World Hopping and Discovering Your Place: Micaiah Johnson – The Area Between Worlds

This book had me so confused. Not because of its contents (they were awesome – expect some gushing below) but because of its marketing or rather the way early reviews presented it. For some reason, I thought this was a YA book but… it’s really not. The protagonist is in her mid-twenties, there is nothing particularly “YA” about the writing style or the plot, so I don’t know where early reviewers and people on Goodreads got this idea from. It is, however, a really great book that kept me on the edge of my seat the entire time.

by Micaiah Johnson

Published: DelRey, 2020
eBook: 336 pages
My rating: 8/10

Opening line: When the multiverse was confirmed, the spiritual and scientific communities both counted it as evidence of their validity.

An outsider who can travel between worlds discovers a secret that threatens her new home and her fragile place in it, in a stunning sci-fi debut that’s both a cross-dimensional adventure and a powerful examination of identity, privilege, and belonging.
Multiverse travel is finally possible, but there’s just one catch: No one can visit a world where their counterpart is still alive. Enter Cara, whose parallel selves happen to be exceptionally good at dying–from disease, turf wars, or vendettas they couldn’t outrun. Cara’s life has been cut short on 372 worlds in total.
On this Earth, however, Cara has survived. Identified as an outlier and therefore a perfect candidate for multiverse travel, Cara is plucked from the dirt of the wastelands. Now she has a nice apartment on the lower levels of the wealthy and walled-off Wiley City. She works–and shamelessly flirts–with her enticing yet aloof handler, Dell, as the two women collect off-world data for the Eldridge Institute. She even occasionally leaves the city to visit her family in the wastes, though she struggles to feel at home in either place. So long as she can keep her head down and avoid trouble, Cara is on a sure path to citizenship and security.
But trouble finds Cara when one of her eight remaining doppelgängers dies under mysterious circumstances, plunging her into a new world with an old secret. What she discovers will connect her past and her future in ways she could have never imagined – and reveal her own role in a plot that endangers not just her world, but the entire multiverse.

Caramenta works for Eldridge, the company that has invented multiverse travel. As a traverser, she is tasked with hopping between Earths that are similar to, but not quite like, our own in order to take samples and conduct research on behalf of her employer. Cara is so valuable because you can only safely travel to worlds where your other self is already dead – and Cara happens to be really good at dying…

The premise alone was already so interesting that very little could have gone wrong with this book. But Micaiah Johnson didn’t just rely on one good idea. Instead, she took that idea, extrapolated from it and delivered twist after twist, all fitting perfectly together in this world she’s built and keeping me riveted for the entire book. I mean, how often does it happen that you get a plot twist in chapter 2 (!) that actually shocks you? For me, this showed two things. First, that Johnson did a really good job setting up the world and protagonist in the first chapter. And secondly, that she somehow got me emotionally invested in that same amount of time. And that’s no small feat.

Caramenta is pretty easy to like, even though she is complicated, stubborn, and carries a lot of baggage. She keeps flirting with her watcher, Dell, even though she only returns the flirtations with cold professionalism. Cara is also great at getting herself into dangerous situations, ones she mostly makes the best of. The best being her pursuit of a Wiley City citizenship. As a traverser, she gets to live in Wiley City but she never, for one second, forgets her origins in the Mad Max-like wastelands. Walled cities have all the wealth and quality of life, whereas the outside is mostly desert under a scorching sun, with terrible living conditions, and ground that barely wants to grow anything. It’s ruled by the Blood Emperor and that title alone should tell you all there is to know about him.

This book may be about multiverses, and we do get to see some of those, but it’s also about living between two worlds on your own Earth, of straddling two identities and not feeling like you properly fit into either. As much as I enjoyed Cara’s jumps between worlds, it was this aspect of the novel that truly gripped me. And I was very impressed with how the author managed to show both those worlds as believable spaces, with their own culture, their own clothing and mannerisms, their own rituals and rules. Discovering both how Wiley City and the wastelands work was a large part of the fun for me.

But there’s also plot. Oh, and what a plot it is! You’d think the trope of the multiverse would prepare you a little for what’s to come. And again, some things that are expected turn out to happen in this novel – such as meeting other versions of people you know, except they’re very different or meeting their other versions and they’re almost exactly the same – but there is so much more! Things in one universe actually impact other universes, if only because Cara travels between them and can take information (and objects) with her. Let’s just say there are quite a few twists, none of which felt cheap, and I was there for it!

