Thursday, June 30, 2011

Suffer For the Sake of Research

I did some hands-on research for one of my children's books. I think it's easier to demonstrate it in a videoclip. I guess technically this is a vlog on my blog.

Click here if you have sound (to see the full demonstration):

If you don't have sound, here's a quick rundown of what's in the video, minus some seriously important details:

Step 1:  To get the full sensory effects my 10-year-old character experiences, first I had to tease my hair. Nah-nah-nah--nah nah nah! 

Step 2:  To build a bouffant, I needed a base. This was accomplished by using many ponytail holders, one on top of the other, to get the middle chunk of hair to stick straight up.

Step 3:  My base trunk of hair needed reinforcement. You can see it's starting to flop to one side. I found a big old honkin' curler. The hair stuck to it when I pulled it up. Worked great!

Step 4:  Hairspray. Tons of spray. Get a good whiff of the fumes. Smell is an important sensory detail to include in your writing. Cough, cough. Warning: Research can be nauseating. 

Take notes of your results. Gotta touch it. Describe it. 

How's it feel? Like someone dumped a can of flea powder on my scalp, that's how.  

Sometimes we've gotta suffer in the name of research.

What have you done in the name of research?

Sunday, June 26, 2011

MONSTER MOON - Show Me The Bounty!

ARR! Let's give a great big hook hand to Rebecca Kiel, who will receive a copy of SECRET OF HAUNTED BOG, and Tina Laurel Lee, who will get a copy of CURSE AT ZALA MANOR.

Neither had to pilfer or plunder their way to the loot. Nay! Leavin' a winning comment on 
Heather Kelly's blog last week earned their rewards. Send yer addresses, mateys, and we'll ship 'em right out.

Kathy Sant, Maria Toth, and I write the Monster Moon mystery series under the pseudonym 
BBH McChiller. 

Maria signs a copy of SECRET OF HAUNTED BOG, newest release in the series.

Heather interviewed me and sponsored the giveaway to celebrate the release of 
SECRET OF HAUNTED BOG, second book in the Monster Moon series for kids ages 8 - 12.

CURSE AT ZALA MANOR is the first book in the series.

Rebecca and Tina will receive a book signed by all three authors!

Each of us signs "BBH McChiller," followed by our Zombuddy initials:
ZB-K (Kathy), ZB-L (Lynn), and ZB-M (Maria).
Kathy Sant - ZB-K

For more info on the Monster Moon books, you can read my blog post here.

Many thanks to all who read the interview, left comments, and joined us in celebrating the release of 


Vlad, the talking pirate rat, says, "Har-har-har, me hearties. Splice the main brace!"

That's pirate speak for making a celebratory toast. Cheers, mateys!  

Friday, June 24, 2011

Tag - Tagger- Tagged - Tagalong

Tag! It used to be a simple child's game. I could write a whole post about how this little word has evolved over the years, but I need to get with the program. All the hullabaloo with the release of my new book, SECRET OF HAUNTED BOG, on June 15th, Heather Kelly's interview of me on her blog June 17th, and then a short getaway trip with my mom made me put the game on hold. I feel like a slow-poke slacker. Now it's time to catch up.

D.U. Okonkwo of D.U.O. Says... is a new blogger buddy of mine, and I think it's cool that he reached all the way across the Pond and tagged me. He's got some good things happening as far as his writing journey, so you might want to check out his blog.

Here are the questions I've been tagged to answer:

Do you think you're hot?
Maybe to an 80-year-old man with bad eyesight.

Upload a picture or wallpaper you are using.
Here 'tis:

When was the last time you ate chicken?

Saturday at my daughter's baby shower. 

What were you thinking while doing this?
The coins in the photo reminded me that I lost some loot in Laughlin, Nevada on a trip with my mom this past week. We took the seniors bus and had some quality time together even though we didn't win any jackpots.

What song/songs have you listened to recently?
Rollin in the Deep by Adele

Do you have any nicknames? What are they?

