The Author Writes Outside

After dropping children off to school, the author drove over back roads to get home. No clouds in the powder blue sky, the sun streamed fully, enough to warm the misnomer of Florida winter. It's so pretty outside, the author thought. She'd rolled the windows down, and her little dog stretched her neck to smell everything they passed. Other people walked by with their dogs, and others jogged in bright exercise clothing, wires coming out of their ears. The dog's tail wagged against the owner's arm at all the activity.

She would work outside today. The sun, the people, the morning's energy--all of it heightened the promise of the day, that she could accomplish everything she wanted to.

She left the dog at home and returned to the park with her laptop. Aah, the author's heart murmured. This was what she needed. She couldn't stand to be trapped indoors, her thoughts and imagination limited by the four walls she was boxed in. So much better to be outside.

She tilted the monitor several times to find an angle in which the sun didn't glare. But it was a bright day; a minor glare wasn't so bad. The author put her sunglasses on, but now she couldn't read her own words on the screen. Fishing in her purse, she pulled out her reading glasses and put them on under the sunglasses. (She did not want to look like an old lady.) Even so, the two pairs of glasses proved cumbersome. They didn't line up properly because the stems were too bulky to sit together on her ears. She found herself looking up whenever a car passed. Many of her neighbors took this route, and she couldn't prevent the reflexive action of checking the vehicles to see if she should wave or not. The bench had an odd slant that caused the laptop to slide down her legs.

This was impossible.

She closed up her laptop, removed the reading glasses, and walked to a nearby coffee shop with outdoor tables. This is where she should have come in the first place. Look there--two girls, college-age probably, huddled around a bistro table, one searching through a book, the other clacking on her keyboard. The author smiled. Now she was in her element.

She began to write. A bizarre tune struck the air, and a man at the table next to hers answered his cell phone. He spoke loudly, and the intrusion of his voice scrambled the author's brain. She accidentally typed the words he spoke. She shot him a look. She sighed loudly. She moved about in her chair as though she couldn't possibly get comfortable. The man kept talking. Sandhill cranes gobbled overhead, then landed on the sidewalk, strolling in that slow moving way they had. They weren't afraid of anything. They would hold up whole lines of traffic crossing the street, the same way sheep did in Ireland. Now the college girls burst into laughter.

Too many distractions, the author thought. Plus, she needed her desk at home where she could spread out her ideas like peanut butter on bread. She would fire up a cappuccino and start afresh.

When she got home, she set herself up in her office, skipped the cappuccino, and dropped into her chair. The sun teased her, dappling the window and reaching right through the glass to touch her face.

Rebecca Black, Demetri Martin, and The King of Empty Promises from Kids in the Hall

I cannot say, "It's Friday," without hearing Rebecca Black; I cannot look at Demetri Martin's book, "This is a Book," without hearing his monotone little tune; and I can NEVER say "Will do" without thinking of "The King of Empty Promises" from Kids in the Hall:

It's Not Too Early for Bruce, Is It?

Never too early for Bruce!

Yes, Virginia, It Does Snow in Florida

Contrary to what mainlanders might believe, snow does fall in the Sunshine State. We saw "legitimate flurries" in January 2010, a "dusting" in November 2006, and a "light covering" in 1982.

And soon, we will see snow in this park, just past those palm trees.

Strange Words and Quirky Titles

Facsicle, today's word--courtesy of Dictionary dot com--is a strange word. It sound like facsimile. What kind of -sicle is a fac? I know what fudgesicles are and popsicles, so facsicle must be a fac on a stick and something enjoyed on a hot day.

Ah, but it is not, no matter how reasonable my definition above sounds.

Here's a clue: Harry Potter is a facsicle. So is Junie B Jones.

The definition as provided by Dcom: "A section of a book or set of books published in installments as separate pamphlets or volumes."

Work this in to your conversations to sound intelligent or pompous (the effect depends on whom you're talking to). A better use: lay it down in Scrabble. Your opponents will challenge you and lose their turn, HAhahahahaha!

Strange new words lead us now to quirky titles, of which I am a big fan. My first book's title is Violet Raines Almost Got Struck by Lightning. I love this title because it lets the browser know, Hey, something exciting happens in this book! This is no sit-around-girl--she almost gets struck by lightning!

Also, maybe Violet is exaggerating. Maybe she stretches the truth--is that what the title is telling us? And maybe there's a little humor, because that's not something you hear in everyday conversation.

I am thinking about titles because we're still working on a new title for my upcoming book, TWO FLAVORS OF LUCKY. My editor and I and others at Bloomsbury/Walker have been brainstorming, but have yet to strike upon the right replacement. Myself, I'm a fan of longer titles--they tend to be quirky and humorous. So it's fortuitous that the latest edition of the SCBWI mag contains an article by Hazel Edwards entitled "Speed Dating: How to Make Up Titles for Stories." I plan to use her advice today after I finish my copy edits.

But first, I need another cappuccino and perhaps a blueberry muffin (seeing that I am out of donuts).

Have a great day!

NaNoWriMo--Tips for the Young Writers (and anyone else)

A HUGE number of young writers are participating in NaNoWriMo. How do I know this? One of them lives in my house. Not to brag, but she is a really good writer. Her name is going to look so good on book covers.

So, I want to tell you other young writers the same things I told my own daughter in case your mom or dad isn't a writer:

First off, I'm proud of you for undertaking this goal. You must be serious about writing, or you wouldn't have signed up, you wouldn't have told people, and you certainly wouldn't have broadcasted it on Facebook.

Okay, I know you just want to write. You're eager to get started--the idea's already in your mind--so why bother with the preliminaries, right? Wrong. (You knew I would say this.) Even though today is November 7th, please consider this advice: Your writing needs structure. You need to build the skeleton first. Writing without an outline is like driving without a GPS (or map for you old folks, heh heh). Knowing your destination is not enough--you need to know how to get there. An outline ensures that you CAN get there, and it prevents you from taking scenic detours. An outline proves that your story can be executed.

