TALES FROM THE BAYOU: Smells Like Fall

 

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This hot, Tennessee September does nothing to remind me of growing up in the swamps of Louisiana, except for the humidity.

Septembers in the swamps were usually wet. If you weren’t running away from hurricanes, then you are wearing galoshes and raincoats as you are dodging downpours walking the mile or more to school every day. We didn’t have the pretty fall leaves like you do around here most years. Our trees went from green to brown and there was nothing fun about having to rake up a bunch of dead brown leaves from the yard…especially when you never knew what critters might be buried under that pile of wet, rotting leaves.

But despite all of that, it was my favorite time of year back then and now. The weather starts to get a little cooler. Mornings get a little chilly…sometimes even with a bit of frost on the windows or leaves and it won’t be too soon before you can see your breath fogging up things on your way to school. 

It also meant it was almost time for the annual Fall Festival at the Catholic Church in town. My father was Catholic, although not a practicing one until very near his death and my mother was Methodist. Mother raised her children in the Methodist faith, but to her, church was church and the summertime meant Vacation Bible School at both Methodist and Baptist churches, and carnivals at the Catholic Church come the Fall.

There always seemed something mysterious about the Catholic church in my hometown. It was built in an almost Spanish mission style and whenever I walked inside those gates, I always wondered if a tribunal sat somewhere on the other side, just waiting to hear my confessions. Despite my nervousness, the Fall Festival was a time for music, dancing, carnival games, good Cajun food, and my favorite…bingo!

I never played more than a card at a time, but watched in fascination other people who scattered six or more cards in front of them at one time…brooding over them like a mother hen as they covered each number with a colored tile until the excitement of being able to shout “BINGO!” propelled them from their chairs in search of the prizes they had won. I only remember winning one year and it was a beauty. A robin egg blue porcelain lady’s cologne bottle in the shape of a high laced boot, with a dark round blue velvet pincushion on top. To this day, I still don’t know what sewing had to do with the perfume in that bottle but back then, my 9 year old mind thought I had won the French lottery!

Writing was a bit like playing  bingo. Putting all your cards out on the table and playing the best way you can. Investing your blood, sweat, and tears in the possibility you might have a winning story. And when you finally hear those sweet words “SOLD”, it’s like winning the bingo jackpot and you float to the stage to accept your prize of a publishing contract and go home happy you were brave enough to even be in the game at all!

Ahhh, don’t you just love Fall?

 

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HM-SHIP-OF-DREAMS (cover)

Amelia Earmouse travels back through time to uncover little known secrets. You may THINK you know your history, but wait until you see what Amelia uncovers in this latest volume of HISTORY’S MYSTERIES!

In Book One, Ship of Dreams, ten-year-old Margaret can hardly wait to see the largest ship ever built visit Southampton! Life is already hard for her family in the spring of 1912, but the coal workers’ strike could turn a bad situation into a deadly one. Margaret hopes to see the great Titanic leave on its maiden voyage, but will the strike prevent it from happening?

 

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donna - Copy

 

Best selling, award-winning author, Donna L Martin, has been writing since she was eight years old. She is a 4th Degree Black Belt in TaeKwonDo by day and a ‘ninja’ writer of children’s picture books, chapter books, young adult novels and inspirational essays by night. Donna is a BOOK NOOK REVIEWS host providing the latest book reviews on all genres of children’s books, and the host of WRITERLY WISDOM, a resource series for writers. Donna is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators and Children’s Book Insider. She is a lover of dark chocolate, going to the beach and adding to her growing book collection. Donna’s latest book, HISTORY’S MYSTERIES: Ship of Dreams, is available in eBook and print form from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books A Million, and other online retailers. Also, coming soon to the Titanic Museums in Branson, Missouri, and Pigeon Forge, Tennessee!

 

WRITERLY WISDOM: Donna L Martin

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5 Ways To Avoid The Slush Pile

by Donna L Martin

 

No two words strike more fear in the heart of a writer than “slush pile”. And I think no two words cause more confusion for a writer as well.

