Amazon Rapids, “The Easter Beast” is Published!

Wild bunny, Florida.

Woohoo! My second story on Amazon Rapids has been published.

In “The Easter Beast,” Bun Bun and Chewy Chirp, the last chocolate bunny and marshmallow chick on the shelf, desperately want to go on an Easter Egg hunt, but the store’s about to close and they are being stalked by the Easter Beast, aka the store clerk, who craves chocolate and marshmallows.

Short, illustrated stories on Amazon Rapids, an App for ages 7-12, “are told through the lens of characters chatting with each other. The app is available for iOS, Android and Amazon Fire devices, and offers hundreds of original stories, with dozens of new ones added monthly.”

Amazon Rapids Includes: 

Unique chat style — Stories are told through the lens of characters chatting with each other, letting stories come to life one message at a time.

Hundreds of original stories — Kids can explore a large and growing library that’s filled with original stories spanning adventure, fantasy, humor, mystery, science fiction and sports.

Age-appropriate content – All content is thoughtfully edited to be appropriate for kids ages 7-12.

Built-in glossary — Kids can easily look up the definition and pronunciation of words to help build their reading confidence. Each time they look up a word, it is automatically added to their personal glossary for easy reference. 

“Read to me” —Kids can have stories read aloud to them while they follow along with the text. “Having been a teacher for over a decade, I’ve learned to write stories in a way that compels kids to dive in and the Amazon Rapids format is a perfect way to make that happen,” said Raymond Bean, best-selling children’s author. “In my first Amazon Rapids story, Alien Invasion, a boy named Gordon and an alien connect via a misdirected text message and hilarity ensues as they discuss the aliens’ plans to land on earth.”

Parents can visit http://rapids.amazon.com to download Amazon Rapids today.

Related Post: Amazon Rapids Press Release–My 1st Fiction Story is Published!

 

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World Read Aloud Day

litworldWRAD16logo

Call me a WRADvocate.

I love children’s books. I write children’s books. And you know how much I like a theme. (see recent post, Story Time in Sweet Sixteen)

What could be more me than weekly themes leading up to World Read Aloud Day, a worldwide celebration of reading? Just the thought of being involved makes me want to throw a party for my favorite children’s book characters and, for some reason, it makes me want to bake!

Reading to Kids

World Read Aloud Day calls attention to the pure joy and power of reading aloud, and connects the world as a community of readers. World Read Aloud Day is now celebrated by over one million people in more than 100 countries and reaches over 31 million people online. “WRADvocates” – a group of reading advocates and supporters take action in their communities and on social media.

Weekly Themes

To mobilize for the big day, LitWorld introduces the 7 Strengths countdown to World Read Aloud Day. The 7 Strengths celebrate all of the ways that reading makes us resilient and ready to thrive in school, work and life. They are: Belonging, Curiosity, Friendship, Kindness, Confidence, Courage, and Hope. Starting January 3rd, we will celebrate one strength per week until World Read Aloud Day is here!

Awesome Message

Read Aloud. Change the World.

Lucy versus Groundhogs

'I'll go wherever you go, Mommy."

“I’ll go wherever you go, Mommy.”

"You never know what scents you'll pick up in the wind."

“I love to stick my nose out of the window.”

"I'm on the lookout for intruders and wild animals!"

“I’m on the lookout for intruders and wild animals!”

What is it about groundhogs?

Despite living in a New Jersey suburb of Manhattan, frequent visitors to our backyard include wild turkeys, deer, raccoons, rabbits, opossums, foxes, chipmunks, squirrels and mice.  I call our neighborhood, which backs up to a nature reserve, the South Mountain Reservation “Animal Kingdom.” Lucy, our 4 year-old Labra-Collie rescue, is fascinated by all the animals, but morphs from Interested Observer to Psycho Doggie when groundhogs appear.

A few weeks ago Lucy was languishing in the heat, when she jumped up and made a bee-line down our hill.  She chomped down on something furry. I don’t know if she intended to shake the small animal–dare I say?–to death, or if she meant to scare the wits out of it.  Either way, it didn’t look good for the baby groundhog.

I raced down the hill, screeching, “Drop it!  Drop it!  Lucy, STOP IT!”  (Yes, I know that rhymes. I write picture books, hon. But, I digress.)