What do you need first? Well, for some people, plot comes first ("I want to write about a monkey winning the next presidential election.") Sometimes, voice comes first. This was the case for me when I wrote Violet Raines Almost Got Struck by Lightning. I was sitting at my computer thinking--and don't be afraid to "waste" time thinking. You must allow the writer inside to explore the literary playground--I probably thought for about two weeks. (I did eat, sleep, and do those other human things necessary for living.) Anyway, one morning, I turned in my chair and I swear I could see her, a wiry tan girl, with dark hair blunt cut at her shoulders. The cypress trees and the river were behind her, and so were her friends. "When Eddie B. dared me to walk the net bridge where we'd seen an alligator and another kid got bit by a coral snake, I wasn't scared--I just didn't feel like doing it right then." That's what she said. She said a few more things and I typed them up real fast and those exact words became the first paragraph of my first book.

So, if you have plot, you need to come up with voice. If you've got voice, you must come up with a plot. For the rest of this discussion, let's call our main character Jimmy.

What is a plot? Beginning, middle, and end. Not that simple. Jimmy has to have a goal, something he can't live without--this can be simplified into changing the situation or struggling to keep it the same. He must encounter obstacles, obstacles that increase in difficulty. The obstacles must be part of the story; don't throw things in and never mention them again. There's a saying for writers: If you mention a gun in the first act, you'd better fire it by the third.

The best obstacles are other people. Their motivations can either be because they love the main character. ("Jimmy, I can't let you skateboard off Dead Boy Cliff.") or because they hate the main character ("I'm going to jump Dead Boy Cliff and show everyone I'm better than Jimmy.") Or maybe they have the same goal, they're equally as good (or bad), and their efforts, working in tandem with your main character's, make things harder. ("Sorry, Jimmy--Connor Brown just bought the last Lightning Strike Skateboard, the best skateboard in the world.") Start off with small obstacles and increase them until you reach the climax, which shouldn't happen until 3/4 of the book has passed, or 4/5 or 5/6 or you get what I mean--very close to the end.

In Jimmy's case, his goal and obstacles could look like this: His goal could be to win the Dead Boy Cliff Jump, because winning would give him the money he needs to hire a lawyer for his dad who was framed for a crime he didn't commit (wow, did you see that--we just slipped a sublayer into our story!) Obstacles: his skateboard can't handle the cliff. When his best friend offers his skateboard, they find it mysteriously broken. Jimmy's too young for a real job, and plus he needs a lot of money, fast. He starts mowing lawns, babysitting, dog-walking, but the money is too slow.

Dad's former partner, Nick, a young college dropout, sees Jimmy's determination and becomes a friend, asking Jimmy how things are going and really listening. Both Jimmy and Nick get really sick after eating at a local diner. Jimmy ends up in the emergency room, Nick by his side. After a few days in the hospital, the doctor says Jimmy is good as new and can perform the jump as planned. Mom forbids Jimmy to jump. They have a heated argument. Frustrated, Jimmy turns to Nick, who offers to lie to Mom about Jimmy's whereabouts so Jimmy can train. One day, Nick is carrying the gear, but says he forgot his cell and goes back to the car. When he returns, Jimmy gets the skateboard from him. It's his first run down Three Mile Hill and he's doing it, he's sailing! But a wheel falls off and Jimmy catapults over the board. His ankle's sprained . . . so like that, you keep increasing the obstacles.

Just so you know the end of this story, Jimmy doesn't make it to the jump--instead he wrestles against ropes and a locked door, having been kidnapped by Nick after discovering that Nick framed his father. The climax is Jimmy's dramatic struggle to get free and the denouement is having his father at home, the scene is after supper and Dad walks him out to the garage, where a brand new Lightning Strike skateboard awaits him.

Back to other nitty gritty details about NaNoWriMo and young writers. You must set a reasonable goal. Think about your school schedule, your homework load, your scheduled activities, and your responsibilities at home. Can you realistically write 1666 words a day, seven days a week? Think about it. Do not set yourself up for failure. I heard Linda Sue Park speak at a conference and she said her daily quota was two typed pages. This is a professional, well-respected author.

What daily quota will work for you? Will you work on weekends? Are there days that you can't work? Think about it and make a schedule. Oh, that sounds horrible, doesn't it? A schedule, blech. Well, writing is a job that you need to show up for. If you set up a schedule, you will be primed to write at that time because all day long, you know that writing session is in front of you. Ideas will tickle your brain, dialogue will move your lips, your fingers will itch for that keyboard. Set up a schedule and commit to it.

If you can do 50,000 words in one month, more power to you. But for the rest of us, viewing NaNoWriMo as a starting point is great idea. When I write, I want to succeed. Some days I feel I am reaching into a fog pulling words from a murky lake; other days I'm on fire and can hardly type fast enough to keep up with my brain. I can't tell you my daily goal because I feel I'll somehow jinx myself, but I will tell you my goal is both realistic and challenging and I don't leave my keyboard until I've met it.

Good luck, young writers. I believe in you.

A Note to Peyton M.

Hi Peyton,

I hope you don't mind me posting this response, but your email address keeps bouncing. I sure hope you get this.

Anyway, thanks for emailing me and telling me how much you enjoyed Violet Raines. Your email made me feel good about writing.

I enjoyed Violet Raines, too, and that is my biggest tip to you--write something you enjoy. Create a character you want to spend time with and let her have real feelings. You know the secret feelings you have--embarrassment, feeling left out, liking someone--your character has those feelings, too, and so do most people. Make her as real as you are and your book will come alive.

Good luck on your writing, and have a great day!

