Adventures with Brothers

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The second option is Adventure with Brothers (Book 1). This is the first of a series of three books each told from the perspective of one of the three brothers. The first book is told from the perspective of the oldest brother. In each book there will be three short stories. The first story is their adventures riding bikes. The second story is about special Fridays where they go to work with their daddy and their adventure on public transportation. The story here is the last of the three in the first book. It is the story of the older two brothers waiting for their younger brother to be born and to be able to play with them.  These stories target the ages of 3-8. I hope you enjoy it!

 

The Long Wait

Our mama and daddy told us we were going to have a new baby. So we waited and waited and waited.

Then we found out we were going to have a new baby brother.

When mama asked us what we would do with the baby, and my brother said, “Smash the baby!” and then laughed when mama and daddy said, “No, no. We will love the baby.”

So we waited and waited and waited. And Mama’s tummy got bigger and bigger and bigger just like it did with my little brother.

Then one day Mama and Daddy went to the Birth Center and left us with Grandma and Grandpa.

So we waited and waited and waited. Grandpa and Grandma brought us to the center later and we met our new brother. He was small and cried a lot.

When we brought him home we wanted to hold him and kiss him and hug him. We also wanted to play with him, but Mama and Daddy said he was too little.

So we waited and waited and waited. Then one day baby brother started to laugh and laugh. So we danced and jumped and sang. We still wanted to play with him, but Mama and Daddy said he was still too small.

So we waited and waited and waited. Then one day baby brother sat up and didn’t fall down. So we ran and jumped around him. We still wanted to play with him, but Mama and Daddy said he was still too small.

So we waited and waited and waited. Then one day baby brother started to crawl. So we crawled with him. We still wanted to play with him, but Mama and Daddy said he was still too small, but that he was getting bigger.

So we waited and waited and waited. Then one day baby brother started to stand up. So we held his hands and helped him walk. We still wanted to play with him, but Mama and Daddy said he was still too small, but that he would be big enough soon.

So we waited and waited and waited. Then one day baby brother started to walk. So we ran past him showing him how to run. We still wanted to play with him, but Mama and Daddy said he was still too small, but that we needed to wait just a little longer.

So we waited and waited and waited. Then one day baby brother started to run. So we ran with him, and played with him. We rode our balance bikes and kicked balls and played cars. The wait was over and it was worth it. We love our baby brother who isn’t a baby anymore.

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Timmy’s Show and Tell

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The first option is Timmy’s Show and Tell. This story is about a boy and his pet frog. Timmy can’t decide what to bring for show and tell, so he asks his pet frog for advice. This excerpt is the first part of the book and introduces both of the main characters. This book would be geared toward 3-8 yr olds.

 

Timmy’s Show and Tell

The weekend was almost over, and on Monday the children would have a show and tell at school. Timmy didn’t know what to bring.

Timmy walked around his house thinking of things to bring. He looked everywhere for something he could bring.  

He looked in his toy box.

He looked in the playroom.

He looked in the garage.

He looked in the kitchen, but he found nothing.

He had spent most of his summer with his pet toad Flippy doing many fun things.

He thought about the creek, but there wasn’t anything to show.

He thought about the rocks he found, but there wasn’t anything to tell.

Timmy didn’t want to be the only boy at school without something to show and tell.

When Timmy needed to think hard about something he went to his room.

He sat down and stared at his pet toad Flippy in his aquarium. “What should I bring tomorrow, Flippy?” Flippy replied, “Croak, Croak.”

As Timmy looked at Flippy, he remembered their summer fun. “Do you remember the rainy days, Flippy?” “Croak, Croak,” replied Flippy.

“They were fun. We stomped in the mud and splashed in the puddles. We got all muddy, and Mommy had to give us a bath.”

“Do you remember when you hopped into Myra’s boot?” “Croak, Croak,” answered Flippy.

“She put her bare foot in the boot. She was scared when she felt you with her toes. She dropped her boot and ran away screaming. That was funny.

“Do you remember when I left you on the kitchen counter?” “Croak, Croak,” replied Flippy.