What made this book even better was the relationships between the characters and the way they were written. This may sound mean (I don’t mean it that way) but that’s another thing that convinced me this was not a YA novel. In YA, sometimes relationships can be described in very obvious terms. And while it’s obvious from the start that Cara is in love with Dell, that’s all we really know. We’re in Cara’s head so we don’t really know what goes on in anyone else’s. But as aloof as Dell may be, through little (and sometimes big) gestures, she shows that she at least cares whether Cara lives or dies.
Similarly, Cara’s relationship to her stepsister Esther was beautifully done. As different as these two girls may be, there is love between them and it is shown not by either of them declaring it in big words, but rather through actions. It may just be me, but I’m a sucker for love shown, rather than told. Sure, pretty words are nice and I get weak in the knees as much as the next person when I read a powerful declaration of love. But even more than that, a collection of little gestures is what gets to me. A small lie to protect the other person here, a gift there, something that shows you listen and care about someone… aaaaah, I’m getting all mushy inside.

This book is exactly what the title promises. It’s about the space between worlds. A multitude of worlds. The literal parallel worlds that exist next to ours, the two worlds on Earth Zero with their class differences, even the worlds inside Cara herself where she has to decide whether she wants to be a good person or just someone who carved out a comfortable life for herself, regardless of the cost. And let’s not forget the space between Cara’s two romantic relationships which couldn’t be more different. In short, there is so much to discover in this book and the way Johnson explores these themes is amazing.

I loved everything about this book, especially considering that it’s a debut novel. Johnson writes like she has at least five books under her belt. If this is what she comes up with for her first book I cannot wait to see what’s next. The Space Between Worlds was a fantastic, multi-layered story with high stakes, great science-fictional ideas, brilliant characters, and a satisfying ending. It will easily end up on my list of favorite books of the year.

MY RATING: 8/10 – Excellent!

The Secret French Recipes of Sophie Valroux

 Food. France. Chateau. Yes please. You know I love my foodie novels, and practically every page of this novel screams food. The kind of novel I absolutely love, and race through as quickly as possible. It wasn’t hard to do just that with Samantha Verant’s delicious novel. I feel very lucky to have hit two novels in a row that I couldn’t put down–this one and my previous read, The Exiles by Christina Baker Kline. Two completely different novels, but loved them both. 

Sophie Valroux is a rising chef in New York City. She’s working for a restaurant that has two Michelin stars and they are eagerly awaiting the announcement that they have been awarded a third star. It’s her dream to be part of the team at such a prestigious restaurant. She’s worked hard to get where she’s at; in a field dominated by men, she’s put up with a lot to stay and fight for her place. Her ex-lover Eric is a total asshat, and working together is rough. He is going to open his own restaurant and wants Sophie to work for him. She isn’t interested, so Eric conspires with another coworker to sabotage Sophie’s career so she’ll have no choice but to accept a job at his restaurant. Her dreams come crashing down; she’s a disgrace in the New York food world, and her name is trash. 

After wallowing in depression for some time, wondering if she’s lost her cooking mojo, Sophie decides to reach out to her Grandmere, who lives in France. Sophie used to visit her Grandmere every summer and learned to cook from her-also an amazing chef. But Sophie’s mother kept them apart, and it’s been years since Sophie has visited her Grandmere. 

Grandmere’s health is precarious, and Sophie flies to France to visit her Grandmere and try to make amends. What she finds is shocking: not only has her Grandmere created an outstanding business at the family chateau, but her Grandmere is a top French chef with a sterling reputation. Sophie, still reeling from her character assassination in New York City, is afraid she’ll never be able to cook again. Her Grandmere, however, knows better and gets Sophie cooking and planning menus for the chateau’s restaurant. The descriptions of the food are so delicious I was licking my lips. Verant does an amazing job of building a picture of the chateau, the grounds, the food–so much so that it’s easy to imagine yourself there, ready to enjoy a meal. Sophie’s childhood friend Remi is still here-handsome as all get out, and hostile to Sophie. There are other characters that surround Sophie, and you get to know them and their quirks along with Sophie. 

The big question is: will Sophie remain at the family chateau, or will she return to New York City to redeem her reputation? Will she keep pursuing her dream of Michelin stars, or realize family, home, and the opportunities at the chateau are the key to happiness? 

