Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Texas Critters You May Have Never Seen

The other day, a friend of mine posted a picture of a nutria she'd seen at a nearby Central Texas riverside. She thought it might be a beaver, which is completely understandable, as they are about the same size. So I thought I'd compile a collection of the craziest critters in the area. And I know they're all here, because as a lifetime Texan, I've seen them all! How many of these creatures did you know were here?

Barn Owl

If you've ever heard a bone-chilling cry in the middle of a Texas night, well . . . it could be a lot of creatures. But if you then see a white, round face hovering in the mist, it's probably a barn owl. They are found all over Texas and nest everywhere, not just barns. But most people never see one because they only come out at night. You can find out more HERE. 

Photo by: Cherie Haines

I've seen some beautiful animals in my life, but bobcats are about the top of the list. Named for their 'bobbed' tails, they can be found throughout Texas and are divided into two subspecies, the desert bobcat and the Texas bobcat. They are shy and are generally only on the prowl at night, so you'll be lucky to see one! Find out more information HERE. 

Alligator Snapping Turtle

Funny thing about Alligator Snapping Turtles–I've had several wildlife experts swear up and down to me they don't exist in Central Texas. But I've had the fortune to see three in my life, two in Austin and one in Manor. The two in Austin were fighting in Shoal Creek and looked like two prehistoric creatures in some kind of epic battle. They are on the endangered list. If you are ever lucky enough to see one, keep your distance, their bite can snap a log in half so imagine what it could do to a human arm. Well, maybe better not. For more information about these guys, look HERE.

Tarantula Hawk 

Up on the list of 'fiercest insects ever' has to be the tarantula hawk, a type of wasp found all over Texas. They can be up to three inches long and have one of the most potent stings of any wasp (I mean, they have to be able to take down a tarantula, after all). The good news is most of the time they are non-aggressive. So if you see one, best to walk the other way. More information HERE.

Flying Squirrels

Ask a Texan if they've seen a squirrel and they'll probably blink rapidly and point to the backyard. Ask them if they've seen a flying squirrel and they probably won't even know they exist . . . and yet flying squirrels outnumber regular squirrels in some area. 
Flying squirrels can't truly fly, they glide from tree to tree by stretching out their skin like a sail. These creatures are adorable . . . too bad they're hard to find. 
For more information about flying squirrels, go HERE.

Picture by: Cherie Haines


Very few animals look so deceptively huggable as a porcupine, but as we all know even a tiny squeeze would bring pain and maybe even death. Porcupines have up to 30,000 quills. They are mostly slow-moving, easy-going creatures, but if they fear a threat they will swing their tail at an assailant, leaving the would-be attacker with a face full of quills. Ouch. Find out more about Texas porcupines HERE. 

These beaver-like creatures are considered an invasive species because they burrow through roots and destroy water vegetation important to other species. However, they are extremely fun to watch if you spot them on the banks of the river. Just look at those orange teeth! 
Find out more about nutrias HERE. 

So that's my list! How many of these animals have YOU spotted in the wild? Which creatures would you add to the list? Please share in the comments below.

Friday, May 3, 2019

Cultivating Childhood Creativity

"Mom, I'm bored."

If you're a parent, you've heard this or the equivalent what seems like a million times a day. If your house is like my house, once the screens blink off the complaints begin. "I have nothing to do." "Can I watch something?" "Can I have a snack?"

As a mom of four, I don't believe in always solving my children's problems. However, I do:

Surround them with books and activity books
Provide them with craft materials. You don't need tons of stuff. Save cardboard boxes and tubes and have crayons, glue, scissors and other basics. (My kids also love clay)
Encourage them to go outside.
Visit the library often.
Allow them to watch craft tutorials
Give them dress-up materials that aren't pre-made costumes, like shawls, hats, belts and scarves. Encourage them to create their own superheroes or characters
Give them two board games with missing pieces and tell them to make a new game with their own rules.

The times I step back and leave my children to their own devices are the times they create the most amazing games. Not sure what was going on here with my daughter and son, but I'm sure it was a: dire and b: epic.

