My 2020 Success List

For Julie Hedlund‘s “12 Days of Christmas for Writers,” one of the projects is to list our successes for the year, and be brave enough to post them. I thought it best to use my blog for this.

I know 2020 has been a hellish year for many. I’m one of the very fortunate people who not only got through 2020 without contracting the virus (to my knowledge), but also without letting the quarantine stuff affect me too much. COVID definitely leveled my caricature business for the year, and for over 2 months I was furloughed from my freelance job, but luckily my husband and I had been saving a lot the year before (we planned to take a trip to Arizona which we of course had to cancel) and we ended up being okay.

Since both my caricature and illustration businesses were quiet, I was finally allowed the time to focus on my book projects. That satisfied me SO much. So here is my list of successes related to my writing this year:

SUCCES #1: I finally created my little “Creativity Cave” in the basement — the only finished room in the basement which I had been meaning to make my own. I painted the walls and started a mural, and bought a colorful rug for the floor. Little did I know this would be an important year to have that room, as my husband has been working from home the whole rest of the year. I gave him the office upstairs that I normally use, and that “cave” has been my sanctuary!

Me in my freshly made “Creativity Cave” in the basement!

SUCCESS #2: I used my furlough time to finally finish illustrating my “Frida The Create-A-Way Fairy” picture book – something I wrote a few years ago and was thrilled to finally bring it to life. I also self published it as a hardcover book through

SUCCESS #3: I took this free time to also FINALLY put out another hardcover picture book, “The Odd Ones.” This is a book which has been collecting dust on my shelf for over 25 years! I wrote and illustrated it in college as my BFA project. The problem was that I illustrated it by hand on illustration board. This made it impossible for me to scan it properly. Years ago I did have a friend photograph the illustrations for me, and that is what ended up in the book!

SUCCESS #4: I finally completed writing the first sequel to my MG/YA book series, Somewhere In-Between! The sequel was called Fighting the Darkness, and it became one of the most personally important books I’ve written to date.

SUCCESS #5: I invested funds in paying Anastasia Ward to illustrate BOTH covers for my Somewhere In-Between series. My own illustration style was not going to do it for me. I really wanted a specific style for these covers. I was THRILLED with the result!

Illustrated covers by Anastasia Ward

SUCCESS #6: I also invested in having two different people edit my Fighting the Darkness book. I was thrilled with my editor, Christy Carlson. She went above and beyond and really helped me create my best piece of writing!

SUCCESS #7: Even in the midst of the pandemic, I found the opportunity to set up a book stand TWICE in a local festival this summer, called “Walking On Wednesdays” in downtown Amherst, Ohio. My mom and stepdad were even able to join me for the second one since they happened to be in town. That was a JOY!

My little book stand for Amherst’s “Walking On Wednesdays” festival!

SUCCESS #9: I conducted my first ever series of VIRTUAL BOOK VISITS at Orchard S.T.E.M. School, Cleveland, OH, per request of the school’s Assistant Principal. I read my flip book, “The Very, Very, Very Bad/Good Day” and it was very well received!

SUCCESS #10: I spread lots of encouragement to other writers during the summer’s Camp NaNoWriMo and November’s NaNoWriMo for the “postcard swap.” I didn’t get any new writing done, but I’m pleased with sending out fifty notes of encouragement to other writers, and I got back almost as many as I sent out! I’m keeping them on my desk in the ole “Creativity Cave” as daily encouragement!

Many of the postcards I received from the November postcard swap!

There were more successes related to my illustration and caricatures (I worked with two new illustration clients this year, and started doing my very first virtual caricature gigs), but this post is meant to focus on my writing accomplishments. It sure feels good to create this list!

Somewhere In-Between ~ A Project of Creative Explosion + Spiritual Guidance

Swoon_Book_Cover_dYRSTqA.jpgI’m thrilled to have released my very first fictional novel. This book was a surprise project to me. The idea came, I wrote it, had it evaluated by Beta readers, and indie-published it all within a span of  seven months!

It amazes me that I was able to accomplish this when the first book I indie-published was originally written when I was thirteen years old (1987), rewrote it at age 26 (2000), then finally completed and put it out into the world in 2013. So basically my first book took me 26 years to complete! Seven months is a shocking amount of time to me to start and finish a book project, but it is also my first book published with no illustrations. I was able to focus fully on the writing of it, and when I got bored of writing, I would shift my focus to designing the cover, which went through many different versions.

