Tuesday, January 16, 2024

Virtual Launch Party for Not My Circus!

Greetings, friends! It's been way too long since I posted in this space. The Winterton Deception 1:Final Word is out and doing so well. A huge thanks to everyone who's read and recommended it to others. That is the best way for a book to succeed!

Now I'm excited to be celebrating my most recent picture book release, NOT MY CIRCUS which was illustrated by Patrick Corrigan and published by Capstone. Here is the official cover copy:

Olivia was supposed to buy eggs at the store. Instead, she bought a circus! Between food fights and a lack of potty training, her mom is not thrilled. When Mr. Victor refuses to take the animals back, it's off to the zoo for Olivia's new friends . . . unless she can find a way to prove that she is in control of her circus

This time, with the help of my own friends, I'm trying something new. I'm going to be celebrating at a virtual launch via Zoom!! On Thursday, 25 January 2024, from 10:30-11:00 AM MST (that's 12:30-1:00 pm Eastern), a panel of amazing authors will interview me about hidden behind-the-scenes secrets of the story and the writing process. To attend, you just need to register, which you can do HERE.

We set the time during the day so we could invite classrooms to join us! If you are a teacher, we welcome you to join as a class. For those who can’t make it during that time, the launch will be recorded, and everyone who registers will receive a link to the recording that will be available for 30 days following the event.

Author interviewers include:

  • Shawna J. C. Tenney (Brunhilda's Backwards Day; Pirates Don't Dance; Anonymoose; illustrated Blood! Not Just a Vampire Drink)
  • Melissa Seron Richardon (The Last Slice; Five Words That Are Mine
  • Laurel Neme (Animal Investigators; The Elephant's New Shoe; Orangutan Houdini), 
  • Annie Bailey (10 Little Tractors; 10 Little Excavators; 10 Little Race Cars; 10 Little Construction Trucks; Hush, Little Hero; Mud!)
  • Annette Bay Pimentel (Girl Running; All the Way to the Top; Before Music; Before Color; Pura's Cuentos, and more) 
  • Angie Lucas (My Big, Dumb, Invisible Dragon; My Big Embarrassing Elephant)
These authors are smart, kind, compassionate, and give amazing writing suggestions. They have watched Not My Circus take shape from the very beginning, and I’m so thrilled to be celebrating with them! Plus, you won't want to miss the animal hats we'll all be wearing, or the secrets like where I got Mr. Victor's name. That's a story you don't want to miss, lol! 

Don't forget to register HERE, and I hope you decide to join us!! 

Wednesday, April 12, 2023


I’m so excited to finally share the cover of THE WINTERTON DECEPTION 1: FINAL WORD with you! 

It is a middle grade puzzle mystery and comes out through Pixel + Ink on Oct. 24th, 2023. Cover art is by Francisco Fonseca who does amazing work. I’m just thrilled with this cover. The lighting, that house! The dark corners and little details tucked in throughout . . . the feel of mystery just exudes from his work. 

This book is now available for pre-order at your favorite bookstore or wherever books are sold online. You can also add it on Goodreads so you're sure to get a reminder when it comes out.  For purchase link options or to connect to Goodreads, click HERE for my "Books" page.

And I'm sure you're wondering what this book is even about! So let me tell you. Or rather, let me share the official flap copy:

"In this twisty middle grade mystery for fans of Knives Out, The Inheritance Game, & The Westing Game, thirteen-year-old twins Hope and Gordon enter a spelling bee in a last-ditch effort to save their family from financial ruin, only to find themselves in a cut-throat competition to uncover a fortune and dark secrets about the wealthy relations they’ve never known.

"Hope Smith can’t stand rich people—the dictionary magnate family the Wintertons most of all. Not since she and her twin brother, Gordon, learned that their dad was one. So when Gordon enters the family into the Winterton’s charity spelling bee, Hope wants nothing to do with it. But with their mom losing her job and the family facing eviction from the motel where they live, they desperately need the money, and it looks like Hope doesn’t have much of a choice.

"After winning the preliminary round, the Smiths are whisked to Winterton Chalet to compete in the official Winterton Bee against their long-lost relatives. Hope wants to get in and out, beat the snobbish family at their own game, and never see them again. But deceased matriarch Jane Winterton had other plans for this final family showdown. Before her death, she set up a clue hunt throughout the manor—an alternate way for Hope and Gordon to get the money that could change their lives.

"Still, others are on the trail, too. With tensions at an all-time high, a fortune at stake, and long-simmering family secrets about to boil to the surface, anything could happen.

"A tense, clever clue hunt unafraid to tackle the challenges and secrets often kept behind closed doors, Final Word is a gripping series starter sure to satisfy even the most voracious armchair detectives."

