Nancy's Books

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Illustrator Alison Davis Lyne/Calls for Submissions

Alison Davis Lyne is back with me today. Alison is an extremely talented illustrator with ten picture books in her resumé, plus she edits the ART TIPS column for the SCBWI (Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators) newsletter.

We had so much fun Saturday at the Southern Kentucky Book Festival in Bowling Green. Fortunately, Alison and I were seated near each other so we had lots of time to chat about illustrating, writing and publishing, three of our favorite subjects. And we loved meeting and talking with those who stopped by.

Here's Alison surrounded by some of the books she illustrated with her talented touch.

Alison and I are in model mode as her husband snaps the shot. Thanks, Frank.
NKA: Alison, you’re a professional all the way. Tell us about your latest project and how staying busy keeps you out of trouble.   

ADL: Work keeps me busy, but trouble…it sneaks up on me, anyway. My latest alphabet picture book, G is for Grits: A Southern Alphabet by Nikole Brooks Bethea published by Pelican Publishing, is a great example of that genre. In Nikki's text for each letter, she gave me two to four different kinds of items/concepts to illustrate. My job was to sketch images of those items, in a pleasing and informative setting......anything from alligators to yams, in a “southern style” of course.

NKA: You came through with flying colors (pardon the pun) with this illustration. I see so much movement in the book cover.

ADL: Thanks, Nancy. I appreciate your comments. Since I've “said my alphabet in picture book form” three times before (Easter Day Alphabet, Halloween Alphabet and Thanksgiving Day Alphabet, all from Pelican), I was pretty sure that the arrangement of this alphabet book would follow the same style.....25 single pages, one for each letter, with one “double page spread”, all of which start on page 5.
One of the letters I had the most fun with was “O”.  Nikki's lively southern style text called for okra, oak tree, overalls and relating “old ways”. Whew!  That's a LOT of stuff to show in just one scene, plus leave room for the text and the actual letter “O”. You can see how I handled it below:


NKA: It's so interesting to learn how illustrators approach a text. I love how you incorporated the four elements into the illustration in a way that will resonate with young readers.

ADL: Thanks. Illustrating an alphabet book is a wonderful opportunity to “challenge” myself to see just how many different people and settings I can come up with, all within an established format for that particular alphabet book. 

NKA: Congratulations on your most recent books, G is for Grits: A Southern Alphabet and  Little Things Aren't Little When You're Little. These two picture books are available at brick and mortar bookstores and thru Pelican Publishing Company or your favorite online bookseller.   

Illustrations carry the story beyond that of the text, and I love learning how illustrators develop ideas for art based on the text of the writer. You are extremely talented, Alison. I can see why Pelican keeps returning to you for illustrations in their picture books. Thanks so much for visiting my blog. I look forward to having you return and wish you the best in your illustrating career.

To see more about Alison's published books please visit 

To see more of Alison's artwork please visit

To see more about Alison's art  and art techniques please visit Alison's blog

Call for Submissions for Young Writers:

Parallel Ink is your friendly international e-magazine for students, by students between the ages of 12 to 18 years old. Besides sci-fi serials and fantasy fables, we welcome poignant poetry, quirky rants, discarded love letters, and offbeat text exchanges with open arms (among many other countless gems of literature teens write). Honestly, anything goes if it's well-written, captivating, and ready for sending out into the world wide web! Take a look at our past issues on the Archives page.

Being open-minded global citizens is a big part of our magazine. Parallel Ink, also fondly called Pi or PI, is a voluntary, non-profit publication. It's run by three high schoolers, each living in a different country, who remain very good friends to this day. 
Submission guidelines at
Call for Submissions for Adult Writers:
Xiaoduo Median, a publisher based in both New York and Beijing is looking for children’s authors. We currently publish three monthly magazines and assortment of book series for age 6 to 14.
For the magazine "Ask You Ask Me":
We are interested in articles rich in scientific accuracy and lively approaches to the subject at hand. The inclusion of primary research (interviews with scientists focusing on current research) are of primary interest to the magazine.

