Sunday, February 23, 2014

Family Reunions, Mishaps, and Writing!

North Carolina is one of those states that have it all.   We've got beaches and mountains, metropolitan areas and rinky-dink little places with colorfully unique names like Bear Creek and Tick Bite.

Why just last week, we had an ice storm so severe that people were leaving their cars along the interstate - trying to get home.  It was like a scene out of movie... Yet today, I am looking a sunny blue skies and temperatures hovering around 70 degrees.  I love winter days that feel like spring.

And it is that springy feeling that made me think of family reunions...

As I said, North Carolina has some unique town names - Back Swamp being one of them.  Back Swamp Community Building, the site for the family reunion, is literally out in the middle of the sticks.  In fact, I'm not sure that sunlight isn't piped in for the residents.  Accompanying me to the reunion was my less that happy sixteen year old son.  I'm sure you can picture his face - the surly looks, the heavy breathing...

We pulled into the parking lot and I was immediately surprised at the number of people attending the reunion.  We normally didn't have such a large crowd.  We got our of the car, food in hand and made our way inside the building where we were greeted by the friendliest people.  They made room on the table for the food we had brought.  There was the standard reunion questions - Who's your parents?  Your grandparents?  And then the statement that should have set bells off in my head..."Hmmm, I don't know them but then I'm an in-law."

I made my way, followed by my unhappy son, to the dining hall.  I looked around trying to locate some familiar faces.  Where was everyone?  I knew my parents and my sister should have already arrived.  I suddenly felt not so warm and toasty.  I looked at my son, it wasn't good.  Going outside, I called my sister:

     "Where are you?" I asked.
     "Here," my sister responds.
     "Where is here?  Because I don't see you."
     "My sister answers, "At the reunion.  Did you just get here?"
     "I've been here,"  I replied.  "How about Mom and Dad?  Because I don't see them either."
     My sister doesn't bother answering.  Instead, she asks, "Where are you exactly?"
     At this point, I'm frustrated.  "Where do you think I am?  I'm outside of the community
     My sister starts laughing.
     "I'm not in the mood for this," I growled.
     My sister can hardly get the words out.  "You're at the wrong place.  I don't know whose reunion you're at but it's not ours."
     "What do you mean I'm at the wrong place?" I asked as I remembered the food I had just carried inside.  The food that's in my Corning Ware dishes...

It became apparent that I should have gone to my aunt's house - which is a few miles away.  I turned to my son and shared the devastating news.  We had to go back inside and get the food!  Believe me when I say that I considered forgoing the reunion.  Why even bother?  I mean, I could get in my car and drive to Wal-Mart where there was an abundance of Corning Ware.  But those dishes have a lot of sentimental value to me.  I've been cooking in them the entirety of my married life.  They've seen me through cooking disasters as well as culinary masterpieces.  I couldn't leave them!

At this point, my son is almost on his knees, begging me to make a run for it.  But this is one of those moments - those humiliating moments where we turn to our children and with all the love we can muster, tell them to suck it up!

So, I take a deep breath as I walk back into the community building.  My son followed like a lamb being led to the slaughter.  We headed over to the nearest group of ladies and I confessed my sin.  Trust me - they found the humor in the situation.  They were laughing, hanging out of the freaking door laughing - as we made a quick exit.  Family reunion 2013 is one they'll not likely soon forget.

We hurried to the car because honestly, Back Swamp is a small place and everyone knows everyone and if we could just make a clean break then no one else would be the wiser.  Except Back Swamp is a small place, and one of those nice ladies at the community building - yep, she knew my aunt.  My car wasn't out of the parking lot before she did the neighborly thing and made the call - you know, to let my aunt know we were on our way.


I'm looking forward to incorporating the above event in a story one day.  I think with a little tweaking, it would be a great opening scene.  As writers, we spend so much time in the land of make-believe, we need to remember that life and all its quirkiness is happening around us.  

So what do you think?  Do you incorporate your life into your writing?  