Perhaps you've heard the advice to authors that you should write what you want to read. That is why I wrote FINAL WORD. I love puzzle mysteries so much. They are my favorite. But there aren't nearly enough of them. Of course, after writing one, I can understand why . . . they are ridiculously hard to manipulate into readable form. But with the help of my critique partners, friends, daughter (who is as mystery-loving as me), agent, and editor, I have done it, and I can hardly believe this is going to be a published book! (*dancing ensues*)

I hope this cover gets you as excited as I am! 

Friday, March 17, 2023

Acknowledgement Page - The Recess Genius 1: Open for Business

Happy book birthday to THE RECESS GENIUS 1: OPEN FOR BUSINESS!!

I know I have been shouting about this a lot lately, but I wanted to take the time to thank all the people who helped make this book what it is. (The one bad thing about picture books is that there is no acknowledgments page.)

My beta readers and close friends Patricia Bailey and Dee Romito. They not only read my many various drafts, but they are quick to build me up and keep me from crashing on this rollercoaster ride of publishing. Love you both!

First, I give huge thanks to my critique partners: Angie Lucas, Annette Bay Pimentel, Annie Bailey, Shawna J.C. Tenney, Melissa Richardson, Robyn Buttars, and Laurel Neme. Ya’ll are the best!! So grateful we connected. You not only make my writing better, but you make this journey a joy!

My agent, Lauren Galit, who I ADORE. I am so lucky to work with someone who is not only brilliant at her job, but someone I call friend, too. I count my blessings every day!

My editor, Alison Weiss, who makes writing fun, and revising as painless as possible. She builds me up and explains, and is quick to respond to my every question. It has been a joy working with her!

The brilliant illustrator, Stacy Ebert, who brought this book to life with her beautiful art. I couldn’t be happier to be on this journey together.

The wonderful team at Pixel + Ink, including Bethany Buck, and all the wonderful marketing and publicity team that has worked to hard to help make this book a success, Sara DiSalvo, Mary Joyce Perry, Michelle Montague, Terry-Borzumato-Greenberg, Alison Tarnofsky, Kayla Phillips, and Darby Guinn. Thank you!!

I want to thank my parents, Janet and Wayne for all their unwavering support over the years and their belief in me. Love you!

My in-laws, Ray and Marilyn, who have been my biggest cheerleaders! You make me feel so loved, and I’m so grateful I get you as family!

My brothers and sisters (through marriage or not): Kim, Steve, Paul, Lana, Mike, Jeralynn, Becca, Greg, Michelle, Rob, and Tiffany. Thank you for your constant support, for always cheering me on, and for being as excited as I am about every book. I really hit the jackpot with you all!!

My children, who listen to all the early versions of my stories and give their (very)  honest opinions. Your love and support mean everything to me! I hope you all know you can do it. You can reach your dreams.

And finally my husband Rick who is the reason I have had any success in the writing world. He rides the highs and lows with me and cheers me on and up whenever I need it. He pushes me to be better and reminds me what I have accomplished and what I will accomplish in the future. He's my best friend, and I’m so glad we have eternity. Love you! 😘 

Wednesday, February 1, 2023

WRAD 2023 by the Number

Yesterday (Wednesday February 1st) was World Read Aloud Day, otherwise know as WRAD. This event was created by the non-profit LitWorld, and is sponsored by Scholastic (the creators of this awesome badge!). Here is a description from scholastic's website: 

"For 13 years, World Read Aloud Day has called attention to the importance of sharing stories by challenging participants to grab a book, find an audience, and read-aloud! The global effort, . . . is celebrated annually in over 173 countries and is all about bringing people together through the shared connection of reading aloud in all of our communities."

I have been participating in WRAD since 2016 (so for 8 years now!!), and I love doing it! It's so fun to meet young readers and share my love of reading with them. 

This year, my schedule was PACKED, and I thought it might be fun to give a rundown of numbers, stats, and basically, just do a little WRAD summary thread. I posted most of this on Twitter as a thread, but I'm adding a few things here.

image of a computer on a shoe box, and a stack of books next to it.
My WRAD set-up

I hope you enjoy this inside look!

# of visits booked: 16
# of requests I couldn't accommodate and referred to others: 2
# of visits made: 13
# of states: 9 + 1 outside the US
# of visits cancelled for weather: 1
# of visits cancelled for time zone issues: 1
# of visits cancelled for unknown reasons: 1

Closest visit: Colorado
Furthest visit: Dominican Republic
State that cancelled for weather: Texas (!!!)

