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1. Cape Breton beach.

Cape Breton Glass

 Acadia National Park 8

Walking slowly, touching sometimes

With warm fingers in the early morning breeze.

We look for the magic beneath our feet

And wonder at the colors and shapes

Strewn around us by a greater sculptor.

Glass formed by the strength of pounding and passion

Of the mighty power of western water,

Grinding up onto the French flavored shore.

We come together for warmth

And drift apart again to search for more treasure,

As the slowly rising sun tries to warm the salty air.

To walk here is magic

To be here with you is morning personified

In the great spreading light of green glowing sea glass.

Denis Hearn 2008

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2. Look Who is Moving & Shaking

Bee Movers and Shakers 041614


We are so proud of our children’s book, The Bee Bully.  He is being featured currently on Bookbub.com through April 17th and he is being very well received.  He is currently #4 on Amazon’s Movers and Shakers List for kindle and he is #1 in the Children’s Ebook category.  He has been reduced to $.99 during this promotion period and has over 80 five-star reviews.  Be sure to get a copy today and see what all the buzz is about!





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3. Somewhere out there.


Silent light moves above me

In the shape of mighty orbs,

Hanging, moving, ponderous in the blackened world.

I gaze transfixed within the ethereal sight.

Stunning shapes of circling matter float

Far above me, yet live so deep inside me.

Here within this celestial circus,

I watch the journey. I am the journey.

Craters glow. Rills fill with light

As seas expand above me into

The frozen tides of ancient time.

I look up and peer outside our planet’s watery ways.

Jupiter spends time next to our Moon.

Its banded majesty competes for sight.

Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto make little in the night.

Lunar light is king tonight.


Orbital choreography at its best,

Rolls slowly before my straining eyes.

Equinox personifies its presence,

And sets the stage for cosmic fall.

We are all part of this.

We are not voyeurs.

We are part of this orbital majesty.

We kneel in wonder at our planned rotation.

Motion is realized and performed.

We follow every second of the measured plan.

We take time to view the distance spinning above us,

And blend our mind’s matter with magnificence.

Denis Hearn 2010

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4. Los Angeles Times Book Festival

I will be at the Los Angeles Times Book Festival at the USC campus today. I am speaking on two panels and signing books.

The first panel is called Middle Grade Fiction: In BeTween Tales , with authors Lisa Greenwald, Joyce Sidman and Holly Goldberg Sloan.  It is 10:3-11:30 at the Norris Theatre. Then I will be signing SWIM THAT ROCK from 11:30-12:30

The second panel is called Children’s Books: Inspiring Young Minds, with authors Mac Barnett, Doreen Cronin and Jennifer Fosberry. It is at the Salvatori Computer Science Center from 3-4pm.  Then I will be signing Super Hair-O and the Barber of Doom as well as Blackout from 4-5pm

Hope to see you there.




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5. Claddagh Pool main issue follow up by Pope Francis

Finally there is a new Pope who seems to want to take responsibility for the clerical abuses over the last few years. This is a huge step toward healing the horrific wounds inflicted by some members of the clergy on the innocents . He totally gets my vote.




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6. Book Blast: Mrs. D’s Picture Books

About the Books

Carlo the Mouse Too Many Rules for One Little Mouse by Mrs DTitle: Carlo the Mouse Book 1: Too Many Rules for One Little Mouse | Author: Mrs. D | Illustrator: Chanoa | Publication Date: October 21, 2013 | Publisher: Dog Ear Publishing | Number of pages: 33 | Recommended age: 4+

Summary: Grab your boots and hold on to your hat, because you are in for an exciting trip! The new series of Carlo the Mouse has been born. Too Many Rules for One Little Mouse is the first in a series of books on Carlo’s adventures. Each book will give readers an entertaining look into the life of a little mouse born inside a hospital’s walls. Clever, curious, and very impatient, Carlo the mouse dreams of the world outside the hospital. His parents teach him how to follow the rules and how to survive on his own, but Carlo’s insatiable desire for adventure constantly gets him in trouble. Will the little adventurer manage to survive when he leaves home? You’ll find out in Mrs. D.’s next books on Carlo the mouse. Let your imagination soar in this full series of Carlo’s adventures!

Amazon | Barnes and Noble


Good Morning World by Mrs DTitle: Good Morning, World! | Author: Mrs. D | Illustrator: Eladziem | Publication Date: November 21, 2013 | Publisher: Dog Ear Publishing | Number of pages: 50 | Recommended age: 5+

Summary: Glide gently into the beautiful morning with Baby Thomas and his grandpa. The sun is shining brightly through the wide window and the flowers, trees, birds, and other creatures have already started their day. Brilliant colors of the dawning day wake up the park, and Baby Thomas is ready for a walk. While walking in the park Thomas and his grandpa see the same things but from a different perspective. Baby Thomas wants to hug the wonderful world around him, but his grandpa has a different opinion. Young readers will easily connect to the wonders of nature and unforgettable characters, playfully interacting with each other. Join happy Baby Thomas and his grandpa for a walk and have a delightful, uplifting morning!

* Winner of a Mom’s Choice Award, Honoring Excellence *

Amazon | Barnes and Noble


The Buzz

Carlo the Mouse: “My son chose this book to read and really liked it. He rated it 5* and said it was “awesome”. He’s almost five. So that’s a good fit. If I could make one recommendation, it would be to watch out for repeating the same sentence structure over and over. It’s a minor thing but could improve overall flow. The pictures were adorable. Well done Mrs. D.” ~ 5 Star Review, Simone B., Amazon

Carlo the Mouse: “Another gem from Mrs. D.! This is the first in a series of several books, and the titles of those are just as intriguing as this one. The interchange between the characters goes beyond just rules and regulations. Even small children will see just how caring and loving this family is with each other. There are definitely different personalities, and conflicts, as in every family. Carlo’s is one that answers those challenges with love and firmness. The pictures are adorable! Every facial expression, every nuance of action, is so well-thought-out. The colors are appealing, and the story’s lesson is simple enough for even the youngest of readers. There is a challenge here in some of the vocabulary used in the book. I welcome that. The youngsters who get this story read to them are privileged in this regard, for they can learn new words and what they mean. A child whose vocabulary is extended beyond his or her comfort zone is a child who will learn and grow into an intelligent adult. I highly recommend this story, and hope that I will get the chance to read more of Carlo’s adventures.” ~ 5 Star Review, Kitty Muse Book Reviews, Amazon

Carlo the Mouse: “As a grown-up, I fell in love with this adorable character the moment I looked at the first illustration. I had as much pleasure reading this book as my son did. Sometimes, a sample book like this one, gives more to a child then books chosen by the school experts. Now we could hardly wait what the next book will hold. Thank you so much for making our children happy. Because of books like yours, our children will grow up happier, kinder, and smarter. Great story! Wonderful artwork! Astonishing children’s book! Because of books like yours, our children will grow up happier, kinder, and smarter.” ~ 5 Star Review, Olga G., Amazon

Good Morning, World!: “What a charming book of comparing generations and reminding us how children see the world! The illustrations are bright, colourful and sweet, and the story is so well written that it feels as though I am walking right beside the baby and grumpy Grandpa who clearly woke up on the wrong side of the bed that morning! Thank you for a lovely book, Mrs. D!” ~ 5 Star Review, Multi-Testing Mommy, Amazon

Good Morning, World!: “This darling story of Baby Thomas and Grandpa was like I was taking a stroll along with them. The author must have pulled some of this story from a family experience. With her very creative imagination she must have been very tuned into actions and reactions of Baby Thomas. Then there was Grandpa who was very vocal and animated so she undoubtedly knew exactly what to write about Grandpa. Too funny! This book is a must read! I highly recommend this book.” ~ 5 Star Review, It’s Time to Read Mamaw, Amazon