There is a lot of back story involving Sophie’s mother, who died by suicide when Sophie was eighteen. The relationship between Sophie and her grandmother suffered because of her mother, and a lot of work goes into repairing that relationship before it’s too late. There’s a lot of emphasis on family recipes, handing down traditions, honoring the past, and seeing community as family that requires nurturing and care. Looking at dreams and examining if they are still what you want, or is it time to create a new dream?

Loved this book. Sometimes I wanted to shake Sophie out of her doldrums, and her relationship with Remi is a slow burner. But otherwise, I so enjoyed this foodie novel. I haven’t read one in awhile, and whenever I do return to this genre, I realize how much of an armchair chef I am and I don’t mind a bit. There are discussion questions and recipes in the back of the book, if you’re brave enough to try out some of Sophie’s delicious recipes. 

Rating: 4/6 for a novel that truly took me away to France. The food, the setting, the characters are all charming and definitely made this one I had trouble putting down. Pour a glass of wine, make up a bread and cheese plate, and let it take you away, too. 

Available in paperback, audio and ebook. 

SANITY & TALLULAH by Molly Brooks / #SanityandTallulah

SANITY & TALLULAH by Molly Brooks is finally out on bookstore shelves! Released last week from Disney Hyperion, this is a brand new, sci-fi, graphic novel, middle grade readers will enjoy. 


Written & Illustrated by: Molly Brooks
Published by: Disney Hyperion
Released on: October 16th, 2018
Ages: 8 & up
Add it to Goodreads
A copy of this book as provided by the publisher in exchange for my honest review

Sanity Jones and Tallulah Vega are best friends on Wilnick, the dilapidated space station they call home at the end of the galaxy. So naturally, when gifted scientist Sanity uses her lab skills and energy allowance to create a definitely-illegal-but-impossibly-cute three-headed kitten, she has to show Tallulah. But Princess, Sparkle, Destroyer of Worlds is a bit of a handful, and it isn’t long before the kitten escapes to wreak havoc on the space station. The girls will have to turn Wilnick upside down to find her, but not before causing the whole place to evacuate! Can they save their home before it’s too late?
Readers will be over the moon for this rollicking space adventure by debut author Molly Brooks.

An out of this world debut! This is a fun, fast paced, diverse read with engaging illustrations. Part of what makes this graphic novel so appealing is it’s mix of sci-fi, adventure, and and mystery. Brooks does a wonderful job at intertwining all these elements together to create a story that middle grade readers will enjoy. 

Set on a dilapidated space station, this story quickly gets interesting when best friends Sanity and Tallulah, create a three headed cat named Princess, Sparkle, Destroyer of the Worlds. When she gets loose, things quickly go from bad to worse. Not only were they not suppose to create this cute three headed cat,  these two best friends need to find her before she destroys the station. In the middle of all the chaos, they also discover something else that is causing more problems than Princess Sparkle, Destroyer of the Worlds is. Hopefully they can stop it before it’s too late.

I loved that there are two intelligent girls at the heart of this story. Tallulah and Sanity not only have a strong friendship, they have a diverse support group of family and friends on the space station that help them. The mystery added a fun twist to this story. With the rise of popularity when it comes to graphic novels. this one worth adding to any middle school library / classrooms, I’m looking forward to reading more of Sanity and Tallulah’s out of this world adventures. 

Giveaway! This Quiet Sky by Joanne Bischof!

Welcome to Writing for Christ Joanna Bischof, it is great to have you here! So you’re a writer? What made you decide to start creating characters and story world?

Thank you! I’m so glad to be here! Thinking back on how I got started as a writer, I can’t recall a time that I wasn’t creating characters. It just seems like I was always telling stories. The habit is getting harder to kick as the years go on. 😉
What is the one title that has significantly impacted your life?

Ooh, that’s a hard one. It kind of sounds cliché, but I’ll say Little House in the Big Woods. It’s one of the first books I can remember hearing my dad read to me as a child and it not only made me country at heart, but it planted that seed in my heart for story. It’s one that I’ve loved sharing with my own children now.
If you could get a do-over when it came to learning this whole thing called writing, what would you go back and tell yourself?
I’d tell myself that the more you write and work and learn, the more you will wish you could go as you were meant to.

back and re-do, but to press on and in looking back, only look back with joy and thankfulness that with each story, in that point of your life, you wrote the book you were meant to exactly

5 preference questions:

Homemade or take-out? Homemade (but I almost wrote take-out)
Email or snailmail? Snailmail. My dad’s a mailman so I’m biased. And I LOVE sending and receiving cards.
Online shopping or Black Friday deals? ONLINE SHOPPING
Books or movies? Books! I’m a sucker for Dystopian YA and that is my great escape.
Note-taker or memorization? Note-taker all the way
Yes, I’m asking you to play favorites…which of your books is your favorite, published or unpublished? And if this is your debut novel, has your favorite been published yet? 