Did Lucy listen?  Noooo!

Instead, she proceeded to whip the baby groundhog back and forth like a stuffed toy while the groundhog struggled to free itself and while I chased her around the yard.  As I tried to catch Lucy, my youngest daughter watched from the sidelines.

“GET THE LEASH!”  I hollered.

In the meantime, I managed to grab Lucy and press on the outsides of her jaw until she dropped the groundhog.  My daughter arrived with the leash and dragged her inside.

I approached the poor little rodent, apologizing profusely. Guess what?  There were no bite marks or blood!  Lucy’s Labrador Retriever “soft mouth” clutch didn’t break any skin.  The groundhog, surely in shock, looked at me as if to say, “Thank you for saving my life.”

Despite its probable concussion, I figured it would get the word out to stay away from our yard.  Apparently, it didn’t.

Earlier this week, I heard Lucy barking with a high-pitched voice I hadn’t heard before.  I ran outside to find her nose-to-nose with an adult groundhog.  Again, I did the “Catch-a-Psycho-Doggie” dance.  Again, amused bystanders watched from the sidelines. This time, it was my son and hubby laughing as I screamed, “GET THE LEASH!”

After quite a bit of chasing (us chasing Lucy, Lucy chasing the adult groundhog), we caught Lucy and dragged her inside.

Would you believe me if I told you Lucy really is the sweetest little angel, a sponge for affection?  Don’t answer that question if you’re a groundhog or a… mailman…truck driver…repairman…motocycle driver…

 Related Post:  Top Ten Reasons Why Lucy Is My Inspiration Puppy

Dale Chihuly in Denver, Pink and Purple Color Comparison

Dale Chihuly, Blown Glass Spheres

Dale Chihuly, Blown Glass Spheres, 2014.

Pinks and Purples 

I loved the glass in the garden at the Denver Botanic Gardens. Dale Chihuly created gorgeous glass sculptures that grew alongside “rooms” of blooms.  The resulting color comparisons were poetic.

Where the Sidewalk Ends

by Shel Silverstein

There is a place where the sidewalk ends
and before the street begins,
and there the grass grows soft and white,
and there the sun burns crimson bright,
and there the moon-bird rests from his flight
to cool in the peppermint wind.

Let us leave this place where the smoke blows black
and the dark street winds and bends.
Past the pits where the asphalt flowers grow
we shall walk with a walk that is measured and slow
and watch where the chalk-white arrows go
to the place where the sidewalk ends.

Yes we’ll walk with a walk that is measured and slow,
and we’ll go where the chalk-white arrows go,
for the children, they mark, and the children, they know,
the place where the sidewalk ends.

Hon, I write.  I write picture books and chapter books.  In my stories, the little girl inside of me invites other children to mark the place where the sidewalk ends.

In that place and in that space,

we explore the world with open minds,

share our curiosity and wonder,

marvel at spiders and stars,

and believe in the magic of our imaginations.

Zinnia

Zinnia, Denver, CO.

Columbine

Columbine, Breckenridge, CO.

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Purple Reeds, Chihuly.

Purple Reeds, Chihuly, 2014

Flat Sea Holly.

Flat Sea Holly, Denver, CO.

Blue and Purple Boat, Dale Chihuly, Blown Glass.

Blue and Purple Boat, Dale Chihuly, Blown Glass, 2014.

“Glass itself is so much like water.  If you let it go on its own, it almost ends up looking like something that came from the sea.”  (Quote by Chihuly.)

Related Posts:

Dale Chihuly in Denver, Glass in the Garden

Dale Chihuly in Denver, Fifty Shades of Grey

Dale Chihuly in Denver, Orange Color Comparison

 

Character Driven Gingerbread Cookies

Sassy, classy, tasty gingerbread ladies!

Sassy, Classy, Tasty Gingerbread Ladies!

I’m right in the thick of it! The Holidays, of course.

Time seems to fly more quickly between Thanksgiving and New Year’s. With four kids coming and going, I am constantly grocery shopping, cooking, baking and doing laundry.