Good Morning, World!: “This was a charming book. Following the differing perspectives of the Grandpa and the child, this book is a wonderful reminder about the importance of a positive attitude. I LOVED the joyful wonder in the child’s perspective, and cringed as I recognized some of the grandfather’s. What I love about all of Mrs. D’s books is that they share a message. They teach the adults as much as the kids. This message in particular touched me. It is a reminder about seeing from the eyes of a child. Exploring the world with an open mind, an open heart, and enthusiasm. Life is full of blessings, and sometimes we forget to notice them. Thank you Mrs. D for another 5 star children’s book.” ~ 5 Star Review, Kirstin P., Sunshine, Bubbles and Books


About the Author: Mrs. D

Mrs D ~ Olga D'AgostinoMrs. D. (Olga D’Agostino), an award-winning children’s author, was born in western Ukraine. She lived in the historical city of Lviv, where she studied business in Lviv Business College and worked in the food industry. In 1992, she immigrated to the USA with her two small daughters and for years worked in her own business. In 2011, she began her career as a writer, focusing on writing children’s books that have meaning and provide valuable lessons. Two of her children’s books, The Trees Have Hearts and Good Morning, World!, won Mom’s Choice Awards in 2013. She is a member of SCBWI and speaks a few languages fluently. She lives in the famous town of Smithville, NJ, with her husband Patrick and a meticulous old cat named Nyda.

Published books by Mrs. D. include Carlo the Mouse on Vacation, The Trees Have Hearts, The City Kittens and the Old House Cat, Good Morning, World!, and Carlo the Mouse, Book 1: Too Many Rules for One Little Mouse. Coming in 2014: Runaway Clothes,The Royal Palm, Carlo the Mouse, Book 2: Now We’re Talking!, and The Little Girl Praying on the Hill.

The full series of Carlo the Mouse and her new books, The Mysterious Life Inside a Closet, That Is How Things Are (two connected stories): The Autumn Wind, and The Kitten and the Sparrow, and three rhyming stories in Who Is Most Important in the Fridge? will be published in the near future. Her books are available in print on Amazon and Barnes & Noble, and as e-books for most popular electronic devices. For updates on Mrs. D.’s books, please visit her website: www.mrsdbooks.net.

Website | Author Blog | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads | Amazon Author Page


* $50 Book Blast Giveaway *

Amazon $50 Gift Card

Prize: $50 Amazon Gift card or PayPal cash (winner’s choice)

Contest ends: May 9, 11:59 pm, 2014

Open: Internationally

How to enter: Please enter using the Rafflecopter widget below.

Terms and Conditions: NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW. A winner will be randomly drawn through the Rafflecopter widget and will be contacted by email within 48 hours after the giveaway ends. The winner will then have 72 hours to respond. If the winner does not respond within 72 hours, a new draw will take place for a new winner. Odds of winning will vary depending on the number of eligible entries received. This contest is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with Facebook. This giveaway is sponsored by the author, Mrs. D and is hosted and managed by Renee from Mother Daughter Book Reviews. If you have any additional questions – feel free to send and email to Renee(at)MotherDaughterBookReviews(dot)com.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

MDBR Book Promotion Services

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7. Swim That Rock on sale TODAY!!!

Here is the new trailer for the book!

<iframe src=http://roccoart.com/feed/”//player.vimeo.com/video/91371186?byline=0&amp;portrait=0&amp;color=409476″ width=”640″ height=”426″ frameborder=”0″ webkitallowfullscreen mozallowfullscreen allowfullscreen></iframe> <p><a href=”http://vimeo.com/91371186″>Swim That Rock – a book trailer</a> from <a href=”http://vimeo.com/user15736873″>John Rocco</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a>.</p>

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8. Doubter in the Holy Land

Holy Land

A friend and I were beginning that strange dance of making plans to make plans, when I mentioned that I’d be traveling to Jerusalem soon. “We should get together right away,” he joked, “before you come down with Messiah syndrome.” It was the kind of precision-targeted crack only an old friend can manage. I can’t remember whether I laughed or winced first.
When I was young, my mother had a feverish conversion and started a church in our living room. I’d always been a tiny bit anxious that I might one day follow suit, hear the calling myself, start roaming the streets, preaching salvation. A committed but fearful agnostic, I’d never intended to tempt fate by visiting the Holy Land. But I was going to the Jerusalem Book Fair, and my husband, Max, who grew up in the comparatively staid Eastern Orthodox tradition, was joining me.

My Lives piece about visiting Jerusalem is in the New York Times Magazine this weekend.

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9. How to Tell if You Are in a Muriel Spark Novel

Muriel Spark.

Are you trapped in a Muriel Spark novel? I put together some clues for The Toast:

You believe you can make insomnia work to your advantage by deciding what to think about.

You identify communist intellectuals from the variety of dyspepsia remedies on the bathroom shelf.

Such bad luck! You killed the nanny instead of your wife and have had to spend most of your life in hiding.

More here

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Almost exactly a year ago, after finishing four books I’d sold on proposal, I decided I needed to go back to writing alone. I needed to work at my own pace, however slow that was. I needed to write weird, if that was what came. I needed to get back to feeling like I felt as a kid, and a poet– just a girl playing with words. Flying blind.

I promised myself I wouldn’t even show my agent.

And then I spent 6 months outlining, and staring at the ceiling. I watercolored characters and setting. I wrote the first few chapters with a mechanical pencil, on a yellow legal pad. I played. And eventually, I hit my stride.

Well… last week I typed the words THE END, and took a week away. Then, today I read my rough draft of The Orphan Island, and I LIKE IT. A LOT!

Weird it is!   It’s too short, and it straddles the MG/YA line in a funny way. It’s got a kind of slight magic that people may be bored by. It’s full of fish guts and fig-drying and bee hives and sand. It ends with a kind of cliffhanger, to an equally weird sequel, a book that may or may not be called The Wordless World.

But I’m proud of the work I’ve done. And I’m proud that I did it without a net. It’s good to know I can still write just for me, alone.

So there’s that.


1 Comments on THE ORPHAN ISLAND…, last added: 4/7/2014
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11. Illustration Friday: Survival

After a recent visit to my dentist, I came up with this sketch of a “zombie tooth.” The pain I was experiencing was from one of my teeth’s nerves dying - rendering it a “dead” or non-vital tooth. So I thought, “Wow, a zombie tooth was living in my mouth, and to ensure my survival, the dentist had to extract its dead ‘brains.’”


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12. A short story about courage and caring


Shackleton Christmas 1967



December 1967 in the northern part of Ireland, Christmas was four days away as a violent rainstorm moved in from the west to batter the shabby, dark RAF airfield at Ballykelly outside the city of Derry.

I was working as a film recordist for the RTE program “Feach,” an Irish language program. Our production crew drove slowly through the curtains of water towards the beckoning signal light of the historic airfield, and saw the gray buildings stacked up in rows, with their steel arched roofs pushed skyward, to confront the endless torrents of rain. Strange aircraft shapes loomed out of the deluge as they sat patiently anchored on waterlogged concrete, waiting for their masters to take them airborne again.

We moved slowly toward the main building, where an open door revealed a soldier on guard. He signaled us to enter the building as our big station wagon came to a halt outside the partially roofed entrance. All four of us ran for cover into the lobby filled with blue uniformed airmen, waiting to welcome us to RAF Ballykelly.

We removed our soaked rain gear and walked into a big common room, where a roaring turf fire burned at one end of the room. A bar was located along the sidewall where an eager barman waited to add some warming liquor to the newly arrived civilians. We removed another layer of coats and took up stool space at the bar. Pints of Guinness and whiskey were ordered. Cigarettes lit. A blended mix of accents spoke with a focused goal; the mission.