Skype Visit with Yavneh Academy

I just finished a wonderful visit with the students of Nomi Schneck at Yavneh Academy in New Jersey. You guys were great! So attentive! I loved your questions and yes, let it be known--I HATE TOMATOES.

Have a great day!

TWO FLAVORS OF LUCKY delivered and accepted!

TWO FLAVORS OF LUCKY has been delivered and accepted! Woo-hoo! YEAH!

Coming in at 61,000 words and due September 2012, this middle-grade novel is about a girl whose family wins the lottery and her life changes--but not in the ways she'd hoped for. The title is going to change. Brains are storming even as we speak! If you have suggestions, post 'em!

In the meantime, I am SIGNED SEALED,DELIVERED!

Bono and My Dream Last Night

Well, I wish the title of this post was "Bono in my dream last night," because then I would have spent time with my favorite Irishman; however, I have unrelated things to say about each of these topics.

Bono: Yahoo! today links to an article in which Bono explains his sunglasses, which he's rarely seen without. "Sensitive eyes," he says, citing light, flash photography, and wine as irritants. As much as I LOVE BONO, I must again assert my theory for his sunglasses--they're bifocals. C'mon, it wouldn't be cool for a rock star to have reading glasses perched on the tip of his nose.

And now for my dream--a nightmare, almost. Despite the fact I'd adjusted all the settings properly, I could not get two hyphens to turn into an em dash in my document. I worked up a proper sweat, typing and backspacing and typing again. It seemed to go on forever. When finally the em dash appeared, I woke up from the dream.

If you're a writer, this is the kind of thing that works its way into your dreams. I've edited real-life documents in dreams. Once, I told my boss she needed to pay me extra for the work I performed while communing with my pillow.

That is all! Have a great day, writers!

Do Animals Have Emotions?

Yahoo! today features an article asking if animals smile and feel other emotions. Further into the discussion a 2011 study on chimpanzees and mood disorders is mentioned, which concluded that “Chimpanzees display behavioral clusters similar to PTSD and depression [to humans] in their key diagnostic criteria."

I've always believed that animals have some degree of emotion, and I can attest to the statement above in which animals display depression. In my college years, my brother and I had a dog he got from the pound. (This was during our single years, when my brothers, my sister and I rented a house together.) Shauna had a warm, sweet, generous disposition, and at the same time, she loved to scamper through the woods and explore the fields behind the house. A couple years later, I got a tiny little orange kitten and named him Samson. Shauna didn't know what to make of him. Samson, however, made it known that he wouldn't be pushed around--he wasn't a patsy.

For those first few days, Shauna gave Samson a wide berth, while he hissed at all her comings and goings. One day, Samson sat in the middle of the kitchen. Shauna slowly and carefully approached him; nothing in her demeanor was threatening. Samson sat still until Shauna came close enough to sniff him. He clawed her, sliced her black nose and opened a streak of red blood.
I felt so bad for my beautiful dog.

As time went along, Shauna and Samson became best friends. If Shauna lay by the sliding glass doors to watch the outside, Samson lay beside her in a parallel position. If Samson chattered at the squirrels on the trees outside my window, Shauna leapt on my bed and joined him by putting her front paws on the windowsill.

We all know this joke or some form of it:

Lassie: Bark! Bark!
Mother: What's that Lassie?
Lassie: Bark! Bark!
Mother: Timmy fell down the well by the old Smith place and broke his arm? Let's go, girl!

But that stuff really happens. Once, I was getting ready in my room when Shauna bounded in. She huffed and snapped her head about. It was unlike her to be so agitated. She darted out of my room, came back and did the same thing, then stood tensed in my doorway. When I took a step toward her, she shot down the hallway with me running behind her. She took me to another wing of the house and stopped in front of Samson, who was choking on something. I didn't know how to help him. I shouted, "Jesus!" the only prayer my mind could come up with in my panic.

Samson's airway cleared and he was okay, but there's never been a doubt in my mind that Shauna came to get me to help Samson.

I know animals feel happy and sad. Why do dogs wag their tails? It can't be a learned response, because puppies do it. It really must be that something has triggered their happiness--you, their important other, has come home! A piece of bacon is being offered! A ball is being pitched!

Lymphoma got a hold of Shauna and she died two months after diagnosis. My brothers, sister, and I picked a nice spot in the woods and buried her there. I planted wild flowers over her grave. Samson became lethargic after Shauna was gone. He slept all the time; he didn't want to play. He stopped greeting me at the door, something he'd always done with Shauna.

He missed her.

Do animals have emotions? Yes, I believe they do.

Maddie made a video for Violet Raines!

I discovered this wonderful video made by Maddie for Violet Raines Almost Got Struck by Lightning. Thank you, Maddie--I love it!

Click here to see the video.

Coffee with a Canine, In Which I tell you of my diablolical caffeine habit and my dog

Marshal Zeringue interviewed my little cockapoo, Casey, and me for his blog, Coffee with a canine. What's your morning caffeine ritual? I tell all in this expose! Plus, never before seen photos of Casey!

Come visit Coffee with a Canine!

Free Skype Visits with FREE BOOK SETS!

I've just signed with the Author Skype Tour to provide free Skype visits to schools to discuss my new book, Me & Jack. The first seven requesters will each receive a five piece set of beautiful, new, full-color ARCs to be used with their reading circles.

Me & Jack

Joshua knows how to play new kid: hang back, don’t talk too much, become invisible, especially if your dad’s an Air Force recruiter during the Vietnam War. When Joshua rescues Jack from the pound, they bond instantly, but after a few unsettling events occur, Joshua must fight for his home, his dad, and his beloved dog.

If you have questions, please email me at dhaworthbooks at yahoo dot com. If you'd like to check out all the nitty-gritty details or the other wonderful authors available for tour, check out the Author Skype Tour page.