Oh what a question! Hmmm… I’d say that my favorite book is yet to be published. It’s one that I wrote this year and was such an intense experience. It was a storyline that I didn’t dare tackle, in a time of my writing career when I didn’t dare try and write another book….but them sometimes God has different plans. The story tumbled into my lap at church in the middle of the sermon and I quickly dug through my purse and found an old receipt to write the idea down on (sorry Pastor, Joe!).
It was a subject that I knew very little about and would require a lot of research. It was also a subject that pretty much terrified me. I have a dear friend who I confided in and asked her to talk me out of it. She ended up talking me farther into it and four weeks later, after an utter whirlwind of writing and simultaneous research, I had a 93,000 word book staring back at me. Despite the hectic pace, or perhaps because of the pace, it was the most worshipful writing I’ve ever done. It was a God-thing through and through, each step of the way. The story is so dear to my heart and I’m dreaming of the day it might be published.
Places for readers to learn more about you?

Readers can find me on Facebook or at my website. Also, I send out a newsletter3 times a year and in the upcoming Christmas edition, I’ll be giving away some goodies to subscribers!
Oh, and I’m on Pinterest so if you’re a pinner, I’d love to clink teacups there!

Thank you for being with us today!

Thank you for having me, Casey!

Readers, enter to win Joanne’s book here! (this is an ebook only contest)

Please leave an email address! If I draw your name and there is no email, you will not win.

For extra entries:
~Be a follower
~Be a subscriber

Contest is only open in the U.S. and void where prohibited. Chances of winning are based on the number of entries and winner is draw from a non-biased third party- I am not responsible for any lost or damaged items for said prize.

Thanks for coming by to enter! Contest ends on December 26th
Attn Readers! If you’re struggling to leave a comment on my blog, please email your comment entries (in ONE email) and I will submit it for you. But PLEASE only do this after you’ve failed to leave a comment. My email is: caseym.writer(@) 

A Phrase with Diana Gabaldon and George R. R. Martin

Last weekend, my writing sisters and I attended a fun event sponsored by our city library and a local bookstore. A Word with Writers consists of a candid conversation between two acclaimed authors who share experiences and anecdotes about their writing. The inaugural lecture featured none other than the beloved Diana Gabaldon, the author of the Outlander series, and George R. R. Martin, the brains behind the successful Game of Thrones. They both had a lot to say about what inspired their work and what their writings processes are like. Here are some of the evening’s highlights.

About their backgrounds and what inspired their books:

Gabaldon’s background is very interesting because she’s a scientist with degrees in zoology, marine biology and ecology. She blames her father for this copious amount of studying since when she was young, he had told her that she was a “poor judge of character” and would probably marry badly. To avoid a life or poverty, he recommended that she became a self-reliant professional. Gabaldon obediently got her PhD.
In her mid-thirties, Gabaldon decided to write a novel, more as practice than anything (she didn’t intend for anyone to read her work). Since she was so good at doing research and she liked history, she decided it would be a historical novel. Now the only question was where/when should she set it? The answer came to her while she was watching an episode of Dr. Who and spotted a man in a kilt. She was so taken by this man that she decided to write about a Scotsman. Being that a novel requires conflict (to her own admission, this was all she knew about novel-writing) she settled on the Scottish wars against England during the 1700s. Of course, she needed a woman to create some sexual tension with this beautiful man. Claire came to Gabaldon through an image of a woman in a cave full of men. She was English and very different from other 18th century women. When Claire opened her mouth, she recited her full name. There was nothing Gabaldon could do to tame her modern spirit. She fought with her throughout the novel, but eventually gave up and told her: “Go ahead and be modern, I’ll figure out why later.”  In that sense, she confesses, the time-traveling element in Outlander was an accident.
In contrast, Ser George had always been a writer and a reader. He was a Sci Fi, Fantasy and Horror fan—which used to be the same genre—and as a child, he wrote and sold horror stories to other kids. He eventually earned a master’s degree in journalism. For many years, he worked in Hollywood as a TV writer in shows such as The Twilight Zone and The Beauty and the Beast, but there came a time where he wanted to work on his own stories, and so he turned to novel writing. When asked about his inspiration, he mentioned Tolkien as a big influence.

