There’s a Hamster in the Dashboard (And a Bit of Writing Advice, too)

dog coverI’m so happy to have David Berner here today, along with his charming book of essays, There’s a Hamster in the Dashboard (A Life in Pets). Every essay is a charmer, for sure, but I’ll sappily admit that he had me from the very first story he told, about his boyhood pet, Sally. Because as many of you who’ve followed me for years know, Sally the Crazy Dog was Youngest Junior Hall’s pet, and even though it’s been three years, there are moments when I forget and think Sally is under my desk.

As I read about dogs and cats and a squirrel and even ants, I remembered all the pets who’ve padded through my life, and my children’s lives: Albert the cat and Sally, Fluffo the rabbit, Hermie the hermit crab, and even the not-named-but-still-pet horny toads (that’s what we called the horned lizards we found in our yard in Texas).

It was nice to remember some of my best friends, and I loved hearing about David Berner’s friends; I loved his voice as well as his viewpoint. And when he sent me some writing words of wisdom to share with my readers, I loved that, too. (And I kinda needed some of that discipline, here in the middle of the summer. Bet you could use a little, too!):

Here’s the thing about wanting to be a writer…you have to write.

There is no way around it.

You want to eventually run a marathon, a 5K, or just jog around the block? You have to train for it; get up and do it. So you run. A lot. You want to play better golf? You have to play the holes and go to the range and you have to do it often. You want to lose weight, get in shape? You have to workout and you have to do it on a regular basis, even when you don’t feel like it.

David Berner

It’s the same with writing. There is no muse to wait for, no inspirational moment that hurls you into the work. It’s hard. And just like your day job, sometimes it’s tolerable, sometimes it’s arduous, sometimes it’s a very nice experience. And if you’re lucky, sometimes it’s utter joy.

“There is nothing to writing,” Ernest Hemingway said. “All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”

That may be hyperbole. Let’s put things in perspective. Writing is not digging ditches, not physically. But maybe it is metaphorically and emotionally. You are digging holes to find your best words, your best narrative, and to find the time.

So, how do you find time?

Just like running, golfing, or working out, you have to make the time. There is no mystery. Get up an hour earlier each day. Got to bed an hour later. Write during your lunch break. Write while you wait for the commuter train, while you wait at the doctor’s office, while your children are on a play date. Keep a notebook and write when something interesting comes into your head, when you overhear an attention-grabbing conversation. Write it down. All of it.

I have a friend who wrote an entire novel on small slips of paper he kept in his shirt pocket. Little by little, when he had five or ten minutes, he would write. When he had hundreds of those pieces of paper, he organized them on his laptop into a story, a full-length book. It took a long time, but he did it, inch-by-inch.

I wrote the personal essays in my latest book—There’s a Hamster in the Dashboard: A Life in Pets—one small story/chapter at a time. I squeaked out an hour over a weekend, week after week, until a draft was complete. Any Road Will Take You There, my memoir of a father-son road trip was written on consecutive Sunday mornings for more than a year. A couple of hours just as the sun came up. I was lucky enough to finish the manuscript as a Writer-in-Residence at the Jack Kerouac House in Orlando. But you don’t need that opportunity. It’s nice, certainly. A luxury. But writing it still about finding the time and sticking to it.

You have kids? A spouse? A job? Still, find a sliver of time that is yours. Tell your family that during that one hour, you will be locked inside your room with a laptop and unless the house is on fire, do not bother me. This is YOUR time. They may moan or complain, but they’ll get used to it. And when you have some tremendous stories to share, they will be amazed, proud. They will envy your discipline. My first book—Accidental Lessons—about a year teaching in a troubled Chicago-area school district was written when my children were young. But I got up before six o’clock on Saturdays and wrote for an hour or two until I heard the tapping on the door and the whisper, “Dad, are you up?”

There is no secret formula for finding the time to write. You just have to decide if you are willing to make the sacrifices. For me, it was worth it. And if you are one of those writers who feels you must write, that you don’t feel complete unless you put words on paper, then certainly find your little moments in your busy day and write, write, write.

