Monday, December 3, 2018

Make sure gift-giving for young children includes a book!

Granddaughter, Ava, reading with DIL, Rachel. 

A child is never too young to benefit from books and being read to. They love the exclusive time to sit with you, to have all of your attention. And even beyond the story or rhyme you're reading, they love other things you make up, like counting objects on the page, or "finding the bunny." 

"... reading with your children gives them critical skills for when they start to read themselves."

1. It is important that children learn to follow words across the page from left to right.
2.  Learn to  turn pages, which are pre-reading skills that benefit children and help them to become better readers later on. 
3. Children who enjoy reading not only do better in language and literacy subjects, but in all of the different subjects as well.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

I wanted to write a Southeast Alaska Christmas story.

More than gifts and glitter

I wanted to write a Christmas story that had little or nothing to do with Christmas trees and glitter. And I was hoping to write a story that the reader could follow along, with eyes open, and be surprised. And as long as I was hoping, yes, I wanted it to be just a bit spooky. 

Was I successful? See for yourself. It's a one-sitting read, truly a short story. So you don't have to be a dedicated reader to make it to the other side.

I did some of my growing up near Sitka, in Southeast Alaska. It's not cold there, or snowy, as in more northern Alaska. There are no dogsleds. It's a maritime climate, salt water and rain, and lots of little islands that feel pretty desolate in winter. So yes, that's where I set my story.

Mom didn't care for the sex stuff

I love reviews. It makes a dialogue of what I do, rather than a monologue... just me talking. A writer takes chances with stories, and doesn't really know if those chances work, if they pay off, until the reviews start. 

I already know my stories are "Nice." My mom is a reader. Except for the 4th Father Hardy. Mom liked all of it but the "sex stuff." Oh well. 

You're safe from "sex stuff" in "The Christmas Skiff." Yes, Mom, I resisted. And I'd love to hear anything you thought about the tale. Complaints welcome.

Check this recent review... 

"I bought "The Christmas Skiff" about 9 months ago, after Christmas. I remembered how much joy it had given me when I first read it, and so I decided to read it again, and I wasn't disappointed at all. It's a sort-of coming of age story, with Gabrielle learning that things are not always as they seem, and that life is about love, hope, and even magic, at times.

Jonathan has a way of writing that makes you feel as if you're a part of the story - not just reading about it. This should be on the Christmas gift list for all young people."

And thank you, Karen D.

"The Christmas Skiff" on Amazon

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Would you write just one sentence for a book you liked?

I need your review!

In the writer world, reviews have real weight. Commercial reviewers, the big dogs, along with magazines and radio, won't even consider reviewing a book if a whole bunch of you haven't already done so.

So if you've read one of my books—I have seven published—I would love for you to go online and post your review on Amazon. It can be as simple as just one sentence about why you liked—or maybe didn't like—the book. And then you also chose a number of stars to rate it. 

Some people don't like to post a review if they can't award the book all five stars. It doesn't matter. If you only liked it three star's worth, I'm okay with that, especially if you can tell me what didn't work for you. Every book is it's own set of lessons for me to learn, and I'm happy to.

My goal is to be the best writer I can be and I appreciate your help. 

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

How the Magic Happens

This week I taped a radio interview 

I was interviewed for radio this week by Sheila Bender, poet, author and accomplished writing instructor. It's a real treat for a writer to be interview by a writer. 

The questions were different from those often asked. She wanted to know HOW I do what I do. Process questions. I had to actually think about the answers. 

With my eighth novel, "Raft," in final edit, my ninth, "Without a Prayer," in the final pages, I spend most of my time writing and thinking about storylines and character arcs. In other words, DOING rather than thinking about how I do. That's what she wanted her listeners to hear. 

For example, my first paid, published work was short stories in CRICKET Magazine, way back in the '70s. In a world that didn't pay much for writing, I got twenty-five cents a word—a fabulous sum— and presentation with fabulous illustrators. It was heaven. 

It was a CRICKET editor who said of one of my stories, "This should be a book." 

"Great!" I thought. But for twenty years, that's as far as it went. I had no idea now to make that leap.

I started out writing short

I wrote songs in high school, and my first college-published work was poetry. So, I could tell the whole story in sixteen or twenty lines. A short story, to me, was an opus.

