Finding My Illustrator

Where did it all begin? Or should I say how?

I had the story, Step One, Step Two, Step Three and Four, so all I needed was the illustrations. Where did I look? I solicited local artists. I was knocked over when I found out price per page. And if you’re going to pay that type of money you better love it. Well I didn’t love them. So I waited. I researched. One of my writer friends had her book totally done by Createspace. It’s when they had an illustrator team. They did away with it.

I found dragonpencil. You could do everything there in one spot. The illustrators were priced low to high. You could tell why they were priced that way. But nonetheless, there was some good ones in there. Still I wasn’t satisfied with the price. I kept looking. I heard a lot about Some people having great luck and some did not. I thought I’d give it a try. I plugged my book in and in seconds had a good handful of offers. Most or shall I say all were from other countries. I checked their turnaround time, their star rating and reviews. Some were relentless and wanted a chance at illustrating your book. I requested an illustration. Some will agree for no fee. I took those seriously. I felt they wanted to work. One gal caught my eye after she illustrated a sketch the way I had envisioned. She was from Romania and wrote clear emails. She knew english quite well. I created an illustrator contract on my own and we both signed and were off and running. The book took four months to complete. Way longer than the contract anticipated. We had a difficult time getting the measurements right for Createspace. I’m not sure if measurements are different there. We were both frustrated. The time change was a killer. One message went between us each day which dragged this out.

Would I have used again, yes. Was it economical? I got to say it was a price I could live with. I definitely would be thinking more around the same time zones. Nbearot soon after, I was seeking another illustrator for My Big Tree since it had it rounds with the agent. We exhausted the industry and I didn’t want to shelve it for five years. I thought it had a multi-premise and saw big things for it. But, this time I didn’t use I chose a different route.

I heard a lot about I was curious. How could people do stuff for five dollars? Well not everything is five dollars. That’s just to get you to check them out. I thought it couldn’t hurt to take a look. I researched children’s illustrators and went through screens and screens of candidates. I found a gal from THE STATES who could draw a pretty fine looking dog. I fell in love with him. I wanted him but I didn’t have a dog in my book. I messaged her and asked if she could draw me a bird. Boom! Amazing and adorable. We signed the contract. The relationship was flawless. I assumed from her handwriting she was a senior citizen with a slew of grandchildren who lived on a farm and raised chickens. Boy was I wrong. Fresh out of high school and into her first year of college. In three months the the illustrations were completed (even with adding a dog last minute) No problems with the cover or set up. If I did she was very accommodating. Would I do again? Yes, best experience. Did I pay five dollars per illustration, no. It goes by how many characters per page, etc. Was the price fair? YES! Be careful because some want you to pay a fancy rights fee which I didn’t think they should charge. If you have a contract to buy all rights you shouldn’t need it. Only drawback is you cannot contact them off the site. The website won’t let you trade information.

I had it set up My Big Tree with Createspace. I was waiting to get the cover uploaded. In the meantime, I went to the Texas Library Association in Houston. I met a publisher who said he’d mention my name to another publisher and three days later I received a call. We chatted about my work and My Big Tree found its home.

Hey, look at me, I’m an Indie author!




Tiny Talk Tuesdays With . . . Steven Short

stevenSteven and I met at an LA conference a couple of years ago during the gala. We talked about what we were writing about and I learned about his lovely family. At the time, Steven got nominated for an award for his picture “truck” book. I’m hoping I remembered that right. I missed him at last years conference and somehow reconnected with him through my stack of business cards. I’m so glad we reconnected.

Steven Short is a picture book author, SCBWI member and a 2013 Sue Alexander Award nominee. He found the main ingredient for his writing in an unlikely career change to Stay at Home Dad, the simple fact that children’s lives are as complicated as our own. Steven lives in Fayetteville, Ga. where he competes with his kids for their mother’s attention, on a professional level.

He also saved a group of puppies from an oncoming train. True story.

And now let’s learn more about the hidden secrets of Steven in our Tiny Talk.

ME: If you could spend a day with any book character who would it be and why?

STEVEN: If you could guarantee my safety I’d go with Frankenstein’s Monster. Forget the movies, the original character is just so innocent and childlike, but then completely rejected. How could you not want to just give him a hug and tell him everything’s going to be ok? Again, I’d need some assurance of safety.

ME: Finish this sentence. A perfect day would involve…

STEVEN: Exploring a place I’ve never been (bucket list thing). More thinking than writing. The whole family would eat whatever I make for dinner. Great horror movie before bed.

ME: If you could have dinner with an author who would it be and why?

STEVEN: I would say Stephen King but I heard he’s kind of mean, so Mac Barnett. He’s the best PB writer out there right now as far as I’m concerned and he owns a time travel store. It could only be fun.

