Did You Ever Want a Chocolate Milk Cow?

Baxh Chocolate Milk CowsAbout a week ago, I got a package in the mail that I wasn’t expecting, but was thrilled to see. It was an autographed copy of Bash and the Chocolate Milk Cows by Burton W. Cole. Yay!

It was almost as good as getting a copy of a book with my name on the cover because I was blessed to be part of the critique group that gave input on all three Bash stories. And I loved every one!

You can read about the first book in the series, Bash and the Pirate Pig, here. Such a great story of fun, adventure, misadventure, and a few lessons along the way.

Weirdness always rules when Beamer visits his crazy farm cousin Bash, and the story about the Chocolate Milk Cows is no exception. This time, Bash is scheming a way for the cows to give chocolate milk on April Fool’s Day — because who wouldn’t want chocolate milk straight from the cow? Add to that the fact that his dad, Uncle Rollie, hasn’t outgrown April Fool’s shenanigans either, and you never know exactly what craziness to expect. Bash and Uncle Rollie are definitely a case of “like father, like son”!

I won’t give away the fun by telling too much of the story — because you (or an upper elementary/middle school kid you love) will want to read it yourself. But having chapter titles like “The Chicken Shuttle Space Coop,” “Run for Your Life or Punishment,” “Hunting Bears and Praying for a Mantis,” and “Gideon’s Kazoo Meets the Goat of Many Colors” gives a good idea of the crazy stuff Bash and the gang are up to. It’s no ordinary spring break! And, yes, the laughs and lessons found in the other Bash stories continue with Chocolate Milk Cows and leave you thirsty for more. 🙂

Burton W ColeTo keep up with Bash and his author (who might’ve filled his farm-boy days a lot like Bash does), visit Burton W. Cole on Facebook. Enjoy!

Your turn: What’s the craziest (but family friendly) April Fool’s prank you ever pulled?

Some Great — and Cheap! — Summer Reads

I love a great book and I love a great deal, so when I find specials that combine those two things I’m especially happy. Here are two fabulous YA eBook deals that will give you a great start on fun summer reading material.

Turning Point SetDeal #1 — Turning Point, a set of 7 — yes, I said 7! — full-length eBooks for only 99 cents! The titles include:

By Darkness Hid, by Jill Williamson

Whisper if You Have To, by Staci Stallings

It’s Complicated, by Laura L. Smith

Failstate, by John W. Otte

The Wishing Pearl, by Nicole O’Dell

Mardan’s Mark, by Kathrese McKee

Glass Girl, by Laura Anderson Kurk

The genres run from fantasy to contemporary, with both male and female points of view. The theme that ties them together is that they each focus on a turning point in the main characters’ lives. Click on the links to the authors’ websites to learn more about the books, or you can read full descriptions and buy the set at Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

Remember — the set is only in digital format. And even if you’ve read one of them (like I have) or aren’t sure about whether you’d like one, it’s 99 cents for 7 full-length novels! That’s a crazy summertime deal that you don’t want to miss. And, you might find a new author — or genre — that you really like!

In BetweenDeal #2 is … the Kindle version of In Between by Jenny B. Jones is FREE for a limited time! I can honestly say that she’s one of my favorite YA authors and that I loved this series (In Between is the first in her Katie Parker Production series). If you’ve never read any of her books, this is a great place to start.

Both these deals will only be available for a limited time and I’m not sure when they’ll end. So — start clicking those eBook links and get your summer reading stash set!

Your turn — If you buy either of these and like them, come back and let me know! I’d love to hear what you have to say.

It’s a ‘T,’ not a ‘D’

2015 logoOur local high schools and most colleges around here have just wrapped up graduation festivities, but I know some kids in other parts of the country are actually still in school for another couple of weeks. So, in honor of those who haven’t yet walked across the stage as part of the Class of 2015, let me share a quick spelling lesson.

It’s one of those lessons that I want to share every year, without fail. One of those misspellings that absolutely drives me crazy. What is it, you ask? It’s simple.

The word is “congratulations,” not “congradulations.” Yes, that’s a “T” in the middle of the word, not a “D.”

I realize some marketing agencies and greeting card publishers think it’s cute to play off the word “graduate” by changing the “T” to a “D.” And some of these groups can actually get away with it by writing the word in a way that makes it clear they’re using a play on the word.

But for the rest of us who are posting signs outside businesses or writing notes in cards or decorating cakes? Keep the “T,” folks, because otherwise you look illiterate.

End of my annual springtime rant that embarrasses my family and makes them roll their eyes. ConGRATulations to all you graduates!

Super Quick Grammar: Affect vs. Effect

affect effectI’ve seen it three or four times in the last week – mix-ups of “affect” and “effect.” So, since little things like that drive the editor in me crazy, here’s a quick grammar lesson on what the words mean and how to correctly use them.

