Mama Diaries

Monday, October 14, 2019

Guest Author, Charles Suddeth

Today I have author, Charles Suddeth, at my pad. He's here to tell us about himself and about his newly-released middle-grade book Stone Man and the Trail of Tears.

Hi, Charles. Tell us about yourself and how you became a writer.

I have published poetry, picture books, middle reader’s books, young adult thrillers, and adult mysteries in English, Cherokee, and Turkish. I am active in SCBWI and Green River Writers. I lead a monthly SCBWI meeting in Louisville, and I teach for the Jefferson County Schools.

I started writing poetry and short stories when I was 11, and I haven’t stopped. A few years ago, I decided that I shouldn’t keep the stories for myself. I joined 2 writing groups: Green River Writers and SCBWI. They helped me hone my writing.

Wow! Sounds like you are a busy guy!

Where did you get your idea for Stone Man?

My great-great-grandfather, Bill Pennington was born about 1830 in a Cherokee village, in Kentucky. His family moved north of the Ohio River during the Trail of Tears to a rural area just north of Charlestown, Indiana, 30 miles north of Louisville, Kentucky where a mixture of whites and Meti (French/Shawnee mixed-bloods) lived.

It sounds like your family experienced first-hand what it was like on the Trail of Tears.

What do you want readers to take away from reading your book?

Most of all, I want readers to have fun–this is an adventure. I also want them to have an introduction to Cherokee culture and to know how the Trail of Tears tore apart people's lives. And I want them to appreciate that people everywhere are much the same.

I think your book accomplishes that.

Did you have to do any research before writing the book? If so, tell us about it.

I have been doing Cherokee research for a long time–after an uncle told me of my Cherokee heritage. The Museum of the Cherokee in Cherokee, North Carolina used to publish a journal, and several issues were devoted to those who escaped the trail of tears. Although I am not fluent, I can speak some Cherokee–it helps me to understand the characters' thinking.

What is your writing process like?

I do not outline–I prefer that my stories flow. I do know their destination, but not always their route getting there. I use critique groups and writing retreats to help my revisions.

Do you have a set schedule for writing, or do you work when you feel inspired?

I do not write by schedules. I am not an early riser, so I work in the afternoon and evenings. Inspiration helps, but if inspiration doesn't find you, hunt inspiration down. I like to do a short meditation before I write or revise to keep my mind focused.

Do you read much and if so, who are your favorite authors?

 I read a lot (I am not sure why I own a TV). My favorite authors were John Steinbeck and Michael Crichton–both are gone. Currently, I read a lot of thrillers and books on DNA research, both fiction and non-fiction. I do not have favorite living authors.

Are you working on anything new?

I am working on a historical novel, Run from the Devil. It is loosely based on the life of Cato Watts–legendarily the first slave, first musician, and first man hanged in colonialLouisville history.

It sounds like it'll be a fascinating read!

Where can readers purchase your book?

Here's my review of Stone Man and the Trail of Tears: 
Those familiar with US history know of the Trail of Tears. It is a sad chapter in which Cherokee Indians were hunted by US soldiers and forced off of their land. Stone Man and the Trail of Tears is the fictitious story of a young Cherokee boy, Tsatsi, and his family who lived during that time. When his village is attacked, Tsatsi and his sister, Sali, flee and are separated from their family. Things get worse when Sali becomes ill and is kidnapped by Stone Man, a legendary giant who instills fear in the hearts of the Cherokee people. Fortunately, Stone Man is not what he seems. He helps the children on their perilous journey to find a new home.

Stone Man and the Trail of Tears is a fascinating story that has bits of history and culture woven throughout. Readers will learn a little about the Trail of Tears as well as interesting things like which acorns are best to eat and what plants can help reduce fevers. At the end, there is a glossary with Cherokee words and definitions. Recommended for readers in grade 4 and up.  5 stars


Tuesday, October 1, 2019


Hello everyone. No stories today. But I'm stopping by briefly to take part in the monthly IWSG post.

This month's question is, "Should you read a lot which may influence how you write and what you write about, or not read at all so that you have original ideas?"

I'd say read. That's how you get a sense of what works and what doesn't. I think even if you lived in a bubble and wrote, you'd still come up with universal themes and ideas. Reading does give you ideas. But that's not a bad thing. Besides, reading an author's work is being supportive. Isn't that what we're supposed to do?

What do you think? Should you read other people's work, or just write your own stuff with no outside literary influences? 

Thursday, September 19, 2019

The Ice Crusher

Most people have an ice crusher as part of their freezer. My ice crusher is in the form of a three-legged canine. This dog won't eat a darn thing, but he sure likes crushing ice!

He gallops to the freezer and stands there, waiting for someone to depress the ice maker. When someone does, and the ice spills to the floor, he scoops it up in his large mouth and crushes it. It's ridiculous!