RAF Wing Commander, walked over to our assembled crew and welcomed us to Ballykelly with a warm handshake. Words emerged from under his nicotine-stained mustache. “Gentlemen, Thanks for coming to Ballykelly today, under such terrible conditions. I hope your drink orders have been taken.”

He spoke softly, an air of concern in his voice. “We will leave tomorrow morning at 1600 hours to carry out our mission to drop Christmas supplies to two weather ships in the Atlantic. We will carry it out using two Shackleton aircraft, a Mark 2 and a Mark 3. One from the base here and the other from Kinloss in Scotland.   The crew of “WB833,” coded T, will take off at 1600 hours from Ballykelly and rendezvous over Rockhall, a lone rocky island off the coast of Donegal with the other Shack coded B, from Scotland. From there both aircraft will fly to the first weather ship, Juliet 400 miles west of Ireland.  B crew will make their drops to that ship and T crew will fly in formation with B so your film crew will be able to film the actual drop,” He paused to take a drink of water.  “From there, both aircraft will fly southwest for 400 miles to the next weather-ship.  T aircraft will make the next drop with B in formation.  When the second drop is complete, T will return to Ballykelly and B will return to Kinloss.  After we return tomorrow night, we’ll have a debriefing and discuss the mission.”

He continued.  “The weather is supposed to improve later tonight and we expect an adequate ceiling for tomorrow’s mission.  You will be billeted in quarters tonight and an aide will wake each of you in the morning for breakfast and briefing.  We are at present loading the aircraft with its payload and completing a mechanical checklist this evening.  An additional checklist will be completed in the morning and fuel will be loaded on the aircraft.”

He added, “You will be issued flying suits, life jackets, helmets and air sickness tablets, which you must take before you feel sick. These tablets are not optional. We will be flying very low and in the worst of the weather. It will be a bumpy ride,” He paused to take another drink. “When you have completed filming the loading of the aircraft and any other shots of the airfield and installations, we will have a briefing and dinner in the officer’s mess. Thank you for coming today. I hope you enjoy the trip and your stay at with us at RAF Ballykelly.”

When he finished we began to mingle among the flight crew and the conversation turned to details about the mission. John, the producer, was deep in discussion with the skipper of the T aircraft. They discussed the logistics of shooting from the plane and where the sound recordist could plug into the intercom system to record the conversations during the mission. I would use these recordings later in edited form and the visuals would be added to create an exciting Christmas show for our viewers at home.

I found the radio operator and worked out the details of intercom transmissions. Joe, our reporter, interviewed the entire flight crew and created an outline for the events. Ken, the cameraman, investigated the interior of the aircraft to find the best shooting locations on board, and also the lighting requirements necessary, while filming the operation.

The rain stopped and we walked outside to see how much sunlight remained in the sky, in order to film loading the aircraft. We drove the camera car across the tarmac to a waiting Shackleton. Trucks circled the aircraft as the loading of supplies continued.

We set up lights beneath the belly of the aircraft and shot footage of the round, yellow canisters that were being installed inside the bomb bay doors and attached to their release hooks. There were a total of four canisters filled with food, Christmas presents, mail, and of course, a Christmas tree.

The ancient aircraft stood waiting for the loading to be completed. It would be locked and secured for the night. We hoped that the new day would bring better weather and good visibility for the mission.

Later we began to turn in for the night after a few last pints in the officer’s mess. I found my way to my assigned quarters in the visitor’s block. The room had a single bed, a chest of drawers, small table with chair and a tiny bathroom. The walls were painted military drab with a few pictures illustrating RAF dogfights in the Battle of Britain. Highlighted by one famous Spitfire aircraft in a death-defying dive with an ME 109.

I turned off the light and tried to sleep. The wind began to howl outside the wooden building and rain continued to blow in from the west. Later in the night, I was awakened by a knock on the door.

“Time to get up, sir, and prepare for the flight. Would you like some tea?”

“Come in,” I said. An orderly carrying a pot of tea and mug sliding on a metal tray opened the door. “Please sign this reveille paper, Sir, I have to have verification that I woke you.”

“Thank you for the tea,” I replied and proceeded to try the strange tasting brew. I finished dressing and found my way to the mess hall for breakfast with the rest of the crew. We discussed the logistics of the flight and ate a breakfast of eggs, sausage and rashers. The officer in charge instructed us to move to the briefing room to receive our flying suits, helmets and intercom systems.

“Good morning,” Wing Commander Haggett began to speak.

“As you can probably tell, the weather has not let up and if anything, has got worse. The weather report indicated an eastbound storm situated west of us in the Atlantic. It is expected to move into our area of operations later today. We hope we can complete the mission prior to its arrival,” he revealed a black and white weather map showing a large blob of clouds off to the western approaches.

“We are scheduled to take off at 1630 hours and the mission is expected to last all day, landing this evening around supper time. You have all received your assignments and flying suits. Please take your air sickness pills before you embark. This will be a bumpy trip,” he reminded us. “And don’t forget to sign your paper releases before you embark.”

When we had finished breakfast we walked outside and were shuttled to the plane by a military personnel truck. The rain had stopped briefly and the aircraft appeared in front of the approaching vehicle like a giant bug waiting for its wings to dry prior to flight. We boarded and took our assigned places with the rest of the air-crew. The four Griffon engines rumbled to a start. Smoke billowed from the cowlings as engine #1 roared to life followed by engine #3 and #2. Engine #4 was still cranking and tried to start. The process continues without success. The skipper’s voice rang into the intercom and announced they were going to shut down the aircraft and reload us and the canisters into another aircraft.

The transfer was made and we resumed our positions in aircraft “T” with all engines running, somewhat roughly, but nonetheless operational. I turned on my intercom to record the voices of the captain and crew to a Nagra tape machine located between the wing spars. The big aircraft began to taxi toward the runway. The rain had started again and the sheeting action of the drops briefly obscured visibility out of the Plexiglass windows. The aircraft lined up on the runway, and the skipper squawked into our headphones.

“Everybody ready?” he bellowed, “Let’s go.”

The lumbering Shackelton crept down the runway as the engineer shouted mechanical performance to the skipper, “Number 4 engine hasn’t developed enough oil pressure, but should be OK.”

“We’re going with what we got,” replied the skipper.

The heavy aircraft continued down the bumpy runway through the blinding rain and slowly the big bubble nose began to rise, the main undercarriage still on the ground. With an uneasy bump, the wheels left the soaking runway and the aircraft continued its slow rise skyward. At the end of the runway in the rainy distance loomed Ben Twitch Mountain. It had to be cleared or the mission would end right on top of it. The RPMs increased as the aircraft began to bump and roll. The skipper came back on the intercom.

“Well, we cleared the mountain and will now turn west to rendezvous with our friends from Kinloss.  If you need to move around during the flight please let me know by intercom and I will advise accordingly,” he added, “Thank you for your patience this morning and sorry for the delay due to mechanical problems with the other aircraft.   I will advise a time and visual of the other aircraft in about an hour.”

Our Shack droned on. I spoke with Ken and John and finalized the set up for the shot sequence of the rendezvous and first drop with the Kinloss aircraft. We set up the procedure with the captain and the mission continued westward over the Atlantic.

After a while, the skipper squawked, “If you look out of the starboard side of the aircraft, you’ll see a large black rock in the ocean. That’s Rockall, our rendezvous point.”

I pressed my face to the window and looked down to the ocean where a giant black rock emerged out of the sea. Its crazed stormy waves creating a white foamy lace around its base as it stood like a black western sentry off the ancient coast of Ireland. The radio crackled and we heard another voice in our ears. It was the skipper of the Kinloss aircraft.

