Saturday, August 11, 2007

The Fountain Pen, Issue 8, August 2007

In this issue…

From Mayra’s Desk…
Article: "A Ten Step Diet for the Verbose Writer", by Lois Winston
Column: Ask the Mad Word Doctor
On the Spotlight:
Author and Publicity Expert Carolyn Howard-Johnson
Author Cheryl Kaye Tardif
Mayra’s Book Reviews:
The Frugal Editor, by Carolyn Howard-Johnson
Freckleface Strawberry, by Julianne Moore
Beauty Shop for Rent, by Laura Bowers

From Mayra's Desk...

Those of you who write children’s picture books may be familiar with the ABC’s Children’s Picture Book Competition; my guess is most of you have never heard of this contest.

The ABC’s Children’s Picture Book Competition( takes place every year (this is their third year) and offers the winner a fabulous grand prize of a publishing contract with a 10,000 hardcover print-run, as well as 1,000 extra copies of the book for the author to do with as she/he pleases. The unusual thing about this competition—and in fact what makes it stand apart—is that while the ten finalists are chosen by judges, the winner is chosen by online public vote. In other words, YOU the reader, get to choose the winner. The finalists have already been chosen this year (for the names of finalists,
go to: The finalist stories will be posted on the site, along with their illustrations, for voting from September 16th until the 30th. The winner will be announced on the 8th of October.

Where do I fit into all this? Well, I’m happy to say that my story, THE DOLL VIOLINIST, is one of the finalists! People who vote for my story will be automatically entered in a drawing and prizes will range from Amazon gift certificates, to antique porcelain dolls (just like in the story!), to jewelry, to free copies of my books! All you’ll need to do is leave a message on my guestbook (something like ‘You have my vote’) and go to the ABC’s contest page and vote for THE DOLL VIOLINIST.

To be honest, this is the part of this contest that I’m uncomfortable with. I mean, you just can’t go to people and tell them, ‘Hey, my story is the best. Vote for it!’ That’s tacky, to say the least, especially to a shy, antisocial author like myself. The logic behind this is that if I can get enough people to vote for my story, I can also get enough people to buy it, and the publisher who will be printing those 10,000 copies wants an aggressive and bold book promoter. With this predicament in my hands, I’ve decided to pretend to be Jennifer Lopez until the end of September.

I’ll keep you posted next month with detailed instructions and the full list of prizes.

Until then, enjoy this issue!

Best wishes,
Mayra Calvani

*My paranormal thriller, Dark Lullaby, is coming out this September. I just got the cover last week... Creepy!

*Starting this September, I'll be teaching a book reviewing writing course at the Long Story Short School of Writing. For more information and a full description of the course, please visit: . Students will have their best written reviews featured on Voice in the Dark and The Fountain Pen newsletters!
Write Tight: A 10 Step Diet for the Verbose Writer
by Lois Winston

THE END. What a sense of accomplishment to type those words upon completion of your manuscript. After months or maybe years of labor, your baby is ready to leave its cozy Microsoft womb and fly off to that “A” List of agents and/or editors. Except for one problem. Somehow your bundle of joy wound up tipping the scales at 20,000 words over your targeted line’s weight limit. Now what? You curse. You cry. You stamp your feet. You reach for the chocolate. Feel better? Probably not. Baby is still a porker. However, all is not lost. Put baby on the following diet, and in no time she’ll shed that excess word weight.

STEP ONE: Reread your manuscript. Is every scene essential to the plot or the goals, motivations, and conflicts of your characters? If not, no matter how much you love what you wrote, ax the scene. Each scene must serve a purpose. No purpose? No scene. Yes, I know it hurts. So instead of hitting the “delete” key, cut and paste the scene to a Loquacious Blubber file. You may be able to use it in a future manuscript.

STEP TWO: Repeat STEP ONE for all dialogue. If the dialogue is nothing but chit-chat which neither advances the plot nor tells the reader something essential about the characters, exile it to the Loquacious Blubber file.

