Author: Dana L Brown

How NOT to Write Middle Grade Fiction by Jackie Minniti

Jackie Minniti is the author of three novels, a former columnist for The Island Reporter in St. Petersburg, Florida, and media coordinator for the blog, Fabulous Florida Writers.

Her favorite things? Writing, reading, visiting her grandkids and getting the sun in her face and the sand in her toes. She sound exactly like someone I’d enjoy hanging out with! It’s my pleasure to share with you the fabulous, Jackie Minniti.

HOW NOT TO WRITE MIDDLE GRADE FICTION

A GUEST POST BY JACKIE MINNITI

One thing I learned from years of teaching reading in middle school was that middle graders have very definite opinions about books. We had some lively discussions about what they liked (and hated) in the books they read. This came in handy when I decided to write Jacqueline and One Small Spark, my middle grade historical novels. I wanted them to appeal to even the most reluctant readers, so I decided to make a list of what to avoid when writing for 8 to 12 year-olds.

DON’T make your book too “fat.”
One thing that was like Kryptonite to my middle grade students was a book that looked too thick. Most of them wouldn’t even pick up a “fat” book, so keep your word count between 30,000 and 60,000 words.  This will force you to keep your writing on a diet. Edit relentlessly.
DON’T use graphic scenes or coarse language
Remember that your book will need to get past the gatekeepers (parents and teachers) who actually do the buying. Avoid graphic violence, cursing, or any hint of sexual activity. Your book should be something a teacher could read to a class without sending parents running to the school board.
DON’T make your protagonist perfect
Your main character will make or break your story. Middle graders like to read about characters who are a little older, so make your protagonist between 10 and 13 years old. Your main character should have strong opinions and beliefs and be someone young readers can care about and identify with. This will be difficult for them to do if thecharacter is too perfect, so be sure to include some flaws.
DONT overdo the introspection
Middle graders don’t do a lot of navel-gazing, so your main character shouldn’t spend a lot of time on self-examination. Keep focused on the action, and reveal your character’s thoughts and feelings through what he or she says and does.
DON’T talk down or preach
Few things irritate middle school kids as much a someone talking down to them, so don’t write down to them either. Use challenging language, but include context clues to help young readers figure out unfamiliar words. Your theme should be presented in a subtle, non-“preachy” way. And don’t be afraid to tackle difficult subjects. My books deal with death, war, and the Holocaust – pretty heavy subjects, but handled in an age-appropriate manner.
DON’T use “helicopter adults”
In middle school, kids are shifting their focus from home and family to school and friends. Keep the adult characters in your story in the background. Center most of the action on your main character’s interaction with the outside world. And be sure the central conflict in the story is one your protagonist can resolve without adult intervention.
DON’T overdo description
While your story should definitely include description and sensory details, keep it to about 10% of the total text. While you may love the sound of lush, descriptive writing, your middle school readers will quickly become bored with anything that gets in the way of the action. Keep this in mind when you have to cut a favorite paragraph.
DON’T forget humor
Middle graders love “funny stuff,” and that goes for the books they enjoy. Be sure to include humor in your story – the more, the better. Jacqueline is definitely not a humorous story, but I tried to include enough amusing incidents to provide some comic relief. I also added a very mischievous baby to One Small Spark that the middle grade readers really seem to like.
Don’t slow down
Middle school kids have no qualms about abandoning a book that becomes “boring,” so keep that plot moving forward. Don’t overuse adjectives or adverbs, and stick to the “Show, don’t tell” rule to keep the momentum going. Try to end each chapter with a cliff-hanger to keep them flipping pages. Remember that your book is competing with television, iPads and Wiis, so it had better be interesting.
Don’t leave them hanging
One of the biggest complaints from my students when they didn’t like a book was that the ending wasn’t satisfying. They hate open endings.  I’ve actually seen kids throw a book across the room because the ending wasn’t definitive. That’s one of the reasons I decided to end Jacqueline with an epilogue that told what happened to the characters as grown-ups. Try to end on a positive note, and be sure to tie up any loose ends.

While writing for middle grade readers presents some unique challenges, your book can have a profound influence on them.  That’s what makes the process worthwhile – and so much fun!

For more posts from Fabulous Florida Writers go to…

http://fabulousfloridawriters.blogspot.com

Until we read again…📚

Blessings,

Dana L.❤️

Love, Life and Relationships. 💘The Romance Novel of Today.

Who doesn’t love a good romance novel? Maybe I should rephrase that. Who isn’t afraid to admit that they love a good romance novel? Read below; you may be surprised!

For the past two Labor Day weekends I’ve traveled to the Decatur Georgia Book Festival with my publisher, Southern Yellow Pines (SYP) Publishing. Both years were exciting and eye opening, because I found out that a lot of readers are ashamed to admit that they like reading romance. Case and point. I’m pretty good at engaging with people so I I tried to encourage them to stop into our booth by asking them “What kind of books do you like to read?” Or “What’s your favorite genre?” Or even “What are you looking for today?” Of the hundreds of people I spoke with not one said “I’m looking for a good romance novel.”