LE Fitzpatrick is today's guest on Self Published Sunday!

I am thrilled to welcome L E Fitzpatrick to Self Published Sunday.  I met the author a couple months ago when she hosted me on her blog Limelight.
L E Fitzpatrick was born in Hull, East Yorkshire, but now lives in West Wales, with her family plus lots of dogs and cats. She manages an office, volunteers as a room steward for the National Trust and also supports independent authors as a proofreader and beta reader. She obviously has no spare time because of this, but if she did it would probably be invested in walking in the countryside and enjoying the peace and quiet.

L E Fitzpatrick published her first series Dark Waters in 2011 and is currently working on her Reacher series.


At six o'clock every night they post the same infomercial. That same blurred video of a teenage boy walking through Piccadilly Station more than a decade ago. He has a brand new bag on his back, bulging with menace. The people around him, regular commuters trying to get to work, stop as he passes them. They turn, transfixed and follow him as he leads them deeper onto the platform. The image pauses: one young boy and fifty innocent people, blown to pieces. He was a Reacher and that one act of terrorism condemned every man and woman like him to death.

The infomercial always finishes with the warning: Look out for suspicious, paranormal activity - report any irregularities to the authorities - it could be your neighbour, your colleagues - remain vigilant and we will win this war.

The Piccadilly bomber is the only known Reacher to have ever launched an attack on London. An average of eighteen attacks a year for over ten years and they still blame Reachers every single time. They hunt us. Capture us. Cart us off to the Institute to be experimented on. There are so few of us now. My name is Rachel Aaron and I'm a Reacher.

Suspicious, paranormal activity - what the hell does that even mean? Is there any paranormal activity that isn't suspicious? So what can I do? What separates me from you? Well I can read your Mind. In a single kiss I can uncover your darkest secrets and take over your thoughts. Imagine what I could to you. Imagine what I could do for you.

They'll tell you that I'm a threat to society. But I'm a doctor, I work twelve hour shifts, six days a week, keeping people alive. I live on the eleventh floor, of a twenty storey concrete building, in a one room apartment with no hot water. I've been under the radar now for seven years. Seven long, hard years. But now it's time to run.

The government wants me dead. And there are others who want to take me alive to use my powers for their own gain, just like they did with my sister. But I won't be anybody's slave and I won't be a lab rat for the Institute.

Dad used to call it The Running Game, he taught it to us before he was killed. Always be ready, that's what he said. And I have been. So I'm going to run, like I have before. But this time I won't be doing it alone.

They'll tell you I'm a threat to society and with the Smith brothers I am. Together we're unstoppable. Look out for suspicious, paranormal activity. My name is Rachel Aaron and I know your deepest, darkest secrets.

