Indies First

19 11 2015

LaurieEdwards_ScuppernongFeeling overjoyed to be asked to participate in Indies First again this year, this time a little closer to home.

Indies First is a national campaign of activities and events in support of independent bookstores, first envisioned by author Sherman Alexie in 2013. It kicks off each November, on Small Business Saturday (November 28, 2015), when independent bookstores host authors as honorary booksellers throughout the day to help sell books, share recommendations, sign stock, give readings, and more.”

aposter Indies First






I hope you all will come out to a brand-new Indie bookstore in Eden, NC, on Sat., Nov. 28, 2015 from 12-4 pm, where I’ll be hand-selling some of my favorite books and signing copies of Grace and the Guiltless and Her Cold Revenge, the first two books in my YA series set in the Wild West. Local fantasy author Teresa Fruhock will also be signing copies of her book, Miserere.

In keeping with theme, I’m planning to dress Western style in a fringed buckskin jacket, a full skirt, cowgirl hat, and boots. I always have fun getting into character, and Indies First is a great place to do it.

So pardners, if yer in the area, head on over to:

Once Upon a Tome Bookstore

655 Washington St

Eden, North Carolina

(336) 612-2857


And if you’re not in the area, show your love for your own local Indie bookstore by doing some holiday shopping there on Small Business Saturday. After all, who wouldn’t want books for gifts?

aOnce tome

For more about the WANTED series, check out this post.

The Joys and Perils of a 3-Book Contract

15 11 2015

aaBUGGYMany writers dream of the day they can sign a contract. And a multi-book contract is even better. Or is it?

Having recently signed a 3-book contract for an Amish series, SISTERS & FRIENDS, with only 1 book written and a paragraph blurb for the other two books, I’m thrilled to have another multi-book contract, but…

With Books 2 and 3 only a gleam in my eye when I signed the contract, I’m now struggling to come up with fleshed-out plot lines for two more novels and get both written before my early 2016 deadlines. The stories that seemed so vivid when I wrote my brief descriptions translated well into basic outline form, giving me false hope that they’d flow smoothly onto the page.

Not so.

The romances I envisioned need more ups and downs, the characters aren’t as well-rounded on the page as they were in my imagination, and the exciting emotional and climactic scenes need to be linked together. I have several touching scenes with lots of dead space between that needs to be filled, but with what?

The outline that seemed so promising a few days before NaNo now looks like a skeleton of a tree at the end of winter, devoid of leaves. A few buds have popped up here and there, promising some growth at a later date, but it seems almost impossible that this tree will blossom with spring greenery, let alone lovely ripe fruit.

I keep reminding myself that spring always comes, and those dead-looking trees do burst into new life. Sap rises, buds unfurl, and the starkness is soon only a memory. Here’s hoping the same thing will happen with my bare NaNo branches.
What does your NaNo tree look like?



Or this?


How to Plot a Picture Book without Losing the Sparkle

20 09 2015

scbwi-celebrate-clareToday we have another wonderful picture book author who’s sharing her tips on plotting. I’m excited about Clare Helen Welsh’s release, Aerodynamics of Biscuits, and thrilled that she’s willing to share her expertise with us. Welcome, Clare!

How to Plot a Picture Book without Losing the Sparkle

by Clare Helen Welsh

Those of you who read my interview with Minty author, Christina Banach,  will know that plotting is not something I consider a strength of mine. I often start with a title, like to write spontaneously and would definitely describe myself as a ‘pantser’ as opposed to a ‘plotter;’ a writer who “flies by the seat of their pants,” meaning they don’t plan out anything, or plan very little (@Magic_Violinist,

So who better to write about plotting than someone who doesn’t believe in it/ isn’t very good at it?

Thus, here I am! Taking a deep breath… and jumping head first into the mind field that is picture book plotting. This is by no means the only way to work but it’s served me well so far: How to plan the perfect picture book without losing the sparkle.

GpsTurn off the SAT NAV

There are lots of different plotting tools out there and the story arc seems to be as good as any, designed to streamline plot and ensure pace. But is planning every twist, turn and line before you start really necessary? Knowing your route inside and out is great on a long car journey but what about for a 32 page plot?

