“Road To Reviews,” Iggy Loo, Day 9

iggy-1Yee-haw! I can say that now that I’m in Texas. Here the humidity is high and the people are extra warm. I’m here in the hub of Houston. I spent the morning at the Houston Museum of Natural Science. They Cockrell Butterfly exhibit where they have hundreds of species flying around. Next, I played at the Children’s Museum of Houston. They have a lot of cool hands on exhibits from water play, science and eco-stations. Of course I couldn’t leave without getting some good ol’ Texas BBQ. Boy, I’m stuffed. It’s true, everything’s bigger in Texas!

Finally I stopped in to see my friend William for his review of my holiday book titled Iggy Loo.

William writes: Let me say right off that I really enjoyed the book, as did my boys, Liam (2) and Lucas (4).

The story was entertaining, engaging, and heartfelt. As I read, my children immediately picked up on the enchanting name of the eponymous main character and repeated it to me every time I said it. Lucas even mentioned him after the fact several times.

The illustrations were wonderful. As a designer myself, I enjoyed the consistency of the art and overall page layout. Choi has a nice, delicate design sense and a consistent presentation of vision. Her images matched the story well.

The only issue I had was the font size and weight. It could have been larger and heavier without disrupting the overall design sensibility. Even so, it was not terribly problematic.

The instructions at the end were an inspired idea, by the way!

I’d give Iggy Loo an enthusiastic two thumbs up!

Available: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Clear Fork Publishing. Ask for it at your local book store and library.
Hard Cover $16.99
Soft Cover $10.99


School Visits

Weeks before I was sweating bullets about the all day visit to an elementary school in Houston area. I felt like I do when I know I’m going to the dentist. It’s not so much being in front of the kids or reading my books. Someone was now paying me to speak. To talk about a subject that would entertain each grade level for an hour. Could I do it? Could I do it for an hour? What if I sucked? Teachers talk. Schools talk? I’m doomed. pencil-04

I got up and I still had a lot of worry. What if the kids started yawning in my face? What if they announced they’re bored? Eek! I got some caffeine in my system and a muffin for endurance. I got to the school and was welcomed by the staff. The librarian positioned me in the music room. My schedule was back to back classes from K-5th grade. The teacher said, “No bathroom breaks. It is literally back to back classes. Go now.” All of a sudden I have bladder issues.

Once the fifth graders came in, three classes worth, my nerves disappeared. I felt like I was back home. Back to my teaching days. One class after the other. Boom, boom, boom. I had so much material I had to run through some of my items. bookworm

While the thought of a looming check was coming my way it wasn’t what drove me through my day six hours. I LOVED being in front of the kids. I loved inspiring them. I loved the look in their eyes. If I inspired one of them I did my job. Before I left the teacher said, “This was awesome.” I scratched doomed off my credentials.

Tiny Talk Tuesday with . . . George Slaughter

1743742_10202172137759197_1880829946_nI met George through one of my friends in my critique group.  A fun and interesting person to talk to.

Native Texan, grew up in Houston…former journalist, published author of several articles in the Handbook of Texas Online, sponsored by the Texas State Historical Association, of which he’s a member (http://www.tshaonline.org)…also reviewed books for TSHA’s scholarly journal, the Southwestern Historical Quarterly…senior member of Society for Technical Communication; served as president of the Houston chapter…author of Spring Branch (Arcadia Publishing, 2011), a pictorial history of the West Houston suburb…web site: http://www.georgeslaughter.com.51QxUqPdIWL__UY250_

And now let’s have a Tiny Talk to learn more about George.

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

GEORGE: Since I write non-fiction, I’ll say Warren Buffett. I’m reading Alice Schroeder’s book The Snowball, which is a really well-done biography of him. Among other things, he and I both like American dishes such as hamburgers and Cokes. Perhaps he could offer some good investment advice!

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

GEORGE: Get my writing assignment (whatever it is) off my desk by day’s end. (After so many years writing, that’s how I’ve come to judge whether I’ve had a good day or not—did I get it off my desk, whether to the reviewers, the editor, or to production). Have a nice dinner with my wife, Kathy. A pleasant evening reading. If I’m watching television, either a good documentary, or watching my favorite sports teams, or sometimes even something on HGTV. Kathy and I have been watching classic movies such as Rear Window and The African Queen.

