Saturday, 29 July 2017

Book Release: The Enchanted Snow Globe Collection - Book One: Return to Coney Island by Melissa Stoller

I'm happy to be able to have ChaBooCha member Melissa Stoller announce her book release here (see below).


By Melissa Stoller
Illustrations by Callie Metler-Smith
Release date July 24, 2017

On March 16, 2017, I wrote a blog post during The Chapter Book Challenge titled “Working Your Way Through ChaBooCha 2017." On May 23, 2017, Chapter Book Challenge hosted my cover reveal. And now I couldn’t be happier to announce the book birthday for my debut chapter book series THE ENCHANTED SNOW GLOBE COLLECTION – BOOK ONE: RETURN TO CONEY ISLAND!

It’s a story about nine-year-old twins Emma and Simon who thought they were going on an ordinary sleepover. But when they shake a snow globe from their grandmother’s collection, they are transported to Coney Island in 1928. After a series of adventures, including a ride on the world-famous Cyclone roller coaster, they must help their great-grandparents meet according to family legend on the Coney Island trolley. Otherwise the twins might never be born! This story is very dear to me as it’s based on the meeting of my own grandparents, Jessie and Jack. I pitched the manuscript to Callie Metler-Smith, Publisher at Clear Fork Publishing/Spork, as The Magic Tree House book series meets the Back to the Future movies. And luckily she loved the story as much as I did!

After many years of writing picture book drafts and collecting rejections (with time in between writing parenting articles and a parenting resource book), I finally got back to writing for children. I started to write this story as a picture book but realized that a longer story was just waiting to be told. So I turned to the chapter book format – and that made all the difference. The Chapter Book Challenge and courses such as The Chapter Book Alchemist with Hillary Homzie (through Mira Reisberg’s Children’s Book Academy) helped me hone my craft. And my critique groups – I can’t say enough about my writing pals who worked with me through various drafts of this project! The love and support from my husband, Larry, and three daughters Zoe, Jessie, and Maddie, inspired and encouraged me to keep going! And my mother Connie (Jessie and Jack’s daughter) has always been my first and best reader and editor! Check out my Dedication and Author’s Note to learn more!

Wait until you all see the wonderful illustrations by Callie Metler-Smith. Aside from being my publisher at Spork, Callie is also an incredibly talented illustrator. I had ideas about what the characters and scenes would look like, but Callie’s imagination and vision for this project surpassed my expectations and really brought the story to life!

And now this book is out in the world! What started as a story based on the lives of my grandparents will hopefully touch the hearts of many children. I’m so excited to start doing school visits and book signings. I hope the children I meet will realize they can “make good things happen” in their everyday lives, just as the twins Emma and Simon did in the story. And I hope the book will inspire children and their families to dig deeper into their own histories. I include a Book Club Guide so families can connect through discussion questions and enrichment activities, an easy snow globe project, a recipe, and ideas for further topic research.

Stay tuned for BOOK TWO – THE LIBERTY BELL TRAIN RIDE, where the twins shake another snow globe from their grandmother’s collection and are transported back to Philadelphia and San Francisco in 1915. Along with a young Great-Great-Aunt Lucy, they must help the Liberty Bell get back on track. Releasing from Spork in April 2018!

And finally, a huge thank you to Becky Fyfe for hosting the Chapter Book Challenge and for featuring me on her blog! And cheers to everyone writing chapter books . . . I look forward to seeing where this journey takes you!


Melissa Stoller is thrilled to be a Regional Ambassador for The Chapter Book Challenge! She is also an Admin for The Debut Picture Book Study Group. Melissa is the author of the debut chapter book THE ENCHANTED SNOW GLOBE COLLECTION: RETURN TO CONEY ISLAND (Clear Fork Publishing, July 24, 2017); the debut picture book OLIVE’S MAGIC PAINTBRUSH (Clear Fork, March, 2018; and THE ENCHANTED SNOW GLOBE COLLECTION: THE LIBERTY BELL TRAIN RIDE (Clear Fork, April 2018).  She is also the co-author of THE PARENT-CHILD BOOK CLUB: CONNECTING WITH YOUR KIDS THROUGH READING (HorizonLine Publishing, 2009). Melissa writes parenting articles, and has worked as a lawyer, legal writing instructor, and early childhood educator. Melissa lives in New York City with her husband, three daughters, and one puppy. When not writing or reading, she can be found exploring NYC with family and friends, travelling, and adding treasures to her collections. Find Melissa online at, MelissaBerger Stoller (Facebook), @Melissa Stoller (Twitter), and Melissa_Stoller (Instagram).

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Cover Reveal: The Enchanted Snow Globe Collection - Book One: Return to Coney Island by Melissa Stoller

I’m so excited to announce the cover reveal for my debut chapter book, THE ENCHANTED SNOW GLOBE COLLECTION – BOOK ONE: RETURN TO CONEY ISLAND. The book releases on July 25, 2017!