Okay, maybe I was talking with the wrong people, but the romance novel industry garners sixteen percent of all books sold each year and brings in a whopping billion dollars! Yes, that’s billion with a BIG B! Yet here I was talking with people who either truly didn’t like books about love, or they were ashamed to admit it in public. Hmmm.

Is it that people aren’t interested in love, connection, and intimacy? I don’t think so. 53,000,000 romance novels were sold last year, so there’s a lot of people who still enjoy a good love story. And I’m not talking about the old “bodice rippers” from our parents day, but a book about relationships…both inside and outside of the bedroom.

One issue that Romance Writers of America has dealt with recently  is lack of diversity. Just like with every other entertainment  segment, there’s talk of racism, or awards not being given fairly. I’m staying out of that debate, but one person who isn’t is Stacey Abrams, a rising political star. She realized that the  books she was reading didn’t accurately depict the women she knew, so she started writing her own! Selena Montgomery is the pseudonym that Abrams writes under, and some of her titles are quite steamy. Hidden Sins, The Art of Desire, and Power of Persuasion, just to name a few.

So if Stacey Abrams, a lawyer, businesswoman, and politician is willing to admit she not only likes romance novels, but writes them, why should the rest of us be embarrassed to stand up and say we do, too?

I’ll lead the charge! My name is Dana and I love romance novels. In fact, like Stacey Abrams I like them so much that I decided to write one. And that one became two, and two became  three, and the fourth will release later this spring. My book boyfriends have gotten me through a lot over the years, and I’m not ashamed to admit it. I’ve had people tell me that they don’t like books about romance, and maybe they really don’t. Or maybe it’s that they don’t understand romance on a personal level, so the books make them uncomfortable. Whatever their reasoning it’s their choice, and I’m not going to argue about it with them.

But, for the rest of us, who get lost in someone else’s life and love, I say refuse to let anyone make you feel badly about a book with a shirtless man on the cover, and continue to support your favorite authors. And if I’m one of them I want you to know how much you, and every person who buys and reads my books means to me. Oh, and FYI. I did end up selling books from the AMI Series at the Decatur Book Festival, so either I’m a really good salesperson, or people gave in to their hidden desires to read a story about love.

Romance might not be the most respected genre in the world of books, but their market share is more than respectable.

Wishing you a wonderful February 14th, the official date for love stories in life and in books!!!

 

Until we read again…📚

Blessings,

Dana L.❤️

http://amazon.com/author/danalbrown

Excerpt from Noah’s Lark: Crazy, Rich People!💰💰💰

Below is an excerpt from Noah Lark, which is set to release this spring. I’ve purposely changed some of the words so we can play a game!

At the end of the excerpt are four questions. Put your answers in the Contact Me section on the website, and let’s see what you know about the AMI Series, and the upcoming spin-off series, with Noah Greyson as the first main character. Everyone who answers all four questions correctly will have their name’s entered into a contest for a FREE Ebook copy of Noah’s Lark, when it releases.

(This offer is available to residents of the United States only. For some reason Amazon won’t let me send ebooks outside of the country. 😢)


                                    Now

By the time he made it back the hurt was gone, but the anger had set in. While he waited for a tender Noah went to the Tiki Hut and had a double shot of tequila. He had just finished sucking on the lime when a hot to trot beach bunny sat down beside him.

You look like you’re all dressed up with no place to go,” she purred in his ear.

Noah barely looked in her direction. A band aid might cover the wound he was feeling tonight, but he just wasn’t interested. He shook his head, placed a twenty on the bar and went outside to wait for his ride.

The Lark felt cold and lonely when he stepped inside. Loosening his tie, he opened the fridge looking for something to fill the empty spot in his gut. Could this night have been a bigger shitshow, he wondered? Finding an old wedge of cheese, he ate around the spots that were dried out and hard, and then threw the rest in the trash. He popped the top on a can of Coors and then wondered if it was a bad idea to drink beer on top of tequila and champagne, but he chugged the golden liquid anyway.

His phone had been ominously silent all evening but he checked his messages just to be sure before placing the call that needed to be made. As soon as he heard a “hello”, his tirade began.

“They’re crazy Nick, you know that, right?” Noah half yelled. “You tried to warn me but I wouldn’t listen and now they’ve pulled me into their little fucked up life. Crazy, rich people that’s what they are, and I don’t do crazy.”

Nick chuckled on the other end. “It sounds to me like you’ve been hitting the sauce Little Brother, how much have you had to drink, and please tell me your safely tucked in for the night.”

