Thursday, June 30, 2011

Book Giveway! -

In my last post I told you about a great new website called where I'm fortunate enough to be a Featured Author. Well, the site has officially launched and to help celebrate I'm giving away three copies of the first Professor Barrister book, THE CASE OF THE TRUNCATED TROODON!

To enter, just click over to and follow the links to the giveaways. Then scroll down to my name and click to send me an email at That's it and you'll be entered.

"But, Steve," you say, "I'd have to click my mouse like two or three times to do that. Is it really worth it?" Well, yes, it is. And to prove it, here are the Top 10 reasons to enter my giveaway:

10.  Free. Book. 'Nuff said.
9.  If you've ever said anything like, "We need to expect more of our kids," then you have to get a kids' book with the word 'truncated' in the title.
8.  The illustrations are amazing. See?
7.  All your friends' kids have read it.
6.  Dinosaurs. 'Nuff said.
5.  If (when) your kid(s) love it, there are already three other books in the series.
4.  And book #5 will be out by Christmas!
3.  The problems are solved by smart, nice kids, not snarky teen-wannabes.
2.  It's a really good book. Really. Check out these reviews on Goodreads and Amazon.
1.  FREE. BOOK. What are you waiting for? Click here now!

For more information on me and my books, check out these links:
and be sure to follow me on Twitter.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Love a Happy Ending

Don't you just love a story with a happy ending? Me too. Not everyone does, of course. Some people even look down on them. I was a German major in college and they have a word for such an ending: "das Happyend." It's no mistake that they had to borrow from the English, and there is a decidedly negative connotation to the word, as something simplistic and unserious.

Similarly, there was a recent controversy in the YA (young adult) world when the Wall Street Journal published an article bemoaning the prevalence of violent and deviant themes in YA (think self mutilation, violence against homosexuals, incest, drug addiction, etc.). I'm not sure if there was an official response article, but Twitter lit up with the hashtag "#YAsaves" and testimonials about troubled youth who had found healing in these books.

To the extent the WSJ article suggested those types of subjects should be banned from YA, that's going too far. But the suggestion that YA--or any genre--should only have edgy, dark, downer stories also goes too far.

Happy endings have a place too. Just because the reader knows that there will be a happy ending doesn't mean s/he knows how that ending will be achieved. And there's nothing wrong with wanting to read a story with an uplifting message or feel-good resolution. In fact, I would argue that reading such stories can help instill a sense of universal, karma-like fairness which, even if not true, can nevertheless help us get through those times when life shows us just how unfair it can be.

So if happy endings have a place, where is that place? The answer is! This is a brand new site devoted to books with happy endings. I'm a Featured Author and I'm proud to share that status with a couple dozen other new and exciting writers whose works span from children's (like mine) to romance to adventureto whatever you love to read. Launch Day is June 29, featuring book giveaways and much more!

So if you're looking for a good book with a happy ending, check out the authors and offerings at There's sure to be something to fit your taste. And if you like kids books--especially kids books about smart kids, goofy scientists, amazingly well-drawn dinosaurs, and, of course, happy endings--check out my page there too.

So what say you? Are happy endings trite and unserious, or are they sometimes just what the doctor ordered?

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Building a Story

How does an author build a story? I've heard and read a lot of different analogies. Here's mine.

Below is post from August 6, 2010 (on my old blog on It explains how I conceptualize crafting a story. I wrote it as I was finishing up the first draft of PROFESSOR BARRISTER #4: THE COLORFUL CAUDIPTERYX. I really like this post and wanted to share it on my new blog, especially now that CAUDIPTERYX has just been published.

Give it a read and let me know what you think.

Today was a good example of why you don't submit your first draft. But to fully explain, let me step back a bit into how I conceptualize the writing of one of these books. It's like building an animal from the inside out.

First, you decide what animal. Dog? Cat? Zebra mussell? That's the genre. Mystery, romance, or in my case: children's chapter book.

Second, you build the skeleton. That's the basic story. These characters do this to solve that problem. Here, Prof. Barrister and the kids, Nate and Emily, travel back to Cretaceous China to see if the professor's theory about feather colors is correct.

Next, the muscles. That's the story line that pulls the story along. Where does the story start (the professor's lab), why do they have to go back in time, how will they solve the problem, what additional problems will they face?

Then it's the organs. The parts of the story that are unique and self contained. They could encounter any number of different dinosaurs, but now that I've settled on a Sinosauropteryx, exactly how do they come across it, what happens with it, how does that interaction propel the story, how does it end?

Next is the skin. This is where the story gets smoothed out in a nice attractive package. This is the editing. Work out the kinks, fix those words and phrases that aren't quite right.

Finally, the clothes. That's the illustrations. Not necessary, but visually appealing. And if done right they accentuate the best features of the body (story) underneath. (Yeah, I know, animals don't wear clothes. Well, some do, and anyway the metaphor works here.)

So as I was editing the final dinosaur scene, I realized I had put the wrong organ in the body. It was a nice, well written organ, but it was in the wrong animal. Like a beautiful set of fresh, pink lungs ... in a fish. I had written it so the professor solved the problem and saved the day, but I realized the kids should solve the problem. A few edits later, Emily and Nate had saved the professor instead of vice versa. My fish had a wonderful set of gills and the story was immeasurably better.

To see how this particular animal turned out, get your hands on a copy of THE CASE OF THE COLORFUL CAUDIPTERYX.

In the meantime, especially you writers out there, how do YOU build a story?