Picture Book Month – The Finale: Part 1 (New Voices in 2013)



As Picture Book Month draws to a close for another year, I want to spotlight some new faces, places, and voices that have graced bookstores, libraries, and e-readers* in 2013-

 (*Some Books aren’t available in ebook format at the time this post was originally written)

The Snatchabook (U.S. and U.K. Edictions) 3

U.S. Cover (Left) U.K. Cover (Right)

The Snatchabook

Written by Helen Docherty Illustrated by Thomas Docherty

(U.K. Alison Green Books, October 2013) (U.S. Sourcebooks Jabberwocky)

I discovered this on November 1st, 2013, at the START of Picture Book Month, when I was out book browsing, and while I couldn’t get the book at the time, what I read (4 pages) convinced me I MUST buy before year’s end. I will be getting it soon and look forward to a review.

I always feel a bit awkward when I review or highlight a book in rhyme, since when done poorly, really makes a story clunk (I’ve tried, trust me it’s quite a task to challenge oneself with, the literary rat has WARNED you!), and it’s certainly HARD to debut as a new author with a rhyming text, especially if you are NOT also the illustrator (If an agent or editor believes in the project overall,  so long as the rhyming is at least 70% solid, IMHO. Don’t quote me, I don’t yet have an agent, but I’m trying to be positive here!)

My point is this: Like Julia Donaldson from our first spotlight, Helen NAILS the rhyme scheme of her book, which is looser than many rhyme-centric narratives, but works all the same.

Thomas Docherty’s illustrations really brings life and warmth to the world where beloved books go missing, and characters have a Seuss-esque quality to them, and I promise you, I  don’t throw down that kind of statement lightly.

While Thomas Docherty has written and illustrated  6 picture books of his own (And Illustrated “The Snorgh and the Sailor” written by Will Buckingham), “The Snatchabook” is his second collaboration with his wife, and  author, Helen Docherty!


Helen and Thomas (Tom) Docherty

(Helen Docherty, left, Thomas Docherty, right)


Their first book together (Before they were married) was “Ruby Nettleship and the Ice Lolly Adventure” (Illustrated by Tom, the story co-written Helen) was released by Templar Publishing in 2010, in the U.K. (U.S. Release in 2011)

Ruby Nettleship and the Ice Lolly Adventure


Now we go from one love story to another.


From one between people, to that of our fantastical animal friends on which this site homages, but it’s also a love story to a place you can actually visit (Should finances allow…)-

 Herman and Rosie

Herman and Rosie

By Gus Gordon

(Released by Roaring Brook Press, a division of Macmillan in October 15, 2013)


Like London, Italy, Paris, and more recently India and/or Japan, books have always had a storied history with an ongoing playlist of love songs to iconic settings (Real, imagined, and all in-between) and picture books are no different. In fact, with SO MANY love songs to a specific place, it’s HARD to stand out, but I believe “Herman and Rosie” is one such stand out.


For me, of the many love songs to New York (Real or Surreal), this book DOES jump out in the most positive sense.


There’s something about the vintage feel that I’ve always responded to, long before I even knew the history behind it, which only enriched my appreciation as I got older.


When I first saw the cover for this book, I almost wanted to weep with joy, because it’s unabashedly old-fashioned, in a tune when being modern is often meant to mean “Simplistic to a fault.”


I’m not bashing simplicity, when it’s right for the story, whether words or text, but I don’t want simplicity to overly dictate stories that frankly demand some finesse and sophistication-

Fancy Nancy

The Fancy Nancy series is what immediately come to mind. Nancy’s “DIY” fashion/interior design spirit wouldn’t have the charm and impact if it had been taken too literally.

Jane O'Connor and Robin

(Robin Preiss Glasser, left, Jane O’Connor, right)

As author, Jane O’Connor has said in interviews, she made the point to series illustrator, Robin Priess Glasser (via NECESSARY art notes) that Nancy’s “Fancy” was less idealized Martha Stewart/Mary Engelbreit, and more playful and resourceful.


Like those old cartoons of kids playing knights wearing pots on their heads to affect those iconic helmets.