I think the reason why this project went so quickly for me was a combination of a few things:

  1. CREATIVE EXPLOSION: Last year I didn’t work on ANY personal projects, when a few years ago I had decided to try putting out a book every year. I had quite a lot of built-up creative energy which had to push aside for almost two years while we prepared our house for sale in Lyndhurst, OH and then searched for our new home in Amherst, OH. When this book idea finally hit me this past Spring, I was ready to let the creative energy explode.
  2. SOME MUCH-NEEDED GRIEF THERAPY: My dad, Bob Carrick, passed away the year before, and per his wishes there was no funeral or memorial service, which left me with absolutely no sense of closure. I had written his obituary, but it wasn’t enough to heal my grieving heart. After a year, I finally decided to go to my friend, Kym McBride, who happens to be a gifted psychic medium and author. She gave me a reading and my dad came through as I had hoped (after my Nana and Soupy had a few words for me – he patiently waited for them to finish with me first). Clapping and rubbing his hands together eagerly, he approached me with an idea. He said he was worried about my depression and suggested working it out through a writing project of some kind. His words surprised me, because at that time I felt my depression was under control. A month and a half later, that was when the idea of my book came to mind in full understanding, and BOOM! As I came close to finishing the book in August, I found myself surprisingly falling into a VERY deep depression. I hesitate to share too much, but this book ended up saving my life at that point. To finish the book and get it out into the world became my reason for living. It might sound overly dramatic, but that’s the truth. This book is packed with ideas I’ve had for years, and gave me an outlet to express my thoughts about spiritual warfare, and how I believe it has affected me – within the guise of fiction. It became a mission to share these concepts with the world, and especially with young readers as they undergo the pains and depression of adolescence.
  3. MY CHEERLEADER KIDS: I have to thank my children a LOT for being my cheerleaders throughout this project. As soon as I felt the first few chapters were ready to share, I printed them out and fed them to my kids. My intended readership was Middle Grade (my son’s age group), but as I kept writing, it seemed to be more specifically for what I would call “Mature Middle-Grade.” My kids LOVED the book and their desire to find out what happened next fueled me to spend late nights writing, to get the next chapter ready for their review the next day! I owe a lot to their encouragement and enthusiasm for the project!
  4. R.L. STINE’S MASTERCLASS: No, I am not an affiliate, so I get nothing out of plugging this class – but I have to share that this online set of lectures by the famous Goosebumps author, R.L. Stine, was a huge help to me while I wrote the book. having never written a book like this before, the advice he shared in these lectures were invaluable to me! I just got the single class and plan to gift myself this Christmas with the “All-Access Pass” so I can also listen to lectures from Judy Blume, James Patterson, Malcolm Gladwell, Margaret Atwood, Dan Brown, etc.

The hardest part of putting a book out has always been the marketing, for me. But I feel like I’ve perhaps stumbled upon an idea I’d never contemplated before: Book Clubs! Since my book takes place in my new town, Amherst, OH, I had two local book clubs pick up reading my book already. I’m realizing this might be the best way to baby-step into a new way of marketing. I’m looking into approaching local book clubs, and I’m brainstorming about what groups might have an interest in picking up my book as a platform for discussion on subjects of grief, spiritual warfare, and the paranormal. I’m looking forward to searching for these groups and approaching them.

It amazes me how quickly a project can come to life when you allow the creative inspiration to take over. I do believe our ideas are really not our own. They are sent to us from God, and it’s the responsibility of the individual to act on this inspiration or to bury it. I encourage others to scratch your creative itch. Go for it! The world needs your project to be released!

Read My New Book FREE on

Screen Shot 2018-09-10 at 10.14.54 AM.pngI am very excited to announce that I’ve submitted my manuscript for Somewhere In-Between to (a branch of Macmillan Publishing).

This is a huge step out of my comfort zone. I normally prefer self-publishing, but I believe this story has a shot at getting traditionally published, so I wanted to give traditional publishing another try!

You can create an account for FREE on to read my manuscript and leave a review! Support is greatly appreciated. I need readers in order to get the publisher’s attention.

I’ve even printed some postcards to help spread the word. I just want as many people reading my book on this site as possible!

Visualizing Exercise for Fiction Writing

dream cast FINALI highly encourage any fiction writer to try this fun exercise to help bring your characters to life in your mind. Okay, I do feel a little nuts doing something like this, but when I actually did it, I was running up and down the stairs at home, I got so excited! This is something I just came up with on my own – I didn’t read it in a book. I just decided it would be a fun thing to do.

As I became more and more engaged with the characters I was writing for my new book, I began to imagine who would play my characters if the book ever became a movie. I tried to be somewhat realistic about it, really putting myself into the role of Cast Director for the movie based on my book (ha!). I became so enthusiastic about this idea, I took a little break from writing and decided to make a little movie poster (representing cast members) for my book’s movie!