The Running Game by L E Fitzpatrick

She arrived in S’aven a month after her seventeenth birthday. As she shuffled off the train at Trinity Station her head had been an onslaught of naïve ambitions and excitement. The convent was gone and she was free. Soon she would be with her sister and the world would be theirs. But it never happened. Her sister was killed and instead of liberation S’aven became just another prison; bigger, noisier and more dangerous.
As she waited in that same station, seven years later, watching the rats duel with the pigeons, she realised it would be the same wherever she went. The prison was countrywide because she was a prisoner on the run and that would never change. They blamed Reachers for everything, she was guilty by nature and no jury would ever say otherwise.
Police marched up and down the boardwalk, shining lights on those huddled around their worn suitcases or battered sacks. They checked the faces of the men and women, even the children, looking for fugitives. People only left S'aven when they had to, it was the cops' job to work out what they were running from.
She could see them questioning a couple, checking their bags over and over while the husband insisted they were just going to see family. His wife was pretty and the cops were enjoying making her squirm. They made the couple turn, press their hands against the wall. They only bothered to search the wife, laughing as her husband protested their innocence. She was smart though, she told him to be quiet – a quick feel was better than getting shot in the head.
“Do you want to know why we're leaving, because of this!” The husband yelled.
With other cops this would have been a step too far, but these two were in good humour. They released the woman, squeezing her backside as she gathered her things. Then they wished them luck – a couple like that were going to need it.
Then it was time to move on. Their flash lights darted about as they headed towards the end of the platform. They passed two men in suits. There was no talk, the men held out a roll of notes, the cops took it and moved on. Rachel sat away from them all, she rested her head back and closed her eyes as they started to approach. They never even looked her way.
The train was running late. There were rumours about insurgents commandeering the northern lines and taking passengers hostage. The longer the delays, the more people remembered what was outside the city walls. S’aven had civilisation and work and food. It was right beside London where people still had money and the world still ran like it was supposed to. But outside the border, beyond the protection of the rational south there was so much unknown. Rachel stared at the arched exit out of the city; for her at least, it was the lesser of two evils.
She turned her head to the station entrance and that’s when she saw him hobbling around the platform. He balanced on the crutch and scanned the crowd just like the cops had done. His bloodshot eyes looked panicked, maybe even desperate. She knew he was looking for her, she just wasn't sure why.
Then he spotted her, seeing through her powers, seeing just her, alone. The connection was instantaneous, it was like staring at a long lost twin. And it had been so long since she had felt anything more than emptiness.
He made his way over. He looked tired, but relieved to see her.
“Mind if I join you?”

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Sunday, February 16, 2014

Don't Overlook the Importance of a Good Editor

Do you remember that moment when you wrote the very last word to your first novel/story?  And you were thrilled beyond measure?  All the hard work, the hours spent sitting at a desk pecking away on your keyboard - it had all been for that moment! But the elation is short lived because now the story had to be edited.  

If we were wise, we had consulted our trusty writers' handbook.  Punctuation and grammatical errors were at a minimum.  But, editing is more than finding technical errors and this is why we need editors.  Editors serve as a sort of devil's advocate. They ask the tough questions and offer solutions:

Is the plot solid?  If not, what needs to be addressed?

Are the characters well rounded?  Do they react in a manner that is true to the qualities assigned to them?  

Are the scenes within the story fully developed?  Is the reader able to "see" what the writer intended?

Does the story flow?

These questions are important.  As writers, we tend to have tunnel vision. We may think we've done our job in terms of describing a situation, etc.  In regards to a particular scene in my novel, my editor asked me to explain a certain character's comment.  I did (thinking that's pretty obvious) only to have my editor respond that just because I knew the reason inside my head didn't mean that my readers were privy to my thoughts.

Recently, I purchased an e-book.  The book was self published and I will admit that overall, I liked the writer's style.  But there were problems - mistakes that should have been caught before publishing. Not only were there issues with misspelled words, there were problems with the plot.  By the time, I had reached the last chapters, I had lost the emotional connection to the story.  Had the writer hired an editor, I think the editor would have said - "You're beating a dead horse!"  What had been intended to elicit an emotional connection had instead become redundant and unnecessary. I honestly felt as though the writer had run out of ideas but was short on total word count.   

So many of us (self published writers) tend to forgo hiring an editor, thinking that we can do it ourselves.  Editors can be very expensive and may not fit our budget. If you find this is the case, there are alternatives:  

Contact someone in your local community college's English department.  You may find a professor who will be willing to read/edit your manuscript.

Share your book with readers/writers prior to publishing.  Ask for feedback regarding the plot, the characters, etc.  Then listen.  We are all protective of our work but in order to improve, we have to be open to constructive criticism.  

So - when it comes to editors, what do you think?  Do you use them?  If not, what alternatives do you suggest?   If so, do you feel as though it is money well spent? 

Novel Notions welcomes RJ Crayton to Self Published Sunday!

It is my pleasure to welcome author R.J. Crayton to Self Published Sunday.  Today she's talking about inspiration and it's well worth reading!  Before we get to her post, I thought you might want to meet her!

