Tag Archives: Leigh DeLozier

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?

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!

Leigh

 

Blog Meme: TRUST and Writing Stars

ImageToday I’m joining a blogging meme to get myself thinking about some different things related to this blog. The challenge (thanks to Edie Melson over at The Write Conversation) is to use an acrostic of the word TRUST and how it can tie in with the blog.

So here goes …

T = Teens and tweens, who I write this blog for. And, yes, I’ve been slack about things lately but am really trying to get back on schedule.

R = Reviews of books that are good for teens and tweens. Most of the books I post about and review are written from a Christian perspective because I follow Christ – and because they’re great books written by wonderfully talented authors. I’ll sometimes mention or review books from a secular publisher (as opposed to one that focuses on the Christian market), but will still follow my no-smut-allowed rule.

U = Understanding how much your teachers are trying to cram into your brains, and how limited their time to do that really is. I come from a long line of teachers on both sides of my family, so I’m pretty familiar with their challenges even though I’m not standing in front of a classroom full of you every day. A lot of the writing tips I cover here are straight from my kids’ class curriculums, because I know those are the real-world things you’re expected to know. As I say on my About page, I’m not trying to replace what teachers do in the classroom – I’m just trying to give an extra boost to their lessons and hopefully help you understand things better.

S = Spotlights on authors who might be new to you. Did you know that most authors (except the super big name ones who’ve sold a gazillion books) have to do the bulk of book promotion and marketing themselves? The word gets out about great books because readers who enjoy the stories or who know the authors share it with other readers. They blog, they write book reviews, they tell their friends. My hope is that you’ll get interested in some of the authors I spotlight here and will check out their books for yourself.

T = Tips for becoming a better writer, whether it’s a paper for your English class or that novel you scribble notes about when you’re supposed to be asleep … or studying for that science test … or listening to your mom’s latest lecture.

I guess Writing Stars has more to do with trust than I realized. 🙂 Do you think that’s an accurate rundown? Or, if not, what would your suggestions be?

And since this is a meme … now it’s your turn! Click below to link your own blog post about TRUST.

 

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Look for These New Books!

Bash and Running Lean 2

Bash & the Pirate Pig by Burton W. Cole and Running Lean by Diana L. Sharples

I had a few minutes to stop by the closest Lifeway store and was thrilled to find two special books on the shelf — Bash and the Pirate Pig by Burton Cole and Running Lean by Diana Sharples.

Let me tell you a bit about them and why I was so tickled.

Diana and I have seen each other’s names through online writing groups and classes for quite a while and have met and had the chance to talk at a couple of writing conferences. She’s a gifted writer and artist with a heart for teens and has worked hard at this publication game. Running Lean is her debut YA novel about Calvin and Stacey, a high school couple who balance each other out while they each battle private demons. Calvin still grieves for his brother’s death in Afghanistan and Stacey is succumbing to anorexia. Tough topics, but very real life for teens today. I’m only a few chapters into the book, but am enjoying it very much.

Burt is the fearless leader of an online writing critique group that started a couple of years ago for a few of us who were writing middle grade fiction. We read and critiqued Bash and the Pirate Pig from page one, celebrated with Burt when he signed with a literary agent, and threw another online party when he signed a publishing contract. Bash is the story of Raymond, a somewhat dull city kid who gets packed off to spend the summer on the farm with his cousin Bash (Sebastian). Nothing is dull after that! Burt uses lots of stories from his own childhood as the basis for escapades Bash and Raymond (aka Beamer) get pulled into. Cow tipping, cow riding, skunk tracking, hayloft flying, and more had me laughing every time Burt sent a chapter for us to read. It’s a book middle school kids (especially boys!) will love — and the best news is, another story about Bash and Beamer is also under contract.

I’ll post more official reviews later, but for now just know that these are two great books you don’t want to miss. If you see either of them in the store or decide to pick up a copy, come back and let me know what you thought!

 

Dystopian Meets Greek Gods

If school hasn’t started back for you yet, it probably will very soon. Which means you’ll have loads of reading and work to do for teachers, but we still need to squeeze in some books for fun, right?

House of HadesI’m here to tell you that there are two releases coming in October that I can hardly wait to dig into: The House of Hades by Rick Riordan and Allegiant by Veronica Roth. Two very different books that will take me to completely different worlds — Greek and Roman gods and demigods versus teens and 20-somethings in a dystopian version of Chicago. Add those to my to-be-read pile including a goofy MG pirate tale, several Christian historical romances, and the latest David Baldacci (passed along by my dad), and you’ll see that I read a lot of different stuff.

