Tuesday, February 9, 2016

The Tiniest Tumbleweed by Kathy Peach Inspires BIG Thinking

Everyone feels small or inadequate at some point in their lives. The Tiniest Tumbleweed, a children’s book by first-time author Kathy Peach, is a story strategically constructed to help children think big thoughts about what they can do to become their best selves, in spite of their circumstances.

It is the story of two Sonoran Desert characters, a tiny tum-bleweed and a baby house sparrow. Both tiny tumbleweed and baby sparrow enter their worlds with similar challenges—they worry they are too small to accomplish the things bigger tum-bleweeds and birds do, like making seeds and flying.

“Will I be as big and strong as my brothers and sisters?” they both ask, expressing their insecurities.

The timeless theme of the story is presented with Mother Tumbleweed’s wise response: “You will be as big and strong as YOU will be, and that is just fine, just fine indeed.” With these words, each of the tiny ones decide to take on the diffi-cult tasks of doing the work needed to help them grow. As a result, at just the right time, they provide the perfect help for each other, fulfilling their passionate need to be useful.

Peach says she developed the story to help children believe in their own capabilities.

“Tiny tumbleweed and baby sparrow, like all of us, must learn to work within our limitations,” Peach says. “In telling the story, I combined a method of writing fine children’s lit-erature whereby children can believe in a life that holds limit-less possibilities, with learnings on fostering self-efficacy from psychologist Albert Bandura, Ph.D. The intended result is to build the reader’s sense of self-efficacy and possibility.”

At a time of life when most people begin to slow down, Kathy Peach decided to follow her lifelong dreams of earning a college degree and writing a children’s book. She moved from her home of Middle Tennessee to Arizona, and gradu-ated from Arizona State University in December 2014 with a degree in Early Childhood/Early Childhood Special Educa-tion. Peach is now a teacher for the Head Start program in Phoenix.

“A tiny tumbleweed may seem an unlikely character, but just as the Southwest has such allure for me as a transplant, it seems to enchant others too,” said Peach. “After moving here, I saw a tiny bird dive into a tumbleweed near a fence. I almost wrecked my car watching the bird fly inside the tumbleweed but I didn’t see it fly back out. I returned to that place several times to observe tiny birds fly inside tumbleweeds and simply sit.” It was the synergy between living things and the boundless opportunities that relationship provides that helped inspire the characters and the story.

Edited by award-winning children’s author Conrad J. Storad and charmingly illustrated by Alex Lopez, The Tiniest Tumbleweed supports Arizona’s College and Career Ready (Common Core) for third grade English Language Arts (ELA). The book includes a curriculum guide with facts about tumbleweeds and sparrows following the story.

Find this book on Amazon HERE

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

GLENDALE CHOCOLATE AFFAIRE - February 5-6-7 - Chocolate and authors - Free Writing Workshops

Friday 5-10 pm, Saturday 10 am to 10 pm, Sunday Noon to 5 pm.

Each year, on the Superbowl weekend, lovers of chocolate and romance gather on the lawn of the Velma Teague library in Murphy Park in Glendale Arizona. They celebrate the upcoming Valentine's day with delicious foods, music, and romance. This year is no exception. 

Find the authors booth on 58th Avenue, across from Bitzee Mama and the wine and beer booth. Ask about the free workshops location and room number in the adjacent Civic Center. Below is the schedule for these free workshops:

Saturday 10AM—Connie Flynn
Workshop: Fall Back in Love With Your Writing.
Let's Take Back the Fun - One day you decide to do what many people say they will but never do – write a novel. Then you do it and realize writing fiction is the most amazing thing you've ever done. You’re in the honeymoon stage. Then one day, the love begins to wane. Using a series of exercises we will locate that moment in time when writing stopped being fun and take steps to reverse it. Although these can help with writer’s block, they are focused on getting back the joy of writing by helping you remember and reignite that original love.

11AM—Pam Tracy
Help! Commas and More are Running Amok in my Manuscript.
As a college professor of English, as well as a multi-published author, commas give me no grief. Do they give you grief? They don't need to. Also, what is the difference between proof-reading, editing, and revising? And, just how many different sentence types are there? And, can I start my sentence with an and? Let me help you with the very basic of writing tools and even show you how to look at the page as a whole.

Noon-Deena Remiel
Crafting The Black Moment
Learn why and how we send our characters through the dark side of Hell to reach their happily ever after. Don't worry! Your characters will forgive you! Have tablets, notebooks, and writing implements ready to work.

