Monthly Archives: July 2014

New illustrations from Baseball and Aliens

I am getting back into the picture book business.  Baseball and Aliens is my next project.  Intended for late first grade readers and up.  It is illustrated by John Balsley.  My last few books have been longer chapter books so I thought I would change it up a little.  I am getting excited as we continue to work on this.

I love the fact that I can work with an illustrator that isn’t near me.  John is here in the US.  Carla who does the wonderful work on my Kevin books is in the UK.  I just love that.  And the fact that I don’t have to go through a publisher to work with them is even more awesome.  Remember that if you are shopping around your book to publishers, doing it the traditional way means you wont get any input into the illustrations.  I learned that when I was shopping Kevin and the Seven Lion around.  The publishers were clear they decided on the illustrator.  This way I get to collaborate and decide what works and what doesn’t.  I love this world.

Here are some illustrations from the upcoming book.  Should be ready in August.

Baseball8.75 Baseballpage2colorweb Kindle Cover test 1


Update: Here is John’s Tumbler page to see more of his work.

New Short Story-The Four Mile Sprint

I am working with an illustrator on a new picture book. In the meantime though I wrote a short story. It is based on characters and situations from my book Dolbin School for the Extraordinary. I’ve written about the idea that as an indie writer, or any writer for that matter, can work in terms of universes and not necessarily sequels. This short story tells the background of a supporting character from my book. I had fun making it. I am okay if I am the only person who buys a copy.

I was inspired by Hugh Howey, who in the past fews weeks has published at least two short stories quickly. There are short story categories in Amazon, making it a category that people search for anyway. Dean Wesley Smith has recommended writing short stories and then submitting them to magazines. I would still consider that, but I must admit, writing a short story and then submitting it to Amazon is easier.

This was also my attempt at book cover creating. I used Sketchup and Photoshop CC. I have a ways to go. But I’m learning.

Four Mile Sprint Cover 2

Click on the pic for the story on Amazon.

Four reasons why teachers should write books

This is an updated post that I guest posted over at AJ Cosmo’s blog.  Check my interview I did with him a year ago.

I am a teacher.  I think more teachers should write books.  They just should.

Cats.  Internet.  I win.

Cats. Internet. I win.

Here are four reasons why.


1)      Writing a book is hard



Even in this new world of indie publishing, with the gatekeepers falling away, completing a book is still hard.  I have seen teachers tell me they have an idea for a book, but as time moves along-no book.

A colleague told me she always wanted to write a book, but she had no idea of what to write.  Another one apparently started, but never finished because the illustrator was an unpaid family friend who didn’t complete the work.  So the project was abandoned.

Finishing a book is hard.

Which is exactly why it needs to be done.  When you finish such a difficult task students will look at you differently as a teacher.  Your colleagues will look at you differently.  Your boss will look at you differently-with more respect.


2)      You will inspire your students


This past year I taught fifth grade.  After sharing illustrations and rough drafts with my students, they all were inspired to write their own books in class.  During literacy station time, a lot of students spent time creating illustrations and writing their own stories.

There was a whole series about Zompires in my classroom.  What is a Zompire?  Why the combination of a zombie and a vampire. Apparently zompires don’t eat your brains, they just suck your blood.  But you need garlic and to cut their heads off to stop them.  I liked reading about Zompires.  I would actually have to remind students to work on other projects outside of making books.  I had a whole chart up in my room about it.  Too much book writing, nice problem to have as a teacher.

As a side, I teach in a high poverty school with a lot of English language learners.  These aren’t students with lots of books in their house.

See my link about my first fan fiction.


3)      You will bring added value to your career


I taught first grade for several years.  In Virginia, the fifth graders are tested in writing.  I published a book.  Boom.  I got moved to fifth grade.

Moving from first to fifth was a challenge.  But I enjoyed the challenge.  Having experience at first and fifth brings me a lot of value.

Teachers teach read reading and writing.  With a book a teacher will bring credibility to their lessons, students and colleagues will respect you more.

When you write a book, BAM!, you’re an expert.

School administrators need experts in their buildings and their classrooms.  Write a fiction or a nonfiction book, doesn’t matter, put it out in Kindle and paperback format and you are now an expert.  You’re an author.  You’re officially different.  And different in a very good way.

4)      You will experience a tear in the space-time continuum

Space time continum

What! You say?  Stay with me.

Early in the year I ordered classroom copies of two of my books, Kevin and the Three-headed Alien, and Dolbin School for the Extraordinary, and put them in my class library.  The students competed on who would read each book first.

During one lesson, the students were to get out a book we were reading.  One student was reading one of my books.  He didn’t put my book away.  I instructed him again to put away other books and get the book we were working on.  He still didn’t comply.  He was more interested in reading my book.  I was so confused.  The writer in me jumped for joy.  The teacher in me was frustrated.  My body was split in two over the meta-physical problem that was occurring right in front of me.  Seriously.  Who has this problem?

Who has students who would rather read books written by their teacher, as opposed to books the school system tells them to read?  I do.  I have that problem.

I love having that problem.

I want you to have that problem as well.


One of my books Dolbin School for the Extraordinary is free for a couple of more days.  Check it out.

P.P.S. Join my mailing list to be the first to know when my new picture book comes out.