ME: Are you a Pantser or a Plotter?

GEORGE: Historical writers tend to be plotters, because your writing follows a chronology. With a biography, for example, your character is born, grows up, does his or her thing, and then dies. Experience teaches that you can have a general idea of where things should go and that you can write by the seat of your pants without too much trouble. But the structure must first be there.

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

GEORGE: Just one? Let’s see…H.W. Brands, Robert A. Caro, David McCullough, or Alice Schroeder, to name four. Their work is thoroughly researched and thoughtfully written. Read McCullough’s book about Harry Truman, for example, and you’re there at that terrible moment when Eleanor Roosevelt tells Vice President Truman that President Franklin Roosevelt is dead. “Is there anything I can do for you?” Truman asked. “Is there anything we can do for you?” Mrs. Roosevelt replied. “For you are the one in trouble now.”

ME: What is your greatest accomplishment?

GEORGE: While I’ve had many blessings about which I’m thankful, I agree with Frank Sinatra: the best is yet to come.

Tiny Talk Tuesday with . . .Kathi Appelt

kathi Kathi is the author of more than 30 books. She writes novels, picture books, poetry, and nonfiction for children and young adults. Her publishing credits stem way back to 2006, stacking up a slew of writing credits under her belt. Her books have been translated into several languages: Spanish, Chinese,French and Swedish.when-otis-courted-mama

Her first novel was The Underneath, published by Simon & Schuster in 2008. It features a cat and dog who live mainly beneath an old house in the Louisiana–Texas bayou. For that work she received the annual Children’s Literature award and she was also a runner-up for the National Book Award and the American Library Association Newbery Honor Book. Her recent works include Counting Crows and When Otis Courted Mama.

She has two grown children and lives in Texas with her husband. Visit her at KathiAppelt.com.

And now the tiny talk. Enjoy!

ME:  What is your greatest accomplishment?

KATHI: Raising our two brilliant sons with my brilliant hubby.

ME:  Do you have a special talent?

KATHI: I think I’m good with cats and small children.

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

KATHI: I’m working on a new story now, so I’m spending a lot of time with that main character.  It would be so great if she were a real person and could just tell me her story.  Then I wouldn’t have to make it up.  But . . . wait . . . that’s the fun part, making it up.

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

KATHI: Tenacious, avid, slow, serious, muddled.

ME: Are you a Pantser or a Plotter?

KATHI: I’d say I’m a bit of both, but at the end of the day, I appreciate an outline.

I am privileged to had the chance to interview Kathi. I can’t wait to see what she comes up with next.

Tiny Talk Tuesday with . . . Crystal Allen


I met Crystal during one of Houston’s SCBWI monthly meetings. When you listen to Crystal or have a conversation with her she is the real deal. She is definitely a people person with a vivacious personality. I originally thought she was a New Yorker, because of her honesty and openness. It’s quite addictive.

My first glimpse of Crystal’s writing style was when I read her first novel, How Lamar’s Bad Prank Won a Bubba-Sized Trophy. The characters were so authentic and believable. Call it crazy, but I got a lesson on “tags” while reading this novel. Meaning, she mastered narrative lines. You knew who was talking when, no confusion. Besides that the writing is captivating.

Crystal is currently working on a series for Balzar and Bray featuring a young, African American girl named Mya Tibbs.  She may put you in mind of “Ramona.”  Mya’s sassy, yet funny, with a cast of family and friends that will keep you in stiches! Crystal is having a wonderful time getting to know Mya and all of the other characters.  She hopes Book 1 will be out in the Winter of 2016.

Crystal is married, has two sons and lives in Texas. She enjoys a good bowling war with family and uses some of Lamar’s bowling techniques. You can find more information about her and her books at http://www.crystalallenbooks.com.

Below, we learn a bit more about Crystal.  I hope you enjoy it and don’t forget to share!

ME: Do you have a nickname?