1PM-Cathy McDavid and Kris Tualla
The Grass isn't Always Greener
You’ve made it, you’re published. Whether you’ve chosen the traditional or independent route, you’re there! Raking in the royalties with that one, three, or ten books under your belt. Life couldn’t be better. Or, can it? In fact, maybe you never thought it was going to be this hard. Best selling and award winning authors Cathy McDavid (traditional) and Kris Tualla (independent) will give you a candid, honest and sometimes humorous look at both sides of the fence from two different perspectives, along with a little advice on how to “greenify” that grass.

2PM—Erin Quinn
What to Expect When You're Expecting ( . . . to be a writer).
A candid conversation about the many steps and stages in the journey to becoming a published author.

3PM-Caris Roane
The Complete Author: From Muse to Manuscript to Marketing
Join Caris Roane in a workshop detailing the path from book concept to completed manuscript to the challenging task of finding your readers. In this workshop, Caris presents a host of reference materials and offers guidance from 30-plus years of writing and publishing experience. Dream on!

4PM—Sara Fujimura
Music to Massage the Muse
Do you suffer from writer’s block? Learn how to get unstuck by using music to paint vivid pictures in your creative brain. From techno to classical to movie theme songs, I have music guaranteed to inspire even the most petulant of muses. This is a hands-on, interactive workshop, so bring your favorite writing gear.

Sunday Workshops
Noon Workshop- Wendy Ely
Making Characters Unique
Tips on how to use voice, motivation, and setting to have the reader remember your characters long after the book ends.

1PM-Vijaya Schartz
The Care and Feeding of An Author Website
With all the social media spreading the words about your books and your life, is an author website still relevant? Who needs one and who doesn't? What should it include? Can you hold it on a blog site? Should you pay to have one designed for you? Is it worth the cost? What should an author website look like for maximum impact? How to make it reader friendly, new technology friendly. Come and learn what to do according to your personal and professional needs, and what pitfalls to avoid.

2PM—Carolyn Hughey
Shake that Booty!
Join in the fun of this interactive workshop on Body Language that will help you tap into your characters' feelings or help you figure out that complicated guy in your life!

3PM—Butterscotch Martini Girls
Author Life Support
From first draft to published book, learn the ins and outs of what separates published authors from those who want to write.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Writer’s Block By Barbara Renner

Barbara Renner
Writer’s block. It happens. And when it does, we find ourselves in a daze, staring at a screen saver as the blue and green fish swim from left to right across our monitor. Just once I’d like to see a Great White Shark swim in from the right, or a monster eel squirm up from the bottom along the screen. But, no, the creative juices just might start flowing again. Instead, there are all kinds of distractions we find more interesting than writing: dusting the pot shelves... rearranging the living room furniture... trimming the palm trees. When I find myself in a writer’s funk, which is just about every day, I participate in a few activities that help stimulate the right side of my brain.

Take a hike. There’s something about breathing the fresh outside air that cleanses the axons between your ears. The sounds, the smells, the moisture in the air all stimulate thoughts and conjure ideas better than anything inside my stuffy house, unless I’m vacuuming, which, for some reason, arouses creative thoughts. If I were more dedicated to writing, I’d have a cleaner house. Back outside. As my husband and daughter hiked through the woods one morning, I came up with the premise of one of my picture books. We commented on holes in trees and grass mounds along our path, and we wondered what animals make those their homes.

Ah-ha. What if a curious little duck asked his mother if he could live in an eagle’s nest, a beaver’s dam, or a muskrat hole? That’s when Lonnie the Loon was born and began searching for his home. Walking my dog in the desert last weekend gave me ideas for a new picture book about a little quail. While on my walks, my mind often organizes a beginning paragraph or attention grabber or a way to smooth out an awkward scene. Then I have to hurry home and pound it out on the computer. Yes, fresh air is good for the health and the mind.

Attend an event. I recently went to a NASCAR race with my husband and son. This is the first year we immersed ourselves into the entire experience by hauling our trailer out to the racetrack and camping for four nights... along with 24,000 of our closest friends. This RV city contains a plethora of personality types, an excellent variety from which to choose for those special characters in your novel. We were parked in East LA and walked the mile and a half to the track while observing a variety of camps along the way. Just by listening to the many conversations, you can create unique dialogue in your story. I plan on using “I’m researching my family tree and discovered a lot of little bushes.”