Much like how many people are living more financially stringent and (Arguably, at times) frugal, and general embellishment is seen as a sin of the early 21st century.  (I’m exaggerating a bit, but it does FEEL that way sometimes)


But Gus Gordon’s first children’s book reminds me, and I hope others, too, that “Dated” details aren’t always the “Kiss of Death” we often attach to non-modern things in general.


While many young readers (And even their parents born LONG after the ’80s) will not necessarily know that black half moon poking out on the cover is a vinyl record, and that the overall design from the front and back over reminds me of the now “Old School” way people enjoyed music.


Back in the day, if you couldn’t play the piano or a violin (Or the Oboe, as in Herman’s case), vinyl records and their players (From the Gramophones of  to the suitcase-style record players from the ’60s and ’70s) was the way to go to enjoy music without going to a live concert, Broadway show or movies in the oft-debated “Golden Era”, but despite the dominance of music downloads and CD sales peaking in the ’90s (My childhood) vinyl records (From 21st Century artists) are STILL coming out, and here’s why-


As many audiophiles know, vinyl records actually best preserve the highest quality (Uncompressed) audio when thoughtfully produced, which outside of archival preservation for historians, is a tangible reminder that not everything vintage is obsolete and unloved.


While the art style is clean and not what some would call “Busy or Gaudy”  it avoids the “Minimalist” movement in books these days, I don’t just mean minimalism in terms of text (Which I have certain thoughts on that I will share at a later time) but in how the illustrations manage to feel modern yet warm at the same time.


Like Frog and Toad, Mole and Ratty, and more recently brother-sister duo Judy Moody and Stink (This may be “Talking Animal Addicts” but we embrace humans here, too!), I hope Herman and Rosie has as beloved and prosperous legacy for young readers now, and for any literary rattlings of my own that one day will emerge.


Check back tomorrow for part 2 of our finale by highlighting some picture books T.A.A. has their eye on in 2014!


Until then, may the fantastic fauna be with you.


Picture Book Month Spotlight #1: Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler

Picture Book Month – Author Spotlight #2: Katie Davis

Picture Book Month – Author Spotlight #3: Two Lost Lights of 2013


You can also find our spotlights and more on our Pinterest board-


P.S: take time to check out the OFFICIAL website for Picture Book Month-




P.P.S: If my ramblings convinced you to buy one or more of

the books mentioned above, please support T.A.A. by

clicking on the affiliate cover images above.

T.A.A. CARES – Author Spotlight #2 – Julie Hedlund’s Epic Hybrid Author Adventure

As I mentioned last week, T.A.A. CARES is kicking into overdrive for the winter holidays, and in honor of Picture Book Month, our next author spotlight is children’s author Julie Hedlund-

Photo-2-crop (Julie Hedlund Mini)

(Meet Julie, the ORIGINAL “Guru of Gratitude”)


I first discovered Julie when she first guest starred on an episode of “Brain Burps About Books” (Episode  #78, to be exact, which you can listen to here: http://katiedavis.com/78), the #1 podcast about the business and craft of Children’s Publishing, founded and hosted by author-illustrator Katie Davis, who discovered Julie by following her progress back in her “Pre-Published” days as a blogger who back in January 2012 fueled the spark of the picture book writing challenge known as 12×12 (Now in its second year) that has already become a living phenomenon for picture book authors and illustrators the world over.


For those still unaware, 12×12 is a writing challenge specifically for picture book writers and author-illustrators. It’s a YEAR long program designed to provide support, tips and tricks, and inspiration to the writers who participate. Anyone who’s tried to write a picture book will tell you that it’s NO CAKEWALK (What is a “Cakewalk” anyway?) To put it bluntly, and forgive the cliché, it’s harder than it looks. Really.

In some ways, 12×12 is like the picture books writer’s equivalent to NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month that begin in November 1999 and been held yearly every November since), in terms of an active community support from fellow writers, the event’s founders, and over the years various bestselling authors providing pep talks, and sometimes taking on the challenge themselves.