About their writing processes:

Martin offered an interesting analogy for writers. He said there are two kinds of novelists: gardeners and architects. An architect designs a blueprint, plans how he’s going to develop it and then does it. A gardener digs a hole in the ground, throws seeds and water, and hopes something will grow. Martin admits he’s a gardener. When he started A Song of Ice and Fire, he didn’t have a clear idea of where he was going with the story. All he had was the first scene and characters who kept telling him what they wanted. But characters can be treacherous, he says, and like a gardener he sometimes has to pull out weeds—which might explain why he kills so many of them!

Following the same analogy, Gabaldon also calls herself a gardener. However, her process is not linear, like Martin’s, but “organic.” She gets an image in her head and fleshes it out into a scene. Once she has several chunks, or scenes, she stitches them together into a narrative. She admits that when she started she didn’t know anything about writing novels (she had, however, written a 400-page dissertation). So she set two rules for herself: a) she wouldn’t stop, no matter what, and b) she would do the best she could.

Before she was done with the first Outlander book, she found an agent who was so taken with her story he signed her on right away and sold her book in four days. She didn’t originally plan to write so many sequels, she just knew that “there was more.” Her agent originally got her a three-book deal, but the novels kept coming.  Her writing is so accidental that her next series following the adventures of Lord John, a secondary character in the Outlander series, came about because she was invited to participate in an anthology of short stories. Since she didn’t want to interfere with Outlander’s main characters and plot, she thought of Lord John—who then took a life of his own.

Martin agreed with Gabaldon in that he didn’t plan to write such a long series either, but he was happy to do it since readers nowadays love to follow characters for 10-15 years. He says his entire series is one continuous story told in several books.

Diana Gabaldon and George R. R. Martin signing autographs

About their use of language:

Since Martin’s novels are set in a “quasi medieval world” he had to find a balance between modern syntax (so the audience wouldn’t be lost) and flavoring his text with archaic words to give the novel a proper context and avoid anachronisms. He called this the “common tongue of all fantasy novels.” He initially overused words like “mayhaps” or “forsooth,” but his editor objected. They reached a compromise by having the older characters use these terms and the younger ones employing a more modern language—as it tends to happen in real life.
Martin did not invent languages the way Tolkien did (he joked that Tolkien wrote The Lord of the Rings just so he could use his languages) but he made up five words of High Valyrian, and will make up a 6th if necessary. For the show, however, whole languages had to be invented since you can’t just say, “She said in High Valyrian.” Now when he writes a scene, he has to call HBO to ask how a character might say something in whatever language. The show hires people whose hobby is to invent languages with proper syntax and grammar to develop Dothraki and High Valyrian. As a funny anecdote, Martin mentioned that a fan once requested a High Valyrian dictionary.
Gabaldon mentioned that she has a few translators who help her with Gaelic, and she loves the sound of it.

About their TV shows:

Gabaldon announced that the Outlander series is now in production. The producer, who had previously worked in Battlestar Galactica, took two days to talk to her about the show. They decided that as a prologue, they would show a scene of Claire in a military hospital during WWII. Gabaldon had a blast inside the “Outlander world.” She admitted that at first she didn’t like the actor selected to play Jamie Fraser, but after seeing his audition she knew he would be absolutely perfect for the role (even though he accidentally said “OK” during a scene where Jamie was being pressured to marry Claire).
It took a lot longer to find Claire and poor Sam had to go through innumerable “chemistry tests.” Eventually, they found an actress who had the right chemistry with Sam and would play the perfect Claire. When someone asked Gabaldon if she would like to write for TV, she confessed she’s not a team player and likes to keep control of her writing.

Martin, on the other hand, mentioned that he writes one script per season and would love to write more, but he has yet to finish two 1500-page books. Yeah, you read correctly.
What’s interesting is that both shows will share actors. Apparently the BBC has churned out twenty or so actors, who participate in everything involving an English or Scottish accent. Every single one of them is in Game of Thrones, and, according to Martin, will appear in the Outlander series after they are killed off from GoT. (Ha!)

