Friday, January 27, 2012

The Friday Five 1-27-12

Hi all - how is it possible it is Friday already? I know for most people the week drags, but for me they seem to fly by. Here’s what’s been going on with me this week:

1. Snow! We finally had our first snowfall of the winter (the one in October doesn’t count since that was technically still fall.) We only received a few inches and it is already gone, but it was still nice to see (from inside the warmth of my house.) Spring – feel free to begin at any time now!

2. Renovations. Yes still! This week we saw real progress made – especially in the family room. See for yourself! Of course I could have done without the painters coming at 6:45in the morning, but they got the job done, so it’s all good. Still to come... carpet & furniture:

Our 70's Brady Bunch Family Room

Goodbye panelling & brick ... hello brightness!

3. Book Cover! I know, I keep sneaking book news up on the list, but this is huge! My awesome cover designer Deana Riddle from Book Starter did it again! In case you haven’t seen it yet – here it is! The manuscript for Nate Rocks the Boat is officially with my editor. I’m hoping for a May 1st release date.


4. Work. For those who do not know, in addition to writing, I also work as an accountant during tax season. Today is my official day back. Yes – it is that time of year again. Get ready for some tax talk.

5. Book News. This past week, I was invited to a local elementary school to be interviewed by their afterschool writing group. It was so much fun! After the interview, the children drew their own cartoons and made up their own stories based on Nate Rocks the World. You can see all of their awesome drawings on my website as well as some new readers from A Step Ahead Tutoring in Massachusetts. Also – check out the following blogs who so graciously hosted me on their blogs this past week:

Second Bookshelf
This Is From My Heart
Book Lovers Paradise
I Am A Reader Not A Writer (be sure to enter their contest to win a copy of Nate Rocks the World through Feb 22!)

I hope everyone has a great week! I’ll see you next Friday and hopefully sooner.

Xo
Karen



Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Another Super Secret Surprise Revealed!

And we're not talking kittens this time (although that was a fun surprise!)  We are talking about the official reveal for the cover of the next Nate Rocks book: Nate Rocks the Boat! Nobody & I mean nobody (.... except my husband, myself, my publicist, my best friend, my parents, oh & the artist) has seen this yet. Before I show you, I owe a big huge thank you to the uber talented Deana Riddle at Book Starter who also did the cover for the first in the series: Nate Rocks the World.  So who wants a peek?

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So far all you've seen is:

Are you ready for the real thing now? Okay here it is......

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TA DA!







Sunday, January 22, 2012

Sample Sunday: Nate Rocks the World

Thank you to Donna Brown of the Indie Exchange for opening up her blog today for Sample Sunday!


The Indie Exchange

In this scene from Nate Rocks the World, you get a little taste of how Nathan unexpectedly enters his imaginary character of Nate Rocks. Here, Nathan is supposed to be taking a spelling test when his mind wanders off a tinsy bit into the start of one of his adventures as Nate Rocks:


“Polite...violin....light,” Mrs. Dempsey says, leaving enough time in between each word to let us write.

So far so good, I think. I spell l-i-g-h-t.

“Alligator.”

I start to spell a-l ... is it one l or two? I twirl my pencil through my fingers, trying to think, but on the third twirl, my pencil goes flying through the air, landing on the floor right next to Lisa Crane. I get out of my seat, bend down, and pick up my pencil. As I stand up, I look straight at Lisa’s paper and see a-l-l-i-g-a-t-o-r.

“Nathan!” Both Lisa and Mrs. Dempsey shout out at the same time.

I look up at Mrs. Dempsey, with my mouth open, yet speechless.

“Nathan Rockeldge, cheating will NOT be tolerated in my classroom.”

“I – I just dropped my pencil,” I explain, sensing everyone’s eyes on me.

“He was staring at my paper!” Lisa yells, “Nathan Rockledge is a cheater!”

“No!” I say glaring at Lisa.

“I didn’t,” I look back to Mrs. Dempsey, “I mean – I didn’t mean to – I mean – I didn’t realize – I mean - well it’s just a pre-test, it doesn’t even count.” Stop talking Nathan, I think to myself. I feel my cheeks getting redder with every word.