It’s very appropriate that Becky is hosting this reveal because I wrote the first early draft of the manuscript during the Chapter Book Challenge in 2016! I participated in the challenge as an author new to the process of writing chapter books. I really enjoyed spending the month brainstorming ideas and writing alongside others who were pursuing the same goals and facing the same obstacles. Next, I enrolled in The Chapter Book Alchemist course with Hillary Homzie through Mira Reisberg’s Children’s Book Academy. Hillary’s online course and critique helped me with character development, pacing a chapter book, and so much more. I subsequently enrolled in the Chapter Book Blueprint course, further refining my work. In Chapter Book Challenge 2017, I made great progress on the manuscript for Book Two: THE LIBERTY BELL TRAIN RIDE!

I’m so grateful to the Chapter Book Challenge community – everyone is incredibly supportive and it's heartwarming to know that an entire group of like-minded authors is rooting for you to succeed. So thank you to Becky, and to the rest of this wonderful community. I can't wait for next year’s challenge and for ChaBooCha Lite in September!

So here it is, the cover, illustrated by the very talented Callie Metler-Smith. Callie is also my publisher at Clear Fork Publishing. I’m thankful to Callie for publishing this book series, and for contributing her beautiful art. I love how Callie captured the Cyclone Roller Coaster that’s featured in the story. The Cyclone is encased in the snow globe and it also forms the background of the cover, representing the worlds inside and outside the snow globe. I feel like Callie read my mind about what Emma and Simon should look like – their expressions are perfect. And I’m so happy with the fonts and the glittery snow in the globe and at the upper left corner. Callie includes so many evocative details . . . I can’t wait for you all to see the inside illustrations as well!

I’m thrilled to include a sneak peek of the back cover draft text as well:

They thought it was an ordinary sleepover . . .

When nine-year-old twins Emma and Simon shake a snow globe from their grandmother’s enchanted collection, they’re transported back to Coney Island, New York, on June 24, 1928. According to family legend, that’s the day their great-grandparents meet. But if events don't work exactly as they’re supposed to, the meeting won't take place and the twins might never be born. After a day of adventures – from the Cyclone Roller Coaster to the boardwalk arcade and finally to the fateful Coney Island trolley ride – will the twins help make it happen? VOYAGE OF THE IDEhelp the LibertmLOBE]ringing the Liberty Bell to California. When trouble brews, will the twins help the LibertVOYAGE OF THE IDEhelp the LibertmLOBE]ringing the Liberty Bell to California. When trouble brews, will the twins help the Libert

VOYAGE OF THE IDEhelp the LibertmLOBE]ringing the Liberty Bell to California. When trouble brews, will the twins help the LibertVOYAGE OF THE IDEhelp the LibertmLOBE]ringing the Liberty Bell to California. When trouble brews, will the twins help the LibertVOYAGE OF THE IDEhelp the LibertmLOBE]ringing the Liberty Bell to California. When trouble brews, will the twins help the LibertVOYAGE OF THE IDEhelp the LibertmLOBE]ringing the Liberty Bell to California. When trouble brews, will the twins help the Libert
I hope you’ll follow my writing journey at and sign up for my blog at And of course l hope you look for my book starting on July 25th!
Cheers to all the authors working on their own chapter books! I look forward to reading your stories!


Melissa Stoller is an avid collector of snow globes, sea shells, stories, and other treasures. She lives in New York City with her husband, three daughters, and a mischievous puppy. THE ENCHANTED SNOW GLOBE COLLECTION – BOOK ONE: RETURN TO CONEY ISLAND is Melissa’s debut chapter book. Her debut picture book, OLIVE’S MAGIC PAINTBRUSH, will be published in March, 2018, also by Clear Fork Publishing/Spork. Melissa is delighted to be a Regional Ambassador for the Chapter Book Challenge!

Connect with Melissa at:
Twitter - @MelissaStoller
Instagram – Melissa_Stoller
Pinterest – Melissa_Stoller 

Friday, 31 March 2017

Final Day of ChaBooCha and Winner Announcements #ChaBooCha

Today is the last day of the Chapter Book Challenge. We've all done our best to create stories full of new worlds, new characters and magic for children to immerse themselves in.

Technically, to win the challenge, you had to write a new book, beginning to end, during the month of March. But "winning" is an interesting word. You might not have won, technically, but did you write more this month than you would have? Did you gain a better understanding of your story? Did you do some research that you needed for your story? If your story is further along now than it was at the beginning of the month, then you've come out ahead.

And just a quick note here: Don't ever ask yourself if you're a "real writer." If you write, then you are a writer.

There are several posts from previous challenges that can help you with more technical aspects of your story and, important at this time, with editing your manuscript and even marketing your book. To help you access these posts more easily, I am sharing the links below.