RJ Crayton lives in the Washington, DC, area and writes suspense and thriller novels that have a touch of romance. She has published two novels set in an exciting dystopian future: Life First and Second Life.  

What to do if inspiration doesn’t find you at your desk
by R. J. Crayton

“An idea is like a virus: resilient, highly contagious. And even the smallest seed of an idea can grow. It can grow to define or destroy you.”
-Inception (2010 film)

One of my favorite movies of recent years is Inception. The 2010 film is fun for anyone who works in the field of ideas (so that would be you, if you’re a writer). The movie’s basic premise is there are corporate espionage agents who specialize in stealing secrets from sleeping CEOs by invading their minds. The agents in the film get hired to do something considered impossible--inception. In the movie, stealing data is easy, but planting an idea in someone’s head and getting it to stick and to grow — inception — is impossible. Why? Because for an idea to stick, it must be original. According to the film’s lore, the brain rejects ideas that feel foreign. To get true inception, the idea has to feel random, like a grand epiphany that occurred when the mind secretly connected the dots. Inception isn’t about a random, insignificant idea — like, yum, strawberries would be tasty right about now — but ideas that a person will remember and act upon.

So, now that I’ve given you my movie lecture, what does it have to do with today’s post? Well, the topic of this post is inspiration, and I find this notion of inception incredibly relevant to the inspiration.  When people say they feel inspired, it’s rarely something they forget twenty minutes later (if it is something we forget in a few minutes, I’m inspired a lot; most often about car keys). If we’re going to tell someone we feel “inspired” or even just say it to ourselves, it tends to be an  idea that feels original, unique, different, important, fun, serendipitous, or maybe even life-changing.

For writers, this is why  finding inspiration can sometimes feel difficult. Assuming corporate agents aren’t going to invade our brains and implant ideas (I know this is a tough assumption to make, given how regularly this happens), what’s the best way for writers to go about finding inspiration when they’re not feeling it?

Well, while writing itself tends to be a solitary affair, done alone in a room, inspiration is not. It’s something that requires writers get out and move about. The things that inspire people are little nuggets that happen at dinners with friends, overheard conversations at the mall, watching children play at the park, or even watching a butterfly flutter through a field.

If you look at famous writers, and their habits, they all have things they do to get the creative juices flowing. Jodi Piccoult said she goes on a three-mile walk in the morning with a friend. Kurt Vonnegut had a routine of working in the morning, followed by doing his daily errands and exercising. Authors like F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote wonderfully vivid tales, and based on their life’s history, did so, in part because they had such active social lives.

So, if you feel you’re lacking inspiration, head out of the house and sightsee at the mall, go gossip with your neighbor, or even just go hang out at the park. Though inspiration is codified while sitting at the screen, it rarely comes from staring at it. 

If you’re looking for more information on ways to feel inspired and creative, check out these two very interesting articles on when our brains feel most creative:

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Sunday, February 9, 2014

Self Published Sunday Welcomes HL Carpenter!

I am thrilled to welcome HL Carpenter to Self Published Sunday.  HL Carpenter is a mother/daughter writing team.  Their indi-published New Adult sweet romance, Jack and The Fountain of Youth is the latest adventure in their writing career.  The Carpenters are also the author of a satirical short story, The Demise of Fyne Literature, and a young adult novel, The SkyHorse, both available at Musa Publishing. 

Jack and The Fountain of Youth
a New Adult novella by HL Carpenter

Where did you get the idea for Jack and The Fountain of Youth?

Last year was the 500th anniversary of Juan Ponce de León's landing on the Florida coast. Since we’re Florida residents, we immediately began imagining what life was like back then. And what if...what if someone from the expedition actually did drink from the magical Fountain of Youth? What would that person’s life be like today?

How did you come up with the hero of your novella?

We were sitting on the porch in Carpenter Country (a magical place that is unreal but not untrue), when Jack popped up in the fountain in our garden. That was a bit unexpected, since our usual fountain visitors are birds, bees, and butterflies, so after we told Jack to stop splashing the water out, we handed him a towel and asked why he was there.