Considering the night I’ve had I’m nowhere near done drinking, but I’m in for the night so you don’t need to worry. I just turned down a chance with a beautiful woman Nick, and all because of those crazy fucking people. I swear there’s something evil going on there, I think you need to investigate them.”

Nick couldn’t stop laughing as he continued to listen to his brother rant and rave, which only made Noah yell more. When he was finally quiet Nick spoke.

“I don’t know what happened to you tonight, Noah,” he said, “but this is a conversation for tomorrow. You need a bottle of water and three aspirin and to call me in the morning. But not too early because it’s Saturday. And yeah, they’re are a little crazy, but she’s worth the headache. Anyway, I’m pretty sure you think she is, and that’s what matters.”

Noah listened to his brothers words, and because it was true, he did think she was worth it, and he had drunk more than he should have he blurted out, “Do you know she’s still a virgin, Nick?”

Nick sighed, but it was a sigh that spoke volumes.

“Nick,” Noah said before hanging up the phone. “Thanks for always being there.”

“I always will be,” Nick answered, now I’ve got to get to sleep before Charlotte starts to snore. This is one of aspects of her pregnancy that I’m not enjoying.”

That was enough to bring a smile to Noah’s face, but he still cracked open another beer.

“Are there aspects you do enjoy?” he quizzed.

Nick chuckled. “I hope some day you get to find out.”

Questions

1. Who is the woman Noah and Nick are referring to?

2. Who are the “crazy rich people” Noah’s mentions?

3. What is the name of the woman that Noah has been in love with for most of his life?

4. What is The Lark?

Remember to enter your answers in the Contact Me section of my website. Answers must be submitted by Valentines Day, the day we celebrate love and relationships. Good luck, and have fun!

Until we read again…📚

Blessings,

Dana L.❤️

http://www.syppublishing.com

http://amazon.com/author/danalbrown

*Follow me on Amazon and receive alerts when my new books release *

In Support of Support!😉

 

A few weeks ago the writing community on Twitter started a discussion on support, and the encouragement we receive from family and friends during  our writing journey. It all started out fine, and then people began to make comments about how their mother’s wouldn’t read their books, or others who told them that being an author wasn’t a real job. Wow! We’re my eyes opened.

I have to admit, when I announced that I was taking early retirement from a job I loved to write a book, I was met with some skepticism, but once my family came to see that I was serious, they were behind me 100%.

The conversation on Twitter made me stop and think about support, and how often we don’t give credence to other people’s dreams because they aren’t our own. For instance, my childhood health issues made me want to become a nurse, but my dad thought I should be a teacher, like my mother was. His thought was that teaching would be less taxing, but please, have you seen what teachers go through today? Schools are way more frightening to me than any  germ warfare!

Unfortunately, my dad’s lack of support kept me from even trying nursing, and I  went the route of business instead. Thankfully  it turned out to be a good thing for me. It led me into banking, marketing, and management, and achieving those led me to writing Lottie Loser.

So back to support, and how important it is for an author. One of my Twitter friends wrote that her mother said her writing was evil, and even went on to Amazon and left a bad review. That’s more than sad. My 94 year old mom has read all of my books, and while she admits she wishes her daughter hadn’t written the love scenes, she loves the books, and is extremely proud of me. That’s support.

My husband and youngest daughter are my biggest cheerleaders, and have sold my books to most of their friends and coworkers. Bob even hands out my business cards and reminds me to if I forget. It’s actions like that that make me feel valued and loved, and know that I’m a real author, and this is my real job!

How can you support an author? But their books! If it’s a genre you enjoy, read the reviews first, and then give it a try.  If you loved it tell your friends and family and encourage them to buy their own copy. It’s important for authors to support each other as well, so I too buy books, and always leave reviews.

And speaking of reviews, please leave them! On both Amazon and Goodreads, if you can. Your words let others know if it’s a book they might like, as well.

The dictionary describes support like this.

1. Bear all, or part, of the weight of; hold up.

2. give assistance to, especially financially; enable to function or act.

Authors don’t want their friends, family and readers to bear all the weight of making them successful, but they sincerely appreciate their support.

Until we read again…📚

Blessings,

Dana L.❤️

From the bottom of my heart, a huge thank you to all of you who have supported me, and helped make my Fairytale come true. I can’t wait for you to read Noah’s Lark!🧜‍♀️

 

http://www.syppublishing.com

Rhonda Goodall; National Award Winning Author and Champion for kids!

I first met Rhonda Goodall when she joined the SYP Publishing family of authors. She is such a positive force in bringing sensitive issues for kids to the forefront, but in an age appropriate way, that I couldn’t help but be drawn to her. Her story is wonderful, and you need to hear it in her own words.

I know you will  enjoy this interview with my friend, Rhonda Goodall.

    When you were a little girl how would you have finished this sentence “When I grow up I want to be a ……….

Mom, a Nurse (working with children), and an Artist on the side.

   Did you achieve that dream?

I achieved the most important one – becoming a Mom!