This might seem totally wacko, but not only did it seem like a very positive idea to get the whole “Law of Attraction” thing going, but it also became a very fun exercise in character development (which wasn’t my plan – it was just something I felt like doing). When writing my dialog, I could actually see and hear these “actors” I’d chosen in my mind, playing out these roles and interacting with each other. I ended up printing the little poster out and pinned it up on my office wall as part of my personal inspiration while writing.

The result of this impromptu exercise was a much more fluid way of writing. I simply began to dictate the movie that was playing in my imagination. It all became very real. I tried describing tone of voice and mannerisms to help convey character. I chose actors I personally love, but also actors who would physically match the character traits I had in mind.

I shared the poster with my daughter and she had a fun time giving her input on the characters as well (since I had been sharing the book with her while I was writing it). This dialog was extra fun!

Fellow fiction writers, I highly recommend you give this activity a try! Sometimes I have to step away from the writing part and just tickle a different part of my creative brain to get excited again. This worked!!!

The Birth of a Book Idea ~ From my Son’s Language Arts Project.

There’s a book project that’s been brewing inside me for a couple years now. I’ve mulled over it time and time again, scribbling down plot and character ideas. It was originally a book about ghost hunter kids. I wanted to explore my personal ideas about heaven and hell, spirits, angels and demons… but in a fun and approachable way, told through the adventures of three kids.

The final book concept finally hit me like a lightening bolt after spending time with my son, helping him develop his own illustrated book for his Language Arts class this year. My son HATES writing, and is extremely self-critical, so I baby-stepped him through the entire process, trying to make the experience as enjoyable for him as possible. The first step was to make sure he had an idea that he felt would be fun to write about. He was VERY into Stranger Things and The Last Kids on Earth at the time, so the two of us brainstormed together and finally decided on a story idea. It was about a boy attacked by a creature from another dimension – and that contact made him unwillingly able to travel to other dimensions when he fell asleep.

The concept was pretty fun, and we had a good time with it. As I helped him through it, I told him how much I loved his story, and that it was inspiring me to find a final direction for the story that’s been brewing in me for years now.

It was the idea of traveling to other dimensions and the fact that the main character is swept up into it accidentally that intrigued me. It reminded me of my belief that heaven and hell can be scientifically explained as separate dimensions – and that we are unwillingly swept into these dimensions when we are torn from our bodies through death.

A year earlier, I lost my dad to emphysema/COPD and had been struggling with my own grief. This book idea seemed a good timely way to explore my ideas about the afterlife, and my own personal belief that even after we die we still have choices.

Using Camp Nanowrimo (a free online writing challenge that takes place twice a year) as a way to motivate myself to write as many words as I can, I think I’m actually going to get that rough draft done by the end of July! VERY excited, since normally I give myself every excuse not to write. My kids have been wonderfully supportive and enthusiastic as I read them my progress chapter by chapter (testing my target audience)!

I just felt like sharing this journey – I’ve been doing a lot of manifesting exercises, like this Animoto Book Trailer (a trailer for a book that isn’t even ready yet)!

(SEE ABOVE, at top of post)

Well, back to writing some more… AFTER I finally get some sleep. Dang it! I stayed up till 2:00am AGAIN! AARGH!

Oh, well… that’s the life of a writer.

My Journey with NaNoWriMo’s Young Writers Program!

Photo on 2015-10-26 at 10.39

This is my 5th year leading NaNoWriMo’s Young Writers Program in my own community. I began leading a Young Writer’s Group at my home with my daughter and her awesome friends, back in Lyndhurst, OH.

I began this group with two intentions:

One: To see if I would be any good at motivating young kids to write (those who already showed an interest in writing, even a mild interest).

and Two: To encourage my daughter and her friends to get together on a more regular basis. The writing part was a common interest they shared, so it just kind of happened that this group of friends ended up as a writing group that met at my house monthly (yes, National Novel Writing Month turned into an ongoing program for us).

This small group ended up most of the time as a rime to socialize and play, but I was surprised as the years went by that the girls continued their focus on writing. Even after five years, they like to collaborate on Google Docs to create stories. November was always the month to focus back on the writing and challenge ourselves once again.

This year we moved an hour away from where we used to live (from Lyndhurst, OH to Amherst, OH), and my daughter has been forced to try making new friends. A tall order for any introvert. All her best friends were the writing buds back home, so I thought maybe I should try launching an after-school writing program here in Amherst to make it a bit easier to find some kindred spirits, or “peeps.”

