Friday, August 18, 2017

Celebrate the Small Things: Summer, Book, and YA News

Hi, I hope everyone is having a fabulous summer! Smoke from the Northwest and Canadian fires has finally cleared and the temperature has dropped to the mid-eighties. ~Breathing a huge sigh of relief~

'SHELLS' Watch. Another week and I haven't written my novel's sequel yet. Ha-ha-ha. I'm still trying to figure out how to promote the first one. Thankfully, sales are up for  The Shells of Mersing. Received my first box of printed copies in the mail and fell in love all over again. Here's another teaser, page 137:

"Samuel gives Lucas a high-five and starts to do the same with me, but hesitates. He smiles, a cute half grin, and shakes my hand. My hand melts into his, and his touch is as warm and velvety as any first kiss could ever be. For a moment the room blurs around us.
Irene clears her throat. “Samuel’s homeschooling with us for the summer, while his parents work on assignment in Indonesia.”  
I’m too speechless to say anything relevant in reply. I’d stammer and make a fool of myself if I tried.
Samuel pours himself a lemonade. “So what’s up? Why’s everyone in such a daze?” 

Writers' Conferences: 

  • Rivers of Ink 2017 Conference - Kennewick, WA  Aug 18-20 (Sunday is free - Story Structure 1&2)
  • Inland Northwest SCBWI Conference - Spokane, WA Sept 16

Interesting news in the Young Adult genre with the recent publishing of The Black Witch by Laurie Forest. Apparently, this new author is being skewered for being racist. Her stated attempt was to portray a character's transformation after growing up in a close knit prejudiced culture, and apparently she sees the light as an adult. Unfortunately, a critic ranted on Twitter about the racism and what she claims is the book's final effect. The book is 600 pages long, but readers are rejecting the book based on some 500 tweets! 

Here's an example of a quote in the review from pg. 163 in the book: "The Kelts are not a pure race like us. They’re more accepting of intermarriage, and because of this, they’re hopelessly mixed.” Seriously?? This was considered inappropriate? I thought this was fiction. I do not normally read fantasy, but I might make an exception. Perhaps the most compelling point is that the main character's transformation doesn't really begin until halfway through the book. That's a lot of reading with potentially repugnant material. It's possible the author went too far, but still.....

The article states that the tweeted review was  "— a clarion call for YA Twitter, which regularly identifies and denounces books for being problematic (an all-purpose umbrella term for describing texts that engage improperly with race, gender, sexual orientation, disability, and other marginalizations). Led by a group of influential authors who pull no punches when it comes to calling out their colleagues’ work, and amplified by tens of thousands of teen and young-adult followers for whom online activism is second nature, the campaigns to keep offensive books off shelves are a regular feature in a community that’s as passionate about social justice as it is about reading."

This is not about one bad review. It stirred up a hornet's nest for the publisher as you can imagine. My guess is the brew-ha-ha increased sales, but I'm bothered by the censorship, because the goal was to remove her book from readers and shelves. My question to any author or publisher is: do we really have the right? Parents do this all the time and that's their duty and prerogative. I did this with books (and media) too with my children and would do so again based on age appropriateness, but blackballing an author's hard-earned work riles me up. I may not like everything I read and have the right to express those views, but to embark on a censorship campaign feels just plain wrong. 

What do you think?

Click here for the full articles:  "The Toxic Drama on YA Twitter by Kat Rosenfield and "On Disagreement" by Vicky Smith

Last but not least, it's time to think about Painting the house and Fall Gardening

We tend to take on bigger than life projects!!!

Enjoy the weekend everyone!

"Come celebrate with us" 
To join "Celebrate the Small Things, visit Lexa Cain's blog
Co-hosts are: L.G. Keltner @ Writing Off The Edge 

Tonja Drecker @ Kidbits Blog

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Celebrate the Small Things: Fire on the Mountains and Summer Magic

A family visit took away from my blog these last two weeks, but it was time well spent. Some excitement with the ongoing fire hazard brought incredible views. It was quite the ringside seat.  We watched our suede mountain across the lake burn in full view.

When the fire was over, these suede mountains were black.
Mercifully, the wind did not blow choking smoke over our small community, although many of us saw ashes fall. None ignited fires on our side!

 We watched our phenomenal helicopter fire crew dump bucket after bucket of water for hours on end. These folks deserve some kind of medal. 

At one point, the Wanupum community (our local Indian tribe) was evacuated on the fire side, but the fire crews managed to save their homes and businesses. 

View from park and marina at dusk: "The 400 Fire"
A photo opportunity: Selfie with my daughter on left

Love this of my daughter at the water's edge

Summer magic: My daughter took this of me, and said I reminded her of a magician raising up the smoke.
When all was done, no lives were lost and to my knowledge, not one building or home was destroyed. Thankful, thankful, thankful!

"Come celebrate with us" 
To join "Celebrate the Small Things, visit Lexa Cain's blog
Co-hosts are: L.G. Keltner @ Writing Off The Edge 
Tonja Drecker @ Kidbits Blog

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Celebrate the Small Things: Just Another Good Day

Well, what do you say when life is zipping along and you are having a good day? I guess you could say you feel blessed



  • Workmen are outside our door as I type, building our new pergola. Shade, oh blessed shade, Oh how I have missed you. We desperately need you in the desert sun. 
  • Tomorrow my daughter arrives with two of our grandchildren to stay the week. We'll spend time at the lake trying to stay cool and probably play a board game or two.
  • A blog tour for me at Laurisa White Reyes' blog 


"Come celebrate with us" 
To join "Celebrate the Small Things, visit Lexa Cain's blog
Co-hosts are: L.G. Keltner @ Writing Off The Edge 
Tonja Drecker @ Kidbits Blog

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Exploring the Virgina Colony by Christin Ditchfield: Book Review

Exploring the Virginia Colony
Author: Christin Ditchfield

Reviewer: Sharon M. Himsl
Publisher:  Capstone Press,  2017
Ages:  8 to 11, Middle Grade
Pages: 48 

Virginia was the first of thirteen colonies in North America to survive. Other attempts at colonization had failed miserably due to lack of survival skills. However, in 1607, the Virginia Company successfully built a new English settlement, Jamestown. 
Under the strict leadership of Captain John Smith set forth in newly established rules, the colonists learned to work together as a team. Smith also befriended area Native Americans, a peace further forged by a marriage between one of the colonists and Pocahontas, the daughter of Chief Powhatan. Although conflicts did arise, the colonists and the Native Americans learned much from each other, sharing their knowledge and way of life. Ditchfield details the challenges, hardships, and daily life of both groups. 

Meanwhile, the colonists discovered a cash crop in farming tobacco (among other crops), and built huge plantations. Of the thirteen colonies, Virginia would rely the most heavily on slave labor. Kidnapped African slaves began arriving in 1619. By the early 1700s, Virginia had become a thriving colony, no longer dependent on supplies or food from Europe. 

Religion was important to the colonists, as many had fled Europe to worship more freely. The “Great Awakening,” a huge religious revival in the British colonies, brought a resurgence of Protestant faith and inspired the colonists greatly from 1734 to 1750.

During the American Revolutionary War, few battles took place on Virginia soil, but Virginian leaders, among them Thomas Jefferson, helped bring the country to independence. In 1788, Virginia became the tenth state to join the newly formed nation. 

More interesting information can be found in the book's "Did You Know" side notes, mini bios, illustrations, quotes, and "Critical Thinking with Primary Sources" section. A good introduction on Virginia's important role in early American history. 

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

IWSG: Trusting Myself as a Writer

Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

Posting: The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Post your thoughts on your own blog. Talk about your doubts and the fears you have conquered. Discuss your struggles and triumphs. Offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling.

The awesome co-hosts for the July 5 posting of the IWSG will be Tamara Narayan, Pat Hatt, Patricia Lynne, Juneta Key, and Doreen McGettigan!
July 5 Question: What is one valuable lesson you've learned since you started writing?

Just one? Actually, there probably IS one valuable lesson I could share that I have been calling different things over the years, and it has something to do with trusting myself as a writer.

When I first started out, I could go back to high school when I was given the sole job of writing a 'biting' letter to the Tacoma News Tribune about a fight that had broken out between a group of rowdies from our school and another high school. As I recall, we felt justified in our guys throwing the first punch and it was my job as our school's Corresponding Secretary to convince the public in a letter to the editor. Well, my "too nice" attempt didn't pass the scrutiny of our student council. Another student (a guy) stepped up and wrote the letter. NOW, it's very likely I was NOT qualified to write that letter, but I let it define and redirect my secret desire to be a writer.

Fast forward to graduation and marriage at nineteen. I discovered my husband was a poet of a writer (and still is). I learned this reading his letters when he was in the military. Remember the days of handwritten letters? They are so much more romantic than email, but ....that's another story and discussion. When I was finally able to join him at a U.S. base, I took it upon myself to convince him he should be a writer. I talked him into signing up for the Famous Writers Course (title, as I recall). Does anyone remember this course? It was later sited as being a fraud and made front cover news on a popular news magazine. We sought a base lawyer to get out of the contract. Hubby then told me something that has always stuck with me and I have never forgotten.
Writing is "your thing" not mine.

Fast forward to two children later and I am a stay-at-home mom for three years. I took my first Creative Writing course at a local college and loved it. We set up a spare room in the basement with a typewriter and a lovely view out the window. However, nothing came of my writing attempts and we needed the income if we were to ever to buy a home. If writing was "my thing," it had to make us money to work. Translation: my writing wasn't good enough.

I went back to work with the idea I could work and write at the same time. I must say I have heard of writers who make this work, but I could never figure out how to juggle a job with cooking, cleaning, raising children, and family time, let alone job demands. I had a gem of a husband, but he was old school when it came to cooking and cleaning. (He has since entered the modern world :-) Writing fell to the wayside, but I managed to write some, slowing inching forward.

I read a ton of writing books, joined a writers' group (more than one over time), and played with words. I took their constructive criticism seriously and in the beginning listened to everything they said. Every piece I wrote changed a lot, but I realize it was part of the learning process. I had not yet learned to trust my gut in my writing. 

Word got out I was trying to write at work. My boss approached me with the idea his friend had a story I might want to tell. It was a worthy idea, and may have been wonderful, but I passed. I later explored this idea in a college assignment, interviewing the elderly at a local nursing home. I must admit I enjoy telling the stories of others (you have seen this on my blog), and editing too (as a new job became), but if writing  was "my thing," it was time to get my fiction published.

This April, something  miraculous happened. My first work of fiction, The Shells of Mersing, was accepted by Evernight Teen. This novel was written three times, first time in 1998, following
my stay in Malaysia. Writers in a critique group spent time critiquing The Shells of Mersing, some more than once, and I am forever in their debt.

I've read in Books on Writing that this is probably the novel that should have been buried under the bed, lessons learned, but I couldn't give up on it. I loved the story and characters too much, and the settings and locations were deeply embedded in my heart. I had to get it right. In January, I wrote in my journal 'this was the year'. I either would find a publisher or self-publish myself.

Meanwhile, I did a final round of edits and made two dramatic changes to the book. I had been toying with these changes for a long time, but here I was in a new community with no writers group in the area, and to ask my good friend to read for a third time just wasn't an option. I needed fresh insight.    

I asked my husband (remember the poetic letter writer?). He had read the Harry Potter series two times (!) I figured at the very least, he knew what youth, adults (and boys) liked to read. I saw this series bring nonreaders to the table in droves, my grandson included. Turns out, my husband is a fantastic reader and has an excellent ear for scene and chapter endings....and redundancy.

I also followed my gut this time, by adding a prologue and a new opening scene. It had started too abruptly before. I wrote the book I wanted to read, and very possibly, learned to trust myself as a writer for the first time.  

I would like to add a bit more. When we write, our motivation needs to come from within. If we seek our personal best in our writing, we are the only competition we will ever need. Not everyone will like what we write or understand our message, and that's okay too. I know those reviews are important but they aren't the end all either. I've read plenty of books that felt so-so to me, but others adored....and vice versa. I am writing for a certain audience, and they are the ones I hope to reach. It all comes back to trusting myself as a writer.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Celebrate the Small Things: A Fun and Safe 4th of July

I want to wish everyone a fun and safe 4th of July. I expect a lot of you will take today off, and Monday and Tuesday too. That makes for a nice five-day holiday. I remember those times. Working hard five days a week, with never enough vacation time. But when the calendar fell just right, we'd take a trip and go camping somewhere. Or barbecue at home, buy 'illegal' fireworks at the reservation, and have some old-fashioned fun.

Not sure what hubby and I will be doing. Company is coming, so I suppose that means hamburgers and fireworks at the park. We may participate in the annual golf cart parade. We live in a semi-retirement community, so there are a lot of golf carts!

Meanwhile.....I'm still promoting my new book, The Shells of Mersing, and could use some serious readers and Amazon Reviews. A FREE eBOOK COPY to anyone interested!

Did you know the story starts in Seattle in 1995? Email and the internet were brand new then, and cells phones were practically non-existent in the U.S. However, in Malaysia, where half the novel is set, cell phones were definitely in use and becoming rather popular. 

It was fun introducing my main character to Email and Cell phones for the first time, having lived in Malaysia myself in 1995. I remember my writer friends in the states were nervous about sending their manuscripts half way around the world over the internet for critiques (as was I). Our worries ranged from worrying about losing our work entirely to getting an enormous internet bill!! Boy, have things changed.

Thursday, June 22, 2017


 Finish line. Made the Goal. Here at last. The Tortoise won the Race. The Big Tuh-duh!!   

SERIOUSLY, this is a big deal. My FIRST work of fiction published. HOLY MOLY!!

Party anyone? NOT. I'm a writer. I hole up in my office and play with words. That's what writers do. I never did learn how to party.