And although life took a different path from Nursing and working with kids, I spent several years doing artwork for various Children’s Charities and Organizations. And now, I am achieving my goal of helping children every day through my writing.  I illustrate my own books (ergo the artist on the side 😊)

I absolutely love what I’m doing in life, so I am achieving my dreams!!!

   When did you know that you wanted to be a writer?

It started about 11 years ago, when I wrote the text for my first (2) books. I loved developing the stories, and actually, how easily the thoughts and story lines were coming to me. However, we were busy raising young children and I didn’t really have, or make, the time to see the books through and illustrate them, etc., to complete them.

They sat, stagnant, for several years.

Then, 5 years ago, after very suddenly and tragically losing my Mom, I knew I had to really throw myself into something that would consume every free moment I had. Through the help of my husband, Doug, my family and one of my many wonderful friends at the time, I illustrated my original 2 books and they were published.

I was not only realizing how much I was enjoying writing and illustrating books, but I was realizing what a catharsis it was for me.

    What inspired you to write children’s books? Especially books that deal with chronic illness and the loss of a loved one.

My heart, my Children and my love of Children inspired me to write Children’s Books.

Having a child with a medical condition (Type One Diabetes) and realizing how that condition could make him feel very different form his peers, was the inspiration behind “My Pancreas Needs Glasses”. This book, as well as my others, allowed me to use my children, as well as many of our family members, as characters in the books.

Losing my Mom, and the terrible impact it has had on my kids, was the inspiration behind “Where’d Grandma Go”. Because “My Pancreas Needs Glasses” focuses mainly on Zach and Julian, two of our older boys, I wrote “Where’d Grandma Go” through the voice of Sage, our youngest son, who was only 4 at the time of my Mom’s accident.

Although the goal behind this book is to help young children deal with the pain and confusion of losing a loved one, I actually think it can help anyone facing this very real and difficult situation.

    Was there one book in your childhood that was especially meaningful to you?

I don’t think there was one in particular, but I’ve always been a huge fan of Mr. Rodgers, Winnie the Pooh, Dr. Suess and the book, “The Giving Tree”.

   When you find time to read for pleasure, what genre or type of storyline are you drawn to?

In the last 5 years, definitely more Spiritual Books that are based on true life (or after life) experiences. I find books like “90 Minutes in Heaven”, “Hello From Heaven” and “Appointments With Heaven”(which I’m currently reading,have been very comforting for me.

I also like combination Detective, Thriller and Romantic Mystery’s.

    If there was one thing you could do over in your life, what would it be?

I’m sure there are probably a couple personal things, but overall, I’m happy with who I am and the majority of the choices I’ve made in life. I’ve always chosen to live life in a way that hopefully, when my time here on Earth is done, I will have as few regrets as possible in regards to the choices I’ve made and how I’ve treated others.

   At the 2019 Florida Authors and Publishers Presidential Awards your book My Pancreas Needs Glasses was awarded a Silver Medal. How did becoming a National Award Winning Author change you and your life?

Winning hasn’t changed me as a person at all, other than the fact that I feel very proud, and honored. Winning has also given me a very strong drive and desire to do it again! And hopefully, someday, it will be Gold!

As far as changing my life, it’s extremely rewarding to be recognized as an Award Winning Author. I feel as though I’ve accomplished something wonderful and as grateful as I am, I’m hungry for more!

   What do you enjoy most about being an author?

I love that I can create a storyline in my mind, develop it as I go, draw the pictures to tie it all together and end up with something that a child can hold in their hands and not only enjoy, but in many cases because I deal with real life situations in my books, find comfort and even security in it. I love knowing that I am helping kids through my writing! It’s so rewarding when kids or parents contact me to let me know how much they, or their child loves one of my books!

I also love all the people that I meet through visiting schools, book events, etc.

   Did you have a career outside of writing before publishing My Pancreas Needs Glasses?

I had been a stay at home Mom since the kids were born, but prior to that, I worked in the Medical Field while at the same time, doing artwork for several Children’s Charities in and around Pittsburgh (Children’s Hospital, the Ronald McDonald House and the Children’s Miracle Network). Doug and I also had an Ice Cream Shop in our last couple years living in Pittsburgh.

   Tell us about you. Your family, your dreams…what makes Rhonda who she is?

Hmmm…

Well, I’m a wife and a Mother of five living in Ponte VedraBeach, Florida with my wonderful husband, Doug, two of our children and our Golden Retriever, Ollie. My step children, Nicole and Jesse, are both grown and living with their families in Pennsylvania. Our son, Zach, is living in Gainseville, going to school and writing for Sports Illustrated. Our son, Julian, is a senior in High School who loves to surf and our son, Sage, is a third grader, who loves doing what third graders do. I adore my husband and ourchildren!

Family is everything to me and I’m so grateful that I’vealways been extremely close to my parents and my entire family and extended family, in every direction that goes!

