I recently revisited that list and saw that I had barely scratched the surface on what I would do.

So on December 31, there I was, thinking up all these different resolutions that I would stick to this time! I would get back on the eating plan that resulted in me losing about 40 pounds between July and October. I would finish my novel. I would read more. I would find new ways to market myself as an author. I would figure out a way to get myself organized and stay focused at work. And so on, and so on, and so on.

Lofty expectations, one and all. But then, as I jotted them down, the voice in the back of my head said, “Who are you kidding? You really expect yourself to stick to these goals? You’re gonna have to do better than that, and this time, think realistically.”

I was bummed out by this sudden epiphany, but only for a moment, because I realized that a resolution shouldn’t be about a goal, but about what you intend to do to meet a goal. What do you want to change? What do you want to add to your life? What do you think will make it easier to get what you want?

That’s when it hit me. I have so much at my fingertips that I barely even use, and everything I have will make me feel much more accomplished about what I want to do. And so my original new year’s resolutions went into the garbage and only one resolution was all I needed:

Use the tools you have.

Think about how life was about 15, 20 years ago, when the Internet was in its infancy and people weren’t 100% sure about what it could be. Now, the possibilities are limitless, and when it comes to writers, we have the means to reach so many people now that it’s almost scary. Just a couple hours ago, I tried Periscope for the first time, and it was fun! I meant to just test my phone to see how if my settings would work on it, and all of a sudden, one person chimed in, then another, then another. And they started posting comments, encouraging comments, and likes on my page. Who knew? Just imagine what it would have been like if I planned it ahead of time and let people know I would be on to answer questions about “Excelsior” or “From Parts Unknown?”

Downstairs, we put together our own mini gym with a television, DVD player, Nintendo Wii, Wii Fit, some workout DVDs, and a treadmill. Why are we not using them? During my most successful weight loss period last year, the pounds went down faster once I started running in the mornings. What’s wrong with just going downstairs and using the equipment there? Better it be used rather than collect dust while I sit upstairs with my smart phone in my hand binge-watching another show on Netflix and wonder why I’m not losing weight.

I say I want to read more. Well, I got a mile-long TBR list waiting for me in my Kindle. I say I want to finish my novel. Why don’t I just go into the office, sit myself down, and finish it already? (Which is what I did just a couple hours ago. More to come on that in the future)

You get what I’m saying, right? We all say we want to do these things, and we’re now living in a world that’s making it easier and easier to do what we want to do. So why not look around, see what tools are at your disposal, and make them happen? You’ll be surprised when you see what’s out there for you. I know I was.

We’re more than halfway to the end of January, and my one new year’s resolution is still going strong. Hopefully yours is too.

A Peek Behind the Scenes


YA Author RendezvousWritten by T.D. Shields

There’s a moment in my book Into Light that is really personal to me. I won’t give any spoilers, but at one point the characters are singing a song and I quote the lyrics in the book. The song is “Silver Wings” as sung by Merle Haggard. You can listen to it here:


I’m lucky enough to come from a very musical family, and my father and his brothers all play guitar and sing beautifully. Whenever my family gets together, the guitars come out and we are treated to a concert from these talented men.


YA Author Rendezvous 2“Silver Wings” was one of my grandmother’s favorite songs and she always requested it once the singing began. I have so many memories of my dad and uncles playing guitar and singing that song. So when I started writing a scene with guitar and singing in my book, I immediately thought of “Silver Wings” as a song they might have sung… it’s a REAL oldie by the time Poppy is singing it, but it’s certainly not out of the question that a song might hang around for that long.


The spot where I’d originally used the song eventually changed a little, but I was glad to still have it in there. It’s just a subtle little tribute to my dad and grandma hiding in Chapter 22.


New Year Resolutions

Pile of Books

Written by
Jeffrey Collyer

Okay. So it’s the New Year, and everyone is making resolutions, right? Goals for the year ahead.

Well, not me!

That’s always been me, anyway: the scrooge of New Year. Why make a resolution I’m only going to break in a few weeks? Two weeks, that’s how long most people make it before they’ve given up on their resolutions. Ever heard of Blue Monday? It’s officially the most depressing day of the year, and it’s about two weeks into January. The failure of our resolutions is a contributing factor.

Bah, humbug. So there.

The trouble is, most of the goals we set ourselves are things we don’t really like doing. Or, at least, there are other things we like doing more. That’s why we have to set them as specific goals, right? To try and force ourselves to do something we don’t really want to do.

But what if you could make a resolution for something you do enjoy? Only, your goal only really requires you to think about it, because once you think about it, it’s easy to do. And it’s not something you have to do every day, although you can if you want to.

What am I talking about? Books.

Not so much reading books (although that’s a great resolution, too).

No. I’m talking about… well, talking about books.

It’s not a topic I find myself often discussing outside of Facebook and internet chat-rooms. Which is odd, considering I’m a writer.

But, I love reading (you probably do, too, or else you wouldn’t be here), and I love telling people about my favourite books. On the internet is okay, of course, but it’s much better in person. To watch someone else as they explain what book had a real impact on them, and why… Well, you get to know someone in a way you can’t any other way.

It happened to me the other week. I was talking to a friend of many years. He wasn’t a close friend, but I really respect him. Anyway, we’d never actually talked about our reading preferences before, but he asked me if I’d ever read the Chronicles of Thomas Covenant. Well, that series is honestly my favourite EVER, so I got all animated and we had a great discussion. I’d never picked him as someone who would like that type of book, and it was great getting to know him a bit better. We had found a new connection to add to our friendship – through a book.

So, on a Monday morning when you get back to work, or school, and someone says, “What did you do this weekend?” Why not reply, “I finished this awesome book.”

You might find someone else jumps into the conversation, “Oh, I’ve read that, too. I loved it.” And someone else will say, “You know what’s a bit like that?” And then they’ll give you a great book recommendation.

And before you know it you’re having a really fun discussion, and getting to know someone else better at the same time.

So, I’m giving up on my resolution to never make New Year resolutions. In 2016, I resolve to talk to more people about books.

The Importance of Telling Stories


Written by
Cammie Conn

Most of my friends/family/acquaintances know that when I’m not trapped in a good book or typing away at a keyboard, I’m onstage. Acting, like literature, is one of the many things that keeps me waking up in the morning. While the two are vastly different art forms in most respects, my love for them boils down to one thing: a love of storytelling. A passion for words. A compassion for humanity. The more I’ve read and written books and performed from scripts, I began to realize how intertwined theatre/films and novels are. I fell in love with reading as a small child, when I discovered that books could transport me to new and wonderful worlds. The same can be said of performing, after I was cast in my first show and began to watch theatre/film performances in earnest. What I so love about these art forms is that they convey everyday, human emotions that most of us don’t even like to admit that we have. Reading and watching performances provides for an emotional catharsis that we as human beings need in order to live healthfully. While enjoying art has many benefits, I find even more enjoyment in creating it. As a young person, it can be very daunting trying to find my place in the world; deciding which path to take, where I want to go, why I want to go there. But I’ve always believed that, no matter what happens, I want to change the world through art. Affecting other people’s lives for the better, while doing what I love … I can think of no higher calling. It always brings me such unspeakable happiness when I watch someone’s passion unfold after reading/viewing a story. It’s happened to me, when I read beautiful books that forever change my outlook on life. And I’ve seen it happen to others. Once, my school’s theatre department took a small field trip to a nearby professional theater that was hosting a well-reviewed performance of “Lés Misèrables”. We all had our tickets clutched in hand, bumping around on the dark school bus, eager to watch the show. Once we arrived at the venue and started filing off, one of our theatre teachers noticed that the bus driver — a burly, straight-faced man — was still sitting at the wheel, alone. He hadn’t a ticket to get into the show. Luckily, my theatre teacher had an extra ticket and offered it to the man, who accepted it gratefully. As the night wore on, we watched the production, which was beautifully performed and emotionally electrified. (For those of you who’ve never had the pleasure of seeing Lés Misèrables, I HIGHLY recommend it!) The basic plot is about a prisoner during the French Revolution, who was locked up for nineteen years after stealing a loaf of bread to feed his starving sister’s son. During the course of the show, the prisoner realizes that he can redeem his past by overcoming the hardships that life throws his way and making the right decision always, even if it places his family in danger. In the end, he dies a righteous man. When the show was complete, we stood, wiped the tears from our eyes, and made our way back to the school bus. On her way out, our teacher passed the bus driver. He was still sitting in one of the seats, and tears were rolling down his cheeks as he shook with sobs. I think of this moment every time that I start to doubt my ability to write or perform or tell a story of any kind. Art is not something that helps us live: it’s what we live for. It’s in our very nature to create and enjoy other creations. Stories are meant to be told. Stories NEED to be told, for your sake and for the sake of people like that bus driver.

Meow V. Woof: The Battle of the Book

Woof vs Meow

Written by
Cynthia Port

In the world of real things cats win—at least by the numbers.  According to the Humane Society, the US has 86 million purrfect domestic kitties but only 78 million tail waggin‘ doggies.  But in the world of fictional characters (books, cartoons, movies, etc.) the situation isn’t just reversed, it’s tipped over onto its adorable, swivel-eared head.  Sure, you can find examples of beloved dog and cat characters aplenty, but keep trying to name them, and you’ll run out of cat characters long before you run out of the Fido’s of fictiondom, the Cujo’s of crime, or the Lassie’s of late night.

On Wikipedia’s pages about fictional animal characters, the cat and dog lists are broken down into literature, comics, film, and television.  The cat list offers 26, including Garfield, the Cheshire Cat, the Cat in the Hat, Puss in Boots, Sylvester the Cat, Tom & Jerry, The Aristocats, and the cats in Stuart Little and Sabrina, the Teenage Witch. But hold onto your leashes, folks, because the dog list has 285, including such well-bred notables as Scooby Doo, Clifford the Big Red Dog, Martha from Martha Speaks, Hank the Cowdog, Underdog, Einstein, Timbuktu, Snowy from Tintin, 101 Dalmations, Bolt, Old Yeller, Snoopy, Marmaduke, Toto, the Beverly Hills Chihuahua and on and on and on and (Down, boy!) on!

But if there are so many cat lovers on this planet (and as evidence I present to you the internet), why aren’t cats at least equally reflected in our most beloved forms of entertainment?   I suspect there are two main reasons:

  1.  Dogs love cars and walks and travel. They are at their happiest when they are on an adventure with you.  Cats not so much.  If you are featuring a cat in your book or movie, for the most part it will need to take place inside a house or within a relatively small geographical area.  That’s limiting for an author.


  1. While cats experience emotions just as intensely as dogs, they don’t express them as obviously. A cat’s emotional signs are subtle, but it’s easy to “read” the emotions of a dog – their eyes, mouth, eyebrows, tails, sounds—pretty much their entire being expresses how they are feeling. Dogs are SO expressive it feels as if they are talking to us, which probably explains the plethora of talking dog characters in books and movies.


Actually, talking dogs is something I’m a bit of an expert on because, while I am technically (full disclosure) a cat person, my award winning humorous fiction series, Kibble Talk, features a talking dog.  Readers also get to hear what a cat has to say, but the main focus is on Dinky, an enormous and cantankerous Great Dane. I love hearing from readers that they are never able to look at their dog quite the same way again after reading my books!

Book Paw           Book cat

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