Middle School Boy Talks About the Dance Last Night

Me: Hey, how was the dance last night?

Boy: Pretty good. Except for the music.

Me: What was wrong with it?
*aims rearview mirror to see boy*

Boy: *horrified expression* It was OLD!

Me: You mean like--

Boy: Dude, some of those songs were from 2004!

Eleven-Year-Old Reviews The Summer of Moonlight Secrets

Kenny Brechner of Devaney Doak & Garrett Booksellers sent me this wonderful review by eleven-year-old Zoe on The Summer of Moonlight Secrets. Zoe, thank you for the excellent write-up! You expressed your enthusiasm and mentioned the highlights of the story without giving away the secret--GREAT JOB!

Without further ado, Zoe's review:

Young Writers: Be Smart on Facebook

I get emails from readers and aspiring young writers who ask for tips and advice, and I am always happy to respond. Sometimes these same young writers friend me on Facebook. I now have a new tip for my younger friends:


Some of you have made impressive headway in your writing endeavors. I do not think it unrealistic to believe that you could be published before you hit twenty. What you might not realize at your age is that while you are already pursuing a professional goal, your online life is something everyone can see, including professional editors and agents.

What's the first thing an editor or agent will do if they're seriously considering your work? They're going to Google you. What will they find? What photos will they see? What kind of online person are you?

No matter what profession you're pursing, I advise you to have two accounts: one personal (under a nickname), where you can vent, brag, complain, and post photos; one under your real name (because that's how editors/agents will find you), where you can talk about your artistic achievements, academic stuff you like, books/movies you're interested in, and the like.

The things you do now play into your future! Be wise, my friends, okay? Okay.

Scholastic Picked Up Me & Jack!

Last night, I received an email from my editor that Scholastic is picking up Me & Jack for next year's book clubs and fairs. It feels like winning an award. Scholastic. Scholastic! Yay, Scholastic! Thank you for including my books in your fairs. It is an honor.

First draft for TWO FLAVORS OF LUCKY is finished!

Zipping through the Internets to my editor is the first draft for Two Flavors of Lucky. I beat my deadline by one day! I did it! I'm done! Eat, sleep, and be merry! (Sleeping being far more rewarding than drinking.)


Valerie Bertinelli is my IT girl!

Valerie Bertinelli is my IT girl!

She seems like a real person. Click Valerie Bertinelli to see behind the scenes at her photo shoot with Ladies Home Journal.

Me & Jack is Out Today!


"Vividly depicted through first-person narration & amusing interior monologues--an entertaining boy-&-dog adventure set against a not-often-depicted era of political strife that’s notably similar to the present.”
Kirkus Reviews

"Well paced, keeps readers focused & concerned about the characters & their development.” –
School Library Journal

Scholastic Instructor
recommends Me & Jack for summer reading.

Scholastic Recommends Me & Jack for Summer Reading!

Scholastic Instructor recommends Me & Jack for summer reading!

"Books about dogs make up some of the best of children's literature. Clear space for these new ones on your shelf.

Me and Jack
By Danette Haworth. $16.99. Josh expects his troubles to end when his [air force] recruiter father allows him to adopt a dog after they move to a new town. But tensions are running high in this Vietnam-era story, and Josh's biggest challenges may lie ahead.
Grades 3-7"

TWO FLAVORS OF LUCKY--my new book!

I sold my fourth book to Bloomsbury/Walker! Four copies of the contract are printing as I type. I'm so excited!

The new book is a middle-grade novel titled TWO FLAVORS OF LUCKY. When twelve-year-old Hailee Richardson's family wins the lottery, her life changes, but not in the ways she'd hoped.

Pub date will be either late 2012 or early 2013. HOORAY!

Four days left to win a signed ARC of ME & JACK!

Four days left to win a signed ARC of ME & JACK!

Kirkus Reviews on ME & JACK: "Vividly depicted, amusing interior monologues--entertaining boy-and-dog adventure set against a not-often-depicted era of political strife that's notably similar to the present."

Biblio Reads: The kind of book you can get lost in."

SLJ: "Well paced, keeps readers focused and concerned."

Click here to enter!

Tuesday Morning Chit Chat or Come, Procrastinate with me while Pondering Semi-Important Things Like Old Movies

Things to think about on a Tuesday morning:

"Hush, Hush, Sweet Charlotte" or "What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?" This one could tie you up for hours--the former, so rich in atmosphere; the latter, omg surprise ending! Need a rainy Saturday to watch both and decide again. Bette Davis does crazy so well.

Was Barbara Stanwyck the poor person's version of Joan Crawford? (Aside, my movie star BFFs tell me that Babs was nice in real life.)

Favorite Hitchcock movie: Rear Window.

Favorite B&W star: Cary Grant.

Valerie Bertinelli is so pretty. I like how all the characters have to put on reading glasses when they look at bills or magazines. (Hot in Cleveland)

Steven Tyler wears reading glasses on American Idol.

I suspect that Bono's sunglasses are bifocals, but he wanted to look cool.

While writing this, I received a phone call, gathered up some stuff, and made a drop at the school. It is already too hot in O-town. Also, my laptop stopped working and my hubby fixed it.

Good luck in your writing today!

School Library Journal loves Me & Jack!

Last line bolded by my editor:

“Joshua Reed’s mother passed away a few years ago, and he and his dad are constantly moving because his father is an air force recruiter during the Vietnam War. It’s not the easiest of circumstances for a sixth grader.

In his newest home, in the steep hills of Pennsylvania, Joshua and his father decide to adopt a dog from the local pound. Jack spooks and scares most of the community because he’s so strange looking (he’s actually a Pharaoh hound). He is blamed for breaking into the chicken coop, knocking over garbage cans, and more. Joshua has to defend Jack and determine who or what is frightening the community, while simultaneously making a comfortable place for himself.