My theory is that planning your picture book in this detail before you start, will almost always result in a forgettable idea that’s been done many times before, since you are drawing on the inspiration from your outer most periphery of your brain. This is where the stereotypes and clichés lie. For example, a bear in a wood, a pig in mud. So where do the juicy, uncharted, award winning story ideas live?

To come up with something that has never been done before you need to bring together ideas that don’t normally go together, for example, a bear on the beach, a pig in an ice rink. Have you ever tried starting with just a premise? Ever picked up your pen and paper or word processing tool and begun your story without a map? You won’t know what’s going to happen from one to line to the next, but it will force you to think ‘outside the box’ and fingers crossed, you’ll come up with something original.
TigerPamela Butchart, author of Never Tickle a Tiger plans in this kind of way. She says she mostly knows where her story is going, but it allows for her characters to surprise her! However, it is important to keep the ending in mind. It might change as your story develops, but knowing your story outcome will help keep you and, your characters, on track.

penguinIt’s worth also mentioning that if you’re an author-illustrator like Helen Stephens, your story premise and ending might be visual. Helen’s inspirations come as one clear image.
plot hole

Plot Holes

Working in this way, you will inevitably come across some big, back all-encompassing plot holes, big enough to swallow your motivation in one fail swoop and stop you and your story in its tracks. Lucky you! For me, this is where the magic happens! Plot holes are an opportunity to break through the clichés and come up with a completely new idea like a bear in a train station (Michael Bond and Peggy Fortnum’s Paddington) or like a pig in a pond (Pig in a Pond by Martin Waddle and Jill Barton). If you listen to your characters, take risks and change route, even if it means rethinking your initial plan, your diverted story arc might well be more exciting, engaging and probably a lot more original, than your initial take on your theme.

Take the Scenic Emotional Route

And then comes the editing, which is essentially plotting in reverse. Whether you plot a lot, a little or not at all, your finished journey needs to leave the reader feeling fully satisfied. Now can be a good time to come back to your story arc. You’ve captured your original picture book sparkle, so now ensure the pace is such that we see trials, tribulations and disasters! Make us feel like there’s no way the main character is EVER going to reach their story goal; add in obstacles, heighten the tension, and then whip out your powerful, perfect resolution at the very last second, leaving us fully resolved and ‘wowed’ with the perfect pay off… so much so that we want to read it again.. and again, and again!

I wish you all a treacherous, eventful and holey writing journey to your perfect picture books! I’d love to hear more about how you plot your stories. Please feel free to share your experiences. Are you a plotter? Or a panster? Or perhaps a bit of both?!

Thank you, Laurie for the ‘plotting’ challenge and for the opportunity to blog as a guest on your site.

Thank you for being here, Clare, and for sharing such great information. Looking forward to your release on September 28!

biscuitsAbout Aerodynamics of Biscuits

Aerodynamics of Biscuits features Oliver, a five year old boy who sneaks downstairs in the middle of the night to find pirate mice stealing his biscuits! But Captain Sneaky McSqueaky and his crew are not eating Oliver’s biscuits… they’re making rockets! Aerodynamics biscuit rockets to fly to the moon to steal cheese! Ahhharrrr!

The book can be purchased in bookstores, through the publisher Maverick Books or on Amazon.COver

About Clare Helen Welsh

Clare lives in Devon with her husband and two children. She teaches in a primary school and has over ten years experience in Early Years and Key Stage One. In 2014 she became a Specialist leader of Education, supporting local schools to achieve high standards in phonics, primary languages and the Early Years Foundation Stage.

In 2013, Clare won The Margaret Carey Scholarship for Picture Book Writers and she received Silver Medal at The Greenhouse Funny Prize 2014 for her picture book, Aerodynamics of Biscuits, which is illustrated by Sophia Touliatou and due to be published by Maverick Books in September 2015.

Clare is represented by Alice Williams of David Higham Associates. Find out more about Clare on her website, Facebook, and Twitter.

01-09-2015 20-33-02blurb

Aliens, Bears, and Tara Lazar, Oh, My!

31 08 2015

tarafall2011picrounded1I’m excited to have Tara Lazar with us today to celebrate one of her books that came out this month.

Welcome, Tara! So glad to have you here. First of all, congratulations on your latest release, I Thought This Was a Bear Book. I see you have other books coming out around the same time. We’d love to hear a bit about those other books too.


