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.

Picture Book Month – Author Spotlight #2: Katie Davis

Today, as Picture Book Month Continues, I’m happy to introduce an author who’s helped me as much as I now hope to help her now, and made the word “Business” less of a dirty word for me. (It used to ber a MAJOR “Hulk Trigger” to hear that word), but while I’m not cured, I’m at least in rehab. author-illustrator (And all-around “Writerpreneur”

[Writer + Entrepreneur] Katie Davis.



(Meet Katie, Author, Illustrator, Video Marketing Maven and unofficial “Soothsayer of Reciprocity”)


Katie is the author/illustrator of 8 (Soon to be 9!) Picture Books, from her debut classic “Who Hops?” (1998) to fan favorites, “I Hate to Go to Bed”*, “Kindergarten Rocks” and “Little Chicken’s Big Day” which also marked Katie’s first collaboration with her husband, movie producer/author, Jerry Davis, who has his a hand in many well known animated films, most notably the first “Toy Story”, “Ice Age”, and (Katie’s Fave) “The Iron Giant.”

Jerry’s most recent film “Epic” debuted in theaters back in Spring 2013, and is now available on DVD, Blu-ray, or digital download.

Fans of Little Chicken (L.C. as I like to call him) will be glad to know a holiday follow-up is soon to launch, making this Katie’s 9th picture book, and 2nd collaboration with her husband, Jerry-




(*Though “I Hate To Go To Bed” is sadly out of print, it will be re-issued in ebook format with remastered art by Katie, eventually…If you can’t wait, you might be able to hunt out a used copy or find a library near you that still has a copy in the stacks)

Katie has also written a middle grade novel, “The Curse of Addy McMahon” that also sadly is out of print, but again, some books are worth hunting for used, and again, utilize your local library if you can…

On the upside, Katie will soon grace the YA literary landscape for first time with her upcoming (Long Overdue) novel, “Dancing with The Devil” (Title subject to change) scheduled to be released by Diversion Books sometime in 2014.

In addition to her picture books and novels, Katie has also released various nonfiction, such as the ebook guide, “How to Promote Your Children’s Book: Tips, tricks and secrets to create a bestseller” (Which will eventually release in a second edition packed with new content and revised changes to previous info), and in May 2013 (Your Literary Rat’s Birthday Month!) launched “Video Idiot Boot Camp”, an on-demand, 8 lesson course designed to teach authors and other professionals how create engaging videos without needing tons of money, fancy equipment, and the camera skills of Hollywood Cinematographers.

As part of the First Generation of VIBC graduates, who had ZERO experience creating video this time last year, I can personally tell you, with Katie (And her alter-ego sidekick, the Fairy “Vid-Mother”) as your guides, you will succeed in the emerging shift to video-centric content.

YouTube gets a billions of views a day!

Why shouldn’t authors like Katie and myself get a fraction of those views for the content we work hard to provide?

Those of my long-time readers who are also authors, you too can and should grab a slice of the video viewer’s pie, there’s MORE than enough to go around, unlike the pies we can eat…

But don’t just take my word for it, this is a recent video I made to help Katie promote her upcoming release of “Little Chicken’s Big Christmas”-

[sz-youtube url=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0c_OXGnDo-s” cover=”https://i1.ytimg.com/vi/0c_OXGnDo-s/2.jpg?time=1384398380350″ userdata=”Taury” /]

(I know the cover in the video is white, but I think the final cover will be Green, but I chose the white cover Katie posted on her blog when she hadn’t decided yet and the white contrasted better for the video)

I recently joined Katie’s “Launch Team” to aid in getting the word on on this book. For those of you who listen regularly to Katie’s “Brain Burps About Books” podcast (The No. 1 podcast geared specifically to the craft and business of children’s publishing) know Katie’s (Self-proclaimed cynic as she is) BIG on reciprocity, which is key to not only her success, but that of other writers such as myself who she’s helped reach the next level in the writerly skillsets thanks to her ability to break things down into steps that foster the hope to do better, know better, BE BETTER.