STEP THREE: Do a search of “ly” words. You don’t have to omit all adverbs, but wherever possible, substitute a more active, descriptive verb to replace your existing verb and the adverb that modifies it.
· Blubber: Joe walked purposefully across the room.
· Tight: Joe strode across the room.
· Savings: 1 word

STEP FOUR: Instead of using many adjectives to describe a noun, use one all-encompassing adjective or a more descriptive noun. If certain information isn’t necessary to your story, omit it.
· Blubber: Elizabeth grew up in an old, large house with twenty rooms that sat on four acres of land.
· Tight: Elizabeth grew up in a Victorian mansion or Elizabeth grew up on an estate.
· Savings: 11 or 12 words

STEP FIVE: Say it once, then move on. It’s not necessary to repeat an idea or image in different words in the next sentence, the next paragraph, or on the next page. You don’t need to beat your reader over the head. She’s intelligent enough to “get it” the first time she read it.
· Blubber: A kettle drum pounded inside Elizabeth’s head. Her temples throbbed. Her skull pulsated with pain.
· Tight: A kettle drum pounded inside Elizabeth’s head.
· Savings: 8 words

STEP SIX: Identify needless words and eliminate them. Every writer has at least one or two pet word she overuses.
· Blubber: Elizabeth just wanted to know Joe better before she dated him.
· Tight: Elizabeth wanted to know Joe better before she dated him.
· Savings: 1 word

STEP SEVEN: Avoid laundry list descriptions by substituting more descriptive nouns and adjectives.
· Blubber: Joe wore a blue and green plaid threadbare shirt with a missing button at the cuff and a pair of frayed black jeans torn below the knees.
· Tighter: Joe wore Salvation Army rejects.
· Savings: 22 words

STEP EIGHT: Do a search for was. Wherever it’s linked with an ing verb, omit the was and change the tense of the verb.
· Blubber: Elizabeth was listening to Joe.
· Tight: Elizabeth listened to Joe.
· Savings: 1 word

STEP NINE: Choose more descriptive verbs and omit the additional words that enhance the verb.
· Blubber: Joe walked with a swaggering gait.
· Tight: Joe swaggered.
· Savings: 4 words

STEP TEN: Omit extraneous tag lines. If it’s obvious which character is speaking, a tag line is unnecessary.
· Blubber: Joe turned to face Elizabeth. “You don’t understand,” he said.
· Tight: Joe turned to face Elizabeth. “You don’t understand.”
· Savings: 2 words

NOTE: The above word diet is part of a healthy writing style and recommended for all authors, whether or not they need to drop 20,000 words from their manuscripts.

© Lois Winston.
Lois Winston is the author of LOVE, LIES AND A DOUBLE SHOT OF DECEPTION. Visit her website at
Ask the Mad Word Doctor
Verb Killer – Noun-izing Verbs

Dear Doc,
I’ve heard editors and agents preach that strong verbs are what “drive sentences.” And in one of your workshops, you suggested that if we’ve buried our verbs as nouns, “unearthing” them could energize our style. I’d be glad to save my poor little verb zombies if you’ll explain what you mean!
Unintentional Verb Killer

Dear Verb Killer,

Too often writers *noun-ize (make into nouns) the strongest verb in a sentence. Unfortunately, this tends to...
- dull the reader’s involvement with abstract ideas instead of active voice and vivid verbs.
- weaken style with the need for be-verbs and unnecessary prepositional phrases.

Compare the following examples:
1. weak: Some writers suffer a compulsion in the transformation of a short word into a longer form.
better: Good writers resist the urge to transform short words into longer forms.
Or: What compels her to transform short words into longer forms?
2. weak: The elimination of too many noun suffixes is a reinforcement to make your writing tighter.
better: Eliminating too many noun suffixes will reinforce tighter writing.
weak: The annual replacement of one’s whole wardrobe is a reflection of conformity to fashion trends.
better: She conforms to fashion trends by replacing her wardrobe every year.

I don’t mean you should never use the noun forms, just avoid excessive use. Try this with your writing: Search for such noun endings such as: -sion, -tion, -ity, -ance, -ence, -ment to reveal how many times you use them.

Then (to continue the grim metaphor, we have started) you can release your zombies from their undead state and resurrect them as the verbs they want to be. And quit digging graves for them!