The basics: In everyday language, “affect” is a verb that most commonly means to influence something. For example, “The storms will affect whether the tennis team plays its match.” “Effect,” on the other hand, is normally used as a noun that shows an outcome – the result of something happening. “She began to feel better when the medicine took effect.”

Of course, like many words in the English language, both affect and effect can have other meanings and be used as other parts of speech. “Affect” can be used as a noun to describe facial expression. (“She affected a blank expression.”) “Effect” might sometimes take on verb form. (“The new principal effected some positive changes in the school.”)

I won’t drag on about other nuances and possible uses. If you’d like to read more, check out this info from Dictionary.com, Grammar Girl, or Vocabulary.com.

A trick: And, as Vocabulary.com suggests, one way to keep “affect” and “effect” straight is to remember that “affect” comes first alphabetically, and an action (to affect) has to occur before you can have a result (an effect).

Your turn: What words do you often see getting mixed up (either by you or by other people)? Let’s straighten them out!

Weird Al and Word Crimes

The guys in my house (aka, husband and son) are longtime fans of Weird Al Yankovic and his crazy song parodies. They are funny and I’ve had plenty of laughs over them (and my guys’ renditions of them). But Weird Al has completely won me over with one of the songs from his new CD that was released this week.

Every writer, word lover, and book enthusiast will appreciate “Word Crimes” (which, I might add, is much better to me than the song it parodies). Watch it and get ready for your Friday afternoon laugh. Then I’d love to know which of the crimes drives you the most crazy.

Happy weekend!


Review: Bird Face by Cynthia T. Toney

It’s no secret that middle school can be some of the toughest years of many kids’ lives. But the secrets that some middle schoolers hide can shock everyone around them – including the kids they see every day.

Bird FaceThat’s how life is for Wendy Robichaud, the almost-14-year-old girl who tells the story of Bird Face by Cynthia T. Toney. Unlike some of the kids around her, Wendy doesn’t care much about popularity or being part of the groups she calls the Sticks, Suaves or Brainiacs (I’ll bet you can figure out who’s who by those names — and we’ve all been to school with them). She has her BFF Jennifer by her side, so that’s all that matters.

Then eighth grade begins and things start to change. Jennifer’s acting different and Wendy’s convinced she’s keeping secrets. Brainiac bully John “Monster” seems to find even more joy in torturing Wendy than he has in the past. And someone has started leaving anonymous sticky notes for Wendy all over the school.

“Nice face,” the first note says, which sends Wendy into a cycle of paranoia about her looks and how she needs to improve herself. But some of the notes that come later are more encouraging: “Only words.” “Good luck.” “Speak up.” And Wendy needs all the luck and courage she can get since John’s latest nickname for her is Bird Face and he seems to taunt her wherever she goes.
It’s all enough to make a girl want to run away and hide because life is quickly turning into one big mess.

The way Wendy deals with things is true life for an eighth grade girl – sometimes clumsy, sometimes quirky, sometimes more grown up than you’d think she’s ready for. And along the way, Wendy learns some lessons we all need to remember – things aren’t always what they seem and aren’t always better just because someone behaves a certain way. Sometimes the people we think we know the most about are the ones with the most surprising secrets. And the ones we barely pay attention to might be our biggest sideline supporters.


Cynthia T ToneyBird Face is perfect for middle school or early high school kids – they’ll be sure to find themselves somewhere in the crowd of kids surrounding Wendy. It touches on a few mature/more serious issues like anorexia and suicide, but does it in a tasteful way. Wendy’s just trying to figure out life, just like we all are. She’s a good one to spend some time with and maybe learn a few things from while she navigates her crazy world. And with school starting back in just a few weeks, now would be the perfect time to read it.

Learn more about Bird Face at her blog (http://birdfacewendy.wordpress.com/) or website (www.cynthiattoney.com). You can also connect on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/birdfacewendy?ref=hl) or Twitter (https://twitter.com/CynthiaTToney).

Coming Soon: Bird Face Review

Bird FaceMy critique partner Cynthia Toney is still celebrating the release of her first novel, Bird Face, and I’m helping extend the celebration. I’m reading it now and am thoroughly enjoying the story of Wendy — partly because it’s a great book and partly because it was snatched up by her publisher before she’d finished sending chapters to us for critique. I want to know what happens just as much as any other reader! 🙂

I’ll be reviewing it soon, but here are a couple of bits to tide you over until then:

The quick back cover blurb: Not-quite-fourteen-year-old Wendy doesn’t care one bit about being popular like her classmates Tookie and the Sticks. That is, until Brainiac bully John-Monster schemes against her, and someone leaves anonymous sticky-note messages all over school. Even her best friend is hiding something. While juggling divorced parents, caring for abandoned puppies, and trying to make the high school track team, who has time to play detective?