Shopping at the mall, or Wal*Mart, can also be considered attending an event. Observe how people interact with each other and you’ll have yourself material for the characters in your story. Ob-serve how the lady standing in line blows her bangs out of her eyes for a unique description. Observe how the 80-year old woman writes a check – ever so slowly.

Observe how mothers talk to their children. Hus-bands and wives/boyfriends and girlfriends present additional story fodder. Watching body language will invoke emotional descriptions for your reader to see. Just look at that old man striding ten paces in front of his wife in the parking lot. Oh, wait, that would be my husband.

Drive through the country. Ahh, the wonderful sights you will see as you drive along the road: fields of flowers or cotton... indigenous foliage and mountains... a toilet positioned under a mailbox with flowers sprouting from its pot. Take pictures with your mind’s eye or cell phone so you can later describe scenery as your protagonist moves from place to place in your book. Tune into a local news channel. While driving through the Minnesota countryside last sum-mer, I listened to the local news. Apparently there is not a lot to report in a town of 900 residents. In the short three-minute news flash an unfortunate farmer had an altercation with his John Deere tractor and a car motoring down the highway. No one was hurt. Then there was the story about a stolen truck that had been found in a vacant field. The keys were still in the ignition and the windows remained rolled down. Thank goodness.

As you escape the confines of your writing desk, don’t forget to take along a tape recorder or notebook to re-cord your observations. Heaven forbid you forget everything before you hit the keyboard. When writer’s block happens, don’t let it frustrate you – take a hike.

Barbara Renner was born in Albuquerque, New Mexico. She has traveled extensively, but enjoys her current winter home in Arizona and summer home in Minnesota. She was inspired to write her 'Lonnie the Loon' picture books while fishing in the lake country of Northern Minnesota. A retired teacher, Barbara has taught a variety of subjects to students from middle school through post secondary. She currently is an adjunct instructor at the community college level and serves on two business education association executive boards. Barbara is pursuing her career as an author by writing picture books for children, blogging humorous life stories for adults, and submitting articles to newsletters, journals, and magazines. 

Find Barbara and her books HERE


Thursday, January 21, 2016

The Inevitable Author Oh Carp! I didn’t want it to look that way! by Kathleen Cook

Kathleen Cook
For a lot of you, Create Space is the only way to publish books. It’s easy, free, and heck, they even have a “take this book to Kindle” button that makes it easy to publish your print book as an ebook. Why not just press it? … You know you want to.

If you’re like me, you’ve carefully formatted your print version and spent a lot of time making sure that all the pages in the “preview” look as good as you intended. After you’ve perfected it and published the print version, that little “import to Kindle” button is so tempting. Why not?

If you’ve tried it, then you already know the answer to that question. Simply, the ebook version sucks. The formatting is off, the pages run together, the chapters look “funny,” although you can’t put your finger on it. There is no TOC to speak of, or at least it doesn’t link well. Your book looks like a fifth grader published it. That’s what you get for pressing that “import to Kindle” button after your print book was finished.

Now it’s time to backtrack and do some homework. Familiarize yourself with epublishing terms such as epub, mobi, and other formats. Find a good epub editor and learn to use it. It’s scary, at first, because it’s just so much simpler to press a button than it is to read a software manual. Trust me, if I can do it, so can you.

There are quite a few free and paid programs out there to create epub files. Since my son is a computer programmer, I’ve been privileged to try a few paid versions, such as Adobe InDesign. Frankly, I wasn’t impressed. It’s probably good for people with a 4-year computer science degree like my son, but for me, uh-uh, I can barely distinguish the difference between a megabit and a megabyte.

Stick with the free ones; they aren’t appreciably worse than the fancy schmancy, hundred-buck versions. I know that Scrivener is a lot cheaper than that, maybe 40 bucks or so, but I still don’t think it’s worth the money. I’ll take free any day . . . I’m cheap.

My favorite free epub editor is Sigil. I’ve been using it since 2009, and every year it seems to get better. I use the Sigil 7.0 version, which has very good reviews and is available as a free download from Softonic. The latest release for Sigil is version 9.0 which came out just a few weeks ago. I can’t guarantee that one since I don’t know much about it, but the 7.0 version is a breeze, once you read the online manual and tinker with it for a few hours. It’s time well spent, if you’re going to publish a lot of books, or hope you will!

I’ve also heard good reviews on Calibre. I confess, the only reason I haven’t tried it is because I was so happy with Sigil, I never felt the need to look into it. Some friends swear by Calibre, and it’s also free. You can try both versions and see which one you like better.