When he told us his story, we knew we had to help. How could we resist the kind of hero we believed only existed in our daydreams, a chivalrous guy with eyes the color of unsweetened cocoa who looked and acted like a caballarius of old?

Why did you decide to pursue indie publishing?

We’ve always thought of our writing as a business as well as an art, and our work has been published by a traditional print house and an e-publisher. We’ll continue to appreciate and create for both of those outlets. At the same time, we view indie publishing as an opportunity to grow and learn, and we think it’s important to explore all the exciting possibilities available to authors today.


Some people say the Fountain of Youth is a myth. Jack Ponsi Dileonardo Thomas knows better.           


Jack Ponsi Dileonardo Thomas is eighteen years old. At least, that’s what he tells everyone. He doesn’t like to lie. But he has to, because he celebrated his real eighteenth birthday five centuries ago.

Some people say the Fountain of Youth is a myth. Jack knows better. He drank from the fabled fuente in 1513. Over the five hundred years since, he’s given up believing his life will ever again be normal–and that he’ll ever rediscover the magical spring. But when he learns the Fountain is located on the property of Nessa Owens, Jack takes up the search once more. And when Nessa captures his heart, his quest acquires new urgency.

Caught in the midst of a hurricane, surrounded by centuries-old memories and present day mysteries, Jack must risk all for a future with Nessa.

Will love prove more powerful than the enchanted waters of the Fountain of Youth?


“You want me to do what?” Eighteen-year-old Jack Ponsi Dileónardo Thomas stared at his gray-haired boss, and a memory he’d buried five centuries earlier lurched to life. He clutched the cold metal arms of his chair, fighting off the shock that threatened to topple him to the floor.

Colby Newman, editor-in-chief and person-in-charge-of-handing-out-assignments at the World Pryer, crunched a peppermint candy and stared back at him without answering.
During the six weeks Jack had spent as a summer intern for the Pryer, he’d learned Mr. Newman always lapsed into silence after dropping a bomb on one of his reporters. Mr. Newman was a great editor, but he had an odd sense of humor.
Right now, he didn’t look like he thought he’d cracked a joke.

Jack took a deep breath and unclenched his hands. The shock died away. The undead memory lived on. He said, “Did you ask me to find the Fountain of Youth?”

“Yes.” Mr. Newman twisted his thick lips into a smile that made him resemble the water-skiing gorilla on last week’s front page. “Go prove the Fountain exists, Jack. And I don’t mean another tired story on that moldy tourist attraction in St. Augustine. I’m talking about the real thing.”

“The real thing?”

Mr. Newman said, “You probably learned about the Spanish conquistador Juan Ponce de León in school, Jack. It’s textbook history. He explored many parts of Florida during his search for the Fountain of Youth.”

“I know.” Jack knew all about the de León name and its place in La Florida’s past, though not from any school lessons. He said, “Juan led an expedition through the area around Everyoung, too.”

Mr. Newman nodded. “That means the Fountain of Youth could be right here, in our town. In fact, a reliable source called in that very tip to the hot line yesterday morning. The message was a bit garbled, but I have reason to believe he’s onto something.”

“You do?” For one shining moment, a beam of hope seared through Jack. He used all his willpower to shove it aside. Over the years, the flame of false expectation had burned him badly. “Why do you think so?”

“Call it an old newsman’s hunch.” Mr. Newman shrugged. “Even if the tipster is wrong, the Fountain of Youth makes good copy. I’m excited about this story. I’m assigning you to follow up.”

The still-swirling memories burst through the dam of Jack’s willpower and threatened to swamp him. He didn’t have to follow up, because Mr. Newman’s source was right about the location of the Fountain. It was here on the Gulf Coast of Florida. Jack knew that for certain.
He couldn’t say so, though. As much as Mr. Newman liked weird stories, he’d never believe that five centuries earlier, in the year 1513, Jack had accompanied Ponce de León’s expedition to La Florida, and discovered the magical spring.