Tips for Building your Author Street Team by SASS

Seven Editing Tips by Miranda Kate

Marketing Madness - but It Doesn't Have to Be by Jackie Castle

Do It Yourself Publicity by Harold Underdown

The Ten R's of Revision by Lee Wardlaw

Editing Your First Draft by Tamora Pierce

Crafting Appealing Cover Art by Julia Stilchen

Your Query is Not a Blurb: Query Tips from a Freelance Editor by Victoria Boulton

Editing Your First draft by Radhika Meganathan

On Editing by Karen Pokras Toz

On Writing Badly and Redefining Failure by Becca Puglisi

Ten Things to Remember When Submitting your Work to an Agent by Carole Blake

Series Writing 101 by Emma Walton Hamilton

How to Reach Kidlit Readers: Hone in on Power and Control by Angela Ackerman

The Education Market and Chapter Books by George Ivanoff

Happily Ever-Afters: What Makes a Satisfying Chapter Book Ending by Lee Wardlaw

How to Successfully Use Crowdfunding for your Book Project by Margo and Emma Gibbs

Talent vs. Learning: Do You Have to Be Born a Writer? by K.M. Weiland

Perfection Isn't Necessary: Why Your Story Needs to Be Published by Rebecca Fyfe

School Visits by Y.I. Lee

Magical Realism: Turning Ordinary Into Extraordinary by Kimberley Griffiths Little

I have to admit that some of the promised guest posts this month never materialised. It happens. For some, it was my fault for not chasing things up (or having an overly full e-mail inbox in which some guest posts were accidentally deleted), and for others, life got in the way. We're all human. The guest posts that did not materialise for this challenge will be stored and used in a future challenge though, so you will still be able to soak up the wisdom those authors have to impart.

And now on to the part of this post that I know you are all waiting for: PRIZES!

And the winners are:

Winner of the charm book mark: Melissa Gijsbers

Winner of the book "How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy" by Orson Scott Card: Kristi Veitenheimer

Winner of Rory's Story Cubes: Anita Banks 

Winner of the critique of the first two chapters of a chapter book manuscript by Melissa Stoller: Brenda Harris

Winner of Melissa Stoller's soon-to-be released chapter book, "The Enchanted Snow Globe Collection - Book One: Return to Coney Island": Rebecca Koehn

Winner of the book "The DC Comics Guide to Writing Comics": Mary Preston

Winner of the critique on the first five chapters of a chapter book by Alayne Kay Christian: saputnam

Winner of the book "Writing and Selling the Young Adult Novel" by K.L. Going: Ashley (Willoughby)

Winner of the Kindle Fire: Jerra 

All of the winners need to get in touch with me within the next two weeks to let me know your mailing address for your prizes or your prize will be forfeited. (And a little warning here: I am excessively slow in getting the prizes out to people, but they WILL arrive eventually.)


On another note, if you'd like to donate to the Chapter Book Challenge, there is a "donate" button on the right hand side of this blog. Alternatively, you can buy ChaBooCha merchandise from my on-line shop from the Chapter Book Challenge section of the store and proceeds will go towards ChaBooCha. (More designs will be added soon!) You can also buy one of the Chapter Book Challenge's Teapot Tales anthologies (written by members of ChaBooCha), proceeds from which go towards the challenge. A new one will be coming out in April.


If you feel as though you want to continue writing more of your story or would like to keep your momentum going, or maybe you now want to write something not aimed at children, consider joining the much less official Blog Your Book in 30 Days challenge which begins on April 1st. The posts are less frequent, mostly written by me, and there are a few prizes involved. But it's still fun. Deadlines can be very helpful in pushing us not to procrastinate when it comes to our writing.

