Introducing the sixth book in the Emmie & Friends series, coming out May 3, 2022…

This time, the spotlight is on that fleeting background character we’ve all come to know and love as “Baked Bean Girl.” (She’s the one who’s always running to the bathroom after a fiber-rich snack.) Well, she has a name — Ruby! She also has a special talent that you’ll learn about in the book, as well as an ex-pal, Mia, who alternates chapters with Ruby. As you get to know both of these endearing characters, I think you’ll be blown away by the story and ending.

As always, social pressure, self-doubt, feelings galore, and hilarity take center stage in this latest installment about learning who your true self is and where your talents lie.

You can pre-order RUBY from any of the links on this page.

As a former comic strip creator, I was witness to fourteen years of my own creative evolution. This goes for both the art and writing. In the early days, my characters looked more like caricatures, with oversized heads and big, bulbous faces. Later, they began to look more like real people (well, as much as cartoon characters can). I guess that’s not surprising since I tend to gravitate toward more “natural” proportions.

As for the writing, the strips were much wordier at first – something my editors always chided me about. Still, it took quite a few years before it sunk in that, duh, newspaper comic strips only have so much room for run-on sentences.

There’s been kind of a parallel artistic evolution with the EMMIE & FRIENDS series. For example, on the left is Emmie from the first book (INVISIBLE EMMIE) and on the right is Emmie from the fifth book (TRULY TYLER).

Much like my comic strip, Early Emmie’s head is a little larger than her body and the proportions aren’t as realistic as Later Emmie (look at those stretchy, preteen legs!). As much as I’ve tried to keep the characters’ appearances consistent throughout the series, they have a tendency to morph on their own (nothin’ to do with me, of course). You can also see that the linework on the right isn’t as heavy-handed.

Something else I’ve noticed [not pictured]: as the books have progressed, I’ve started drawing more details overall. This includes clothing, backgrounds, and shading (graphic novel chapters only). Obviously, I’m not too bright because this creates more work for me. Then again, it also gives me more artistic satisfaction.

As for my writing evolution, much of this is subtle. I’ve definitely been writing longer chapters with each book (again, not too bright). But I also think my writing has become much more layered. I’ve been conscientious about adding more side stories, deeper — and sometimes subtler — feelings, and just generally more subtext. Hey, practice makes…well, more nuanced storytelling.

Other changes: I stopped relying on twist endings after Book 2 (IZZY). Yet — spoiler! — I’m definitely not done with ‘em. I learned I can write from a boy’s perspective. I also stopped telling stories that take place ONLY in one day. Some of this was intentional. And some of it I made up as I went along.

As I progress with the series, instead of getting tapped out (yet), I find myself continually challenged in such a great way. I keep growing and learning; I also try not to confine myself to any particular character (despite having my favorites) or formula.

So let the evolution continue! I, for one, look forward to seeing how far it can go.

On Tuesday, June 29, 7 PM CST/8 PM EST, I’ll be chatting with the very talented author/illustrator Yehudi Mercado about his great new kids’ graphic novel, CHUNKY. You can purchase CHUNKY as well as TRULY TYLER at this event. Aaand…there will be a drawing demo (woo!). Hope you’ll join us!

For details and registering, click HERE.

Got lots of events coming up, many of which I’ll post soon!

This week, in addition to the local Appletree book signing (see previous blog post), I’ll also be taking part in a panel for Ohioana Book Festival Friday, April 23 at 3 pm EST. You can purchase books through this event. This is LIVE, so don’t forget to register!

WOO! I’m doing my first in-person book signing since pre-pandemic times. If you’d like a signed copy of any of my middle grade books (or pre-order TRULY TYLER), I’ll be at Appletree Books in Cleveland Heights, OH for Independent Bookstore Day. Saturday, April 24, 1-2 pm EST. Hope to see all you locals!

Pull up your beach chair and join me for the (virtual) Southwest Florida Reading Festival!

On Friday, March 12, 6-6:30 pm EST, view my fun interview-style presentation, immediately followed by an online meet-and-greet. This is where I’ll happily answer any burning questions you may have (even the weird ones…maybe).

On Saturday, March 13, you can swing by my “virtual” booth from 1-2 EST, where I’ll also take questions. Details here:

Friday, March 12, 2021: 6-6:30 presentation

Friday, March 12, 2021: 6:30-7:30 meet-and-greet

Saturday, March 13: 1-2 pm live booth session