“That’s enough, Nathan,” Mrs. Dempsey says. “You can discuss it with Mr. Brenner.

“I’m sorry,” I say. I lower my head and walk out of the classroom toward the principal’s office.

I walk into the main office. Mrs. Dexter, Mr. Brenner’s secretary, is not at her desk. I walk over to Mr. Brenner’s shut door and knock softly. Maybe they’re all gone for the day. Maybe they’re never coming back.

“Come in,” says the loud, deep voice from behind the door. The voice does not belong to Mr. Brenner, although I do recognize it.

I hesitantly open the door, preparing my side of the story in my head, when I see him. He is shorter than I imagined, but powerful looking all the same.

“Mr. President?” I say meekly.

“Nate Rocks! Thank goodness you are here! We have a matter of utmost national importance, and I need your help.”

~~~~~~~~~

Interested in reading more?

Barnes & Noble: http://bit.ly/uviYpn

About Nate Rocks the World:

Ten-year-old Nathan Rockledge cannot catch a break. After all, life as a fourth-grader can be hazardous what with science projects to deal with and recess football games to avoid. Everyone, including his best friend Tommy, seems to have bad luck when hanging around Nathan. Throw in an older sister who is a royal pain, a dad who is stuck in the past, and a mom who keeps trying to poison him with her awful cooking, and poor Nathan’s life as a fourth grader appears to be completely doomed.

Armed only with his sketchpad, his imagination, and his wits, Nathan Rockledge navigates the perils of the fourth grade in style, to emerge heroic, as Nate Rocks, proving that even a ten-year-old can accomplish great things.

Read what People Are Saying:

Author Karen Pokras Toz has a definite five star winner right here. Nate more than ROCKS! Great book for kids of all ages and for parents too. Characters that are true to life and a story that will definitely make you smile, laugh and endear you to one smart and talented young man named NATE!
-Fran Lewis, Author and Radio Talk Show Host

I picked this book out to upload to my Kindle to "bribe" my son into reading....it's always a fight. He LOVES the book and thinks it is his own autobiography! He too has a 13 year old sister that acts just like Nate's older sister. He read for almost an hour the other night and wouldn't even let me read one page to him, he wanted to do it himself. My son is a 10 year old 4th grader and I could not have found a book more perfectly suited for him! THANK YOU to the author!!
-KristyS, Verified Amazon Reviewer

This is a fascinating and fun story that middle grade boys are going to love. Toz definitely has a finger on the pulse of this market. She knows what’s exciting to them and uses it to create a page-turner that will leave them wanting more.
-The Children’s and Teen’s Book Connection









Friday, January 20, 2012

The Friday Five – 1/20/12


Happy Friday! I hope every one had a great week. It’s been busy as usual here (will I ever get a quiet week?) Here’s what’s been going on in my little corner of the world:

1. Again. I hate to start of the week with that S-word, but yes – we still have sick people in our house! Will this ever end? Just when I think I’m feeling better, I get it all over again, and this cough is driving me crazy! On Tuesday, my daughter missed school and then my little guy started coughing and sneezing again. Last night my husband said he felt like he was getting it again. Will this ever go away??

2. MLK Day of Service. As most of you know, Monday was Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. Instead of using it as a day off – we (myself and my five year old) used it as a day to learn and give back to others. Thank you to our elementary school for organizing such a fun and fulfilling event. We spent the morning making booklets and cards, packing food care packages, and organizing donated clothes and bags, all to be dropped off at various organizations in the area. We ended the program with a very poignant presentation by some of the students as well as a speech by a grandparent of a student who was one of the organizers of the Dr. King’s March.

3. Dentist. New Year New Teeth? Sort of. One new crown, one temporary crown (to hopefully be replaced soon ... long story) and one empty wallet. I'm feeling so not royal. Getting old sure is fun!

4. Renovations. ...And the hammering continues! This week we (meaning the contractors) made some great progress. All of the drywall is up, all holes are patched (yay), and the new recessed lighting is working in both the family room and office. We (my husband and I) agreed on furniture purchases, paint color, and flooring for both rooms as well as the countertop for the family room built in cabinets. Phew! Painter starts Monday.