CRYSTAL: Yes, my family calls me Chris.

ME: Tell us something hardly anyone knows about you?

CRYSTAL: Before writing, I ran a home-based word processing business and employed women in the neighborhood to work for me. You would not believe the enormous amount of talent that, for whatever reason, was at home.  A few of those women typed over 95 words a minute! Accurately! My client list consisted of doctors, lawyers, hospitals, oil companies and news anchors.

ME: Describe your writing style.

CRYSTAL: My writing style is called “wide-open.” Characters come into my brain unannounced, fully dressed, with an idea of the story they want told. I’m not “creating characters” so, I write “wide open” allowing them to be free to act and talk in a way that represents them the best.

ME: Are you a Pantser or a Plotter?

CRYSATAL: I’m a bit of both.  I’ve tried outlining, and sometimes it’s a good idea for me to do one, but many times, I don’t follow it because usually my story ends up going in a different direction.  And that’s okay.

ME: If you could sit in a donut shop with anyone of your characters who would it be and why?

CRYSTAL: I would love to sit in a donut shop with Grandma from The Laura Line.  She is so funny, versatile, and full of knowledge and history.  I’d want it to be a Dunkin Donut Shop because they have lots of flavored donut holes and good coffee because I think Grandma and I would be there awhile!

Thanks so much Crystal for being part of my blog. I foresee a big future in writing a head of you. I look forward in learning more about Mya in your coming novel. See you at the next Houston meeting.

Tiny Talk Tuesday with . . . Doris Fisher


Doris started writing 15 years ago and her hard work paid off. I was privileged to see her accept her 2014 Crystal Kite Award in the Texas and Oklahoma Division during one of our monthly SCBWI Houston meetings. There she told her humble story about her journey as a writer. Her book, Army Camels: Texas Ships of the Desert tells the amazing story of camels sailing to Texas to open up the west. I found Doris’ book on the shelf at a local book store. I was intrigued in the camels journey.

Next we’ll learn a bit more about Doris.

ME: Do you have a special talent?

DORIS: What an interesting question to answer! Talent has many meanings 🙂  I know I can do any needlework…sewing, crocheting , embroidery, crewel, you name it! I can raise one eyebrow, and am a school spelling champion…but I could not attend the city (Tulsa,OK) spelling bee because I came down with appendicitis and ended up in the hospital with an emergency appendectomy! It was quite a surprise to the runner up who had to represent our school in my place!

ME: I’ve seen your craftiness on your website with those adorable bracelets. Bummer about the spelling bee.

ME: Plane, train or automobile?

DORIS: I’ll take a plane to Alaska or Hawaii, a train from Durango to Silverton, CO and an automobile on a Texas trip.

ME: You’re one versatile woman.

ME: What genre have you not written in, but would love to write?

DORIS: Actually I’m quite happy with picture books. I do not want to ever, ever write a novel!!! But I also write for magazines with published poetry and games, as well as nonfiction articles. Probably 100 published items of various lengths by now … My poem in Babybug had 17 words. But please don’t make me write chapters!!!

ME: I bet if you wrote a novel it’d be great!

ME: Describe your writing style?

DORIS: I write in the afternoons, after I finish other daily chores. I try not to be interrupted. I like a block of time. I often come up with titles and then start a book from that idea. I have books published in rhyme, but boy is that hard. Not sure if I’d start another rhyming book. I have a few others written in rhyme that I’m submitting now. And I’m always submitting. As a writing teacher said…No one will coming knocking on your door and say…”Let me see that manuscript you just wrote.” You have to get your work out to critique groups and editors. A writer wears many hats!

ME: You got a good little routine going and it’s working for you.

ME: If you had the opportunity to be a book character who would you be and why?

DORIS: Winnie-the-Pooh sounds like a good answer to me. He eats honey, has devoted friends, sleeps a lot, has parties, and lives in a forest where he has plenty of time to play outside!

ME: Who wouldn’t love that?

Thank you, Doris for giving me the time out of your busy day. I look forward to reading your next book.

You can learn more about Doris on her website. Her books can be found in your local bookstore and Amazon.