“This is Shack B calling Shack T.  How do you read?” he shrilled.

“Loud and clear,” replied our skipper, “We are ready to film your first drop to the weather ship Juliet located 100 miles southwest of Rockall,” he continued, “We will maintain formation at 1500 feet and I will advise our approach plan as we get closer to the ship.”

Our lumbering Shackleton continued her mission into the teeth of the oncoming storm. The film crew settled into a pattern of waiting and napping. They tried to make the time more interesting by playing cards and avoid speaking unless words are a necessity to the mission. The engine noise deadened any form of conversation unless it was carried out over the intercom system.

I came down with a severe case of airsickness and felt awful. Another member of the press, a newspaper reporter, had also come down with the same symptoms. Neither of us had taken the air sickness pills prior to flight figuring that air sickness symptoms had never entered our previous experiences of flying. The crew advised me on the various cures for the symptoms. The major cure would be to stay busy and focus on something other than the nausea and light-headedness. The skipper informed me and the other reporter that any person on board who was sick would have to fly the aircraft at a designated time.

I asked the skipper would it be possible to move to the end of the plane and crawl into the tail cone to see the stormy waves rushing by underneath. The skipper replied in the positive and I began to work my way aft to enter the tapering shape of the fuselage. The space became narrower as I crawled aft to the light at the end of the aircraft. I finally made it to the point where I could lay down and place my head in the Plexiglass bubble to view the scene below. The waves were white, rolling and angry as the aircraft swept above them heading farther into the Atlantic and away from land. I watched the streams of water wash under the bottom and sides of the bubble and then pop off into the disappearing slipstream. I noticed veins of disappearing oil from the engines traced phosphorescent stripes down the bubble before they flicked off into the roaring air.

I continued to marvel at the aqueous work of art presenting itself on the other side of the vibrating bubble as I crawled back out of the claustrophobic metal cave and into the open space of the fuselage to my worn out leather seat. I began to feel better but still had the queasy feeling of having to vomit at a moment’s notice. My internal thoughts were brought back to external reality when I heard the skipper communicate with the Kinloss aircraft, still in formation on our starboard side:

“Ballykelly Shack calling Kinloss Shack, do you read?”

“Loud and clear,” replied her skipper.  “We are five miles from our target, Juliet, and are preparing our first run to drop the first canister in front of the ship. The ship is no longer anchored but is steaming in a square grid pattern in order to ride out the storm,” he continued, “I will advise you when to proceed with us in closer formation to complete the first run so that the film crew will be able to film the first drop to the ship.”

“Roger.” Our skipper prepared to set up the aircraft and crew to fly in formation with the Kinloss aircraft and make the first pass to the weather ship. The weather continued to worsen with the wind increasing in force and the wild sea below us had developed large rolling waves with white mane-like heads on top of their forty-foot swells.

While watching the turmoil outside my window, I wondered how difficult it would be to maintain altitude in this kind of weather, not to mention having to fly in formation with another aircraft. These crews had flown these kinds of sorties all the time and were trained to handle older aircraft in foul weather situations, but this was going to be a challenge to complete three passes over the weather ship. I had access to communications from both aircraft and listened to all conversations between each crew and the two skippers. Both men were discussing the approach to the ship while flying into a gale force wind. They mentioned that the waves are now thirty-five to forty feet in height and the altitude for the drop would be one hundred feet above sea level. They also mentioned the space requirements between the two aircraft in order to avoid any collisions. None of this sounded good.

“Okay,” said our skipper, “We’re ready to make the first pass on Juliet,” he continued, “The Kinloss Shack will make three passes over the ship and drop a canister in front of the ship on each pass.  We will follow it down in formation on our starboard side and film each drop.”

The Kinloss Shack reported her crew was ready to begin the operation. The big Ballykelly aircraft banked around and began to descend closer to the ocean. I looked out of the ancient window and saw the Kinloss Shack begin to lose altitude and make its way downward to the ancient converted minesweeper now loose in the raging waves.

The Ballykelly Shack followed, repeating the same flight plan. The cameraman rolled film on the evolving scene. I recorded the voice of the two skippers maneuvering the two great aluminum ships in the wild dance with each other. The bomb-bay doors of the Kinloss aircraft opened as her skipper positioned her over the ship. A bright yellow canister dropped out of its belly and plunged into the dark water in front of the tossing ship. The ship’s crew scooped up the cylinder as it passed by Juliet’s steel hull.

The Ballykelly Shack pulled up and turned left, making a 360-degree turn. The Kinloss Shack followed suite and the two ancient beasts formed up for a second pass. The Ballykelly Shack located on the west side of the Kinloss Shack was being pummeled by the western storm. Its giant counter-rotating propellers crunching at the rough air and rain as the fuselage bounced between the four piston engines. The Kinloss Shack headed for another pass over Juliet. A second yellow canister dropped from its outstretched doors and into the screaming ocean in front of the ship. The ship’s crew desperately grabbed the fast approaching canister and hoisted it onto the ship.

The two Shacks pulled up and turned left, angling into the ever-increasing wind and began to prepare for the final pass. The ride got rougher as the two big aircraft showed their big bellies to the gale. They struggled on and began to line up for the final pass. This drop included the Christmas tree for the waterlogged crew of Juliet. The Kinloss Shack made its final approach on the ship.  It was now amidships of the ship and having a hard time lining up on the bow of the ship due to the high wind. All its power pounding into the storm. It finally reached a safe distance in front of the ship to make the final drop. The canister wobbled into the sea and Juliet’s crew frantically retrieved the Christmas tree. It was over for now. The giant aircraft pulled up and began to head southwest to the new rendezvous point with the next weather ship, four hundred miles away.

I recorded the audio from Juliet, as her crew thanked the Kinloss Shack for welcome supplies and also for the Christmas tree. I began to organize the tapes and prepared to complete my audio log. It would be a long ride to the next ship. I scanned the weather outside the Shack and saw the Kinloss aircraft off to starboard continuing its run southwest to the next ship where its film crew would film our Shack completing its Christmas mission.

The next leg of the trip was bumpy and seemingly endless. The big aircraft was now heading into the teeth of the wind, and her four engines needed to work even harder to maintain speed and altitude.

Finally, I heard the voices from the next weather ship off in the distance. The ship was steaming in an inflamed sea, and the light was beginning to deteriorate. This part of the mission would have to be completed quickly. Our Shack began to descend to begin the first run over the ship. I heard and felt the bomb-bay doors open and saw water whizzing by under the cracks in the floor. A shivering cold draft penetrated the hull as the big bird droned onward over the steaming ship in a white angry sea below.

“Number one gone,” shouted the release officer.

The Shack pulled up and turned left out of the wind to begin the downwind leg of a 360 turn. The Kinloss Shack followed suit and began to bank around for the second pass. The bomb bay doors opened again, and the big donor rolled over the ship for the second pass. The doors closed, and the crew prepared for the final drop, including another Christmas tree.

The storm outside was now in full temper with increasing wind and darkening skies. The big aircraft turned on to the final leg and began the final pass to the ship. Our Shack was having difficulty maintaining a consistent altitude due to the wind and ground effect from the water. The huge plane bounced around as our skipper tried to maintain its course. The bomb-bay doors opened for the final time and the release officer squawked to the skipper to turn more starboard or he would miss the ship. He fought with the controls and the weather, then slowly crept forward of the ship.

“Number three gone,” shouted the release officer.

The ship’s crew grabbed the final canister and hoisted the Christmas tree onto the heaving deck.

“Happy Christmas,” shouted our skipper.  “We’re headed home.”

“Happy Christmas to the RAF,” shouted a voice from the weather ship, “and thanks for making it Christmas for us.”