The constant presence of the Vietnam War plays an integral role in this novel. When attending church for the first time, Joshua and his father hear the pastor congratulate a local family on their son’s upcoming return and empathize with a family whose son is MIA. Me & Jack is well paced and keeps readers focused and concerned about the characters and their development.” – School Library Journal

Thank you, Travis Erwin, for your gracious words on Me & Jack

Thank you, Travis Erwin, for your gracious words on Me & Jack: Loved the book for its ability to entertain while also educate and shed light on a time and mindset that few kids today have thought about.

American Idol--Quit Your Belly Aching! THE SEQUEL

Actually, I wasn't done typing the previous post when I accidentally hit "publish." But as you know, there are no real accidents. I let it stand, and I begin again:

Last night, Pia was eliminated from the talent pool of American Idol.


The camera made a quick cut to Randy, who looked like he was saying something that began with an F. JLo was jello, trembling with upset. Even Steven declared America got it wrong.

Gimme a break.

With nine contestants left, anyone who leaves now is someone with talent, whether they're your favorite or not. If you want to know how this is going to play out, I refer you to my earlier post, Ryan Seacrest, Adam Lambert in which I theorize that the voting public does not elect the American Idol; the AI electoral college does. To refresh your memory, I submit that Ford, AT&T, and 19 Entertainment are not going to hand over their lucrative contracts to the person voted in by the fastest flying fingers of America's quickest texters.

So let's look at this objectively. AI lowered the audition age and is striving to reach a younger audience--the audience they started out with, the spending audience, not people like me who drive vans and compare prices on chicken. They want the new generation, the people who camp out at night for the latest smart phone, the people just starting out on their own and who might buy a Ford Fiesta.

Let's knock out the talent who are just too niche-y to appeal to the wide group the sponsors want to sell to: Casey--oh so talented, one of my faves, but can he sell to a wide audience? Sorry, no. Paul, no. Jacob--I love you, but no. Scott--you are country cool and I think you'll make it, just not on this show. In fact, I believe everyone I've just mentioned can and will make it, just not on AI. (Oh, Casey, so smokey!)

Whose face does Ford want to put on their product? Well, let's see. Seems people have already forgotten last year's winner (Lee DeWyze, just so you don't have to look it up). And Kris Allen, well, he's so nice and I do like his voice. Can you imagine Adam Lambert hawking Ford Fiestas? Hahahaha!HAHAHAHA! Oh, please! *wipes tears of hilarity from eyes*

An aside: Has anyone forgotten Adam Lambert? I DON'T THINK SO.

I conclude that Ford wants a clean, fresh-faced American who appeals to a wide audience, spanning age, gender, and race. And let's not forget the actual records! 19 Entertainment doesn't want our votes, they want our money! They want an idol who will is capable of sustaining a career, not just exploding as a 2011 supernova.

Here are my bets for American Idol 2011 top three:

Stefano: Stefano is so very passionate and so genuine. He's got a lovely voice, and I think he's humble. All the qualities the sponsors are looking for.

James: Good looking, exciting, rocks the house! AI, please do something else with his hair! James has Adam Lambert appeal, though lacks a maturity present in Adam. Forgivable. James is great. Has a good back story. I bet sponsors are looking hard at him.

Lauren: Oh my gosh, this girl is so cute! Cutesie-pie qualities are usually a turnoff to me, but Lauren is seriously cute. I wish I had her accent! I wish she'd sing more rocker songs like she did in the beginning of the season--she's got the rasp to do it. I can see her face selling Ford, AT&T, clothing, hair ribbons, and bracelets.

Who will win?

I don't know!

Who do you think will win? If you had to put money on one of the eight who remain, who would it be? My answer is in the comments.

American Idol--Quit Your Belly Aching!

Last night, Pia was eliminated from the talent pool of American Idol.


Lovely Review for Me & Jack on BiblioReads

Me & Jack has received a lovely review from Lisa Barker on Check it out here!

Have a great day!

Casey's Home and is Fine

After spending the night at the emergency vet's and the next day at the local vet's, my little Casey is dashing around the house, chasing balls, and chewing the edge of the couch. With the exception of some minor gastric discomfort, she is doing great!

Casey's at the Emergency Vet's--Swallowed Ibuprofen

My husband dropped ibuprofen on the floor and missed one in picking them up. Casey, our dog is now at the emergency vet's.

IBUPROFEN AND DOGS (cut and pasted from valid animal health sites)
A typical tablet contains 200 milligrams, so only a fraction of that pill is safe for most dogs.

When your pet is in pain, it's common to want to administer a painkiller like Ibuprofen or aspirin. Dogs should not take human medications. Ask your vet about safe dog medicines. Despite the low cost, dogs rarely survive Ibuprofen overdose.

Never give a dog ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil, Nuprin), naproxen (Aleve), or acetaminophen (Tylenol). Even a child's dose can be fatal. These pain relievers can cause severe, even fatal, stomach ulcers and kidney damage in dogs.

Symptoms can take anywhere from 12 hours to several days to show. However, if you suspect your dog has ingested Ibuprofen take him to the vet immediately. Any tablets consumed must be flushed out of your dog's system as quickly as possible to improve his chances of a full recovery.

Symptoms of an Ibuprofen Overdose in Dogs

Unsafe dog drugs like Ibuprofen commonly cause renal failure. Symptoms include:

* Blood in the stool

* Dehydration

* Lack of appetite

* Stomach pain

* Vomiting

* Weakness

If symptoms appear, it is often too late to save the dog's life. Treatment for Ibuprofen poisoning in dogs must begin within two hours. Activated charcoal, stomach pumping and plenty of IV fluids are necessary.