And a post about Bird Face from The Scriblerians, a group blog where Cynthia writes about MG and YA things.

Have a great day!



No More Writing Guilt!

gavelEach year, I set out with fabulous, high-aiming writing goals. I’m going to finish at least one manuscript (of the umteen partially written ones saved on my collection of flash drives). I’m going to write a certain number of words each day/week/month. I’m going to spend a hour each day/every other day writing.

And on and on and on.

Then life kicks in and some of the goals I made some progress toward in the early weeks get sidetracked. Worse yet, they get thrown in the ditch and forgotten.

And then the guilt sets in.

I can’t always write a certain number of words every day. I have trouble finding uninterrupted blocks of time for writing (even 10 or 15 minutes, some days). I might be able to carve out some time for writing late at night, but I’m worn out from the day and can’t seem to keep my eyes open once I sit at my keyboard. I get excited about a new idea and toss my current project aside to follow the new path.

I’ve decided that this will be the year I don’t let those roadblocks and rabbit trails defeat me. Here’s why.

  • Maybe I can only write a couple of paragraphs while waiting to pick up my kids from school. But some words are better than no words, and they eventually can make a book if I string enough of them together.
  • Maybe the new idea gives me a chance to explore a new genre or writing from a different point of view (POV) or connects me with wonderful people I wouldn’t have met otherwise.
  • Maybe I’m too tired to write some nights, but I can toy with ideas while doing all the usual mom stuff that I want to finish before collapsing in bed.

The point is, I can set all the goals I want — and that’s a good thing to do! — but maybe I need to be more realistic with them. I have a full-time job, a fairly busy freelance writing/editing business, and a family to love and enjoy. My husband helps with a lot of things, but I’m usually the one to take care of grocery shopping, errand running, and kids’ activity logistics. I’m active in church, help at my kids’ schools, and try to find at least one day a month when I can exercise. 🙂

I’m busy. We’re all busy. But if I want to write, then I’ll do it when I can and not feel guilty about when I can’t. Because I’m not Wonder Woman, I’m Real World Mom. And if I stop wasting so much time kicking myself for not writing more, maybe I’ll actually get some other things done and clear a few minutes for — gasp! — writing a few more sentences.

Your turn: What do you think? How do you juggle it all and not feel guilty? I’d love to know!

14 for 2014

Every January, I think about how fun it would be to keep a list of all the books I read that year. That’s as far as it usually gets – an idea that gets lost in the shuffle of life – but maybe this will be the year I actually do it!


To kick things off, I thought I’d share some books I’m looking forward to diving into this year. 14 books, to be exact – which you probably figured out since this post is titled “14 for 2014.” Some of these books will be new to me even though they’re not necessarily new titles. Others are on my waiting list because they won’t be released until later in 2014. And a few will be re-reads of books I enjoyed years ago.

Of course, I’ll read some nonfiction along the way, too, but this list is focusing on fiction. Partly because I read a lot more of it and partly because it’s easier for me to come up with 14 titles. So, here goes (in no particular order)!


New (or new to me) titles

Bird FaceThe Captive Maiden by Melanie Dickerson (a medieval retelling of the Cinderella story)

Bird Face by Cynthia Toney (a young adult book by one of my critique group partners; this will be her debut novel – I’m so excited for her!)

Bash and the Chicken Coop Caper by Burton Cole (the second in Burt’s middle grade series about zany cousins Bash and Beamer – and I’m proud to call him a critique group partner, too!)

Doon by Carey Corp and Laurie Langdon (a young adult fantasy that has two friends traveling to an alternate world in Scotland)

The Revised Life of Ellie Sweet by Stephanie Morrill (nerdy girl Ellie writes her first novel and learns that her real and imaginary worlds might intersect more than she thought)

DoonThe Selection by Kiera Cass (dystopian romance that I’ll probably enjoy so much that I’ll read the entire trilogy)

A Beauty So Rare by Tamara Alexander (the latest historical romance from one of my all-time favorite authors)

The Blood of Olympus by Rick Riordan (the latest in his Heroes of Olympus series with Percy Jackson and friends – my son and I will probably spar over who gets to read it first)


And a few classics

Pride and Prejudice (I’m almost embarrassed to say this, but I’ve seen a couple of movie versions but have never actually read the book)

The Scarlet Letter (I remember loving this book in high school once I slogged through the beginning – we’ll see if that still holds true)

Wrinkle in TimeA Wrinkle in Time (I read this one, but don’t remember much about it – time to change that!)