Some authors even BEGAN their emerging careers via NaNoWriMo, though not necessarily debuting or otherwise publishing the books they originally drafted during NaNoWriMo.

But there’s  one KEY difference to keep in mind. Unlike NaNoWriMo, or similar MONTHLY events like PiBoIdMo (National Picture Book Idea Month)  where you just have to jot down 30 IDEAS for picture books, not full drafts, or NaNoEdMo (National Novel Editing Month, Originally Founded in April 2003, and has since occurs yearly in March), 12×12 is a YEAR LONG program where the goal is to draft as CLOSE to 12 picture books that you can get, and at those who register in early January are eligible fabulous prizes, and introduced in 2013 was the chance to get critiques from agents, editors, and published authors that can help take your manuscripts to the next level. But you NEED to register in early January to be eligible, and on that note, and there’s something else that’s to key to remember.

Starting in 2013, 12×12 (Which was free its inaugural year) has evolved to a tiered-payment model, partly because year-long events take a LOT of planning, administration, moderating, rounding up authors, agents and editors to lend their expertise and support that takes them away from their own work, and yes, a fair amount of money, for the running of the site and its community, and being able to offer such rad prizes for the writers who take part.

Also because while this event can help writers, writers are also in business, and like in any other career, we balance our charity GENEROSITY (Things we gladly give away to our blog readers, newsletter subscribers  close writer friends, etc.) and things we charge for to maintain our livelihood.

Keep in mind that many writers are also parents, have spouses, and often have to work two or MORE jobs for the bulk of their income. Not all authors are able to earn a living solely through their writing.

I’m not a parent or married, but I STILL HAVE issues with finances, or lack thereof, and like Julie, I too am trying to find ways that will earn me income without putting my writing dreams on indefinite hold.

Something a few of my writer friends (Who are parents and in some cases caring for their own now elderly parents) are being forced to do. Authors provide services that  allow them to stay in the business of publishing, even if the path to selling your first book (Or your second, third, or 20th) is LONG.

PiBoIdMo (National Picture Book Idea Month) is also run in a similar manner regarding eligibility for the prizes author and the end. Though PiBoIdMo, and most other writer challenges are free to participate, some like NaNoWriMo appreciate donations to both keep the site (and it’s conjoined community) running as smooth as possible, and to give back to worthy causes.


It’s on that note I get to what I ask my T.A.A. readers to do to help support Julie. In addition to founding and hosting her 12×12 picture book wiring challenge; she’s a regular contributor to the “Brain Burps About Books” podcast, got repped by a literary agent, published her first picture book APP called “A Troop is a Group of Monkeys” illustrated by Pamela Baron, is now also available in print, both from Little Bahalia Publishing, and contributes to CBI’s “Fighting Bookworms” clubhouse community (For paid subscribers of the monthly Children’s Book Insider newsletter) as their “Guide to the Future of Publishing.”



She’s also a SCBWI member (As am I, though my membership expired this month and I have to wait until December to renew…[Sigh])


Her (Potentially) next picture book is a bedtime verse tale called “My Love for You is the Sun” will also be published by Little Bahalia Publishing, but here’s the twist, being a small press, Little Bahalia can really worth directly with authors in a personal,  more intimate way that larger publishers often can’t, partly due to their larger overhead costs, unless you’re one of their bestsellers (And even then there are countless variables involved on a per author basis), but what larger publishers can lack in being more personable with their authors, can (At least PARTLY) make up for in wider distribution, better line up reviews on sites like The Horn Book, Kirkus, and School Library journal, connecting with library systems nationwide, and some significant marketing efforts in addition to whatever authors do on their own.


Plus, larger publishers (I don’t mean JUST “The Big 5” Folks!) are also high-end indie publishers like Candlewick Press, Chicken House, Nosy Crow, and FARRAR, STRAUS AND GIROUX (aka The ORIGINAL “F.S.G.”) having more pull in brick and mortar retailers, which for print books (ESPECIALLY in the children’s book market) is a BIG DEAL.