I’ve actually used my parents and many family members as characters in my books.

I am someone with a very strong Faith and Belief in God.

I love the beach and the Peace I feel while there. I’m truly a people person. I talk to everyone, and before long, we’re friends.

I’m a huge Pittsburgh Steeler fan (and football in general), as well as a Pittsburgh Penguin fan.

I do like the Jacksonville Jaguars, but they’re number two. Doug, the kids and I all enjoy football and music a great deal and make both of them a big part of our lives. Maya Angelou is an inspiration to me and I’m an animal lover.

I’ve spent the majority of my life working with children. I have an incredibly strong passion for molding every child’s world into a safe place of happiness, love and kindness. This message is conveyed in the books I write, as well as every character I introduce. Kid’s immediately fall in love with these unique and fun characters and don’t realize that they are learning loving life lessons from each and every one.

I wish the world we live in could be more like “Happy Town”, where Frizzle and his friends live. Where characters are kind and supportive of each other. Where they find a way to always help others in need, and, as will be seen in my next book, “Frizzle’s Funky Day at the Zoo”, they discover how much happier people (and animals in this case) are when they’re allowed to simply be who they are and not what others want or expect them to be.

My hope in life is that I am making a difference in this world while I’m here!

If there was one thing you want my readers to know, what would it be?

Wow, there are a lot of things, but since I’ve already talked so much, I’d say this:

That this is one of my very favorite quotes. I got it from my Dad…

A hundred years from now, it will not matter what my bank account was, what sort of house I lived in or what make of car I drove.

But the world may be different, because I was important in the life of  a child.”

​​​​​Author Unknown

                             Meet Rhonda and Frizzle 

Rhonda’s books are available on the links below.

https://www.amazon.com/Rhonda-Goodall/e/B01G5Z66NI/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_0

 

http://www.syppublishing.com

 

Until we read again…📚

Blessings,

Dana L. ❤️

Free and Fearless: The Amazing Impact of One Precious Life 🦋

As an author I’m often asked to read other author’s work. I’ve read books written for children, books that are still being written, and every once in awhile I read a book that leaves an indelible mark on my heart. Free and Fearless is one of those books.

Philip Moser and I connected through LinkedIn, and that’s where he approached me about reading the story of his daughter, Brittany, and the incredible relationship that they shared. Through my profile Phil knew that I was an alumnus of Ball State University, as was Brittany, and also a fellow Hoosier. Because we both had busy schedules I sent him my email address and asked for a couple of weeks to get through the Christmas and New Years holidays before I started reading. The book came on January 12th and once I started reading, I couldn’t put it down.

Free and Fearless is the perfect title for this book. Brittany Moser was a young woman with the soul of an adventurer, and she didn’t let anything get in her way. You’ll notice my use of past tense when talking about Brittany because her beautiful life came to an end when she was just thirty-one years old after years of living with Addison’s Disease, a disorder of the adrenal glands.

Addison’s disease is rare with fewer than 200,000 cases diagnosed in the United States annually. There is no cure for Addison’s Disease, but there is treatment that can help. Unfortunately  for Brittany the medication caused problems and discomfort, so she learned to handle it by living a healthy lifestyle, something she believed strongly in.

The connection that Philip and Brittany Moser shared was one like few I’ve encountered. In an era when young people spurn their parents advice, Brittany gravitated towards her Dad. They trusted and leaned on each other, and became avid travelers of the state of Colorado as they explored what Brittany called “the list”. Quoting from Free and Fearless, “They were a combination of places and experiences so unique and beautiful that they could literally take your breath away.”

I could go on on, sharing examples of Brittany’s remarkable spirit, and her love of family and friends, but I truly want you to experience Free and Fearless for yourselves. You will definitely grieve with the Mosers at the loss of their youngest daughter, but your grief will be surpassed by inspiration and awe. Newswire.com  puts it this way.

Once every generation comes a story so powerful and personal that it will change the way people look at life.”

It did for me, and I know it will for you, as well.

Until we read again…📚

Blessings,

Dana L.❤️

 

Free and Fearless is available in both book and ebook formats.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Winchester Writers 📝📕

A little over eighteen months ago I came up with an idea for a writers group in Winchester. I’ve mentioned it here before, and told you about the writing contest we held last summer, but now I want to share with you some of the talent that the Winchester Writers is blessed with. I found out pretty quickly that this group doesn’t need anything from me. So, we meet and share our writing, and sometimes I give them assignments, but for the most part we share our joy of the written word, and our own unique slants on it.

I asked each member to come to our January 7, 2020 meeting with a paragraph or poem they were working on and I’m excited to share some of them with you today.

Melanie Walker is the published author of The Ones That Live in My  Head: A Collection of Short Stories, but she is also an accomplished writer of poetry. Both her stories and poems are hauntingly beautiful, and she always brings a fresh perspective to the group.