So here’s the official book summary if I haven’t sold you yet:

A book of essays by award-winning author and journalist David W. Berner is the next best thing to storytelling around a bonfire. In There’s a Hamster in the Dashboard, Berner shares stories of “a life in pets”—from a collie that herds Berner home when the author goes “streaking” through the neighborhood as a two-year-old, to a father crying in front of his son for the only time in his life while burying the family dog on the Fourth of July. And from the ant farm that seems like a great learning experience (until the ants learn how to escape), to the hamster that sets out on its own road trip (but only gets as far as the dashboard). Along the way, Berner shows that pets not only connect us with the animal world, but also with each other and with ourselves. The result is a collection of essays that is insightful and humorous, entertaining and touching.

And here’s where you can pick up your own copy of There’s a Hamster in the Dashboard:

Print or Ebook: Amazon

Print copy only: Dream of Things

But I’ve got a surprise for all of you who’ve read all the way to here: I’m giving away my copy of There’s a Hamster in the Dashboard! If you leave me a comment about one of your pets, I’ll enter you in the drawing (You must be a continental US reader). And if you share about the book on Twitter (#HamsterDash), I’ll add another entry for you. In fact, if you mention David and his book anywhere, I’ll give you another entry. Just let me know where you shared. I’ll keep the drawing open till Thursday and post the winner on the last day of July for Friday’s Fun Find.

‘Cause really, y’all, I found a true gem when I opened There’s a Hamster in the Dashboard (My Life in Pets).

Scott Keen and Scar of the Downers

scott keenAuthor Scott Keen is currently on a WOW! blog tour with his older Middle Grade/Young Adult novel, Scar of the Downers. And if you read my post yesterday at The Muffin, then you know I asked Scott to share something about his publishing journey and the company, WiDo. Scott very happily obliged and I appreciated his honest and informative post. I think you will, too.

Several years ago, when I first started pursuing the route to publication for my book Scar of the Downers, I did the usual thing that most aspiring authors do. I researched agents and sent them query letters and manuscript portions and synopses, all in the hopes of being able to one day get signed by one of the “Big Five” publishers.

This is a hard route, though, for someone who is unknown and has zero contacts in the industry, like myself. Also, self-publishing was not a possibility for me, mostly because I had no money to invest in it. Then, my laptop died and I lost the document where I was keeping track of all my agent submissions (and rejections). Fortuitously, I came across the QueryTracker website, which, for a small annual fee, will do the work of keeping track of all this stuff for you, with the added bonus of you being able to see reviews and ratings of agents and publishing houses from other budding authors like yourself. (And no, I am not compensated in any way, shape, or form by QueryTracker. These are just my honest feelings).

On QueryTracker, I found WiDo Publishing, a small traditional press. When I scoped out their website, I thought it looked professional. I also looked at the books they had published and I was impressed with them as well, both for their covers and their content. Another plus was that I didn’t need an agent to submit to them. I thought that WiDo might be a good match for me, so I sent them my query letter and synopsis and hoped for the best.

A few months later, I was signing the book contract and was mentally prepping myself for the editing process, which was foreign to me at this point. I was unsure of what to expect. It took several weeks for the editor to go through my manuscript. Her feedback wasn’t just a cursory glance kind of feedback – I could tell that she really thought about my book and the ways to improve it. It wasn’t an easy edit for me that first time around. I had to make some pretty ruthless cuts and changes, especially in the first few chapters. It was hard work, and it wasn’t fun. But, I can honestly say that these changes made the book better.

After several rounds of editing, there was just the cover that I was mostly stressed about. I know many people do judge a book by its cover, as I am one of them. So this was very important to me. I sent in a synopsis and an excerpt of the manuscript that I thought best fit the tone of the novel. With that, the designer went to work. In the end, I was very pleased, and I’ve had a lot of compliments on it as well.

Since I’m a first-time author, I’m sure I was slightly annoying to them with all the questions I had, but WiDo was good about emailing me and keeping me up-to-date about how things were coming along. All in all, I’m very pleased with my experience working with WiDo to publish Scar of the Downers. And, I am thankful that they gave me, an unknown author, a chance to break into the harrowing world of publishing!

And now, a few more particulars about Scott Keen and his debut book, Scar of the Downers:

Scott Keen grew up in Black River, NY, the youngest of three children. While in law school, he realized he didn’t want to be a lawyer. So he did the practical thing–he became a writer. Now, many years later with an MFA in script and screenwriting, he is married with four daughters, two of whom he homeschools. He blogs at www.scottkeenbooks.com.

9781937178635-200x300About Scar of the Downers:

Branded on the slaves in the Northern Reaches beyond Ungstah, the scar marks each one as a Downer. It is who they are. There is no escaping this world. Still, strange things are stirring.