In that spirit of gratitude and reciprocity I learned from Katie (And Julie Hedlund who I spotlighted for my T.A.A. CARES initiative) I joined the team to aid Katie in the Thanksgiving launch of “Little Chicken’s Big Christmas”  and here’s why-

While “Little Chicken’s Big Day” was traditionally published by Simon And Schuster imprint “Margaret K. McElderry Books”, L.C.’s Big Christmas is going the indie route, and this being a holiday release, hence the reason for the concentrated launch, and it was a cool way to get some marketing experience and insights to help make the launch of my debut middle grade novel GABRIEL (pub. date still unknown to me, but I’ll have a BIG UPDATE to share in the near future) that much stronger, and for those of you who gave me so much support and imparting whatever advice you gave me, I’ll do all in my power to be worth the wait.

Plus, this book fits my “Animal Story” theme, and now that I’m addicted to doing video, this just gives me more ways to practice what I’ve learned from VIBC.

The teaser video I did for “Little Chicken’s Big Christmas” was just the FIRST step, I will also be reviewing the book (After getting a review PDF copy from Katie over the weekend, should all go well on her end) and do a review on Amazon at a later date at or just before launch, and later re-post on T.A.A., alongside reviews of other holiday books (Already in my private library) I’ve been LONGING to re-read and review for T.A.A.

You can check out the teaser videos I made for my upcoming middle grade novel, Gabriel from yesterday’s blog post: http://talkinganimaladdicts.com/video-remixing-2

Julie Hedlund (Who I highlight yesterday to support her “Epic Adventure” on Kickstarter) has also taken VIBC (She was the “Original Vidiot” back when VIBC was still in beta) and she herself admits to owe Katie an insurmountable debt and gratitude (As do I) to gain knowledge to something that is now key for writers and other content creators to learn, because while book trends come and go, the demand and need for video is a FINITE game-changer, and no writer wants to be “Left Behind”-

[sz-youtube url=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JF-PVpFH3Lg” /]

But UNLIKE another “No [Rhymes with [“Mild”] Left Behind” program/mandate that has been bane the bane of many parent, teacher and non-traditional student’s existence, as writers, we can take video wherever we want, and like the best parents, teachers and mentors for kids and teens, video can “Meet us where we are.” Here’s a quick example-

When a teacher or parent has a child (or teen) who is struggling to read at grade level, or just doesn’t like to read, or they struggle with math, or have social problems. The best teachers find ways to meet students where they are right now, even if that’s WAY far off where the student needs or even WANTS to be (Even struggling students can be Type A overachievers, you know, if a bit disguised)

Creating video (Like writing) is the same way. While I’d LOVE to do the kind of tight, engaging videos like many of my fellow VIBC colleagues, I need to remember that like me, they learned this over time and much trial and error (Just like me), and  throughout the course and in the VIBC Facebook Group (Which ONLY students can join and access) Katie always instills this constant: “It doesn’t have to be ‘Perfect’ but needs to be as professional and tight as you can make it technically, so any imperfections are minor and don’t detract from the overall experience.”

I struggle a bit here as while I’m not a perfectionist regarding video (The I am with say, QUERY LETTERS, which can be onerous and drive me screaming into H***!) I do want it to be professional enough so it represents that I as author take my work (While creative and fantastical) seriously, and not to jerk off the viewers I want to have, some of who will someday buy my books as they’re released.

That said, in my re-do of my welcome video for T.A.A., I had to use a photo of myself, not because I’m paranoid of being on-camera pseudo-real time, but because recording myself via phone or laptop webcam is too low for my standards, plus the fact I talk like a stereotypical chipmunk auctioneer, and people can have a hard time understanding what I’m saying, something those who of you that watched my original welcome video know all too well (Sorry about that, but I will be better next time.)

Now that I’m committed to video, I’m going to eventually invest in some better equipment, because I do want to be on camera for some of my videos and want to be clearly seen, no matter if you’re viewing it on a phone, tablet, laptop or desktop computer.

 (Katie’s a pure Apple devotee, but while I love my iPhone and the iPod Touch [3rd Generation] I used to own before it, and iTunes and QuickTime, PCs have their advantages, too. That said, if I can EVER afford or win a Macbook, I’d get one for Screenflow, I think I’ll navigate it FAR easier than Camtasia [The only known equivalent to Screenflow for PC users], which is only on Macs, why Apple?! You let us PC folks use iTunes and QuickTime but not Screenflow?!)