ME: I heard him speak at the LA conference one year and he was a hoot.

ME: Are you a pantser or a plotter

STEVEN: I guess at the heart of it I’m a plotter. I haven’t written long enough for a well-structured plot to just reveal itself as I go. I need a direction when I sit down to write. That said, that direction frequently changes as I go.

ME: Do you have a special talent?

STEVEN: After staying at home with the kids for a while I figured I should at least learn something. So I learned how to juggle, nothing fancy just the basics, I’m not bad. And it turns out I’m pretty good at mimicking voices too. Muppets and movie characters mostly. But not on cue. Just has to happen.

Thanks so much Steven for spending a few minutes talking it up. I hope that someday I walk in a bookstore I can say, “I knew him when.” Take care and best of luck. Don’t be a stranger.

Tiny Talk Tuesday With . . . Kelly Bennett

kelly Kelly and I go way back to when we worked side by side on the Friends Board for the Maud Marks Library in Katy, Texas. I moved on at that time from the library due to a wrench in my life. Later, Kelly got bigger and better with her writing career and moved away from the area. We finally met up again after some time and she still remembers the little people like me. Kelly is full of life and a bunch of fun. I look forward to meeting up with her again sometime soon.vampire

Kelly Bennett is the award-winning author of books for children—mostly picture books. Her stories, such as Vampire Baby; Not Norman, A Goldfish Story; Your Daddy Was Just Like You, Your Mommy Was Just Like You; Dad and Pop; Dance, Y’all, Dance; and One Day I Went Rambling, celebrate imagination, families, friends, pets… all that goes into being a kid!

A native of California, Kelly has rambled through all 50 states, 6 continents and 27 countries on all kinds of transportation from tuk-tuks to tricycles, bajai to bicycles, ojeks, rickshaw and rafts, trains and planes, helicopters and horses, dogs, elephants, camels—cars and feet, too! She holds an MFA in Writing for Children from Vermont College of Fine Arts. Kelly divides her time between Trinidad & Tobago, New York & Texas; visit her at

And now let’s learn a Tiny bit more about my friend, Kelly.

ME: Tell us something hardly anyone knows about you.

KELLY: “Kelly” is not my real name. My girlfriends and I renamed me in high school.

ME: What is your greatest accomplishment?

KELLY: Being a Mom. Nothing I’m prouder of than my children, Max and Alexis.

ME: I feel the same way.

ME: Are you a Pantser or a Plotter?

KELLY: Non-Fiction writing: Total Plotter. I create a formal 3 part outline.

Fiction writing: I’m a Half & Halfer. Before I start writing, I have to know the ending and the major plot point, so I do create a basic armature to build the story around. You might say my writing style epitomizes that Doctorow quote. I know what car I’m driving, and I follow my headlights to the end.

ME: Describe your writing style.

KELLY: I aim for a humorous conversational style. I visualize whomever I think would appreciate that particular story and write it with sole purpose of entertaining that one reader.

ME: I think being humorous in writing is a born talent. But I think I’m going to try one day.

ME: If you could hang with one of your characters for a day who would it be and why?

KELLY: Zane, from One Day I Went Rambling. Zane finds his fun via everyday castoff objects and a huge imagination. My kind of friend!

ME: Love that book.

Kelly, I appreciate you taking the time to answer these few questions. I can’t wait to read your next success. I hope someday soon we can meet up again.

P.S.-By the way, I love your haircut. I’m next.

Tiny Talk Tuesday with . . . Kathy Slaughter

kathyI’ve know Kathy for about two years now. Kathy worked on revising her children’s book, H is for Houston in my critique group. The book provides interesting facts that every Houstonian should know about the city. For that reason, the book is also envisioned as a Houston-related gift for both tourists and residents wanting to learn more about the city. Once polished she sought a house and she did it with 4RV Publishing! It’s been formatted and now waiting on the artwork. It is scheduled to come out soon.

She’s a former language arts specialist in the Alief Independent School District in Houston. We certainly use her skills in that department. Kathy earned both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Houston. She’s a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) and the Katy Kritique group.

Kathy likes to read mysteries, political intrigue, thrillers, and other realistic fiction. David Baldacci, Vince Flynn, and Sue Grafton are among her favorite authors. Her favorite children’s authors include Tomie dePaola, Gary Paulsen, and Patricia Polacco. Kathy’s yearly goal is to read at least 52 books and write at least one children’s book.

She lives there with her husband, also an author, and their miniature pinscher, Maggie. She has two sons who also live in Houston.

Now to learn more about Kathy in her Tiny Talk interview.

ME: If you could spend a day with a book character who would it be and why? 