5. Book News. Well... I have exciting news: Nate Rocks the Boat officially has a book cover!! I love it and I hope you will to! Want to see it? Come back during the week for the big reveal (don’t you love when I do that?) As for Nate Rocks the World... it is still going strong on the Kindle top 100 list for children's books for boys. I've had some fun blog hopping this week. Thank you to From The TBR Pile and Second Bookshelf on the Right for letting me take over their blogs during the week. Visit their blogs to read about my inspirations in writing.  I also gave my website a little makeover (including the addition of some cute new readers...) what do you think?

I hope everyone has a great week. Leave me a comment and let me know your Friday Five. I’ll see you next Friday and hopefully sooner.

Xo
Karen

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The Art of Editing... aka... When To Stop



Did I mention I finished writing the second book in the Nate Rocks Series: Nate Rocks the Boat? It sounds so final, but in reality, there is so much more work to be done! For starters, I need to have the book professionally edited. So what’s the big deal? Just find an editor and send the manuscript off right? Well – sort of.

I do have an editor lined up, and I feel pretty confident that she will be able to make sure the final version of Nate Rocks the Boat is the best it can possibly be. But, I’m the type of person who has to make sure the manuscript is as close to perfect as possible, before I even think of handing it over to a set of professional eyes. (Meet my OCD, type A, neurotic side... yes – I’m that person who cleans before the cleaning person shows up.)

And so my endless editing now begins. It started with a run down (or twenty) of each chapter... taking notes so that I can make sure things flow and make sense. Why? Because I’m old and forgetful. Case in point: In this book, Nate goes to camp. In chapter one, I call it Camp Spring Ridge, further down it turns into Pine Tree Camp, with about five variations in between. I think I’ve got them all the same now – I think.

Step two in my editing process: The Reading. This is very important. I spend a day reading the entire book out loud. I always tell my kids to read their essays out loud to make sure they sound okay – let me tell you – this works! The audience is very important as well. Since none of the humans in my house seem willing to sit and listen to an entire book in one sitting (and really, I don’t blame them) I have to rely on the only other living beings in my house: my cats – two seven month old kittens. If they fall asleep or run away during the first chapter, I know I’m in trouble.




Once we make it all the way to the end without so much as a yawn, then I know we are good to send the manuscript off to the editor. And this is where I am today.... wish me (and the kittens) luck!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

When is A Man Cave Not A Man Cave?

A few years ago my husband and I were thinking of moving and began the daunting task of house hunting. I was focused on kitchens and closet space. He was focused on where he could put his man cave.

Man what? Apparently this is a space in the house where the men can congregate – preferably in the basement.

The requirements are:

photo credit: MikeBehnken via photo pin cc

-areas to display said man’s sports paraphernalia and shot glass collection
-several pieces of leather furniture
-a *real* dart board
-a small refrigerator for the man’s adult beverages
-a pool table
-a large flat screen tv/stereo system/gaming system/surround sound
-a ventilated area for cigar smoking
-an office area for the man’s computer



-oh and no woMen allowed

Thanks to the housing market and our inability to sell our existing home, we stayed put and my husband’s man cave dreams were crushed. Our current basement is more like an odd shaped storage unit - without any chance of becoming a man cave.

However, not all hope was lost. Toward the back of the house we had an extra bedroom. It started out as an office and had morphed through the years into that room where you put everything that doesn’t have a home. The room you keep telling yourself you will clean out, but never do. The room that always has the door shut. The soon to be new man cave....

Mother nature must have thought we needed a little push because she decided to create a blizzard last year that created an ice dam under our roof that created a water fall in our spare room that caused us my husband to empty it out and call a contractor to begin work on his soon to be man cave.