“You hopped out from the jars and scared Mommy. She screamed and jumped back. That was funny.”

“We had a great summer, didn’t we?” “Croak, Croak,” agreed Flippy.

 

What do you think Timmy will bring to show and tell?

Onward and Upward

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Even though my first book, Speckles and His New Home, hasn’t yet been officially released, I am thinking about the next manuscript I would like to publish. In order to help me decide which one I should pursue, I am going to share four excerpts from different manuscripts over the next couple weeks for people to vote on. I will also include a blurb about the story.

This is how I would like people to vote:

  • If you really like the manuscript excerpt, please share the link of the excerpt on Facebook, Twitter, or Google+. This would be the highest vote for the manuscript.
  • If you like the manuscript excerpt, please like the blog post on Facebook or Twitter.
  • If you don’t like the manuscript excerpt (I won’t be offended), please do nothing.

I will be collaborating with the illustrator of Speckles, Rose Anderson, again for this next book. We hope to blog about the progress of creating the second book as well once the votes are in. Look for the posts to come out in the following order:

 

Timmy’s Show and Tell – Sept. 27th

Adventures with Brothers (Book1) – Sept. 30th

Forest Friends in the Fall – Oct. 4th

Once My Daddy Bounced a Ball – Oct. 7th

 

If you would like to participate, but have not yet signed up to follow my blog, please do! Your participation is greatly appreciated. I look forward to all the comments, but please remember the excerpts are rough drafts of the possible manuscripts.

Sunday Morning Tradition

 

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One of our favorite series is Mr. Putter and Tabby by Cynthia Rylant. The characters are well formed and the stories are a delight to read. I would highly encourage anyone who hasn’t read these books to read them, and anyone who has read a few to read all of them.

One of our weekly traditions was inspired by this series. After reading about Mr. Putter making popovers, we decided to try to make one ourselves. It sounded good in the book, and I wanted to eat one. We experimented with the recipe to add different flavors such as blueberries and chocolate chips. We even tried making a chocolate chocolate chip popover.

We also had to adjust the recipe in terms of the base ingredients when I became lactose intolerant in 2013. Milk is one of the main ingredients, but we have experimented with almond milk, coconut milk, and buttermilk as well. I wouldn’t recommend almond milk.

Our sons decided they liked the chocolate chip popover the best. We thought since they liked it so much, we would make it every Sunday morning to highlight the fact that in our family Sunday is a feast day. It has become a tradition now that we have had in our family for over 3 years.

Our sons still look forward to eating popover every Sunday morning and we have even had to increase the ingredients now that our youngest son is eating too. My sons even help me make the popover on occasion, which can be an interesting experience. They have become excellent egg breakers though.

I am sharing the recipe we use below and encouraging readers to try it out!

Chocolate Chip Popover

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 4 eggs (can be replaced with 4 tablespoons of flaxseed and 12 tablespoons of lukewarm water if you can’t have or don’t have enough eggs; chill before adding)
  • 1 cup buttermilk (can be replaced with milk or coconut milk)
  • 1 tsp of vanilla
  • 2 tbsp of butter in the batter
  • 2 tbsp of butter in the pan

Heat oven to 425 °F

Melt butter in iron skillet (or pan that can go into the oven). Then add batter to skillet and keep under medium heat for a minute or two (just enough time to add chocolate chips or fruit or nuts). Finally place in oven and cook for 15 minutes or until edges brown.

Enjoy!

Feel free to comment if you try out the recipe or have any questions

There Are A Lot of Speckles!

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It has been a long wait, but the wait is over. Speckles and His New Home has arrived! The last part of the publishing experience now begins: getting the book into the hands of readers. This seems to be the complicated part of the publishing experience, as I noted earlier. Now it is time to schedule events, do readings, go to markets, etc.

It is exciting, but can also feel overwhelming when thinking about all the time and effort that still needs to go into the distribution of books. I don’t regret it. It was all worth it to read this book I wrote and my sister-in-law illustrated to my sons on the couch.

