I’m Back From Camp!

[sz-youtube url=”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ebYgE97-kwg” /]

Hi All, 

Sorry for the downtime, AGAIN.


I was having one of those “Tech Happens” periods.

As such, I needed to move the site to a new sever (Landlord Maintenance for websites 

for you non-techies) among other things…


I also had to take a break from blogging last week because I was at camp-


7736437820_f55cd78a55_o CAMPING 1


No, not Summer Camp.  


4583505380_0871677cde_o CAMPING 2


Definitely NOT a family camp-out!


(It’s hard enough to engage with my more emotionally reserved

relatives with the comforts of home,never mind in untamed



Besides, Pepper (My canine alter-ego) is in no shape to protect

me from a bear in his golden years.

(12 human years = Older than 70 in dog years, I think…)




 -My  Sweet Pepper, Photo by Me-

(Doesn’t look “Geriatric” does he?)

That said, he snores now, but I’ve adjusted easier

than the relatives I live with to that development this




Anyway, the embedded video at top of this blog post is my new welcome video for



If any long time T.A.A. readers ever doubted what my site was about after

three years, now you know for sure. (LOL!)


Seriously though, this video is what I learned to do at “camp.”


But I didn’t have to head to some shoddy cabin hideaway in the mountains,

where the breeze has to be just right to get a strong internet connection or

cell phone signal, and lots of luck to avoid unwanted guests-


316240_364169667028049_1160620348_n - WILD BEAR

Hey, Hey, Hey! Yogi, that’s not…



This camp I could do at home and where I learned to create my welcome

video for T.A.A. I’m talking about “Video Idiot Boot Camp.” An online, on-

demand training course that teaches even the most tech phobic souls how

to create videos.


Whether you’re a writer like myself, or another type of entrepreneur, you

NEED video as much VITAL as having a  professional (But NOT sterile)



That said, for those of you  who find just moving your site from Blogger or

some other more kitschy blog or site platform to WordPress (Whether that’s the curated, less customizable WordPress.com, or self-hosting your WordPress site like I am) is/was a battle all by itself, the idea of making video sounds like yet another task that asks WAY to much of you.

I get that, and while I’m more tech savvy than some of my relatives, I

couldn’t, for example tell you how to “Master HTML 5.”


Or ANY form of HTML period.


I don’t know HTML or CSS as intimately as I do a book I

love reading (and RE-reading…) or preaching my gospel on the variety

and depth animal fantasy offers beyond picture book land.

(Much as I love and respect picture books as a reader, even if the writer in

me can’t yet give the skill and brevity those books demand…)


But let me tell you, folks, with Katie as you guide, all you have to do is show up

and do your best.


You WILL get a decent video at the end of this 8 lesson

course. But don’t just take my word for it, let Katie give you the lowdown,

in her own words below-


[sz-youtube url=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J9gsAE-IkS4″ userdata=”Taury” /]

You’ll also find out how to take the first lesson of V.I.B.C. FREE before you decide to buy! (Take advantage of that sample, it hooked me enough to slap my money down) and I’m glad I did.


While there’s always more to learn in life, you CAN reach a level of competency that works for you, I FINALLY believe that for real, after a decade of trying to get my writing career off the ground, and while I’ve sold my first book, that’s not where I can, and most importantly, WANT to stop. Keeping in mind I‘m also trying to get my new novel drafted, on top of running T.A.A.

 Making sure my blog reasonably up to date, launching my e-mail newsletter (Which I hope you’ll subscribe to for fun and exclusive content you won’t get elsewhere), and learn how to make videos, which put a lot of other things I need/wanted to do this month on hold, often looking overly flaky to my family, but that’s what I had to do. But keeping busy was important, so I could patiently wait to hear back on edits for my upcoming middle grade novel, GABRIEL (Title subject to change), and I did that and still doing it.


Well, that’s all for me today, and I’m taking yet another hiatus, this time it’s onMY terms (As opposed to outside interference, like my site giving me headaches every other week this month!)


As long as “Tech DOESN’T happen again” I will be back Monday.