The man cave was finally going to happen ... with concessions.

1. There would be no pool table – the room is big, but not that big.
2. There would be no cigar smoking.
3. There would be women...

That’s right you heard me. My husband recognized the fact that I needed a space for my writing *stuff* and we agreed to convert the back part of the room into an office area we both could use. We will each have an L shaped desk against the back wall, with a printer/fax station in the middle. Yes, I will have my back to everything, but I will still be in the room. I have already picked out this lamp for my desk:




No even I'm not that mean...  Below is actually the lamp I want (although, I guess in man cave terms it's really not much better.)





Plus I have to have my beloved Degas print on the wall above my desk.



Oh and did I mention the day bed? That’s right, instead of the leather couch, we will have a day bed for guest sleeping. I’m guessing floral bedding won’t work.



But have no fear – we still have plans for that flat screen tv and maybe even a leather armchair for my husband’s much anticipated man “area.”

Friday, January 13, 2012

The Friday Five 1-13-12

It’s Friday the 13th! I hope everyone has had a great week... it’s been a bit long for me. Here’s what’s been going on here...

1. Sickness. I really hope this isn’t going to be a weekly feature on the Friday Five, but here we go again! It started last Friday with a call from school to pick up my oldest. He had the dreaded stomach virus that has been going around. I followed him around with Lysol for 2 days straight, and I think the rest of us have safely escaped this round. Instead, I wound up with bronchitis. My husband followed suit with a sinus infection. Fun times!


2. Construction. The contractors were supposed to show up at 8am on Monday. We are renovating our family room and our back bedroom (Yay! I’m finally getting an office!) They showed up at 7am – at least they showed up right? Contractors – meet my PJs...

3. Editing. Do you know what I hate worse than editing? Editing while sick with contractors banging away in the background! But, at some point the hammering and coughing all became white noise, and I actually got through the first draft of Nate Rocks the Boat. So far staying right on schedule!

4. Winter Sports. I’m personally not a fan, but I get it. My oldest is a snowboarder. Tonight is his first trip of the season. On Friday the 13th... nearly three years to the day after he broke both his arms going down the very same mountain. I’m allowed to be neurotic. I’m the mom. That’s what we do.


5. Book News. Thank you to Sarah Butland, Books 4 Tomorrow and D. Robert Pease for hosting me on their blogs this week. I also had the pleasure of having two great kids review Nate Rocks the World for me this week.  I love hearing from the kids. You can read their reviews at Alchemy of Scrawl and My Devotional Thoughts.

I also love getting pictures! This week I received a picture from David – who just turned 10 yesterday. If your child has enjoyed Nate Rocks the World – send me a picture of them reading and I’ll put them on my website!







I hope everyone has a great week! Leave me a comment below and let me know what's in your Friday Five. I'll see you all Friday and hopefully sooner!

xo
Karen

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Book Review: Noah Zarc: Mammoth Trouble

What do you get when you combine a 12 year old who can time travel through outer space, a family who wants to save Earth’s animals, and a cave girl who has never been to Mars? You get Noah Zarc: Mammoth Trouble – a fun and action packed book that both kids and adults will love.

I have to admit – Science Fiction never really peaked my interest. In fact, I may be the only person who has never seen Star Wars (It’s true!) So, nobody was more surprised than I was, when I found myself not being able to put D. Robert Pease’s Middle Grade novel down. In fact, I read it over the course of a single weekend.

Without giving away the plot or the ending, let me highlight a few of the things I loved about this book:

• The main character Noah, is a paraplegic – yet he doesn’t let it get him down. I love how his character’s disability is written – sort of like an afterthought – it’s important, but it doesn’t change who Noah is, proving nothing can slow him down. A great message for kids and adults.
• Noah has to tackle some tough issues regarding his family. D. Robert Pease does a great job of showing the range of emotions a boy this age would go through in this situation – while keeping the writing appropriate for the age of his target readers.