Whether you are a newbie writer or established author, sometimes it’s hard to either figure out exactly what an agent or publisher wants to see in a subbed manuscript, or even what a slush pile is. So let’s clear up confusion number one…

What exactly IS a slush pile? Simply put, it’s where all manuscripts end up if they haven’t been specifically requested by an agent or publisher. No matter how fantabulous your story is, if the right person doesn’t request it, you’re still going to fight to make your way to the top of the stack..

So what’s a writer to do?

Bottom line, you want your story to have the best chance to catch the eye of that agent or publisher who will be so blown away by your stellar storytelling style they can hardly wait to mail that fat advance check to you, right?

Well, I can’t guarantee THAT, but I CAN tell you five ways to help you avoid swimming at the bottom of some poor publishing assistant’s “to read someday” stack. Here they are:

1. Writer’s Conferences…if you can afford it, conferences are one of the best ways to meet agents and publishers face to face. Publishing professionals are only human and that human connection, along with a perfectly polished pitch, might just be the thing to get a request for your manuscript.

2. Twitter Pitch Parties…participating in pitch parties like #PitchMas, #PitMad, and others are the next best thing to meeting agents and publishers face to face. Participating in a Twitter pitch party is a great way to network and possibly even meet your next future agent!

3. Agent Contests…entering contests like Miss Snark’s Monthly Secret Agent Contest at http://misssnarksfirstvictim.blogspot.com/p/secret-agent.html helps get your pitches out there where agents and publishers can see them. It only takes one well crafted pitch to entice them to ask for more.

4. Publishing Contests…there are literally hundreds of contests out there offering publication as part of the prize package. Valid sites to check out include the Poets & Writer’s list at http://www.pw.org/grants?gclid=COX1otb09sICFcKHaQod6SkAeA, or even specific submission sites like Creative Nonfiction at https://www.creativenonfiction.org/submissions.

5, Author Platform & Social Networking…the path to publication is long and rocky and weighed down in twisty curves to frustrate the newbie writer. Building a strong author platform to include a website or blog, Facebook Author Page, Twitter presence, Pinterest boards, etc. shows potential agents & publishers you are deeply committed to your craft and your career. Seek out the agents or publishers you are interested in and connect with them through social sites. Take the time to interact with them on their blogs, on Twitter and Facebook. One of those connections could eventually be just the thing you need to garner that coveted manuscript request.

There you have it. Publishing is a subjective business and as a professional writer, you must do your due diligence to make sure your manuscript has the best chance to avoid the dreaded slush pile.

 

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HM-SHIP-OF-DREAMS (cover)

 

Amelia Earmouse travels back through time to uncover little known secrets. You may THINK you know your history, but wait until you see what Amelia uncovers in this latest volume of HISTORY’S MYSTERIES!

In Book One, Ship of Dreams, ten-year-old Margaret can hardly wait to see the largest ship ever built visit Southampton! Life is already hard for her family in the spring of 1912, but the coal workers’ strike could turn a bad situation into a deadly one. Margaret hopes to see the great Titanic leave on its maiden voyage, but will the strike prevent it from happening?

 

**************

 

donna - Copy

 

Best selling, award-winning author, Donna L Martin, has been writing since she was eight years old. She is a 4th Degree Black Belt in TaeKwonDo by day and a ‘ninja’ writer of children’s picture books, chapter books, young adult novels and inspirational essays by night. Donna is a BOOK NOOK REVIEWS host providing the latest book reviews on all genres of children’s books, and the host of WRITERLY WISDOM, a resource series for writers. Donna is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators and Children’s Book Insider. She is a lover of dark chocolate, going to the beach and adding to her growing book collection. Donna’s latest book, HISTORY’S MYSTERIES: Ship of Dreams, is available in eBook and print form from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books A Million, and other online retailers. Also, coming soon to the Titanic Museums in Branson, Missouri, and Pigeon Forge, Tennessee!

THOUGHTFUL THURSDAY: Racin’ & Writin’

 

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What does the horse racing world and writing have in common?