Until then, please subscribe to “Bites From the Cheese Shop” the official newsletter from T.A.A. (Talking Animal Addicts) Also, by subscribing, you’ll also be the first the learn when my novel is set to release, and have a chance to win a personalized, signed copy, by your lovingly frazzled literary rat, trying to hold me dreams, responsibilities, and sanity together, one day, one blog post at a time, among the other writer-centric things I do.


Your frazzled literary rat (and 1st gen VIBC graduate)

Taurean (Taury) 



P.S. Please comment on my welcome video when you can. I’ll be revising it s

on and I may use your suggestions. Be honest, but kind. That said, for my

first serious attempt at video, it’s okay.


Revisions aside, I EARNED this badge-









P.P.S. (I’ll share my diploma picture later…)



When is a “Great Story” NOT about The Writing (Part III: Books I LOVE for the “Story” but the writing’s NOT bad!)

Illustration from 1819 edition of
Illustration from 1819 edition of “The Comic Adventures of Old Mother Hubbard and her Dog”
NOTE: We at T..A.A. don’t promote or endorse smoking. 
(Still, it fits, and it’s funny!)-Taurean Watkins, Editor-in-Chief, Founder and literary rat of  Talking Animal Addicts (T.A.A.)


If you haven’t read part 1, click here!

If you haven’t read part 2, click here!


Hi All!

I had a nice break, and a better than normal Mother’s Day, and a restful birthday yesterday, and it’s great to be back at T.A.A. again.



In part 2 of my series on Storytelling, I was honored that fellow middle grade author, Janice Hardy, was kind to let me share some of her points on storytelling that we discussed in private this time last year, little did she or I know at the time it would be great fodder for a more broad conversation, and if you’re a brave reader of moral-bending fiction, check out her “Healing Wars” Trilogy at: http://www.janicehardy.com


Today, I’ll share some of my own favorite books that while may not have the level of writing I personally strive toward, are still fun stories, and don’t worry, just because these books excel at story over prose, it’s not “bad” from a technical standpoint.


In other words, no out of place punctuation or nonsensical tense shifts, at least none I could read and pick up on.


Before I go into my picks, here’s another nugget of wisdom Janice gave me in the vein of part 2-


“I think to read like a reader you have to pay attention to what you love about the stories that isn’t about the writing. Focus on the parts that keep you up at night and make you recommend a book to everyone you know. If you can identify those aspects, and then get them into your own work (or read your own work with those ideas in mind), then there’s a good chance the book will become a more reader-friendly book overall.”


Again, I agree with Janice, but that said, I know from personal experience this is not easy to re-learn if you’ve been writing a LONG time, because writers really do read differently than readers (Who don’t write to publish) do, and because of this, it took me a LONG time to get back in touch with what she meant.


I still struggle here, but it’s not the “esoteric fortune cookie babble” it sounded to me when I first read it last year.


With those points above in mind, let’s get to it-


Remember, I’m not an agent or trained editor, so your millage may vary, but hey, if I thought the books were boring (Minor flaws and preference aside) I wouldn’t recommend it here.



Taurean’s Top 3 Book Recommendations for books where “Story Trumps Prose”

(In no particular order)


“The Lost Treasure of the Emerald Eye” by Geronimo Stilton

I’ve kept my love of this series a secret for years; this was my guilty pleasure, my “Wimpy Kid” if you will. But of the many books I’ve read and loved in recent years, this is by far the most obvious example for me where character and story rise above the writing, that said, it’s not horridly written, even though the high use of adverbs in dialogue tags irks me a little.


While I can’t recommend this series to reluctant readers like “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” with certain words and sentence structures more challenging compared to the aforementioned series, this is a great series to recommend readers who think animal stories for this age group are limited to Shiloh or Charlotte’s Web, and while both are fine books, tug at the heartstrings more than the need for a fast paced read.


That said, if you’re willing to invest in the audiobooks, they’re well produced and engage like those ‘ol school radio plays of yesteryear. (I have so much more to say about this book, but you’ll have to wait for my review in the near future.) But moving on-



“A Summer in the South” by James Marshall

A charming mystery story that’s almost more about the zany antics than the mystery, though that’s there, too. How this guy make simplicity not read boring is beyond me, and more power to him.