• For the adult readers – there are some great references. For instance there is a reference to one of their old space ships crashing in New Mexico a while back. It sort of reminds me of Shrek in that there are lines for both kids and adults to enjoy – but for different reasons. I’m sure there are many more references in Noah Zarc I didn’t get, since I am not a science fiction aficionado. Hopefully my husband can clue me in once he reads it!

Despite the title and biblical references (Noah’s siblings are named Sam and Hamilton and they live on a spaceship called ARC) this is not a religious story. It is however, a fun space age version of the ancient tale with many twists and turns to keep both you and your young reader wanting more. Definitely a 5 star book for me - I am looking forward to book two!


Blog Tour Notes

Noah Zarc: Mammoth TroubleOVERVIEW

Noah lives for piloting spaceships through time, dodging killer robots and saving Earth's animals from extinction.
Life couldn't be better.
But the twelve-year-old time traveler learns it could be a whole lot worse. His mom is kidnapped and taken to Mars; his dad is stranded in the Ice Age; and Noah is attacked at every turn by a foe bent on destroying Earth... for the second time.
Get your copy today by visiting Amazon.com (available in paperback or as an eBook) or the online retailer of your choice (more links below).
CASH PRIZES

Guess what? You could win a $50 Amazon gift card as part of this special blog tour. That’s right! Just leave a comment below saying something about the post you just read, and you’ll be entered into the raffle. I could win $50 too by having the most comments. So tell your friends to stop by and comment on this post too!
GIVEAWAY

Win 1 of 5 copies of the paperback version of Noah Zarc: Mammoth Trouble by entering the giveaway on GoodReads.
D. Robert PeaseTHE AUTHOR

D. Robert Pease has been interested in creating worlds since childhood. From building in the sandbox behind his house, to drawing fantastical worlds with paper and pencil, there has hardly been a time he hasn't been off on some adventure in his mind, to the dismay of parents and teachers alike. Also, since the moment he could read, books have consumed vast swaths of his life. From The Mouse and the Motorcycle, to The Lord of the Rings, worlds just beyond reality have called to him like Homer's Sirens. It's not surprising then he chose to write stories of his own. Each filled with worlds just beyond reach, but close enough we can all catch a glimpse of ourselves in the characters.
Discover ways to connect with the author by visiting his site at www.drobertpease.com
BOOK TRAILER

THANK YOU! for visiting. And don't forget to comment below for that chance to win the $50 Amazon gift card. And of course head on over to your favorite online book store and buy a copy of Noah Zarc: Mammoth Trouble, for you or for the kids in your life.
Amazon Paperback | Amazon Kindle | Barnes & Noble Nook | Apple iBookstore | Smashwords | Diesel eBook Store | CreateSpace Paperback | Amazon UK | Amazon France | Amazon Germany



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I'm on Tour!



Please visit me today at these awesome blogs:

Monday, January 9, 2012

Sleep vs. The Cold...


photo credit: bookgrl via photo pin cc
You know that commercial where one spouse takes the cold medicine and sleeps soundly, and the other one doesn’t and is up all night? ...Yeah.... It’s not my fault. Those medicines never agree with me, the side effects usually wind up being worse than the problem I was originally trying to treat.

I wasn’t planning on blogging today, but since I apparently have a few hours to kill...

It’s been a while since I’ve been sick like this. The last time was about two years ago (almost to the day) I remember, because we were re-doing our kitchen, and I had bronchitis. In fact, my Facebook status (which frankly, I’m too lazy to look up) was something to the effect of – it’s probably not a good idea for bronchitis girl to be in the house with all this drywall dust – or something along those lines.

Isn’t it funny how we can remember our old Facebook statuses based on different events in our lives (or is it just me and if it is, please just nod in agreement anyway – I’m old, sick, and tired.) Anyway, I find it kind of ironic because we haven’t really done any major home repairs since then, and in just a few hours, the contractor will be knocking on the door to start our second big project since we moved into this house over 8 years ago. And yes, there will again be drywall dust to contend with. Talk about deja vu.

