Abigail Bostwick: On Writing From A Cat’s Eye View.

I recently had the pleasure of winning a copy  of THE GREAT CAT NAP by Abigail Bostwick, thanks to a random drawing on the Writing and Illustrating For Children blog hosted by Kathy Temean.  This “hard boiled” detective novel follows the antics of a reporter/crime solver named Ace – who just happens to be a cat.  I was intrigued by this unique point of view and asked Abigail if she would tell us a bit of why and how the story came about.  (My review of this fun story for middle grade mystery lovers is below.) Here’s Abigail:

Thank you for having me on your blog, Darlene! I’m happy to be here to talk about my debut middle grade novel, The Great Cat Nap.

Told from the point of view of Ace, feline resident at a small town newspaper, the book opens when famous show-cat Ruby the Russian goes missing. But Ace bites off more than he can chew when he agrees to play detective and find the lost cat, believed to have been stolen by animal smugglers. Calling on his feline friends, a few dogs and even a couple rodent nemeses – Ace’s investigation will lead him everywhere from the most respected parts of town to the lowly haunts of the underground alley cat system. He’ll have to try to break a cat out of the pound for priceless information and get into a single-pawed battle with a few criminals before getting his shot at solving the dangerous crime, culminating on a chilly October night in the gray and lonely streets of downtown.

I’m a longtime cat lover – some of my earliest memories include felines. I was inspired to write from Ace’s perspective because cats are fascinating creatures. Each one has their own unique personality and quirks. They’re funny and intelligent, curious and talented problem-solvers.

As a child, I favored books told from the viewpoint of an animal Charlotte’s Web, The Little Prince, Bunnicula and anything Beatrice Potter. So when I sat down for the first time with the goal to write a novel for children myself, I wrote not only to amuse potential readers, but also myself.

I had a lot of fun writing Ace! He’s very much inspired by my own black cat, Boots, who is stubborn and motivated, yet cuddly and devoted. Ace had to be clever to take on solving a small town crime. I tried to give him a sense of humor, lots of action and road blocks to keep the story moving. As a young reader, it was meaningful for me to see animals and humans taking on challenges while leaning on one another. I could see myself in the characters’ place prevailing, and then too, see myself succeeding. I hope I’ve accomplished that for my young readers in The Great Cat Nap!

A.M. Bostwick writes Middle Grade and Young Adult novels. Her debut middle grade novel, The Great Cat Nap, earned the 2014 Tofte/Wright Children’s Literature Award from the Council for Wisconsin Writers. It also earned the Moonbeam Children’s Award Bronze Medal in the Pre-Teen Fiction category. The sequel, The Clawed Monet, hit the shelves in 2016. Her young adult novel, Break the Spell, released in autumn 2015. An early draft of that book was a finalist in the 2013 Wisconsin Romance Writers of America Fab 5 Contest. She has placed in Rochester Writers’ contests in 2014 and 2016 and has had short fiction appear in Black Fox Literary.

You can visit Abigail at www.ambostwick.com or @bostwickam.

 Here’s my 5 Star review:  What do you do when your prize-winning show cat is missing? Call Ace – reporter/detective feline – who knows the neighborhood like the back of his paw. This delightful adventure is told from Ace’s point of view and takes the reader on a fun-filled ride through the lives of local cats, dogs and their human caregivers. This time out, Ace is on the trail of a missing show cat named Ruby who appears to be kidnapped. At first it’s just a good story for the newspaper. But soon, things get heated up and Ace realizes Ruby’s life might be in danger. He and his feline, canine, and rat friends set out to solve the mystery and bring Ruby home.
Curl up under a blanket with a cup of cocoa and be prepared for a great escape.

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Pay it Froward With a Day of Service.

Since today is a federal holiday – in honor and remembrance of Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King – many of us have the day off.  As we go about our errands and enjoy a bit of extra time, get the whole family involved in small acts of service.  It doesn’t take much to make a difference in someone’s life: pay the toll of the person behind you, buy a cup of coffee and a sandwich for a person out on the street, let the person behind you have that coveted parking space, let someone in line ahead of you.  You and the kids can visit a hospital and read stories to children, spend time with seniors who don’t often get visitors,  shovel snow or do yard work for a neighbor unable to do it, bake cookies or muffins for a shelter.  Leave an anonymous bag of treat on the doorstep of someone who lives alone or might need such a thing to brighten up the day.

Possibilities are endless.  The warmth and good feeling you and your children will get is guaranteed to last beyond the day.   Spread kindness.

Book Giveaway: BunnyBear by Andrea J. Loney

Enter for a chance to win this enchanting book.

Writing and Illustrating

Andrea J. Loney has agreed to give away a copy of her picture book BUNNYBEAR to one lucky winner. All you have to do to get in the running is to leave a comment. Reblog, tweet, or talk about it on Facebook with a link and you will get additional chances to win. Just let me know the other things you did to share the good news, so I can put in the right amount of tickets in my basket for you. Check back to discover the winner.

BOOK DESCRIPTION:

Although Bunnybear was born a bear, he feels more like a bunny. He prefers bouncing in the thicket to tramping in the forest, and in his heart he’s fluffy and tiny, like a rabbit, instead of burly and loud, like a bear. The other bears don’t understand him, and neither do the bunnies. Will Bunnybear ever find a friend who…

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Finding Comfort in Winter Foods by Marilyn Ostermiller

Come January, when rich holiday treats are but a sweet memory, I take comfort in baking runzas, one of the hearty, yet simple foods, of my European heritage. Runzas are pockets of bread dough stuffed with a savory mixture of ground beef, onions and cabbage. The scent of bread dough rising and the hash simmering on the stove, the flavors melding, put me in mind of Grandma cooking in her kitchen.

