Weekly Readings II

Weekly Readings 2

Since my first “Weekly Readings” was such a hit (Judging from comments) I decided to do it again, though my regular (More “Epic” reviews) will return, here are some of the books I’ve been reading-      

 Ebb & Flo and the Baby Seal

  “Ebb & Flo and the Baby Seal” by Jane Simmons

I first learned of these charming characters not from books, but rather from a series of animated shorts as a kid (The theme song is still stuck in my head–all these years later), and it wasn’t until my trip to the library last week that I FINALLY dove into one of the books titled above. It’s as charming as the cover implies. That said, this is a story to be savored, and moves at a gentle pace.  

So, if your inner child (Or children you know) demands a more frenetic story, this might not cut it, but if your kid or inner youth can embrace a slower tale—Ebb and Flo will delight.  

Only One Woof

    “Only One Woof” by James Herriot  


This book falls under two distinct categories- The “Oldie but Goodie” award, and the “Time Efficient Parent’s WORST Nightmare!” prize.   


I know many authors and readers today loathe text-heavy picture books. Nevertheless, this is a story worth the extra ten (or so) minutes. Especially for all you dog lovers. Myself included.



While I’d LOVE to tell you why this book is worth the “Extra” words, I risk spoiling the story if I do, but I will say this- It’s a shame these types of picture books are now the way of the dodo and $1 per gallon for gasoline.



In my opinion, this is the canine version of “Leo the Late Bloomer” but with a twist, and one you must read for yourself to believe.


Illustrations here are warm and inviting, but not too precious, and the prose has an inherent “Just like Grandpa used to tell ’em” quality when read-aloud.


This is the kind of story that, in my opinion, being Ultra-Minimalist would’ve cheapened the experience.


    “Zoozical” by Judy Sierra Illustrated by Marc Brown

Let me just say this right off: this is a story in verse, and rhymes, but as someone who tried to write in rhyme and failed, I can attest the rhyme here WORKS. 


Also, with the exception of the made up word  “Zoozical”(Zoo + Musical) all other the rhymes are of real words.   

Of course, you can’t go wrong with illustrations from Marc Brown, but the use of wordplay and rhyming stanzas are funny and those who  write picture books knows full well this style of verse is “Deceptive Simplicity” on the author’s part, and Judy, you nailed it. Recommended for the young thespian in your life.  


That’s all for now. Until next time, May the Fantastical Fauna be with you.   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.


Hi All, Sorry being M.I.A. for so long.

I had to take some time away from the blog now that

edits on my debut middle grade novel are in full swing,

slow-going still, but swinging. Plus, a blackout in my area

over a week ago, chores piling up, and tight on money

also contributed, but I’ll try to update at least once a

week until things improve on the homefront.

Today, I’m taking a break from my usual posts to

discuss something else that’s been weighing heavy on my

heart lately-

There’s been a lot of talk among parental circles, educators, and all in between about why are kids and teens either take life too seriously or not enough, more often it’s not enough.

Lots of parents seem to be of the view that kids today are lazy, screen obsessed entitlement freaks who don’t want tot work hard for their futures. 

While there’s truth to that, we also overlook another truth, kids are being pressured to grow up faster at all fronts, and yet we complain when they want to be grown ups fast. Well, we’re creating our own problem on this specific point.

As a both a writer of children’s books, and a education-challenged under 30 “Deadbeat” I know from my own experience that we overlook a lot of issues when we talk about education. 

Instead of ranting, I’ll let picture do my talking for me, but fear not, I’ll have MORE words to say on this topic later.


NOTE: I’m in no way parent-bashing here,

I‘m not a parent nor teacher, and for those of

you in education from either the parent and/or

teacher POV who are doing right by our

nation’s youth, understand I say this because

I wish there were more of you.


More and More Parents see their kids like this- 



Instead of this-   01_Tristeza

What “Test” is worth feeling like this?


When did school become “God?”


Does “Sucking at Math” make me less worthy?


Is this future migraine/ulcer GOOD for me?

What parents WANT to see-


What they NEED to see –  Crying_child_with_blonde_hair

“Mommy, you work a second job to make money, what am I getting out of pre-k and first grade becoming my “second job?” that I don’t get paid for.”




“Dad, I may not have to walk 100 miles to get to school like you did in the “Once upon a time Olden days” , but that doesn’t mean it’s any easier for me, either.”


They’ll NEVER get here- University_Park_MMB_I7_Graduation   312px-MplsMTMstatue   USMC-12062   The_Turtles Group_951 81st_TW_photo Winter-wedding-20120203-001 AT_CALGGETT_MEMORIAL_HOSPITAL-WALTER_SOLON_MOYER_III,_THE_FIRST_BABY_OF_THE_NEW_YEAR,_AND_HIS_MOTHER_-_NARA_-_552638     Father_with_his_first_baby_at_first_sight If they Burnout Here-   School's_OutAdults of the World, I URGE you to hear this. We CAN’T let this-  










Destroy THIS-      












Kids, Parents, Educators, and all those in-between-

What do you think? Please have the courage and heart

to share in the comments below.