Here are two reasons why I’m really looking forward to The House of Hades and Allegiant:

The series. I love a good series! If an author hooks me on characters and a storyline in his or her first book, then I want more. I’ve followed Percy Jackson and his buddies on every adventure since The Lightning Thief and haven’t tired of them yet because new twists and challenges keep popping up. New characters too, which keeps it interesting. The story of Tris sucked me in from page one of Divergent, with its fine line between the world we know today and how it could conceivably be if certain things happened. She’s a girl I can relate to and love to cheer for.

AllegiantThe writing. In case you didn’t know, writers read differently from regular readers. Once you start learning how to write fiction, reading is never the same. We pick up on show vs. tell, watch for foreshadowing, notice how the author brings things alive with descriptions or dialogue. Sometimes that drives me crazy because I just want to enjoy the book! But most of the time it gives me a chance to learn as I read. It’s been interesting (to me) to see how Riordan’s writing has changed and grown as the Percy series has expanded. It has more depth, more layers between characters, more complex sentences. And Roth? Wow, I can learn a lot from her. I think her writing is top-notch on all levels. Plus, the last book in each series had a tremendous hook that I’m eager to see play out.

This would also probably be a good place to admit that I only started reading both series after my son did. I kept buying the Percy Jackson books for him and the first series was almost complete before I finally picked up The Lightning Thief for myself. He picked up a buddy’s copy of Divergent when they went camping last summer and came home wanting a copy. He gave it such high marks that I might’ve started reading that one before he finished it. 🙂

So what about you? Are you counting down to the release date for these or some other books? If so, which one and why?

P.S. — Just FYI, The House of Hades releases on October 8, and Allegiant releases on October 22. For more info, visit the blogs for Rick Riordan and Veronica Roth (and, no, I don’t get anything for recommending these books or their authors — just sharing a little book love).

 

Book Cover Sneak Peek — The Captive Maiden

One of the most fun things for an author is getting that first look at the cover for her new book. I’m glad to be one of the “sneak peek” bloggers for Melanie Dickerson today, here with the cover for her novel that will be released in October. It’s called The Captive Maiden, and is a loose retelling of Cinderella set in Medieval Germany.

Here’s the back cover blurb:

Captive MaidenHappily Ever After …Or Happily Nevermore? Gisela’s childhood was filled with laughter and visits from nobles such as the duke and his young son. But since her father’s death, each day has been filled with nothing but servitude to her stepmother. So when Gisela learns the duke’s son, Valten—the boy she has daydreamed about for years—is throwing a ball in hopes of finding a wife, she vows to find a way to attend, even if it’s only for a taste of a life she’ll never have. To her surprise, she catches Valten’s eye. Though he is rough around the edges, Gisela finds Valten has completely captured her heart. But other forces are bent on keeping the two from falling further in love, putting Gisela in more danger than she ever imagined.

Isn’t it a gorgeous cover? I love it — and think that Melanie’s book covers have all been really nice but have gotten better with each release. She has some great designers on her team!

This will be Melanie’s fourth book, and I’ve enjoyed all of her others so far. Even though she writes “fairy tale retellings,” they aren’t your standard stories from childhood. There’s enough from the fairy tale to make it familiar, but Melanie adds lots of other characters and plot surprises to keep it interesting. And although they’re all stand-alone books, it helps to read them in the order they’re published because you find some unexpected connections along the way.

Her first title was The Healer’s Apprentice, based on Sleeping Beauty. Then Melanie wrote The Merchant’s Daughter, based on Beauty and the Beast. Last year brought The Fairest Beauty, a retelling of Snow White, and now we’re waiting for The Captive Maiden. If you like sweet romances or are looking for romances to recommend to teen girls, visit Melanie’s website or blog to learn more about all her books. They’re a lot of fun, and I’m looking forward to adding The Captive Maiden to my collection. (You can also preorder The Captive Maiden on Amazon)

In Honor of Holocaust Remembrance Day

This Sunday, April 7, will be Holocaust Remembrance Day. Although it might be a time some people don’t want to remember because of the terrible things that happened, that’s exactly why we need to stop and remember — to honor those who went through it, and to remind ourselves that we don’t want to go down that path again. 