“Emmy and the Incredible Shrinking Rat” by Lynne Jonell

This is a bit of a misfit pick in terms of the context of “Story trumps writing” books, because I do this is smartly written, but it’s not flowery, but it’s really the cheeky wit (Particularly of the Rat in this book) and Dahl-esque story that you remember most. With quirky illustrations by Jonathan Bean to round it off.


There you go, three books I love where story trumps the writing, but the writing still isn’t horrid, in my opinion.


Next time, my series on Storytelling continues with more authors sharing their thoughts on this often debated and dividing subject, what they did for their books, and more.


Please share your thought in the comments below. It’s great to hear from you, and now that I’m on WordPress, if you avoided commenting during my Blogger days because you hated entering those Caiaphas (I do too, believe me), you don’t have to deal with that anymore.


Special Thanks to Janice Hardy for allowing use of her opinions in this blog post.

My First Book Deal (And why it took so long to announce it)



Boy clicking his heels happily

Photo Courtesy of ethan



I’ll continue my series on Storytelling next week. But I have to finally announce something I meant to months ago, but life, various stories in the news, and dealing with site maintenance mayhem got in my way.

First things first, my middle grade novel, GABRIEL (Title subject to change) is being published by G8 Press. My author friend and fellow blogger, Kelly Hashway, has a picture book coming out by G8, and encouraged me to submit there, and I’m glad she did. Thanks Kelly!

I honestly meant to announce this sooner, but now you know.

I’d already told all my close writer friends the news, and now I can share the good news with T.A.A. readers old and new. I’ll share more info as I learn it. 

I now have my own author page on Facebook-


Talking Animal Addicts also has a Facebook page-



You can follow me on Twitter-


T.A.A.’s also on Twitter-


I’m taking a break from the blog for Mother’s Day Weekend, through my birthday on Tuesday, and regular blog posts with return on May 15th, which is also my dog Pepper’s birthday, he’s turning 12 this year. Hard to believe he’s now older than my grandmother (In dog years, anyway), but I hope 12 isn’t as traumatic an age for Pepper as it was for me (But that’s another story…)


See you next week,

Until then,

May the Fantastical Fauna be with you.

When is a “Great Story” NOT about The Writing (Part II: What I Learned from a Fearless Author )

Cover Art for “The Shifter” Book 1 of The Healing Wars Trilogy by Janice Hardy


If you haven’t read Part 1, click here.


Lately there’s a recurring theme among the author blogs I frequent. The age old question of-

“When is a ‘Great Story’ NOT about The Writing?”

If that sounds like an esoteric cop-out “Fortune Cookie” saying, trust me, I felt the same way when I first heard it, too. (Truthfully, I still feel that way sometimes)

Last time, I touched on how there can be key differences between how writers read versus how lay readers who don’t write (to publish) read.

Today, I continue the conversation with a little help from a fellow blogger friend of mine, Janice Hardy, author of “The Healing Wars” trilogy, and writer of “The Other Side Of The Story” a blog for writers to learn discuss the craft and business of writing, from the perspective of authors at various stages in their career, from pre-published, first timers like myself, to those who achieved bestseller status and loyal readers.

In our e-mail blitz this time last year I expressed the new found gratitude and respect for her as a writer after reading/listening to the audiobook for “The Shifter” the first in a trilogy where Nya, a girl who can shift pain, has to face one moral dilemma after another to rescue her sister from a torturous fate, and while those who know my tastes as a reader would think I’d NEVER read that book, or even FINISH it-I did.


And you know what? I liked it.


But yes, it was HARD to read, and that’s not because I had issues with the writing (Whether function or style), I didn’t.

I’d been following Janice’s blog, The Other Side of The Story, for a few months before I finally relented and bought a paperback of “The Shifter.” But was too afraid to read until last year, when I took part in a book club online and that was the book chosen first.  