Me & Jack: My Passion, My Inspiration

Last year, I was invited to share a table with several other authors and we spoke informally to the teachers and media specialists who sat down with us. I'm used to talking about my books and how I got the ideas, how I always wanted to write, but when I listened to these other authors talk, they spoke openly about how they thought readers would gain from the experience of reading their books.

I'd never heard anyone talk in that way about their own book. But you know what? I liked it. I felt their conviction and belief in the story they wanted to tell.

I have the same passion for Me & Jack. I lived in the Pennsylvania mountains, and it was the best time of my growing up years. We'd leave the house for hours, climbing the mountain, building (and wrecking) forts. We ate wild blueberries right of the bushes and still collected enough for our moms to make pies. The secret cave was discovered was narrow and dark; we never knew if a bear or a mountain lion would leap out us, but we crept in anyway.

I love those years. I want to take readers over the paths of my childhood. But more than that, I want to offer readers a story that will excite them, impassion them, and inspire them to be more than what their world has limited them to.

Me & Jack is a story of sacrifice and hope--boy and dog versus world at a time of unrest everywhere--Vietnam.

Vietnam changed everything. It was the war that was never a war. It was a "police action," a "conflict. It never really broke out; it just grew bigger (as in numbers of our boys sent over), more public (more boys, more talk, more news coverage), and more transparent (violent, not a peacekeeping mission, not a skirmish or mere conflict as the government called it--this was a real war.)

Vietnam was the first war to come into people's living rooms and was being protested across the country on college campuses. Four students had already been killed at Kent State. Enough time and enough exposure to what was happening in Vietnam (and enough boys had come home messed up or not at all) that the general public hated the war and distrusted the young men coming home from it.

In Me & Jack, Dad becomes a recruiter when America feels informed enough to spit on returning soldiers.

Joshua and Jack have their own war going on with small-minded people in a town where everyone knows everyone else and trust is a hard thing to earn.

I truly believe in the power of this book. I hope you do, too.

Audubon Park Elementary School Visit!

I visited Audubon Park Elementary today and had the best time! The students had great questions, lots of things to say, and they were not shy! They teased me about my rotten handwriting! Haha! That only made me like them more.

I had fun, you guys! Hope you did, too!

Me & Jack: Five stars and Annika cried; Kim said "Great!"

The first reviews are coming in, and so far, so good! Thank you Kim Kasch and Annika Barranti for taking the time to not only read Me & Jack, but also for taking the time to compose reviews and post them. Visit Kim here and Annika here (for the Goodreads review), or here for her blog.

But don't leave! Their reviews are making a guest appearance right here, right now! Here we go:

Annika Barranti rated it 5 of 5 stars
Shelves: mg-ya
Me & Jack is a charming coming-of-age story about a boy, his dog, his father, and friendship during the Vietnam war. I couldn't put it down and I cried at the end. I've read all three of Danette's books, and they're all so different from one another. I couldn't choose a favorite between Me & Jack and Violet Raines, but I did give both to my husband immediately after I finished them, and I only give him books I really love.

From Kim's review:
me & jack is a middle grade fiction set during the Vietnam war. But the story is really a tale about a boy (Joshua) and his dog (Jack). This is a story about relationships, family, friends and having to make tough choices in hard times . . . There is plenty of drama in this dog story. And, it’s a great boy’s book, one with lots of adventure and even a little fighting. Plus there’s even a little suspense mixed into the mash. Of course girls will love it too."


Free Author Visits, Free Books, and other assorted updates

This update is cross posted from my website, which I am also updating!

Much has happened in the past few months--Violet Raines has been voted a finalist for the California Young Reader medal; The Summer of Moonlight Secrets is in Scholastic Book Clubs and Fairs; Me & Jack is coming out in June; and I've been working on a super secret new manuscript!

Thank you for all your emails! A lot of you are asking if I'm going to write a sequel to Violet Raines--I don't have plans to do so, but who knows what the future holds! Some of you want to know how my dog, Casey, is doing. She just graduated from puppy training class! I love when I come home and she leaps in the air to greet me, her body twirling like a BMX bike. Her tail wags so hard, her whole body shakes. It makes me feel good that someone could be so happy to see me!

Guess what? I'm so excited for you to read Me & Jack that I'm giving away two review copies on Goodreads.

Me & Jack:
A boy--an outsider--trying to fit in. A dog from the pound with an unknown past. A father serving as a recruiter during the Vietnam War.

Each has something to fight for. Together, they have something to live for.

Click here to go to the giveaway contest at Goodreads.

Teachers: Don't forget, I provide free, twenty-minute Q & A sessions via Skype! More detailed presentations are also available through Skype and in person. Contact me!

Charlie Sheen's Winning Recipes: I didn't want to like it, but it was funny

Ryan Seacrest & Adam Lambert, Don't You (Forget About Me), American Idol 2011

Ryan Seacrest is enamored of Adam Lambert! Last year when Adam performed "Whataya Want From Me" Ryan practically sparkled as he spoke to Adam afterward: "Now THAT was a performance," I remember him saying.

If you read my blog, you know I agree with Ryan. Last night's American Adam performance was no different. You can only talk about Adam's voice the way connoisserus talk about wine: the undertones, the aftertaste, the bouquet, the lovely appearance, and the glorious purity of the serenade. God has certainly imbued him with a gift.

Another great surprise--to me, anyway--was David Cook's rendition of Simple Mind's "Don't You (Forget About Me), which I thought was excellent and will purchase on iTunes, along with the original. For those of us for who thought the Breakfast Club WAS the eighties, "Don't You (Forget About Me)" is our anthem. David Cook did right by it.

My revised take on American Idol 2011: Call me ignorant (uh, no, don't), but in my third year of Idol viewing, I've concluded there's no way these selections and eliminations are left to the American Public. Just like the presidential election, we put our votes in, but there's an electoral college who make the actual appointments.