If you don’t know much about the Holocaust during World War II, there are lots of books that bring the time to life while still being interesting (and OK for tween/teen readers). Here are three of my favorites I think everyone should read: 

Number the StarsNumber the Stars, by Lois Lowry: The fifth graders at my kids’ elementary school read this every year. It’s told through the eyes of 10-year-old Annemarie, whose family takes in Annemarie’s best friend Ellen Rosen and conceals her as part of the family when German Nazis begin their campaign to “relocate” Jewish families in Denmark. We learn how the Danish Resistance smuggled almost the entire Jewish population of Denmark across the sea to Sweden — almost 7,000 people. Real people can become real heroes. 

Someone Named EvaSomeone Named Eva, by Joan Wolf: Milada’s village in Czechoslovakia is invaded by Nazi troops looking to either kill or imprison citizens. Milada is “lucky” because she has blonde hair and light-colored eyes. She’s taken with some other children to a special camp where they’re “refashioned” to become like German children who can be adopted by German families. Milada’s new name becomes Eva, and she joins the family a high-ranking Nazi official. It was based on actual events, and brought out a side of Nazi Germany that I’d never known. I had the chance to interview author Joan Wolf on another blog a few years ago, if you’re interested in learning more. Read Day 1 of her interview and Day 2 of her interview here. 

Anne FrankDiary of a Young Girl, by Anne Frank: This real-life story of surviving the Holocaust has been a classic for years. She and her family lived in the “secret annex” of a government building for 2 years, until they were betrayed to the Germans. It’s a vivid look at how life was when they were cut off from the outside world — hungry, crowded, under constant threat of being discovered and imprisoned or killed. But it’s also a tribute to human courage and determination (and best for older middle school readers instead of younger kids). 

Your turn: Have you read any of these books? Or have you read others about the Jewish people during the Holocaust that you would recommend? Share with us!

 

5 Things to Remember During an Interview

question markIt’s OK to be a little nervous before interviewing someone, but don’t let it worry you too much. If you’ve followed the steps from last week about preparing for a great interview, you’re already moving in the right direction. Now that it’s time to talk with the person, follow these five things to make your interview a success.

1. Be the reminder. Just like you can’t remember every possible question without writing them down, the person you talk with might not remember why you’re interviewing him or her. Take a minute to remind him or her that this is for the school newspaper or a history class assignment or whatever. If you have certain things you’re supposed to include in the interview, mention that, too. It will help your interviewee to know the kinds of questions you’ll be asking.

2. Double check everything. Once you’re ready to begin the interview, take one very important step before asking the first question on your list. Ask the person how to spell his or her name, and verify other details you’ll be including in your article. For example, if you’re interviewing an author about her new book, you’ll want to get the title right. If the new coach says he went to college at USC, ask whether he means the University of South Carolina or the University of Southern California. Every detail matters.

3. Let them talk. You don’t want the coach to talk about his vegetable garden when you’re trying to learn his plans for basketball season. But you also don’t want to be so focused on your list of questions that you don’t give him the chance to talk about some things he enjoys. You might learn some great stuff once he starts talking about something a bit different, but don’t let him hijack your whole plan.

4. Ask the best question. Even after many years of writing, I’ve learned that no matter how well I prepare, I’ll still probably leave a question off my list. That’s where my “one best question” comes into play. When we’re nearing the end of the interview, I ask, “What would be the one thing you’d want people to know about _________?” I fill in the blank or maybe change the question a little, depending on the situation. For an author, I might ask, “What’s the one thing you hope people will learn by reading your book?” For the grandfather who flew in World War II, I might ask, “What was the one thing that surprised you most about flying during a combat mission?” The “one thing” question has given me some of the best answers during interviews with all sorts of people. It can work for you, too, no matter who you interview.

Large wooden doors5. Leave the door open. Just because your time runs out doesn’t mean the interview ends. Once you sit down to write, you might think of other questions or you might need help remembering something. That’s OK – professionals can find themselves in the same situation. As you end the interview, thank the person for his or her time, and ask if you can call or email if you have questions once you start writing the article. I can virtually guarantee they’ll say “yes.”

Your turn: If you could ask one person one question, who would it be and what would you ask?

 

5 Steps to Prepare for a Great Interview

Interviews aren’t just for people on the news. You need to interview people sometimes, too, even if you don’t think of it that way. Maybe your teacher wants you to talk to your grandparents about something for history class. Or maybe you’re supposed to write an article for the school newspaper about the new basketball coach.