Runzas are thought to have originated in Russia in the early 1800s and spread to Germany. Handheld and portable, they are similar to Italian stromboli, Greek pirouskia and Indian samosas. German Immigrants brought the runza recipe with them to the United States, but the sandwiches aren’t well known outside of Nebraska, where the Runza Hut chain has most of its restaurants. The recipe I reach for on Saturday afternoons in winter is from a cookbook published in 1976 by the Federated Woman’s Club in my hometown, Bellevue, NE.

 Runzas:         Ingredients

Dough*                                                           Hamburger Filling

2 cups very warm water                       1 1/2 pounds ground beef

2 packages active dry yeast                 1/2 cup chopped onion

1/2 cup granulated sugar                      3 cups shredded cabbage

1 1/2 tsp. salt                                       1/2 cup water

1 egg                                                    1 1/2 tsp. salt

4 Tblsp. melted butter, cooled 1/2 tsp. black pepper

6 1/2 cups flour                                   dash of Tabasco

* Use prepared bread dough instead, if you prefer. Two loaves should be enough.

Directions: Mix very warm water, yeast, sugar, salt and stir until dissolved. (This process is known as proofing the yeast. If you aren’t familiar with it, the information is easy to find online.)

Add egg and butter. Stir in flour. Put dough in a covered bowl, greased with vegetable oil, and let it rise in a warm place until it doubles in bulk, about an hour.

While the dough is rising, brown ground beef, and onion. Drain grease.  Add cabbage, seasonings, and water. Simmer 15 minutes and cool.  Punch down the dough and roll it out in an oblong about 1/4 inch thick. Cut into 16 squares. Spoon a few tablespoons of the meat mixture in the middle of each square of dough. Pull the four corners of the dough up over the meat mixture and press the edges together. (Some cooks favor a round bun; others, an oblong.) Place the filled buns on a greased cookie sheet. Bake for 20 minutes at 350 degrees.

Runza Huts serve French fries or onion rings on the side, but, in keeping with the comfort food theme, I make a broth-based mushroom soup to accompany my hot sandwiches. This recipe is easy to make at the same time as the runzas. http://www.geniuskitchen.com/recipe/broth-based-mushroom-soup-super-simple-413306

Marilyn Ostermiller is a long-time business journalist who now writes for children. You can follow her on Twitter @Marilyn_Suzanne.   

Got Squirrels? Read On.

Now that winter is here, we are in full bird feeding mode.  And, along with the birds come their friends the squirrels.  Instead of trying to chase these critters away, why not help scientists better understand them.  Whether you live in a city, the suburbs or a small town, squirrels are part of our landscape.

You and your kids can help researchers understand squirrel ecology by submitting your observations of the animals to the PROJECT SQUIRREL site.   http://www.projectsquirrel.org

Book Giveaway: Norbert’s Big Dream by Lori Degman

Writing and Illustrating

Lori Degman has agreed to give away a copy of her picture book NORBERT’S BIG DREAM to one lucky winner. All you have to do to get in the running is to leave a comment. Reblog, tweet, or talk about it on Facebook with a link and you will get additional chances to win. Just let me know the other things you did to share the good news, so I can put in the right amount of tickets in my basket for you. Check back to discover the winner.

BOOK’S DESCRIPTION:

Norbert is a pig with a dream. It doesn’t matter if the other farm animals snicker behind his back, Norbert has always dreamed of swimming the English Channel. He’s been preparing and training and finally he’s ready for the big swim! But where exactly is the English Channel?! Will Norbert have to give up on his dreams or will…

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New Year = New Plans.

No matter how many times we grumble and grouse about new year’s resolutions, many of us still look forward to a fresh start and chance to do things differently in the new year.  As a writer, I usually make goals that reflect my aspirations and hopes in the writing field.  Completing a draft of a new novel.  Sending a finished project to my agent, hoping for a sale.  Reading as many MG, YA, and PB’s as I can throughout the year.  These have been recurring goals as I browse past journal entries.

This year I want to add something new:  For every PB, MG, and YA book I read, I hope to post a review on Amazon and Goodreads to boost the visibility of my author friends and help spread the word about books I really enjoy.  Popular authors like Kate DiCamillo, Neil Gaiman, Katherine Applegate, Jacqueline Woodson, etc, don’t have to worry about getting reviews.  Everything they write is featured everywhere we look.  Rightly so and deserved.

But for many of us who have written quality books for children, and received praise and accolades from friends and acquaintances, as well as the children we write for, I want to take it one step further.  It takes only a few moments to write a sentence or two stating what you enjoyed about a book.  It goes a long way toward helping an unknown author receive recognition and maybe sell a few more books.  (Caveat: If you don’t like a book, spare the author any venomous reviews.  There is enough negativity in this world.)

I hope some of you will join me in spreading the word and “paying it forward” for a favorite author.

Here’s a link to a printable calendar for keeping track of all those reviews…or for setting your own goals.

https://www.redtedart.com/free-cute-printable-calendar/

HAPPY NEW YEAR and Happy Reading!