This time we are tackling two rooms – our family room and our back room (aka our future ‘man cave’ minus the corner carved out for me for an office. Does that negate the room of being a man cave? I think I may have to blog about that separately one day.) Both rooms were the victims of major flooding last winter. We put on the new roof in the spring and finally, it’s time to tackle the interior.

I’m excited – well except for the drywall dust part, and the noise, and this cold, and my lack of sleep...

Thanks for keeping me company tonight!

Xo
Karen

Friday, January 6, 2012

The Friday Five: 1-6-12

It’s the first Friday Five of 2012!! I hope you all have had a great week - - Anyone make any resolutions? I have the usual – eating better, exercising, and writing! So far, I’ve gotten in some writing (oh well – one out of three isn’t bad right?) Here’s what else has been going on this week:




1. Happy New Year! A normal New Years Eve for me consists of take out food with my family and falling asleep on the sofa before the ball drops. This year however, we went to not one, but two parties. The first was a 'toddler new year's eve party.' It started in the afternoon and at 5:59pm we all began the countdown to *New Year* (aka 6:00pm toddler time.) There were strobe lights, noise makers, the works - It was a lot of fun for all. After that, we stopped by a friend's house to celebrate. Good friends, good food, and plenty of fun. We had all the kids with us, so we did not stay out until midnight, but I am happy to report I stayed awake to actually see the ball drop this year! I think that's a sign - it's going to be a great 2012 for all of us!



2. Best Seller! I know, I know – I usually wait until the end to talk about book news, but this is just so dang exciting! On Saturday, Nate Rocks the World broke into Amazon’s top 10 list for children’s ebooks for boys (I know!) I even snuck ahead of Beiber for a few hours. Go Nate!



3. The Cleanup. I wrote about The Holiday Hangover, but I have to say, this year went pretty smoothly. We are getting ready to start some renovations, so we needed to clear out our family room. That meant cleaning up the living room, since the contents of the family room had to move to the living room. (confused?) That meant bye-bye all the holiday stuff. We (meaning mostly my hubby) managed to clear everything out in just a few hours. A lot different than last year when things hung around until February! Of course, now my living room is a mess with other stuff...

4. Back to School. Sorry kids, while the rest of the country was enjoying a federal holiday on Monday, your school decided to open. 6:00 am was p-a-i-n-f-u-l! But, you’ll be thanking them in the spring when you get out a day early. It's been a bit rocky getting back into the swing of things, but everyone survived their first week back relatively unscathed.



5. Book News.  First off, I have super exciting news! I finished writing the first draft of Nate Rocks the Boat  - the next book in the Nate Rocks series. I'm hoping (crossing everything my arthritic body will allow me to cross) to have a spring release. For those who would like to support this endeavor, I have started a Kickstarter Campaign. As for Nate Rocks the World,  I'd like to thank Pixel of Ink - Young Reader Edition and The Cheap for highlighting my book this past week. I'd also like to thank Rute Canhoto for having me on her blog - check it out for my first ever bilingual review and interview! Also - stop by Books 4 Tomorrow on Sunday January 8th to read a post I wrote about the reluctant reader.

Hope everyone has a great weekend – thanks for checking in. Leave me a comment and let me know what’s in your Friday Five. See you next Friday... and hopefully sooner!

xo
Karen


Thursday, January 5, 2012

New Years Resolutions – Dreams Can Come True


I’ll admit it – I am one of those people who pigs out from Thanksgiving though New Years. It’s okay though because starting January 1st ... 6th , I’ll start dieting and exercising. You know – "New Year... New You" and all that business.

But in 2010, I did make a resolution that changed my life. For thirteen years, I had been carrying around an idea in my head for a book (No, not Nate, this is a different book.) I tried to sit down and write it many times over the years and just could never get past a couple of paragraphs. In 2010, I resolved to write three chapters. They didn’t even have to be the first three chapters; I just wanted to get the process started. It seemed doable – I had an entire year to accomplish this. It wasn’t until May of that year that I decided to sit down and start.