Simon Says

With the hot revolver still in my shaking hand, I stare from the woman to the now dead man lying in a pool of blood.  I look at the gun again and have no idea how to react or what to say.  I realize how foolish and terrifying I must look to the petrified woman.  She has no idea why or what just happened.  Reaching to the back of my brain, it is certain I am just as clueless, but I can’t let on.  I’ve always been a liar.  I lie out of necessity, but honestly, I also like to make up crap .  I like to see what I can get away with.  With smoke still in the air, I begin to wonder if this is one of those things .  Hell, I don’t even know what THIS is! As I try to shake the cobwebs out of my head, she begins screaming.  Not just yelling, mind you, but full-out primal momma lion, blood-curdling screaming.  Who is she and who am I?  Looking around this unknown Cracker Jack house, I picture myself as Oliver Hardy – hat, belly and all… shaking my head and declaring, “What another fine mess you’ve gotten us into!”  With that, I shrug my shoulders, walking past the screeching woman, stepping over another dead body and out the door.  The blue sky and the bright sun now have me whistling Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah with an imaginary blue bird sitting on my shoulder as I make my way to my ‘72 black and silver Cougar.

Beth Moland is a former newspaper columnist, who still does freelance work for our local newspaper.  She wants to write a novel, and has great ideas, but like many of us she let’s life get in the way. Below is a poem she wrote about her son’s enlistment in the US Navy.

My Sailor Boy to Man

My “sailor boy” who always loved water,

Took the ultimate challenge of the sea,

He signed up, like his grandfather,

To serve his country’s Navy.

Smooth waters, troubled or strong,

All these, he will eventually see,

Will he survive or flounder

Upon the glassy waves of aquamarine?

 

I pray he returns a “sailor man”,

After his stint on board,

High seas he found to withstand,

And his soul having soared.

 

Reaching goals never before dreamed,

Pledging honor, courage, commitment,

When the ship docks, loved ones will beam,

With love and pride for his enlistment.

 

My little child who once loved his ship toy,

Soon will no longer be my “sailor boy”,

But a “sailor man”, who finds special joy,

In the simple phrase, “Ship Ahoy”!

 

Don Honenberger is the senior member of our group. A retired engineer he brings knowledge about so many things to our meetings. His wife of 66 years passed away in 2019, and I feel certain that our writing group gives him the interaction with people that he needs. Sometimes I have to work to get him back on topic, but Don loves to write and we’re pleased to have him as one of us.

Friendship

Just as the clock in the hall struck eleven, Walter Jacobs opened the front door to his friend Harold Johnson and his wife, Carol, ushering them into the small group celebrating New Year’s Eve together. Richard and Belinda Collins had arrived a few minutes before, and now they only needed Fred and Connie Jacobs to make the party complete. Walter’s wife Harriet took the wraps and laid them on the bed in the guest room. The last few weeks had been mild but now it was chilly enough for coats and hats again.

 

An author friend of mine asked me once what I get out of our writing group, and it took me some time to come up with the answer. Because while I thought I had something to share, I really had lots to learn. For instance Darren Snyder is writing a graphic novel, and I thought that meant sexually explicit! Everyone loved it when I told them that.

Or Jeff Pfohl, who is now the published author of books on Abraham and Jonah. Jeff is a pastor who joined our group specifically to get his thoughts into books. I love that we were able to inspire him to do that.

The Winchester Writers isn’t a critique group, and we know that we’re different from other writing groups out there, but we feel comfortable with each other, and we enjoy our two hours together every other week.  I look for great things to come from some of these people, and when they’re famous I hope they’ll remember me.

Until we read again…📚

Blessings,

Dana L❤️

 

 

 

 

Reflections and rearview mirrors…🚨

Dearest Friends…

This will be my last post for 2019. As I’ve been thinking about what I wanted to convey it hit me that in two weeks it will have been a score since the dreaded Y2K was staring us in the face. I was still in banking, and we were preparing for the disaster that never arrived. Looking back it almost seems comical at the preparations everyone made, but at the time we were heading into an unknown that was surrounded by lots of hype.

I remember that New Years Eve well, because everyone in our family, with the exception of our youngest daughter and me, had the flu. Alison will remember that I almost OD us on Vitamin C, but I was determined that we stay well, and we did!

Being nineteen Alison had a date for New Years Eve, and I was home with The Captain(our nickname for my husband), who had already been sick for several days. I was fussy at the prospect of welcoming in a new century on my own, and I’m sure I didn’t try to hide it. I picked up carry out chicken for my dinner and spent most of the evening in Alison’s bed reading, and watching the new year/century come in. Definitely not a glamorous start to the year 2000, but to be honest, New Years Eve is usually a quiet event for us anyway.

