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!