Hello friends! I hope you’re all healthy and safe! Like most of you, I’m still staying close to home, limiting my contacts, and wearing masks on the rare occasion that I'm out and about. But through all that, I’ve had a busy summer. I’ve been baking a lot (keep watch for another Baking Through Quarantine post coming soon), fostering kittens, and I’ve also been working on some exciting projects.
Yes, I’m talking about book projects!
You may remember back in 2013, I wrote and published a story called Pie and Other Brilliant Ideas about a young girl and her love of ballet. While that book received positive feedback, I decided to pull it from shelves shortly after publishing. It was a lovely story, but it wasn’t the exact story I wanted to write. And back then, I didn’t have the time or ability to write the exact story I wanted to write.
Fast forward to 2020.
I know, I’d rather skip right over it too, but here we are, and I’m feeling inspired.
More importantly, I’m feeling ready, and that means diving deep into research about all things related to training with Russian ballet academies during communist Soviet rule. After just a few weeks, I’ve got pages (and pages) of notes from my research. Much of the research has been fascinating. And while there's been some eye-opening moments, there's also been some amazing surprises. Like this one that came across my doorstep yesterday:
Maya Plisetskaya was not only one of the most celebrated and talented prima ballerinas to come out of the Soviet Union, but she was also a Jewish dancer, entering the Bolshoi Academy under Stalin’s rule. This book is her memoir, and according to the blurb, it tells it all. Everything. I had to have a copy and found one in an online used bookstore. Imagine my SURPRISE when I opened it to find this inscription:
It’s in Russian, and I don’t speak Russian (although my Quarantine French lessons are coming along nicely.) But I put out a call on social media and it turns out someone responded with help! Okay fine, it was my mother. She sent the inscription to a friend of hers who is Russian and this was her response:
I checked the credits on the book. Sure enough the translator’s first name is Antonina ... a formal possibility for Anna.
My first thought was why would the woman who translated the book give away or sell her copy? Her signed copy? Of course, in her defense, my own child did put his signed copy of NATE ROCKS THE WORLD on the top of his giveaway pile last summer. But I’m no Maya Plisetskaya.
Not. Even. Close.
Whatever the reason, it’s now in my hands. The hands of someone who loves both books and ballet. And I couldn’t be happier or feel more inspired.
Hello! I hope you’re all doing well. Like much of the world, I’ve been locked away for the past ten weeks. You may think it’s a writer's dream, but the truth is the words have been scarce. Instead, I’ve been reviewing and revising my two most recent manuscripts, Daisy Deely and Backyard Boys, and I'm excited to announce that Backyard Boys is now officially titled THE BACKYARD SECRETS OF DANNY WEXLER and will be coming out next summer.
Also, I’ve been baking. Oh, have I been baking.
It started with my one old standby - really my one and only - banana muffins. But after a few batches, I realized one really can get sick of them. Who knew? So I moved on. Below are some of my quarantine culinary creations. I call them “Corona Comfort Food.” Before you get too impressed, know that for every recipe I googled, there was an easy version and a complicated version. I always opted for the easy version. Also, I’m happy to share where I found these recipes. You can find links to them by clicking on the photos.
One other thing to note: I inadvertently added an extra stick of butter to the scones (oops) but I had it on British authority that while they didn’t taste like authentic scones, they were still really good. I mean, they did have twice the amount of butter so...
Other recipe notes.. for the lemon cake, I skipped the glaze and opted for powder sugar, and for the banana breakfast bars, I passed on the peanut butter drizzle and added chocolate chips instead because chocolate. FYI, for those interested, my banana muffin recipe is from my tried and true Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book. You know the one your mother had with the red and white checkerboard cover? This mom has it too.
I hope everyone stays safe and healthy. Happy baking!
Happy New Year! I once heard that the way you spend New Year’s Day lets the universe know how you want to spend your entire year. For me, that meant hanging out with family and furbabies, writing, and zero laundry. Of course my day would not be complete without reading! With a cup of steaming coffee and a comfy soft blanket, I curled up in my favorite chair and got lost in the pages of A Time Traveler’s Theory of Relativity by Nicole Valentine.
The story starts out with twelve year old Finn wondering why his mother disappeared without a trace or explanation and quickly turns into a fabulous and well-written story of time traveling mysteries and secrets. With each chapter there are new layers to unfold: questions about changing history, sorting through feelings of grief, wondering who to trust, and understanding bonds of family and friendship. I loved all of the twists and turns, each one bringing the best kind of surprise and anticipation a reader hopes for in this type of story. A Time Traveler’s Theory of Relativity is an exciting, sincere, and fast-paced tale your entire family will enjoy. I look forward to future books from this author!
He believes in science, but only magic can help his mom.
Twelve-year-old Finn is used to people in his family disappearing. His twin sister, Faith, drowned when they were three years old. A few months ago, his mom abandoned him and his dad with no explanation. Finn clings to the concrete facts in his physics books—and to his best friend, Gabi—to ward off his sadness. But then his grandmother tells him a secret: the women in their family are Travelers, able to move back and forth in time. Finn’s mom is trapped somewhere in the timeline, and she’s left Finn a portal to find her. But to succeed, he’ll have to put his trust in something bigger than logic.
Hello and Happy Tuesday! If you follow me on social media or subscribe to my newsletter, you may already know I have big news that has nothing to do with kittens or cats (or thankfully mice.) Shocking, I know! While I may have been a bit feline obsessed lately, I've also been busy writing. And today, I'm here to share some exciting writing news!