So what have I been doing  for the last twenty years? I was promoted into a job within the bank that I dearly loved! It was a whole new world for me, and I think First Merchants was as happy with my performance as I was with the opportunity they gave me. But then in 2015 the desire to write a book  took hold of my heart, and wouldn’t let go. I’ve told you before how the announcement of my decision was received by my husband, but I did has he asked and worked one more year, before taking early retirement in 2016.

The last four years have without doubt been the most exciting and fulfilling of my life. Of course getting married and having three beautiful, remarkable daughters was the best part of my life, but writing Lottie Loser? That was all mine! And following up with Call Me Charlotte and The Greysons, and the spin-off starting with Noah’s Lark, well, all I can say is, that’s just been icing on the cake!

The title of this post is reflections and rear view mirrors , because it’s easy to look back and only see the happy times, or the accomplishments we’ve had. But that isn’t real life. I’ve made my share of mistakes, and even though I’ve moved past them, they still pop into my mind from time to time.  The one good thing about mistakes is that if you learn from them, you shouldn’t want to repeat them. I know that I don’t!

This New Years Eve I’ll spend with The Captain, and know how blessed I am to be doing so. All of our girls have families of their own now,  and lives of their own, which is how it should be. Being a mom is all I ever wanted to do, but I know I wasn’t as good of one as I could have been. I’m still not, but my family is everything to me, and I pray that twenty years from now we’ll all still be together, and those grandkids of mine will have made me a great grandmother.

Life is fragile, but it’s also wonderful and beautiful, and filled with laughter and love. Would I change anything if I could go back to New Years Eve 1999? Maybe less Vitamin C, and I’d be more compassionate to my husband, who’s loved me and supported me for almost forty-six years. He didn’t want to be sick anymore than I wanted him to be, but that’s a lesson I learned with maturity.  I read somewhere that you can’t see where you’re going if you keep looking in the review mirror, and my plan is to look towards the future, and let the past be a memory.

So to you, my dear friends and readers of the AMI Series, I say enjoy every day, and even on the worst ones, remember your blessings. For me, that’s all of you. Because without you my Fairytale would never have come true.👸🏼

Until we read again…📚

Blessing and love,

Dana L. ❤️

Christmas Bonus

In The Greysons Charlotte made Nick the  Sticky Buns for Christmas morning that his mom had always made when he was a child. It was one of the few happy memories that he had of her. This is an actual tradition in our house as well, one that my girls have continued.

So here is the recipe from our church cookbook, very easy and always delicious! Enjoy🎄

Hot Sticky Buns

2 loaves Rhoades or other frozen bread, thawed

1 C.  Pecan halves or chopped pecans

1 stick butter, plus more for dotting on top

1  C.   Brown sugar

2  small packages of REGULAR vanilla pudding (Not instant)

3 T. Milk

1-2 t.  Cinnamon

Cut each loaf lengthwise, then section into 16-18 pieces. In a well greased 9X13 pan place half of the bread pieces leaving spaces between each  piece. Cover with pecans.

In a heavy saucepan melt the butter, then add brown sugar, 2 pkgs. pudding, milk and cinnamon. Mix well until sugar is dissolved and mixture is bubbly.

Pour the hot mixture over the bread and nuts in the 9X13 pan and fill in the openings with the remaining chunks of bread. Dot with butter

I do this on Christmas Eve afternoon, then put them in the refrigerator covered, and let the bread rise overnight.

Bake for 30 minutes in a preheated 350 degree oven. For a nice presentation turn the pan over on a large covered board or platter. These rolls are really are delicious, and a treat for any special occasion.

And remember this! If Nick’s mother could make them, you can, too!

 

Merry Christmas from Charlotte, Nick and the crew from AMI! And of course, from me!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

That Was the Week That Was!🎄

When I was thirteen or so, there was a television program on called That Was the Week That Was. I believe it was on Sunday evenings, and looking back, it was a forerunner to Saturday Night Live, and all the political satire that faces us on every late night talk show. The premise was to look over the happenings of the week, and that’s where my reference comes from.

You don’t need to worry, I’m not good at satire, but last week was definitely my “week that was”, and I want to share some of it with you.

If you’re a Twitter user you understand about the character limits on tweets. It’s a learning curve until you get use to it, but basically you have 280 characters in which to get your message across. When I first started with Twitter the limit was about half that, and you can imagine what that was like.

Anyway, last week was one of the four pitch wars to Literary Agents that happen on Twitter every year, and I participated. And, because I wanted to do my best, I joined a Facebook group with a leader in the publishing industry to learn how. What a learning curve! #PitMad, as it’s called, has rules, special hashtags, and lots of writers, all hoping to get a “like” from an agent, although few actually do.  It’s fun and stressful, but I’m glad I participated. Regular Twitter users are not supposed to like tweets that use the #PitMad, so that the agents can, but they do anyway, and it can be daunting. I had forty seven likes on one of my pitches so I had to check each one in hopes they were coming from an agent. They weren’t, which I hated, but apparently other people liked my post! I wanted to be unique so my first pitch of the day I wrote in first person, and boy did it get a lot of interest. I’ve written it below to help you understand.