I was at work when the book arrived working on planning the Spring semester for my students. My phone rang and it was my son Liam who loves to call people and talk on the phone.

“Hi Daddy!”

“Hey buddy, what’s up?”

“Speckles came today.”

“Awesome, buddy!”

“There are a lot of Speckles!” I laughed, imagining the boxes stacked taller than both of my sons.

“Do you want to read it when I come home tonight?”

“Yeah before bed.”

My wife, Rebekah, texted a photo of the boxes after I got off the phone with Liam. They were indeed stacked taller than both of my sons.

To be honest, it was hard to concentrate at work and not go around showing my colleagues the picture Rebekah sent to me. So that’s what I did… sometimes.

When I got home from work, my boys were playing on the floor with toys, and a book was out on the table. They told me they had already read it, and liked it a lot. I sat down and read it with them again before supper. And we read it again before bed. It was an experience I will cherish for the rest of my life.

My Muses

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I have always been very involved in my children’s bedtime routines. My wife and I put the kids to bed through teamwork. Brushing teeth, putting pajamas on, praying, and reading books are the usual items on the agenda. Most nights though it typically involves reading lots of books and sometimes telling stories. Often now my middle son goes to sleep while reading books on the couch, and my oldest son goes to sleep while I lay in bed with him and my wife reads.

Even when my first son was in the womb, I read stories to my wife in the evening while she rested on the couch. Over the years since our first pregnancy, I’ve read board books, picture books, chapter books, and juvenile fiction to them before bed.

One of the routines that started with my oldest son after my second son was born was laying in bed with him while my wife nursed and read. At one point my middle son made it difficult for my wife to read and nurse, so I improvised and asked my oldest son what he wanted to hear a story about. Over time this started to be a part of the routine when reading a book was not possible. In this way, many characters such as Grasshopper, Cricket, Timmy, Squeaky, Red, Monk, Johnny, Stinky the Shark, and, of course, Speckles and Ben were born.

My oldest son has been the “creator” of many characters about whom I have told him stories. All my sons have been inspirations behind the characters and sometimes the themes of those stories. I have a few books with a series of stories inspired by adventures I’ve had with my sons. Others are inspired by stories my sons invent themselves. But the majority of them come from the time spent telling stories to my son as he goes to sleep in my arms.

My boys are my muses and I would have never thought to tell the stories about which I have written if they hadn’t been a part of my life. The adventures we have, the time we spend together, the experiences we share, I will always treasure. They are so special to me I want to bless others by sharing them through the books I write.

50 Books for 50 Libraries

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One of my favorite activities with my sons is taking them to the library. We have been taking them to the library since they were born. Surrounded by books (and toys and games) I feel like a kid in a candy shop just looking for the books I want to read and the ones I want to share with my sons. Unlike the kid in the candy shop I don’t have to pay, so I leave with bags full of books straining to carry them out of the library and into the van.

Reading books, especially library books, to our kids is an everyday routine in our family. We read them throughout the day, and always at bedtime. Books are a great way to have an adventure together on the couch or even at the table during lunch or a snack.

To think that someone else might find an adventure reading my book as we do reading all of the books we enjoy from the library is an exciting thought. It is wonderful to think my book would bring joy to a little one and a smile on the face of the parents.  

I would like to ask your help in achieving this dream. I am calling it “50 Books for 50 Libraries.” My goal is to have 50 people willing to donate my book to a local library for $10. In addition, if you would like to purchase it for yourself and a local library, I am offering a bundled package for $25; both prices include shipping. I also have the option to include a message from the donor in the book that I will sign and send to the library.

I would also like to document this event by having those who donate the book take a picture with the children’s librarian and the book and then send me the picture to upload to a gallery on my website. I hope to make a collage of the event to celebrate all of the people who donate and to see which libraries have received my book.

If you would like to participate in this event, please visit my website and place an order! You can find the page here “50 Books for 50 Libraries.” I thank all of you in advance. With your help, my dream of a parent reading Speckles and His New Home to their child can be a reality!