Skinny Lynnie (no longer applies, though), One Can (as a teen!), Slim, which no longer applies either, Mommykins (by my oldest daughter), and I've recently become Grammy. I know, I know, it's not really a nickname, but it's the best name so I had to throw it in. 

Tag 5 Blogger friends.

Wen Baragrey at On Words and Upwards because she's such a trooper dealing with all the earthquakes and aftershocks in New Zealand, lost her mother this past week, and has a seriously ill grandbaby who had a close call with death himself a week ago, but she's got a great sense of humor and a unique voice. If you have any words of encouragement for this stoic lady, please stop in at her blog.

Annie at Hobo Annie Rambles because she's focusing on increasing her blog following, she's witty, fun, and interesting, and is a terrific writer, so go show her some love! 

Tommy at Smells Like Library because he's a school librarian, is a published author and illustrator of comics and graphic novels, and in my opinion, he's basically a creative genius.

Alana at Writercize because she has some really cool writing exercises on her blog. Pop on over and beef up your writer's biceps!

The Golden Eagle at The Eagle's Aerial Perspective because she's a super-talented teenager. This girl is going places, and right now she's soaring through the blogosphere. Stop by her blog and you'll be as impressed as I am.

So, did you like to play "Tag" as a kid? If so, what was your favorite version? I think Marco Polo was my favorite variety of Tag, especially the part where we'd yell, "Fish out of water" and nail someone!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Poem For My Daughter

At my oldest daughter's baby shower last Saturday, it occurred to me that she was just an infant herself not so long ago. But when it comes to reminiscing, time's a tad distorted. In reality, three decades isn't just a hop, skip, and jump away.

It's nice to reflect on the past, but the future demands my attention. It sparkles with visions of what will be.

My daughter and her husband, along with all the family members, aren't the only ones full of anticipation. Here's a poem I wrote from another point of view:

To Be

Dear Mommy,
As I grow inside your womb
snug as a bug in its cocoon,
I suck my thumb
and blink my eyes.
Your strong heart beats
a lullaby.
We wait until that joyful day
when across your bosom
I shall lay.
My satin cheeks, soft as a peach
can feel your kiss
within my reach.
Inside your womb, secure and warm
my infant soul has taken form.
I faintly hear your longing sigh
as the days of waiting pass on by,
until I first appear on earth,
survive the trauma of my birth.
First breath in
the world so bright,
your soft caress,
my guiding light.
I’ll smell your scent and
hear your voice.
We’ll gaze in wonder
and rejoice  
You’ll count my toes
and hold my hand
as I explore the outside land.
Oh, how wonderful to be,
to be in your arms.
To be, to be. 

Lynn Kelley  

And so we wait...
What have you been reflecting upon lately? Past, present, or future?

(On another note, the winners of the book giveaway will be announced tomorrow on Heather Kelly's blog. Thanks to all who joined us in celebrating the release of SECRET OF HAUNTED BOG, read the interview, and left great comments. One person will win a copy of the first Monster Moon book, CURSE AT ZALA MANOR. Another will win a copy of SECRET OF HAUNTED BOG. Woo hoo!)

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Sweet Schtuff

Last week I received the "Irristibly Sweet Award" by Talei - Musings of An Aspiring Scribe, who is quite a sweetheart. She definitely deserved to receive it, and I'd like to thank her for passing it on to me.

The rules state that I am to reveal seven sweets that I cannot resist. Considering I have quite a sweet tooth, picking seven is just a drop in the bucket of sugary treats. Look at all the goodies that tempted everyone at my daughter's baby shower on Saturday.

Okay, here goes, seven of my favorites, in no particular order:

Apple dumplings fresh out of the oven. My mom baked these when I was a kid, and then I baked them when my kids were growing up. Hmm, I suppose I should teach my daughters how to make apple dumplings so they can pass this delicious treat on to the grandkids.

Watermelon - Sometimes I can eat half a watermelon in a day, in two sittings. 

Banana splits with all the toppings. If I was still skinny, I'd eat these every day instead of once a year.