I'm waiting for the day when he will learn how to press the ice dispenser with his nose. That will be one good trick!

Here he is after his last chemo treatment. They actually put a bandaid on him. You can see it in the picture.

I have two other things that may be of interest to you:

One, I met my wonderful publisher, Diane Wolfe of Dancing Lemur Press last week at Book 'Em North Carolina. She's a terrific person! If any of you are one of her authors, know that she does a lot of work to promote your book!

And second, author, Irene Helenowski interviewed me via Skype. Click on the link if you'd like to watch. You'll be entertained because I'm such a goofy person!

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

The Band Played On and IWSG Post

My boy, Bubba, is in high school now. That means he attends high school football games. If you've ever been to one of those, you know there's usually a band that plays. The game Bubba attended last Friday was no exception. The band played a special tune every time their team made a first down. Usually, that doesn't happen all that much. But on this particular game, the team was making a first down every three minutes. Not a bad problem to have. The musicians, however, soon grew tired of playing the same tune over and over and over. 

One musician, a saxophone player, decided he'd had enough. He walked over to my boy who was standing near the sidelines and handed him his instrument. Now, Bubba isn't exactly a musician, but he does know one tune on the saxophone. So, while the rest of the band was playing the proper first-down tune, my boy stood there playing the only one he knew.

It was the funniest sight to see. Nobody seemed to mind the rogue saxophone player. In fact, I'm sure they found it quite entertaining. Leave it to my boy to do his own thing while the band played on!

Now for the IWSG question of the month:

If I could pick one place in the world to sit and write my story, where would it be, and why?

Hmmm. I think I'd mentioned at one time that I usually get a lot of writing done on a hotel balcony overlooking a beach. Now, the question is, which beach would I want to overlook? I have never been to the Greek island of Santorini. From the pictures, it looks really pretty–whitewashed buildings overlooking an azure blue bay. Maybe that would be a good place. Has anyone ever been there?
Where would you go to write your story?

Lastly, for those who would like to know how Schultz is, he's getting around just fine. In fact, he chased a deer across our yard the other day. Having three legs doesn't seem to bother him. The trouble is, he's gotten very skinny from not eating much. He weighed 112 pounds. Now he's down to 85. And he doesn't have a ton of energy. I guess that's to be expected from chemo treatments.

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

IWSG and Schultz Update

I know it's been a while since I've been here. A lot has been going on. I moved and got a new job. The new job is Executive Director of the Georgia Philharmonic. I'm excited about it, but I know I have a lot to learn! And it will keep me extremely busy!

So, you're all wondering how Schultz is doing. If you recall, he was diagnosed with bone cancer and had to have his left front leg amputated. He's getting around much better. In fact, because he has to trot on three legs all the time, he moves a lot faster. His main issue is eating. The chemo treatments have messed up his appetite. He's so skinny, you can see his rib cage. The only food that seems to appeal to him is human food. The vet gave us some appetite stimulant pills. We'll see if that helps. Here he is with his buddy, Bootsy.

It's time for the IWSG post.

This month's question is, "Has your writing ever taken you by surprise?"

Well, as a matter of fact, it has. Normally, I write picture books and chapter/middle-grade books for kids.  Those have always been humorous and on the lighter side. A couple of years ago, I wrote a piece for an anthology contest. I didn't really plot it out like a normally do. I did the pantser thing. I was surprised by how dark it got. In fact, I killed everybody except the villainous main character. And I enjoyed it. I'm sure it all had something to do with the difficulties I had been experiencing in my life. It felt good to take it out on my characters. The good thing about being a writer is that you can kill as many characters as you want, and not get in trouble for it.  I'm not sure embracing my dark side is something I would regularly do as a writer, but it was interesting to do it. What about you? Has your writing ever taken you by surprise? 

Thursday, June 27, 2019

IWSG and Poor Puppy

I know I'm a little early for the IWSG post. Even more so than usual. But next week I'm moving. Who knows when I'll be online again. Hopefully, it will be in time for August's IWSG.

 This month's question is:  What personality traits of your own have you inserted into a character in your story?

Well, in my book,  Bubba and Squirt's Big Dig to China, I've used some of my children's personality traits. Not exactly the way they are, but similar. Bubba, like my son, is personable and someone who thinks outside of the box. In his younger years, he tended to be impulsive, like the character in the story. Squirt, like my daughter, is the responsible older one, always watching out for her brother and taking care of others. The mom in the book, although she doesn't make much of an appearance, is like me. Practical, observant, and always busy doing something.

Now for the story about Schultz, the poor puppy.

Those of you who are friends with me on Facebook know that Schultz, our 115-pound German Shepherd, and subject of many stories here, has bone cancer.

We are heartbroken.