This is a pitch for the book I’m working on about a woman on the wrong side of fifty, who’s looking for some meaning to her life.

I HAVE A SECRET…

A friend of mine has become flirtatious, and I like it. A lot. Oh, and by the way. I’m a 58 year old married woman and my friend is a gorgeous single man, 13 years my junior.

I’m in deep shit.

#PitMad #WF #A (The #WF means the book is Women’s Fiction and the #A means it’s for adults)

I received all kinds of comments on that post, but I also got 150 new followers, so all wasn’t lost.

That all happened during the day on Thursday. That evening I held an outdoor book signing in conjunction with Light Up Downtown in Muncie, Indiana, the place where I grew up. It was cold and festive and tons of fun. But the best part was Robin, who comes every year for the newest release in the AMI Series. She buys them for her daughter, who teaches in another city, and went as far as to say she came to the event especially to purchase The Greysons. It was a magical evening.

This is Robin pictured with me inside the vendors tent.

On Friday morning I ventured to Centerville,Indiana to the Warm Glow Candle Outlet Holiday Open House. It’s another annual event, and it’s always so much fun. This year there was another vendor set up behind me, and like me, you won’t believe it! Warm Glow is pet friendly, so two therapy animals were brought in to visit with the shoppers. And not two small animals either! A 150 lb dog and an alpaca. You might want to read that line again!

Meet Griffy and Lucy. Best friends and the gentlest animals you’ll ever see. They were onsite for two hours and in that time tons of people stopped to visit them, or get a picture. And the best part for me? They also came by my table. Anytime I can have a conversation with a perspective reader is a WIN, as far as I’m concerned, and I had lots of great conversations with some wonderful people!

On Saturday I went back to Warm Glow, and had great time. A few people were returning readers from last year, a few bought the set, and a few wanted to dip their toes in the water, and only bought Lottie Loser. Regardless, it was a wonderful  day with lots of sales and conversations about my bank to books story.

So now you have my week that was. It’s rare for me to have three signing events so close together, but I loved every minute of the time spent sharing my story, and telling shoppers about Lottie Loser, Call Me Charlotte and The Greysons. I also enjoyed #PitMad, and I look forward to doing it again in the spring. Fingers crossed it won’t be the same week as other book events.😉

Until we read again…📚

Blessings,

Dana L. ❤️

This little guy is Dancy. I bought him as a remembrance of my dear friend Nancy, and the time we share together at the Warm Glow event. She goes with me every year and having her there is such a joy.

 

 

Book Report..Loss of Innocence 💔

One of my current favorite series to read is the Women’s Murder Club, by James Patterson. I love the grit, and trying to solve the murders, but more than that, I love the relationships. In fact, that’s what hooks me on any series, and why I still love writing the AMI Series. It’s the feeling that I know the people I’m reading or writing about that brings me back for more.

So, imagine my surprise when I thought I was checking out the next Women’s Murder Club book only to find out the book I brought home was by Richard North Patterson, titled Loss Of Innocence. It was too late in the day to return to the library, and I needed something to read so I tried it, and guess what? It was really good.

The majority of the book takes place in 1968, and that was what drew me in. I was a junior in high school and vividly remember Bobby Kennedy being shot, and the turmoil of the Vietnam war, and segregation. My dad had business in Atlanta the weekend of Martin Luther King, Jr’s funeral, and took me and a friend of mine with him. Just being there at the same time as so many distinguished people was daunting.

Whitney Dane, the book’s main character, had recently graduated from Wheaton College and was spending the summer on Martha’s Vineyard with her family, while she plans her upcoming wedding to Peter Brooks. Peter had lost his own father when he was young, and very quickly became the son that Whitney’s father never had.

Whitney’s family was considered well off, and still very much a traditional 1968 family, where the father went off to work and the mother raised the children. The problem was that Whitney was beginning to question those values, much to the displeasure of her family, and even somewhat, her fiancé.

Enter Benjamin Blaine; an ambitious college dropout who had been an aide for Bobby Kennedy. A friendship blooms between he and Whitney, despite her parent’s concern over his importance in her life.

What happens next? You need to read the book to find out! There are several plot changes in Loss Of Innocence, so don’t be jumping to conclusions just yet. I haven’t even told you about Whitney’s sister, or best friend Clarice, and they both have important parts in the storyline.

I hope that you’ll look into Loss Of Innocence, and that you’ll enjoy it as much as I did. I grew up in a family very much like the Danes, which made me feel Whitney’s angst all the more. There have been a lot of changes in society since 1968, some great and some not so good, but it was a special time in our nation’s history, and one I’ll never forget.

Until we read again…📚

Blessings,

Dana L.❤️ Read more