Handicaps…you know, those obstacles placed in the way as an attempt to either “level” the playing field or hold something back from achieving a higher goal.

I don’t really follow horse races like the Triple Crown races anymore. But I have been fascinated with one race horse for as long as I can remember.

Man O War.

Why, even the name seems as regal as the horse himself. No one had any idea just what amazing feats this one horse could do when he was a foal. That is, no one but the horse himself. And once Man O War starting showing the world what he could do, everyone began putting handicaps in his way. Despite all the handicaps, this horse managed to win every single race during his career…except one…and that was the rider’s fault, not “Big Red’s”. His own owner refused to put this horse in the Kentucky Derby because he judged him to be “too young” for such a race. And yet Man O War went on to win the other two races of the Triple Crown. The HORSE knew what he was capable of, but his OWNER decided to throw a handicap in his way of superstardom. Officials within the racing circuit would even add lead weights to his saddle…up to 30 pounds and more…just to try and slow him down because apparently he was “embarrassing” the other horses by being faster than them.

Wait a minute…isn’t that the point of horse racing? To SEE who is the fastest?

Writing can be seen as a sort of race as well. A challenge for the individual to get to the finish line…whatever that may mean to that individual. Maybe the goal is to write the next great ________ (fill in the blank with novel, play, song, etc…you get the idea) or maybe the goal is to be the family historian and capture those moments in a personal history before they are forgotten.

My goal is to become a great children’s books author. I don’t mean “great” as in well-known, although I certainly wouldn’t turn my back on that…lol…but I mean the BEST I can be without allowing handicaps to stand in my way. I’ve realized in the past that one of my MAJOR self-induced handicaps was the fact I doubted my own writing ability. That wall of “what ifs” held me back from embracing the love I have for writing. What if no one likes what I write? What if I fail at becoming a children’s book author? What if I succeed??? The many “what ifs” weighed me down until I simply stopped trying.

Then I decided it was time to let go of the handicaps and do the thing I love to do…to write. To learn how to become better at this and allow others to participate in my journey should they decide to come along. To take the critiques given with an open mind for all the lessons to be learned and to NOT see them as a “handicap” holding me back, but as an “incentive” to keep pushing me forward toward my own finish line.

So what is YOUR handicap? That thing you have placed in front of you to slow down your own race? Wouldn’t it be more fun to enjoy the ride as Man O War did and leave the “handicaps” for other people to worry about? Well done, Man O War, for not letting others tell you how GREAT you could become but just believing in your own ability…well done!

 

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HM-SHIP-OF-DREAMS (cover)

 

Amelia Earmouse travels back through time to uncover little known secrets. You may THINK you know your history, but wait until you see what Amelia uncovers in this latest volume of HISTORY’S MYSTERIES!

In Book One, Ship of Dreams, ten-year-old Margaret can hardly wait to see the largest ship ever built visit Southampton! Life is already hard for her family in the spring of 1912, but the coal workers’ strike could turn a bad situation into a deadly one. Margaret hopes to see the great Titanic leave on its maiden voyage, but will the strike prevent it from happening?

 

*************

 

donna - Copy

 

Best selling, award-winning author, Donna L Martin, has been writing since she was eight years old. She is a 4th Degree Black Belt in TaeKwonDo by day and a ‘ninja’ writer of children’s picture books, chapter books, young adult novels and inspirational essays by night. Donna is a BOOK NOOK REVIEWS host providing the latest book reviews on all genres of children’s books, and the host of WRITERLY WISDOM, a resource series for writers. Donna is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators and Children’s Book Insider. She is a lover of dark chocolate, going to the beach and adding to her growing book collection. Donna’s latest book, HISTORY’S MYSTERIES: Ship of Dreams, is available in eBook and print form from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books A Million, and other online retailers. Also coming soon to the Titanic Museums in Branson, Missouri and Pigeon Forge, Tennessee!

FLASH FICTION TUESDAY: Down To The River

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Kali’s feet knew the way to the river without her even having to consciously think about it. Which was good because her heart hurt too much for her mind to focus on anything else.