Kathy: If I could spend a day with one of my book characters, who would it be and why? Sam Houston was a colorful character who had an important role in Texas history. I would love to sit on the front porch of his home in Huntsville and listen to his stories as he whittles.


ME: Finish this sentence. A perfect day would be . . .

KATHY: A perfect day: a blue sky, sunshine, white sands, turquoise water, a cool drink, a beach chair and umbrella, and a good book.

ME: Tell me when we’re leaving.

ME: How do you want to be remembered? 

KATHY: How do I want to be remembered: as a teacher who made a difference in the lives of her students.

ME: I agree. Teachers are so important to shaping lives of kids.


ME: If you could have dinner with an author who would it be and why? 

KATHY: If I could have dinner with an author it would be Robert Ludlam. I feel like I need a character map when I read his books and would like to know how he plots his novels. I enjoy his works and he introduced me to the thriller genre, which is what I read most.

ME: What is your favorite word in the English language? 

KATHY: What is my favorite word in the English language? Copacetic, which means very satisfactory, is a favorite word because not many people spell it correctly or know what it means. I like the way it sounds.

Thank you so much, Kathy for taking the time to do the interview. Can’t wait until A is for Austin and D is for Dallas comes out.

Tiny Talk Tuesday With . . . Lynne Kelly

Hoenig Lynne  8324959699

I’ve had the honor to sit beside Lynne during our monthly meetings with SCBWI Houston group. She’s a sweetheart and an outstanding writer. Lynne says she usually works on only one project at a time, and when she gets a new idea she writes it down for later. One day, during a walk on the beach, a character sort of “showed up” and she heard her voice so well, she had to set aside what she’d been working on so she could write down her story. She’s having fun writing about her new a character that’s been incorporated in a middle-grade mystery with lost pirate treasure and hurricanes.Chained cover hi-res

Her first novel, CHAINED, published in 2012 has been a sensation. The story is about a boy and an elephant who have a friendship stronger than any lock, shackle, or chain. It won the Crystal Kite Award and South Asia Book Award Honor. It’s also on several state book award lists. It’s now available in Indian, French and Japanese.

I can’t wait to see what Lynne has coming out next. And now for our “tiny” talk interview.

ME: Finish this sentence. A perfect day would involve . . .

LYNNE: Playing with my dog,​hanging out with my daughter, ​reading a good book, and writing a good book.

ME: If you took your street name and the name of your first pet (or visa versa), what would your nickname be?

​LYNNE: Spike Gosling, which sounds like a bad boy older brother of Ryan.

ME: A good character for a novel.

ME: Tell us in five words that describes you as a writer. 

​LYNNE: Scattered, still learning and growing.

ME: At least now I’m not the only one, lol.

ME: Are you a Pantser or a Plotter?

​LYNNE: A pantser who’s found I need to have somewhat of a plot worked out so I don’t get lost.​

ME: If you could sit and have a drink/coffee with a famous author who would it be and why?

LYNNE: JK Rowling, in hopes that I could absorb some of her genius.​

Thanks, Lynne, so much for participating. I can’t wait to see this middle grade novel! I’m just guessing, but maybe another Crystal Kite winner coming soon?

Tiny Talk Tuesday with . . . Tracy Barrett

Barretttracyrt-330Tracy has always had a love for books at a young age. Her favorites inlcude Charlotte’s Web; The Phantom Tollbooth; The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe; The Return of the Twelves; The Jungle Book; The Princess and the Goblin; Five Children and It; Mrs. Mike; Pippi Longstocking; Hitty, Her First Hundred Years; The Secret Garden; the first half of The Once and Future King; Emily of New Moon, poems by William Blake, Ogden Nash, and especially Don Marquis.
Tracy writes mostly historical fiction for young readers and mostly tweens. She received a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities to study medieval women writers led to the writing of her award-winning young-adult novel, Anna of Byzantium. Her most recent publications are Dark of the Moon, a young-adult retelling of the myth of the Minotaur, The Dark of the Moon, and the popular middle-grade series The Sherlock Files. In 2014 Harlequin Teen will publish her 20th book for young readers, the Stepsister’s Tale, a retelling of Cinderella from the point of view of Jane Halsey, the older stepsister. I’m adding this one to my reading list, sounds amazing.stepsister_cover_2-210

From 1999 to 2009 Tracy Barrett was the Regional Advisor for the Midsouth (Tennessee and Kentucky) with the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. She is now SCBWI’s Regional Advisor Coordinator for the United States.

Tracy has taught courses on writing for children and on children’s literature at various institutions and frequently makes presentations to groups of students, librarians, teachers, and others.

She taught Italian, Women’s Studies, English, and Humanities in Nashville, Tennessee for 28 years and resigned in 2012 to devote herself to writing full time.