A voice piped in from the Kinloss Shack. It was a request from their television crew to perform another pass over the ship.  Our skipper said, “Sorry, No more passes today. The weather is too bad and we need to get these birds back on dry land.” We turned north northeast and begin the long trip home to Ballykelly and the other Shack to Kinloss.

During the return flight the skipper asked me and the other reporter to report to the flight deck. I moved out of my cramped seat and stepped over the wing beam to a standing position between the skipper and co-pilot seated at their controls. I looked down between the pilots and saw the ocean rushing by in the observation portal. The skipper undid his seat belt and stepped out of the seat. He asked me to sit in the seat and showed me how to adjust the seat according to my preference. “Have you ever flown a plane before?” he asked.

“I’ve flown a single engine plane with a friend so I know how it works,” I replied.

“Great,” said the skipper, “Take the yoke in your hands and put your feet on the rudder. Keep the aircraft at our current altitude and heading per the gages, and I will leave it in your capable hands.”

I took control of the aircraft and felt the strain on the wing surfaces and also on the rudder. I felt the gusts of wind trying to blow the metal beast off course and pushed in a little right rudder to compensate. I also realized that cables controlled this aircraft and every movement of the trim mechanism required constant strength and monitoring. I looked over at the co-pilot and noticed he was sitting with his arms folded with his feet off the rudder. It was all me. I continued to fly the aircraft and discussed the weather and direction with the co-pilot who assured me that my flying was on the mark. He asked me about my air-sickness, and I replied, “What air-sickness?”

After twenty minutes, the skipper came back on the intercom and said, “I’d like to thank Denis for flying the aircraft for the last twenty minutes and for a job well done. I’d like our newspaper friend to move forward and take his turn at flying the aircraft.”

I handed over control of the aircraft to the co-pilot and got out of my seat. The newspaper reporter took my place and proceeded to learn the idiosyncrasies of flying the ancient Shack. He also flew the aircraft for about twenty minutes. The skipper returned to the cockpit after the twenty-minute period, climbed back into his seat and took control of the aircraft.

The weather became worse as the wind increased and the rain continued incessantly. The ride was bumpy and shaky for the remainder of the trip with the big bird rising and falling in the screaming wind. It was now dark outside and the dim lighting inside the aircraft created an eerie feeling of disconnection from the events outside the hull. Our big Shack pushed on as the Griffons continue to grind up the miles toward Ballykelly and home. We bid goodbye to our friends in the Kinloss Shack as we split formation, and flew home to our respective bases.

The skipper came on the intercom once more and said “We will be landing at Ballykelly in fifteen minutes. Our descent and approach will not be very pleasant due to the wind speed, and the amount of rain we have to plough through, so hang on to your equipment, I’ll get us on the ground as soon as possible.”

The big aircraft began to lose altitude, bumped and rolled around in the low cloud layer. This process continued for what seemed an eternity. I looked out the window and saw nothing but rain and blackness. Our landing lights were on and formed searching beams through the slanting rain. A few more crazy bumps, and the big balloon tires hit the runway. The run out continued down the water logged concrete as brakes were applied, bumping and grinding their way to a stop.

The skipper squaked. “Welcome back to Ballykelly. We had a successful mission, and we hope you have witnessed the special way we bring Christmas to our seamen on the weather ships. I realize you all want to get out of the aircraft, but we have to wait another few minutes for a train to pass before we taxi to the exit point. Thank you for your assistance with this mission, and we look forward to seeing our work on television and in the press.”

We waited for the train to pass and as promised, the Shack began to taxi to a stop outside the main hangar. The metal mother-ship together with her skipper’s hand had brought us home safely after a successful mission. We began to disembark and collected all our gear before stepping out into the sheeting rain. I made sure my equipment was stowed and watertight and welcomed the opportunity to walk again after twelve hours of flying. My legs felt a little shaky but soon I was back to normal and entered the building where I headed to the briefing room.

We all entered the room and began to take seats prior to the debriefing. The commander entered the room. His demeanor seemed concerned and aloof. He moved to the front of the room and began to speak.

“First of all I would like to thank all the crew of WB833 for a great mission. Our drops were successful and all the Christmas trees are now being decorated for Christmas on the weather ships,” he paused, “I’m afraid I have some other tragic news to relate. One of the other Shackletons on submarine patrol from Kinloss, crashed into the mountain, Creag Bhan in Scotland, with the loss of all the crew and civilians.” An audible groan was heard in the room.

The commander continued, “We send our condolences to their families and to the base at Kinloss. We lost a brave and experienced crew today, and they will be missed. We all know the dangers of flying in bad weather with old equipment. We will have more information when we receive it. Thank you for being here and being part of this RAF family at Christmas time.”

The room remained stunned in silence. It was a cruel blow after an exciting day. I also realized that being part of this mission had been a great experience in spite of the day’s tragedy. I said a private prayer for my fellow fliers and walked out of the saddened room.

A year later, while working at RTE, I received word that WB833, the Ballykelly Shack and her crew which had carried out the Christmas mission on December 21, 1967, crashed on the Mull of Kintyre with the same crew I had flown with, except one. There were no survivors.

I will forever remember Christmas with the brave RAF crews in Ballykelly.



Copyright. Denis Hearn 1967- 2014

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13. On Libraries…

When I was a kid, I lived at the library. Both our school library at Roland Park Public Elementary/Middle School and also the Enoch Pratt Library– Govans, Hampden, and especially Roland Park branches.

I really can’t imagine who I’d be without those places– calm and happy and full of ideas and readers, when my life was not always so calm.

My own kids have an amazing school library, for which I’m beyond grateful. But I see budget cuts happening in the Atlanta-Fulton Public Library Systemand my heart sinks.

What can you say about a culture that doesn’t value its libraries? Some things MUST be valued in non-monetary terms. There HAVE to be entities that survive beyond the ruthless nature of the “free market.”

Libraries are islands of culture and intellect, in a world that often moves too fast to ponder, investigate, or dream. I wish some billionaire would step up and endow the libraries.

They may not generate their own revenue in the short-term, but I truly believe our country will suffer greatly for the loss of them.

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14. Spring News

The bulbs are sprouting, the birds are chirping, and all neighborhood geese and ducks have paired up. It can only mean one thing: it’s spring! Soon the farmer’s market will be back in full swing, the bike paths will be packed with cyclists and moms pushing prams, and the world will transform once again from brown to green. Spring always reminds me of being a kid, perhaps this is because it’s the season for fun things like my birthday, Easter (sometimes both on the same day), poking around in the garden, and finally getting to go around barefoot again.

In case that’s not enough to get excited about, I’m happy to finally be able to share some sweet news: I’ll be working with the great folks at Lee and Low Books to illustrate a new picture book! Woohoo! I can’t divulge too many details at the moment, but I promise to keep you posted on the progress.And now just for fun, a little drawing to celebrate spring.Girl with flowers, Jessica Lanan

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15. Writing a poem about writing


Sometimes a word settles softly and finds a place to take a breath.

A name, a place, a prompt to break a spell,

Moving a story forward or catching the smile in a lover’s eyes.

Words dig and burrow into the serif’s sharpened corners.

Pushing now, stretching vowels to form the perfect word.

To bring a clue. A gust of wind, the shrill of a bird.

A single hit on a keyboard and it is out there for all to see.

Words, edits, commas, periods, comments.

Some listened to late at night, others not.

Polishing, rounding alliteratively sounding the right phrase.

It has to be the right word.

And must be anchored there between the arms of the comma police.

They take no prisoners as they stamp red ink all over my distracted page.

Am I able to work within their bars, their crushing laws?

Someone holds the red pen as they drop their hooked masters on the page.

Now I am left with just the music in my head.

Left wondering in my bed.