Stephen would have loved this time of year. All reddish gold, the falling leaves fluttered like butterflies and floated away from him as he would skip down the path to the river. Kali would look at his white blonde hair, puppy brown eyes, and her heart would swell with love for the little boy embracing life with all the joy a five year old could muster.

Kali’s feet slowed as she rounded the corner and saw the tree. Even now, after two years, seeing that tree standing guard over the spot where they recovered his body still had the power to shock her. Tears sprung to her eyes like it was yesterday. They said it was an accident. They said Stephen slipped on a muddy bank and fell into the river.

But she knew better.

It was the butterfly floating leaves’ fault. Swirling with light, they challenged her little boy to fly. Maybe now his wings were strong enough to take him to a safer place.

Folding her clothes and placing them at the base of the tree, Kali quietly slipped into the chilly water. It almost took her breath away but she just focused on the golden leaves floating just beyond her reach and let herself be carried deeper into the river…

 

Okay, your turn! What happens next? Does Kali reunite with her son in another place and time? Add to my story or start one of your own in the comments below…

 

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HM-SHIP-OF-DREAMS (cover)

 

Amelia Earmouse travels back through time to uncover little known secrets. You may THINK you know your history, but wait until you see what Amelia uncovers in this latest volume of HISTORY’S MYSTERIES!

In Book One, Ship of Dreams, ten-year-old Margaret can hardly wait to see the largest ship ever built visit Southampton! Life is already hard for her family in the spring of 1912, but the coal workers’ strike could turn a bad situation into a deadly one. Margaret hopes to see the great Titanic leave on its maiden voyage, but will the strike prevent it from happening?

 

************

 

donna - Copy

 

Best selling, award-winning author, Donna L Martin, has been writing since she was eight years old. She is a 4th Degree Black Belt in TaeKwonDo by day and a ‘ninja’ writer of children’s picture books, chapter books, young adult novels and inspirational essays by night. Donna is a BOOK NOOK REVIEWS host providing the latest book reviews on all genres of children’s books, and the host of WRITERLY WISDOM, a resource series for writers. Donna is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators and Children’s Book Insider. She is a lover of dark chocolate, going to the beach and adding to her growing book collection. Donna’s latest book, HISTORY’S MYSTERIES: Ship of Dreams, is now available in eBook and print form from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books A Million, and other online retailers. And coming soon to both Titanic Museums in Branson, Missouri, and Pigeon Forge, Tennessee!

TALES FROM THE BAYOU: Shucking Time

 

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It’s days like today…hot, sultry, last days of summer days…that reminds me of summer time in the swamps of Louisiana. When you come from a poor family and grow up in a small Cajun town, you have to be creative to keep food on the table.

And my mother was as creative as they come..

Poverty and pride do not work well together, so my mother had no problem haggling with the local farmers who would come through town, driving up and down our little streets, calling out what they had for sale. If you were interested, you would simply flag them down. The farmer would stop , pull out an old-timey scale and the bargaining would begin.

Mother usually had one or two farmers who would come by our house at the end of their routes. The two of them would haggle and before you know it, money exchanged hands and Mother would basically scoop up the “rejects” of the day for pennies on the dollar. This might be where I inherited my “treasure-hunting” spirit.

There would be bruised tomatoes where my mother would cut away the bad and can what was left. I remember one time in late summer, one of the farmers stopped by the house with what amounted to a truckload of corn. He was tired and wanted to go home while my mother knew how much that corn would help stretch our food budget in the coming winter months. A few minutes of haggling and our closed in front porch was literally overrun with fresh corn waiting to be shucked.

If you’ve never shucked corn, here’s a little bit of advice…

WEAR GLOVES!

Those leaves surrounding the ears of corn have razor sharp edges and can slice up your fingers real quick. But the thought of munching down on a fresh from the garden that morning ear of corn topped with my mother’s hand churned butter was a great incentive. All I have to do is close my eyes and that mountain of corn comes back to me.