Katie, if you ever read this, know you aren’t alone in the “Babbling” habit.

This is part of why my videos never hit that 30 second to 1 minute “Sweet Spot” because I’m such a chatty, detail freak, and I’m really more afraid of potential viewers going “Huh?” than “This is a tad too long” as much as I don’t want to go on for longer than necessary, but I’m getting there.

That said, I thank cheddar I find this fun, since the videos I’ve done so far have taken hours to time everything just right, finding legal to use content and music is the easy part (Thanks to the resources and links provided and recommended in VIBC) and what I’ve found on own, it’s bringing the content together that’s the time-consuming part. Some of it’s learning curve, but also just what they take on average.

But it’s worth it when you finally get what you envisioned/scripted to work. Something you know as well as I now, right?

Anyway, that’s all for today.

Check tomorrow for a special spotlight on great authors and/or illustrators who’re sadly no longer with us. Until than, may the fantastical fauna be with you.



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.



Picture Book Mania

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Today is the start of Picture Book Month (Watch the video above to learn more!), and here at T.A.A., we’ve found a fun way to celebrate that you can benefit from. Throughout November I’ll be spotlighting some of my favorite picture books and the authors/illustrators who bring them to life. From  world famous series to the first-time efforts, and all the (Once hidden) gems in-between!


Today also marks the start of PiBoIdMo (Picture Book Idea Month)-




The goal is to have 30 ideas for picture books. Remember, these are IDEAS, not drafts of picture books, unlike NaNoWriMo, the goal is just to have a basic concept for what could be a picture book, drafting them at a later date. Learn more 

If you register by November 4th, 2013, you can enter in a drawing to win various prizes, including (But not limited to)-

Books signed and/or personalized by the author and/or illustrator

Picture Book Critiques by published authors


You must be a registered participant to win the prizes.

Click the link below to learn how to register-




Whether your a pre-published author, a teacher,  devout reader or all/any of the above, there’s a lot to love about PiBoIdMo, even if you choose not to take part in the challenge. 

Your literary rat’s taking part this year (Wish me luck!) and while picture books have never been my strength in terms of writing them, I know I have the ideas, and I’ve already come up with several on the first day alone! Not bad for my first official year.

If you’re participating in PiBoIdMo, let me know in the comments below, I wish everyone the best of luck.


Today is also the start of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month)-

2013-Participant-Facebook-Cover (1)

Like PiBoIdMo, I’m taking part in this year, and while I’ve come up short my last four attempts, this year I will draft a book to the end, and with work on my debut novel GABRIEL slowing down as we near the end of 2013, I need something to aid the wait time….


But in addition to all the fun challenges going on in November, I’m pleased to announce our next spotlight project for “T.A.A. CARES”-



This is an initiative that started earlier this year to give support and awareness to various content creators whose projects need money and/or word of mouth to 

Our first spotlight was for FETCH, a picture book written by Adam Glendon Sidwell, who started a Kickstarter campaign to earn the needed funds to pay his illustrator and printing costs. After missing out on a project that didn’t meet it’s funding goals (You can read about that story here: http://talkinganimaladdicts.com/how-i-met-a-kindred-spirit-on-kickstarter), I HAD to do what I could to spread the word. So, in addition to making a donation, I also spread the word via Facebook and Twitter. 

That project met it’s funding goal is well on the way to publication. 


This time, our spotlight is on a book that while not as far along as FETCH yet, author Julie Hedlund (Founder and host of the 12×12 picture book challenge and contributor to CBI [Children’s Book Insider’s CBI Clubhouse]) is taking the plunge with crowdfunding her next picture book via Kickstarter, an eBay-like fund-sourcing social network that allows authors and other content creators a viable way to earn money needed to bring their projects out of the proverbial drawer and into the hands of the consumers. 


Her Kickstarter Campaign isn’t live yet, but you can share your support on her blog post linked below-




You can also buy her first published effort, the storybook app “A Troop is a Group of Monkeys” published by Little Bahalia Publishing. Now available in print too!


