Nancy Raines Day: Interview and Picture Book Giveaway!

I met author Nancy Day shortly after moving to Beaufort SC, when I visited her critique group in nearby Savannah.  Nancy, who lives on St. Simon’s Island in Georgia, drove in once a month to meet there. We found our critiquing styles to be compatible and later we formed an online critique group, which I loved being in for over a year. Nancy’s newest picture book, A is for Alliguitar is one of the manuscripts I saw as part of the group and it is so thrilling to see it now as a hardback book! Nancy is also on SCBWI’s list of writers approved to offer professional critiques. Nancy is celebrating the release of A is for Alliguitar by offering a picture book to give away here! Details at the end of the post. Thanks so much for joining us today Nancy!

I’ll start by asking you what I ask everyone. If you could give your middle school or high school self one piece of advice, what would it be? Actually, I got by those years by giving myself this advice at the time: Later, this (fill in your most recent embarrassing incident here) will make a really funny story.

After attending multiple high school reunions, I have a couple of observations. One, good friends who once ditched you to hang out with cooler people will likely remember you fondly. Also, by and large, the people who were kind of nerdy back then have gone on to live more interesting lives than the ones in the “popular” crowd.

You’ve published seven picture books so far. What’s the best piece of advice you can give aspiring writers? Persistence is the name of the game. When I started writing picture books, I told myself that most people never get published because they give up along the way—and I wouldn’t. Although I was tempted at one point during the ten years it took me to sell the first one, I kept going. And that, to borrow a line from Robert Frost, has made all the difference. So keep on keeping on!

 So true, Nancy. What was the inspiration for your newest book, A is for Alliguitar?  Standing on the St. Simons pier, I was thinking about going to a reunion concert of the youth orchestra I played viola with in high school (nerdy chick that I was)–all the different instruments and the people who played them. Some tourists on the pier were excited about an alligator they had just seen. So, while scanning the water for an alligator and thinking about instruments, my wires got crossed and I said “Alliguitar!”

I wondered if I could come up with a combination like that for every letter of the alphabet. Mostly, I did it for my own entertainment. (Some people do crossword puzzles; I set myself these little challenges.) Then I wondered if I could put it all in rhyme, which–this time–came easily. It was a gift.

It’s always a wonderful gift when things like that work out when writing. Who knew there was an instrument for every letter of the alpahbet? I’m sure some research was involved. Can you tell us what kind of research goes into writing a picture book? Each of my books have called for different kinds of research.

For A is for Alliguitar, Google was a big help in finding lists of animals and instruments that started with the right letter or sound. It also helped me come up with scenarios to pair the two musical alphabeasts in the same stanza and spread. For instance, googling ibis and jackal, I discovered the Egyptians had two gods, one with the head of an ibis and another with the head of a jackal. So the resourceful illustrator, Herb Leonhard, drew them next to a pyramid with alphabeast hieroglyphs below.

For On a Windy Night, my best research was the experience of getting lost in unfamiliar woods as it was getting dark, and walking faster and faster as my camera (instead of a trick-or-treat bag) banged against me and I got more and more worried imagining what—or who—might be behind the next tree. That helped me rewrite the rhyme with a quickening pace, and gave me a good clue about what was going cracklety-clack next to the boy’s ear!  (See the trailer for On a Windy Night HERE.)

For the Miami at Christmastime setting of Flamingo’s First Christmas, I watched videos of movies set there and talked to the children’s librarian at the Miami Public Library. I had already spent hours watching flamingos at my in-law’s Florida trailer park, but I read up on flamingos’ habits to describe how Flamingo moved, etc.

For my first book, The Lion’s Whiskers: An Ethiopian Folktale, I couldn’t travel to Ethiopia, then in a civil war, but I did extensive library research trying to imagine myself there. After I had written the story, I had an Ethiopian who had moved to the U.S. read it. He couldn’t believe I hadn’t been there, so I must have done my homework well.

 So interesting. I’m finding that most nerdy chicks really enjoy research. What is another way that you like to flaunt your brain power? Other than writing picture books that critics call clever? I do like playing along with Jeopardy questions at home—and participating in trivia nights when I get a chance.

I’m sure you would stomp me at any trivia game. What’s something you like to do that might be considered a tiny bit nerdy, but is actually really fun?  Singing in my church choir. It’s something I’ve done since I was in middle school—and everywhere I’ve lived since then. I haven’t kept up with the viola—though I do occasionally take it out of mothballs and play just for fun. But singing in the choir is a good way to make music with other people, which helps me switch creative gears.

Actually, everything I do is NERD-y, because those are my initials!

 You’re the only person I’ve interviewed who can say that Nancy!  To find out more about Nancy, you can visit her website at You can also check out her Goodreads author profile, or read this interview.

Nancy is giving away a copy of A is for Alliguitar! There is a downloadable Activity Guide HERE. You can find out more about this book HERE.

Enter to win this book by leaving a comment!  Contest will end on July 31 and a winner will be selected using  on August 1.  Contest open to residents of US and Canada.


The Quotable Nerdy Chick: Oprah Winfrey

Because this week’s post was about motivation, I wanted to choose a female motivational speaker to highlight for the Quoteable Nerdy Chick. I looked at the words of many of them, then I stumbled upon Oprah Winfrey and looked no further. She should need no introduction. Oprah Winfrey (b. 1954) is an American celebrity who has motivated millions. You can find out more about her life at her official website HERE. Keep reading to enjoy some of her motivational and inspirational quotes.

Oprah Winfrey Quotes:

  • Do the one thing you think you cannot do. Fail at it. Try again. Do better the second time. The only people who never tumble are those who never mount the high wire. This is your moment. Own it.
  • As you become more clear about who you really are, you’ll be better able to decide what is best for you – the first time around.
  • Doing the best at this moment puts you in the best place for the next moment.
  • Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough.
  • Breathe. Let go. And remind yourself that this very moment is the only one you know you have for sure.
  • For everyone of us that succeeds, it’s because there’s somebody there to show you the way out.
  • I don’t believe in failure. It is not failure if you enjoyed the process.
  • I don’t think you ever stop giving. I really don’t. I think it’s an on-going process. And it’s not just about being able to write a check. It’s being able to touch somebody’s life.
  • Books were my pass to personal freedom. I learned to read at age three, and soon discovered there was a whole world to conquer that went beyond our farm in Mississippi.
  • I feel that luck is preparation meeting opportunity.



Summer Motivation

Dune Daisies at Folly Beach. I took the picture when I wasn’t working.

Ever heard of the summer slump?  You know, it’s that time when productivity lulls because of vacations, too many distractions, or it’s just too darn hot to work?  I am always the least productive during the summer months.  My children are out of school, we are on the go, and I find it hard to squeeze in hours for writing, even though I desperately need to.  If I can manage to get everyone out of the house for two hours or more, I am motivated to work. And once I start writing, I am motivated to keep going because I want my characters’ stories to come alive.  I thought it’d be interesting to find out what motivates some of the other people I’ve interviewed here on Nerdy Chicks Rule. I asked a few of them to share what motivates them to work, when they don’t feel like working.  Maybe you will find motivation or inspiration in their answers!

Insanity? (or would it be more politically correct to say mental illness?) lol…i’m buried under a pile of work right now that i would be more then happy to ignore, but that little voice in my head keeps nagging me to get it done, people are counting on me, I have yet to figure out a way to plug my ears from the inside.  🙂 —Donna Farrell, web designer

If I don’t feel much like working, one trick is to spend a little time daydreaming about the final product — what the book would look like, who the audience might be, who the illustrator might possibly be, etc. Of course, I hold these daydreams loosely but it does help me to be hopeful about my work.  —Kristy Dempsey, author and librarian

My Visa bill. — Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen, author

Variety is the spice of life! The same is true of my productivity. Should I tire in one area or lack the motivation in one direction I simply shift gears to another area or direction. Thus, if I’m not able to start or progress in a writing project I shift to another work, home improvement, reading or leisure activity. You might say I keep productivity on the table at all times by remaining flexible enough to allow it to transpire in multiple ways. I also view “unproductive” time just as valuable to the end game as productive time. I don’t fight it, I simply make the best of it. Having a healthy “to do” list on hand makes it easy to shift gears or reverse course when necessary. —Ann-Marie Adams, Aquabet PR

I think about how incredibly fortunate I am to be able to write and illustrate for a living and that usually does the trick! —Dan Yaccarino, illustrator

Inspiring others motivates me to work even when I do not want to! —Shanna Stanton, artist

Sometimes I use the kitchen timer to motivate me. I set it for fifteen minutes and make myself give a manuscript my all during that time. Almost always by the end of fifteen minutes, I am ready to go for hours. But when I don’t feel like working and just can’t get into it, knowing I only have to do it for a little bit of time somehow motivates me. — Kami Kinard

I hope you’re finding ways to stay motivated this summer. If you have any great tips, please share them in a comment! If you want to read more about the contributors above, click on their names to see their Nerdy Chick interviews or visit their websites.

The Quotable Nerdy Chick: Margaret Mead

Margaret Mead (1901 – 1979) was an American anthropologist. She famously studied the influences of culture on personality. Much of her work was done in Samoa with the people who lived there. Her observations became prominent in the 1960s and 1970s. She is credited with helping start the sexual revolution. I had a very hard time narrowing down her quotes to ten, and have to admit that I may have feature her again in the future to get all of the good stuff in! To find out more about her click HERE.

          Margaret Mead Quotes

  • Always remember that you are absolutely unique. Just like everyone else.
  • As long as any adult thinks that he, like the parents and teachers of old, can become introspective, invoking his own youth to understand the youth before him, he is lost.
  • I do not believe in using women in combat, because females are too fierce.
  • I learned the value of hard work by working hard.
  • I must admit that I personally measure success in terms of the contributions an individual makes to her or his fellow human beings.
  • I was wise enough to never grow up while fooling most people into believing I had.
  • We won’t have a society if we destroy the environment.
  • Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.
  • Nobody has ever before asked the nuclear family to live all by itself in a box the way we do. With no relatives, no support, we’ve put it in an impossible situation.
  • What people say, what people do, and what they say they do are entirely different things.

How many of those quotes would be great printed on a t-shirt? 🙂

Check out our last post! Interview with Jaime Reed and a giveaway of two books. Giveaway goes through July 17!

Jaime Reed: Author Interview and Fabulous Giveaway

Author Jaime Reed is a member of a group of 2012 debut authors with me called the Apocalypsies. When I realized she was promoting her trilogy The Cambion Chronicles, I checked out her website and her books and was impressed by this smart woman who fell into writing after looking back at the notebooks she kept in high school. Since my debut novel evolved from my middle school notes, I understood completely how looking back helped move Jaime forward. I’m so glad that Jaime agreed to be interviewed here today. And she’s GIVING AWAY the first two books of her YA paranormal trilogy here too! Details and book synopses follow the interview. Keep reading for Jaime’s informative and entertaining answers to the interview questions.

I’ve visited your website and blog and it seems like you are really in touch with your readers: teens. So if you could give your middle school or high school self one piece of advice, what would it be? Stop worrying what everyone thinks about you. You’ll barely see any of these kids again in six years anyway. It’s not worth stressing out over. Seriously.  Just do you.

What is your favorite way to flaunt your brain power? I have a tendency to use big words and using crazy analogies. My favorite thing is to sum up a friend’s problem in 10 words or less. No matter how heavy the drama or how long they took to explain it, I can outline and diagnose the matter in less than 30 seconds. Unfortunately I can’t use this super power for myself.  But for the most part I just use sarcasm. It’s never failed me before. So you can say that I’m more of a smart ass than I am smart.

Summing things up is an excellent skill. It must help you write synopses! Now that we know how you flaunt, can you tell me what social norms you are fond of flouting? Racial stereotypes are my main rule breaker. I don’t really like labels and preconceived notions about people and I certainly don’t act like the typical “black chick” and I make a point not to perpetuate that stereotype.   I tend to write about characters that break outside of what is considered normal. Generally, I don’t want to do what everyone else is doing, or what is expected of me.

I love that answer. I hate stereotypes too. I read that you have interests in movies, music and art. How do you use your talents in these areas to create fiction? I love movies. I dreamt of becoming a movie director or a screen writer when I graduated from College. Since that never happened, I went with my second love, which was writing. I think fiction writing is as close as I’m going to get and I’m perfectly cool with that. I do have a habit of using movie references and camera jargon in my stories. It gives a bit of cinematic flare as far as visualization for the reader.

And I’ll bet your ability to visualize helps keep your writing vibrant too! What kind of research went into developing the paranormal element for The Cambion Chronicles? How can I describe it? It was like those Russian stacking dolls where one doll is inside of another and it gets smaller and smaller. It was kinda like that- layers of information, one discovery then another then another.  I wanted to find a monster that wasn’t so popular, but I also loved vampires as a kid. So I studied the origin of vampires and found a whole world of lure that hasn’t been explored, creatures who absorb human energy, hybrids, fallen angels, etc.  That’s when I found Cambions. The lure of the Cambion is obscure and I did as much research as I could. The rest was creative license, which is a dream when you want to create a new cannon.

So research really did bring you to the Cambions. Kudos to you for your skills!

I read that you have a playlist for every occasion in life. I thought it’d be fun to give you a list of occasions and you can share the appropriate songs for them. If you’re game, give it a shot.(Just answer the ones you like. If you think of other fun/funny occasions, add them to the list!)

  • You dumped him: Rumor Has It- Adele
  • He dumped you: I Bust the Window Out Your Car – Jazmine Sullivan
  • Irritating teacher:  Break stuff – Limp Bizkit
  • Zombie attack: Fire starter- Prodigy
  • Forgot homework:  Because I Got High – Afroman
  • Getting ready for prom: Music Sounds Better With You- Daft Punk
  • BFF is back from Europe: Magic – Ladyhawk
  • Tripped and fell in front of school: The Benny Hill theme song
  • Wearing your favorite jeans: I Know What Boys Like – The Waitresses

Great list Jaime! I have to laugh at that last one. I remember that song so well… 

 Can you tell us about a well-known fictitious chick you admire and why you admire her?  I don’t really have one, but if I had to choose I would say Hermione Granger from Harry Potter. She’s the smartest one out of the trio and she always comes prepared. I would take brains over brawn any day. It’s an invaluable trait.

I think another nerdy chick or two picked Hermione. What a great character. What’s something you like to do that might be considered a tiny bit nerdy, but is actually really fun? I think not having much of a social life is nerdy enough. Reading and talking movie trivia with other film nerds could qualify too. I simply kill at six Degrees of Kevin Bacon. I also have an obsession with British TV shows.

All of that sounds great to me, proof that I’m nerdy? Do you ever give nerdy traits to any of your characters? I do write smart characters and I’m pleased to announce that being smart is becoming popular these days. The love interest in the Cambion Chronicles, Caleb, is an undercover nerd, with his medieval weapon collection and obsession with music. Sam, the lead character likes to read Shakespeare and talks in Elizabethan speak at random. So yeah, there’s a nerd factor there, but it also makes for interesting character development too.

Those do sound like really interesting characters! How has brain power helped get you through the tough times in life, like when you were trying to decide which career path to follow? It was more of a gut thing than a brain thing. I had to do something that I really enjoyed and would do for free if it came to that. Writing happened to be the first thing that came to mind. Looking back, it didn’t seem the most logical direction, and the odds of success were against me. I actually had to fight my brain to do what I felt was right for me.

It really is hard for logical people to give in to gut instincts sometimes. I know you have tons of readers who are glad you let your gut take over.

I’m so glad Jaime joined us today. To find out more about her and her books, visit her cool WEBSITE, find her on GOODREADS, join  her FACEBOOK page, and follow her on TWITTER .  

How to win the first TWO BOOKS in Jaime Reed’s THE CAMBION CHRONICLES. Living Violet and Burning Emerald!

It is super easy to enter! 

1. Leave a comment below to enter.

2. For extra entries, spread the news about this giveaway on Facebook or Twitter. Add a (+1) beside your comment each time you spread the news.

That’s it! The last day to enter will be Tuesday, July 17. A winner will be picked using on Wednesday, July 18. 

Samara Marshall is determined to make the summer before her senior year the best ever. Her plan: enjoy downtime with friends and work to save up cash for her dream car. Summer romance is not on her to-do list, but uncovering the truth about her flirtatious co-worker, Caleb Baker, is. From the peculiar glow to his eyes to the unfortunate events that befall the girls who pine after him, Samara is the only one to sense danger behind his smile. But Caleb’s secrets are drawing Samara into a world where the laws of attraction are a means of survival. And as a sinister power closes in on those she loves, Samara must take a risk that will change her life forever. . .or consume it.

Coping with loss, keeping secrets from friends, and juggling
classes has kept Sam Marshall busy in her senior year. She
finds comfort in her unlikely companion, Caleb, as their
connection grows to where one cannot survive without the other.
But Sam’s biggest problem is a powerful enemy that wants
her for himself and to destroy Caleb and his family.
Determined to keep Caleb safe, Sam fights a battle where
she is both the enemy and the prize, but victory will come
at a deadly price.

The Quotable Nerdy Chick: Dr. Temple Grandin

Dr. Temple Grandin (b.1947) is an American doctor and inventor known for her work with animal behavior, particularly for the livestock industry. She is also known for her autism advocacy. Grandin was diagnosed with autism as a child. She did not speak until she was four years old. When I read about Grandin, I knew I had to feature her here in honor of my many friends who have loved ones with autism or Asperger’s. In 2010 Grandin was named one of Time’s 100 most influential people in the HEROS category. To find out more about Grandin and her amazing life, click HERE.

Dr. Temple Grandin Quotes

  • People are always looking for the single magic bullet that will totally change everything. There is no single magic bullet.
  • A treatment method or an educational method that will work for one child may not work for another child. The one common denominator for all of the young children is that early intervention does work, and it seems to improve the prognosis.
  • And while we are on the subject of medication you always need to look at risk versus benefit.
  • I am a big believer in early intervention.
  • I can remember the frustration of not being able to talk. I knew what I wanted to say, but I could not get the words out, so I would just scream.
  • I cannot emphasize enough the importance of a good teacher.
  • I have been on the same dose of anti-depressants for 15 years, and my nerves still go up and down in cycles; but my nerves are cycling at a lower level than they were before.
  • I obtain great satisfaction out of using my intellect.
  • If you start using a medication in a person with autism, you should see an obvious improvement in behavior in a short period of time. If you do not see an obvious improvement, they probably should not be taking the stuff. It is that simple.
  • One of my sensory problems was hearing sensitivity, where certain loud noises, such as a school bell, hurt my ears. It sounded like a dentist drill going through my ears.
  • You have got to keep autistic children engaged with the world. You cannot let them tune out.

I think that first quote is true of so many things…


The Quotable Nerdy Chick: Christina Rossetti

Christina Georgina Rossetti (1830 – 1894) was an English poet.  Her brother Dante Gabriel Rossetti was a famous poet and artist and a founding member of The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood.  The portrait of Christina to the right is his work. Christina posed for some of his other famous paintings also. She wrote many beautiful poems, but the one that that always touched me most is Hurt No Living Thing.

If you are not familiar with it, you should be!

Hurt no living thing:
Ladybird, nor butterfly,
Nor moth with dusty wing,
Nor cricket chirping cheerily,
Nor grasshopper so light of leap,
Nor dancing gnat, nor beetle fat,
Nor harmless worms that creep.

It is, of course, harder to live up to this when you see something like a cockroach, but a good point to take to heart nevertheless.

Christina Rossetti said other beautiful things too. Here are some of them:

  •  Silence is more musical than any song.
  • And all the winds go sighing, for sweet things dying.
  • Better by far you should forget and smile that you should remember and be sad.
  • For there is no friend like a sister in calm or stormy weather; To cheer one on the tedious way, to fetch one if one goes astray, to lift one if one totters down, to strengthen whilst one stands.
  • I might show facts as plain as day: but, since your eyes are blind, you’d say, “Where? What?” and turn away.
  • She gave up beauty in her tender youth, gave all her hope and joy and pleasant ways; she covered up her eyes lest they should gaze on vanity, and chose the bitter truth.
  •  Who has seen the wind? Neither you nor I but when the trees bow down their heads, the wind is passing by.

Rossetti is featured as a character in Nerdy Chick Amy Carol Reeve’s historical fiction thriller Ripper.