A few weeks ago, he started limping. We thought he had sprained his leg either jumping out of the car or running around chasing the flashlight.  We took him to the vet who took X-rays. It appeared he had no broken bones, so he was sent home with some pain killers.

A week later, the vet called back. He checked the X-rays again and was concerned about a shadow he saw along the bone. He thought it might be indicative of cancer.  He referred us to a specialist. The specialist took a super-powerful X-ray and said, "Yep. It's cancer." Poor Schultz has a tumor inside the bone that is growing and pushing it out.

The cancer is aggressive. If we did nothing, he would have only three months to live.

We had a decision to make:  Give Schultz radiation and painkillers to keep the pain under control as long as we could until we had to put him down, or amputate the leg. X-rays showed that Schultz's lungs were clear, so cancer had not metastasized to there. We don't know if it's anywhere else. Schultz was a candidate for amputation which may save his life, at least for another year or two. He may also need eight weeks of chemo on top of that. The whole thing is a gamble.

It is difficult to imagine Schultz as a three-legged dog. Especially since he loves running around, chasing things, and climbing up and down stairs to visit everybody. Probably, if it was up to me, I would have done the first option. Keep him as comfortable as possible and put him down when it was time. But the kids couldn't bear to lose their dog yet, especially since we've got a lot of other rotten things going on right now. They opted for amputation.

So, as I write this, Mr. Schultz is at the doggy hospital prepping for surgery. When  I see him tomorrow, he will have only three legs. Hopefully, he'll adjust well, and hopefully, it won't be too painful for us to see him that way. 

Whenever I come back, I'll let you know how it all went.

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Tara Tyler's New Release: Windy Hollow

Today, I'm here to tell you about a new release by my blogger friend, Tara Tyler. I'm so glad it's finally in print. She had a long journey to get this book published!

Beast World MG Fantasy Series, book #3
by Tara Tyler
Available NOW!

In BROKEN BRANCH FALLS, Gabe and his friends go on a quest to save their
school, blowing up all the rules, and discover their origins.
Then they go to CRADLE ROCK and meet some real live humans, scaring them into
attack mode. The Beasts realize they have to spread the truth ASAP.
Now, school's out, and Gabe is ready for a break from all the drama...
Gabe and his friends fly over the Great Sea for the wedding of the century: a dragon
prince and a beautiful harpy. But Gabe can't relax on this vacation. Besides competing
in rigorous wedding events, he overhears the nearby human village WINDY HOLLOW is
in danger from an evil human scientist and a vengeful were-ogre experimenting on
beasts. Gabe and his friends risk crossing the mountains to help, despite several
Maybe he's going too far this time, but he's in too deep to quit. It's do or die, hopefully
not die!

Paperback ~~~  Ebook

Author Bio
Tara Tyler has had a hand in everything from waitressing to rocket engineering. After
moving all over the US, she now writes and teaches math in Ohio with her husband and
one boy left in the nest. She has two novel series, Pop Travel (sci-fi detective thrillers)
and Beast World (fantasy adventures), plus her UnPrincess novella series where the
maidens save themselves. She's a commended blogger, contributed to several
anthologies, and to fit in all these projects, she economizes her time, aka the Lazy
Housewife—someday she might write a book on that... Make every day an adventure!

How to find:
website: Tara Tyler Talks
twitter: @taratylertalks
facebook: Tara Tyler - Author
Instagram: taratylertalks
newsletter: tara tyler news

Sunday, June 9, 2019

Guest Author, Elaine Kaye

Today I have a special guest at my pad:  Author, Elaine Kaye. She's Chrys Fey's mom. Her new book, The Missing Alphabet, just came out. She's here, along with characters, Gregory and Sammy, to tell us about the book.

Gregory the Boy: Hi everyone! My name is Gregory.

Sammy the Teddy Bear: *waves* Don't be scared, but I can talk, too. I'm Sammy.

Gregory: Sammy is my best friend in the whole wide world. We go on a lot of adventures together. Don't we, Sammy?

Sammy: Yup! Like the time when Gregory turned green at school.

Gregory: And you came to tell my friends and me about bullying.

Sammy: Someone had to.

Gregory: Then there was the time when you ripped your leg, Sammy, and Mom had to fix you up.

 Sammy: *rubs leg* I don't want to talk about that.

Gregory: Let's not forget about what happened on Halloween night!

Sammy: We rode on a broom! *pretends to be an airplane*

Gregory: Now we have a brand-new adventure to share with everyone.

Sammy: We do! But maybe we should let Elaine Kaye share the details about the story of The Missing Alphabet.

Elaine Kaye the Author: Thanks, boys!