Feature Articles: Up to 1000 words. Includes: in-depth nonfiction articles. (An interactive approach is a definite plus!) Q & A interviews, plays, and biographies are of interest as well

Fiction: up to 1,000 words. Includes: science-related stories, poems, science fiction, retold legends, etc., relating to the theme.

Activities: up to 750 words. Includes: critical thinking activities, experiments, models, science fair projects, astrophotography projects, and any other science projects that can either be done by children alone, with adult supervision, or in a classroom setting. Query should be accompanied by sketches and description of how activity relates to theme.

Submission guidelines at

Next week, I’ll focus on the latest trends in children’s publishing.





Sunday, April 20, 2014

Today, I have children’s book illustrator Alison Davis Lyne back as my guest. She has illustrated 10 titles for Pelican Publishing and edits the ART TIPS column for the SCBWI (Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators) newsletter. That’s quite a resumé, and I’m thrilled to have her here. 

NKA: Welcome back, Alison. You have illustrated both concept/story books and alphabet books.  What are the illustrating challenges with these two very different kinds of picture books? 

ADL: Hi Nancy. Thanks SO much for inviting me back to your lovely blog for another chat.

I've been lucky to illustrate many different kinds of books for children.   

My most recent project for Pelican Publishing is a more of a concept book, Little Things Aren't Little When You're Little by Mark Burrows.  Mark's lyrical text (he also writes songs!) tells different episodes in a child's life where things that seem little to adults are really a “big deal” to children. Mark's manuscript had, after the opening/intro stanza, 13 separate scenes, each had a child engaging in a described action, with the refrain: “Little things aren't little when you're little.” 

If your readers remember from my last visit, in our chat about spreading out text over the 32 pages of a book, they can easily see that Mark had indeed “done his homework” in how he set things up. The text starts on page 5, which leaves 13 “double page spreads” to illustrate  each stanza.  (A “double spread” is what the reader sees left to right when the book is opened, with the action being carried over both pages). With a bit-o-artistic license, I rearranged things just a teensy bit and went to work on planning the illustrations. 

For some reason, one of the middle stanzas describing a young child's first hair cut struck a cord, and I began my sketching there. I remembered an old commercial where a small boy is tearfully getting his first hair cut in an old fashioned barber chair. I got to wondering what would happen if that small boy started wiggling when the elderly barber started trimming.  And instead of “taking a little off the top” the barber got a huge swath right across the little boy's head.  In reaction the little boy might slide off the huge barber chair and put his hands over the newly bald spot.  I couldn't help but “draw” parallels between the elderly barber's, and the  grandfather's bald heads and the child's newly shorn head.  As a running joke, throughout the rest of the book, the little boy appears with his “reverse mohawk”.  Here's how the page spread came out.... 


Illustrating this kind of book is really a lot of fun....I can make up characters and settings to give my own kind of “flavor” to the lively text.   

NKA: Alison, you’ve helped us writers better understand how a picture book needs to be written to allow for the illustrations to be added to the text. We definitely need to write with the idea of action that takes place over 13-14 spreads. Thanks for your explanation and for explaining how you develop ideas for working with the text of a picture book.

Alison is returning next week to discuss her latest project. To see more about her published books, please visit 

To see more of Alison's artwork, please visit

To see more about Alison's art  and art techniques, please visit Alison's blog 

Call for Submissions for Young Writers:

Norman Mailer High School Writing Awards: Highly recommended free contest for creative nonfiction by currently enrolled high school students awards $2,500 and a trip to NYC for the award ceremony. Contest is co-sponsored by the National Council of Teachers of English and the Norman Mailer Writers Colony. Submit one or more entries, maximum 10 single-spaced pages total, through their online form. Sponsored by: National Council of Teachers of English
Deadline 4/30/2014
Submissions Guidelines at
Call for Submissions for Adult Writers:

It’s time to share your story. Waypoints is accepting poetry, fiction, art and photography submissions for our inaugural issue. We’re looking for the best from established and up-and-coming writers and artists. Submissions should include writing and artwork that embodies a sense of what the artist has encountered on her or his personal journey.  Waypoints will appear semi-annually, featuring the best work of established and emerging writers and artists. Published work is eligible for the Editor’s Choice award.