I later had to buy the audiobook version because it’s easier at times for me personally to stay with an emotionally hard story by listening to it, than reading it on the page, and I promise you, her writing’s not “flawed” in the way you might think given the way I describe how hard a read it was for me.

It wasn’t hard technically, and not hard like the books in English class that were original pub date was so long ago that your grandparents weren’t born yet (Cough, Shakespeare and Twain, anyone?), it was hard for me because I cared so much about Nya, who at 17, was making decisions and facing down ethical crescendos and moral hurdles I could never handle, and I’m now TWICE her age (Turning 26 this year), and I can only imagine what Janice had to deal with in revising this story over and over, even BEFORE she got her agent and sold her Healing Wars Trilogy, of which “The Shifter” is the first book of this trio, and her first published book.

While Janice is probably a tougher writer than I am in this instance, she’s quick to say she still has her off days now, and that we’ll always have them, whether we’re pre-published or published.

That said, it doesn’t mean the answers we need to make our stories better reads, AND still satisfy agents and editors with concise query letters and/or manuscripts as close to publishable as possible, subjective as that is (BEYOND grammar, punctuation, and spelling’s concerned) are ALWAYS straightforward to learn or execute.

I asked her, “Why do you think seeing your writing as the reader is so hard for some writers and not others?”

Her answer pretty much spells out my reason for this and my previous blog post-


“Writers tend to look at the writing and technical aspects, because that’s what we need to get right to get published. Readers want a great story with great characters. But “great story great characters” is so subjective. All writers love their stories and characters or we wouldn’t be writing them. But what appeals to us doesn’t necessarily appeal to a large audience.”


This answer, among other factors, got Janice to write a post on her blog last summer about reading-


Janice later followed up with this post on why she believes story can trump great writing in the eyes of readers-


While my comments in that post were perhaps too biting, I still saw the truth in what she was saying, and I’m certainly not saying story doesn’t matter, but I don’t think it trumps all.

If our weak use of craft is getting in the way, no one will see what’s beyond that, well except our lovable beta-readers who help us there (Thanks for your feedback on my query letter, Janice, it helped me get it better, and had a hand in selling my first novel)

While it’s true many authors can still hook readers on story and voice alone, not everyone can, and it doesn’t mean they’re any less of a writer than those who can.

Besides, we all have our strengths.

While Janice is great at tackling questions of morality and giving the reader a fast-paced, yet thought-provoking read, I like tapping into my imagination and tell stories about heroes and heroines who may not fit in boxes, but are no less real and engaging to write about and hopefully for readers to be engaged with.

Now that doesn’t mean Janice can’t embrace her inner quirkiness anymore than I can write unflinching honesty (Even though I’m not ready to publish it yet…), it’s just that depending on the book and characters involved, writing, or rewriting, demands different things from both the author down to the end readers.

Still, we can’t produce our best work if we’re so conscious of the reader that it becomes crippling to where we don’t want to take risks, or give ourselves permission to write what we want, and let’s face it, some of the most championed books by lay readers and writers alike wouldn’t be published today if the author didn’t put the HEART behind it, not just the technical polish.

But as much as published authors and lay readers champion “Story above all else” to be read, and taken seriously for publication, writers can’t sidestep the quality of writing. Both in terms of style and technical matters.

Great writing can exist without a great story. Heck, I’ve written stuff described as such. Ask anyone in publishing and you’ll hear more examples than you might want to know…

But a great story ALONE can’t get us published in today’s market. That’s something I don’t think many story-centric writers want to accept.

Now I DON’T include Janice in this camp. She makes no bones about that on her blog, in the correspondence we’ve shared in private, and having read one of her books I mentioned above, she tugs at your heartstrings and moral compass tightly.


That said, I do think without meaning to, other more business savvy, plot-oriented writers who see the process in a FAR more pragmatic manner than I do, sometimes undermine that gray area between the passion and professionalism we need to meet our writing goals. It’s part of why I and other new writers misread them on this issue.

While it’s nice to know not all lay readers are “Über Critical” about the writing at a technical level, in terms of keeping our stress levels down (or at least in check), readers aren’t publishing us, and we need a certain level of technical competence in the writing just to get the chance to reach them.