The paper alphabet letters in Gregory Green’s classroom have gone missing, and it’s up to him and his friends to find those missing letters. They go on a hunt through the school, hoping to find them. They spot letters next to things that start with those letters, like B for Bananas in the cafeteria. But will they be able to find the entire alphabet? The Missing Alphabet is a great story for children learning to associate letters with objects, and four activities throughout the book will further help children to get familiar with the alphabet. General Age Range - Kids 5-8 (Story Picture Book) EBOOK: Amazon / Nook / Kobo PRINT: Amazon


“Bullying is not fun and, with colorful illustrations and interesting characters, the author handles the topic in a simple manner, giving a clear message about how the color of one's skin is not important." - Readers' Favorite (5-Star Review)
 EBOOK: Amazon / Nook / Kobo PRINT: Amazon / Barnes & Noble 

“Tutors and educators can use it in classrooms and school libraries for read-aloud sessions.” – Readers’ Favorite (5-Star Review)
 EBOOK: Amazon / Nook / Kobo PRINT: Amazon / Barnes & Noble

“This is a perfect story for children and it will make them imagine, dream, and become adventurous. The illustrations are whimsical and they bring out the spookiness and eeriness of the adventure.” – Readers’ Favorite (5-Star Review)
 EBOOK: Amazon / Nook / Kobo PRINT: Amazon / Barnes & Noble

About the Author: Elaine Kaye is the author of A Gregory Green Adventure series. She created Gregory Green after her son, who loved her homemade pea soup. Kaye has worked as a library assistant and teacher's assistant in elementary schools. She currently lives in Florida but has called Michigan; Honolulu, Hawaii; and Okinawa, Japan home.

 Website / Goodreads / Amazon / Instagram

Monday, June 3, 2019

Schultz's New Game and IWSG Question of the Month

Schultz, our giant nine-year-old German Shepherd, has learned a new trick. This new trick involves opening the door to the basement steps with his nose and throwing a tennis ball down the stairs. He loves watching the ball bounce all the way down to the landing. Then he retrieves it and does it again. He entertains himself for quite a while doing this. Unfortunately, when he's finished, he doesn't put his ball away. It stays on the landing. We'll have to see about teaching him yet another new trick and having him put his ball away.

It's time for the IWSG question of the month:  "What genre do you prefer writing and why?" I have always enjoyed writing children's books–picture books and middle-grade stories.  Probably because I'm a kid at heart. As a picture book writer, it's fun to see what the illustrator does with my manuscript. It's always a surprise. I also enjoy meeting the kids who read my books. Library visits and school visits are really the best part of being an author.

If you're a writer, what's your favorite genre to write?

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Checking In

I know. I've been missing. I'm going through a difficult time in my life right now, and my world is very much upside down. But I wanted to check in to say hello. I also wanted to thank Alex Cavanaugh for the great "You Rock" Award.

Ninja Captain is the one who really rocks! He has a great way of brightening up someone's day.

I will continue to be MIA as I try to settle into my new life. But I will make every effort to show up for the IWSG monthly posting. Know that I am thinking about all of you.

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Insecure Writers Support Group

This month's question for the Writer's Support Group is: What was an early experience you had where you discovered that language had power?

When I was in the second grade, my teacher read the story, James and the Giant Peach. I became so entranced in the story, that I couldn't wait for the next day when she would continue. It made me realize that words had the power to transport one into a fantasy world where a reader could actually care about what happens to imaginary characters.

Have you ever had an experience where you realized that language/words had power?

I don't really have a story today, so instead, I'll just share another recording from the recital I did. I'm joined by Allen Baston on piano.

Monday, April 22, 2019

The Blow-out

Schultz, our very large German Shepherd, is shedding. When this happens, the house becomes a catastrophic mess of dog hair.

My husband decided to speed up the process. He took Schultz outside and pulled out the leaf blower.

"You're not seriously going to use the leaf blower on him, are you?" I asked.

"Of course I am," he responded. "They sell things like this to blow out hair when a dog is shedding."

I shook my head. "Not ones that big and loud."

He grabbed Schultz's collar and turned the blower on. You should've seen the hair that came off of him. It looked like it was snowing. When my husband was done, the front yard was literally covered with Schultz's hair.

Schultz was not pleased with the blower. As soon as my husband let go of the collar, he ran off, gave himself a good shake, and promptly rolled in his own hair. Guess he wasn't ready to part with it!

Before I go, I thought I'd share a video I made from a recent recital I did. I'm joined by Allen Baston, piano and Earl Hough, violin.

Monday, April 15, 2019

Pump Up the Volume

Like most teenagers, my boy likes the volume of music to be loud. It drives me crazy.

"Can't you hear it at a lower level?" I asked when it was blaring out of his room.

"Yeah," he said. "But it's more fun when it's loud." 

Fast forward to later in the day when I had to drive him somewhere. He knows I dislike it when he turns the volume up in my car. He turns it up. I turn it down. So now he has a new way to torment me. Let me tell you about it. When he got into the car, I noticed a black cylindrical apparatus in his hand.