Dr. Pepper - What can I say? Yep, I'm a Pepper, too. Great, now I've got the tune stuck in my head.

Caramel apples - I can eat these all year long, not just in the fall.

Cracker Jack - You don't have to take me to a ballgame to buy me this old time favorite. A box from a local store works for me. As long as it comes with a prize!

Creme brulee - I'm sure glad Talei listed this as one of her favorites because it saved me time looking up the spelling! But, hey, creme brulee, how could anyone not love such an amazing dish?

Chocolate anything - chocolate cake, chocolate pudding, chocolate ice cream, chocolate-covered raisins, chocolate pretzels, chocolate popcorn, chocolate pickles. Just kidding. I'll draw the line there, but you get my drift!

And now it's time to announce the four blogger buds I'm passing this "Irristibly Sweet Award" on to: 

Katie Dodge at Katie on Fiction

J.L. Campbell at The Character Depot

Maria Toth at Wub2Write

Rhonda Knight at Sauce-Simmer'n - Rhonda is a brand new blogger, but she's a fantastic cook, so how could I pass up awarding this to her? (Rhonda - You can award whatever number of blogs you're able to. No pressure!)

I'm supposed to pass this on to five others, but I've been tagged for something else and need to save some people to tag  for that. So, Katie, J.L., and Maria, if you would like to pass this award on to five instead of four, then go for it!

How about the rest of you? Is there one specific all-time sweet dessert that you want to leave in a comment and make everyone drool over? I'll be back in a jiff. After blogging about all these desserts, well, I just can't resist the chocolate ice cream in the freezer that's calling my name! If I had some Dr. Pepper, I could make a chocolate Pepper float. Yum!

Friday, June 17, 2011

I'm Being Interviewed on Heather Kelly's Blog Today

Interview and Chance to Win a Monster Moon book!

I'm so excited because Heather Kelly has invited me to be a guest on her blog today for an interview, just in time for the official release of our second Monster Moon book, SECRET OF HAUNTED BOG by BBH McChiller (pseudonym for Lynn Kelley, Kathy Sant. and Maria Toth).

She's also going to have a giveaway of both Monster Books. Please join us at Heather's blog and leave a comment for a chance to win SECRET OF HAUNTED BOG or CURSE AT ZALA MANOR!

Click on her name:  Heather Kelly

Good luck. I'll see you there!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Release of Secret of Haunted Bog - Kidlit

Ghastly smells and ghostly moans,
Yeo-heave-ho and a bottle of rum.
Haunted Bog will chill yer bones.
Yeo-heave-ho and a bottle of rum!

To the Official Release of 
Secret of Haunted Bog
second book in the 
Monster Moon mystery series

By BBH McChiller
For ages 8 to 12

Keep Out of the Bog!
Twelve-year-old AJ Zantony had heard rumors about the haunted bog near Old Chinatown. Now, in order to save Vlad, the pirate rat, he's forced to face the dangers of the spooky marsh: toxic waterways, bog bodies, ghostly apparitions, buried secrets, even death. Danger lurks with AJ's every step. Will he and his Zombuddies come out alive?

Who are the Zombuddies?

AJ Zantony is a sixth-grader whose passion is skateboarding. His goal is to become a world champion, but it’s hard to concentrate. He has a big problem--monsters. Real monsters! Attracting other-worldly creatures is a Zantony curse. He didn’t ask to be a monster magnet, but has to deal with it.

Emily Peralta has just moved to Craggy Cove and is having a hard time fitting in. It is never easy to be a new girl in school. Being a know-it-all doesn’t help. She loves snooping and believes there’s a scientific explanation for everything- including monster sightings.

Freddy 'Hangman' Gallows wins friends easily with his never-ending sense of humor and practical jokes, but as soon as kids discover that he lives above a mortuary (where his dad is a mortician), friendships turn as cold as the corpses in the basement. Watch out for Freddy's pranks!

Mei Yen, a first generation Chinese-American, lives in New Raven’s old Chinatown. She struggles between two worlds--modern America and her family’s traditional ways. She is willing to face danger to protect a family secret. 