Mr. Newman wouldn’t believe the rest of the story, either. Jack hadn’t understood what he’d stumbled across until years later—specifically, on the day he’d looked at his twin sister Maria and realized she had become a fifty-year-old woman.

And he was still eighteen.


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Friday, February 7, 2014

Review of The Runner by J.M. Johnson

I received a copy of J.M. Johnson's debut novel, The Runner in exchange for an honest review.  The Runner is a Young Adult Dystopian novel with a touch of science fiction and fantasy.  

Amazon's book description:

Ten years ago the president of the United States declared that global warming had reached a tipping point from which it would not recover. In answer to this dilemma, modern technology was shut down. The elderly and other volunteers could opt to live out the rest of their lives in a virtual world, but all others were left to fend for themselves. 

Seventeen-year-old Avi Bloom lives in a world in which each family must contribute one child as a runner. A runner risks life and limb to travel from village to village delivering news and other small items. Avi is one run shy of retiring when she discovers that whole villages are disappearing, leaving only a few dead bodies and the youngest children behind. Now, Avi must find out who or what is responsible for these missing people as she goes on a journey and discovers friendship, love, and betrayal. She also discovers that the forces behind these disappearances are much larger and more frightening than she could ever have imagined.

What I thought:

There are several characters in this story and the author knows them well. Johnson did a good job giving each character a distinct personality and voice.

The main character is Avi Bloom, a runner for her village.  Her mother is dead. Her father is missing and she knows statistically a runner's life expectancy isn't very good.  When it comes to danger, she knows how to handle herself. Avi is no fainting flower. She's tough and smart.

Johnson did a great job imagining her world.  The descriptions are vivid and compelling.  I particularly liked the inclusion of the Amish as well as what seems to be "preppers."  It was easy to believe that these folks would be prepared to survive.  

I like a story where the author swiftly introduces the action and Johnson did precisely that.  She moves the tale at a quick pace but in doing so, I felt as though some of the relationships weren't as developed as they needed to be. For me, this created a bit of a disconnect.  I wish that the author had spent just a little more time showing how certain relationships/feelings evolved. 

The Runner is the first book in the series.  The ending was a bit disappointing in that it was more of a set up for the next book in the series. That being said, the author leaves the reader curious as to where the story will lead.  

3 1/2 stars

Sunday, February 2, 2014


Like many self published authors, I'm always in search of reviews.  Why?  Because reviews pave the path to sales.  However, getting those reviews can seem a bit like undertaking a quest to obtain the Holy Grail.  It's a definite challenge.

Perhaps, like me, you've posted requests to exchange a copy of your novel for a review. I've posted requests in Facebook and G+ communities as well as on Goodreads and was so excited when "reviewers" agreed.  I sent the file (mobi/pdf) and waited... and waited.... in fact, I'm still waiting for some of those reviews.  I'm not alone.  I see posts on KBoards and Goodreads from other writers who are experiencing the same thing.  In good faith, we gave a copy of our novel to a reviewer.  The only charge (if you want to call it that) was to write a review and post it on Amazon and/or Goodreads.  So yes - it's frustrating - because someone didn't follow through on what they promised.

So whose fault is it?  The reviewer who didn't follow through or the author who blindly sent the file? Obviously, the reviewer was wrong.  But did the writer (me) do the necessary homework?  Did I ask for a link to the reviewer's blog?  If the reviewer answered a Goodreads request post, did I make sure that the potential reviewer had actually posted reviews?  I wish I could answer a resounding YES! but hindsight is 20/20 and experience is a great teacher and I have learned the importance of researching potential reviewers.