I narrowed my eyes. "What's that?"

He grinned. "You'll see."

A few minutes into our trip, he hooked the thing up to his phone. Then the music started. I tell you what, the windows in my car vibrated from the heavy bass that came out of the apparatus.  The thing he had brought was a speaker. A wireless one.  And it made a whole lot of noise!

The bad news was, I couldn't turn the volume down, which is exactly what he'd planned. But what he hadn't planned on was the wrath of the Mama. Speakers of any kind are now banned. At least in my car and in my presence.

Do any of you have teenagers that blast loud music? Or were any of you teenagers who drove your parents nuts with loud music? 

Before I go, I'd like to let you know about an author interview I did for LitPick. If you'd like to find out where my favorite place to write is, go here

Monday, April 8, 2019

Cheese Dip

My boy is constantly coming up with innovative ways to do things. The other day, I had gotten some mascarpone cheese and was making a dessert using it with croissants,  strawberries, and chocolate.

Bubba walked over and inspected my creation. "Nice!" Then he pointed at the cheese. "What's that?"

I explained.

"That would make a good cheese dip," he said.

"Yeah. It's good with fruit."

He grinned and walked over to the refrigerator. When he came back, he had some string mozzarella cheese in his hand. He dipped the cheese into the container of mascarpone cheese and took a bite. "Yep, I was right. It's a good cheese dip!"

Have you ever tried dipping cheese into a cheese dip? If so, how did it taste?

And before I go, I have some advertisements:

The publisher has reduced the cost of the ebook version of Bubba and Squirt's Big Dig to China to $2.99. That's the lowest it will go. Here are some buy links:  Amazon US, Amazon CA, Amazon UK

If you'd like to see a video of a student review on the book, here it is:

And last, if you'd like to read an author interview done by AllAuthor to learn a little more about me, please go here.

Monday, April 1, 2019

Natural Pants

The weather here in Georgia has taken a nosedive. It went from being in the high seventies to being in the high thirties. Like winter.

My boy didn't get the memo and went outside wearing shorts, sandals, and a t-shirt.

"Dude," I said when I saw him. "It's cold. You need to change."

He shrugged and went upstairs to find more clothes.  When he came back downstairs, he had on a sweatshirt, socks, and shorts. Almost appropriate.

"Your legs will freeze," I said.

He shook his head. "No, they won't. My leg hairs are natural pants!"

Now for something completely different: It's time for the IWSG question of the month.

This month's question is:  If you could use a wish to help you write just one scene/chapter in your book, which one would it be?

Well, I've been working on more books for my Bubba and Squirt series. I've come up with a plot thread that can go through the entire series. It involves a villain. I'd like to use that wish to write the scene in which Bubba, Squirt, and all their friends they've met along the way defeat the villain and his cohorts, and rescue a very important person.  It's going to be epic, but I'm not sure exactly how it's going to work, because it'll have to tie in everything from all previous books. It's taking massive brain power to figure it out. A wish might help!

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Mister Rake Eater

It's Spring. That means it's time to do some yard work. This past weekend, my husband got out the electric hedgers and went to town trimming the holly bushes, which were completely out of control. The result was a humongous pile of branches and leaves.

When the trimming was done, I got out the rake and proceeded to organize it all into a big pile which could be jammed into bags and hauled to the curb for pickup.

Schultz, our giant 112 pound German Shepherd, rested on the grass, supervising the entire operation. He was very well-behaved until the rake came out. I don't know what it was about the rake that made him go bananas. Maybe he thought it had teeth. But as soon as I put it down, he was all over that thing. He grabbed it in his mouth, shook it around, and trotted off with it.

"Schultz, drop it!" I yelled.

He did. But he didn't stop pouncing on it and biting it.

"Enough, Schultz!" He stopped and looked at me. Like I was crazy for letting such a ferocious looking object be in the yard with us.

I grabbed the rake and continued raking.

He kept a close eye on it. It wasn't until the rake was safely positioned on the hook in the garage that he relaxed.

Silly dog. He actually thought he had to guard us against a rake! 

Monday, March 18, 2019

Legos for Big People

Many of you who have been visiting this blog for a while may remember that my son Bubba and I often put together complicated Lego sets when he was little. Or more correctly, I put together complicated Lego sets, while he supervised.

Since then, Bubba has graduated on to bigger, better things. Namely, building computers. This was the project over the last two weeks. Both Bubba and my husband each decided to build a computer. A total of two.  This involved several trips to MicroCenter, the computer part store, and a lot of online browsing for parts. My head was spinning from all the computer jargon I heard.

When all the pieces and parts were gathered, assembly began. I was shocked that my boy actually knew how to install a motherboard. (He needed some help with the wiring. Since that was beyond my capability, I had my husband take care of it.)