As Julie explains in her series of five videos (The first of which is found in the link above), while many authors long for a traditional publishing experience, and/or have a preference for print over ebooks and story apps, for many authors (Herself included) we sometimes need to take less traveled roads and take (Reasonable) risks to get there. 


For authors who just don’t have the money (On their own) needed to self-publish at the needed level of quality to be taken seriously by readers and potentially agents and/or publishers, crowdfunding projects via platforms like Kickstarter is one way for authors to get the needed funds to get a book out of the office, onto the presses, and into reader’s hands, physically and/or otherwise. 

But as Julie warns in the videos preceding the one linked above, this isn’t a shortcut to publication, but a way to earn funds for the things we as authors or author/illustrators can’t do alone, or need help to do, but that said-

At times, I do feel  people in general confuse “Lack of Money” with “Lack of Will” because there’s a difference between “Not able” and “I don’t want to!” Those of you who are parents and/or teachers, you get what I mean, it’s like when you need to teach kids that HOW you say something is just as important as what’s actually said.

“Can I PLEASE have a Cookie?” is more respectful than “I Want a cookie NOW!”

Whether or not you give the cookie, you’re more apt to at least give the first response more consideration and courtesy than response 2.

Authors who are successful on Kickstarter or other alternate roads to publication come to it from a “Not able” (i.e. Can I PLEASE have a cookie?) frame of mind. That mindset is critical. 

While authors do what we can to support each other, there’s a difference between asking for a critique of a query letter or manuscript, and money to fund a publishing venture, both require commitment and trust on the part of the donor and beneficiary, and let’s be honest, the current world economy doesn’t help make financial generosity easier, never mind any personal/professional reasons we may have.

For this reason alone, I won’t be doing a Kickstarter campaign anytime soon. I know it will be an option for me at some point, but not until I’ve done all I can on my own first, since projects on Kickstarter need to be approved, and you only get one shot to earn your funds, you don’t want to leave anything on your end to chance. 

In the meantime, I urge you to help me and T.A.A. CARES, support Julie as she soon embarks on her Kickstarter adventure, and if you missed out on supporting our first T.A.A. CARES spotlight, this is your chance to if not spare money, at least some time to spread the word to those who can, online and off.


Check back soon to learn more about Julie Hedlund, and since no one entered the FETCH grand giveaway, stayed tuned for how you can still win a personalized signed copy of FETCH and my debut novel GABRIEL in a new giveaway.

As always, I appreciate comments from my readers, don’t be shy, I’m trying to build a community, and your comments and feedback is appreciated. We’re on Facebook, Google+, and Twitter, too!




Until next Time,

May the fantastical fauna be with you.

Taurean J. Watkins: Nickname: Taury Literary Rat/Founder of Talking Animal Addicts

Taurean J. Watkins: Nickname: Taury
Literary Rat/Founder of
Talking Animal Addicts



Time To Give A Watchmaking Mouse His Due

Letter From The Editor

-SEPTEMBER 7th, 2013

Time To Give A Watchmaking Mouse His Due

The Hermux Tantamoq Adventures

One Author’s Retrospective

Hermux Tantamoq Adventures

I discovered these books at a time when I feared what I loved reading and writing was no longer being published and appreciated. When I say that, I’m saying this in the context of the author I was trying to become, and what I fiercely hope am starting to be.

When I made the decision to do book reviews on T.A.A., I promised myself that while I will not be a snob about books (Something more dangerous for authors than lay readers), I HAD to also shed light on books that may not sell the millions (As both authors and publishers would like that to be the case) they MATTER to the readers who do buy them and read them.

This isn’t a review of the series , but rather one writer’s commentary on what it means to me, proper reviews will come in time, and as such, I avoid any and all plot spoilers.