I ended up bringing the idea of leading an after-school Young Writers Program for the month of November at Amherst Junior High School (as a volunteer). I met with the Assistant Superintendent in Amherst who brought up the idea at the next board meeting. Thankfully it passed, and I was sent over to have my background check run (insert joke here). I ended up deciding to run two groups – one at the Junior High and one at Nord, the Middle School. Why Nord? Well, I couldn’t help but remember that the 3rd-6th grade ages are actually very fun to work with when it comes to a group like this, because the imagination is so free. The inner critic hasn’t completely been unleashed yet at that age.

Ironically, the Nord group ended up growing to about 25 kids and the Junior High group is at 6, including my daughter. It’s been an interesting learning experience, handling two very different group sizes. The large group can be fun, and I’m glad to be able to engage that many kids, but I can’t get as close to the kids in the group as I would like to because there are so many of them! I feel like I’m getting a little taste of what it’s like to be a teacher, in charge of such a large group of kids. Plus, when my head is turned, that’s when a paper airplane goes flying into the next room, onto the desk of a teacher I didn’t even know was behind the wall next door (facepalm)!

The small group at the Junior High has been more what I imagined. With this group, I have more time to get to know the individual kids. I know what type of genre they each like to write, and I get to share my own work with them at the same time. I get to share my worst book ideas with them and they challenge me to work on those very bad ideas to see if it’s possible to make something good out of them (I’ll share that bit later). There aren’t as many kids in this group as I originally hoped for, but I’m realizing the group size is perfect the way it is. PLUS, some of them want to continue to make the group a monthly meetup – which makes me very happy! And the 8th graders are insisting I continue it at the High School next year – which I am happy to do, even if they end up as the only two participants!

Launching the Young Writers Program in a community that is brand new to me (we have only lived here four months now) has been a true fear-facing challenge for me. The whole fear of rejection thing was very real while meeting with the Assistant Superintendent and waiting for the decision from the board meeting. This is something brand new to me, taking the writing club out of my living room and reaching out to involve more kids.

I keep asking myself, “WHY?” Why am I doing this, really? At first it was just to see if I could help my daughter find more friends. But maybe it was more for myself. I get such satisfaction from getting groups together. I like to see what happens when you get a group of people together and encourage them to be creative, handing them the permission slip to let loose their creative selves – no grades, no pressure, just giving them the freedom and encouragement to write. Writing can be one of the loneliest creative endeavors, and I want these young writers to know they’re not alone.

I guess that’s really what it’s all about for me.


Angel: Sony Zambrano ~ In Memorium


14695379_10208997911159792_2721280924429590629_n.jpgHeaven has gained a lot of angels lately.

Not long after my dad passed away, my friend Sonia (“Sony”) Zambrano passed (January 13). I knew Sony only online, and it was a dream of mine to meet her one day in Iowa. We met on Facebook (2011) in a mom’s group years ago. I shared to the group that I did caricatures, and that’s when Sony contacted me to do a sketch of her brother who had just passed away (January, 2012).

Little did I know, this would be the beginning of a beautiful friendship, and Sony over time became my most cherished patron. 2013 was the year she first approached me to do what we called an “Angel Caricature” for a little boy named Bradley who had just passed away. This was someone she didn’t really know. It was a story she had read or heard about and she felt she wanted to do something to gift the grieving parents with.

I sketched the face of this little boy, giving him angel wings and surrounding him with floating, happy angels. It was the first time I ever shed tears while doing a caricature. I believe some of my tears dropped onto the drawing itself. I never felt such meaning in my work before. I thanked Sony very much for the opportunity.

Time after time, Sony would approach me with projects like this – every time for complete strangers. I would ask her to find the address for me and I would send the original directly to the grieving family. I started leaving notes inside the shipping tube to be sure the family would know who this caricature was from and that it came form the heart (the heart of Sony Zambrano). I counted myself merely as the vessel in which Sony expressed her love and support to others with these special gifts.

After a while, I thought I’d try to promote our mission on my website to ease the financial blow on Sony. She was such an amazing patron, there were times I would “GIFT” her a free caricature just because I appreciated her loyalty as a patron and her mission at the same time. I even started giving her what I called “The Sony Discount” because I appreciated her so much!


Original Website featuring Bradley, the original inspiration for the project.

Since this original “Angel Caricature” idea, I thought perhaps we could try a digital approach to the project which would save on cost, and there would be less need for donations – more a way for people to request these special caricatures to carry on Sony’s vision.