Think about it: The winner is going to be a Ford spokesman for one year. You think Ford is going to hand that casting over to people who text in three hundred votes a night for their favorite? I don't think so. Even the Top Ten is a product; they go out on tour over the summer--a product that earns money, promotes the singers, and keeps aflame the machine that is American Idol. The elements of a production that big aren't left to the fastest fingers on the iPhone.

All that said, I think the talent this year is incredible, but limited. One blows my mind. The rest are excellent, but do not surpass the bar set by Adam Lambert. Hey, I'm just repeating what Ryan said.

Anyway, here are my Top Ten:

1. Casey Abrams (Casey! You are so smokey blue jazz--I see you on the same ticket with Harry Connick, Jr.
2. James Durbin (James, you can do it! Though you rocked with Judas Priest, it felt superficial. More like Wednesday night, please; more of anything that means something to you so that it can mean something to us.)

Yes, that's all I have for my Top Ten. And now, here are my illegal favorites:
1. Adam Lambert
6. Steven Tyler
7. Casey Abrams
8. James Durbin

Danette out. Please don't TP my house.

Adam Lambert Alert!

Adam Lambert fans, arise and set your DVRs to record Thursday's segment of American Idol in which Adam YAY, ADAM! will perform an acoustic performance of 'Aftermath.'

That is all.

Scholastic Book Fair, page 3--MY BOOK!

My son brought home the colorful newsprint of the Scholastic Book Fair, listing books that will be available through ordering or at the fair. The Summer of Moonlight Secrets is featured on page three under Adventure, Mystery, & Fantasy as an Exclusive Paperback. YAY!

How do you say "Econlockhatchee" River?

It's a question I'm asked frequently by students doing book reports after they've received some info from me. "How do you pronounce 'Econlockhatchee?'"

First, put a bunch of marbles in your mouth and say, " E! online; did you see?" or you can say it the way we who live by the river say it: ee-con-lock-HATCH-ee. If you really want to sound native, just say, "the Econ."

Why, yes--I DO like American Idol 2011

Not many sixty-two-year old men can ROCK long hair and feathers (and sometimes a raccoon tail), but Steven Tyler does it pretty well.

I didn't think I'd like American Idol 2011, but I knew I had to watch at least a few episodes to see how Aerosmith's Steven Tyler would fare. I like it! A card on SNL and Wayne's World, Steven has proven himself to a thoughtful and intelligent judge. I loved when he'd sing along during auditions and the interest he took in the hopefuls.

One thing that surprised me was that neither Steven or J.Lo hold their collective superstar power against the aspiring young singers. J.Lo is encouraging without being smarmy. Steven is generous and nice--nice! Even Randy has stepped up to the plate during critiques.

My favorite contestants: Casey Abrams, oh so smokey; Jacob Lusk, a true talent; James Durbin, a rocker in the making who hasn't chiseled out his own identity so he's using Adam Lambert's (but I still like him!).

Favorite girls: . . .

And that's a wrap!

Sugar and Ice by Kate Messner

My friend, Kate Messner, has a GREAT new website! And even better, I finished Kate's recent book, Sugar and Ice, and I loved it. Claire Boucher is a middle school ice skater, plucked from her small town into an elite training camp by a world renowned coach.

I live in Florida, but I was in the land of snow and maple syrup the whole time I spent reading this wonderful book. The locker room scenes played like a movie in my head. Kate's knowledge of the ice skating world and its jargon opened the door for me to a place I'd never seen; ice skating terms I didn't know only made the story more real. Best aspect of story: Claire's very real insecurities and dealings with other girls.

One thing I loved was the idea that Claire doesn't seize upon the scholarship immediately. She has mixed feelings, reluctance, fear--and it's that fear that hit me as so true. It's scary to be taken from your comfort zone, even if where you're going is up. And those tween years can be catty enough in school hallways, but WOW! cutthroat in competition. Kate delivers a nice twist and an ending I didn't expect. I quickly passed my extra copy to my fifth grade neighbor next door.

Definitely recommended!

Only a Few ARCs of Me and Jack Remain!

Me & Jack A boy--an outsider--trying to fit in. A dog from the pound with an unknown past. A father serving as a recruiter during the Vietnam War.

Each has something to fight for. Together, they have something to live for.

Three ARCs stand available for readers willing to post their reviews on sites such as Amazon, Goodreads, Barnes and Noble, or their own blogs.

The first chapter is available on my website. (Click on Me & Jack in the sidebar, and then click on the book icon for the excerpt.)

If you'd like to review Me & Jack, send me an email (dhaworthbooks at yahoo dot com) with your snail mail address.

Read Me & Jack FREE before it's released!

Me & Jack is the first book I ever wrote. The boy, the dog and the Pennsylvania mountain setting are especially close to me. I can't wait to see how this story is received.

I have twelve advance copies available to send to readers who would be willing to post their reviews on sites such as Amazon, Goodreads, or their own blogs.

Me & Jack A boy--an outsider--trying to fit in. A dog from the pound with an unknown past. A father serving as a recruiter during the Vietnam War.

Each has something to fight for. Together, they have something to live for.

The first chapter is available on my website. (Click on Me & Jack in the sidebar, and then click on the book icon for the excerpt.)

If you'd like to review Me & Jack, send me an email (dhaworthbooks at yahoo dot com) with your snail mail address.

Thank you, and happy reading!

Violet Raines Nominated for California Young Reader Medal

Violet Raines Almost Got Struck by Lightning has been nominated for the California Young Reader Medal! Nominated for the Intermediate Category, Violet Raines is one of only three books vying for the award. Students will be reading over the next few months, then voting. I'm so excited!

In other good news, The Summer of Moonlight Secrets is in Scholastic Book Fairs happening in your schools right now! YAY!

Hot Debate on the Big W

Whilst working on my super secret manuscript this morning, I found myself in need of a synonym, so onto I hopped. Wham! Hot debate going on in the comments of the article titled, "If “w” is double u, why is it made of two v’s?"