Ebooks have their place, and are a strong preference for some teens and adults, especially if space for print books is limited, etc. But children by and large (And adults, myself included) still prefer print books, and in picture books especially, are still the preference of teachers and parents, especially the “rare few” who are able to make time to read to their kids, day or night!


In order for Little Behalia to publish, “My Love for You is the Sun” they need additional funding for the illustrations, and final production costs they can’t cover alone, and Julie (With assistance from her agent) worked out a deal with Little Bahelia Publishing to start a Kickstarter campaign to earn the needed funds, which would allow Little Behalia to add this book to their future release list.


Here’s what I ask of you, my loyal readers (Especially if any of you are authors or have blogs tied to children’s books, parenting, or literacy) to spare some time (And Money if possible) to Julie’s crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter-

 (FYI, that GORGEOUS ILLUSTRATION is only ONE of the 20+ pages of art to accompany the final printed book)


As with my previous spotlight for “FETCH” this is a project I believe in, and I know from following Julie since 2012, she is a writer you can trust. I would NEVER spotlight projects on T.A.A. CARES if they didn’t come from real people who put their trademark grit and heart into it.

Even though publishing is a business (Which is hard for me to type because I feel it can have negative connotations due to the jerky scammers that sadly do exist from time to time. It’s NOT always “Lack of will to work hard” but “Lack of MONEY!” which isn’t the same as saying “I don’t want to pay for good help” but I just can’t fund it all alone. Period.), writers still need to put PASSION into what they do.

Potential readers, especially kids and teens, know when you’re not genuine. While authors need to have tightly written stories to warrant the costs of publication (ESPECIALLY authors who self-publish with no help from a publisher) they still NEED the love and passion ONLY THE AUTHOR can provide. But even the most business-savvy authors can’t do it ALL ALONE!

Kickstarter (Among a few other sites) is another way for authors who can’t head up the costs to publishing themselves, and because Kickstarter’s platform is “All or Nothing” if the total needed funds aren’t meant, the project “fails” and all donations are returned to their respective donors. (Called “Backers” on Kickstarter)

To crack down on jerky scammers, and to aid in avoiding various integrity issues, Kickstarter also has to screen and approve proposed projects, so you need to be sure your proposal covers EVERYTHING, and like with traditional publishers and literary agents, projects can be rejected, but once the project’s approved, you’re in the system, and from there it’s up to you to ensure you do all you can to promote the project (In a sane NON-spammy way!), and let fate do the rest…


As an soon-to-be published author myself (Also via the small press route) it allows me to give back to authors on the same path as me. To deliver the most genuine and passion-soaked stories I can to share with the world, and (While I do want to make some money) I long for the day to receive a letter (Paper or iPad) from a kid or teen who fell in love with a book I’d written, just as the authors I love and admire touched my heart and inspired me to be part of this wonderful tradition of storytellers.

In closing, my loyal readers, I ask you to spread the word, and if you can, spare whatever money you can to ensure that like FETCH, “My Love for You is the Sun” finds its way not just to publication, but to the readers (Young and old) who need it most. You know I will.

Until next time, may the fantastic fauna be with you.



How I met a Kindred Spirit On Kickstarter




For those of you unfamiliar with “Kickstarter” it’s part fundraiser, part social network, all about giving authors and other creative types the chance to turn their dream projects into reality.

Unlike ebay, though, your project has to be screened and approved by Kickstarter, so just like authors submitting manuscripts (or illustrators portfolios of their work) we can be rejected, and if we don’t earn the amount of money set as a benchmark, all money’s returned to their respective donors (Which Kickstarter calls “Backers”), so this isn’t an easy way to score funds, but it is a WAY, and it can be an added motivator to help authors committed to their work make connections with their backers, and lead to networking opportunities not possible before.

It’s essentially an ebay-style fundraiser service with a social network aspect, but unlike Facebook, you have to be a paying “Backer” to be part of the dialogue of a Kickstarter project. Minimum is 1.00 ($USD), but can be higher, and the more you can donate, the greater the rewards backers can earn. 