*Nominalization is the technical term, but I resist using the word that practices the very problem I’m advising against.

Have a question to share in this column? Email me at: with “Ask the Book Doctor” as your subject line. If you want to remain anonymous, I’ll address you by whatever pseudonym you sign. To see previous issues, go to: Scroll past the book covers and click “Ask Doc” Q&A’s.
Meet Carolyn Howard-Johnson, Author
Interview by Mayra Calvani

Q. Who is Carolyn Howard-Johnson, the author?
A. The real author is me. It is a literary novelist, short story writer and poet. That is not to say I don't adore my how-to books. I get so much from helping other writers. And those how-to books make ideal texts that I tailor to exactly what I want to present in my classes at UCLA. Having said that, I couldn't live without the artier stuff. I know because I didn't do it for a long time and got cancer. I truly believe there is a connection. I'm writing my heart now. Maybe not as much as I should but enough to keep me well!

Q. Tell us a bit about your books, both fiction and non-fiction.
A. I like to have fun with my nonfiction books. I don't believe in writing dry old texts. I think you can give people the benefit of your knowledge and research and still make it fun. That's one of the reasons I wrote both THE FRUGAL EDITOR and THE FRUGAL BOOK PROMOTER. There are plenty of books out there on editing and marketing. I wanted something I knew my students would read, enjoy and keep. Their popularity is proving I was right.
As far as my poetry and novel(s) go (I only have one published, THIS IS THE PLACE, which has won eight awards), I write exactly what I want, using the best craftsmanship I can but not tailoring it at all to what I think will be popular. My other ahem!....serious works are a chapbook of very readable poetry called TRACINGS and a book of creative nonfiction called HARKENING. They are all available on

Q. I would like to concentrate on your Frugal Series--The Frugal Promoter and The Frugal Editor. How did you come up with the idea for this series?
A. Well, the need for good text material for my classes, as I mentioned above. But also the urge to help keep other authors from falling into the same promotion and editing potholes I did when I started writing as something other than an avocation. I mean, even with a degree in English Lit, experience as a journalist and publicist, I still faced so many surprises. I think that's what writers do. They share. There seems to be a kinship between writing and teaching, don't you think?

Q. The market is full of books on marketing and self editing. What makes your books different from the rest?
A. I think the two major differences are the voice I talked about before. That makes them readable. The other is that each comes from practical experience. The Frugal Book Promoter is completely from my own experience and I'm not afraid to tell authors the kinds of things that didn't work for me as well as how they might fix that. I did research THE FRUGAL EDITOR as well as tell about my own experiences. But it is still extremely personal and practical. It even includes lots of step-by-step ways to make a word processor behave when you're editing. I didn't take classes to learn this. I learned all these little tricks in the school of hard knocks. When things go awry with a spell checker or a find function, you sure don't forget!

Q. What is the most common mistake authors make when trying to promote their books?
A. They think they're promoting their book or books. They promote only the titles. There is something in marketing called Branding. THAT is what they should be doing. Branding themselves. Very few fans can name every one of Stephen King's books. But they sure don't forget Stephen King!

Q. How do you see the future of online marketing? Do you think the blogging and virtual tour madness we see now will be the same ten years later?
A. Ha! Nothing online ever stays the same. I see changes every day. New ideas. New tech. Sometimes, when we're doing something like a virtual tour, we find little kinks of our own that will make them more successful. If not for every author, then for our own book. I think that's another reason my HowToDoItFrugally Series of books for writers is popular. My professional and practical experience has revealed so many of these little twists and turns.

Q. The most effective tool of book promotion is...
A. Publicity. Read that word "publicity" as "free." Thus the word "frugal" in my books for writers.

Q. Why do so many authors make the mistake of handing out their manuscripts to a family member or friend for editing? How fatal can this be?
A. It doesn't need to be fatal. In fact, one of the last things a writer might do is get some reader input before he or she begins the editing process. But a writer must put on her coat of steel before she does it and give the reader guidelines. She might say, "Are there any places you got confused?" as an example. And then, when the author is reading the feedback, she reminds herself--continually if need be--that these are readers. They're not writers. If they say the material is wonderful they may be fibbing. Or ignorant. An example: They probably won't know a darn thing about the intricacies of writing dialogue. One has to consider the source with any kind of input. Even suggestions in a critique group. If you're a literary writer, a genre writer may have some very valuable advice...or not.