A book about Creativity
When I was a kid, we played a game where we'd think up a dangerous situation and then say what we would do.
"What if the house was on fire?"
"What if you were in a bank during a robbery?"
"What if a monster was coming after you?"
My kids play this game, and one day, I heard my daughter growling, and then a door slammed, as my son yelled, "tigers can't open doors!"
So a book was born, and after much time and effort, and with the help of an amazing author from Vietnam, Trandang, Tigers Can't Open Doors has become a reality.
If you'd like a copy, you can find it on Amazon for Kindle and paperback. Look HERE. 
Tigers Can't Open Doors is about two boys who face a goofy, shape-shifting monster. They keep thinking of creative ways to thwart each creature, but in the end, they might just need help from mom.

Friday, April 26, 2019

Coming Soon, to a Texas Town Near You!

One of my favorite parts of being an author is . . . meeting readers face-to-face. I'd love to autograph your book and see your smiling face for real! Here's a list of the places Jamie Foley (my co-author) and I will be in the next few months. Come and see us! 

Thursday, April 25, 2019

New Giveaway!

If you follow my blog, then you know I LOVE contests. So we're doing a fantastic giveaway with 2 other wonderful children's authors! We have April Cox, who wrote the adorable The Little Labradoodle Puppy Pickup Day (Amazon author page HERE) and Mary Nhin, who co-wrote How to Win Wimbledon in Pajamas, Mental Toughness for Kids, with her son, Kobe Nhin. (You can see her Kickstarter HERE.)

This is a pretty nice one, with three picture books, two activity books, a Mental Toughness Kit, and of course, a 25.00 Amazon gift card which can be used for whatever your heart desires. It only takes a minute to win it! Go HERE for more information!

Friday, April 19, 2019

Hook in Readers with Better Words for Crowdfunding, Ads and Blurbs

Blink, and your audience will miss it. In a land of millions of books, you only have a split second to catch a potential reader's attention.

As a writer who loves marketing, I still find myself against a wall sometimes and have to figure out a way around. I found myself stuck at 607.00-just over 50% funded-for three days in a row with my Kickstarter.

I took a look at my campaign and realized my opening paragraph was aimed at children . . . not adults, who would be the ones stumbling across my campaign. I had completely forgotten the rule I've learned about campaign wording–always use action words at the beginning to hook people in.

So I changed my opening paragraph from "An adorable narwhal spends his day meeting other ocean creatures" to "Teach children about these beautiful 'unicorns of the sea' and other amazing Arctic creatures."

Parents and teachers need to see the VALUE of a book, why are they choosing it among the thousands of others available?

Action words are important for Amazon blurbs, AMS ads, and Facebook ads. Start your ad with words like

  • Join
  • Discover
  • Teach
  • Come Along
  • Ride Along
  • Find out
  • Play with
  • Experience
When I changed the hook, I had THREE new backers in one night after three days of crickets.
I have also used these words for much more effective hooks for my AMS ads and Amazon blurbs. The difference has been substantial.

I challenge you to try this and see what happens! Here's my KS page for reference. http://kck.st/2VCRUPz

What changes have you made to your ad copy to see amazing differences? Please share in the comments! 

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Kickstarter for "Little Narwhal's Day" Launches!

Once upon a time, a little narwhal awoke to the sun's rays streaming through the waves . . . 

Please join me on this exciting opportunity to be the among the first to sponsor this delightful book, illustrated by the amazing Indira Zuleta. For every ten books funded, one book will be donated to Dell Children's Hospital in Austin.

Special early bird price for 2 days only! Until April 13th.

Check out the Kickstarter HERE. And please share on Facebook and Twitter! Thank you so much for your support. As an author, it means the world to me. 

Friday, March 29, 2019

New Contest! Amazon Fire Tablet and Fantasy Collection!

New contest alert! My co-author, Jamie Foley and I have teamed up with two other authors from her company, Fayette Press, to offer you a great opportunity to win an Amazon Fire, signed fantasy paperbacks, (all clean by the way), or Kindle books!

Check it out! Share for more entries! 

a Rafflecopter giveaway