A Different Kind of Editing…


Sorry for not having new content up yesterday, I had some last minute “Life Happens” stuff. But at least my site didn’t blackout again (Knock on Wood!)

But I’m back, and am taking a break from my usual posts to share something I hope those of you with blogs and/or websites can learn from

As you may remember from last week’s post on my staycation to VIBC (Video Idiot Boot Camp) in May, I created a welcome video for my site during the 8 lesson course.

Well, after completing the course, you get a coupon to redeem within five weeks of finishing your initial welcome video for Katie Davis (Creator/Instructor of this course) to review and give pointers on what to clarify or cut. I got my critique yesterday, after my initial effort uploaded a couple weeks ago, and it confirmed three things I suspected-

-Too Long (While nearly 2 1/2 minutes is SHORT for me, it’s not short enough to hook new people to the site, slow transitions and not enough clarification and key info overall)

-Too unclear about my site’s message (I thought it was clear through the visual slides and context of what I said within the slideshow, but I need to be more clear, that’s the trouble with being a pioneer in your field, it’s hard to convey it to others in a concise, non-cliché sounding way.

-My muddled C.T.A. (Call to Action) – I didn’t better show what I want those who come to my site and like it, what they can do to grow the community.

The reason I’m sharing this is twofold. One, to show that just like writing, videos need to be redone when either the content or quality isn’t doing what you intended, either at all, or not enough.

Second, because while it’s true that one of the main hallmark points of VIBC is to help people like me (Who are anal about clarity and giving our best effort) to relax a bit and realize that “Get it Done!” sometimes is more important than “Get it done right.”

That said, some videos (Just like books, for that matter) are worth extra effort and time. Different videos need different things. A book trailer for my upcoming middle grade novel needs to be ideally under 30 seconds, and let me tell you, that kind of brevity is not my strength, but that’s also why I spend more time on Twitter these days, since you’re limited to 140 characters, including spaces, so I’m trying to get more accustomed to showing more with less. I can’t promise shorter blog posts, but I can promise my videos will be tighter going forward.

All that said, I don’t regret my first attempts. It taught me a lot and took the fear away, and the fact that I did engage some new people means I wasn’t way off the mark. But I do need a shorter, more user-driven, welcome video.

I do have some ideas on how to tighten up the length. But I’d appreciate any ideas in the comments below. How would you, current readers of T.A.A., invite some new faces into our community?

If you haven’t seen my original welcome video yet, you can find it at the links below-



Thanks to those of you (In and outside VIBC) who checked out my welcome video. I will get this tighter so the community can grow and flourish.

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

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?







Face Your Fear Friday

Today’s Friday, and that means it’s time to face our fears.

Writers who have mixed feelings about revision as I do know that the only thing more frustrating than
is starting entirely from scratch.

Sometimes when stories faulter, it’s not because the cahrarceters were not well-defined and feel real, but the story they’re in that’s preventing them from shining as they otherwise would, or at least not bore people to tears. In this situation, the best thing often means taking those workable characters out of the story that didn’t work, and begin again, and in most cases from scratch.

This is a very difficult thing for me to do, because I often fear I can’t come up with anything better, even if I know what I’ve tried doesn’t work, and why.

It was easier for me to just shelve something and do something entirely different. In some cases this is the smartest thing you can do.

But after some time has passed, and you still miss those characters and WANT to use them in something that does work, that’s a logical way of knowing your considering a reboot for the right reasons.

If I still miss those characters after a few months or years, and the feedback I got if I shared it with reader I trust agree the characters are great, in spite of the story they’re in now is not helping them or me, I know they deserve another shot to shine.

The best way in most cases is to re-imagine the story and some aspects of the world before their new story  can go from awkward to amazing.

Of course, some writers face the opposite problem, where you fear doing something so far out of your comfort zone that you “invite” blunt criticism on something that took a lot of courage to just do, no matter how poor it may be written, especially if it’s out of your trusted reader’s comfort zone or area of expertise, you might get advice that’s out of step with what you’re doing, even if the points they make have  truth in them, this is again where separating personal preference to universal issues for the end reader is so vital to owning your writing process, instead of the writing process owning YOU!

For this week, your challenge is to face one of two fears-

1. Fear of re-imaging a story
Take a trunk story or book you didn’t permanently destroy, with characters you love in spite of their ill-fitting story, and outline or rough draft a new story for them, that shows how unique and special they really are.

(Remember, this is only a rediscovery draft, polishing it to submission worth material is a whole other thing, a fear to be tackled in a future T.A.A. feature.)