Who is BBH McChiller? 
BBH McChiller is the pseudonym for three Southern California writers. Writing together has been a rewarding adventure for them. The authors of Monster Moon are featured in episodes of the Los Angeles based educational television show, Homework Hotline, in its series on Storytelling. (KLCS, Los Angeles)

Lynn Kelley worked as a court reporter for 25 years. She is the author of the picture book, Merry as a Cricket (WhipperSnapper Books). Her story, “The Jobo Tree” won her Highlights For Children’s Author of the Month award.  She has written for the Highland Community News and is currently working on a Young Adult novel. She’s a big scaredy cat and is afraid to watch horror movies. 
Kathryn Sant is a retired Obstetrician who has witnessed the births of thousands of future readers. She has published a middle-grade novel, Desert Chase (Scholastic), and written for the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrator’s newsletter. She is currently working on a middle-grade boys’ adventure novel. Her interest in adventure, accurate research, and genealogy has led to a love of world travel, but she also enjoys quiet evenings, reading, with her dogs at her side.
Maria Toth has a background in journalism. Her work, including children’s stories, has appeared in The Los Angeles Times and the San Bernardino Sun. She is a Reading Buddy at local schools and has appeared on Storytime, a children’s television program. She just finished her MG historical novel, Butterfly Hollow. Her favorite holiday is Halloween. She enjoys ghostly tales and reading epitaphs at historic graveyards.
Who's the awesome illustrator?
Greg Martin is a freelance illustrator who grew up on a constant diet of cartoons. His animation creations have been used by studios such as Disney, Hanna-Barbera, Warner Brothers, and Marvel Productions where he was key designer in the animation department. He is a graduate of the Art Center of College of Design in Pasadena, Califronia. Mr. Martin currently resides in Colorado.

If you haven't seen the cool book trailers yet, you can check them out:

Book Trailer #1 - Monster Moon - Secret of Haunted Bog   
Book Trailer #2 - Secret of Haunted Bog

Click here to read Nutschell's review of Curse at Zala Manor, the first Monster Moon book.

"Farewell, me hearties, Bog awaits,
Yeo-heave-ho and a spooky tale.
Buy a copy now, me daring mates.
Yeo-heave-ho and a bottle of ale!" 

            --Vlad, yer favorite pirate rat.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Writing Is Like . . .

(Photo from Google -

Writing is like an amusement park, full of
fun and adventure,
thrills and screams,
impatience . . . when . . .  lines . . . stretch . . .  halfway. . . to . . .forever,
disappointment when best rides shut down
or money runs out
but hunger and thirst persist.
Writing is like heavy-lidded weariness as you head on home,
thinking you won't return for ages,
but awaken refreshed and gung ho for more wild rides.   

Where in tarnation did this poem come from? I can thank Katie Dodge for the inspiration by tagging me. Now it’s my turn to tag three others. It’s a fun tag. Really. All you have to do is finish this sentence, “Writing is like . . .”

So, here goes, the three writers I’m tagging are:

Stephanie PQW - Because she’s working so hard getting her book about ancient Nubia ready to launch in February, just in time for Black History month. Right now she’s conducting a vote about a new title for her novel, so please take a minute and visit her blog, cast your vote, and if you have a better idea for a title, she’s listening to any suggestions.

Nutschell – She's got so many cool posts and is always organizing writer events, plus she takes awesome photographs at conferences and is a friend to everyone she meets.

Heather Kelly – Because she’s been supportive of me since the first day I started my blog and offered to walk me through the steps to join Twitter. She didn’t know me from Adam, but she reached out to be my friend.

One last note: The second book in the Monster Moon mystery series, Secret of Haunted Bog, will be released June 15th. It’s for kids ages 8 to 12. If you haven’t watched the two book trailers I designed, please cast your vote for your favorite. Here they are. You can vote in the sidebar or in the footer of this blog. Thanks!