Deadline May 1.

Submission guidelines at

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Penny Lockwood Ehrenkranz-Guest Editor/Calls for Submissions

Welcome back, Penny Lockwood Ehrenkranz. Penny is a writer with a remarkable publishing history. She has written hundreds of articles as well as books for children and adults. These include a beautiful picture book, BOO’S BAD DAY and an interesting young adult short story collection, A PAST AND A FUTURE. Plus, she is an editor. Today, I’m so happy to have Penny as a guest editor

In your role as an editor, what are some specific elements in a manuscript that makes you say Ah-ha! this story works and what make a great book?
First off, I’d like to point out a many publishing houses are specializing in specific genres. For example, Tor publishes a lot of fantasy, while others look for different genres. Writers need to look closely at guidelines and publishers’ catalogs before submitting material for consideration. A list of children’s publishers such as the one at indicates even among these publishers, there are requests for certain types of literature such as:  picture books, middle grade, young adult, Christian, Caribbean, Native American, historical, or non-fiction.
In my role as editor, I’ve seen all kinds of submissions from ones making me want to see more from the author to those making me wonder why a writer thought the story was worth submitting. This seems particularly true of children’s authors. For some reason, writers think crafting a story for children is easy. Unfortunately, just because the story is shorter, it isn’t necessarily easier to write.
The first things I look for in a book are good grammar, correct spelling, and proper sentence structure. Then, I’m interested in character development and characters for whom I can cheer. If the main characters are too perfect or have no redeeming qualities, I’m not going to care about them.
I want to read a strong hook at the beginning of the book. The author should jump right into the action, rather than give a detailed description of the main character’s hometown. Then, I’m looking for a strong plot with obstacles for the characters to overcome. Even in a short picture book, there should be at least three challenges for the main character. These challenges should help the character grow before the conclusion of the story.
The story should move forward smoothly with transitions from chapter to chapter urging the reader to turn the page. The book should have a logical conclusion arrived at through a series of plausible events.
Throughout the story, I expect tight writing. An author who relies on weak adjectives or adverbs instead of strong nouns and verbs needs to work harder on her craft. Good dialogue is important, and the author should try not to use clever words to express the word “said.”  Said after dialogue is skimmed over by the reader. With the character’s name attached: Jane said, the reader knows who said the words but isn’t interrupted, as he would be reading: Jane admonished. If the author wants to avoid using said all the time, the other option would be action tags: Jane shook her finger at Paul.
Obviously, before submitting, authors need to know their genre and what works or doesn’t. Someone writing an historical novel should be aware of what happens in the era in which the story is set. You can’t just guess at what is appropriate. Research is imperative for the story to ring true. The tiniest mistake can take a reader out of the story. Something as simple as having someone look at a book of Shakespeare when the story’s setting is 1492 will cause the reader to put the book down. An author writing fantasy needs to create a believable world and be sure the rules of magic are consistent and have consequences. A wizard can’t go around throwing spells without preparation or training. A middle grade novel shouldn’t have the parents solving the problems of the young protagonists.
I’m not sure if there is ever an “ah ha” moment for me. When assessing a book for acquisition, I have to put aside my personal tastes (which tend to lean toward fantasy, science fiction, and paranormal) and look for a well-written book submitted by an author who took the time to read through the publisher’s guidelines and look at other books in the publisher’s catalog.
Nancy, thank you for hosting me on your blog. You asked a couple of great questions, and I hope I’ve been able to aid some of your readers in their quest to become published authors. More about me and my work can be found at and at my blog
Penny, you’ve given us a ton of great information. Thanks, Penny, for visiting on my blog. I wish you much success with your books and your work as an editor.
Alison Davis Lyne is visiting this blog again with more illustrations tips for writers. I don't illustrate, but I write picture books with the illustrator in mind.
Call for Submissions for Young Writers:
Creative Kids Magazine. We are looking for the very best material by students (ages 8–16). Material may include cartoons, songs, stories between 500 and 1200 words, puzzles, photographs, artwork, games, editorials, poetry, and plays, as well as any other creative work that can fit in the pages of the magazine.
All work must be original. Upon acceptance of a work, we will request that a legal guardian sign our standard contract granting copyright permission. The contract will be mailed with notification of acceptance.
Work may be submitted by the author, parent, or teacher. Each piece must be labeled with the child’s name, birthday, grade, school, and home address, and must include a cover letter.
Submission guidelines at
Call for Submissions for Adult Writers:
Youth Imagination is interested in creative fiction stories by teens as well as by adult authors. Make the stories awesome, inspiring and engaging. Our goal is to publish the best writing for and by teens. We particularly love stories exploring the issues, such as bullying, drugs, romance, school, parental issues, teacher issues, etc., as well as about the grit and character of teens and young adults.
We accept most genres of fiction, including modern, urban or classical fantasy, as well as sci-fi, slipstream, literary, action-adventure or suspense.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Penny Lockwood Ehrenkranz-Guest Author/Calls for Submissions