Today I felt saddened as I sketched out Sony’s Memorial Caricature, but wanted to lighten it with the same spirit of love she always wanted me to have in the caricatures she called on me to do for her. Just like Bradley, I surrounded her with happy, floating angels and surrounded her with bright glowing light, mentioning on the sketch that she earned her wings, and scripted something special which she had posted on her Facebook page over Thanksgiving: “Give thanks with a grateful heart. Give thanks to the Holy One.”

Sony, I give thanks indeed, to the Holy One for knowing you as well as I did, here on Earth. I thank Him, and I thank you for teaching me the love I can spread using mere markers and paper.

Thank you, Sony. I will never forget you, and will hold you in my heart forever.


I Miss You, Daddy!

It might sound like a strange thing to do – to write an obituary on your birthday.

My dad passed away two days ago and as a writer I volunteered to write his obit. He didn’t want a funeral, so I’ve been doing things on my own to honor him in my own way. Sharing favorite pics on Facebook, creating a shrine at home based around the wonderful floral arrangements I’ve gotten from family, and now writing this obit. The writer in me had to do this… needed to do this. I had to brag about my dad.

There was something about watching the actor Jackie Gleason on the screen that made me think about my dad. I believe it was that SPARK – whatever it was that made people call Jackie Gleason “The Great One…” My dad had that same special SPARK.

I began to write notes during our conversations on the phone, double checking my accuracy – he had so many stories, I mean to write them down for him and share them with the world – as unbelievable as these stories might seem.


daddy-loresRobert Arthur Carrick (A Man of Many Stories) passed away at the age of 71 at the Hospice House of Southminster in Charlotte, NC on January 4, 2017. Robert (Bob) is survived by his loving wife, Charlene, of 21 years who was at his side when he passed.

Per his wishes, there will be no funeral service.

Bob Carrick began his life Canadian-born in Toronto, Ontario. As a youth, he hung out with “Aunt Ella” (Fitzgerald) while working at Oscar Peterson’s house. In Toronto, he grew a music career with offers to work with bands like Louis Prima and Woody Herman. He even gave Neil Peart a drum lesson.

In 1986 he became a Resident Alien of the United States and began his Security career at Wells Fargo and finally at Carolina Medical Center in Main and Pineville, NC.

Bob Carrick was never a passenger in life. He was a driver of his own dreams. Perhaps his favorite thing to do in life was to see how far he could drive down the path of a dream before hitting a new crossroad. Bob was the kind of person people loved to be around, accepting of everyone, with wit as sharp any legendary comic.

Bob Carrick will be greatly missed by those fortunate enough to have ever known him. He goes down as one of the Great Ones.

Celebrating my new book launch!

bookLast year during November, I participated and succeeded in the Picture Book Idea Month (PiBoIdMo) challenge, coming up with a handful of ideas I liked and a couple ideas I LOVED. This book is one of those concepts originally scribbled down a year ago!

The Very, Very, Very Bad/Good Day is a FLIP-BOOK about attitude.

It was very important to me to create this as a flip-book because I wanted the reader to experience physically flipping the book upside down in order to change the perspective of the day. WHY? To drive the message further to the reader that changing one’s attitude takes ACTION. You shouldn’t just sit and wait for something to happen to change your mood around. Don’t depend on people or circumstances. You must make the effort to change your own attitude!

This book shows the reader exactly how attitude affects not only how you view the world around you, but how others may react to you (or NOT react to you).

I guess part of my inspiration was the movie Groundhog Day, where Bill Murray lives the same day over and over until he finally gets it right. The book takes a boy, Danny, through the exact same day twice, to show what happens when he lives the same day with two completely different attitudes!

I had so much fun making this little book trailer, below:

I’ll be having an official Book Launch Party on the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) website starting December 1, which will also launch a special giveaway contest where you can win original art from the book (I created all art with marker on paper, which I then scanned and manipulated in Photoshop)!

The Very, Very, Very Bad/Good Day is already available for sale on, and I’ll be getting my own samples soon to sell autographed copies.

Two Challenges in One Month (PiBoIdMo & NaNoWriMo)!


I’ve decided to tackle both of these challenges for the month of November. NaNoWriMo is more of a tradition for me. I don’t really expect to meet 50K words in one month (which is the goal in Nano). I have my own word count goal I am working toward instead.

PiBoIdMo is my REAL goal for the month, which is to come up with a picture book idea every day for the month of November. I did this successfully for the first time last year and I grew a LOT from it. Plus, I have a book filled with ideas for picture books – one of which I am finishing up this year, hoping to get it out for sale online before mid-November!

I’m also hosting a Young Writers Program at my home as well as an online classroom to encourage the young people I know to write as much as they can this month as well!