There are reviewers out there who are as good as their word.   Michelle Randall at  was one of those.  She was upfront - letting me know that she would give an honest review - good or bad.  I also had great luck exchanging reviews with other authors (Goodreads)  and no - they didn't all give me 5 star reviews.  They have reputations to maintain themselves. Blog tours are also a good source for obtaining reviews.  Not only are you getting  reviews on Amazon and Goodreads, you are being featured on multiple blogs - which in turn are being tweeted and shared.  I've done three tours now, the last being with CLP Blog Tours.   With this tour, I was fortunate enough to visit some awesome blogs.  Both Bookish and The Book Bag have a lot of visitors to their blogs - which meant a lot of people saw the reviews for my novel.

The moral of this story is this - before you hand off your book baby, make sure you know to whom you are giving it.  Forewarned is forearmed!

Self Published Sunday Welcome Rhonda Paglia

Today is the first time Self Published Sunday has featured a children's writer.  Rhonda Paglia (Grandma Pags Stories) is the author of three children's stories.  Today, she is sharing her work with us!

My name is Rhonda Paglia.  I am a retired elementary teacher and grandmother of five from Hermitage, Pennsylvania.   I’m known as “Grammy” to my grandchildren, my husband, Tony, is known as “Papa,” and our funny little Yorkie-Poo is known as Bella. 

To date, I have self-published three children’s stories: The Little Lambs and the Very Special Mission, Doonsey’s Beach Adventure, the Great Rescue, and the companion, Doonsey’s Beach Adventure, the Great Rescue Coloring and Activity Book.  My fourth book, about three little gnomes, is in progress and will be ready later this year.

In most of my “just for fun” stories, my grandchildren play leading roles.  It’s quite interesting and sometimes funny to see their reaction, especially when “Grammy” uses her imagination and veers from reality.  In one of my non-published stories, my 4-year-old grandson, Rowan becomes a pirate and he takes off on an adventure.  Rowan’s comment when I read him the story was, “Grammy, that didn’t really happen!”  I’m still laughing!

Because I’ve been writing for my family, it never crossed my mind to try and publish any of my work -  until the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School on December 14, 2012.  Twenty beautiful first graders were killed along with their 6 brave teachers. 

The massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School was unspeakable and devastating. I grieved along with our nation and the rest of the world.  As a retired teacher, I felt the pain on many levels.  I started my teaching career as a first teacher many years ago.  I loved teaching those darling little ones.  Later in my career, we were required to practice lockdown drills with our students in case of emergencies.  Lock the door, turn out the lights, hide the kids.  The students were instructed on the urgency of staying silent during these drills.   Scary!

As details of Sandy Hook emerged, I could visualize what those teachers must have done to try and save their students.  I prayed constantly for the victims, their families, and for all of us. 

It was during my prayers that an entire children’s story was given to me – start to finish with the moral that God loves us; He placed love in our hearts before we were born, but we have forgotten.  If we choose to live the “Be Attitudes,” we can all help our world become a better place.   I don’t know how to explain it, other than the story was “pressed” into me – it was given to me – I didn’t ask for it. 

I was so touched by the images I received that I wept.  Then I became very conflicted about putting the story to paper, and even more so about sharing it.   One “voice” in me said, “You know, you should not get involved [in the Sandy Hook tragedy].  Don’t insert yourself.”  The other “voice” said, “I gave you this story and you are to tell it.”  So that is the voice I followed.  All loss is difficult, especially one as tragic as Sandy Hook.  This little story filled my heart; it gave me some peace and comfort, and offered hope. 