In terms of book projects, I’ve seen everything from signed editions (If and when the campaign earns it’s target amount), being mentioned in the acknowledgements, and for one project I will highlight next week (That’s nearing it’s final days and hope you’ll open your pocketbooks for along with me) you can even have your dog illustrated into the story!

 I connected with this author who had this cool Kickstarter campaign, sadly it was too late for me to donate, and she only raised half the the money she needed, but long story short (For once), I reached out to her and offered to help if I could, though she didn’t reach her goal on Kickstarter, she’s determined to make her picture book series happen, and her first book is available in limited quantities, and it’s GORGEOUS! Her illustrator reminds me of the late, great Fred Marcelino, and even though the campaign’s over, you’ve got to see the video while you still can, she did a good job on it, IMHO-


For those of you who are still “Social Networking” averse, THIS is a prime example of TRUE down-to-earth networking at work. I would NOT have known about Jennifer Carson or this charming book had I not leapt into Kickstarter, and while her Kickstarter campaign didn’t earn out, she and her illustrator are not giving up, and when this book comes to fruition, your literary rat will tell you about it.

In the meantime, I urge you to check out Kickstarter to see if there are projects you’d like to be a backer for. The best part about Kickstarter is that you can make a difference if earnings are met, even exceeded the target goal. You might even have the honor of one day saying “I helped this author get started” not just by donating your money, but also by saying (Even if not aloud) “You’re Enough.” Two words ANY person wants to hear in life, but especially when they do something that comes from their hearts, and are willing to put themselves out there above and beyond to do so.

While I couldn’t help Jennifer financially get this book off the ground, meeting a kindred spirit in terms of what we write and read, Kickstarter’s platform brought me to someone I’d otherwise might not know about, and her story among others I found browsing Kickstarter campaigns this summer reminds me why it’s so important to give back.

To learn more about Jennifer Carson-

Check out her interview the blog  for “Fiber College of Maine” (http://fibercollege.wordpress.com/2013/08/08/artist-interview-jennifer-carson/)

Follow her on Twitter (@JenniferCarson)

Stay tuned next week for an important post on how you can contribute to another new voice in the world of animal fantasy, and what you can win (From me) if you do.

Until next time,

May the fantastic fauna be with you.


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” 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?







Moving On, Moving Forward


 Kitawaki_Quo_vadis (2)

-APRIL 28TH, 2013-

Moving On, Moving Forward

Hi All,


After three years on Blogger, I’ve made the leap to self-hosted WordPress-



(NOTE: You can’t use “www” before my url right now as it won’t work, I don’t know why, but I’ll fix that as soon as I can…)

Thanks to those of you who supported me behind the scenes during my blogging hiatus, and while it will some time before I have regular blog updates again, I am working on new posts and other content that I’ll do my best to be sure it was worth the wait.

Despite all the recent outcry on other blogs saying “Blogging’s irrelevant to writers in 2013” I don’t share that view.

I blog because I saw, and still see, a GAP in my niche being underrepresented, and outright misunderstood. Despite stumbles on my part in the past, I will continue to rep that niche to the best of my ability.

I’ve also decided that T.A.A. going forward will be less about my writing from the career side, and more of a reader-friendly environment.

Unlike many writers I admire/respect, I no longer feel comfortable mixing art and commerce on T.A.A. I will eventually have my author site up to handle that side of things.

I’ll have it launched as soon as I can. From now on, I’m just going to share the variety of this misunderstood genre, and hope we can finally end the stigma, or at least put it in its place.

After all, even sexy vamps, YA books in general, and death-happy dystopian tales used to be the “Kiss of Death” as far as NY publishing was concerned, and now readers can’t enough, even if agents and editors feel the exact opposite, LOL.

For those of you born AFTER the year 1987-2000, trust me, the hot genres and authors today had their axes to grind when paranormal fiction in general, even without XXX romance, or YA fiction, EVEN romance free, was as anti-receptive that you can can without being ethically shunned.