While readers on average just want a great story (Even in nonfiction, well, unless it’s a phone book or something), writers want more, they want to tell a great story, too.

But in order to be published into today’s market, that great story has to be well written, which doesn’t mean it rivals (Insert bestselling author here) to do it.

Next time, I’ll discuss some of my favorite books that while aren’t the most flowery OR poignant stories ever written, they are fun stories, some of them even GREAT, even if the prose isn’t, but NOT a mess technically either.

Until then,

May the Fantastic Fauna be with you.

Special Thanks to Janice Hardy for giving permission to use her opinions to compliment this post. Find out more about her Healing Wars Trilogy at http://www.janicehardy.com

When is a “Great Story” is NOT About The Writing?

No Writing Sign

No Writing Sign



As a writer, I’ve learned a lot of things about myself, both things I’m proud of, and things I’m not, and one of my biggest disappointments had nothing to do with query letters, learning more about publishing that I at times REALLY didn’t want to know, or even hearing the word “Platform.”

I stopped loving to read.

I know. I became a writer BECAUSE I learned to love reading.

But here’s the thing, when you go from being a lay reader who just wanted a book to entertain (and some times inform you), to a writer, where the realities of the market demand the most error-free manuscript possible just to get READ, never mind an agent or get published, a lot of that love sadly flies out the window.

Sure, I still read as I learned the ins and outs of  writing, but I was so focused on the technical aspects of writing that the notion of “Writer’s Playtime” was Greek to me. How could I care about characters or story when what’s getting picked apart in critiques are things like-



  • You don’t stay in one POV throughout
  • You’re digressing too much in this scene.
  • You write too “Complex” for your intended readers
  • Your prose is too “On the Nose. No real person would say that.”
  • Why don’t you show this conflict instead of
  • This is just too long for X age readers. Period.


The list goes on, but I’ll stop there.

My point is this, how can writers re-engage with reading without putting the needs to study their craft by the wayside?

Some writers say this is just part of the deal and just to live with it. But I can’t accept that. How can I, in good conscience, continue my journey as a writer, when I no longer can read the books I’m TRYING to write in the first place?

That would be like accountant who can’t use decimals points correctly or can calculate percentages. Or firefighters who were never trained to fight fires, or handle other types of emergency scenarios.

How can writers no longer can read what they love, which is what made me want write in the first place, without being a hypocrite?

The books and authors I’m now being annoyingly compared to were once my friends. My escape from the pain at home, and at school (I didn’t start writing until I was 16), and kept me focused on something that was fully in my control, unlike jumping hoops to get my GED after high school didn’t work out, if I didn’t write that day, it’s on me, not a mismanaged and broken system.

(I’m talking about the education system, NOT publishing, but it’s got its own share of problems that aren’t SOLELY the fault of authors, but that’s another blog post…)

Now those friends are my rivals.

Many writers think we have no competition and that we’re better off just to keep writing.

I’m not sure that’s an option anymore.

Whether we like it or not, part of writing is playing this comparison game, and I’m speaking from the business side, not the writer side, and for those of us who don’t have a PhD in marketing, this is the part of the process that hurts even more than form letter rejections.

While I just don’t see books as products like toothpaste or makeup, like those products, books need to face a lot of scrutiny before we ever get to the desired reader at the end, and this “There’s no competition” mentality a lot of writers,even those I admire and respect, is blind to the fact that when we go from writing to SELLING our writing, that mindset has to change, and for those of us who can’t afford to self-publish right, we HAVE to face this hurdle at some point.

Thankfully, great writers think alike when facing difficulties in their lives and stories. Last year, I had an interesting round of correspondence with author, Janice Hardy, who I first met many years ago on a forum for writers, and while we had our ups and downs, I now consider her a friend, and a solid example of a writer who really practices what she preaches in regards to art and business of writing.

I’ll talk more about what I learned from Janice tomorrow.



What do you think?

Why are some stories able to outshine the writing of them, and others are held back because of the writing?

Is publishing out of touch with this discrepancy?

Are we asking too much of writers in this regard, or not enough?