Two foreigners ride through the Northern Reaches on a secret mission. An unknown cloaked figure wanders the streets of the dark city of Ungstah. What they want no one can be sure, but it all centers around a Downer named Crik.

Crik, too scared to seek freedom, spends his days working in his master’s store, avoiding the spirit-eating Ash Kings while scavenging food for himself and his best friend, Jak. Until he steals from the wrong person. When Jak is sold to satisfy the debt, Crik burns down his master’s house and is sentenced to death.

To survive, Crik and his friends must leave behind their life of slavery to do what no other Downer has ever done before–escape from the city of Ungstah.

Sounds like an interesting book, right? And I bet if you have questions, about his book or WiDo Publishing, Scott would be interested in answering them!

Read and Learn, Grasshopper: Nina Amir and The Author Training Manual

NinaBookcoverFor those of you who’ve followed me regularly over the years, you know that Wednesdays can sometimes be What Not To Do Wednesdays. Because let’s face it, grasshopper. I’ve learned a lot about what to do from learning what not to do. And when I started reading Nina Amir’s The Author Training Manual, I had that old “what not to do” feeling. Mistakes? I’d made a few…

But the good news is, I realized I could change, could correct a few of my errant ways, starting with the way I thought about myself as an author. The Author Training Manual will guide you, step by step, with exercises, in What To Do to be a successful author. Here’s Nina with answers to some of the questions I thought you might have:

 

1. I love that you start by saying that anyone can move from aspiring writer to published writer—but only if we have the AUTHOR ATTITUDE. Can you share a little about what you mean by the AUTHOR ATTITUDE?

Sure! With the advent of digital publishing, it seems easy to become an author. But to produce a successful book and to become a successful author takes more than just slapping together a manuscript and throwing it up on Amazon as a Kindle book, or even as a POD book on CreateSpace.

To do it “well” takes much, much more. For that you need the right attitude, what I call an Author Attitude, which is comprised of four primary elements.

First, you need willingness. To succeed as an author generally takes an enormous amount of willingness. To succeed as a self-published author takes even more. You must be willing to do whatever it takes, do more than just write, to change, to learn new things, to step outside your comfort zone, to make mistakes, to take risks, to fail, to succeed, to play big and be seen, to get rejected, and to run your own publishing company.

Second, you need optimism. Studies show that optimists succeed more often than pessimists. Optimists don’t take rejection, criticism and mistakes personally, which helps them avoid getting stuck. Optimistic people approach challenges as opportunities to move closer to their goals. Pessimistic people see them as obstacles, or reasons to quit.

Third, you need objectivity. Writing and publishing requires the objectivity to see yourself and your work from readers’, editors’ and publishing professionals’ perspective. When you can do this, you can take the necessary steps to improve your work and make yourself into an attractive publishing partner.

Fourth, you need tenacity. Writing a book isn’t easy. It’s often said that the real work of a writer begins after publication when you begin promotion. You must have determination, persistence and perseverance—all elements of tenacity—to get from aspiring to published (and successful) author.

I created an acronym to make it easy to remember the elements of an Author Attitude: WOOT. According to the Urban Dictionary, the word “woot” originated as a hacker term for root, or administrative, access to a computer. It works well when applied to the topic of attitude because to change your attitude you must access your “computer”—your mind.

 

 2. WOOT! Even I can remember that. Next question: I’ve always thought that a business plan for a book referred to non-fiction, but you recommend this tool for any book. Many of my readers are fiction writers, including children’s writers. Do I need a business plan for a picture book?

Every book is a product. Publishers want to know if that product is viable—if it will sell. If you want your book traditionally published, you must offer a publisher, who is really a potential venture capital partner, a business plan that proves you have a marketable product and that you can produce it and help sell it. That means that you can or will promote it. That business plan convinces the publisher they can make back their investment and, hopefully, earn something on it as well.

So, why wouldn’t you need a business plan for every genre of book? Of course, you would.

You also need one if you self-publish. You need to convince yourself that you should invest your own time and money in your book project—that you will earn back your investment. When you self-publish, you become an entrepreneur and create a start-up publishing company. A start up needs a business plan.