QAHowever you look at it, you have questions and that other person has the answers.

Find the answers for yourself – and make sure it’s a success – by following these 5 steps to prepare for interviewing the person.

1. Research things ahead of time. Learn about the person you’ll be interviewing and some basic things about the subject you’ll be discussing. You don’t have to know everything (that’s what the person you’re interviewing is for), but you need to know enough to feel comfortable asking questions.

2. Remember the point. Know why you want to talk to this person – what you want to learn – and keep the interview focused on that. Be sure the person you’ll interview also knows the purpose so they won’t talk about everything else. The other stories might be interesting, but if they don’t relate to your assignment, they won’t do you any good. If you’re supposed to write about your grandfather’s experience as a pilot during World War II, talk about that. Save the recap of last week’s fishing trip for another time.

3. Create your list. As you decide on the questions to ask, write them down – preferably all in the same place, so you can keep track of everything. The list will grow and change as you prepare, and that’s OK. Try to write questions that can’t just be answered with “yes” or “no,” because that will give you much better information to work from when it’s time to write.

4. Prioritize. Once you have all your questions written, prioritize them so you’ll always be able to cover the most important points. Years ago, I scheduled an interview with a retired professional athlete for an article promoting things for a local hospital. We scheduled a 30-minute time slot and I researched and organized things again and again to prepare. When I called for the interview, I learned that my time had been cut from 30 minutes to 10 minutes because some other commitments had filled the athlete’s calendar. Oh no! I didn’t even have enough time to panic. But I had prioritized my list, so I was able to get answers to my top three questions before our time ran out. If I hadn’t rewritten my questions in order, I would have wasted precious minutes trying to figure out a game plan.

checklist5. Confirm details. When you schedule the interview, confirm all the details before ending the conversation. Verify the time and date you’ll be talking and whether you’ll talk over the phone or face-to-face. If you’ll be calling, get the best phone number to use. If you’ll be interviewing in person, get directions to the place you’ll meet (unless you’re absolutely sure). Also write down the person’s email if possible, so you have a back-up way to contact him or her if needed.

Your turn: Who’s the most interesting person you’ve ever interviewed? Or, who would be the one person you’d love to interview more than anyone else?

Next time: Now that you’ve done the prep work, make sure the actual interview goes smoothly. I’ll share 5 ways to make that happen – including my best interview question, no matter who the person is or what we’re talking about.

Book review: Night Flight, by Diane & David Munson

From the back cover: Ex Feds Diane and David Munson crank out high velocity suspense as Glenna and Gregg Rider adopt Blaze, a mature dog. The teens are shocked when Blaze confronts shady criminals making counterfeit money. They discover what their parents never told them: Blaze is a retired law enforcement dog. The crooks are arrested, but Glenna and Gregg must flee to their grandparents’ home in Treasure Island, Fla. Danger follows them from Skeleton Key in the darkness of night as they put Blaze to work fighting crimes. Blaze reveals a surprising twist, so hold on for the thrilling end.

Night FlightMy thoughts: Glenna and Gregg definitely get more than they expected when their parents let them adopt Blaze. They think he’s a regular “old” dog, but he soon proves them wrong. The book is packed with multiple plot lines from tracking down criminals to dealing with a friend’s illness to learning to watch for – and help – people less fortunate. The pieces seemed rather jumbled in some spots to me, but everything came together in the end.

I liked that the authors’ real-life experiences as Federal agents/prosecutors came through when they explained about different procedures or agencies. They handled those things well — they educated their readers without sounding like a text book. The details they were able to include helped make the events even more realistic and kept the story interesting. What kid doesn’t want to see some ins and outs of folks who catch international bad guys?

Some of Glenna’s and Gregg’s actions and lines of thinking seemed younger than their ages, but maybe they’ve just led very sheltered lives. Themes such as helping the people you love, trusting God to be in control, and being honest with your parents were clear without being preachy — always a plus in kids’ books.

David and Diane Munson

Authors Diane and David Munson

The publisher categorizes Night Flight as young adult, but I see it as more appropriate for middle grades. Kids in 4th-6th grades would probably enjoy it the most, thanks to the “kid spy” factor, super sleuth dog, and level of plot.

 

Visit authors Diane and David Munson online

Read a sample of Night Flight online

 

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