Since I’m sure you don’t want to see pics of laundry (Hubby’s nicknamed me the “Laundry Wench”) or my Dining-Room/Dorm-Room-Depot, I’ll be posting recipes. I’m raising my virtual glass of sherry (Julia Child-style) in a toast to being the Kitchen Queen, Domestic Goddess, or whatever euphemism you can think of for someone who dons an apron for hours and falls asleep with her head on the kitchen table.

Just because I don’t have time to write doesn’t mean the words stop forming in my head. I “write” while I drive, sleep, run, cook and bake. Gingerbread men and women bring out a desire to create dialogue!

Hence, they are…

CHARACTER DRIVEN COOKIES! (clever, don’t you think?) 

Dough's made and ready to roll!

Dough’s made and ready to roll!

Cookies by the dozens.

Cookies by the dozens.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Creators of Characters.

Creators of Characters

Decorating takes concentration.

Decorating takes concentration.

 

 

 

 

 

Cookie Crowd.

Cookie Crowd.

"Snowman Stylin'!"

“How do you like my ‘Snowman Stylin’?”

"Oh no, not the gumdrops!"

“Anything but the gumdrop buttons!” said the Gingerbread Man from Shrek.

Little Boy, Gingerbread Man, Hipster and Snowman

Little Boy, Gingerbread Man, Hipster and Snowman.

Gingerbread Cookies

Ingredients:

3 cups flour

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

3/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 Tablespoon ground ginger

1 3/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

6 Tablespoons unsalted butter

3/4 cup dark brown sugar

1 large egg

1/2 cup molasses

2 teaspoons vanilla

1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest (optional)

To decorate the cookies, use your imagination.  We used Royal Icing (recipe below), Mini M&M’s, Cinnamon Imperials, Sparkling Sugar and French Dragées. We used toothpicks and paintbrushes as decorating tools.

Directions:

1.  In a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, ginger, cinnamon and cloves.

2.  In a large bowl, beat butter, brown sugar and egg on medium speed.

3.  Add molasses, vanilla, and lemon zest and continue mixing until well blended.

4.  Gradually stir in dry ingredients until blended and smooth.

5.  Divide dough in two, wrap each half in plastic wrap, and store in refrigerator for a couple of hours.*  Let dough come to room temperature before rolling cookies.

6.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Grease or line cookie sheets with parchment paper.

7.  On a lightly floured surface, roll dough to about 1/4 inch thick.  Thicker cookies = softer cookies; thinner cookies = crispier cookies.

8.  Cut out cookies with desired cookie cutters. Bake cookies for 7-10 minutes.

9.  Once baked, allow cookies to cool before decorating.

Yield:  24 five inch tall cookies.

Source:  Food.com, “The Most Wonderful Gingerbread Cookies” by gingerkitten D

*Dough can be stored in refrigerator for up to 4 days. It can also be frozen for later use.

additional flour to your cookies.

Royal Icing 

Ingredients:

3 3/4 cups confectioner’s sugar

3 Tablespoons meringue powder (also know as dried egg whites)

6 Tablespoons warm water

Directions:

Beat 4 to 5 minutes by hand. Stir in optional flavors and desired tints. Royal icing is white, so if you stir in vanilla flavoring, it will turn the icing yellowish. If icing gets too thick, add tiny bits of warm water until you get the consistency you want.

Yield: About 3 cups icing.

Happy baking, hon! 

DIY Fashion Favors

Party Favors Wrapped Up & Ready To Go.

Party Favors Wrapped Up & Ready To Go.

Fact:  I love a party.

Fact:  I love a theme.

So, what’s a theme-loving girl to do when she’s in charge of favors and the party doesn’t have a theme? There would be fun invitations, beautiful flowers, a nice atmosphere, a good meal and a whimsical cake. (And there were.) But, what about the favors? I did what I always do and thought about the main character, the birthday girl.  (Hon, you know I’m a writer, right?) These Fashion Favors fit my friend.

Here’s how to make these super easy, DIY chocolate favors.

What You’ll Need:

Candy Melts

Candy Melts.

1.  Candy Melts come in a variety of colors. The light and dark chocolate melts taste chocolatey while the brightly colored melts taste like white chocolate. Candy Melts can be purchased at party and craft stores.

Candy Molds.

Candy Molds.

