Sunday, December 20, 2015

Accountability in Writing

So, today is filled with accountability on my blogs (yes, blogS).

I recently heard on Self-Publishing Podcast (episode 188) Leslie Watts discussing accountability and getting out of her comfort zone.  One thing she did that intrigued me was blogging her weekly goals each week, then blogging how she did with her goals.

I've decided to give it a try.

So, here goes...

No really, there's no hesitation whatsoever

here are my goals for the week...

So, without further-ado, because now I'm annoying myself, here are my goals for the week of 12/20:

1: To write 1,000 words for the story inspired by my short, Halloween Egg.
    A: I also plan on continuing to type it into Scrivener while writing the MS in my journal.

2: To continue to refine the manuscripts I chose from my pile of MSs.
    A: I may need to print out the latest of each as I'm not sure if I have them printed out.

3: To send one off to Rate Your Story for my December submission.
    A: From the ones I print out, I need to figure out which one is the one I think is the best of the group.

So, that's it for this week!

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Year in Review

I thought I would've posted more over the past month, but life got in the way.  We currently have our house op for sale, and are looking to downsize.  So, we've really been thinking about, and getting rid/giving away some more things.  We've done the pairing down before, so it hasn't been that bad.  Now we're looking at the furniture we have, and what things we'd be happy to get rid of, and what we'd really like to keep in a smaller home.  Now we just need a buyer for our house, as we've seen two that we've really liked.

So, back to writing.  I've been writing, and editing, and submitting since my last post, but just haven't taken the time to post on here.

Since my last post, I completed PiBoIdMo with a final tally of 34 ideas, wrote 3400 words for an early chapter book, and written three picture book manuscripts.  I feel like I'm always writing new PB MSs.

Over the course of the year, I wrote 14 new ones, as well as a few dozen total ideas.  My brain keeps going, keeps writing.  Idea generation has never been an issue with me, it's just 'finishing'.  Getting that story to a state where it really is complete.

I do feel that I have one that is, finally, at a point of 'finishedness' and a few others on the way.  I made some major changes to a few manuscripts I really like (cuz, you know, we all have faves), and have a few more I want to get some major work done on.

I submitted to many different agents, and still have a revised version of a story out with one agent who wanted to see it after some changes, and also have a few recent submissions I'm waiting to hear about from October and November.

No submissions in December and January!  I've heard it's the time of year to avoid, and I plan on avoiding it again.

I'll have another post before 2016 begins with my goals.  I have an idea of what I want to accomplish (besides get agent representation!!) next year.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015


Something tells me I've blogged about focus before...Oh, look!  Here and here and here.  Do you sense a common theme in my brain?

Well, this time it's a different kind of focus.  At least that's what I'm telling myself.

I have always had trouble putting in proper focus for extended periods of time on specific picturebook manuscripts.  I did put the time and effort (even hired an editor!) on one that I love.  Now?  I'm shopping it around to agents as I think it is ready for traditional publishing.

Now, I have 34 different manuscripts written for different children's books stories from picture book to beginning chapter book.  I have another chapter book that I'm working on now as well as ideas for much more.

Are they all going to be great?  Hell no!  Some are "practice", "trunkers", or "trash" whatever term you'd like to use for when you come up with an idea, write it into a manuscript, and think, "Oh God, what the hell is that?"

Practice manuscripts.

There are some that I think will be good with focus and time, and eventually head off to the critique group, worked on more, and maybe hiring Carry Charlie Brown again, too, to help with the editing process.

So, from those manuscripts that I think can go from good to outstanding, I narrowed it to three to start with, and then one to really love on first.

See?  I TOLD you it was a different kind of focus!!

Monday, October 26, 2015

Susan Leonard Hill 5th Annual Halloweensie Contest!

The story below is for the 5th Annual Halloweensie Contest run by Susan Leonard Hill over at her blog here.  Click the link for details!  My entry is written below (100 words or less, written for kids- as I said, more details at her site if you're interested!!

The Halloween Egg

Something rolled around inside Erik’s trick or treat bag.
He peaked in and saw a gigantic, purple object.
“Eggplant?!” he yelled.
“No, an egg,” John said
“My candy’s gone!”
“Maybe your costume scared it away.”
“Maybe it’s not my bag.”
“Let’s hatch it!”
They sprinted home along the dark streets.
Once inside, they wrapped the egg in a blanket.  John used his lamp for heat.
The brothers watched until they fell asleep.
The brothers woke-up.
“It’s hatching!” Erik shouted.
The top popped off.
“Rraaahhhh,” came a high pitched squeal as a baby dragon peaked out.

That's it!  100 words goes fast :)

Thanks for reading!!!

Erik Ammon

Saturday, October 24, 2015

PiBoIdMo NaNoWriMo NoShaveNov

Ok, so that last one, I made up the abbreviation acronym.

There are strange things afoot' at the Circle K...
We watched this last night with my 10 y/o daughter...she liked it :)
err, I mean there are lots of things going on this November.

And, I may take them all on.

No Shave November?  That's the easiest- I'd rather not shave, my wife and son don't mind...but my daughter hates it.  Plus, it'll help raise money for ridding the world of cancer.

NaNoWriMo? National Novel Writing Month.  The goal is to write 50,000 words for a novel in one month.  This does not, of course, mean the novel is done.  It's to help inspire you to get the words down and NOT worry about editing while you go...that's nothing but a momentum killer.  For me, I'd like to get a chapter book or two done for the 2nd-4th grade level.  I know that's a huge range of reading ability, but I'm not sure where this first book is going yet.  Once I get BIC (Butt In Chair), and start typing, I'll know more.