Back in 2008-ish, while I was working on version 3 of GABRIEL (My forthcoming debut novel), I was feeling highly discouraged when I came across “Time Stops For No Mouse” and gave it a go. This will sound an exaggeration to anyone who does not know me well, but this book saved my life as a writer, for I came to it at a time I most needed two vital things a writer cannot live without-

A book to love And a book to learn from. While my writing mentors at the time, made the wise (Though HARD to live up to) suggestion to study the books. As someone who had  a far from ideal school experience, the LAST thing I wanted to do was analyze books in my genre, because it took away the solace I NEED from books and their characters, something I VIOLENTLY needed that I could not get from family, and had no friends offline, and my e-pen pals only help so much from what I felt then, and still do sometimes, but I have better resilience now.

While lay readers can love what they love without questioning themselves, those of  us in publishing (Myself included) have so much more to consider.

Before I go further, I need to stress something critical: Writers HAVE to think of the here and now of books, and not let the great books of the past intrude too much. Readers are increasingly more impatient and easily bored if you drag on too long.

Even though I didn’t learn to love books for pleasure until high school (I still could read technically mind you, I just didn’t do it for fun like many authors in their own youth had) I do tend to love books (or films and television, for that matter) published in the past, either from my own childhood (The 90s), or as far back as the early 20th Century.

As writers, we not only have to consider what we loved/not loved reading, but how it’s written, and annoying as it is sometimes, WHEN it’s written.

Books published during the writer’s childhood aren’t necessarily reflective of what’s published today, and writers need to keep today’s readers in mind, and this is something I still STRUGGLE to make peace with.

Not that there aren’t books written now I don’t enjoy, after all, the series I’m highlighting was NOT published in my childhood (Though the first book was originally published on the tail end of my teen years) though I wish I’d known of it then.

It wasn’t until I pursued writing as career that I discovered this book in one of my many searches for new voices, as you know from this site’s

focus, that animal fantasy is my primary genre as a writer, though I do read more broadly.


As fellow series loyalists know (However few of us there are at the time I write this), Hermux keeps a notebook where he writes his blessings amidst moments of mystery,  tragedy, and joy. Hard earned. Hard Won.

In closing, I’ll (Lightly) emulate this style in my final

words on the series, and of its author-

Thank you for authors like Michael Hoeye, who had the courage and jaunty zeal to self-publish at a time when the practice was all but unheard of, and considered social death to authors and publishers alike.

Thank you, Michael, for being just as daring as Ms.Linka Perflinger. I’m glad your courage was

rewarded, if not monetary fortune, in a grateful “literary rat” such as myself.

Of course I thank your wife, too, who convinced you to keep moving forward on that first book of what would be a literary quartet to be proud of.

Thank you for reminding a frazzled literary rat of an author like me, that what I love reading and writing (Despite setbacks and dealing with ignorant comments on animal fantasy) STILL gets published, and I’m glad you never gave up on Hermux, and I LONG for a new installment, or something new.

Your books helped me stay the course as I toiled the last decade to bring my debut to press.

Thank you for Michael’s literary agent, Elizabeth Harding, who saw what I saw in these books, and why I sent her a query. Even though at the time I was told via her assistant she wasn’t looking for new clients, I love we share similar interests in authors, sorry if it sounds like pandering (Should Elizabeth or anyone who knows her reads this) but I do mean it with utmost sincerity.

Ditto the “Thank You” for Penguin-Putman (Before the merger with Random House)

for bringing the hardcovers to the U.S.

Thanks to the actor Campbell Scott, for being the perfect narrator for unabridged audiobook version of the series. (Well, up to Book 3, anyway…)

Thank you to “The Bookbeat.”  The last known indie bookstore in my home state of Michigan, at least that’s the easiest for me to get to via the convience my grandmother’s Volvo (I don’t have a Driver’s License, nor can I afford a cat and it’s mandated insurance if I did) for having a SIGNED edition of “No Time Like Show Time” I was willing to pay over twice the MSRP ($14.95 USD) to obtain.


And Thank You for writing the books I WISH I could’ve written.

In fact, your series inspired my current novel in progress, and the hero of that book while not a mouse but an otter, I think he and Hermux would get on famously. I would love to have my hardcovers the other three books signed while you’re still on this Earth.

Many of my cherished authors are dead, most recently Bernard Waber. (How grateful I am to have obtained a signed copy of “Lyle and the Birthday Party” also obtained from “The BookBeat” before prices go sky high, but only in absolute desperation will I EVER sell it) I pray I won’t be too late for you.