The shocker for me was when I saw him on the computer playing a video game.

"It actually works?" I said.

"Yep. It's just like putting together a Lego set. Except it's for big people."

Have you ever built a computer? Do you understand how all those parts do what they do?  I don't have a clue! 

Monday, March 11, 2019


The other day, my son, Bubba, took a nap. When he woke up, the clock said it was 7:04. Since it was dark, he assumed he had slept all night and that it was 7:04 AM. He got up and proceeded to get ready to begin his day. My husband was also taking a nap, so it appeared that it was indeed morning, and everyone in the house was still sleeping.

Then I came home from work.

Bubba was eating a bowl of cereal, freshly showered. When he saw me, he looked completely confused. "What were you doing?"

"Working, like I always do."

"All night?"

"No. I'm home for the evening."

"Wait a minute," he said. "It's not morning?"

"No, dude. It's 7:35 PM."

Has that ever happened to you?   

Sunday, March 3, 2019

Guest Author, Tonja Drecker

Today, special guest, Tonja Drecker is here to tell us about her soon-to-be-released book, Music Boxes. 

How did you get the idea to use ballerinas in your book? Were you ever a dancer?

The idea came to me while I was weeding my garden—nasty blackberries with vicious thorns. An image of a ballet teacher staring over her shelves of music boxes with an evil grin settled in and wouldn’t leave. I have no idea what it had to do with the weeds, but I loved the image and built on it from there.

I never had the chance to learn how to dance, which is too bad since I’ve always enjoyed watching ballet. However, music was always a large part of my life as a pianist, organist and choir director. My daughter is the dancer. She started ballet when she was four, and then switched to hip-hop when she was about twelve. From there, she was discovered by a private trainer and competed all the way up to the German nationals. She kept us on our toes for many years.

It's funny how ideas happen. You must've had ballet on your mind from your daughter's years of dancing. Sounds like she's a talented dancer! 

Who is your favorite character in the book and why?

I adore several of the characters, which probably isn’t surprising. If I had to pick a favorite, it might be Ms. Mulberry. She makes her grumpy appearance on the first page but proves that first impressions aren’t always correct. She’s such a spunky, quirky lady who packs a ton of secrets and surprises. I’d love to have a neighbor just like her.

She sounds fun!

Who or what inspired you to be a writer?

I’m not sure anyone or anything really inspired me to write. I’ve always had a vivid imagination and assume the love for stories came from there. The moment I learned how to spell, I wrote my first ‘book’, which was an entire three pages long and colorfully illustrated in crayon. Of course, my parents read picture books to me every now and then, but it wasn’t something they did regularly. I wrote stories on and off all the way through college and had a couple things published in the school’s poetry/story collections, but I never considered becoming a writer. The idea of allowing others to read my stories came after my first two children were born. We stayed in Ireland for several months while my husband headed a project in Dublin. The house we rented had shelves of romance novels. While the kids took their afternoon naps, I didn’t have anything to do. So, I flipped through those books. And then, it hit me—people wrote books. It might seem like a silly realization, but it was the first time I thought about it. And that’s where my writing began.

A vivid imagination and a love of books are definite musts for a writer! 

When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?

When reading this question, I have the urge to flip it around because writing is probably the thing, which I spend the least amount of time doing (am I allowed to say that?). I run a small farm with cattle and chickens, and still have my youngest two children at home. Keeping everything up, going and repaired—it’s amazing how often things break on a farm—along with the usual household chores and running after the kids (and husband), fills most of my day. I also have a children’s book review site, which takes time too. The writing floats in between. I do love to hike, travel, bake, garden, and canoe too.

Sounds like you are super-busy. With that much going on it's a wonder you have any time to write! 

Are you working on anything else?

Currently, I’m working on two manuscripts. One is a joint project with another writer, a fantasy packed with magic, intrigue, adventure and action, which runs a bit on the darker side of things. It’s aimed at the young adult audience and will hopefully be ready to send off this coming Fall.

The second manuscript is aimed toward the middle grade audience again. This one is a mystery and adds a good dose of humor. The cases are inspired by real life crimes but more quirky ones. The entire thing is very STEM centered and keeps curiosity, experimentation, and fun as the primary agenda.

Teachers will like the STEM aspect of the middle grade book. It'll help get you in to do author visits!

Where can readers find your book?

Thanks for stopping by! 
Here's more information about Tonja's book:

Music Boxes
By Tonja Drecker
Middle Grade Fantasy / Performing Arts
158 pages
Dancing Lemur Press
Ages 9 to 12

·         ISBN-10: 1939844568
·         ISBN-13: 978-1939844569

Book Blurb:
“I only desire your talent...”

Twelve-year-old Lindsey McKay's biggest dream is to be a famous ballerina. But after moving to New York, she ends up at the Community Center with a teacher who’s a burly bear in tights.
When she meets Madame DestinĂ©e, the teacher of a top dance school who offers her classes for free, Lindsey can't believe her luck. In exchange, she must perform in the school’s exclusive midnight shows, ones sure to make her a star. But something’s not right...
One by one, the other dancers disappear. Each time they do, a music box with a figurine just like the missing ballerina joins Madame DestinĂ©e’s growing collection. If Lindsey doesn’t discover the truth about the dance school, she might end up a tiny figurine herself.

Sale Links:

Author Biography:
Tonja Drecker is a writer, blogger, children’s book reviewer and freelance translator. After spending years in Germany exploring forgotten castles, she currently resides in the Ozarks with her family of six. When she’s not tending her chickens and cows, she’s discovering new adventures, nibbling chocolate and sipping a cup of tea.


Early Order/Pre-order Special
Pre-order/order your book (ecopy or print) before midnight (EST) on Friday night, March 8th, send a copy of your proof of purchase to along with an US mailing address, and you will receive an envelope with exclusive swag (bookmark, sticker, etc).

The giveaway will run from midnight (EST) on the night of February 21st, 2019 until midnight (EST) on the night of March 15th,  2019. Entries will be made through the Rafflecopter. One winner will receive a music box ( the one found in the book video: ) with the author’s golden signature on the bottom as well as swag (US addresses only). The second winner will receive an Amazon GC of $10 (US). The second winner must be in possession of a qualifying US Amazon account.

And it's that time of month for the IWSG post. Since I won't be back on Wednesday, I'm doing this today. The question is, "Whose point of view do you write from–the hero or villain, and why?"

 I'd have to say I've always written from the hero's point of view, for no good reason other than that's what I do. This question has made me think, though. It might be fun to look at some of the things I've written from the villain's point of view. It's certainly a great way to get to know your bad guy! 

Monday, February 25, 2019

Schultz and the Midnight Visitor

Every night our giant German Shepherd, Schultz, has a barking fit. It wakes us up. He goes on and on and on and won't shut up.

We had always thought he was barking at the deer outside. They're always roaming around day and night.

It turns out we were mistaken. Mr. Schultz has been barking at a cute little rabbit who parks himself outside the door of our walk-out basement, usually around 3:30 AM, and sits there for hours, tormenting Schultz.

My husband discovered the troublesome rodent one night when he looked out the window and saw him sitting there. He promptly let Schultz out who chased the rabbit through the woods to the creek where he must have lost him. Schultz trotted back with his tongue hanging out, looking quite pleased with himself.

This little game went on for about a week. The last couple of nights have been quiet. So, I don't know if the rabbit got tired of it, or if he's planning some new way of torturing Schultz. We'll see.

(You, know, I just thought of something. My daughter had made that carrot flute. Maybe it actually lured the rabbit in. Wouldn't that be funny?)

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

The Magic Carrot

Have you heard of Mozart's Magic Flute? Well, let me tell you about the Magic Carrot.

My daughter had a physics project in which she had to create a musical instrument using household items and a little math.

My girl and her lab partner decided on a paper flute. (Or more correctly, the lab partner decided this.) Unfortunately, the paper didn't work so well. Not surprising. So, a new item had to be found. That new item was a carrot.

My daughter did the math. Then she got out a drill and knife. When she was finished, she had something that looked like a recorder. Then the true test:  Would it make music?

She blew through it. First time it sounded like nothing but air blowing through a carrot. With a little tweaking of the mouthpiece, it produced a pitch. And when fingers covered the holes, new pitches were produced.

It doesn't sound anything like the flute in Mozart's Magic Flute, but rabbits who happen to be in the area may find the sound (and smell) pleasing, which might lure them in. Which means my dog, Schultz will have something to chase. Pure magic.

If you care to see how a carrot flute is made, go here.   

Monday, February 4, 2019

Miss Independent

Today I watched my daughter drive off to school by her own car.

It's kind of a weird thing to see the kid who used to dress up in princess costumes and have tea parties with stuffed animals suddenly turn into a young adult.

This past weekend, she bought her first car. I'm not one of those parents who just gives my kid a car. She had to work hard to earn the money. She saved it until she finally had enough to buy the car herself. The sense of accomplishment on her face when she brought it home was priceless.

It's a bittersweet thing. On one hand, I'm glad she's becoming independent and growing up. And it's kind of  nice not having to be the taxi service. On the other hand, now I have to worry about her safety on the road. And I know she'll never be a little kid again.

Next year, she'll be going off to college. That'll be another big adjustment!

How was it for you when your kids grew up? Was it hard on you? Or were you happy to see it?

And since it's about time for the IWSG post, I'll add that.