PiBoIdMo? Picture Book Idea Month.  30 ideas in 30 days.  I ended up in the mid thirties last year, I think.  I did use a few for actual manuscripts, one I love dearly, and that's all you can hope for.  The ideas can be a character, a plot, location, line, etc.  Any kind of idea that can be used or turned into a picture book.

So, that's the month.

Are you tackling any of these?

Monday, October 19, 2015

Guest Post: Book Review: THE MAZE RUNNER

My son, Connor, had to do a book review for school (6th grade).  I asked if he'd be interested in me posting it here as I've been wanting to do a few more book reviews on here.  He said, "Sure!" So, without further ado, here's his book review of The Maze Runner by James Dashner (please note, this was his write up for an oral presentation- so you don't see the props he had :) )

"How would you feel if you had no memory, were surrounded by strangers, and couldn’t escape because you were surrounded by 100 feet tall walls?
In The Maze Runner when Thomas wakes up around a group of strangers he has so many questions, but they all ignore him. They ask him his name and he realizes his name is the only thing he remembers. After a “tour” of the big open field full of farms and the houses that they call the glade he decides he wants to help in the maze. Everybody laughs but he is still determined to do it. Next, a runner, or person who runs the maze then makes a map, said he found a dead griever. Thomas asks what grievers are but nobody will answer him. The leader of the runners and the leader of the glade both go out to see the dead griever. Later, a little bit before the walls of the maze close, they still aren’t back, and everybody gets nervous.
This is my favorite part of the book because Thomas is willing to save  two people he doesn’t even know. In the book it says “They were getting closer but the walls had already started to close. Thomas knew what he had to do. He moved forward into the maze squeezing through the closing wall. He stepped into the maze and the loud boom bounced off the ivy covered stone like mad laughter.”
I loved this book because it was action packed. I suggest the book and the whole series to anyone who likes fast paced action books."

Back to me: Have you read the Maze Runner? What did you think? He said there was one book review that caught his eye (err, ear) but couldn't remember the title- maybe you can help- something about a chicken with telekinesis...sounds intriguing :)

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Nice Rejections

Getting a "YES!!" from an agent is, of course, the ultimate goal, of any aspiring traditionally published author.  You need that agent to help you get your manuscript into many different publishing houses- I only know of a few that accept unsolicited submissions (I have a list of a few for kid's books if you're interested!).

Barring not getting a "YES!!" it is nice to get some positive feedback.  I've had a few positives.  One thought the PB MS was very funny, but they were not taking on any PB writers, another liked the strong voice and very clever, but didn't like the non-standard English.

I'm still working at it, still getting picture book manuscripts written and edited each month, still submitting to agents despite all the rejections.  Still hoping for that, "YES!!"

And when I get it (cuz it is a question of when, not if), I will be shouting it out on here!

Monday, September 7, 2015

What Are You Reading? And Mentor Texts

I've read in many places that in order to become a better writer, you need to read!  Especially in the genre in which you write.  I first heard it in a Stephen King quote, and, I believe, it was in his book, On Writing.

I definitely read A LOT, well, at least I think it's a lot.  I counted how many books I've completed this year (there are two I did not/ will not complete...just didn't like them...but that's another post).  I counted 14.  Honestly, I was disappointed.  I really thought I'd read more than that!  But I have time to increase that number.

I mostly read High Fantasy.  Do I write that genre?   NOPE!  But someday I'd love to.  Just like, someday, I'd like to write a historical fiction with a touch of romance in it (I don't read that genre at all, but have a list of mentor texts).

I'm currently reading a few different series: The Stormlight series from Brandon Sanderson, the Elminster series by Ed Greenwood and the Sword of Truth series by Terry Goodkind.  I do read others along with these: The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman, The Sixth Extinction by Elizabeth Kolbert among others.  But Fantasy is where it's at for me!

I write for kids.  I have some picture book, and early chapter book manuscripts I've been working on for a while, as I also write new stuff because, well, I love to write! 

Do I read this genre?  Oh yeah!  I do teach second grade after all!!  But, do I analyze them like a writer?  Do I treat them as a mentor text?  No!  But I sure need to.  I read many kids books each week, along with hearing kids read them, too.  I think I focus on them so much as a teacher for questioning, or for the kids enjoyment, that I do not look at them as a writer.

My goal, over the next month, is to really pick away at the text of a few books that the kids and I are drawn to, and really analyze them, compare them to what I write, see what I need to work on.

What are you reading?  What are you writing?  Do you "mentor text"?

Thursday, August 6, 2015

A couple day camping = writing time!

Ahhhh...what a lovely couple days it was at Hickory Run State Park!

Ok, so I didn't get in a lot of writing manuscript stuff, but I did journal a lot.  I also read a TON (The Way of Kings by Scott Sanderson) and worked on revising a few different manuscripts.  I managed to get a few hours of hiking in, got a few nice pics and also took a nice tumble.

My home for two nights, three days
In the middle of the woods :)

A bit of travel journaling

Random moving water shot attempt

Took a spill on an easier section of the trail...
did fine on watery moss covered rocks, and hopping from rock to rock...
All in all, it was a good time...even through the thunderstorms that kept waking me up!

Friday, July 17, 2015

My writing's moving along...

But I guess it always is!

I've made major revisions to a few much liked stories of mine that have changed them significantly.  I have more to do, too.

The story I've been focusing on has been revised big time.  I'm sending it to my critique group on Monday and will be getting feedback from them all within two weeks.  Then it's back to Carrie Charley Brown for it's follow-up editing and read through and from there, after any revisions, back to the agent who requested it!

Sometimes it's hard to make major changes to a story you love.  I think that's why I've had a hard time focusing long enough on one manuscript long enough to make it really, really submission worthy.  Don't get me wrong, I've sent stories out, but have only gotten rejections, except for the one "I'd like to see it again after it's been revised" that I got a month ago.