Penny Lockwood Ehrenkranz is a writer with a remarkable publishing history. She has written hundreds of articles as well as books for children and adults. Plus, she is an editor. Today, I’m so happy to have Penny as a guest author.

You have a beautiful picture book, BOO’S BAD DAY and an interesting young adult short story collection, A PAST AND A FUTURE. How do you decide if a topic is better for a picture book or a young adult story?
Boo’s Bad Day and the short stories collected in A Past and a Future are at almost opposite ends of the spectrum of books.
Boo’s Bad Day is the story of a young black cat that wants to have adventures, rather than be stuck in the house with no one to play with and nothing to do. When he gets a chance, he escapes, only to find that being on his own can be scary. He doesn’t know about fire trucks, snowplows, and loud barking dogs. Each time Boo encounters a new experience, he runs and hides until he finds himself stuck high up in a tree. This story is told from the cat’s perspective and while even adults may need a reminder that life can be scary, animal protagonists work better in books for young to middle grade children.
Boo’s Bad Day is published by 4RV Publishing and is available from 4RV  for $8.99 including s/h
Look inside at Amazon (prices vary here and is $11.83 right now)
This print book can also be ordered at your local bookstore.
A Past and a Future on the other hand is a collection of sixteen stories. The subject matter in each of the stories is not suitable for a young child. While some advanced middle grade readers might be comfortable and able to read these stories, the topics are geared toward the experiences of older readers.
As a reader, I enjoy fantasy above all else, however, I also enjoy reading soft non-technological science fiction. When I put the collection together, I decided to include stories from both of these genres. 
When writing fantasy, it’s important to create a believable story. The reader has to be able to think what you’re writing could happen. They have to suspend their disbelief long enough to be pulled into the story. Although there are fantasy stories for very young readers (think Where the Wild Things Are), my stories do not involve a child as protagonist. 