 

 3. The Author Training Manual lists nine steps (and includes training exercises to go along with each step!). Is there any one step that’s more crucial than the others? Is there any step that maybe the fiction writer can skip? (Not saying that I would, of course…)

I think they are all crucial. I wouldn’t skip any. Many fiction writers don’t bother with platform, competitive analysis or chapter-by-chapter summaries, for example. I think these will help any writer in any genre. In the book I discuss the fact that some novelists might just do a synopsis instead of the chapter-by-chapter synopsis in Step #6, but I still think the former option is better, and it leads to the writing guide I describe in the book.

If you want to help your book stand out in an ever-more-competitive marketplace, be sure to do a competitive analysis. Then apply that information to your idea so you can craft a unique idea that is truly necessary in the book’s category. Fill a hole on the shelf. Produce the book your readers have been looking or waiting for.

If you don’t do this, no matter your genre, you take the risk of producing one more book like all the others that have already been written in your category.

 

4. You also provide four excellent samples of business proposals and/or business plans. What’s most important in a business NinaAuthorPicplan/proposal, and where do most writers make their mistakes when they make a plan?

Again, all the sections are important. What can make or break a traditional book deal, especially in the nonfiction category, is an author’s platform and promotion plan. These days, platform and promotion can help a novelist stand out from the pack as well.

Indie authors should keep this in mind as they create their business plans. Author platform provides the foundation for a promotion plan. It convinces a publisher you will do what it takes after book release to help sell your book. If you aren’t building platform, you likely won’t promote your book. That can mean failure for a book—and an indie publishing company. Few books just take off on their own.

 

 5. It occurred to me that in completing the training exercises, I’ve practically done the work of all those people at an acquisitions meeting! Do you think it would be helpful to share that research from the training exercises when pitching a fiction book? Or in querying an agent?

The point of the training exercises is to help aspiring authors compile the information necessary for a book proposal or business plan and to evaluate it—something most writers don’t do when they put together a proposal. They also don’t use that information to craft a marketable book.

You should, therefore, put the appropriate information from the exercises into the business plan after you have tweaked or revised your idea to make it the most marketable one possible.

 

6. I like to end with a good take-away bang. So what’s the ONE thing you want to impress on writers when it comes to The Author Training Manual?

Creating a business plan for a book may seem uncreative. It may seem like the farthest thing from writing the book you imagined. But that’s not true.

If you want your idea to have impact and to reach many, many readers, it must be marketable. If you learn to see that idea through the same lens used by publishing professionals, such as agents and acquisitions editors, and if you evaluate it in the same way—using the same tool (a business plan), you can then put your creativity to use to craft the absolute best idea possible—one that will sell to a publisher, if you want, and to readers. You can allow yourself to get inspired and to write a book—your book based on your idea—that will give your audience what it truly seeks. In this way, you can succeed as an author.

 

Nina Amir, author of How to Blog a Book, The Author Training Manual, and 10 Days and 10 Ways to Return to Your Best Self, transforms writers into inspired, successful authors, authorpreneurs and blogpreneurs as an Inspiration to Creation Coach. She moves her clients from ideas to finished books as well as to careers as authors by helping them combine their passion and purpose so they create products that positively and meaningfully impact the world. She writes four blogs, self-published 12 books and founded National Nonfiction Writing Month, aka the Write Nonfiction in November Challenge.

 

And oh, happy day! You can win a copy (US and Canada only) of The Author Training Manual! All you need to do is leave a comment. And if you share this giveaway post, on either Facebook, Twitter, or your blog, you’ll get an extra entry for each share. Just let me know in your comment; I’m a trusting sort.

Okay, grasshopper, now you know exactly What To Do to succeed as an author. I think it’s about time you did it. (WOOT!)

Be Careful What You Learn! Says Eric Trant, Author of WINK

ImageAuthor Eric Trant is here today on a WOW! Book Tour, sharing his wisdom on branding yourself as a writer and the perils therein. And honestly, he made me smile–and nod in agreement. The man makes some good points. So on to Eric and his good points:

Be careful what you learn. I have said that over and over in my engineering career, and I will say it again to my fellow writers. Be careful what you learn!

Why is that? you may ask.

Well, I answer, it’s simple. It’s because once you learn something, and once you become good at it, people will want you to do that thing you learned and are good at.