Sheila asked me, how did I get from the short story to writing a whole book. I heard myself saying, I wrote one line and then the next. Which is absolutely true. 

She also pointed out to me the number of times I mentioned walking as part of my process. Walking, with my brain in neutral, often results in me coming home say to my wife ... "I just figured out ... " whatever it is. 

It happens to me driving, too, on longer trips. Out of the blue ... I mean really, I didn't even know I was thinking about it, I say to Billie, "Oh, I get it!" Because suddenly I do. 

Writer's block? 

We interviewed Jane Yolen years ago. Said she never had writer's block because she always had multiple projects going. If one stuck, she went on to the next. 

Judy Jance told us she took a shower when she got hung up. That works! Something about negative ions from falling water and its effect on the brain. 

The thing that works for me, is simply remembering that the main magic in writing is the seat in the chair. As an ad writer for thirty years, I faced an empty page every day and got paid for filling it with real ideas. I built up that muscle. 

According to Billie, here's when it changed

Billie has known me since high school, though with a twenty year break. She's seen me work from early. It was she that pointed out I made the leap from short story to novel when I began getting up at six, nearly every morning of the year, to do nothing but write. 

Yes, as writer MacKinlay Kantor observed years ago, I ... "put my butt in the chair." I know, it doesn't sound very magical. But if you've wanted to write or something similar, I'm here to tell you. 

It's how the magic happens.  

Monday, April 16, 2018

What the heck is a middle-grade book and who reads 'em?

Available in print, audio, or e-book

The Answers might surprise you. 

The odd middle child in youth books is the middle-grade book. In my head, I'm writing for a reader between the ages of 10 and fourteen.  And yes, I'm writing for myself at that age.

But most of us know a younger child, maybe age seven or eight, who reads "up." Because reading is easy for them and fun, they are soon ready for more ... more adventure, more mystery, more complex stories about youth relationships. 

Also, many middle-grade books are read by adults. With my highly-rated "Cheechako" series, for example, readers from as low as age seven to certifiable grandparents tell me they enjoy the stories. 

They like a clean, uncomplicated read where the focus remains on plot, character and adventure without the whole raft of other things they end up wading through in so-called adult books. 

"Who am I and where do I fit?"

Author Alison Cherry sees it this way. “MG is often more internally focused—about figuring out who you are and how you relate to your family and friends.

In "Cheechako," a lonely boy from 'out east,' Boston, finds life difficult in a small Alaska river town. His life changes when he steps out of his self-isolation to take a chance and ends up making a friend. 

It's a coming of age story in the best sense. A youth builds skills, courage, bonds of friendship and responsibility to the point where he can be tested and can survive. 

And we all grow and survive with him. It's what the best books do: thrust us into the middle of another person's world and haul us along for the ride. 

There are three books in the "Cheechako" series. Someone you know is ready for an Alaskan adventure ... and maybe you are too!

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Two years of searching to find this photo

Photo courtesy of: © Hipfel/Starck and

I love this photo

To me it says, adventure on the water, the promise of islands, the companionship of friends. Does it get any better for a kid with an urge to explore?

Where book covers come from

I spend a lot more time than I used to, thinking about where book covers come from. My next book is titled Raft and I've been hunting for a cover image almost since I began writing the book. Honestly, I found nothing until I found this ... better than I ever imagined.

Raft won't be one of my series books. It's the story of a lonely, awkward island boy, about grade 9, who has developed an elaborate scheme based on help from his best friend, to hide the fact that he can't read at all. 

When something happens to his friend—his only friend—he is cast utterly adrift. When summer comes, building a raft and the adventures that ensue ... help him forge a new friendship and new life.

One of my pre-readers put it this way: 

"... a gripping but also very tender story line, a rich cast of believable characters I grew to love, and a coastline setting that felt fully tangible. I simply loved this book." Holly Kruse, Cabot VT

Check this out: River rafting in Sweden

The photo hails from Sweden, from a company that features rafting adventures on the Klarälven River. First you build your own raft, with their guidance, then you drift. You remember what it feels like to walk away from your devices and give yourself to the pace of the river. Wouldn't that be an adventure with kids or grandkids! Here's the link: