Another Way to Help Teachers

We know teachers are the lifeblood of our education system. However, each year theyHelping Teachers must spend more out of their own pockets for classroom supplies they cannot get from schools’ depleting budgets. In the past, I’ve given teachers gift cards to office supply stores to help, but last week I found another way I’d never thought of before. Our small town has a wonderful and thoughtful used bookstore. I turned in a bunch of books and received an $80 credit for my efforts–but I’m not going to buy any books. Instead, I’ve turned over my credit to any of the county’s teachers who’ve signed up to receive children’s fiction books for their classrooms.

So, rather than refilling my bookshelves, my credit will help fill classroom libraries for students instead. I can’t think of a better way to promote reading for young people. Yes, I could have bought books and donated them–but who better than a teacher to know what is the best book for her class reading levels?

It’s a little thing and there are many more ways to help. But if you have a used bookstore in your area, think about seeing if the store has a similar program for local teachers. What could feel better than sharing a love of reading with a student, right?

Have you discovered a way to help local schools that you’d like to share? Please comment if you know of a program the rest of us can ask about or start in our areas:)

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Evolution of a book cover

A few weeks ago, I offered a sneak peek here on the blog of a new Halloween Organized Mystery I’d written for an upcoming fall anthology that will be released the middle of next month. We authors have moved past the writing and editing stages now and onto the graphic portion of our program, so I thought I’d offer a little behind the scenes cover action. Sound interesting?

There is nothing more fun than working with terrific author friends on an exciting projectMidnight Mysteries we’re doing for our fans, and this anthology has been a blast. All of the stories are brand new, all are 40 pages or more long–two are twice that length–and most of them tie to favorite mystery series we already love to write and our fans have told us they love to read. We wanted our book cover to not only translate that series fun into the graphic, but give readers as much information as we could when the cover was seen online. We liked having all our names on the front, so readers can tell at a glance whose stories are inside, but we also wanted a bit of whimsy to play a role. We sent our designer all our ideas–even preliminary designs Larissa graciously did on Canva (Larissa is doubly talented as an author AND an artist–I’m so jealous) as we all worked through our stream of consciousness ideas. Once our designer received all the info, she took on the challenge and the first cover came back like this first graphic at the right–>

Midnight Mysteries 2To clarify, the “shutterstock” watermark wasn’t going to stay–we knew that–and we liked the balance and placement of everything. But we were concerned if we used the first cover and it went down to the thumbnail size that appears for Amazon search pages…well, our names would likely become just one unreadable block of squiggly lines. And the more we looked and thought about it, the more we decided we might need to get rid of the subtitle, to give the cover a little cleaner look. So, our marvelous (and patient) designer went back to her computer and returned with the option seen at the left.

Nice, huh? We thought so. And we were almost ready to use the design as the final cover until we had one more idea. While the subtitle was great about telling readers more Midnight Mysteries large web sizeabout what was inside, and would still be listed on the anthology’s book page, now that it was gone from the cover readers couldn’t easily see what kind of mysteries the anthology contained. We lost our “cozy.” So, we again went to our very patient and wonderful designer and asked if we could get a tiny bit of the subtitle back onto the cover. This is the final work–>

Well, what do you think? We authors kind of love it ourselves. And since the designer sent it back to us on August 17th–which is Black Cat Day–the cute kitty seems to be giving her meow of approval, too. Okay, maybe her “look” of approval.

What do you think? Is it a “4 paws up” design?

 

 

 

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This Is Freakin’ Genius!!!!

How many times have you really wanted a perfect shot of a perfect setting–but people kept standing and walking into the frame. You finally give up, take the best couple of shots you can get and call it a day. Right? Well, no more. Check out this fabulous travel hack that tells you step-by-step how to get PhotoShop to shoo all those pesky tourists out of your perfect photo! (Hint it could also work to get rid of that goofy cousin who tries to photo bomb every family reunion shot too. At least, get rid of him in the photo.)

This is genius

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Terrific New Women Sleuths Giveaway!

I’m involved this week in a new giveaway with a couple of dozen other mystery authors, so wanted to give everyone the heads up. Go to http://www.authorsxp.com/giveaway and enter to win. There will be a couple of grand prize winners who’ll receive all 24 books in the giveaway, and another 19 entrants will receive random books from the giveaway group. Enter now–contest ends Sunday, August 14th. My prize is copies of Marked Masters.womensleuths

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New Month–New Contest and Exclusive Giveaway!