I tackle my writing like I did that corn and tomatoes. I shuck away the unnecessary parts of each story and trim away the dead weight. All that’s left, hopefully, will be a tasty story to share with my readers…

 

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HM-SHIP-OF-DREAMS (cover)

 

Amelia Earmouse travels back through time to uncover little known secrets. You may THINK you know your history, but wait until you see what Amelia uncovers in this latest volume of HISTORY’S MYSTERIES!

In Book One, Ship of Dreams, ten-year-old Margaret can hardly wait to see the largest ship ever built visit Southampton! Life is already hard for her family in the spring of 1912, but the coal workers’ strike could turn a bad situation into a deadly one. Margaret hopes to see the great Titanic leave on its maiden voyage, but will the strike prevent it from happening?

 

************

 

donna - Copy

 

Best selling, award-winning author, Donna L Martin, has been writing since she was eight years old. She is a 4th Degree Black Belt in TaeKwonDo by day and a ‘ninja’ writer of children’s picture books, chapter books, young adult novels and inspirational essays by night. Donna is a BOOK NOOK REVIEWS host providing the latest book reviews on all genres of children’s books, and the host of WRITERLY WISDOM, a resource series for writers. Donna is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators and Children’s Book Insider. She is a lover of dark chocolate, going to the beach and adding to her growing book collection. Donna’s latest book, HISTORY’S MYSTERIES: Ship of Dreams, available now in eBook and print form from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books A Million, and other online retailers. Also coming to the Titanic museums in Branson & Pigeon Forge soon!

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TALES FROM THE BAYOU: Dodging Mother Nature

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I’ve always had a connection with hurricane season. Growing up in the swamps of Louisiana, it always surprised me that our school year began when it did. The first day of school almost always matched up with the arrival of the latest hurricane or tropical storm that chose to stop by. 

I would miss the first days of school…like everyone else in my hometown…as we battened down the hatches and weathered Mother Nature’s fury. I always knew when the old kerosene lanterns came out and my mother started filling up the bathtub  with fresh water, a major storm was about to hit our little abode.

Mother had a knack for keeping four young children calm during the howling winds and torrential rains by making the fact the electricity went out more of a game than something to be nervous about. As I got a little bit older, there were even times when she would take us outside when the eye of the storm was overhead so we could see the beauty and power of the elements. Then it was a mad dash to get back inside before the howling started up again when the backside of the hurricane passed over.

I feel for the people in the Caribbean. There were many years we were trapped in our house with no way out because Mother didn’t drive and my father was stuck in the middle of the Gulf on an oil rig. And there were other times when my entire family stood huddled in the high school gymnasium as my father lifted me up to look out the windows just in time to see rooftops and trashcans go sailing across the street from us. Later, he would drive us back home, taking a very long detour because of the aftermath of flooding, and even to my young eyes, I recognized the devastation Mother Nature could bring to one tiny town on the bayou…

 

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HM-SHIP-OF-DREAMS (cover)

 

Amelia Earmouse travels back through time to uncover little known secrets. You may THINK you know your history, but wait until you see what Amelia uncovers in this latest volume of HISTORY’S MYSTERIES!

In Book One, Ship of Dreams, ten-year-old Margaret can hardly wait to see the largest ship ever built visit Southampton! Life is already hard for her family in the spring of 1912, but the coal workers’ strike could turn a bad situation into a deadly one. Margaret hopes to see the great Titanic leave on its maiden voyage, but will the strike prevent it from happening?

 

**************

donna - Copy

 

Best selling, award-winning author, Donna L Martin, has been writing since she was eight years old. She is a 4th Degree Black Belt in TaeKwonDo by day and a ‘ninja’ writer of children’s picture books, chapter books, young adult novels and inspirational essays by night. Donna is a BOOK NOOK REVIEWS host providing the latest book reviews on all genres of children’s books, and the host of WRITERLY WISDOM, a resource series for writers. Donna is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators and Children’s Book Insider. She is a lover of dark chocolate, going to the beach and adding to her growing book collection. Donna’s latest book, HISTORY’S MYSTERIES: Ship of Dreams, will be available in eBook and print form from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books A Million, and other online retailers on October 14th, 2019.