Butfor being here to Celebrate with me.

Okay, enough chatter. This is THE SHELLS OF MERSING'S big day. Callie is dying to tell her story and I'm going to let her take it from here ....

"I have a gun frozen in my hand, and a scream welling up inside. No one would believe me in a million years if I told the truth..."

25% off for two weeks starting today at Evernight Teen. Also available on Amazon. Print copies available in August. Pop on over and take a look and give me a CHEER. I'm over the moon, doing cartwheels, releasing balloons, filled to the max excited!!


When notorious Uncle Azman disobeys his boss’s orders, and sends Callie and Lucas to meet their mother's long lost family in Malaysia, fourteen-year-old Callie Davis believes their troubles are over. After all they've endured, what more could go wrong? Their American dad is dead, Mom is missing, and their foster dad in Seattle was murdered, with Callie falsely accused. If that wasn't enough, Callie stowed aboard a sailboat with her eight-year-old brother to escape, only to be targeted by their uncle’s boss in Hawaii upon arrival for immediate sale in Thailand’s human trafficking market. Disguised in Muslim dress, in case Azman’s boss sends someone after them, Callie believes it’s simply a matter of time. They need to find safety with family in Mersing and begin the search for Mom, but a shell box, a ruby, and a boy from Chicago named Sam are about to change everything.  

More Fun Facts at Author Page  


Friday, June 16, 2017

Poof! A Book is Born: Teaser Excerpt and Update

Happy to announce my novel The Shells of Mersing is ready for release June 23. Uhh.....that's next F-R-I-D-A-Y! It's really going to happen! I dreamed a story and POOF....a book is born.

The Shells of Mersing will be featured at 25% off on the landing page of Evernight Teen's website for one week upon release, but I'll remind everyone again when it happens. I made the below image and thought it might work in a book trailer  but I'm still working on the details. 

A teaser excerpt - The Shells of Mersing:

Groaning, his eyes flicker open. “What happened?”

“Don’t move, Mr. Pirone. I’ll get Judith.”

He grabs my wrist. “You’ll do no such thing. Help me up.” His face softens. “Please, I hurt my back.” I pull him to his feet.

He staggers to the door and stops mid step at the threshold, hanging there for the longest time. “What are you doing here?” he finally says.

“Benjamin, my old friend,” a male voice replies.

Benny inches backward. Glancing back at me, he speaks in a low deliberate voice, “Run, Callie.” He mumbles something else, but all I really hear are his first words. Run, Callie.

A muffled pop pierces the air. Benny falls to his knees and collapses face down. I cover my mouth, stifling a scream, afraid to move as blood gushes from a bullet hole in Benny’s temple. A crimson pool forms on the floor.

A flashlight beam travels over his face and the wound. I gasp, recalling the glowing moon eyes in my dream. The beam of light shines on my face next and goes out, blinding me at first.

“Who’s there? Please. Who are you?”

A cold, unmistakable chill travels down my spine, and then I see him, a man clad in black. He steps over Benny’s body, entering the room. A gun hangs loose at his side in his black gloved hand. I step backward. He flicks his black hair away from his face and moves closer. Two sunken cheeks dominate his long face. A red scar zigzags across his nose. He’s young, in his twenties, maybe thirties. He eyes Benny’s body, snickering to himself.

A toilet flushes upstairs. Please let it be Judith. I step to the side, eyeing the door and the stairs behind him. I can run for it. I can do this.

He snatches my hand. “Not so fast.” His steely eyes are those of a cobra’s. I can almost hear the hiss when his bony fingers clamp down, pinching me. He forces my palm over the gun handle, curving my index finger around the trigger. “You tell anyone about me, and I’ll kill you. Your mama too.”

My mouth goes dry. “My mother?”

He smiles, a cruel deliberate sneer. “That’s right, your mama in Thailand.”

My heart rips apart, a scream building inside. This horrid man knows my mother. He knows her!

His cobra eyes gloat. “Yeah, that’s right. I think you understand. Now don’t forget.”

I struggle to move the gun wedged in my hand. No, I’ll never forget your warning and cruel voice, or your snakelike stare and jagged scar.

He snorts. “Tell them it was self-defense.” He kicks Benny’s body as he leaves.

My knees shake as I watch him disappear. The soles of my feet are molded to the floor. I have a gun frozen in my hand, and a scream welling up inside. No one would believe me in a million years if I told the truth, because the only truth I could fabricate is an outright lie. Tell them it was self-defense, he said. But I can’t lie, nor can I live with the deadly consequences of the truth.

Judith rushes into the room. I have no idea when. Seconds, minutes, hours could have passed. I’m standing where the stranger left me.