Hey gang, wanted to start the month off fun, so I’ve posted a new contest over on My FB Author Page for the last available print copy ARC of Abstract Aliases. Head on over there to enter:) and Happy August!

AbstractAliases front sm

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Let’s End July with an Organized Halloween Sneak Peek

Yes, believe it or not, July 2016 has less than half-a-day left. Where has so much of the year gone? Sunday Sneak PeekWhile I don’t normally like to hurry time–as I seem to be crunched by it most days–I am looking forward to the cool temps of fall. To that end, I’m currently editing/proofing stories for a Halloween anthology to be released a few weeks before the trick or treat holiday. More on that in the coming weeks. And I’m handing out treats today in the form of a sneak peek of my story included in the anthology “Organized for Trick or Trap.” Hope everyone likes it:)

Organized for Trick or Trap Excerpt

Kate McKenzie looked out the windows of her cheery cherry-patterned kitchen curtains and watched lace-like snowflakes drift down lazily on the other side of the pane.

Definitely going to be a white Halloween, she thought. Something she was learning to count on since moving to Hazelton, Vermont. As she placed bananas into her seven-year-old twin daughters’ lunches, her energetic tomboy daughter, Samantha, barreled into the room with her coat and backpack slung onto one arm. “Oh, good. You’re ready, Sam. Is Suzanne about set to go too?”

“Yeah.” Sam chewed her lip, then asked, “Mom, can witches turn real people into zombies, or just do that to animals?”

“What?” Kate laughed and pushed on the Velcro ends of one insulated bag, sealing up the opening. She turned and faced a solemn faced Samantha. Oops. “Sorry I laughed, honey. I thought you were joking. I think I need a little more information on this cat zombie thing.”

“Monica says the lady down the road in the turquoise colored house is a witch and can bring animals back from the dead. But all the cats are zombies.”

This wasn’t the first wild story her twins had brought home thanks to this particular facts-challenged classmate. Kate had meant to already visit the new neighbor, but life had a way of filling every spare minute. Now, she had an even better reason to go and introduce herself. “I think someone told me she fosters cats, honey. How about we drop by her house after school with some of the jack o’ lantern cookies I made last night and introduce ourselves.”

“But Monica says she makes zombies out of the cats. They walk around and don’t see or hear anyone,” Sam persisted, just as her blonde identical twin Suzanne walked into the kitchen.

“Are you talking about the cat witch lady?” Suze asked.

“Yeah.”

“Girls, stop.” Kate handed each a lunch bag and steered them toward the front door, reconsidering her idea about taking the girls to meet the new neighbor. Probably best to pop in alone first, and take the girls later after she could reassure them with tangible evidence the woman didn’t turn anything into zombies. At least she hoped the fact she’d come home without being zombiefied succeeded in putting this story to rest. “There are no cat witches. And from what I know about our family’s cat, the entire breed only hears and sees what it wants to. Probably Monica tried to call one or two, wanting to pet them, and the cats ignored her.”

“But—”

“No, girls,” Kate pointed to their coats. “Suit up with those jackets and stick your lunches in your backpacks. Meg and the boys are taking you to school today. I’ll check out the new neighbor this afternoon and give a full report when I pick you up from school. And in the meantime, stop believing everything Monica tells you.” She opened the front door and crossed her arms in defense to the October blast of frigid air.

So, there you have it. More coming soon.:)

 

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Zen and the Colored Pencil–Free Adult Coloring Pages

Does everyone have a relaxing weekend planned? I’ve spent most of the afternoon doing marketing work for the release of Abstract Aliases, but I spent the morning running errands–and running into friends I hadn’t seen in awhile (because Life is so busy–right?). One in particular told me she’s learned to really calm herself down by scheduling time each evening to color and “simply Zen out.” (her words:) )

Between my Abstract Aliases work, and her comment about relaxing with colored pencils, I thought I’d post some free adult coloring pages that are a little abstract-at-heart. Download, color, repeat–and enjoy!

Each clickable link below is a different free design.

Kind of modified starburst abstract design

Kaleidoscope-like abstract design

Tighter-drawn abstract design

Makes me think of the Spyrograph designs I made as a kid

Abstract Flowers  printable-abstract-coloring-book-1

Zentangle drops

Zentangle Flowers

Circles within circles

Ovals connected to ovals

More Ovals connected to ovals

Tricky oval bridge

Fun Abstract Design

 

 

 

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