If you want to create books for the iPad, you can try iBooks Author, (also free, of course). I don’t know that much about it, but when you have three geeky sons like me, who spend all of their time reviewing or using a variety of pro-grams (two for a living), then you get to know people who have tried everything. This one has good reviews from both friends and online.

Frankly, I’ll stick with my Sigil. With it, you can create a decent Table of Contents that will integrate well. I won’t say that it isn’t time consuming to spend those few hours figuring it out, or that you won’t scratch your head for a minute or two. I am saying that once you put in that effort, you’ll find your finished product on Kindle to be well worth it.
Once you have a perfect ebook in Sigil, it’s easy to upload it to Kindle. Where you used to press that button to upload a Word file, you now simply go directly to Kindle to publish a title and upload the epub instead. Once that is done, Kindle will convert the file to Mobi, their own version of epub. You’ll find your Sigil conversion much truer to its original format than what you used to upload. The bullets won’t shrink; the headings won’t jump to another location, etc.

After you’ve uploaded, carefully review the Kindle preview version of your book. Try different formats. I downloaded the free previewer from the Kindle site to my computer, so I am able to preview my ebooks during the writing stage. I preview every so often as I’m working in Sigil. Once I like what I see, I publish it on the Kindle website.

While I review my work in the Kindle previewer, I often change devices at the top of the reviewer, so that I’ll know how the book looks on different devices. With the option to change views, you can see what your book looks like on an old Kindle, new Kindle, Kindle Fire, DX Widescreen, and more. By checking all of these options, you’ll see exactly what your customers will see when they download your book to their device.

Repeat the mantra: Free is good. There’s no need to spend money on an ebook editor. If you’ve been disappointed with your ebooks in the past, rather than hand the job over to someone else or buy a fancy program, just take a day out to teach yourself how to use one of the free epub editing programs, and you’ll be in business for the rest of your life.

Find Kathleen on the Arizona Authors website HERE

Thursday, January 14, 2016

ArtiFACT to Fiction Writers’ Workshop Deborah Hilcove

Speaker, Deborah Hilcove
On a recent Saturday afternoon, about 15 writers gathered for a workshop co-sponsored by the Scottsdale Historical Society and Arizona Authors. With the idea of grounding fiction in artifacts, Judith Starkston and Deborah Hilcove arranged a tour of the Little Red Schoolhouse, led by Museum Director JoAnn Handley and Docent Janet Larkin.

Following that introduction, Starkston spoke about her book, Hand of Fire, set during the Trojan War and incorporating Mycenaean swords as artifacts to link scenes and plot elements. Hilcove shared excerpts from her manuscript, Geronimo’s Daughter, and showed how an amulet helped develop her characters and major theme.

During the workshop, participants were invited to write―briefly and extemporaneously, without time for editing or revising―about a Museum artifact from the tour or something from their own experience.

Starkston and Susan Pohlman recalled the cradle upstairs in the Museum, saying, “It’s small, very narrow. Suggests a cramped room, maybe something closing in. Narrow attitudes, maybe. A feeling of being constricted, contained.”

First-time Museum visitor, Patty Schoenfeld, described the “school house bell which at one time announced to the children it was time to come to class…[and now tempts visitors] to ring it one more time.”

Bill Mast chose a photo of a pictograph from a cave in Utah’s Canyonlands National Park and wrote: “The light of the morning sun barely touched my ancestor’s artwork. The painted bird and turtle drew me closer. I whittled my walking stick to a point and gouged deep into the celestial line. I waited. Then it came. I felt the spiritual connection with my ancestors. Connected, I could see the deep red sunrises―our beginnings―and those vibrant sunsets―foretelling the end…”

Referring to her novel-in-progress, Cherie Lee described an inherited diary from 1887 “with spi-dery handwriting.” Cherie plans a young adult historical novel and began her paragraph with the main character signing for a certified letter from a lawyer: “She flung the letter on her desk and it fluttered to the floor…”

Cynthia Kiefer was inspired by the Museum’s East lake-style piano in the parlor and wrote, “A dirty forefinger slipped onto the smooth white key.

She pressed down gently…The note was clear and pure…Lila would not be able to resist the lure of music.”
As the workshop drew to a close, many of the participants agreed they had discovered sources and ideas to be incorporated in their future work.

Schoenfeld summed up the afternoon as “an outpouring of some quite imaginative and amazing scenarios.”

Find Deborah at: http://www.deborahhilcove.com/