Anecdotes and questions:

Martin was asked which part of Westeros he’d choose to live in, if he could. He said Dorn. “It’s warm, the women are warm and the food is spicy. It’s New Mexico!”

Gabaldon mentioned that during an interview with a German reporter, tired to keep her tongue in check, she said she loved a man in a kilt because “you know he could have you up against a wall in 30 seconds.”

When asked about their thoughts on self-publishing, neither one of them recommended it. Martin said writers are supposed to write, not publish or market books. He commented how sad it was to see writers desperately trying to sell their work in Bubonicon conferences and such, and how people often avoid them. Martin thinks that self-publishing is only a good idea for well-known authors whose names alone sell books.

They both acknowledged that it’s not easy to break into publishing, but the only thing a writer can do is keep writing.

In spite of the fans who wanted hints about how both series will end, neither Gabaldon nor Martin said a word. The only thing Gabaldon admitted to was having written the last scene ten years ago. “How I will get there is an entirely different question,” she said.

On a side note:
This has been a year of changes and exciting new opportunities for me. I would like to share some of them with you, my dear readers. First, I have a new agent for my generational saga (the first novel I wrote) the awesome Liza Fleissig of the Liza Royce Agency! Last but not least, my historical novel, The Black Letter, has made it to the Amazon Breakout Novel Contest Quarter Finals! If you’d like to take a look, you can find an excerpt here


It’s an uncertain time right now… … BUT … One thing is certain, LOVE IS LOVE!

Today William asked me to marry him. And I said, YES!!! Of course I did!!! We’ve built a beautiful life together and this is just another milestone in this journey. Instead of engagement rings, William had two sterling silver beads made by Anne Choi! Anne is a dear family friend and a super talented metalsmith and artist. When William and I started dating, we had an inside joke, where I told him that he could buy my love with Anne Choi beads. LOL! Like the good man that he is, he listened! Every once in awhile I’ll get a bead to mark a special occasion. (I’ve amassed quite the collection over the 12 years we’ve been together.) Anne doesn’t take custom orders, so this was extra special. She even sent the broken mold. So no other beads will be made quite like this one.
What do they say? “Petit a petit les deux oiseaux font leur nid.” It means, “little by little two birds build a nest.” If you’ve been following along with our journey with Allegory Gallery, then you know the original French saying has played a special role in our lives. The bead features a variation of the quote, one with TWO birds instead of just one.
❤️❤️ I know right now there’s a lot of anger and darkness. There’s a lot of sorrow and grief. As much as it’s a sobering reminder that there’s more work to be done, it is also a reminder that life is precious. Nothing is certain. And in the darkest hours is the time when the light is needed the most. Love will prevail! ❤️❤️
I was so happy that I ugly cried on the kitchen floor. I was so moved by the kindness and thoughtfulness William put into his proposal. He wanted to wait for a special moment, but being together now in the world that we live in is more than special enough!

Leonie Tyle on what makes a terrific kids’s ebook

You’ve been associated with children’s books in many ways
– as a librarian, reviewer and publisher to name a few. Do these many
perspectives help in knowing when you see a promising book manuscript?

Years of reading all kinds of texts certainly informs your ability to appreciate good writing. The first paragraph of a manuscript can be indicative of what is to come. Writers need to make that first paragraph intriguing and a hook into the rest of the work. The reader must be willing from the beginning to go on a journey with the writer. How can you ever forget the first sentence in Orwell’s 1984:

It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were
striking 13.

What do you look for in a children’s book manuscript? What
makes a manuscript stand out?

This is almost impossible to answer because it is
subjective. Each person’s response to a piece of writing is informed by all the
experiences they have had in their lifetime. I look for that unique voice which
is fresh, original and intriguing. The writing must have something to say in a
clear and heartfelt way. It should delight and challenge. Whether the writing
is for adults or children it should have that indefinable quality called heart.
When I see it I know what it is.

Feedback you provide in the Writing NSW manuscript assessments can focus on aspects of the manuscript such as voice, plot characterisation, readability or writing techniques, to name a few. Do you find writers have common areas they need to work on, or is each children’s book manuscript different?

The universal problem all writers have in common is that
they tell rather than show. Simply telling the reader information is like
watching a scene from above. It doesn’t allow the reader to become involved in
the story. Trying to get the balance between telling and showing is difficult
to master.