But first an apology, because I know it's been FOREVER since I've published a new book (or at least a few years.) I promise that I've been writing. A lot.
I'm excited to tell you that my latest story, tentatively titled BACKYARD BOYS will be published by Lerner Publishing/Kar-Ben, slated for 2021/2022 with pre-publication acceptance into the PJ Library's PJ Our Way program. It's still a bit of a wait, but (IMO) it's worth it.
So what is BACKYARD BOYS?
Here's a sneak peek at a brief summary as well as a graphic I put together for inspiration while writing:
Certain a recent kidnapping is linked to an old Bermuda Triangle alien theory, 11 year old Danny, the only Jewish boy in his town in 1978, tries to prove his hairy-handed piano teacher is involved. But he not only has to fight UFOs, he also has to fight anti-Semitism.
A couple of months ago, this popped up in my Facebook memories. It was the first time I mustered up the courage to send my work to an agent in hopes of securing representation for publication.
Nine years ago. It was for my book, Nate Rocks the World. So many of my friends and family cheered me on. Because the former accountant in me still loves spreadsheets, I can tell you I sent it to 85 agents. They all politely declined. I decided to create my own imprint and published it myself. I’m grateful for the love Nate received from readers and reviewers. It even won a few Indie awards. Over the next nine years I went on to write twelve more children's books and seven adult books. Some I queried with agents, some I didn’t. Some I published, some remain on my hard-drive. Along the way there have been plenty of rejections (according to my trusty spreadsheet, nearly 300 over nine years.) But there also have been many wonderful celebrations and a community of amazing readers and friends.
The sign below hangs in my office and has always been my mantra. Persistence pays off my friends, don’t give up on your dreams.
Hello! Pardon me while I dust off the old blog here... again. You all know I love animals, right? I've spent much of my time this spring, summer, and fall fostering cats and kittens, several of whom needed medical care, in hopes of getting them ready for adoption into their forever homes. In fact, I'm currently housing a family of five - a sweet mama and her four babies - all with sneezy upper respiratory infections, but who are getting healthier each day.
It's just that I believe some animals should be in the house, and some should be outside of the house. Specifically, I'm speaking about mice. More specifically, I'm speaking about the mouse that's in my BEDROOM at the moment. In light of my unwelcome guest, I thought I'd share a flashback blog post from February 19, 2017, because sadly, this isn't the first time this has happened.
I Am Woman Hear Me ... Eep
Sunday, February 19, 2017
Once upon a time there was a woman brave and strong. She thought she'd been through it all, surviving everything from health issues (I am a warrior), relationship failures (Oh the Internet dating disaster stories I could tell), financial stuff (That costs how much?), teen drama (Does this ever go away?), wasp infestation (I'm a pro at killing those suckers), and the list goes on. She (did I say I? Oh, okay, fine) was infallible … until one night, last night in fact, an itty bitty, teensy, weensy, furry little mouse ran across her bedroom floor at 11:00pm. I know!!
Here's what happened.
I was peacefully lying in bed, almost asleep, when I heard growling and hissing coming from my two cats. Expecting to see them fighting over a toy, I turned on the light to shush them, but instead screamed bloody murder at the sight of a little mouse scurrying across my floor. Somehow my 10 year old in the next room slept through this!
"Get it!" I yelled to my cats. I had no doubt "Frick and Frack", protectors of the freshly folded clean laundry, would be on the case. Look at them, they're fierce!
I know what you're thinking. I should have tried to catch the poor little guy (or gal), so I could set it free. I love animals and all, but, are you kidding? I was thinking more along the lines of burning my house down. Okay so maybe not -- that's a little extreme, crazy, and illegal - plus I need a place to live and there's the hassle of replacing all my stuff. Instead I decided to quickly and quietly sprint down the stairs to my living room in order to allow my cats the privacy to do what they're supposed to do. Yeah, sure, that's why I left.
I sat on my couch - reduced to a trembling ball of nerves wrapped in a blanket - and watched the 11:00 news (which stressed me out even more) as I listened to a ton of pitter-pattering overhead. And then ... silence. Did they get it? Was it gone? Could I reclaim my bedroom?
Be brave woman! I crept back upstairs, wrapping my blanket around my shoulders like a super-hero's cape and peeked through my doorway. One cat was under the bed while the other paced in a stalking-like manner. Ugh! Then, I did the unthinkable. I got into bed! It was midnight, and I had given myself a "Are you really going to let this tiny thing that's probably more afraid of you, rule your roost?" pep talk. "Besides," I continued, "it's quiet in here. It's probably dead by now anyway."
It sounded good until I heard the cats start growling again. I pulled the sheets up over my head and tried to think of happy things like my kids, and daisies, and a fresh canister of Pringles. At some point it got quiet and I nodded off, but then the chasing resumed. This was my night: a constant stream of growls, quiet, sleep, and commotion, that was light on the sleep and heavy on the commotion. But I was too tired and annoyed to get up and move to the couch.
Then, at around 5:00am a cat jumped on the bed. WHAT? Please don't let there be a mouse in my bed, I prayed. I cautiously looked around while he made himself comfortable. No mouse. A moment later cat number two jumped on the bed, also mouseless. They both curled up and went to sleep.
"Wait - that's it? You're giving up?" I demanded. "Or does this mean you caught it? And if so where is it? Why are you two just lying there sleeping? Why can't you tell me what's going on? "
And so, I did what any sane(?) person would do in this situation at 5:00 on a Sunday morning. I got up and made coffee. And my Frick and Frack, worn out from a night of hunting haven't moved since. As for the mouse, it's still a big mystery.