I am not an artist and before I could publish my story, I needed help with the illustrations.  I prayed again and God answered my prayers by sending me help in the form of a 14-year-old Kennedy Catholic Middle School student named Taylor Galaska.  Taylor and I met by chance last February.  When I explained my book project to him, he immediately said “yes” to helping with the illustrations.  With Taylor’s help, I finished my little story.  It was then that The Little Lambs and the Very Special Mission took wings and began its journey.
Synopsis of Little Lambs and the Very Special Mission In this story, God asks a field full of sweet, playful little lambs to help Him with a very important mission. He tells them that the people of Earth have forgotten to be loving and kind to each other. God needs their help to remind the people of Earth how much He loves them. With the little lambs’ help, the world becomes a better place.
The Little Lambs and the Very Special Mission is dedicated to the children and staff of Sandy Hook Elementary School, in Newtown, Connecticut.  Books were sent to all of the families through the Newtown School District.  All the profits from the sale of the book go to the “Angels in Charge” Scholarship fund.  This scholarship is awarded to a qualifying student from Newtown High School who plans to pursue a career in education.  It’s a small way to give back and send some love up there from all of us.  The first scholarship from book sales last May was $2500 and went to a wonderful Newtown High School graduating senior.  She is now attending college in New Jersey and working toward a career in elementary education.  

Illustrations from Little Lambs and the Very Special Mission:

lambs in field 2  lambs listening to God  Angels, lambs, earth 

The Little Lambs playing in the field. 
The Lambs listening to the God who is asking for their help.
The Lambs going to Heaven escorted by the Angels in Charge.

Links to more information about “The Little Lambs and the Very Special Mission”
·       The Sharon Herald Newspaper, April 7, 2013:
·       The Sharon Herald Newspaper, December 15, 2013:
·        An endorsement from “The American Institute of Health Care Professionals, Inc.” who recommended this children’s story for use in grief and bereavement counseling. The article can be seen at:
Other books by Rhonda Paglia:
I recently released a new children’s story titled, Doonsey’s Beach Adventure, the Great Rescue along with a companion activity and coloring book.  In this story, Doonsey is a happy, friendly little crab who loves to explore.   On this particular day, Doonsey decides to explore the beach.  Half way through his quiet day, he suddenly finds himself scurrying off on a rescue mission.  This sweet little crab becomes a hero and makes some very unusual, but very special new friends.   
On the last few pages in this book, kids are encouraged to explore their own imaginations and create their own beach buddies.
The activity companion book, Doonsey’s Beach Adventure, the Great Rescue Coloring and Activity Book gives a brief summary of the Doonsey’s Beach Adventure with pages to color and some fun activities like matching, mazes, and counting. The kids also learn a little more about the beach buddies and there is additional space for the kids to use their imaginations.
Fun facts about myself: 
·       Although I’m a grandma of 5, I recently picked up the game of jacks again after not playing for almost 50 years.  I am amazed at how much I remember!!
·       When I was a child, I took dance lessons and was part of a group called “The Tiny Mites.”  We were on TV several times and we tried out for the original Mickey Mouse Club, but we didn’t make it. 
·       My husband and I have a little Yorkie-Poo named Bella who does tricks.  She can dance on her hind feet, roll over, and jump through the hoop!  She will be in a future story titled “Bella’s Backyard!”
·       The fourth children’s book that will be released to the public this year was actually written in 2009.  The working title is Orion and the 3 Little GnomesRatna Kusuma Halim is the illustrator and I can’t wait for everyone to see this sweet Little Gnomes book!!

Social media:   
·       Grammy Pags Stories on Facebook:
·       The Little Lambs and the Very Special Mission on Facebook:
·       For more information about The Little Lambs and the Very Special Mission: go to: 
Purchase links: 
· or my author page

Contact information: or message me on Facebook at:

 Several pages from Doonsey’s Beach Adventure, the Great Rescue & Doonsey’s Beach Adventure, the Great Rescue Coloring and Activity Book:
Doonsey - pg 1&2Doonsey decides which way to go exploringColoring page - Doonsey spinning
Pages 1 & 2 from the story, Doonsey’s Beach Adventure, the Great Rescue
Doonsey trying to figure out which direction he is going on his exploring day – [left pic from story, right pic from coloring book.]
Doonsey running after the birds - colorColoring page - Doonsey running after the birdsMatch the Beach Buddies - B & W
Doonsey running after the birds – [Left – from story, middle - from coloring book].
3rd pic on right – matching page from the Doonsey Coloring Book