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!