Thanks, Laurie! Up next is LITTLE RED GLIDING HOOD, which is another fairytale mash-up. (I didn’t plan the releases that way, they just happened!)littleredglidinghood

I bring multiple fairytales and nursery rhymes into the fray. Everyone from The Three Blind Mice to Rapunzel makes a cameo. Illustrator Troy Cummings (NOTEBOOK OF DOOM series) created an icy-cool enchanted wonderland. Cleverly, LITTLE RED is the only red on each spread. (BTW, the book doesn’t rhyme. Just that sentence.)

After that, there’s NORMAL NORMAN in March and WAY PAST BEDTIME in the fall. 7 ATE 9 (based on the joke “Why was 6 afraid of 7?”) is slated for 2017.

How did you come up with the idea for the Bear book? And what revisions did it go through on its way to becoming published?

I Thought This was a Bear BookBEAR came about from wanting to insert a character where he didn’t belong. Prince Zilch and the gang went through at least a dozen revisions, including the resolution, which I changed AFTER Benji Davies had already made initial sketches. (Sorry, Benji!) I also changed the last line of the book in the final stages because I was never satisfied with it. Those who have the F&G will notice the difference!

As Rebecca Colby mentioned in her post, you do humor very well. What secrets can you share for writing “funny”?

Oh wow, what a question! I think humor is something innate and intangible. You know it when it’s funny, but it’s difficult to describe what makes you laugh.

Perhaps it’s a misunderstanding, an exaggeration, the unexpected and/or a clever association between two or more previously unrelated things.

But I don’t analyze my humor. It just spits itself out. Perhaps it has to do with my upbringing with my father, who coughed up brilliant one-line zingers. And my husband, he makes me laugh daily.

There’s a Seinfeld episode where Jerry’s father yells “My wallet’s gone!” at the doctor’s office—he’s certain the physician has stolen it. About 15 years ago, my husband and I were in a department store on a stormy summer day. Department stores in the mall don’t have windows. The power went out and it was pitch black. Within a few seconds my husband yelled, “My wallet’s gone!” I fell on the floor in a fit of laughter.

So I surround myself with humor, and thus, humor comes out naturally. (In other words, get yourself a funny spouse.)i-thought-this-was-a-bear-book-9781442463073.in02

Can you give us an idea of your writing process?

The only constant in my process is letting an idea “marinate”. When I first began writing, I’d get a flash of an idea and sit down immediately. I never paused to think, “Is this a good idea? Is this a great idea?”

Now I do. I think about it. And then I don’t think about it. My subconscious does some work. I tend to get a tingle when it’s ready to come out. Kind of like a sneeze.

Any tips for new writers?

That’s my tip, examine your ideas before writing them. For every 20 or so ideas, you’ll arrive upon one great one. The rest might be mediocre and not worth your time.

Any tips for more experienced writers?

Experienced writers don’t need my tips. Everyone’s process is different, and they’ve probably recognized what theirs is and how they work best. Just keep doing what you’re doing!

Have you ever had writers block? If so, what did you do to overcome it?

I go for a walk or take a bath. (This depends upon how clean or dirty I am.)

Then I start a new project. That’s exactly how I began BEAR BOOK. Another story wasn’t going so well; I had been slaving over it and not getting anywhere. I switched gears to something fresh and exciting.

What are you working on now?

Ahhhh! The 20th revision of a “longish” picture book (800 words) that I’ve always loved but have never gotten quite right. I let it sit for over a year and picked it up again specifically to present to one of my existing editors.

I’m really excited because this time, it’s working. The logic is logical. The tension is there. I removed unnecessary “schtick”. The premise is golden and evergreen—two colors you want. I am hopeful!

It would be great to get to know a bit more about you, so I hope you won’t mind answering some personal questions…

Where are you from and how has that and/or where you have lived/visited influenced your work?

I was born and raised in New Jersey. I never left the state. Some people think it’s the “armpit of America” but that just goes to show what they don’t know. It’s not all Tony Soprano and The Sitch. We’re an hour to NYC, an hour to the beach, an hour to the mountains. What more does one want?