Q. The secret to great self editing is..
A. That you cannot go it alone and do a great job. And THE FRUGAL EDITOR doesn't encourage authors to do that. It does recognize that many authors will, regardless of what anyone says. It also recognizes that the best editor in the world will do a better job if the author is a full partner in the process. And, we all know that we can't hire an editor for every media release, cover letter or query letter we put out there. Thus, editing skills are something we all need to work on. And keep working on them.

Q. Do you have a website and/or blog where readers may learn more about you and your works?
A. Yes!!! And it's new. And I did it myself. And I love the flexibility that gives me. I cannot only market my own work, I can give other writers resources. As an example, has a page where editors, bloggers, etc. can pick up free essays and rants. It also has a resource page for writers where they can get a list of media list disseminators, as an example, or a list of book fairs where they might rent a booth or query the fair program planner to present or conduct a seminar.

My favorite blog is Reviewers, authors and/or readers can submit reviews on books they love. One of yours is there, Mayra! The guidelines to submit are on the left side of the blog page.
Another is There I rant on everything from Oprah's lofty attitude to free speech issues, something I think all authors should be vitally interested in. And yes, promotion sometimes. (-:
And a blog that focuses on making book fair booths successful is http://www.authors/. I believe in what I call value-added promotions. In other words, a book fair booth will not stand on its own. It can't do that any more than a book can stand on its own with no promotion.

Q. Any exciting new projects on the horizon?
A. Boo hoo. I've had a novel in a drawer for almost two years. Eight chapters only. Don't remind me.
I'm also looking for a grant that will fund another HowToDoItFrugally book on publishing that I can give away to disappointed poets and literary writers. Publishing traditionally has gotten tighter over the years--especially in these genres. I want to give starving artists this book free so they can see how they might get a traditional publisher or, how to publish on their own if that doesn't work. A grant would help me do that. And yes, there are lots of publishing books out there. But they take it from angles that best suit popular genre writers and/or nonfiction books.
Oh, I'm also working on a booklet--probably to be given away free. It will be full of little things that people do wrong (and right!) when they edit. Words like affect/effect that confuse people. There is a section on this in THE FRUGAL EDITOR but I keep finding new ones!
Meet Cheryl Kaye Tardif, Author of WHALE SONG
Interview by Mayra Calvani

Q. Why don’t you start by telling us a bit about your book, and what inspired you to write such a story?
A. Thank you for having me here.
Whale Song is an emotional novel about choices and consequences, suitable for adult and YA readers. It’s the story of Sarah, a young woman who is haunted by her past and by the assisted suicide of her mother. A teenaged Sarah moves from Wyoming to Vancouver Island where she is suddenly thrown into a world of racism, hatred, school bullying and more. Thankfully, Sarah befriends a native girl, and through stories told by her friend’s wise old grandmother, Sarah learns the legends of the animals around her--of Seagull, Whale and Wolf. As these legends begin to parallel her life, she moves through the tragedy of her mother’s death and the partial amnesia that has blocked out the truth, becoming a jaded young woman who has hardened herself to love and life. And then someone from her past returns to make her finally face all that she has forgotten. Whale Song is a mixture of coming-of-age, family drama and mystery, and it’s a novel that will change the way you view life…and death.
The story was inspired from two separate influences. The first was a native legend I had heard when I was a teen growing up on the Queen Charlotte Islands (north of Vancouver Island ). The legend stated that if you saw a killer whale close to shore, it was really someone’s spirit coming to say goodbye. The very thought of that haunted me and has always stayed with me. The second influence was the controversy surrounding the assisted death of someone who was dying a painful death. I wondered about that, about why it is so easy and acceptable for us to put down our family pet when they are suffering and yet we can’t find a more humane way to help the dying to pass on. The two elements combined, and for two years I played with the idea of writing Whale Song. And when the time was right…I did.