photo credit: Adikos via photo pin cc

I wish I could tell you what happened – explain this overwhelming feeling that came over me. Whereas in the past, I struggled to get out just a few sentences, this time the words flowed ... and flowed ... and flowed. I just couldn’t stop! I HAD to write everyday. For years I tried to get up early to exercise (which by the way, still wasn’t happening) yet, I was more than willing to get up at the crack of dawn to write.

Within three months, I had 85,000 word novel under my belt. I felt GREAT! I hired a “writing coach” to work through some holes and other editing issues, I sent out agent queries, I ‘filed’ away the rejections, and I moved on. Strangely, I wasn't disappointed - I had found a new passion. Two months later, I created Nate Rocks.

 Did it matter that I didn't start on January 1st? No. Did it feel awesome to accomplish a goal? Oh yeah! Will I try to stick to my other two resolutions? Perhaps ...

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Author Spotlight: Fran Lewis




I first met Fran Lewis about a month ago. I was a guest on “A Good Story is A Good Story” on Blog Talk Radio with Marsha Casper Cook. Fran was also a guest. I knew that Fran was a respected book reviewer and radio host (she has her own show called Book Discussion with Fran Lewis on Blogtalk Radio.), but I did not know Fran was a fellow children’s author. I just knew I had to learn more about this energetic and lovely woman!


Fran has three children’s books: My Name is Bertha, Bertha Speaks Out, and Bertha Fights Back.

So without any further delay – let’s meet Bertha:








Sometimes I wonder just how I am going to get through another day of school. Some of the kids are really mean and are constantly making fun of me because I am overweight, my clothes are not very stylish and I have to wear saddle shoes because my feet are flat. Added to that everyone considers me tall for my age. At 10 I am five feet tall but I can tell you know compared to some of the other kids I am really quite short. My sister, Tillie is really very pretty and she does not like when the other kids make fun of me or try to embarrass me when I walk up the stairs, do square dancing during gym or even try and play outdoor sports. She is thin, agile and has the most beautiful voice in the world. She stars in all of the school’s musicals. This year she will play Anna in the King and I and last year she played Julie in Carousel. I get to play the piano for her during the show. I am really great on the piano and now with my new black-rimmed glasses you do not want to know what I look like.

Rehearsals are fun and I love playing the score from this show. But, I really hope they let me play at least one or two during the real performance which is on Friday Night at 8P.M. My sister really wants me to accompany her at least for two or three of the songs since I have been playing during the rehearsals. My sister wears glasses too and we joke about the fact that she can’t see without them. So, I have the cutest present for her for after the show. (Please don’t tell Tillie: A great bouquet of carrots in order to improve her eyesight). Cute right!

I have spent many days trying to lose weight and go on some kind of diet. But, no matter how hard I try I seem to always want to eat sweets, ice cream, pizza and other junk foods when I feel stressed or have to study for a test. My mom is great but she insists that I get a perfect score on my tests. If I get anything but 100 percent I have to write the test over to learn from my mistakes. So, I get stressed out, pig out and pray that I get a perfect score so I don’t have to spend time writing math, science or any other test over again.

Being overweight is not great. Losing weight is hard. Being kind to other kids and teaching them tolerance and not to make fun of others is what the teachers try to do but do not always succeed in doing. Remember: There is lunchtime, recess and gym time and that is when the teachers might not hear or see everything that happens. But, for those of you out there who are overweight and feel they will never lose an ounce. Don’t give up. With the help of my sister, Tillie, my grandmother, Katie and one smart doctor who figured out I had a thyroid problem, I know I will lose some weight.

P.S. I am going to accompany my sister on Friday Night for at least two songs. Playing the piano and the violin makes me feel special. Everyone has a talent and everyone is special and unique in his/her own way. I am lucky to have a great sister like Tillie. She is my best friend.

Love,
Bertha



Fran's Sister Marcia - aka Tillie



~~~~~

Bertha is my character’s name
Hoping to get her some glory and fame
Won’t you take a chance and read about her
Bertha Speaks Out you might prefer

She is over weight and not so cute
She is smart and very astute
Her mind works overtime and she has great wit
Never underestimating her I will admit

Resourceful and clever at weight loss camp
She hid her away her snacks this smart scamp
Dealing with tough girls and getting straight A’s
Bertha finally speaks out and changes her ways

A teacher who gave her a really hard time
Would not submit her story and that was a crime
Because her classmates rated it the best
She would not sit still or give it a rest

Although she might not have gone about all the right way
She finally spoke out and had her own day
To express to her parents how she really did feel
You need to read my book Bertha it has great appeal.

She Fights Back next against injustice and more
So read all three of her books and learn the real score.

-Fran and Bertha



~~~~~

What I love about Fran’s books is that they teach, among other things, acceptance. I’m thinking Bertha and Nate Rocks should meet up – yes, I know Nate doesn’t like girls, but I’m pretty sure he’d make an exception for this amazing young lady! Just imagine what they could accomplish if they tackled the world together!

Thank you so much Fran for introducing us to Bertha today!





Books By Fran Lewis:

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/s/fran-lewis
http://www.betterworldbooks.com/fran-lewis-H0.aspx?SearchTerm=fran+lewis

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Why I Started A Kickstarter Campaign




I’ll be honest – up until a few weeks ago, I never even heard of Kickstarter. But a tweet by a friend of mine caught my eye. My friend and fellow author, Elise Stokes, was (and still is) looking to raise money to help with some of the costs of publishing a book she is writing.

I was intrigued. You mean you can set up fundraising campaigns to help with your artistic endeavors? It’s true. Now, what you cannot do is set up a “fund my life and pay my bills” type of campaign which obviously would be quite helpful. But what you can do is present your project to the world; with the hopes that someone out there might think you are worth backing. I’m not talking about backing with millions of dollars (again – this would be quite helpful!) I’m talking about backing with as little as $1.

When I first heard about self-publishing, I initially (and foolishly) thought I could just upload my book and poof – I was done. No money – no problem. Luckily, I did my research before I even began. I did not want to be just another of the 8 million books already listed on Amazon. I wanted my book to be known – to be read - and that, I quickly learned required money.

The first stop on my journey, after writing what I considered to be a pretty great story [can I say that? My mom whole heartedly agreed when I asked her to read my rough draft ;) ], was to get my book professionally edited. Guess what? That costs money. Then, being a bit technologically and artistically challenged, I needed to hire an illustrator/cover designer/interior designer.... more money. Uploading my finished product to the distributor ... you guessed it – more money. Then we have marketing expenses – swag, advertising, you name it – and well – as you can imagine... that costs even more money. So as you can see – it was a little more complicated (and expensive) than I initially thought. But with some help – I made it through and published my book. I am now am excited to say that Nate Rocks the World is soaring on the Amazon Children’s EBooks for Boys chart!

I’ve had so much great feedback from teachers, parents, and most importantly children. They all want to know – when is the next Nate Rocks book coming out? Well... I happen to have just finished the first draft (YAY!) of Nate Rocks the Boat... and this is where my Kickstarter Campaign comes in....

So what’s in it for you? Well – for any pledge over $5 there are prizes, swag, and incentives. Not to mention, knowing that you helped give the gift of reading.

Please take a moment to check out my Kickstarter Campaign; as well as some of the others listed on the site. I have backed a few myself (including my friend Elise’s found here) – there are some great projects out there! Thank you so much for your continued support!

xo
Karen

Monday, January 2, 2012

How To Write Middle Grade Fiction: Advice From My Husband



A few weeks ago my husband and I were sitting together as we often do – each of us with our own laptops, doing our own thing. I was busy writing a chapter for the second book in the Nate Rocks series: Nate Rocks the Boat. Suddenly, my husband looks up and says those seven words every writer wants to hear:


photo credit: Βethan via photo pin cc

“Make sure your second book doesn’t suck.”

Um... sure – I’ll do my best. What he actually meant was that in many series, ‘second books’ just don’t live up to the same wow factor that often accompanies first books.

I agree with the advice... the delivery, not so much – welcome to my husband’s dry sense of humor.

A few days later, when I asked him if he thought it was appropriate to use the word “heck” in a book meant for 7-12 year olds, he had more sage advice for me:

“Sure – just don’t use ...[the F-word] or ...[the P-word...meow]... especially... [the P-word.] That probably wouldn’t go over well.”

I decided to go with heck.

But seriously, it got me thinking about my writing.

In Book 1, Nate Rocks the World, I use the word “stupid.” It is used as a descriptive (This is stupid) not as an insult (You are stupid.) While no one complained, I do feel a bit like I stretched the ‘appropriateness’ boundary a bit. I don’t know, did I? Is it okay to use words like ‘stupid,’ and ‘heck’ in children’s books?

What about the F-word? No not that F-word! I’m talking about the F-word of 7-12 year olds... Fart!

In Book 2, Nate Rocks the Boat, I have a situation where one such fart takes place. Admittedly, I first wrote the scene with the following words: “A gassy sound emitted from his bottom.” What can I say, I really wanted to keep Book 2 clean. But seriously, how many kids walk around saying that? So I deleted that line and wrote, “He farted.”

When you hear your children giggling as they read the next Nate Rocks book, you’ll know why.

...and stay tuned ... my husband says he wants to write a guest post for my blog all about how to write Middle Grade Fiction. You've been warned ...

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