Trailer #1 - Monster Moon - Secret of Haunted Bog

Trailer #2 - Secret of Haunted Bog

You comments or constructive criticism is appreciated. Thanks! 

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

I Designed Two Book Trailers!

Today, June 8, 2011, is my blog's one month anniversary! Woo hoo! I wasn't sure I'd like blogging or want to keep it up, but I have to admit that I'm enjoying meeting interesting and fascinating people who share their knowledge, talents, and opinions. 

I still have so much to learn, but for someone who's nearly computer illiterate, I'm making darn good progress. It's been trial & error every step of the way. I can't really blame it all on my age (although it's quite RUFF for old dogs to learn new tricks). I've never been technologically inclined, and even the new-fangled remote controls challenge me. No kidding.

So, my mind is fractured, but I'm puttering through cyberspace. You might say I'm teetering on the cyber edge, going slow so I don't fall off. Just goes to show what perseverance and determination can accomplish! 

I actually managed to design two book trailers for the second book in the middle grade Monster Moon mystery series, Secret of Haunted Bog, by BBH McChiller (pseudonym for my two co-authors and me). Oh, I almost forgot to mention that the official release date is June 15th! I guess I need to get the hang of launching a book in the blogosphere, huh? Details, details.

I'm going to write about how I made the trailers in future posts. Here's a hint: I became good friends with the Help menu. 

For now, I'd like to share my creations with you and ask you to please vote for the one you think works best. You can cast your vote in the sidebar or in the footer of this blog. 

Trailer No. 1 - Monster Moon - Secret of Haunted Bog

  Trailer No. 2 - Secret of Haunted Bog

Thank you for taking the time to vote. I didn't plan on making two trailers, and I'll explain why I ended up with two in later posts. I'll share some tips that my limited knowledge can offer, and maybe it will save you some grief if you've never made a book trailer and want to give it a go. 

If you've made a book trailer and have some tips or good links you'd like to share in the comments section, that would be very helpful. 

Even if you've never made a trailer but have some constructive criticism for me, I'm listening, because I plan to make more trailers someday. I can see how enchanting working in the film industry must be!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Topics For Speaking at Schools and How to Schedule an Author Visit

Every speaker has a mouth; 
An arrangement rather neat.
Sometimes it's filled with wisdom.
Sometimes it's filled with feet.
                                             —   Robert Orben

If you've never done an author visit at a school or library, it can seem a bit scary. Being prepared helps boost your confidence.

Remember the old cartoon Felix the Cat? Whenever he got in a fix, he'd reach right into his bag of tricks!
A bag of tricks is good for authors to have on hand for public speaking, no matter what age you're addressing.

                                                      Felix the Cat - 1959 The Magic Bag

In the last two posts, we covered tips for reading aloud and props for school visits. Basically, props are part of your bag of tricks, whether large or small. You can use them as an ice breaker or throughout your presentation.

When you schedule a visit, be sure to ask how much time you'll have and what ages you're dealing with. If you're going to talk about writing in addition to reading excerpts of your book and sharing a little about your personal journey, ask if there's a certain topic they want you to cover, such as plot, figurative language, the importance of reading, etc. That will help you prepare ahead of time. Usually I'm free to discuss whatever I want, though.

So, what should you talk about?

  • Introduce yourself. Explain what genres you write and what ages your write for. If you use the word "genre," ask the kids if they know what it means.
  • Share a little about your writing journey.
  • If you did a lot of research, explain how you researched your book.

  • Engage your audience by asking questions. (Before I read my short story "Cyclops Clyde," I ask if anyone has had their computer do weird things. There's always a show of hands. Then I explain how my computer does so many strange things, I think it's haunted, so one day I wrote about a monster that lives in it. After I read it (with tons of animation and drama), I tell them they can write their own computer-monster story.
Here's a picture of that one-eyed monster!

               If you have enough time, you can have fun engaging your audience with questions such as, 
              "What are you afraid of?" or ask them about anything that ties in with your theme or story. 