Q. Did you have to do a lot of research about whales and Indian myths?
A. I pride myself on my research. If a writer wants a story to ring true and be believable, it’s vital to check facts and sources. I researched killer whales and myths for close to 2 months. There is so much material out there that I could have read about both subjects for years! I found the information on killer whales to be very enlightening, especially about echolocation and adoption. Since writing Whale Song, I have found some awesome sites, such as: There is just something about killer whales that intrigues and mesmerizes me.
And even though the main Indian or native myth was one I knew, I still believe in researching everything. As I began to delve into native folklore, I discovered so many stories that I had grown up with, and so many more that I had never heard. They all entranced me. And strangely enough, when I needed a story to fulfill a particular ‘duty’ or parallel a certain aspect of Sarah’s life, I always found one that was perfect. The Bridge of the Gods, for instance, was a legend I found fascinating. Of course, I won’t tell you…you’ll have to read Whale Song.

Q. How would you describe your creative process while writing this novel? Was it stream-of-consciousness writing, or did you first write an outline? How long did it take you to write it?
A. For Whale Song (and all of my novels), I have allowed the story to brew and simmer in my mind. For two years I thought about writing it, and by then the characters were almost lifelike. Finally, I began. And yes, it was more a stream-of-consciousness event. Writing the story was like a journey in some ways…one that had been planned and plotted, the course already lined out. All I had to do was get from point A to B. And then to C. You get the picture. There was no struggle in writing the story—other than I can’t type fast enough to keep up with my thoughts. Like good beer or fine wine, the story had fermented into something wonderful when I gave it the time it needed. There was no outline, maybe a few notes. Whale Song was written, edited by me and 2 editors and at the publisher’s within 3.5 months.

Q. Have you ever suffered from writer’s block? What seems to work for unleashing your creativity?
A. No, writer’s block is not something I get. Part of me simply doesn’t allow it. I will, however, get “I can’t write now because I have to do laundry” block. Or “I don’t want to write it today because I want more than an hour to focus on it” block. But even when I am not working on my current novel, I always seem to be writing something—from posts on my blogs, to posts on MySpace (, to writing book reviews on other authors’ books. Every day I write. It is oxygen to me.
The true secret in unleashing my creativity is the brewing, simmering and fermenting stage. Every novel I have written has swirled around in the somewhat murky depths of my mind for months, maybe years, before I start writing. All I need to do is think of the title and I am brought back into the plot instantly. It is much like watching a movie unfold. The stronger the ‘vision’, the more compelled I am to write it. And I get story plots from the weirdest things—often from my own fears or my dreams, which don’t seem to be as sweet and fun as everyone else’s. Sometimes I get inspired from seeing a word or phrase, or from the news.

Q. How was your experience in looking for a publisher? What words of advice would you offer those novice authors who are in search of one?
A. I started searching for a publisher when I was about 18. I sent out query letters, outlines, synopses etc, but didn’t have one bite. I did, however, get a lovely collection of rejection letters. Since then I have collected more. I think I have enough to wallpaper my office! J Back in 2001, I started considering self-publishing again. I realized that if I took a risk and self-published that I would have a way to test my novels in the real world. And I would also have a track record of sales and experience to show to a traditional publisher. So I self-published 3 novels and found that being a published author was “it”. I had finally found myself. But my goal was (and is) always to be published by a big NY publisher like Bantam or Warner. I dream BIG…and in full color. So…if someone from Bantam or Warner happens to be reading this…please email me. I am also looking for an agent.
I receive lots of emails from aspiring or novice writers, and I tell them all the same thing. Self-publishing is a viable option, but you should pay your dues and submit to the traditional publishers first. Aim high! But keep in mind that less than 2% of manuscripts are accepted. To some, this may seem a defeatist attitude, but it’s reality. So be prepared to work hard and look for opportunities. I spent years doing it the “right” way and I don’t regret it. I learned so much. And I think that is one of the reasons why I was finally picked up by a traditional publisher. I had walked the walk. Self-publishing was an option and a choice. It won’t work for everyone. I think of it as building a ladder and climbing it, one rung at a time. You have to start somewhere—usually at the bottom--and work your way up. I meet too many authors who want the quick fix. There really is none. Just as you should be honing and perfecting your craft of writing, you should hone the business side. Getting published is business. And it’s not for everyone. That said, if you want it badly enough, MAKE it happen. Dare to dream…and dream BIG!