2.  I borrowed these candy molds from a friend. Craft stores, such as Michael’s, carry lots of different molds, or they can be found online. The shoes, handbags, lipsticks and nail polish were perfect for my chic friend.

3.  A glass or ceramic bowl, spoons, spatula and microwave and refrigerator nearby.

4.  Gift bags and anything else you want to add to favors. I found initial notecards to include, wrapped them in cellophane, and tied the candy bags and notecards together with ribbon.

Directions:

Candy Melts in microwave.

Candy Melts in microwave.

1.  Follow directions on the Candy Melt package and melt candy disks in the microwave until they are smooth and gooey*Do not over melt or the candies won’t be the right consistency to spoon into the molds.Trust me, this happened to one batch.

2.  Spoon gooey candy into molds. Smooth with spatula so, when hardened, candy backs will be even.

3.  Place candy-filled molds in refrigerator to cool and harden.

4.  In about 15 minutes, test candy for done-ness, meaning candy has solidified.

5.  Turn mold over, slightly twisting sides of mold to release candies.

6.  *I smoothed rough edges with a sharp knife.

7.  Assemble favor bags.  *If the weather is hot, I recommend storing favors in the refrigerator.

8.  Molds wash easily in hot, soapy water.

 

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 Have you made these?  Any tips you want to add?  I’d love to hear from you.

Is Social Media A Must?

My favorite bookends feature a typewriter, books...

My favorite bookends feature a typewriter, books…

...a dial phone, banker's lamp and "book" titled Words and Phrases.

…a dial phone, banker’s lamp and “book” titled Words and Phrases.

There was a time when the term Social Media was not part of our lexicon, when we didn’t debate whether to have a Facebook page, Linked In might mean we were walking arm-in-arm with a friend, only birds Tweeted, Instagram could have referred to grams of instant coffee, cowboys said, “Yahoo,” a (search) engine would have something to do with a car, and hard alcohol was served in Tumblr’s.

Now, as professionals, we must decide which Social Media platforms to use if we want to build up a “platform,” increase our social standing, “brand” ourselves and connect across the internet and with the world.

I’ll admit it, I was resistant to change.  Why?  Because I like to talk on the phone with my friends (gasp), send paper party invitations (really?), look up definitions in my dictionary (scandalous) and synonyms in my thesaurus (what’s that?), occasionally listen to college cassette tapes (the music on my mix tapes are classic!) and (no way!) write letters.

But, since I’ve started blogging I’ve enjoyed “meeting” people from all over the world, making a commitment to myself to write, sharing my various interests, and creating a place where I present myself professionally while still allowing my voice to come through.

It was on Twitter that I saw a post on social media by Kristen Lamb, author of We Are Not Alone-The Writer’s Guide To Social Media.  In her post, she compares taking care of your online presence to taking care of your family.  It turns out that Social Media has daily needs just like our families, pets, homes and lives.

Considering that I am an “aspiring author,” having published articles but not yet my books, I’ve wondered if grooming this creature is necessary.  But, when my triplets started college last fall, I decided it was time, my time, to move forward on a path I’ve craned my neck toward for years.

Is social media a must?  You have to decide what furthers your career goals and, for now, I must “feed my craft” however I can.  That means treating Social Media to a healthy, balanced meal with the hope, wish and intention of having a big ice cream sundae with a cherry on top as a reward!

Hon, what are your thoughts on the issue?

Winter’s Stark Beauty

At dawn, a tree opens its branches to embrace the Winter day.

At dawn, a tree opens its branches to embrace the Winter day.

The blue sky softens Winter's stark beauty.

The blue sky softens Winter’s stark beauty.

An evergreen wears a heavy coat of Winter snow.

An evergreen wears a heavy coat of Winter snow.

The secret world of Winter lies beyond.

A magnolia’s branches form a window to the hushed Winter world.

Fingers reach up to touch the Winter sky.

Fingers reach up to touch the Winter sky.

I am many things.  I am forever a mother, wife, daughter, sister, aunt, friend.  Sometimes, I am a knitter, potter, photographer, baker, chef, seamstress, student, teacher, manager, salesperson, merchandiser, editor, volunteer, runner, bicyclist, weight lifter, skier, gardener.

But, I am always a writer.

Hon, what are you always?