    • Have backup material in case you’re there longer than planned. If your book is about animals, have a list of interesting and amazing animal facts. If you wrote a historical piece, have extra trivia about that time period handy to share. You can ask the kids if they think they would have liked to live back then. If you write sci-fi, you can come up with all kinds of cool questions to engage your audience.

    • Promote literacy. Encourage reading and writing. I always tell them, “If you want to become a writer, you need to read as much as possible.” Stress how important it is to practice to become a better reader and writer. "Athletes work out for hours every day to perfect their skills. Writers must do the same, and reading is part of writing."

    • Teachers love it when you talk about how important it is to revise. Jaws drop when I tell the kids some of my books were revised 50 times. 

    • Toward the end of the session, allow time for questions.

              You'll probably be asked, "How much money do you make?" Kids have a misconception that                         authors are rich. Unfortunately, I have to break the news to them that it's difficult to make a living as a writer but that the market is better for nonfiction than fiction. (I always ask if they know the difference.) It's important for people to know that authors write because they love to write, not because they plan to get rich. 

    All the tips in the earlier posts about props and reading aloud apply to any audience, including teens and adults. Melanie, a high school English teacher, left a comment about my shadow boxes in the post about props: "This would be an awesome tool to use when I teach the autobiographical narrative."

    For more great tips, check out Heather Kelly's June 1st post. It's all about author Jackie Davies and the wonderful presentation she does at readings. She uses props, reads short, entertaining excerpts, and interacts with the kids. You can also view her two very cool book trailers. 

    How Do You Schedule a School Visit?

    After reading the last post, Kristen commented that she'd like to see a post on how to schedule an author visit. I don't know how other authors set up school visits, but from my experience, you usually need a referral. Most schools aren't open to just anyone visiting their campus, so you'll need some kind of connection. And many teachers are required to pack so much into each day's curriculum that they're not really open to having guest speakers. 

    My co-authors (Kathy Sant & Maria Toth) and I put out the word to family members and friends that if they know any teachers or librarians who wanted us to do an author visit, to let us know. We provided business cards and/or a flyer with our bios and website. Unfortunately, the schools are short on money and most can't afford to pay authors right now, but they usually allow us to sell books (we don't do high-pressure sales), and we let the kids and teachers know who the school contact is for orders and also what bookstores carry our books.

    Once you start doing visits, word of mouth is your best advertising, and you'll start receiving invitations not only for school visits, but all kinds of community events. The first week in March, most schools hold a Read Across America celebration in honor of Dr. Seuss's birthday, so that's your best time to set up an author visit because the schools are looking for guest readers to visit each classroom. No, you don't have to read a Dr. Seuss book. My co-authors and I prefer 4th through 6th grade classrooms, and we read excerpts from our scary stories.
                                            If you have a Cat in the Hat hat, wear it for Dr. Seuss week!

    It's your call as to how much time and energy you want to invest in author visits. I'm more likely to return to the places where I felt appreciated and received a warm welcome. I average about one author visit per month so that's quite doable for me.

    Here's one of my favorite incidents during an author visit. I had lots of props set out for visual aids. A class of 4th graders were dying to see me put the werewolf mask on. "Are you sure it won't be too scary for you?" I asked.

    "Noooooo," they all chimed in.

    "Okay, as long as you won't get scared." I just held it up to my face and asked them if they could see my eyes through it. Yes, they sure could. I kept the mask in front of my face and asked, "Well, do you guys want to see something REALLY scary?"

    "Are you sure? It's REALLY, REALLY scary."
    They got antsy with anticipation and assured me they could handle it.
    "Okay, then . . . get ready. . ." I whipped the mask away from my face,  raised my arms and hollered "RRRRAH!" while barely jumping in my seat.

    It startled them silly, and they loved it. Their reactions were priceless. So, I pulled that trick on some of the other classes and got the same great responses. Even the teachers cracked up.

    You learn something new each time. I'm looking forward to many more adventures doing author visits.

    Some of you might have other ways to connect with schools. If you do author visits, how do you go about booking them?