Q. What type of book promotion seems to work the best for you?
A. I really enjoy book signings. That’s where I get to meet existing and potential fans. I love talking to people about my novels. But really, at a signing I only see so many people. The best promotion is online. Using my blogs, MySpace, and networking groups such as Ning, I am able to connect to hundreds of thousands of people every day…and I don’t even have to change out of my housecoat! Just like today!

Q. What is your favorite book of all time? Why?
A. I knew you’d ask me a really difficult question eventually. I have so many favorites, it’s hard to choose. But I guess the one that has always stayed with me is The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley. King Arthur, Camelot, forbidden love, bloody battles, a mystical hidden island, beautiful women and handsome warriors…what more could you want? I loved being thrown into a world of conspiracies, damsels in distress, the heroes that rescue them--and the magic that surrounds them. Talk about escapism. And don’t we all need to escape once in a while? That’s what a good book does. It offers a retreat from reality…even for a short time.

Q. Do you have a website/blog where readers may learn more about you and your work?
A. I have many sites and blogs. I’ll list the main ones here.

Q. Do you have another novel in the works? Would you like to tell readers about your current or future projects?
A. I always have other novels at various stages of completion. I recently finished Children of the Fog, a suspense thriller about a woman whose son is kidnapped—before her very eyes. This is one of those terrifying moments we never want to think about: if someone threatened to kill you and your child if you didn’t allow him to take your child, would you let him do it? I like to ask these kinds of chilling questions.
For fans of Divine Intervention, I must apologize that I have not finished Divine Justice. I am waiting to hear whether my new publisher (or another) wants to take Divine Intervention first. If they pick it up, then I will be free to continue with the series. I’m sorry it’s taking so long. If you want to, feel free to post to my guestbook on my publisher’s site. If you mention that they should take Divine Intervention and that you’re waiting for Divine Justice, they may just make a decision soon. (my publisher reads these posts).
I am currently working on: Divine Justice, Submerged and a terrifying thriller/horror (thinking of it makes MY skin crawl). I’m not sure in which order they will be published. I also have a list of 20+ future works, and I occasionally write short stories, some of which are now Amazon Shorts (Picture Perfect and A Grave Error), which you can buy for .49 cents on
Mayra's Book Reviews...

The Frugal Editor
By Carolyn Howard-Johnson
Red Engine Press
Copyright 2007
ISBN: 978-0-9785158-7-4
Paperback, 208 pages, $18.95

The publishing world is so incredibly competitive nowadays, both aspiring and experienced authors who wish to succeed need to make sure that their submissions—be that queries, proposals, partials or complete manuscripts—are as flawless as they can possibly be. It goes without saying that these submissions must be free of spelling and grammatical mistakes; that’s only the beginning. Editors and agents pay attention to a lot of other amateurish mistakes in a submission. In this her latest book, award-winning author Carolyn Howard-Johnson reveals what those other mistakes are, what you can do to spot them on your manuscript and, more importantly, correct them.

Johnson demystifies how to spot dangling participles, gremlins of the passive voice (which stubbornly keep appearing after having edited your manuscript twice), and innocuous agreement errors, among other sneaky problems like overuse of adverbs and adjectives, gerunds, unnecessary question marks and exclamation points, handling possessives and apostrophes, hyphens, double adjectives, and more.

You’ll learn how to make the editing process more effortless, including how to set up your Word program to make markings easier, as well as manual and electronic techniques for spotting errors. The book also includes helpful sidebars with particularly important information on all aspects of self editing.Johnson also discusses the most common amateurish mistakes writers often make. At the end of the book there is a chunky appendix with lots of pertinent and relevant resources.

One of the things I found more interesting about this book is the ‘inside’ information from the point of view of various agents. I also think Johnson gives very valuable advice when she recommends NOT doing the final two edits on the computer screen, but on printed copy instead. I particularly like the chapters on how to set up Word for optimizing the self editing process; I have read many books on editing but never came upon this practical element before. Moreover, Johnson writes in a friendly, engaging style, making the reading of this book both an enjoyable and enlightening experience.