You can find her and her work at And now for our “tiny” interview with Tracy.

ME: How do you want to be remembered?

TRACY: As someone who did her best and always kept learning.

ME: Finish this sentence. A perfect day would involve . . .

TRACY: Hitting “the zone” for a long stretch with my writing, then a long walk with the dog, then a nice dinner that someone else cooked.

ME: If you can spend a day with one of your book characters who would it be, and why?

TRACY: Hmm, they’re all so different it’s hard to narrow it down. I guess Jane of THE STEPSISTER’S TALE. She’s smart and enterprising, and speaks her mind.

ME: Tell us five words that describes you as a writer.

TRACY: perfectionist, curious, impatient, experimental, geeky

ME: Are you a Pantser or a Plotter?

TRACY: Absolute pantser. The times I’ve tried to be a plotter have been miserable; it felt like I was doing homework. I like the freedom to have the story develop in unexpected ways. For example, in THE CASE THAT TIME FORGOT (Book 3 of my middle-grade series, The Sherlock Files) I was right near the end when I realized that the guy I had thought committed the crime wasn’t actually the criminal. I think readers are surprised to see who actually did it, because I was surprised myself!

It was my pleasure to interview you, Tracy. May you have many more successes.

Tiny Talk Tuesday with . . . Rebecca Nolen

61VmrvliHfL__UX250_I first met Rebecca through SCBWI Houston. She was sweet, full of energy and easy to talk to. I now have the pleasure of working side by side with her with the Houston Writers Guild where she serves as President.

Her Historical Fantasy, THEY DRY, released in 2013, got rave reviews. The Dry is a children’s historical fantasy that combines the awful truths of the mining world in 1895 West Virginia with an adventure story about a boy who goes on a 51CGsfAq1dL__AA160_search for his father and discovers a world underground overrun with giant insects. Some insects are good, some are bad, and some are plain ugly. A blend of fiction and non-fiction that is designed to educate in a delightfully entertaining way.

Deadly Thyme, released in 2014, is an adult psychological suspense set in a sleepy seaside village of North Cornwall where a girl has disappeared. The villagers are keeping secrets. One of them is deadly.

She writes children’s books as Rebecca Nolen and adult books as R.L. Nolen. Rebecca Nolen is a native Houstonian. She loves to write and can be found at any given time at the top of the stairs pounding away at the keyboard or in the kitchen searching the inside of the refrigerator for inspiration.

You can find her work on Amazon and all social media. She has some pretty spooky/mysterious instagram pictures.

And now for the “tiny” interview. Enjoy!

ME: Do you have a nickname?

REBECCA: My answer has to do with my age. When I was a girl, all the “cool” girls had nicknames like “Debs” “DeeDee” or “Peg”. Then nicknames had to do with nature like “Moon” and “Star”. I always wanted a cool nickname but none stuck. My secret wish at the time was that someone would nickname me “Bubbles”. Yes. I know, porn star. Ha. Ha.

ME: Oh my gosh, I swear I wanted mine to be Bunny, lol.

ME: What is your greatest accomplishment?

REBECCA: First, I birthed two children and stayed home with them for some years. The hardest job in the world is being a mom. I applaud all moms. I wish I could take all the credit for the great people my two turned out to be, but I have to give some credit to my husband because he was there, too. Second, I have birthed two novels. It was a long and occasionally tortuous process, but here they are in the world. Please love them.

ME: You have a lot to be proud of.

ME: What is your writing style?

REBECCA: My writing style is haphazard. When I am writing a novel, I sit down and write until I fall over. But I often write blogs – and those are never planned. They happen on the way to doing something else.

ME: What book character would you be and why?

REBECCA: When I was little two of my favorite authors was Arther Conan Doyle and Rudyard Kipling. I wanted to be Tarzan because he was strong and able to figure things out to get things done. I also loved Kip. He was courageous, adventurous and curious. Never mind that they were boys, I never dreamed “girlie”. What I think I turned out to be is Winnie-the-Pooh. He says, (and I’m paraphrasing) that a thing when it’s inside you is truly a thing, until it gets out and then it doesn’t seem to be the thing you thought it was at all. This is what I’m thinking while composing my first drafts. I also see myself as more simple-minded about life than I was when I was a younger “serious” person.

ME: Are you a “pantser” or a “plotter” when you write?

REBECCA: My writing style was that I sat down and wrote and wrote and hoped I would get to a place where all that I wrote worked together and made sense. After two novels written in this “pantser” fashion I now know that I will use a plan and a rough outline from now on. So now, I’m a plotter.

It was a pleasure to interview you, Rebecca. I hope to see a next novel out shortly. Keep up the great work.