I don’t think geography has influenced my work, aside from my close proximity to NYC and the NJ-SCBWI. I would not be here without the organization and their exceptional events.

tara3yearsoldAs a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?

You’re lookin’ at it!

What super power do you wish you had?

To fly, of course! Although these days, I don’t wanna be up there with the drones.

In addition to your picture books, you’re known as the founder of PiBoIdMo. Can you tell us a bit about the group and how/why it started?

It began out of a desire to have an event specifically for PB writers. It has grown beyond my wildest imagination. The number of wonderful children’s books it has sparked is steadily growing and nothing makes me more proud. I love to share the success of PiBoIdMo participants.

Where can readers find out more about you?

One place,, has links to everything and everywhere you can find me.

Thanks so much for sharing with us, Tara. And I know everyone who hasn’t already snagged a copy of Bear will want to rush right out to get one. If you enjoy aliens, bears, fairytales, and metafiction, then this is the book for you.

i-thought-this-was-a-bear-book-9781442463073.in03About I Thought This Was a Bear Book (from Simon & Schuster website):

When an alien crashes into the story of “The Three Little Bears,” it’s a laugh-out-loud adventure and a classic storybook mash-up!

After an unfortunate bookcase collapse, Alien suddenly finds himself jolted out of his story and into a very strange world, complete with talking bears. Desperate to return to his book, Alien asks the Bear family for help so he can get back to his story and save his beloved Planet Zero from total destruction before it’s too late.

Mama Bear and Papa Bear try all kinds of zany contraptions (with some help from their nemesis, Goldilocks) without much luck. Baby Bear might have the perfect solution to get the Alien out of the woods and back to his planet…but will anyone listen to the littlest voice in the story?

Writing Humorous Picture Books

27 08 2015

Rebecca witch 1Today I have the great pleasure of hosting my friend Rebecca Colby, an awesome picture book writer, whose book, It’s Raining Bats & Frogs, released this month. She’s agreed to give share some secrets for writing funny picture books. And as a special bonus, if you read through the post, you’ll find a clue for her Scavenger Hunt. Be sure to collect all of the clues to be eligible for a prize.

And here’s Rebecca…



Show Them the Funny: Writing Humorous Picture Books

Everywhere I look on editor and agent submission wish lists these days, I read the following: WANTED: Funny, Quirky Picture Books. Why? Because everyone enjoys a laugh—kids and adults alike. Laughing makes people feel good, and as a result, funny sells.

But if you’re not the kind of person who automatically sees the funny side of life, you may find writing humorous picture books difficult. (And even if you do see the funny side of life, like me, you may still find it a struggle.) So here are some tips to showing editors and agents “the funny.” And if you’re playing my online scavenger hunt, here is one of the names you’re looking for: Sabrina.


JuxtapositionPirates Don't Change Diapers

Put two things together that don’t normally go together. This already sets the scene for a humorous story before you’ve even written a word. For example, Melinda Long puts ‘pirates’ and ‘a baby’ together in Pirates Don’t Change Diapers (illustrated by David Shannon). Who can resist laughing at babysitting pirates, especially when they think they’ve been given the task of sitting on babies.



Dear Mrs LaRueSome of the funniest books to read are those in which the illustrations contradict the text. Mark Teague does this so well in his book, Dear Mrs. LaRue: Letters from Obedience School. In the book, Ike begs to be rescued from dog obedience school. He writes letters home to Mrs. LaRue, complaining about the school and painting a bleak picture of it, while the color illustrations tell a very different picture—that of a luxury, high-class school that is more akin to a spa retreat.


Potty HumorMorris the Mankiest Monster

Okay, so it doesn’t appeal to everyone, but most kids of average picture book age, love (and I do mean LOVE!) potty humor. And if you’re looking for an example of a book that is super-duper, hilariously disgusting then look no further than Morris, the Mankiest Monster by Giles Andreae and Sarah McIntyre. Morris lives in a house made of dung and eats green bogies. Need I say more?


The Web FilesWord play

Be it nonsense words, puns, tongue twisters, or other word play techniques, using fun language can add humor to a book. And the sillier sounding the language, the better. A picture book author that knows how to use word play to its best effect (and one to study) is Margie Palatini. With titles like Broom Mates, Moosetache, and Gone with the Wand, you already know she’s an author who likes to play with words. In her book, The Web Files (illustrated by Richard Egielski), someone has pilfered a peck of perfect purple almost-pickled peppers and Ducktective Web must investigate the fowl play. While it proves to be a hard case to quack, he eventually finds the dirty rat involved. Now how’s that for some fun word play?