Ideally, hiring a professional editor is the best way to go, but unfortunately, not every writer has the resources to hire one. Getting a copy of The Frugal Editor and using it as a reference guide is the next best thing. Highly recommended for authors who are serious about their work and willing to beat the odds.
Freckleface Strawberry
By Julianne Moore
Illustrated by LeUyen Pham
Bloomsbury Children’s Books
Copyright 2007
ISBN: 978-1-59990-107-7
Ages 0-5, 40 pages, $16.95
Available October 2007

Freckledface Strawberry is about a seven-year old girl just like everybody else, except for one thing: she has red hair. Not only that. She has FRECKLES!

Where did they come from? Nobody in her family has freckles. How she got them is a mystery! No matter where she goes, people always have something to say about her freckles—that she’s dotted, that she’s dirty, that she looks like a giraffe, but even worse… that she’s a FRECKLEFACE STRAWBERRY!
Freckleface Strawberry must do something to get rid of her freckles. And fast. She tries various funny ways to get rid of them, before realizing that maybe, just maybe, freckles are not that bad after all. What’s even more… maybe freckles are what make her HER.

This is a picture book that will be thoroughly enjoyed by all, especially by children who have freckles. The story maintains the right pace to keep the momentum going and the colorful illustrations have a wacky quality that suits well the tone and add to the humor. Julianne Moore has created a cute, fun story based on her own childhood experience . I look forward to reading more books from her.

*This review was previously published in
Beauty Shop for Rent
By Laura Bowers
Harcourt Books
Copyright 2007
Hardcover, 330 pages
YA/General Fiction
12 & up

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this novel by first-time author Laura Bowers.

Fourteen-year old Abbey Garner lives with her great-grandmother and works part-time at her struggling beauty shop. The place has been displaying a ‘For Rent’ sign over a year, to no avail. Then one day a beautiful and sophisticated young woman comes to rent it, bringing with her modern ideas to remodel the shop. Soon Abbey grows to love and admire her. How can she not? She’s everything Abbey’s mother is not—successful, independent, reliable. Now that the shop has been turned into a modern spa, Abbey is able to work more toward her big dream: to become rich by the time she turns thirty five. But then, her mother, who had Abbey when she was sixteen and practically abandoned her, comes back into the picture, turning Abbey’s orderly life upside down.

Don’t be fooled by the fun, whimsical aspect of the beauty spa idea; although the setting adds a touch of hilarity to the story, this is a strong, beautifully written and heart-warming tale about a young teenager’s search for maternal love. It is a coming-of-age novel about overcoming disappointment and about forgiveness. Abbey is a sensitive, thoroughly sympathetic protagonist. Beauty Shop for Rent is fine piece of work that will appeal to both young adults and adults alike.

*This review was originally published on
Resources "Dedicated to promoting reading and literacy. Jump in to find great books you and your children will love to share, and learn about ways to encourage your child's love of reading."--The Reading Tub, Inc. Great article on print on demand and publishing. Online conference for writers.


Science Fiction author M.D. Benoit is having a contest. Win a signed copy of her book, METER MADE! Click here for details:


Linda Austin said...

The 10-Step Diet is a great article - thanks! Love the idea of the "Loquacious Blubber" file.

Cherry Blossoms in Twilight

Mayra Calvani said...

Thanks for your feedback, Linda! I appreciate it!

Carolyn Howard-Johnson said...

Just a quick thank you for the lovely interview and featuring The Frugal Editor. Also, I loved the information on better writing. And I'd even have loved if it had been under the subject of normalization. Still, zombies certainly gives it appeal! (-:

Carolyn Howard-Johnson

Mary Castillo said...

Loved Lois' article and it came at the perfect time as I'm polishing up a manuscript. Thanks so much!


Cheryl Swanson, author of Death Game said...

I ALWAYS read The Fountain Pen and I always get something out if it. Among other things I liked, the tips on cutting the fat out of your writing--easy and good reminders.

Your new format is very classy. Just keeps getting better.