I had just been talking about this not two days ago with my son! We agreed W should be called "double vee," and my son tasked me to contact the literary powers that be with our epiphany. Thank gosh I don't talk to Noah Webster anymore (because he's dead and my therapy's over), or I truly would have embarrassed myself. According to the enlightening and timely article, the sounds we attribute to U, V, and W all derived from classic Latin's V, which originally was pronounced "wa." Surprised? There's more!

The first mutation was the use of V as a voiced bilabial fricative! Fricative-A! Can you believe it? Do you even know what a fricative is? I didn't until I read this article. But those in the know argued in the comments against the voiced bilabial fricative label: V is a voiced labio-dental fricative. V is a labiodental fricative. There was even reference to --gasp!--bilabial nasal [fricatives] in connection with a different letter.

Anyway, as V became overloaded with responsibilities, what with representing ugly vampire want-to-bes, eighth century writers decided that the wa sound would be depicted by a U and a U--a double set of Us--and it looked like this: uu.

At this point, I felt the question posed in the title remained unanswered. ("If 'w' is double u, why is it made of two 'v’s?'") If anything, my curiosity had been further stoked, but the article ended abruptly, summing up too quickly, leaving me without hope of resolution.

My hands stretched toward my monitor like those of a sunburnt, dehydrated soul upon the appearance of an oasis that dissolves into mirage. Why, oh why, I lamented, if double-u is based on U, why why WHY is it pointy like a V?

Scrolling for answers, I stumbled upon a wiseman.

Mark II answers thusly: "Because…. in Latin (of which most of the English language is based), “U” looks like a “V”. You boneheads."

At the Breakfast Table

Mother and son sitting at breakfast table. Mother sips cappuccino while eating Entenmann's Rich Frosted donut. Son eats Trix. Both stare thoughtfully out the window, through which the mist rises from boggy woods and birds alight in the oak, waiting their turn at the bird feeder.

Son: Mom?

Me: Yes?

Son: What's thirty-six divided by twelve?

Me: Three.

Son: Oh. I was just wondering.


Email, Twitter, Facebook--OH MY!

I just got an email and I don't know what to think. The sender used no emoticon. Furthermore, they didn't use an exclamation point after my name (not happy 2 hear from me?)--they used a comma (I thought we were friends), but TG they didn't use a period (gasp! are u mad at me?).

Our use of technology (please note I didn't say technology but rather, the way we use it) has turned us into a bunch of paranoid suckers, bleeding all over the keyboard while pecking away like drones. "Why r u smiling?" we ask our friend at the lunch table. "Nothing," she says. She is caught in the tractor beam of her iPhone. We don't worry; she is probably texting us right now with the link to whatever made her smile. Smiling is the physical representation of the colon followed by a parenthesis; which came first, do you know? I mean, do u know?

I can write in cursive but my kids cannot. Our county is not required 2 teach it. I understand that; kids now present in Power Point; laser printed papers r preferred 2 handwritten. I ask y then isn't typing a required subject. R children shud no qwerty 2 b mor fishent on keybrd. Srsly, if they're gon enter work force b w/you, I want them 2 have skilz. R they gon print their names where their contracts ask for "Signature" or can they just use their avatars?

But even that's beside the point. When before We Wrote Letters--sometimes even writing them on scrap paper in pencil before copying them in pen onto the stationery we received on our birthdays--we thought about what we had to say. We pondered our words before giving them life. The letter had a journey to make, after all. When we licked the envelope (mmm! minty!) and put on that stamp, we knew our thoughts would take three days to arrive at the home of our beloved friend. We could picture our friend clearly, looking at the return address and skipping--no leaping!--because the letter was from us. So we often drew stickmen on the envelope so that our friend would enjoy the experience of us even sooner.

Checking the mailbox was once rated top of the list of enjoyable things in home life. Hearing the phone ring was on the irritating list.

I post a Tweet, then stay on--Did anyone reply? Did someone think it was funny? Let me check my four email accounts. Why has that person not responded? I wrote them an hour ago! Are they out of town? Did they get my email, it was raining, you know, maybe their line went down. Or they're mad at me--yes, that's it. They don't like me anymore or, no, no they're dead! Their status hasn't been updated in TWENTY-SIX minutes.

OMG! *sips Monster, takes deep breath*

Okay, they have five more minutes. Five minutes to respond or I swear I'm going to poke them.

What a Wonderful Day!

This morning has a bit of a chill, not quite sixty degrees but the sky is happy blue with feathery clouds and the sun is warming everything up. (♬Mr. Bluebird's on my shoulder. It's true! It's actual! Everything is satisfactual!♬)

I thought I'd be all nature-y and take my laptop outside and be inspired by all that is around me. Not working. I can barely see the screen because my apertures are accommodating for my bright backyard; I could turn around, but I'd be facing the wall and my dirty windows. Plus, this table is wobbly. My cappucino has twice sloshed dangerously close to my laptop.

♬ Zip-a-dee-do-dah, zip-a-dee-ay, COME ON! You know the words! ♬ My, oh, my, what a wonderful day! ♬

I found Violet Raines in Germany!

Tooling around the Internet last night and look what I found:

The German to English translation is "The Summer I was Almost Hit by Lightning." Click here to listen to the title in German!

Regarding School Visits

Me: I'm visiting your school in a few weeks.

Son: I'm going to be sick that day.

Dogs and Cough Drops

My dog likes cough drops.

I discover her chewing on something, wrangle her to the floor, and retract tattered wrappers from her unyielding jaws. She wags her tail, licks my face--"I've done nothing wrong"--and I am bathed in the scent of warm mentholyptus.

My kids worry about her.

"I think it's okay," I say. "Look--she's not coughing."