The same is true when I write science fiction. I am not a science person. I don’t understand quantum physics, but I do understand people and relationships. When I write science fiction, I place my characters in a place and time in the future. I write stories not about spacecraft but about how people will interact with each other. Most of my stories have a touch of romance in them, so again, these are not geared toward young children.
These are the stories in my collection: 

FLIGHT OF THE ROC – Lona is a budding sorceress, but her tutor isn’t too impressed with her skills. When he sends her off to collect a roc’s egg, she finds herself in a heap of trouble. Part of the trouble begins when she meets handsome young Tom. Tom agrees to help her collect the egg, but disaster strikes when the egg hatches. Will Lona chose the roc or Tom?
BLURRED VENGEANCE – Vain and aggressive, Temur ignores the warnings of his dream vision, as he seeks vengeance for his father’s death. With his friend and confidant, Jamthrak, Temur rides across the steppes toward town. On the way, unforeseen events cause him to lose focus. He regains his strength and continues on. Once in town, he meets Bota, a buxom woman unlike those of his village. He arranges to bring her back with him to be his first wife. Then, using his skills of magik, stealth, and cunning, he tracks down his father’s murderer. He completes his task, but encounters yet another young woman, Mira…this one a slave. He saves her, but in doing so, causes strife between Bota, Mira, and Jamthrak. He should not have ignored his dead father’s warnings.
WHO WILL HEAL THE HEALER – Niane, a young sorceress, is aware of her elderly mentor’s feelings for her, but she cannot return them. She trusts to the Moon Goddess to guide her and Marzan, her mentor, to train her as the next court sorceress.  Yet something, deep, dark, and disturbing has taken a part of Marzan. Can she save herself and her mentor when the powers of darkness threaten?
ASHLEY OF ASHLAND – Ashley is the younger son of Brandon, Duke of Ashland. His older brother, Gerand, has been betrothed to the lovely Princess Thalia since birth. Unfortunately, Ashley loves Thalia and she him. Gerand is a womanizer and a brute. When they devise a plan to run away, Ashley and Thalia encounter obstacles and terrors, not the least of which is pursuit by Gerand and the king’s troops. Will the plain, younger brother win the hand of the fair princess or be executed as a traitor?
THE WATCHER – Zerelda lives in a land of women. As a child, she has a vision wherein she meets and loves a young man. She believes her vision is false. Yet when the man of her vision appears, she is torn. No one has ever told her she is beautiful. No one has ever told her of life outside her community of women. Yet, Prince Ulric does all this and more. Will he cause her to become a betrayer of all she holds dear?  Can she be saved?
ENCHANTRESS – When Merlin meets young Viviane, a priestess of Avalon, he knows she will be his downfall, but he cannot ignore the pull of love she holds over him. They set out traveling, and as Merlin teaches Viviane more and more magic, he realizes the love he holds for her will destroy him, yet he cannot deny it. Will Merlin come to his senses before he is lost forever?
DRAKONI – Torn from her modern day world and thrust into a world of dragons, evil magicians, and handsome elves, will Farah succeed or die trying?  In her own world, she is a successful zookeeper working with lizards, but once a freak accident propels her into the land of Draknoll, she finds herself in a field, lost and alone, until Josef, an elf, aids her. With his help, they set off to his village. On the way there, the evil magician, Cor, attacks them and kidnaps Farah. Dragged before the king, she must defend herself and prove she is not who they think she is—a Dragon Woman. Of course, when Drakoni, a great bronze dragon, comes to her rescue, she, herself, begins to doubt who she is. Fortunately, Josef is there to help her embrace not only her new life but her new love, as well.
HESHE- Lyda’s stepfather sells her to the highest bidder after her mother dies, leaving her no choice but to flee her captors. To survive, she hides, disguised as a young man. Unfortunately, this disguise backfires when she meets the handsome, talented Garwen, who also has a secret to hide. Will the young noble woman tell her benefactor who she is, or will her pursuers capture her and take her back into slavery?
THE BABY MAKERS – In a world where cloning is possible, Reese and his wife, Akira take the chance to have a child they could never have on their own. Unfortunately in their part of the world, the government does not recognize these children as citizens. After the baby is born, Reese and Akira go through the necessary steps to acquire their new child. One of these procedures turns Akira into a robot that will do anything to keep Reese away from the baby. Loving both his wife and child, Reese has to make a decision to keep their family safe and intact. Will he make the right one?
3-D PICTURES – Avery sees people in 3-D pictures. The government thinks he is crazy and sends him to a psychiatrist. As he waits in the doctor’s office, the 3-D picture in front of him comes alive. Suddenly a beautiful petite woman appears perched on his lap. She tells him of his destiny and his heritage. Elvina and her people have been waiting for him for many years. Will he go with her through the picture, or allow himself to be “cured?”
SCREEN SAVER – Clancy works for an agent, Shianna, who represents the freaks of the world. With all the nuclear fallout, the agency is thriving. Clancy, however, longs to leave his world and travel the stars. The computer program arrives as a demo, promising instant transport. Will it be Clancy’s ticket to survival or a rip-off which brings him to destruction?
ISOLATION- The world as we know it is gone. The rich are isolated from the dying poor. Rader and Caryn are fed up with living in isolation, away from fresh air and real food. Rumors abound of places where people can still live. When they meet by accident, they decide to make a break for it. Unfortunately, outside their isolated living quarters, disease, for which they have no immunities, runs rampant. Their mutual attraction and determination keep them going despite the many hazards they face outside the walls. Will Caryn and Rader make the right decisions when they search for freedom?

