Eighteen years ago my second child was born. But she was a very unique baby. She was born with Biliary Atresia. It’s amazing how a term you don’t even know exists can change your life forever.
Biliary Atresia is a liver disease where the liver’s bile ducts are too narrow or closed completely. It doesn’t allow the liver to do its job. Many times, a liver transplant is needed to save the person’s life. That was Jackie’s case.
When we were preparing for her transplant, even though she was little, I was looking for a picture book to help her prepare for it. I knew it was a complicated subject, but I wanted something that would help with the conversation.
I found a few books here and there, but nothing that would walk a child through the main parts of the process. I also wanted the right balance of information without being too scary. That’s when I knew I needed to write one of my own.
When I explained what was going to happen to her, Jackie is the one who called her donor an “Angel Donor,” which is now the title of the book.
Unfortunately, once COVID hit, my publisher was hit hard and had to shut down. However, I know that to this day families struggle with this disease and with this situation. I knew Angel Donor should not disappear. Now,, I’m planning to publish a second edition independently. The awesome and super amazing illustrator, Samantha Bell, worked with me to ensure we could reuse the illustrations.
In order to make this a reality, I’m gauging interest, I’ve created a group on Facebook. There, I will be bouncing ideas off members, get feedback for the project I’m working on, and the members get to be a part of the process.
I find that sometimes writing is a real roller coaster. There are times writers may have a “love/hate” relationship with writing. It can be so exciting and rewarding. You create something and just watching the magic come together is an emotional high like no other. But then there are other days. Days where writing can seem terrifying. You might feel your work is awful. “What’s the point?” “You’ll never be as good as…”
It’s a strange phenomenon. I haven’t had too many of those scary days lately – but they do creep up when you least expect it. So how do you get through those times? Do you give up? Throw in the towel? Hang up your pen?
Do you take a step back? Take a deep breath? Take a break? These are certainly great options, especially if you are feeling overwhelmed. Sometimes just going for a walk to refresh your mind will help. Sometimes just writing through it helps. Look to a journal or a blog about your writing progress to sort out those complicated feelings.
But, when you’re done, that story you were working on? It’s still there. Your muse will return because chances are, if you have a story idea in your head – that Muse will not leave you alone. So do what you need to recover from the writing lows when you have them. There will be many more writing highs to look forward to.
Fractured Jewel, by Brenda Hiatt is a novella between books 4 and 5 in the Starstruck series. I was happy to see this book because I loved the characters M and Rigel. This story picks up after the end of book 4 when M tells her Aunt Theresa about about her being a Martian princess, her people, and the potential disasters that she and Rigel were able to thwart. However, when M’s uncle finds out, it sets off a chain of events that led to another life or death scenario for M.
I really enjoyed the story and loved seeing the story pick up from book 4. I do wish it was a full book, but I will take what I can get. Judging from the other titles after this one, it looks like the other books pick up stories from other characters. I’m not sure how I feel about that as M and Rigel are so fascinating, but we’ll see. In the meantime, this book definitely didn’t disappoint. The action toward the end once again had me clinging to my seat and I couldn’t stop reading until the end.
If you’re a fan of the previous Starstruck novels, you will be sure to enjoy this one. And once you get caught up, definitely check out her website as it looks like another installment is out! Yay!
Digital Citizenship. I haven’t talked that much about this recently, but it is something that always weighs on my mind. When I taught Technology I spent weeks on this concept. Now, more than ever, it is important to pay attention to the elements of being a good digital citizen.
One of the topics I focused on in my classes was the concept that everything you put on the internet is permanent AKA “Be careful what you post.” I wanted to get the point across that future employers, schools, and more can search and find posts of you that may not even represent you anymore – but it’s there on the internet. Technology is amazing, when used properly as a tool. However, if it is misused, as we can see, it can cause many problems.
Lately, I’m reading story after story of people getting in trouble for what they post. A Facebook post here, or a nasty comment there. People have been convicted of crimes because of their own post or video of them committing the crime. And the thing is, the consequences don’t discriminate. We are seeing people from regular citizens to lawmakers feeling the effects of their social media posts, which is why it is more important than ever for us to watch what we post.
To help with this I created a poster indicating what digital citizenship is. It started when I began writing my debut novel, Souled. The book lightly touches on digital distraction as the main character spends more and more time on gaming until he is “consumed” by it. Since then, I’ve been reaching out with my social media on these topics, which I feel are so important and relevant. That’s why I created the poster on the Nine Elements of Digital Citizenship. You can get a free PDF version HERE.
As time goes on, I plan to continue tackling the issues of digital distraction and digital citizenship. I’m also working with the creator of Primed for Life to offer alternatives to digital consumption. With just a little bit of knowledge and awareness, we can use technology to do great and wonderful things!
UPDATE #1 – Souled is FREE for Kindle Unlimited Customers If you are a member of Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited, you can now read Souled for free! Kindle has been working with authors and readers to help get books in the hands (well – devices) of readers. When you read it, be sure to leave a review – even a sentence or two will help the book get seen by other readers. Thank you again for your continued support! Free Kindle Version of Souled
Free e-book below ⬇️
UPDATE #2 – MY NEW COLLABORATION I’m excited to share that I have collaborated with THE Dave D’Aoust in helping his clients fight digital distraction. When he heard about how Souled was inspired by the way digital media consumes our kids, he asked me to teach a few classes in his Primed For Life Series. I now have three writing courses with him and depending on need, there could be more in the future. We shall see what happens.
UPDATE #3 – NEW FACEBOOK GROUP FOR WRITING HELP
I created a new Facebook Group to help with the writing process. I created it to go along with the writing courses I have with Dave D’Aoust, but really anyone who is interested in the writing process can join. Check it out here: Get Writing – Writing, Editing, and Publishing Help.
There is sooooo much to say about this book! There’s a bunch of things I loved about it, a few things – not so much. So, here it goes.
I loved the idea of a series guide. There is so much to keep track of in the Keeper series, and as an avid fan, I loved reminiscing with the characters and reading about additional tidbits. The series guide made up about 2/3 – maybe more of the 747- page book. So the first thing I want to point out is that this does include a novella which is abut 235 pages long. For many middle grade books, that would even be considered a full book. However, if you’re used to the size of the Keeper books, calling this a novella makes perfect sense. We’ll talk more about the novella later.
The guide consists of several sections: The Registry, The World of the Lost Cities, Portraits, Life in the Lost Cities, Rebel Groups, Intelligent Species, Activities, and special Keefe memories.
My favorite parts were the portraits and Keefe memories. I’ve always been a fan of Keeper Art by Laura Hollingsworth, and her art was just as spectacular as ever. Even if you skip over the other parts – make sure you take a peek. These are breathtaking.
I liked the Registry section. It was fun getting more details on some of the characters. And, as usual, Keefe’s did not disappoint. Some of them were a little long. I couldn’t tell if it was just my anticipation of getting to the novella part or if some parts were just long. Either way, I still enjoyed it.
Life in the Lost Cities section was interesting for me as a writer (always learning from the greats), but I feel it could have been a little shorter for kids who just want to “get to the good stuff”.
Another favorite section of mine was the Activities section. There are fun quizzes, a coloring page, and recipes that look so fun to try. My daughters went shopping recently and are planning to try the Lushberry Juice.
THIS is what I was dying to get to. If you’ve read Book 8, then you know why. I had to find out what happened. Yes, the Keeper books can have killer cliff hangers. I usually do not like cliff hangers. I like to have some closure – but as a writer I completely get why they are important. Too much closure can deflate interest.
The novella was different from the other books in that each chapter switched between Sophie and Keefe’s point of view. I really liked that. It was cool to get inside Keefe’s head – though definitely not less frustrating *looking at YOU Keefe*
Over all I found the novella to be informative, curious, relieving, hopeful, and also quite sad. I’m not going to elaborate on that. You’ll have to read it to find out why. Of course the biggest feeling the book left me with was anticipation. I just have to know what’s going to happen next.
From a Writer’s Perspective
I love writing, world creating, and learning. So part of me wanted this book to learn about how much detail goes into world creating – and boy is it a lot! While reading it with a writer’s eye, I found it so interesting to see the development of the characters, the world building, and just how much fun a writer can have with their creation. There is a beautiful map ( illustrated by Francesca Baerald ) of the Lost Cities attached to the inside cover of the book. Absolute Perfection!
Shannon Messenger worked hard on this series and her world building and it shows. Somewhere I read a quote from her that it took a year for her to create this world. I believe it. There is not one detail she hadn’t thought of. She is definitely someone to learn from.
If you are on the fence about getting the book – I say go for it. There’s so much to it that I really feel a Keeper fan will enjoy some – if not -all of it. I wish it didn’t end the way it did, but again, as a writer I totally get why.
While I noticed the hardback wasn’t available anymore as of today’s date, you can still find a paperback or E-book here:
This 32-page book is filled with beautiful illustrations by Nejla Shojaie, which complements the magic and wonder a child has about this holiday. The story starts as a question: Where does Santa and Mrs. Claus go on vacation? The following pages are filled with fun and imaginative possibilities that can spark conversations with your little reader throughout the story.
Several months back, I purchased the picture book I Wish You Happiness by Michael Wong and illustrated by Ann Baratashvili through Michael Wong’s Kickstarter campaign. I was delighted to get it in the mail recently. Let me tell you, I am so glad I chose to support this book.
It. Is. Gorgeous. Everything about the book is beautiful from the lustrous illustrations to its message of tranquility, peace, and happiness. Page after page is filled with wishes of encouragement for various life experiences complemented by the sense of awe and wonder created by the illustrations. The team of author and illustrator in this book was a perfect match.
I also loved the supplemental pages at the end that highlights a few surprises in the illustrations. This was a great book that I highly recommend. Hopefully, you can grab it before Christmas this year. What an amazing way to begin 2021 – with messages of hope and encouragement.
This is an adorable story about a sweet young girl who loves her bff, Nonnie.
Not just isn’t just any friend, but a lovely giraffe. What I loved about the story is how the main character grows and has room for all kinds of friends in her heart. The illustrations were beautiful throughout the story.
Excellent story, especially if you are looking for one on friendship.
Rhythm Rescue is a musically themed picture book. The author Vicky Weber did a great job integrating musical beats into the story so that the reader can join along.
In the story we follow Tala in the land of Music Metropolis as she makes her way through the city to visit her friend. Along the way she ran into a few problems- but we see that with the power of music, anything is possible!
This was a fun, engaging read which I’m sure children will enjoy clapping to the best as they help our hero Tala. While I would have loved to see more explanation of the musical notes used, I found it informative and an excellent way for children to “feel the beats”.
Over all, this was a fun way to to help child become familiar with musical beats. I definitely recommend it! You can get a copy at Amazon and it’s currently available for free in Kindle Unlimited! But, if you’re going to read it in the classroom, definitely get the paperback!