Let’s say you like old-school sci-fi, Heinlein and Azimov and Clarke, but everyone believes Young Adult (YA) fantasy is hot right now, and so you write a YA fantasy book. It stinks, but YA fantasy really is hot and you land a contract and it’s all hands on deck, hallelujah! The book takes off even though it is not your best work, and the publisher asks that you write a second novel in the trilogy. It wasn’t a trilogy, that’s what you say, and they respond, Well, it is now. Wah-kiche.

That last part is the whip cracking.

So with bloody fingers you crank out a second novel and when you get to the third book they say, Split the last one into three books. These things stink like last week’s diapers, but the kids can’t get enough of it! Thank God for public schools!

You write more and they sell like crazy, and when you are famous and the movies are finished and you are rich and fat and completely loathing yourself for what you did to America’s youth, you begin work on your true passion, a space-opera about the last planet around a dying sun with deeply-drawn characters and stunning visuals and moral dilemmas and lessons and Holy cow, this is your crowning work! We’re talking Hugo! Heck, we’re talking Pulitzer!

Wrong. Nobody reads your magnificent space-opera because you are a YA fantasy writer who writes hack YA fantasy novels that are rebirthed as unwatchable YA fantasy movies.

So the best advice is to be careful what you learn. Be good at something you love. If you love romance, do not write YA fantasy just because it is popular. If you love old-school rock, don’t learn to play C&W just because it is popular. If you want to be a serious actor, don’t hit the stand-up comedy clubs just because it is fast cash.

Be careful what you learn!

What are your thoughts? Have you ever become good at something you wished you had not? Do you apply this rule to your writing, and to your career and life in general?

PS. I don’t mean to pick on YA fantasy or imply it is cut-rate writing. YA is nothing more sinister than a well-written story that involves children as the main characters, and fantasy is nothing more mysterious than bending the rules of reality. I personally favor that genre considerably, as anyone who read Wink can attest.

I’m right, right? Very good points. But I suppose I should add a caveat to Eric’s sage advice. You have to learn something–and be really good at it--to be branded. Which brings me to Eric Trant’s novel, WINK.

ImageIn this thriller set in a rural Gulf Coast town, Marty Jameson finds refuge in the attic from his mother’s abusive rages. But only during the day. At night the attic holds terrors even beyond what he witnesses in his home. With a family made up of a psychotic mother, a drug-dealing father and a comatose older brother withering away in the spare bedroom, Marty feels trapped.

Next door, wheel-chair bound Sadie Marsh obsessively watches Marty’s comings and goings from her bedroom window, despite her mother’s warning about the evil in that house. Evil which appears to Sadie as huge black-winged creatures.

Marty, emotionally torn by the violence and dysfunction in his family, is drawn to Sadie and her kindly mother. But if he is to save his new friend from the supernatural horror threatening them all, Marty must transform himself from victim to hero. And to do so, he must first confront what lurks hidden in the shadows of his attic.

Holy moly, that sounds good, right? And you can win a copy of the supernatural thriller, WINK. Just leave a comment–maybe answer Eric’s questions. I’d love to know what you think about being good at what you learn.

But just in case you don’t win WINK, check out Eric’s website for more information on where you can find his novel.

And P.S. You’re going to find much more than just a wonderful writer.

Fun Friday: The Adventures of Tilda Pinkerton (and Dinosaurs!)

TildaPinkertonToday’s Fun Friday is a visit from Angela Shelton on her WOW! blog tour for her newest book, The Adventures of Tilda Pinkerton. Which I’m giving away to one of you. Wheee!

But I also promised you dinosaurs, and so, without further ado, here’s Angela to share…

How Dinosaurs Affected My Writing

Once upon a time in a classroom like every other one in the country…

I was sitting with a group of children. We were discussing what they were learning and what they liked the most about it.

I was surprised by where all the conversations lead to – DINOSAURS!

The adoration was not just a boy thing either. The girls were equally knowledgeable about all different types of creatures that make up the wide subject of DINOSAURS!

The kids knew all about each kind of “saurus”, from when they lived, when they died, what they ate, to if they were fighters or not.

Dinosaurs Inspire Big Words

The kids pronounced all the various kinds of dinosaurs perfectly! While I tried to wind the terms around my tongue, the kids were already telling me about new groups of dinosaurs.

Apatosaurus

Triceratops

Stegosaurus

Velociraptor

Tyrannosaurus rex

Brachiosaurus

Ankylosaurus

Allosaurus

Diplodocus

Of course if I asked for more clarification or a pronunciation explanation I got an eye roll and a sigh. How dare I not know all there is to know about these wonderful creatures?