Illustrating with Words: Sharing a Vision

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One of the decisions I needed to make when creating Speckles and His New Home was who would illustrate it. I ruled myself out before I thought of making the story into a book, but that didn’t help me narrow it down. I knew that Mascot had illustrators available, one of whom I could have commissioned for my book, but I had seen different pictures my sister-in-law, Rose had drawn. I was quite impressed with her talent, and wanting to encourage her in her artistic pursuits, I decided to ask her to illustrate the book.  

We sat down to discuss the logistics of her illustrating the book, and she began character sketches to get an idea of what I was thinking in terms of what kind of dog I wanted Speckles to be and the appearance of Ben, the boy in the book. After seeing the first sketches of her illustrations, I could envision the story coming to life on the pages of a book.

The next step was to decide what page breaks I wanted in the manuscript, and then conveying the pictures in my head that went with those pages. I wrote notes on the manuscript to describe each of the pages. We also talked or emailed frequently to make sure I was accurately sharing my vision of the story. We worked well together, and she was often able to grasp my vision even before I talked through my notes. It was a much more complex process than I had anticipated, but it was an enjoyable one–especially when she would show me updates of the illustrations.

Life slowed down the creation of the illustrations, and the book was occasionally sidetracked as I took a new job at Auburn University moving my family from St. Louis, and Rose finished her senior year of high school in Virginia. We kept in touch, checking in from time to time to update each other; I occasionally changed the manuscript or the notes, and she showed me more of the illustrations she had sketched. It is hard to describe the emotions involved, but it was similar to focusing a camera. When the focus was on the book and the illustrations, the process seemed clear and exciting, but at times other events would come into the forefront and distract the focus from the process.

I sometimes had the privilege of seeing Rose in the midst of illustrating. I had seen friends and neighbors create art during jazz performances, in a classroom, at home or at an event, but on those occasions I didn’t have anything invested in the vision of the artist. This was different. As Rose brought the images to life on the page, it was like seeing a long lost friend again.

Seeing the illustrations together with the words in the initial PDF of the book was like seeing the finish line of a marathon. The need to make edits to my manuscript struck me, because of redundancies in my words that were shown through the illustrations. But I always thought that the connection between the illustrations and the words was excellent. I was particularly excited about this because for a picture book to work that connection is of utmost importance.

Now I await the final stage when I have the story in hand and flip through the pages with my boys as I read to them about Speckles and His New Home.

Having a Mascot: My Experience with Indie-Publishing

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My first book, Speckles and His New Home, will be released Oct. 4th, 2016, but my journey with Mascot started in March of 2015. After contacting them on the advice of my friend Keri, who had already been working with Mascot, I submitted five or six of my manuscripts. I waited less than a week to hear back from Josh at Mascot.

When I submitted my book ideas, I was not completely sure I wanted to go with Mascot. Josh, the representative who called to talk with me about my manuscripts, was very encouraging, and talking to him started to convince me that Mascot could be my road to publishing. After learning more about the company and what they would be able to offer for the price they were asking, I decided to take the leap and start the journey.

The first step was signing a contract, so that I could be assigned a project manager who would work with me and Rose. Meghan was my first project manager. She helped guide Rose in how the illustrations would need to be formatted and worked with me on editing the manuscript. It was helpful to have outside (non-family or friend) feedback to see how another might view the story. Every suggestion she made was just that–a suggestion. I maintained creative control and never felt pressured to change anything. I did, however, take many of the suggestions and made changes accordingly.

About a year into the process I was assigned a new project manager, Jenna, who then started to work with us. She helped us navigate the submission of the illustrations, editing the PDF of the book, and getting it onto the printers. She was very helpful with suggestions and made herself available for any questions we had along the way.

The last member of the group I have worked with is Kate in the marketing department. She has provided me with some materials and guidance as to how the process of selling and distributing my book will work. The dialogue has been beneficial, helping me think through the huge task of getting my book into the hands of readers.

The journey has been a long one, and it is one that hasn’t yet finished. I will continue to work with Mascot as I wait to receive Speckles and His New Home, and begin the final phase of the adventure: finding people to join me and read this story.