Grades I visited:*
Pre-K: 1
K: 7
1st: 5
2nd: 3
3rd: 1
4th: 1

*At some schools, I visited several grades at once, so the numbers won't match my number of visits

Books requested:

Help Wanted: Must Love Books: 4 times
Braver than Brave: 5 times*
The Recess Genius: 5 times

*I only read this one 4 times because of the weather cancellation

Book I am best at reading aloud: Help Wanted
Book I love reading aloud best: Braver than Brave (seriously, the ending blows kids minds, and I swear you can see it changing their world view just a little)
Book I can't wait to read more: The Recess Genius

Most Popular Question: How many books have you written?

Question I expected, but wasn't asked: How old are you?
A close second: Where do you get your ideas?

Favorite Question: What would you do if you weren't an author?
Best Question: So, in Braver than Brave, Wanda was brave, but the boy didn't think she was brave?

Quick pause to address that question. SO perceptive! This sweet girl almost whispered this question, and she was so brave to come up and ask it. We had a wonderful discussion about how sometimes when we're brave, others won't see how brave we are being. And that's okay, as long as we know inside ourselves that we were brave. It was a moment. The best kind of moments. The exact kind of moment that reminds me why I write the books I write. 💗

Okay, moving on:

Most unexpected questions (but I still loved them!):
-How do you make the shiny plastic covers?
-How do you make the words small & black?
-How do you put the pages together to make books?

(clearly I need to visit a book printer and learn all these things!)

# of illustration questions I was asked*: 5

-How do you draw without smudging the pictures?
-How do you decide what to draw on the covers? (2x)
-How do you decide what the characters look like?
-How did you create the art in Braver than Brave?

*Not including the questions about working with an illustrator

# of times kids thought I was less cool when they found out I didn't illustrate the books: 13 😅

(Okay, okay, that is just my perception, but it felt true, lol!)

# of others' books I shared: 15 (some multiple times) 
-9 PBs
-5 MGs

Questions I struggled most to answer:
-What is your favorite book that you wrote?
-What is your favorite book?

Things that helped w/WRAD visits:

-Using a Sign-up Genius to schedule visits
-Getting on @KateMessner's list
-Having work samples nearby to show
-Setting up my station the night before
-Using a slide presentation for book images
-Reading from a hard copy while kids view slides

Things I WISH I had done:

-Printed off a picture of my dog & family to show
-Asked teachers in advance to enable screen sharing
-Included a question on my sign-up about which book they wanted read & which state the school is in
-Recommended classes prepare questions in advance
-Requested that they don't mute the students as I read (The interaction always makes read-alouds better.)

And one last thought. 

I didn't mean to book so many visits. I failed to do the math when I set up my sign-up (lol!). And while I loved every visit, I only made it through 10 before my voice started giving out. Next year, I'll do fewer.

I just love visiting with students!

Happy World Read Aloud Day!! Keep Reading!

Monday, October 24, 2022

Fall Updates

This fall has been a busy, full fall, and I wanted to share some of the things I've been up to!

First, I've been working on Book 2 of my middle grade series. It has been fun to revisit my characters, and learn all the things they are struggling with, and celebrating. Creating a mystery based off a bit of  history has been a challenge, but delightful at the same time. I'm about 3/4ths of the way done with the first draft, and hope to finish it in the next couple of weeks. (Then comes the hard work of revising it into the story it can become!)

Next, I've done some fun signing events with the brilliant author/illustrator Shawna Tenney. We've been at the Orem B&N, the Layton B&N, and we currently have two more events coming up. 

We'll be at the Provo Library, Read Local! Event on November 5th, 10 AM - 4 PM.  

And then the next week, we'll be at the Layton, UT B&N for Storytime on Saturday November 12th, 12-2 PM. Hope to see some of you there!

Shawna and I have also been doing some school visits together. It is so much fun talking about how Authors work versus how Illustrators work. Meeting kids, and getting them excited about books and reading is one of my very favorite things to do as an author. And it's even more fun to do it with a friend!

Then, if you can believe it's been so long . . . I revealed the cover for The Recess Genius: Open for Business. Stacy Ebert is a brilliant illustrator, and I'm so excited for the rest of you to read our book. It comes out on February, 7th, 2023! Here is the cover:

And, of course, as any good fall should include, I've been busy with my kids activities as well as helping them put together their dream Halloween costumes. What do you think?

What are your fall plans looking like?

Monday, August 22, 2022

Cover Reveal - A Bad Case of the Almosts

Things are starting to happen fast over here! Braver than Brave has been out in the world for three weeks now, and it got an "Editor's Pick" flag on Amazon, which is really exciting!

It's a little fuzzy, but feel free to head on over and see it live for yourself! And if you've read it and want to leave a review on Goodreads, or Amazon, or Barnes & Noble, I'd greatly appreciate it. 😁 

However, today I'm not on here to talk about Braver Than Brave (as much as I love doing that). Today, I'm on here to share the cover of my next book, A Bad Case of the Almosts!  It is set to release on January 1st of 2023, which is not all that far away.