Fahrenheit 451 (another one I enjoyed reading in high school – plus my son will be reading it next semester so I thought it’d be fun to run through it again)

The Hobbit (yes, this is partly because of the movie series – it’s been so long since I read the book that I can’t remember which parts of the movies are accurate and which are just Hollywood)

To Kill a Mockingbird (I liked this in high school and my son really enjoyed reading it last year; since it’s on our bookshelf, why not enjoy it again?)


Your turn: What books are you planning to read in 2014? Any particular reason why? I’d love to know, because then I’ll probably add them to my own list! 

Happy New Year! 🙂

Sneak Peek: Spiraling Out of Control

For our final Christmas Book Tour Sneak Peek, I’m featuring Spiralling Out of Control by Michelle Dennis Evans. It’s written from a Christian world view, but does touch on some adult themes and is recommended for readers ages 17 and up.

Michelle Dennis EvansMore about Michelle:

Michelle Dennis Evans writes picture books, chapter books, young adult contemporary novels and enjoys dabbling in free verse poetry. Her debut novel Spiralling Out of Control and poetry collection Life Inspired both reached #1 in subcategories on Amazon in their first week of release. Michelle is passionate about seeing people grow and move forward in their journey. She lives on the Gold Coast with her husband and four super active, super fun and super time consuming children. Find Michelle and all of her social media links at MichelleDennisEvans.com


More about the book:

Temptation, depression, seduction, betrayal … Not what Stephanie was expecting at fifteen years of age. Uprooted from her happy, all-girl high school life with a dream filled future and thrown into an unfriendly co-ed school, Stephanie spirals into depression.

When charismatic high school senior, Jason notices her, Stephanie jumps in feet first and willingly puts all her faith and trust in him, a boy she barely knows.

Every choice she makes and turn she takes leads her towards a dangerous path.

Her best friend is never far away and ready to catch her … but will she push Tabbie too far away when she needs her most?

Spiralling Out of Control PREVIEWExcerpt from Spiralling Out of Control – Chapter 3 part c

“Steph, dinner is ready.” Diane knocked on her door.

Stephanie didn’t reply.

“Look,” her mother opened the door. “I know it wasn’t the best start, but why don’t you come downstairs for dinner. Dad’s just come home and he wants us to eat together.”

Dragging herself off the bed, Stephanie followed her mother.

“Hello, Steph.” Her father spoke while focusing on the newspaper. “Mum said you didn’t have a good day.”

Stephanie wanted to rip the paper from his hands. But didn’t.

They sat at the table while April dissected her fabulous day. “Oh, there’s three girls in my class who do gymnastics,” she said. “They go to the best club. I just have to join it.”

Her father looked up from the paper. “We can book you in for a trial, if you like.”

“There’s a birthday this weekend. Jenna has invited me. Is it okay if I go? Well, I kind of already replied but I … well is it okay?”

John tilted his paper forward, peering over the top. “I hope you didn’t invite yourself.”

April shook her head. “There’s a play coming up and I’m trying out for a part tomorrow.”

Diane smiled. “Do you need help with learning lines? Maybe Stephanie can help.”

Stephanie pulled a face at April and shook her head, rolling her eyes.

“Mum, can you come and help at school?” April asked.

“Yes, I should be able to fit in one or two days.”

“Dad, they’re asking for fathers to help with some of the backdrops and props. Can I put you down for that?”

He folded the paper in half, putting it down. “It depends what time and which day they need me.”

“Mum, I can’t believe they gave me readers. They’re so easy. I can read way better than that!”

All Stephanie heard was, “Blah blah blah,” while April continued to prattle on. Argh!

After dinner, Stephanie resumed her position on her bed, staring at the ceiling, letting the loud music thump off the walls until her mother asked her to turn it down for the night. She held her aching head in her hands and cried herself to sleep. That night she had nightmares of up-close faces coming one after the other, laughing.


Stephanie’s mother stopped right in front of the school gate for the third day in a row.

“Mum! Could you stop a little further away from the gate?”

“Why? There’s no other cars right in front,” Diane said. “Saves you the walk.”

Believe me, Mum, you are making my life worse.

Stephanie groaned as she leant against the car door that never closed on the first shove. Before she even looked up, the banter had started.

“Wanna have lunch?” one boy asked, followed by one of his friends with, “Oh, no she already has a lunch date … with herself.”

“Shut up, idiots.” Stephanie urged her feet to move faster.

The boys erupted with laughter. The only difference each day was different boys delivered the lines, adding obscene remarks about her body parts. Wolf-whistle boy was always in the centre, finishing with a whistle each day.

“Get a life,” she told them as she walked away.

Thanks for reading the excerpt, and visit author Michelle Dennis Evans online if you’d like to learn more. And … please pop over to the John 3:16 page and enter the Rafflecopter for your chance to win a $200 Amazon voucher http://bit.ly/Christian_Books

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