I’ll still share some writerly stuff in my “Letters From the Editor” feature, and when my publications increase, you will hear about them on T.A.A., but I’m going to bring T.A.A. back to what I really meant it to be-


A blog about spreading the message that the variety of animal fantasy BEYOND preschool land is no less REAL and VALID than the countless flavors of paranormal romance and dystopian fiction that (At the time of I began writing this e-post, April 27th, 2013) is now.


My blogger home for T.A.A. will remain up until the reestablishment on my WordPress site, as some features and posts are up yet. Those who have this blog bookmarked, please change to the new url above. Thanks for your patience.


Until next time, on my new place of residence on the web-



-Your sometimes grumpy, still hopeful, and always persistant, Literary Rat



Before getting to the meat of today’s post, I have announcement concerning T.A.A. I forgot to mention last week.

Musical Musings, and my other usual schedule postings will be on hiatus as I work through my offline life. 

But I do have an update worth sharing today.

Earlier this month, I signed up for a Query Blog Hop, started by the blog “Between The Sheets” by author/editor, Heather Webb.

For those too busy to read the whole rundown on Heather’s blog, here’s (roughly) how it works-

Writers who registered before 6/22/12, critique each other’s query letter(s), maximum of two per entrant, and send a revised “final” version based on feedback, by Friday [6/29/12] at Midnight

The winner gets a free editorial critique of their first 2,000 words, and so I hope you’ll offer your thoughts on one or both queries I share with you today. 

 This contest also gives me an opportunity to sharpen my own critiquing skills, which is still not a straightforward thing for me, but I’m trying. 

Without further delay, here are my entries- 

NOTE: Any changes differing from the norm of  “standard issue submission format” was done for ease of reading via the blog.

Query #1

Dear Agent, 

Gabriel Crisping loves pawing through junkyards, village alleys, dumpsters, salvaging the junk humans throw out—and he recycles them to build his inventions. While some of the forest residents appreciate his tinkering, the majority his fellow rats, even his best friend Rum Wheatland, think him a crazy dreamer. 

When a harsh storm blows in, ruining a promising dumpster dive, Gabriel seeks refuge in Mr. Quint’s toy shop. He finds a kindred spirit in the elderly toymaker, who loves theorizing and inventing contraptions as much as Gabriel does. Yet by befriending Mr. Quint, Gabriel has broken a universal law – he has spoken directly to a human! Gabriel keeps Mr. Quint a secret until Rum’s parents are killed in a human trap. When Rum learns of Gabriel’s friendship, he severs ties with him and focuses his anger on Mr. Quint, planning to wage war toward not only the old toymaker, but also humanity at large. 

The only way for Gabriel to save Mr. Quint is to stop Rum, whose grief sinks him into the madness and violence of vengeance. The only thing worse than losing an old friend, is betraying a new one, and maybe, he can save them both.

GABRIEL is a 34,000-word middle grade novel. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Query #2

Dear Agent,

Aurel Finnwhistle may be a weasel, but the only things crooked about him are the bent tip of his tail, and bent spike pearl he wears around his neck. This irregularly shaped ‘Baroque Pearl’ contains ancient magical properties from times gone by, and gives Aurel the ability to transform into a human, to both search for his elusive father, and to solve the mystery behind the dark powers that took his mother’s life.

Henrietta Caulfield is a working class high school student who suppresses her dream to be fashion designer, to care for her father who is losing his eyesight due to a curse, and is determined to find a rare tea that is the only known cure to reversing her father’s curse.

These worlds collide when Henrietta’s best friend Orla reveals her identity as a weasel princess who escaped her kingdom when an army of unknown origins seized control. 

To save the queen and restore peace, Orla must create a team of warriors to defend her kingdom, and Aurel and Henrietta insist on standing by her. What they did not expect was to fall in love along the way.

THE BAROQUE WEASEL is a 50,000-word Young Adult novel.

Share your thoughts to either or both query letters in the comments below. What could be tighter? What read weird or unclear? Anything that seems off or confusing. 

Remember, the better you can explain and show WHY something doesn’t work for you, the easier it is for the writer to fix it, or at least know it’s there…

You can find the full list of writers in the blog hop here.

Best of luck to all of you.

Ciao for now,