This month's question is, "What other creative outlets do you have?"

That's an easy one. I am a professional musician. I play and teach violin, viola, and piano. But I also play cello, ukulele, guitar, mandolin, harpsichord, and xylophone. I also write music. Mostly songs. But I am thinking about writing a concerto for viola and orchestra. All the contemporary viola concertos are very modern-sounding. In my opinion, they're not concertos that the average person would like to listen to. The ones that are nice, are not considered difficult enough for professional orchestra auditions. So, I would like to create a viola concerto that's pretty and technically challenging. Now I need more time... 

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Snow Day

Folks in the north are experiencing above average amounts of snowfall. For this reason, many schools are closed.

Here, in Georgia where I live, the schools are also closed. But we have no snow.

"Mom," my son said when he came home yesterday. "Tomorrow is a snow day!"

I looked outside where the sun was shining brightly. I looked at the thermometer. 47 degrees Fahrenheit. "Are you sure about that?"

"Yeah! We're going to get snow!"

Fast forward to today. When we woke up, the thermometer read 43 degrees. Not cold enough to snow. Sure, it was raining, but this stuff wasn't going to freeze.

It's a little colder right now, but the sun is shining. For the life of me, I can't understand why they closed the schools. And the government offices. Ridiculous!

Let's hope it doesn't snow on Superbowl Sunday. Atlanta is hosting it. We're going to be in trouble if a few flakes fall. It'll be the first time ever that the Superbowl is cancelled! 

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Mr. Sleepy

When my kids were little, I couldn't get them to sleep. Now I have the opposite problem. I can't get them to stay awake.

Let me tell you the story:

My teenage son, Bubba, had a morning doctor appointment. I dragged him in to the waiting area and had him sit on the sofa next to me. Two minutes later, he was asleep. When the nurse came out to get him, it was a major effort to awaken him. Everyone in the waiting area chuckled.

Two days later, he had an appointment at the dentist to get a cavity filled. Bet you can't guess what happened. Yes, he fell asleep in the chair!  I don't know how anyone falls asleep when they're having their teeth drilled, but my boy managed to do it. (Without medication!)

If you have/had teenagers, do you have any stories like this? 

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Poor Pig

We started a new New Years tradition at my pad. It's called beat the pig. You get this peppermint pig, put it in a nice velvet bag, then take a hammer and pulverize it. (First person to crack it gets to make a wish.)

Well, it's been a rough few years here, so we've had some bottled-up angst. My daughter initially cracked the thing. But my son beat it to a pulp. Here's what it looked like after his assault:

I'd have to say, it was strangely satisfying and somewhat therapeutic to do this. So, if you have a rough year, I would highly recommend getting a peppermint pig and smashing it to smithereens. (Doing this on New Years Eve would probably work, too.)  I guarantee you will feel better, and the new year will be off to a good start. 

Before I go, I'd like to let you know that my book, Bubba and Squirt's Big Dig to China is in a cover contest. Thanks to those who voted in round 1. It's now in round 2. If you'd like to vote you can go here. (You don't have to be on Facebook - you can vote anonymously. And if you voted in round 1, you can vote again in round 2.) Thank you!

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Sushi Chef and IWSG

Happy New Year!  I wish all of you a great 2019!

First story:  My son, Bubba, likes to cook. But not just ordinary things. He has a creative flare for the extraordinary.

"Mom, we need to get fish eggs, tuna, seaweed, avocado, and sushi rice," he said.

I knew what that meant. He was going to make sushi.

We got the ingredients and proceeded to create the dish. Except he couldn't find the bamboo sushi roller.

"What are we going to do?" he asked.

"I don't know," I said. "Why don't you consult Dr. Google and find out if there's an alternative you can use."

That's what he did. It turns out, you can use a kitchen towel and wrap it in plastic wrap to do the job. It doesn't work as well, but it still does the trick.

Anyway, ladies and gentleman, here is Bubba's finished concoction:

What do you think?

Second:  It's time for the IWSG post.

The question this month is:  What question do you get as an author that you don't like answering, and which question do you like answering?

I don't like answering the question, "How many books have you sold?"  It makes me feel very insecure. I wish I could say that I've sold thousands of my titles. But I can't. As of right now, I am not a best-selling author. Does that mean I'm not a good writer? Does that mean I'm not good at marketing? I don't know. I hope not.  I wish I could say I've sold a ton of books, because I've sure put a lot of effort into writing and marketing them!

My favorite question:  "What do you like most about writing?"  I like creating. It's fun.  I think most authors can relate. But since I'm a children's writer, the thing I like most is not the actual writing, but going out to see the kids either at libraries or schools. It's so gratifying to know that they've enjoyed my books and that I've inspired them to read and write.

What about you? If you're an author, what are you favorite and least favorite questions?