Where is the next scene coming from?

Another autopsy? Another warm shower?

The magic can’t live without me.

I have to get it on that virgin space.

And scatter my ink laden keystrokes upon the verbal race.

Denis Hearn 2014

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16. Twent Has Two Mommies…

In 2010 I published a middle grade novel called Penny Dreadful. It was a fun book. Some people liked it. It went on to become an EB White Readaloud HONOR book. Huzzah!

But I get a lot of emails about it.  Because in the book there is a very minor character, a boy named Twent, who happens to have two mommies.

Last night I received one such email, and because I was having a very hard week, I ignored the email.  Typically I respond to these emails. I try to explain.  Because maybe (just maybe) the author of the letter is not only writing me a mean letter. MAYBE they are open to a response.  I don’t want to miss that chance, if it’s real. But last night I didn’t.

S0 I thought I could respond here, today. ANd then, in the future, when I get these emails, I can direct readers here…


Anastasia writes of Twent (among other things):

“How do you explain that? OUR FAMILY IS VERY AGAINST THAT.”

And I will answer her:

Ahhh, Anastasia, good question!  How do I explain it?  It’s really very simple.

The world is very full of people.  No two people are alike. They live many different kinds of lives. Some of them are nuns. Some of them are corporate lawyers. Some of them are the owners of magical chocolate factories.  But we cannot all be nuns, or magical chocolatiers.  For this reason, we have many different kinds of books. To reflect the many kinds of lives people live. In some cases, we expect people to SEE THEMSELVES in the pages of books. In other cases, we expect books to expand the way people see the world.  Maybe YOU have never met a magical chocolatier, but thanks to Roald Dahl, you can!

When someone writes a book, they cannot ask, “Who will I offend with this particular book?”  Because every book will offend someone.  A writer can only tell a story, and if they are fortunate enough to find a publisher, hope some people want to read it.

It makes me sad to hear you were offended by my book. I didn’t mean to do that. I wasn’t writing it for YOU. But I’m not sorry for Twent’s moms either.   I won’t apologize for them.

I wrote Penny Dreadful to reflect the world I live in. A world populated by many kinds of people, not just nuns and corporate lawyers and magical chocolatiers.  My neighborhood has many gay families in it, in addition to people who aren’t white, and Jews like me.  There are also some folks who have hearing loss, or are blind. My neighborhood has musicians in it, and artists, and world travelers, and gardeners, and women with very long hair, and people who like to make their own jam.  All of these people climbed into my book when I wrote it, because I wanted the book to reflect the world I inhabit.

Honestly the book has received criticism for being “unbelievably diverse.” People find this difficult to accept, especially since the book is set in the south.  I would argue that the people who make these complaints are not comparing my book to the actual world of humans, but to the very whitewashed landscape of traditional nuclear families in which most children’s books have been set. I would further argue that the people who argue that THE SOUTH is not diverse in this way should try visiting the actual south.  That is just another stereotype.

In any case, this is how I “EXPLAIN” Twent’s two moms.  Twent has two moms because many kids I know have two moms.  Twent is a minor character, a friend Penny meets along the way.  The same way that I, a girl with a mom and a dad, have friends with two moms or two dads. Should I not have written the world I love and inhabit?

I’m guessing what upset you most about the book was that you got no WARNING. There is no backmatter to inform readers that they might encounter diversity in this book.  You may feel that your daughter should have had a chance to choose for herself that she was about to encounter a few lines of text in which there were gay people.  I don’t know how this would work.  Should I have also included a warning label: WARNING: THIS BOOK HAS SOME JEWS IN IT?

Books are the best way I know for kids to encounter the world beyond their own experience. Books build empathy and understanding.  They get kids ready for what they’re going to stumble into when they take their first job, or open a copy of the New York Times (yeah, I know that’s unlikely, but I still get the paper myself, so play along).

I don’t expect your kid to turn gay. I don’t actually want your kid to turn gay, or Jewish, or into a magical chocolatier.  I’d just like to think that when she encounters magical chocolatiers in books, you won’t scare her away from them. I’d like to think that you, as her mother, will engage with her question. That you’ll explain that you understand her surprise, since she’s never met a chocolatier before. You can explain that YOUR family doesn’t make chocolate, personally. But yes, the world has chocolate in it, made by magical chocolatiers, and isn’t it nice that the world is such an amazing place, full of surprises and mysteries…



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17. My Fantastic Story of Freedom

Tommy Banks at pianoI’m going to tell you a story about a piano player.

I told it recently on The Artist’s Road in support of a discussion about “perseverance.” The blog’s author, Patrick Ross, replied to my comment:

 “PJ, that was a fantastic story you shared there about the piano player. I hope you’ve written that somewhere before, as an essay or a chapter in a craft book? It’s worthy of wider distribution.”

Thank you, Patrick, but, no, I’ve never shared the story. Which is strange, because that event changed my life (or so goes my personal myth).

Here’s part of what I posted on The Artist’s Road:

“I was ten and playing tag around a friend’s house, and stopping in my tracks as I passed the open bedroom door of my friend’s older brother. There was this teenager working at a piano, composing like a maniac, tinkling the keys, then making notations, oblivious of distraction, of football, of the sun shining outside. I saw in that moment what an artist was.”

Now, I’m curious—what exactly did I see through that doorway?

I should add that my friend’s brother was always at that piano, so that’s where “perseverance” comes in. He spent his youth in his bedroom with that piano and working so hard and with such focus it was frightening. Even still, what was it about a teenager at a piano that could so impress a ten-year-old that fifty years later the memory still serves to inspire me?

The music?—no—the jazzy phrases likely irritated my young ears. I remember the way he leaned forward to jab his pencil at sheets of paper propped on the piano. I recall an urgency. To get somewhere? No, he was already there! You see, he was somewhere else. He lived beyond the everyday world in which the rest of us ran in circles.

I wanted what he had.

His name was Tommy Banks. He went on to own the music scene in Edmonton, Alberta. His TV talk show went nation-wide.  Eventually they honoured him with an appointment to the federal Senate in Ottawa. I owe Mr. Banks a huge debt of gratitude, as you can imagine.

Or perhaps I haven’t made that clear.

You see, that mental image of Tommy working at his piano has served as a beacon for me throughout my life. Guiding me toward what, exactly? Art of some kind? Yes, but certainly not music, no, I’m remarkably unmusical. So, what then? I don’t know. A way of being?

Standing at that open bedroom doorway, the ten-year-old is arrested by a possibility.

Imagine that—a pre-pubescent kid understands he has a choice of how to be.  Among life’s possibilities, here is one that soars above the rest.

If I had ever wondered about the meaning of life, and I had, well, here is an answer. The teenager at the piano is the answer to my earliest existential quandaries. Here is someone who lives in this world but who ignores much of it. And look how alive he is!

The answer infects my entire life.

From then on I’m alert to artists and poets and mystics who make it their business to frame up that same answer. Leonard Cohen for example, musing on his own escape from the person the world expects him to be:

 “Even though he was built to see the world this way, he was also built to disregard, to be free of the way he was built to see the world.” 

 That ten-year-old playing tag was stopped in his tracks by a glimpse through a doorway—a glimpse of a way to move beyond.

To be free of the way he was built to see the world.


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18. Reader Resonance

Girl reading bookThe middle grade and YA sections of your local bookstore and/or library these days are teeming with genres, styles and subject matters for teens and ‘tweens to explore.  Some offer up fantastical and imaginative worlds, others deal with gritty topical issues – and there’s a vast range in between. But no matter what genre or format you choose to write in, there is a universal key to crafting a compelling plot for young readers: resonance for your intended audience.

What does that mean?