Until next time,


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

Work For Hire Books – One Writer’s View

Beg Message

As a writer, I sometimes have issues with *work-for-hire books.

Even though many of my hard-working writer friends have gone this route which often made up most of their early sales, if not their ONLY sales, and are proud of that, and I know full well it’s NOT easy to write to someone else’s formula, within a crazy tight deadline.

But like with a lot avenues one can take in this business, not everyone can do it, and that’s OKAY, though the “wayward businessman” in me still finds it hard to walk away from a market that needs writers, even if I know I don’t have the interest or skill to write for it.

*NOTE: For those of you non-writers, work for hire books are often on a very tight schedule, often long open-ended stories, books on average written within weeks or months of each other, as opposed to the YEARS non work for hire books can take, like my debut middle grade novel (pub. date unknown even to me, right now at the time this blog post was originally written, not bragging, just making a valid point…)

Now I know in other mediums, such as film or television, there’s inherent collaborations involved, even in the scripting stage, where multiple writers work on ONE screenplay for ONE film or television pilot (Which may or may not be the first episode of the finished show), but many writers like me prefer working on novels because we like having more control of the story we tell, and I can understand the frustration with work-for-hire books for writers who are struggling to have their original work read and represented.

Not everyone can afford to self-publish right, and in the U.S. at least, having an agent is becoming more necessary if you want to have a fair chance at going the traditional route with a publisher, and not all small presses are as opened to unagented writers as they once were.


Aside from aiding authors through the business aspects (Which some of us AREN’T as great at on our own for whatever reason, but still TRY because we must), they also give editors at publishers a way to screen submissions they receive so they’re less likely to get manuscripts that can’t use, again, for whatever reason, which isn’t always that “This is horrid” answer writers may first think.

Sometimes it’s just timing, oversaturation of a genre, too many similar books in the market, either in general or just with that specific publisher, the list goes on.

My point is that like in the writing process, there’s more to a great book in reader’s minds than the writing, even though that DOES matter, too.

While some writers feel readers don’t care about how stories are written in the ways authors do, I know many readers who aren’t writers or in publishing who have HIGH standards for language, even if story is most important to them, so I don’t always feel the “Story Trumps All” mindset is accurate or fair to describe readers anymore than writers, and it certainly DOESN’T change the fact that most writers have to turn in fairly tight and realized stories, no matter how much editing or revision we do later, and that’s something I don’t think  many lay readers and story-centric writers understand.

But to play “Devil’s Advocate” it is true that things can be well-written but not a story. I just don’t think writers can escape quality of the writing overall to get agents, editors or lay readers on their side as much as some like to think. Or at best oversimplify from the writer’s view.

 after recent events post chatting with Janice about storytelling vs. writing. As she stated above, the reason some books succeed despite less attentive (Note I didn’t say horrid) writing, is because the voice of a character or group of characters make up for that.

As a pre-published or non-brand name writer struggling to be read, this is frustrating at times, but for readers (Though I know some critical readers who aren’t writers [or in publishing] that would disagree), it’s not always as big a deal.

Don’t forget, we as authors want readers to be engaged, and we don’t have to write elegant prose to do it. (But I personally do like well composed prose, that doesn’t mean story matters less to me, I just like books that can do both, that’s all…)

For many writers, including myself , who struggle to write solid stories under our real name, and can’t/don’t want to hire out “staff” writers feel a little off put by the ever rising surge of popularity of work-for-hire books, such as Goosebumps, Nancy Drew and Sweet Valley High, while those of us outside that market are struggling to break in, and though I’ve learned in the right approach and in the right hands, it doesn’t have to be as bad as I feared (As I noted in my review of the first Geronimo Stilton, which is also an overview of the series, that may or may not be work-for-hire, so don’t hold me to it), from a lay reader’s standpoint, the writer in me still has issues to work out there…

But what do you think?

How did you react when you found out a series you love is WFH?

Did you find there are more well-written WFH than you first thought? Do you feel the gems in this arena rise above the “junk?” (That’s subjective to point, of course)

Please share your thoughts in the comments below.


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…)