Kids Are Smarter Than You Think

The young bright faces were glowing with intrigue as they talked about the creatures they knew so much about. They looked like a group of young adventurers, back from yet another discovery.

What intrigued me most was how the children had no fear of   the intimidating words. Even the smaller kids who had trouble pronouncing some of the types (which made me fell a bit better), would struggle through it, sound the words out, and even learn to spell it until they too had the information down pat.

I was impressed.

Different Types of The-Saurus

I started wondering if the kids had so much fun learning about these amazing creatures would they work that hard to learn larger vocabulary in general?

That first group I spoke to was 2nd and 3rd graders. I went on to speak to younger and older kids, asking them about their knowledge of dinosaurs.

When I discovered that the majority of kids I spoke to knew everything there was to know (at least far more than I did!) about dinosaurs, a light bulb went off in my brain.

I tried out some rare words on a few kids to see if it would confuse or intrigue them.

Do you know what Felicificative means?

          Wha?

          Fe-li-ci-fi-ca-tive – sound it out with a giggle. 

          Giggle.

          It means tending to be happy. I’m very fe-li-ci-fi-ca-tive – aren’t you? 

          Yes! 

 I thought I might be on to something… I wanted to write for smart readers, precocious kids, and clever adults.

Rare, Large, and Hard Words A-Z

I was so inspired by dinosaurs and the huge words that trample along with them, that I wrote The Adventures of Tilda Pinkerton with large, rare, and sometimes very hard words to pronounce.

When a few fearful adults asked me if kids could handle hard vocabulary like that, I asked them if they knew which dinosaur was which. The point is that kids can learn, and sometimes learn quicker than adults.

I made sure the words in Tilda Pinkerton covered all the letters of the alphabet too.

Here are some of them.

Arachnophobia 

Balletomania

Callithump

Dudgeon

Eleutherian

Felicificative

Galeanthropy

Hobnob

Illeist

Juvenescent

Kainotophobia

Luminiferous

Melic

Nacarat

Obganiate 

Pulverous

Quisquilious

Ragmatical

Sacchariferous

Tectonic

Uranoscopy

Vaccary

Whiffet

Xenagogue

Yonderly

Zaftig

Some of those are some real mouthfuls – I know!

What do they all mean? Read The Adventures of Tilda Pinkerton! Read the book out loud to your kids and see how much your tongue twists. Then ask them if they can pronounce them. I bet they can do it better than you can!

How many rare words do you know?

Most of the rare words in The Adventures of Tilda Pinkerton are used to describe the personalities of the characters, like Aaron Arachnophobia is the spider afraid of spiders!

Felicificative is one of my favorites. Fiona and Fredrick Felicificative fit their name perfectly – they are always smiling and full of happiness – just like I wanted you to be while reading Tilda Pinkerton.

Angela Shelton is an author, actor, and public speaker. She has been writing since she was eight years old. Her first novel was adapted into the movie Tumbleweeds. Angela won a regional Emmy award for her portrayal of Safe Side Superchick in The Safe Side video series created by Baby Einstein’s Julie Clark. After living in Los Angeles for over a decade, Angela left the big city for a one-light country town to marry her first love and fulfill her dream of writing books in a barn house.

Angela has incorporated the character of Tilda Pinkerton into an entire line of book projects, each geared towards a different age group in order to help kids, teachers, and parents enjoy learning and reading more.

 Twitter – https://twitter.com/angelashelton

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/AngelaSheltonFanPage

 

There you have Fun Friday, as promised. I love the idea of throwing really big and interesting words into a kid’s book. Because as Angela said, kids are smarter than you think, and I suspect that kids will read this book and learn a couple favorite big words and probably drive their friends and families and teachers crazy, spouting off said big words at every opportunity. But wouldn’t you rather a kid annoy you for knowing big words than throwing peas across the dining room table?

I’m just saying. I’m also saying that if you want to win The Adventures of Tilda Pinkerton (just in time for holiday gift-giving!), leave me a comment (I’ll draw a name on Friday, December 14th so you can get the book by Christmas).

Oh! And leave me your favorite big word. (I learned “bellicose” when I was a kid and for whatever reason, loved that word. I don’t often get to use it now, but growing up with three brothers, I gave bellicose a real work-out. So yeah, I was annoying. But I did not throw peas across the dining room table.)