You want to be sure the central problem or big idea that your story grapples with is relevant to your target audience on a very practical, concrete level.  In other words, the reader must identify with it.  Feeling different, seeking independence, navigating relationships, testing boundaries – these are all universal experiences that any teen or tween can relate to, whether the story unfolds in the past, present or future and no matter where in the world it takes place. (This is not to say that you can’t write about a subject that only a select number of young readers can relate to… but that will narrow your audience, so marketing well to that ‘niche’ group becomes even more essential when the time comes.)

No matter your story’s genre or format, who the central characters are or the time and place in which it unfolds, be sure that the central issue the hero is wrestling with is germane to your target audience.  If you don’t have ready access to kids the same age as your target reader, spend some time studying the developmental issues and concerns of children, pre-teens or teens in that age group (The Gesell Institute’s child development book series is a great resource to start with.)  Knowing the age-specific passions, questions, struggles and quirks of your intended reader is the best way to brainstorm kid-friendly ideas and craft compelling characters with authentic voices that young readers will relate to.

(Interested in more information like this? Check out my home study courses in writing picture books, chapter books and middle grade novels and young adult fiction, at JustWriteChildrensBooks.com

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19. The Promise of Your Story

指きりWe’ve been zeroing in on the unique craft elements of beginnings – opening pages, scenes and chapters – in the Children’s Book Hub over the past few weeks.  One of the most important elements to consider is the promise of your story. 

What is your story really about? What will it say on the dust jacket that will prompt the reader to crack its spine and read on?

This is known as your story’s “promise.” 

The promise of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter is that it will be about magic – more specifically, wizardry.

The first paragraph of the first book reads:

“Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much. They were the last people you’d expect to be involved in anything strange or mysterious, because they just didn’t hold with such nonsense.”

… which nicely promises the reader that in this book some very not normal, strange and mysterious things are about to happen.

The point is, if your book is about a character who can talk to animals, don’t wait 100 pages before they talk to, or hear from, an animal. If it’s a ghost story, make sure that first chapter or scene contains some ghostly element. Even if the character doesn’t realize what’s happening yet, there should be some hint right away of what’s to come… something that ties into your hook, the thing your story is really about.

Find a way to work the most interesting, compelling part of your story – its promise – into your opening.

(Interested in more information like this? Check out my home study courses in writing picture books, chapter books and middle grade novels and young adult fiction, at JustWriteChildrensBooks.com.

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20. Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Happy St. Patrick's Day 2014

May your blessings outnumber
The shamrocks that grow,
And may trouble avoid you
Wherever you go.
~Irish Blessing (http://www.quotegarden.com/st-patricks-day.html)

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21. Happy St. Patrick’s Day


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22. To Prologue or Not to Prologue?

Ready to startMany middle grade and YA authors debate whether or not to include a prologue when beginning their manuscripts. Prologues are sections of story that precede the first chapter, similar to an introduction, but their sequencing in relationship to the following chapter(s) is not necessarily chronological. Often structured as a flash forward or flash back, a prologue can provide details that justify a character’s motives later on, or offer a quick glimpse at the central action, conflict or climax of the story that lies ahead. (This kind of prologue was used by Stephanie Meyers in Twilight.)

It’s important to know that prologues are not wildly popular with editors – they can feel like a cheat, something the author has chosen to use because he or she can’t figure out how else to incorporate that information, or because their beginning isn’t strong enough.  They can also be viewed as a stalling tactic, a way to write your way in to the story, like a kind of literary ‘throat-clearing.’

Don’t decide definitively to include a prologue until your manuscript is complete… and even then, make sure you are including one for the right reasons. Below are some pros and cons of prologues that may help in choosing whether or not to create one for your story:

Prologue Pros

  • Can provide details that will explain character motives later on
  • May tempt readers to read on by allowing a glimpse of the excitement that lies ahead
  • Provides a place for important backstory without slowing momentum once the story is underway

Prologue Cons

  • Can be viewed as a stalling tactic or sign that you’re unsure how to begin
  • May be overlooked or ignored by readers, who may then miss the key information it contains

(Interested in more information like this? Check out my home study courses in writing picture books, chapter books and middle grade novels and young adult fiction, at JustWriteChildrensBooks.com

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23. Author Website Content: Blog

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Abayomi, the Brazilian Puma by Darcy Pattison

Abayomi, the Brazilian Puma

by Darcy Pattison

Giveaway ends March 21, 2014.

See the giveaway details at Goodreads.

Enter to win

This month-long series of blog posts will explain author websites and offer tips and writing strategies for an effective author website. It alternates between a day of technical information and a day of writing content. By the end of the month, you should have a basic author website up and functioning. The Table of Contents lists the topics, but individual posts will not go live until the date listed. The Author Website Resource Page offers links to tools, services, software and more.

Should You Add a Blog to Your Author Site?

WWW under construction building website

We’ve talked so far about doing an Author Website through WordPress. Now that you’ve built the thing, you need to decide if you will add a blog or not.

No, I don’t want a blog

First, let me quickly says that you do NOT have to have a blog. It’s just an option.
Blogging requires a commitment to writing that can be a strain on writing projects, family time and other time commitments. I’m not worried–really, I’m not–about whether or not you can find enough to write about. That’s the easy part. Time is the hard thing to find. If you commit to writing a blog the most important rule is this: be consistent in posting. You can NOT post just once or twice a month. Instead, just update your website. Or post on Facebook, Twitter or a social network. Don’t waste your time and your readers time by starting something you can’t keep up with.

Embrace uncertainty. On the other hand, when I started blogging six years ago, it was with uncertainty. Would I like blogging? Would I draw in any readers? Would I find topics to write about? And so on. I made a commitment to TRY. And here we are. You can do the same.

OK, I’ll try a blog!

Great! You will find an audience beyond your usual boundaries.
You will find topics that fascinate you and you want to delve into deeply. You will have a platform for doing that.
You will find the blog a task-master that you both love and hate.
You will find your audience to be an amazing group of people.
And when your first book/next book comes out, you’ll find people cheering for you. (Here’s my latest novel. Thanks for caring!)
You don’t blog to sell books. You blog to make friends.

What will you write about?

As I look around the blogosphere, I find bloggers using different strategies for content.

  1. Up-to-date news. One strategy for blogging is to keep your ears to the ground and as soon as you hear something, you blog about it in depth. Did Facebook just update it’s home page? Provide the killer tutorial on it before anyone else. As I am writing this, I got an email that Barnes & Noble’s Nook Press is going international. If I cared about the hottest publishing news, I would jump on this!
  2. Names. I once read about a small-town newspaper publisher who saturated the market with a single strategy: publish as many names as possible. When a baseball team played, the newspaper listed the name of every single team member. And the managers. And the coaches. Of course, people bought the newspaper to see their name in print. Cynthia Leitich Smith’s Cynsations blog uses this strategy by listing everyone’s good news, interviews with almost everyone in children’s literature and generally spreading the love.
  3. Teaching. This blog, Fiction Notes, is about observing my own struggles and the struggles of my friends and colleagues and writing about how to solve problems. In a word, I teach. (My friend says that I can’t NOT teach; she’s right.)
  4. Diary. Some people live a transparent life online and don’t mind the glass walls. If that’s for you, you’ll find many who’ll take the trip with you.
  5. Thoughtful or thought-provoking analysis. Maybe you only want to post once a week, but you want it to be a longer, more thoughtful piece. That would be great. Don’t think you must post daily. But be consistent. On Thursday, I look forward to reading Kristine Kathryn Rusch‘s thoughtful posts about the publishing industry. I don’t have to agree with everything she says to look forward to the posts, because they always make me think. For example, a thoughtful person could write an interesting post about the Children’s Book Council 7th Annual Children’s Choice Book Awards. One of the awards is for the Author of the Year; the five nominees are always based on best-seller lists. The controversy this year is that Rush Limbaugh’s book, Rush Revere and the First Patriots: Time-Travel Adventures With Exceptional Americans, is a best-seller, which put him on the list for Author of the Year. A thoughtful or thought-provoking blogger could write about this in depth. Lots of issues to delve into there! (Should children’s book awards be based on best-seller lists? How easy is it to manipulate best selling lists? If we reject the bestseller list as a starting point for awards, where SHOULD we start?) This isn’t something I would do on my blog; I avoid the controversial. But if you’re up for it. . .
  6. Topics for which you have a passion. Maybe you don’t want to blog about books, publishing, or other authors. One author friend is interested in true stories of ghosts. Since she writes mysteries, it sounds like a great topic for a blog! She could interview people who have seen a ghost, joke about ghostbusters, include photos of ghosts (NOT!) and so on. What’s your passion? Bulldogs? Kidnapped kids and how they survive? Whatever your passion, it’s fine–no, it’s GREAT–for an author blog to take off on a tangent. You’ll find readers beyond your books and that’s not such a bad thing.
  7. Photos, video or audio. Maybe you are a cartoonist and can provide a humorous 3-panel cartoon daily. Maybe your hobby is photoshopping dog portraits. Great. Just post one picture a day. Or post one a week and explain how you photoshopped it. Use YouTube and pull the videos into your blog. Or do a podcast. There may be platforms that are better for each of these areas (For video, you need a YouTube Channel.), but they can also feed into a blog.
  8. Your Ideas. You may have another strategy for writing a blog. Please share it!