Before I do, I wanted to share a little about how this book came to be. In January of 2020 (yep, just before everything hit), I was participating in a thing called Storystorm, a yearly event hosted by Tara Lazar. Storystorm is all about building your list of story ideas. During the month of January, Tara Lazar hosts a new author every day who shares an idea for a way to find story ideas. It's a super fun event with prizes, and such, so if you are a writer, you should join in next year. It's phenomenal!

So there I was, on the hunt for new ideas, and one of the blog posts had said that titles of other books can be good inspiration for a new story. If you look at just the title, imagine how you would write it, and then you can see if it's similar or not to the actual book that accompanies that title. You'd be surprised how often the two are not similar at all.

I saw the title "Almost Every Time." . . . or at least, that's how I read it. Long story short, that wasn't the title at all! My eyes had skipped down to the next line, and that combination of words really intrigued me. I thought, what if instead of "Almost Every Time," it was "Almost. Every Time!"

This character leapt to life. This character who got so close to achieving her wants and her goals, but then didn't get it. EVERY TIME!! That would be so frustrating! And honestly, I could kind of relate. Except not kind of. I could SUPER relate.

That's how I felt about my attempts to sell another picture book. I'd had multiple books go to multiple acquisitions meetings, and some amazingly wonderful rejections (yes, they really can be wonderful), but it felt like I couldn't quite get past that last step. It was "Almost" EVERY TIME.

This book took a bit more brainstorming, but when I dared show it to my critique groups, I was surprised at their enthusiasm. I guess they understood that feeling, too. And I was surprised at my agent's enthusiasm (you know, after some revision rounds). And I was surprised at how quickly my editor at Capstone was able to get it through acquisitions. Because she understood the feeling, too.

So without further ado, I share the cover of A Bad Case of the Almosts, featuring the beautiful artwork of Alexandra Colombo who really brought Abby, my main character who is a huge science enthusiast, to life. And if you like the cover, I can't wait for you to see what she did with the art inside!

A Bad Case of the Almosts is now available for preorder at Amazon and Barnes & Noble, as well as most places books are sold. You can also add it to your "Want To Read" list on Goodreads to be notified when it comes out.

And for all you book reviewers out there, an ARC (Advance Reader Copy - for those wondering) is also now available on NetGalley

Monday, August 1, 2022

Release Day for BRAVER THAN BRAVE!

It's Release day for BRAVER THAN BRAVE!! 

Book cover of Braver than Brave. Wanda, a tan-skinned girl with curly brown hair stands in front of a roller coaster

So funny thing. Picture books don't have acknowledgment pages, so I'm going to just go ahead and do it here. For a book to come out in the world, it takes so many people! I could not do it alone. No doubt I will miss someone, and I'm apologize in advance, but here goes . . .

I'm so proud to share this book with Eunji Jung who brought the story to life. Her illustrations are so perfectly perfect. I'm grateful to my editor, Christianne Jones who loved this story from the beginning, and who helped me make this story shine. Huge thanks to Nathan Gassman who designed the book, and to Jennifer Glidden who has done so much to market this book and get the word out. An all-around thank you to Capstone Editions for publishing it! My agent, Lauren Galit has always encouraged me in all my writing, and I owe so much to her.  

I'd be remiss not to thank the many people who read early versions and gave such helpful feedback. Patricia Bailey, Dee Romito, Annie Bailey, Melissa Richardson, Annette Pimentel, Angie Lucas, Laurel Neme, Robyn Buttars, and Shawna Tenney. I'd be lost without them! And I have to thank the 12x12 members who read a very early version. Thank you for the encouragement!

I'm enormously grateful to my extended family--both the Sumners and the Johnsons who have always supported me in my writing and cheered me on. I feel so lucky to have such amazing family on both sides. And of course, my children who not only cheer me on, but also inspire me with all the best ideas. They are my pride and joy!

I give my biggest thanks to Rick, husband extraordinaire who has always been my biggest cheerleader. He carries the weight for both of us when I sneak away to write, and he constantly looks for ways to give me more writing time. He inspires me and makes me Braver than Brave in all my writing endeavors. If not for him, I may never have sent off that first manuscript in my journey to publication.

Finally, I want to thank all my readers. Without you, there would be no point in what I do. THANK YOU!! I'm so grateful I get to be an author and share the stories that are tumbling around in my head with the world. I couldn't do that without you!

Thank you to everyone who has requested a copy of BRAVER THAN BRAVE or any of my books from their library, and to everyone who has ever left any of my books a review. It means so much to me!

If you want to get your own copy of BRAVER THAN BRAVE you can order it at any of the following links (or wherever books are sold):

The King's English     Bookshop.org         Amazon        Barnes & Noble