LOVE IN A DIFFERENT HUE – Chiri and her husband are not on the best of terms. He married her for her connections. Her father is a leader in the robotics field. By marrying Chiri, Tevon was guaranteed a partnership in a very lucrative business. Shunned by her husband, Chiri becomes intrigued by her father’s latest creation, Devro. What would you do if a blue-skinned robot wanted to protect and love you?  Chiri isn’t sure until he takes her in his arms.
DOWN SO LOW, THE GROUND LOOKS LIKE UP – Sylvan is a telepathic empath and is hired by a mining company to help them ferret out swindlers. Unfortunately, something on her new world made her talents go ballistic. She drinks herself into oblivion to compensate for her psi talents. When Deveneaux finds her, he’s attracted, but he is also on a mission to find his dead brother’s daughter. Can Deveneaux save her from her demons, or will he lock her up for propositioning an officer of the law?
REBELS WITH A CAUSE – Shayleena is tired of living her life through holovision. She wants a real life with real people. When she sees an ad for volunteers to help with juvenile offenders, she signs up. She not only finds meaning in her life, but a connection to real people, including Bradon, a visual artist with a dream. Together, they hope to find a future for themselves and for the young people who’ve been thrown away by society.
CLOCKWORKS – John lives in Structured. His ancestors came from Upheaval, a country where time means nothing. He decides to take a trip—learn about his history and see Upheaval for himself. What will he do when he tries to trace his roots and finds his structured life is now in chaos?
A Past and A Future is available from Alban Lake Publishing: Digital $3.99; Print $12
And at Smashwords in digital for $3.99:
You can learn more about me and my other work at
Penny, your stories are captivating. I look forward to your visit next week when you discuss your role as an editor.
Call for Submissions for Young Writers:

INSIGHT WRITING CONTEST. Categories are student short story, general short story, and student poetry. Prizes range from $50 to $250. Winning entries will be published in Insight. You must be age 22 or under to enter the student categories. Short stories are limited to seven pages. Poetry is limited to one page.

Deadline July 31, 2014.

Submission guidelines at

Call for Submissions for Adult Writers:
FrostFire Worlds is a quarterly magazine for younger readers published by Alban Lake Publishing in February, May, August, and November.

FrostFire Worlds publishes original science fiction and fantasy short stories, poems, art, articles, reviews, and interviews. Preferred are adventure stories, space opera, and magic opera [like space opera, but fantasy]. Also preferred are stories that take place on other worlds. Stories must have the following: characters the reader cares about, plots and subplots, and settings that draw the reader into them. FrostFire Worlds is intended for younger readers, from ages 8-17 and up.
Submission guidelines at