Lately I've been on a groove and have tackled some of these major changes that our much beloved stories sometimes need.  I have a couple more stories that I've avoided tackling that will be taken out in the next few days.

Ok, maybe not quite tackled and taken out like this...

Hmmm...don't know why, but now I feel like watching a match...good thing there's a national championship caliber collegiate team a few minutes away (Kutztown University- they had 4 All Americans and one player who is just started playing for the US National Team!!)

Sorry, got a bit off track.  What was I talking about?  Oh, yeah, writing...

I've been hitting the journal a lot lately, too.  Mostly to brain dump, but it's been helping.  Brain dumping is something my wife does every morning in her notebooks.  It helps clear your mind of what ever may be inside of it blocking the creative juices from flowing.  Since I started doing that, I feel like it's been easier destroying my darlings and creating something new from the ashes.  Ok, that's a bit about revamping them and making them even better :)

Yeah, I like that.  

Do you brain dump at all?  How's your writing been?

Friday, July 10, 2015

The Lost Squirrel at Towne Book Center!

I stopped by The Towne Book Center in Collegeville, PA today.
I couldn't find a pic of it on the shelf there,
so this is from a reading last summer at Towne Book Center

I'm happy to announce that they are going to be shelving The Lost Squirrel!

I'm so excited!  I can't wait to get back down there to see it next to The Rabbit Who Wished He Could Fly!!


Thursday, July 9, 2015



Something that I struggle with in my writing...

Something that I have come to embrace...

What do I mean?  My ability to focus on a story to really "finish" it.

What do I mean by finish?

I mean, make it polished enough, outstanding enough, to have that readability, draw, the "it" that agents are looking for in order to be published.

I can finish stories- I have 28 picture book to middle grade manuscripts with a couple dozen more ideas running through my head/ jotted down in journals and on Scrivener.

How many of those do I consider finished?  I'd say...0.  But, I have a half dozen that are very, very close...or may be finished in the right agents eye- I just haven't found them yet :) - as this is a very subjective process.

I have one that I've been working on.  I had a phone call with an agent about the PB MS, and he gave me some ideas to help the story along.

I've been working on these- I hired a phenomenal editor (Carrie Charlie Brown) who gave me some excellent ideas- and she really liked the story, too :)

I'm in the process of "finalizing" the story and then it'll be off to my critique group.

From there, it'll be more revisions (or not?!?!?) and then back to the agent who asked to see it again when it's "done"!

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Perceived Writing Slump

I feel like I haven't done much writing at all over the past couple months, no, the past few months+.  I rode the high of the #SCBWIepa event from May for a few weeks, but really not much seems to have been going on since then or from before that time.


What have I done?

Well, so far this year, I have written six picture book manuscripts and one early reader.  That's pretty productive.  I've also edited/ revised many others.  But, like I said, I don't seem to have been as productive as I thought I was.  Even in the past week I wrote a new PB manuscript and edited/revised a few others.  Of course being at the beach helps.  While I'm not a fan of sitting on the beach, I do love the view and the sounds.

A horrible journal, with a pin attached, and a cup of coffee...

I've written in my journal almost weekly, though I did give up on posting the journal entries on here. It seemed a waste of precious time to write them in my journal, then type them onto here.  I may leave that page up and write on it freely, as a journal, but just change the name of the page.  I still love my journal, and although it was going to get filled with the traveling we were going to do this summer, the filling will still happen, though the traveling will not.  Unfortunately, we had a major house issue pop up and that wiped out our money.  We did, as a result, end up with a new floor, though my knees are still recovering, in our kitchen and our new library (former kids' play room):

Cork! It's so soft, and eco friendly.  It's supposed to be nice and warm, too.
I also added an extra thick layer of insulated vapor barrier.
Now we have a nice quiet library to read and write in.  our cat doesn't like it so much, though.  He tends to slide on the new cork when he runs, plus he's getting old and has a bad back hip/leg.  He tends to drift through his turns like a dirt track race car.  We still have a few finishing touches (putting the quarter round back in place and touching up the red, and finishing off the two small closets) but it's basically done.

So, the writing continues, progressing slowly, but better than when I first really thought back on it.  I have a lot more time this summer, too, to work on pieces and getting them to a nice, fine polish.

Oh!  I did get an e-mail back from an agent.  We talked o the phone for a bit, too, about one of my manuscripts.  I'm working on the suggestions they made and will be resubmitting it when I think it's ready!

and don't forget:

I have an author event at Studio B in Boyertown on June 28th from 2-4 P.M.  I'll be talking about my experiences in self-publishing, as well as sharing part(s) of one or both books.  I'll also have autographed copies up for sale!

I'm also going to be at the Boyertown library on August 13th from 11:00 to 12:00 for a picture book reading.  I'll also be selling autographed copies of my book at the event as well.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

LOTS to catch up on!

Holy cow!  It's been TWO MONTHS since I posted on here!

What's new?

1.  Well?  The Lost Squirrel is LIVE on Barnes and Noble and on Amazon!!  Please check it out and order your copy today!!  The only thing is that the cover never showed up for either, so I did it myself.  And?  Well, the colors are off for the greens.  They look florescent and they aren't in the book!!!  I just need to switch the file type and try again :)

2.  I had my first school author program!!!  It was, I feel, fairly decent for a first one!  I sold about 80 copies combined of both books, the audience came up with some great questions, and the H&S gave me a gift card to Lowes (and I bought and installed a faucet for the kitchen with it :) ).  I feel like my pacing was a bit off, though.  I think I went too fast, and one of the big laugh I was hoping for missed at both presentations (K-2, 3-4).

3.   I went to my first SCBWI event and it was AWESOME!!  I connected with an author, learned a lot from the critique-a-thon, and also from my one-one PB MS critique.

4.  I have an author event at Studio B in Boyertown on June 28th from 2-4 P.M.  I'll be talking about my experiences in self-publishing, as well as sharing part(s) of one or both books.  I'll also have autographed copies up for sale!

So, in a nutshell, that's been the past two months!!!!!

What's new with you??

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

The Lost Squirrel is...

almost done!

Well, everything is done on our part (mine and Jennifer Frith) least as far as I know :)  I'll find out if I get an e-mail back from Ingram Spark if there is anything I need to do to it!

There it is!!  'Title in Setup'!!!

Also, The Rabbit Who Wished He Could Fly has been selling recently- it does make a great Easter gift, after all.  There had been a lull of a couple months where I hadn't sold any copies of it.

Later this week will be the COVER REVEAL for The Lost Squirrel, so stay tuned!!!!

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Week 12 2015 Journal Challenge: What Season?

Well?  If you could only live in one season, which would it be, and why?

I thought I'd go for something more fun since a few have been heavier.  I did have a couple deeper entries, though, this week, including more thankfulness in an entry about writing thankfulness.

Give me one season all year long, and I'll choose Spring every time.  From beginning to end, four seasons a year, give me Spring!

I'm fine without seeing the leaves change.  I'm fine without massive snowstorms.  I'll even give up my snowblower.

Early season coolness, some snow to, possibly, sled in, maybe even enough to make a small snowman and have a snowball fight.  Good enough for me.

Jeans, sweatshirts, and a light jacket in the beginning, maybe even some gloves and a hat, to shorts and a t-shirt at the end.  Spring means a lot of time back outside watching the flowers bloom and leaves grow.  OK, maybe that wouldn't happen each Spring beginning since it's Spring each season, but it would be nice :)

I'd love sitting outside and watching the birds, drinking coffee, writing and napping in the hammock.  The windows open in our house and the windows down in our cars.  The perennial feeling of a new beginning with each season, without the Winter doldrums I find hitting me harder this year than it has in years.

I've found this Winter's grayness, snow, and constant cold to have left me unmotivated to do many things: write, read, sled, just get off my ass, and that hasn't happened since, probably, 2007 or even longer than that (though other years it includes running, swimming and riding on my rollers).

Spring changes this.  Even now, even with the snow we had on Friday, the first day of Spring, I can feel the change.  Maybe it started with the clock switch (can we get rid of that yet?  Just keep it how it is now!!), maybe with the mental ending of Winter, but either way, I'll take it and I'll take Spring all day, all year long.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Week 11 2015 Journal Challenge: Vulnerability


Brene Brown is the perfect person to read if you want to delve into the world of vulnerability.

This entry is just my version of my own personal/ creative vulnerability.

Being vulnerable means to allow yourself to be out there, for others to lift up, draw inspiration from and even tear down- or attempt to.

To be vulnerable, you have to put yourself in the public eye.  You have to put your work in the public eye.

Opening yourself up can be difficult.  Making the choice to put your work, your art, your ideas for everyone to see.  For me, it's my writing.

It started on a closed writers' site that is now defunct.  When I found the site, I joined right away.  It took a couple months to actually put any work on it, and then the ratings were low and the critiques for the low ratings were not there.  The low ratings were the first of any ratings I had ever gotten on my writing, and with no comments to help out, I had no idea how to improve.

It wasn't until, on a whim, I wrote The Rabbit Who Wished He Could Fly did I get decent feedback, along with a lot of positive ratings.  it was nice to finally read comments about what was good about the story, and what needed some work.

This gave me the confidence to find, and hire, an illustrator, the Amazing Jennifer Frith, to self-publish.  At no point did it cross my mind to even attempt to submit it to an agent or publisher.

Over the next couple months, I wrote a few more for the series (the second, The Lost Squirrel, will be out this Spring!) as well as self-publish two urban fantasy novellas.

Eventually, I decided to attempt to get into traditional publishing.  I found a children's book challenge site called 12x12.  On this site, you can post the first 250 words of a picture book manuscript.  I joined in January 2014, but it took a while to post in the site.  Once I did, the critiques came in.  They hurt.  They felt like they were criticizing me, as the stories were mine, and I loved them.  But they were helpful.

Another benefit of the 12x12 membership is being able to submit a PB MS to an agent once a month to attempt to get representation.  Again, this took a few months for me to attempt, but I finally did...and I've submitted each month since in an attempt to get an agent.

The rejections and critiques are still painful, but not criticisms of me (or you) and they are not nearly as painful as they were.  They are meant to be helpful, to improve my writing (your art).

A few months after my first 12x12 submission, I branched out on my own.  I researched agents and began to submit my work on my own.  And getting more rejections, as well as both positive and negative feedback which helps shape/reshape the MS submitted and future writings as well.

I've also joined a critique group, as well as running an on-line/e-mail critique group.  When I joined my first critique group, I felt I could not offer the quality critiques I was receiving, and I almost quit, but stuck with it.  With the groups, I've been much more eager to send work out to others for their thoughts and ideas.

Since joining critique groups, my writing has improved immensely.

This would not have happened without putting myself out there, without being vulnerable.

It's been more than just putting my picture book writing out there.

It's putting ME out there.

This journal challenge, reading my book at bookstores and libraries, speaking about self-publishing to other writers and talking to groups of kids about being a writer.

To be vulnerable means to hav courage.

To put yourself out there, the true you, striving to become something you truly love, takes courage.

To be vulnerable means to be strong.

You have to be willing to move past the harsh critiques ("Your story is hard to follow", " makes no sense") and continue to make the attempt.

If you're doing something you truly love, then put yourself out there, be vulnerable, and let your light shine on the world.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

POP! goes the idea...

I love it when a picture book manuscript idea pops in my head.  I quickly jotted some notes down in my journal as I was eating dinner and didn't want to forget it.  I had other plans for my writing tonight-editing and revising a few PB MSs and an early chapter book MS, but this story is just begging to be written out.  So? Off to the journal while the kids watch a movie and the wife watches Friends reruns!

What are you doing this Saturday night?

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Week 10 2015 Journal Challenge: Focusing on SQUIRREL!

I didn't feel very typish today, so I took pictures of my journal entry for today's post.  I hope you can read my writing :)

Yes, that's the end of last weeks post.  Yikes!  I've been bad with journaling this week!!

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Week 9 2015 Journal Challenge: Excuses

We all have them, whether real or imagined.

What's one excuse you use that stops yourself form accomplishing a goal?

For me, it's be, "I don't have enough time."

That's total bullshit for me.

I have plenty of time, I've just been stuck in a time waster rut.

Here's my list:

  • twitter
  • instagram
  • facebook
  • tv
  • video games (this has been THE WORST!)
Now, make a goal for yourself.

I will cut back on the overall time spent on all of the above mentioned time wasters.

Well, how's that for vague?  I guess I should add more...

I will, if the kids' schedules allow, indulge in the above mentioned time wasters during the week until about 5:30 while I drink my after work coffee.

I will then stay off until 8:00 or later.

But!  All will be off by 9:30.

Yeah, that's still a lot, but, like I said, it's been bad :(  But, this is a start!

So, name an excuse that is imagined, and list what you are going to do to change it!

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Week 8 2015 Journal Challenge: Why I wrote Poetry

Baring my soul is one of the hardest things for me to do.

Out loud.

I prefer writing over speaking.  I'd rather write an e-mail/ text or a letter than talk on the phone or in person.

Instead of talking to someone about how I feel, I'll write it instead- I've always been that way.  Poetry used to be my main mode of expression.  I wrote a lot of poetry for about ten years or so as a way to pour my heart out when it ached.  Many of those poems were written for the woman out there somewhere I knew I'd fall in love with, and would fall in love with me.

During my time of writing poetry, I never showed 95% of them to anyone.  Even those I dated, I never shared my poetry with them.  They were no worthy.

Except Jane.

For Jane, I not only shared them, I wrote them into one journal and gave them to her as a gift.  I always thought I'd add to it for her, but I never have (yet).

Writing the kind of poetry I did was my broken heart bleeding onto paper.

Jane was my band-aid.

I didn't know any other way to write poetry, so I stopped writing it.  For a good reason.  Jane's love mended my heart.

I won a poetry/photo contest a few years ago.

This was one of those poems I wrote for Jane before I ever met her.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Gut reaction...then reality

I know rejections are part of the game.  I expect to get so many more rejections before getting a 'Yes.'  I don't want to, but I know they'll come.  Just like I know that 'Yes' will come.

But this story is one that I think/thought/think will bring that, 'Yes!'

But not after the latest rejection.  After reading it, my stomach turned.  I felt like I wasted the agent's time.  I felt like I'd been wasting my own time over the past year.  I wanted to give up, to never write a picturebook manuscript again; t.o go back to writing fantasy and self-publishing.  There was no way the story was that bad.

That gut reaction to the rejection was that bad.  I feel it in my stomach again as I write this.

Then reality set in.  I read it to my wife and talked about it.

There were some VERY positive things said about the MS.

The negatives?  They weren't pot shots, but VERY constructive criticism.  This was definitely NOT a form letter.  I now feel like I got a professional critique, because that's what it was.  This agent rejected my MS, BUT, I got me some excellent advice from an insider.

I am waiting to hear from eight more agents on this story (you can read about my agent research here).

So, what do I do?

I take some advice I read here (seriously, read the post on that I plan on following once I get all the responses:

Sort through them all, look for common responses, and revise the story from there. 

Of course, I want one of them to say 'Yes' and follow along with their suggestions, but if not, I have a plan.

How about you?  Have you gotten a rejection that left an immediate gut reaction like mine?  What did you do?

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Researching for your work

I'm writing this post having very little knowledge of how writers "do research", but I'm not going to let that stop me.

There's a story in our family about a relative's best friend and her life in WWI.  Without giving too much away, it's a romance set in France, back to America, then tragedy striking in France in WWII.  It's a story I've only heard once, but really struck a cord.  I have a WWI service medal from her husband that I made a shadow box for to honor him, and all veterans, really.

Yesterday, it hit me: it needs to be told.

I've not read a lot at all in this genre (WWI/II and romance) but I'm excited about the prospect of doing the research and attempting this challenge.

This story wants to be written.

It's a definite LOOOOONG term project that is going to take a lot of patience on my part.  I'm going to start off with reading.  I already have a couple books in mind, but I'll be looking for more material to consume over the next year+

I also plan on including museum stops, and interviews with family familiar with the story for any tidbits of information I can gleam.  Once I get more information from them, it'll be back to researching the specific town and what was going on around this town in WWI and WWII.

Even writing this down, putting it out there is exciting!  Nerve wracking, but exciting!

Have you ever done major research for a book?  Do you have any tips?

I've only done a bit here and there, but nothing that took more than an hour, let alone a year or more!

Sunday, February 8, 2015

50 Things That Make me Happy: Week 6

This week's prompt is a simple one: a list of 50 things that make you happy!

  1. M playing soccer
  2. Hearing C play the trumpet
  3. The warmth that emanates from my wife
  4. Coffee
  5. My Tinkerbell mugs
  6. This journal
  7. Writing
  8. A finished manuscript
  9. The Walking Dead (premier tonight!)
  10. Kona snuggled up on my lap
  11. My kids playing
  12. My kids playing together
  13. A clean house
  14. Finishing a ride on the rollers
  15. The Drizzt series by RA Salvatore
  16. Seeing that there is a new podcast to listen to
  17. A good song to sing out loud to!
  18. My Fiat
  19. Traveling
  20. The warmth of the sun
  21. Thinking about running on the trails
  22. A fire in the fireplace
  23. Reading on the grass (ummm...when it's warm)
  24. Getting my head scratched
  25. Sending out a query (but I hate waiting!!!)
  26. Seeing my book in a bookstore
  27. Seeing someone reading my book
  28. Beer and fries for dinner at the Phils game
  29. My mug at the Fleetwood Grille (yes, I have a numbered mug at a bar)
  30. Slightly steamed broccoli
  31. Thumper
  32. The Toy Story Mania ride at Disney
  33. The smell of fresh cut grass
  34. Sea Isle City
  35. Disney
  36. A new book
  37. The recliners at the movie theater
  38. Watching the Eagles
  39. Paris- Roubaix (Spring Classic bike race)
  40. Good family stories
  41. Going to a coffee chop
  42. Going to a bookstore
  43. Going to a USED bookstore
  44. Pens
  45. Sharpie pens and fine point markers
  46. When things click for my students
  47. Grapes
  48. A hot bowl of homemade vegan chili
  49. Clif bars!
  50. Clif mocha gel shots
  51. My La Sportiva Crosslites (trail running shoes- I gotta get my knee able to run!!!)
That's your challenge for this week!  Make a list of 50 (or more) things that make you happy!

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Not many people know: 2015 Journal Challenge Week 5

January 31st, 2015, Saturday

What is something not many people know about you?

Well, I fenced in high school (epee), played rugby in college for Kutztown University, did some duathlons (4th place top finish), a few dozen bike races (5th place top finish), a few triathlons (1st in AG top finish), and some running races (5k-50k and 3rd place top finish).  But, if you read my now defunct running blog, you would know those things already.

2010: We were so happy to see Thumper!
Within all those accomplishments, you'd think there were some deep secrets not many people know...and there are.  However, this does not come from there.

What is it?

I have a love for stuffed animals.

Yes, you heard that right!  I really do and I don't know where it began.  I can only think of two that I had growing up- a stuffed Garfield, and a little stuffed dog.  Maybe it came to life when we were building our son's nursery back in 2003-4.  We did a jungle theme and I went to the store without telling jane where I was going.  I ended up at Toys-R-Us and bought several stuffed animals!  An elephant, a jaguar, a tiger (named Hobbes that we still have), a lion and a few monkeys, and possibly even more...I (we) used to play with them often!

But before then, early in our relationship, Jane bought me a Thumper as  joke.  We fought over possession of that rabbit often.  It even led to our possibly greatest Disney moment ever: meeting Thumper!  Even now, I torture our cat, my kids, and my wife with them.  Even my students at school.

Can't Touch This
As I write this, I've got Runner, the black footed Beanie Baby ferret, staring at me from a bookshelf, and Thumper perched on a window sill by our bed.  We've got Wolfie, a wolf puppet, Genghis Khan, a ferret, and my kids have several big eyed Beanie Baby animals around the house (mostly cats) for a constant source of entertainment.  Stupid is probably the best source of laughter, with watching my daughter play poker with them a close 2nd.  I also have a shark Beanie at my desk and another small one I was given by Jane because it reminded her of a character in a PB MS that I hoe to get published someday.

So that's it.
I.  Love.  Stuffed animals.

What's something that not many people know about you?

Thursday, January 29, 2015


It's funny I decided to begin this during the commercials of The Simpsons.  Why?  The episode is about Elon Musk coming to Springfield in search of inspiration.  I'm not sure how the episode will turn out, or how Musk will find inspiration, but I'm going to write about my inspirations.

Where do I find my inspiration?

I don't know...stuff just kind of comes to me.  Really.  What?  You don't buy that?  neither do I.

I find it wherever I can.

The coffee shop.

A book.

In my classroom.

On-line illustrator site (Storybird).

My family.

My critique group.

My brain.

When the inspiration strikes for an idea, you have to make sure you write it down.  I usually have a journal handy, but if not, I use the notes ap on my phone, or I'll talk into a video.  Talking into a video can help with brainstorming, too.  If I start talking about one thing, other ideas may pop up and I can keep rambling form one idea to the next, or to expand on an idea.

If I'm at my computer and I have the time, I'll write out the story from start to finish without editing along the way.  When that inspiration strikes, you have to just write and get all your thoughts down.  If you stop too long or too much, you may ruin your momentum and end up stopping.  That'd just stink.

Where do you get your inspiration from?

Sunday, January 25, 2015

2015 Journal Challenge Week 4

Sometimes when I'm in a blah mood, I find it hard to think of things I'm grateful for.  I usually get out of a funk with humor (or coffee).  But I decided to write a list of things I'm grateful for instead:

  • My wife and her selflessness: she's currently in Haiti on a mission trip
  • My son and his helpfulness: he came out and helped shovel without being asked.
  • My daughter and her courage to try new things.  She borrowed a friend's snowboard and rocked it!   She was even able to land some jumps.
  • Her laugh is a killer, too
  • I'm grateful for the cat on my lap, snoozing away.
  • I'm grateful for the birds picking at the little trees outside our window.  I can see their silhouettes flitting in and out of view against the sunset, through the sheer white curtains.
They were dancing back and forth for quite a while!
  • Finding that I love journaling.  I created this challenge for myself to make myself branch out into different styles of writing, but I'm really enjoying it.
  • Firefly Bookstore in Kutztown: I love this little bookstore- they take trade-ins and have a huge selection of new and used fantasy books.
  • Town Bookcenter and Cafe- I love this little bookstore in Collegeville, PA.  Both Town and Firefly sell my self-published children's book, too!
  • This journal I'm writing in, well, the cover really.  Though, I love all my journals!
  • The 12x12 Picture Book Challenge community I belong to!  They are amazingly supportive and inspiring.
  • My wife for pushing me and my family for helping come up with ideas when I feel stuck.
  • Our house- though we realize we will eventually move to something smaller, this old stone house and its woodwork are gorgeous.  Plus, we have an amazing view of the sunrise and sunsets!
  • Coffee- just cuz!  I've found I don't need its caffeine kick, but its just freaking good!
The smile has returned.  I will make a note of gratitude in my entries as I go, wether it's my entry for my on-line journal or one that doesn't get added here.
  • Oh!  Sledding!  It was so much fun today!!

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Agent searching

My goal over the weekend was to compile an agent list for my picture book manuscripts.  I surfed through the SCWBI 2014 catalogue and gathered together a few dozen.  Then, I narrowed them down to about 25 or so from their based on some parameters I had.  After looking them up on-line to research some more, it was then narrowed down to a final 10.  I then sent in 8 e-mail queries, and 2 snail mail queries.
Here's what my list looks like
Now for the hardest part.

The waiting.

I've sent PB MSs out before, but never like this.  I think I've sent about 15-20 out total since last February, with all reporting back as negatives or getting "timed out" (my term for it being 4+ months with hearing nothing), except for two that I'm still waiting on.  This time, I picked through several dozen and narrowed it down to a final 10.  Each of the 10 I e-mailed the same manuscript, noting in the query that it is a multiple submission.

Along with the waiting comes the fear of rejection.  I am very close to this PB MS that I sent out.  I'd only sent it to two other agents, one said they regretfully passed on it because it is a funny story and made them laugh.  He said he knew it'd probably get picked up quickly, it just wasn't a good match for them.  I have yet to hear from the other.  Of the 10 that went out between yesterday and today.

I already heard back from one...

And that was a rejection.  But, there was a positive comment along with it; it was not a generic form rejection that I've seen before.  "...which I read with interest.  It's a clever concept but I'm afraid I didn't connect with the text enough to see a place for it on our list."  So, I got some nice feedback, and an exact reason why.

This makes me happy.  Two rejections in 6 weeks with this MS, and I got positive feedback from both on this MS!

Getting these PB MSs out, or any manuscript for that matter, if you want to become a traditionally published writer, is a must and a fear you need to overcome.  For self-publishing, you need to get over the fear of "What will others say?"

Once you have your work submission ready, make sure you research your agents.  Check out their query procedures very carefully.  If you do not do as they state, your story will not get read.  And, getting read is what you want!  You also want to make sure the agent is the right match for you and your work.  I was quite shocked to find out that Highlights gets erotica manuscripts sent to them!  Seriously?  What kind of idiots send erotica to a children's book publisher?

Yeah, I'm ending with that thought :)

Have you sent any queries out?  How's it been going?  You know how it's going for far...0-20 or something like that :)

Sunday, January 18, 2015

2015 Journal Challenge Week 3

Written January 17th, 2015, Saturday. Week 3, 2015 Journal Challenge.

Every time I write in here, I feel like I'm knocking down barriers into my unconscious self.  I feel  like my head is going to explode and my heart is going to pour out as ink on paper.

It makes me think back to the poetry I used to write, how easy it was to open up and let my heart write.

But I stopped.

The muse was plugged up and stored away.  One and a half years ago, I started writing again.  Fiction first, then to picture books to chapter books.  Now to journaling as well.

Blogging about running came in between.  It helped to rekindle that passion, which led back to writing once I couldn't run much at all.  It'll be two years this coming June since I started The Incidental Hero, two years this July since I wrote The Rabbit Who Wished He Could Fly.

It's been one year since, well, basically, this month that I've been writing picture book manuscripts.  And? Six months since I joined a critique group and my writing started to grow.  It's been amazing what you can accomplish when you put your mind to it and pour your heart into it.

Who knows where I'll be in six months?  A year?  Where ever I'll be, the journey will be amazing.

I let fear of the unknown stop me about twenty years ago.  When I was trying to figure out what I wanted to go back to school for, I went back and forth between my M. Ed in Elementary School Guidance Counseling and an M.F.A. in Creative Writing.  I opted for the M. Ed program, and ended up switching that to Elementary Education.  It was a short time after that that I stopped writing.

I don't regret the path I've taken- I never would have met Jane, had our son, adopted our daughter, etc...

Sometimes I think about going back for an MFA, but dealing with the hoops is not something that appeals to me.

But, getting back on track, we can not let fear of the unknown rule our decisions.  By posting these journal entries, I'm pushing that fear aside.  By joining 12x12, a critique group- even taking up the role of running a critique group-, sharing my work, sending manuscripts out to agents and publishers, I am taking huge steps- have taken huge steps- to overcome fear.

Your assignment, should anyone be reading this, is to write about a fear that soppped you from doing something.  What was it?

What was a fear you defeated?

Wednesday, January 14, 2015


This word has so many different meanings.

First, I was granted permission from an author to use a line from their book in my picture book manuscript.  I was so excited to get this e-mail!  I really love this PB MS- yeah, I know, it's my own, but I do have some of mine that I don't like, or am kinda blah about.  But this one, I think will be one to help me get an agent.

Another form is one we need to give ourself.  We need to give ourselves permission to be creative, to take that time for ourselves, for what makes us happy.  I have given myself permission to take time to write after work, to revise my work, and to take time to critique others work as well.

We need to give ourselves permission to suck, permission to excel, permission to take the chance and put our work out there for others to see and love, or hate, and be ok with that.

Giving myself permission to put myself out there despite my fears was one of the best things I did in 2013 with self publishing my first children's early reader, then with joining the 12x12 Picture Book Challenge.  From there, I gave myself permission to post work on the site to get critiqued (well, the first 250 words at least) and then to join a critique group- that one was huge.  Joining a critique group was one of the best things I've done for my writing, and I'm thrilled I gave myself that permission.  I even thought about leaving the group after the first round- I felt that I could not give to others as they were giving to me, but I stuck with it and learned a lot.  I have since joined another critique group, and run and on-line critique group through Eastern PA SCBWI.

This year, I give myself permission to keep sending out PB MSs to multiple agents at a time!  I thought I had sent a lot out last year, but when I looked back at my list, I really hadn't.  This is the biggest one for me :)

I am also giving myself permission to journal, and to post one of my journal entries each Sunday for the whole year (check out my 2015 Journal Challenge page!).

So, give yourself permission to take chances, to put your work out there, to take time for yourself to do what you love.

What have you given yourself permission for?  What are you going to give yourself permission for?

Sunday, January 11, 2015

2015 Journal Challenge Week 2

Written January 10th, 2015, Saturday.  Week 2, 2015 Journal Challenge.

I don't remember seeing this quote before, until about twenty seconds before I started writing.  There is a lot of truth in Helen Keller's words.  When we see a beautiful photograph, an amazing vista, hear an awesome piece of music, it resonates deep within our hearts.  It may move us, it may inspire us, but it is more than just a visual, auditory or tactile feeling.

This quote goes deeper than that for me.


Love, to me, fits that quote.  Love is the best and most beautiful thing in the world.

Love can be inspiring.  We desire to express it in some creative fashion- a song, a painting, a poem, story, sculpture, sketch, or photograph.

Love can be humbling.  We find ourselves giving unconditionally to the person to whom our heart has been given.

For me, that is my wife, Jane.  She is the best and most beautiful thing in the world.  Though I can see and touch her, my love for her cannot; it can only be felt in my heart.

The challenge for you, in week two, is to write your favorite quote and what it means to you.  You may also look for a new one, like I did.

I have a feeling I'll be journaling more on this topic.  This was my third entry this week :)

Happy journaling!

Sunday, January 4, 2015

2015 Journal Challenge Week 1

Week 1 January 4, 2015

I'm not sure what I want to start with: about me or goals for 2015 (and writing or life or what?)?  So, I guess, a bit of both.  Goals first.  I don't make New Year's Resolutions, but I do have some goals:

To find representation (an agent) for my children's book manuscripts, to edit my early chapter book to the point of "ready to submit", to find more vegan recipes, to cook even more often for/ with my family, to get back on my bike regularly, run a bit (deal with the knee pain), to an intense core workout 2x a month, plus regular planks and push-ups.

I guess that leads to the 'About Me'.  As I write I've decided not to.  This challenge is truly for me.  Why would I journal to myself about myself?  I have an 'About Me' page anyway, if you're interested, so back to my goals.

Making goals is not always good enough.  You need a plan, and to take action.

I'll go with one, writing related.

I want to find representation with an agent that is a good fit for me and my style of writing.

What do I need to do?

Well, I have a few PB MSs that are ready to go as I've gone over them countless times, as have two critique groups.

I need to find agents that are looking for PB MSs!  I've already done this to a point, but I will look for more to add to the list.  I'm also planning to join 12x12 again this year, so that'll give me ten more chances to submit to agents.

I need to type my query letters and have others look at them.  I've done this for two, but not the third.

Lastly, I need to send out the query letters and manuscripts!

Well, second lastly, I need to wait patiently as agents read through my stuff (and everyone else's)...and pick me this year!!

If you're following along, your challenge is to write your goals, pick one (or all!) and write your plan of action! And? Take action!

Thursday, January 1, 2015

New Journal From In Blue Handmade!

I got my new journal yesterday from In Blue Handmade  on for the 2015 journal challenge I've set up for myself.  I have to say, this journal is worth every penny!

I got the basic large journal, which consists of the reusable leather, handmade cover and a journal, either lined or unlined (I chose lined).  I did a custom order for the cover.  I went with the old style typewriter and a quote from Neil Gaiman.  The first ten words are free, then it's $1 per word after.  I had some money saved up, so I went for it with the quote I wanted, even though it added $14 more to the was totally worth it:

Front cover with Neil Gaiman quote
The journal is amazingly soft, very well cut and stitched.  The lettering is outstanding and the typewriter image is perfect!  Now if I could only find a working one of those cheap...

Close up of the cut and stitching: all excellent!

Inside front view
Best of all, our cat, Kona, loves the leather strap used to wrap the journal closed.  The strap is attached in the back and seems very sturdy.

Kona approved :)

Overall, I'd highly recommend them if you're in the market for a new journal cover and you'd like to have some freedom of what you'd like on the cover.  There's nothing like buying a high quality handmade product, from a small business, and being able to design some of it your way :)

Edit: I forgot to mention!  The journal was, unexpectedly, hard covered and 250 pages!  So much bigger than I expected (In a good way!!!).  It measures 8x5, too!

Now onto the challenge :)  First post coming up this Sunday night!!

P.S. Sorry about the lousy phone images...I'm sure you'll see more of this journal in better images as the year goes on!