Notice: These strategies are about giving an audience something interesting to read. Entertain. Inform. Persuade. Provoke. It’s not about you. It’s about your readers. What type of content can you write about that others would want to read on a consistent basis?

It’s time. Decide. Will you try a blog or just stick with your author website?

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24. Author Website Tech: Posts

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Abayomi, the Brazilian Puma by Darcy Pattison

Abayomi, the Brazilian Puma

by Darcy Pattison

Giveaway ends March 21, 2014.

See the giveaway details at Goodreads.

Enter to win

How to Add a Post to WordPress

It’s time to start on your blog by using WordPress Posts. Here’s the information from the WordPress Codex, the first place you should look for info.

If you’ve written a page, it’s essentially the same. You use the same editing screen.

Here are a couple other tips:

Kitchen Sink. In the editing screen, you should see a full set of formatting options for your text. If you don’t see two rows, click on the last item in the top row. When you hover over it, it says, “Show the Kitchen Sink.” Click this and you’ll see more formatting options.

Click on the last item in the top row to reveal the Kitchen Sink.

Click on the last item in the top row to reveal the Kitchen Sink.

Schedule the Publication of a Post. You can write posts ahead and schedule when you want them to appear with the Publishing options. You can Preview the Draft, Save the Draft or Schedule it. I often write a couple days ahead and schedule the post to go live at a certain time on a certain day. One caution. Just because you’ve set up a time for it publish–as in the image–does not mean you have published it! You have to click on the SCHEDULE button to actually publish and post.

Import. If you need to import posts from another blog, click on Tools/Import for options and instructions.

Categories. As you add posts in the next few days, you’ll also want to think about the Categories of posts. Categories The editing page displays a list of categories you’ve used before. When you first set this up, though, you’ll want to go to Posts/Categories. On that page, you can set up the categories as you wish. Be especially careful with the category slugs, or the way a category is listed in a URL. For example, this post in under the category of Book Marketing, but the slug for the category is “marketing.” I want to keep the slugs as short as possible so they aren’t a pain for my readers to type in. See more about Categories on the WordPress Codex.

Menus. It’s also time to revisit your Menu and make sure it shows the Categories you want visitors to see first. Go to Appearance/Menu and set it up as you wish. Here’s WordPress’s Guide to Menus.

It may seem tedious to worry about categories and menus when you are ready to write that blog. But believe me, if you get the skeleton down, the blog will stand up straighter and look smarter.

Tomorrow? You’ll write blog posts and write blog posts and write blog posts. Make sure your blog is ready.

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25. Author Website Content: First Blog Posts

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Abayomi, the Brazilian Puma by Darcy Pattison

Abayomi, the Brazilian Puma

by Darcy Pattison

Giveaway ends March 21, 2014.

See the giveaway details at Goodreads.

Enter to win

This month-long series of blog posts will explain author websites and offer tips and writing strategies for an effective author website. It alternates between a day of technical information and a day of writing content. By the end of the month, you should have a basic author website up and functioning. The Table of Contents lists the topics, but individual posts will not go live until the date listed. The Author Website Resource Page offers links to tools, services, software and more.

Write 5 New Posts!

It’s a writing day.
WWW under construction building website
For the first time, we’re doing to work with the WordPress Posts. Remember, WordPress Pages are like a website; WordPress Posts are the blog pages in reverse chronological order. The blog posts are more fleeting, while the pages are more long term. Posts are perfect for announcing information and creating some excitement; the pages are best for the data that always needs to be there in the background. Sometimes, you’ll want to announce something on your blog, but then also put it on a page.

(Note: It’s tempting to put something on the front page of your site and think that everyone will see it. Not so. Any page or post of your site could be the entry point for a reader because they are all indexed in a search engine.

You’re going to blog about something.
Have you decided on a strategy for blogging? Will you mention names, be the first to comment on news, inform or teach or something else? Whatever your strategy, you can always fall back on the same Codex report.

List five titles of blog posts for each category; and let’s call this the Codex strategy.:

Exclusive unpublished writing: ______________________
Author Schedules: ________________________________
Author’s Literary Tastes:___________________________
Insider Information: _______________________________
Freebies: ________________________________________
Regular Contact: __________________________________
Contests, puzzles, teacher’s guides, book club discussion guides, puzzles, playlists, coloring pages, etc.__________________________________

List five titles of blog posts that follow the strategy you want to follow. For example, if it’s a Names Strategy, who can you interview or feature? What conference can you discuss? If your strategy is News, then list five timely items.

It’s OK to combine the Codex strategy and another strategy. The key is to get multiple ideas.

Now, write. Each post should have 250-2000 words.

Pillar Posts: Sticky and Explosive

As you’re writing, be on the lookout for Pillar Posts. These are long, in-depth articles, or articles that contain timeless information. You need pillar posts because these are the ones that will continually pull in traffic to your site. They are Sticky (they keep pulling in traffic) and often, they get tons of traffic right away (Explosive). And, they are usually specific to you, no one else could have written this article. Don’t stress out over this right now, but keep it in the back of your mind as you troll for ideas. What would bring visitors back to your site over and over?

Here’s some of the posts on Fiction Notes that continually pull in traffic. How do I know this? Because I have statistic programs on the site.

  1. 12 Ways to Start a Novel
  2. Picture Book Standards: 32 Pages
  3. 30 Days to a Stronger picture Book
  4. 30 Days to a Stronger Novel
  5. 29 Plot Templates
  6. 9 Traits of Sympathetic Characters
  7. Character Checklist
  8. 15 Days to a Stronger Character
  9. Marketing with Book Trailers
  10. Opening Chapters

Publishing your first posts

You can publish immediately, or you can schedule the posts for a future date. By now, you’ve forgotten, so I’ll remind you: we set the blog/website to NO-Indexing by search engines. You can change this at any time, but you may want to wait until you’ve got everything set up. If you do want to change it, go to Settings/Reading and UnCheck the box that says, “Discourage search engines from indexing this site.” As soon as you do that, search engines will start looking over your site. Be sure you’re ready! We just have another week of writing posts and tweaking technical stuff, so be patient, if you can. Just write and schedule the posts and plan for a Big Launch of your site.

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