WRITERLY WISDOM: Donna L Martin

author

 

Author Event Planning

by Donna L Martin

 

I’m already lining up author events for when HISTORY’S MYSTERIES: Ship of Dreams comes out so I have put together a list of ten things I need to keep in mind as I get closer to my book’s release date. Hopefully some of these ideas might help someone else as well…

1. If you have ready-made Event Flyers for the personnel at your event to hand two weeks in advance, it will help build momentum prior to your arrival. Include things like the title of your book, how they can purchase it, book cover with blurb, date & time of the event, and who to contact for more information.

2. Add a Bookmark to those event flyers and your audience will have information regarding pre-orders or even directing them to your website.

3. Plan a Talk instead of just a book signing. Interact with your audience to help them feel connected to what you have to offer.

4. What about holding your event somewhere other than a bookstore? Maybe at a local youth group community center? Or out in the open? The library closest to my house sits on the corner of a small park and there is a pavilion large enough to have a table, chairs and even displays with grassy areas for the audience to lounge on the ground picnic style.

5. Pair up the purchase of your book with something else…i.e. two for one sale. You might want to bundle your current book with an older one as a package deal. Or maybe if they purchase your picture book, you can include some illustrator coloring pages as well for free. 

6. Make sure you have a way to contact the people attending your event. Have a sign up sheet for email addresses and offer some type of incentive for providing that information. Maybe you already have a newsletter you send out just to your email subscribers. Maybe you have worked out a deal with your publisher to offer 10% off their purchase if they sign up to receive occasional emails from you.

7. Arrive an hour before your event and greet the store personnel. Thank them for their assistance in helping to create a successful event. If at a bookstore or other retail space, mill around and hand out copies of your event flyer. Encourage people to come by and visit with you later.

8. Make sure your local newspaper, radio, and TV stations know about your event. If your publisher doesn’t send press releases, make sure YOU do. A lot of media outlets have community boards or ways of getting the word out about local talent. Announce it on Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin and any other social sites you regularly participate in. Ask your friends to help get the word out about your event.

9. After the event send a thank you note to the person in charge of opening the doors to you in the first place. If your event was at a bookstore offer to come back at another time to autograph any pre-orders once they are delivered. It’s going the extra mile to impress them so you will get a return invitation for your next book!

10. Take a moment to make notes about your impressions of how things went. Even if you just sit in your car after loading things up, write down estimates of how many attended, if you know how many books were purchased or ordered, what kind of questions were asked, if the audience seemed engaged as well as things you might need to work on before your next event. If you wait until you are back home, you might forget something you really wanted to remember during the excitement of the day.

Anything I left off this list? What do YOU do to make your author events special? Let us know in the comments below…

 

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HM-SHIP-OF-DREAMS (cover)

 

Amelia Earmouse travels back through time to uncover little known secrets. You may THINK you know your history, but wait until you see what Amelia uncovers in this latest volume of HISTORY’S MYSTERIES!

In Book One, Ship of Dreams, ten-year-old Margaret can hardly wait to see the largest ship ever built visit Southampton! Life is already hard for her family in the spring of 1912, but the coal workers’ strike could turn a bad situation into a deadly one. Margaret hopes to see the great Titanic leave on its maiden voyage, but will the strike prevent it from happening?

 

*************

 

donna - Copy

 

Best selling, award-winning author, Donna L Martin, has been writing since she was eight years old. She is a 4th Degree Black Belt in TaeKwonDo by day and a ‘ninja’ writer of children’s picture books, chapter books, young adult novels and inspirational essays by night. Donna is a BOOK NOOK REVIEWS host providing the latest book reviews on all genres of children’s books, and the host of WRITERLY WISDOM, a resource series for writers. Donna is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators and Children’s Book Insider. She is a lover of dark chocolate, going to the beach and adding to her growing book collection. Donna’s latest book, HISTORY’S MYSTERIES: Ship of Dreams, will be available in eBook and print form from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books A Million, and other online retailers on October 14th, 2019.