An assessment can help a writer see where the major flaws in their writing are occurring. Often the writer is too close to the work to see where the problems lie and an assessment can point them in the right direction to fixing them. Writing is a lonely occupation and an assessment gives the writer the opportunity to ask questions to a professional that they might not be able to ask anybody else. I try to make a manuscript assessment a positive experience looking at the strengths and weaknesses of the writing and showing how to make it the best it possibly can be.


Leonie Tyle has been dedicated to children’s literature as a librarian, reviewer, speaker, editor and publisher. She was Children’s & Young Adult Publisher at University of Queensland Press and established Woolshed Press, a children’s literary imprint for Random House Australia. Both lists have won many awards including the inaugural Prime Minister’s Literary Award for Young Adult Literature. She is currently a Partner in Tyle&Bateson Publishing, a multi-faceted publishing services enterprise.

Do you have a children’s book manuscript? Join Leonie Tyle for an online manuscript assessment on Saturday 17 October. Book here>>

Manuscript Assessment at Writing NSW in Sydney

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X-files and X-stitch



Butterfly #2 Halfway Done

It’s week 2 of the ILP, and cross stitching is going great so far. I’m excited every time I get to pull out my quilt and see how the butterflies are coming together. For some reason, it’s so hard for me to envision what the end product will look like, up until I get about halfway done (as seen above). I didn’t really thing I’d like Butterfly #2’s colors, and I thought about changing them, but I’m very glad I didn’t.

My progress so far has been great. I’m moving much faster in my stitching and moving throughout the entire process much quicker, so I’m overall getting things done faster. In a few hours time, I can complete a wing of a butterfly, all whilst binging the x-files for the first time. It’s great company, and I love that i have something to keep my hands busy for once (I usually play sudoku or do something on my phone).


Mulder and Scully are keeping me company while I cross stitch.

However, I’m also finding myself with a little less time every day to do some cross stitch, so In that regard, progress has slowed a bit. I had hoped to have this butterfly done by the end of this week, but oh well! That’s life.

As far as my own technique and learning experience, I’m getting much better with my embroidery, though it’s still a little crooked looking. My stitches are getting tighter and more uniform, and I can personally see a huge difference between this butterfly and the first one. I’m hoping by the time I finish the entire quilt, it will be very obvious how I’ve progressed! One of the perks of having a physical project that I get to do every week is seeing my progress.

Butlerfly 10.jpg

Butterfly #2 before the embroidery.

I haven’t really had the opportunity or reason to learn anything new about cross stitch this week, unfortunately, but I am looking to the future with my projects, and that’s very exciting. I’m hoping I can get the entire quilt done, with the hand quilting, batting, and doing the border, all things I’ve never done before. Afterwards, I think I’m going to try my hand at some counted cross stitch, and I’ve found some great pieces that I want to make for some friends.

Right now, I haven’t told anyone in my family, and only one friend about what I’m doing, so I’m hoping to surprise everyone with my finished quilt when it’s done! I can’t wait to see what kinds of reactions I get from it. Hopefully I will be able to finish the entire project before class is up, so I can report back and let everyone know what my family thinks. I’m not typically a super crafty person, so hopefully it will be a pleasant surprise.


Butterfly #2 all naked.


In the meantime, I’m going to keep chugging along and finishing as much of my butterflies as possible. I’m hoping to get a butterfly done each week.

Son of a Witch- Commanded by Cosmic Forces (Kozmik Artifactz/Dying Time Information)

This was released in Brazil in 2019 and only this year by Kozmik Artifactz in Germany on vinyl with a CD as well.  I quite liked some of their first album from 2016 so it was interesting to hear the new one. It features 6 tracks in about 50minutes.  After an intro, the Black Clouds of Lie kicks in with some heavy doom straight off.  Some really powerful vocals by King Lizzard.  The track really kicks off at about 3.5 minutes and after another heavy section the band space out with some cool guitar and bass-drums and then they hit the high tempo stoner rock groove. Killer track. Breathe Dust slows things down a lot. Some long delays on the vocals, which I like as it makes it more psychedelic.  The track changes a lot and becomes more melodic as it heads to the end but not before returning to some epic doom. Idol of Marble starts slowly with the bass leading the way and you keep expecting them to kick into some super heavy doom but they sort of stay in this interesting bluesy slow glide.  Dry Leaves brings the heavy back on this quite emotional track. Melting Ocean closes out this diverse doom rock record.  Great effort guys. Obrigado…..