Give it a twistI Thought This was a Bear Book

Another way to ensure your book is humorous is to add a twist. Your book should be anything but predictable, so surprise your audience. A recent book I’ve read that accomplishes this is I Thought This was a Bear Book by Tara Lazar and Benji Davies. The entire book is a twisted fairy tale with an alien accidentally falling into the pages of Goldilocks and the Three Bears. But while some of the elements in the book, like the appearance of Goldilocks, porridge, chairs, and beds are expected, these elements are mish-mashed with the story of the alien, making for a completely new and unpredictable book. And just when you think you’ve got the book sussed and the happy ending is looming, a further twist shows up on the last page. But to find out what it is, you’ll have to read the book!



Illustrations are another way to inject humor into your picture book. However, since this is a post about writing, rather than illustrating, I’m not going to say much here, except occasionally–and only VERY OCCASIONALLY–if you come up with a strong, visual image that would enhance the humor in your text, then you might want to consider inserting an illustration note in your manuscript.

Humor is subjective so employing these tricks is no guarantee that every editor or agent will find your book humorous, but you’re sure to tickle a few funny bones.

Thank you for hosting me today, Laurie! I’ve had a great time and I hope everyone will get writing and “show them the funny”!

Thank you for being here, Rebecca. Lots of great advice for those who want to write “funny.”Here’s more about It’s Raining Bats and Frogs! and about Rebecca. Be sure to use that Scavenger Hunt clue.

It’s Raining Bats and Frogs! Blurb

Delia has been looking forward all year to flying in the annual Halloween Parade. But parade day brings heavy rain. So, Delia takes action. Using her best magic, Delia changes the rain to cats and dogs. But that doesn’t work too well! Then hats and clogs. That doesn’t work, either! Each new type of rain brings a new set of problems. How can Delia save the day?

About Rebecca Colby

When not staring at blank pieces of paper, Rebecca can be found scribbling on napkins, walking into lampposts, and talking to herself. You can learn more about Rebecca and her strange habits at Alternatively, check out some of her one-sided conversations on Twitter at @amscribbler.

Rebecca is the author of It’s Raining Bats & Frogs (Feiwel & Friends/Macmillan, 2015) and There was a Wee Lassie who Swallowed a Midgie (Floris Picture Kelpies, 2014), and the forthcoming Motor Goose (F&F/Macmillan, 2017).


Saddle Up for Adventure

2 08 2015

Her Cold Revenge 9781630790073 web Book 2 of the WANTED series has released. Grace Milton is back in HER COLD REVENGE, ready to do more bounty hunting and search for her family’s killers. Many dangers await, and she’s sidetracked by a chance meeting with Joe. But she’s determined not to let anything derail her plans, but can a sixteen-year-old girl capture outlaws plotting a train robbery? Lasso your copy to find out.

Available at your local bookstore, Indie Bound, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository, or Switch Press.

Read more about author Erin Johnson at The Bucket List:

“Her Cold Revenge was as good as the first, if not better.  It was great to be back in the world Erin Johnson created, back in cowboy boots and horseback riding through the Wild West.” ~ Jeanna, The Bucket List

“The second book in the gripping Wanted series, this Western revenge epic is a must-read for teen readers who are fans of relentless action, wild horses and heart-wrenching romance.” ~ YA Books Central

“Typical Western elements combine with the breathy emotions of a traditional romance in this sequel to Grace and the Guiltless.” ~ Kirkus

Her Cold Revenge by Erin Johnson may just be the story that hooks a new generation of readers on the Western genre.” ~ Smart Moms

“I just finished Grace and the Guiltless by Erin Johnson and all I want to do is curl up in a ball and wait till August, the release date for the second book. This book was so amazing that I don’t even want to pick up another book, due to a book hangover.” ~ Sassy ‘n Dangerous

Inspiration and Genius…

30 03 2015

“Obstacles are those frightful things you see when you take your eye off the goal.”  ~ Henry Ford



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