Monday, 27 March 2017

Is it YA, or is it NA? by A. D. Trosper #ChaBooCha

Is it YA, or is it NA?
I love the YA and NA genres. For those that don’t know, YA = Young Adult. NA = New Adult. NA is a fairly new genre and there are a lot of places where the two overlap. And this was something I struggled with for my newest book. The main genre is Paranormal Romance. When it came to a secondary though, which one was it? It seemed to walk the line between NA and YA, kind of a cross over. I began marketing it as a YA title. But, after a few comments, I started researching, because I admit to being a tad confused as to exactly what separated the two genres.
I used to think it was sex. But nope, because YA (particularly those with characters in the 17+ age range) can have sex in them. Admittedly, it’s usually sex that fades to black and happens behind closed doors. There is nothing overly descriptive or explicit about it. But, NA doesn’t have to have explicit scenes in it either. It can be just as sweet and clean as YA if it wants.
Was it violence? Nope, plenty of violence can happen in YA. Especially in the Paranormal Romance genre which usually involves any manner of superhuman type characters. For YA it’s again, maybe not as descriptive.
Was it foul language? Nope. Surprisingly, YA has foul language. Or maybe not surprising to anyone who has heard teenagers speak when there are no parents around. Perhaps some of the harsher curse words are avoided or used extremely sparingly, but otherwise swearing does happen in YA.
Was it certain activities? Nope. Drug use, alcohol drinking, smoking, etc. all pop up in YA. Perhaps because these are all things young adults actually have to confront, the things they try, the things they want to stay away from. Either way, those are all issues in the lives of young adults, so it makes sense for the characters in young adult books to have to confront these issues.
Age? Kind of. YA characters usually fall between the ages of 15 and 19. NA characters between the ages of 18 and 26. But, there is an overlap in the ages, you say. Yes there is. It’s another area where the two bleed together.
So then, if any of these can be in both YA and NA, when does one become the other?
It boils down to where the characters are in their lives. In YA books, the characters (or at least the main one) is still dealing with high school problems. Still living at home. Still under the watchful eye of a parent. They still have homework to finish, a room to keep clean, parents to sneak around on, and they are still experiencing a lot of firsts (though firsts is another area where the two genres can blend into each other). They are facing bullies at school, and trying to save the world (or maybe just their part of it), while trying to study for that trig test because if they fail it their parents are going to kill them. Sex and violence can be there, but are generally muted.
NA books deal with characters (including the main) who aren’t at home anymore. Or if they are, they don’t live there full time. They are in college, they are living on their own, they are making their own decisions, they are finding out who they are and where they are going. They don’t have to ask permission to go on a date. There is no watchful parent hovering just out of the room when the love interest is visiting. No need for sneaking in or out windows. With NA, the story can have explicit sex scenes that can be as detailed as the author wants them to be. The violence can be as bloody and gory as the author wants as well.
After struggling with where to put my Raven Daughter series, I finally decided it fits better in the NA category. Jo (my main character) is nineteen, but she doesn’t live at home anymore. She shares an apartment with a friend. And in the beginning of the book, when she is still at home, her mother has been so ill for so long that Jo and her sister have been paying the bills, cleaning the house, and preparing meals. She has a job…or maybe it’s a calling, and how she spends her free time is entirely up to her. She does have a guide, but he is only there to assist her in training in her new powers, and to offer advice when it’s asked for. And when she starts falling for bad boy Caius, and her guide tries to warn her of the implications of such a relationship, she has no problem telling her guide where to stick it and there isn’t anything he can do about it. The violence isn’t overly muted, and where there is no sex in the first book, there is in the second and the scenes aren’t all fade to black or behind closed doors, though they also aren’t extremely explicit.
It was after this that I realized my other YA books weren’t YA either. They were NA. None of my characters in my Bound series are in high school. None of them answer to parents. All of them make whatever decisions they want whether it’s moving in with a guy, or taking off cross country with a guy, without ever asking for parental permission. The main characters in those books may be 19, but they definitely fall into the New Adult category.

Writing about characters in their late teens? confused as to whether or not your book is Ya or NA? Now you know.
A.D. Trosper is a writer, mother, and ruler of the world inside her head. Audra lives on the plains of west central Kansas with her husband and three children. They raise a large vegetable garden every year, spoil their dairy goats, and keep chickens. In between canning, cooking, and animal care, she loves to game with her kids and explore the fictional worlds and people that take up space in her head.  You can find out more about her at:


Today's give-away is a copy of Writing and Selling the Young Adult Novel by K.L. Going. All you need to do to enter the drawing, if you are already a signed-up member of the challenge, is to comment on this blog post. The winner will be drawn by a  random number generator on March 31st.

Saturday, 25 March 2017

How Writing a Chapter Book is Like Writing a Picture Book by Alayne Kay Christian #ChaBooCha


Becky initially asked me to write a post about “How I got my chapter book contract.” Her request came around the same time that I published a similar story on my blog. You can read that post here. Instead of repeating myself, I’ve decided to share some chapter book knowledge that I picked up in the process of turning my picture book into a chapter book.

A small survey in the Chapter BookChallenge Facebook group proved to me that many members write both picture books and chapter books. This post will focus on the question, how is writing a chapter book a little like writing a picture book? It may not be helpful to those who have been writing chapter books for a long time, but it should be helpful to those who are just getting into chapter book writing.

As with picture books, there is no perfect formula for writing chapter books. However, there are great guidelines. So, what I offer is meant to give you a sense of direction and order when writing. It is not intended to say this is the ONLY way to go. This post only touches on some basic elements of chapter book writing.


In chapter books (and usually in picture books) action is important for keeping the young reader engaged. Like picture books, chapter books don’t have a lot of description. Unlike picture books, illustrations do not help tell part of the story. So, it is important to show and not tell. Show your characters in action. Show your characters reacting to their situation. And of course show their environment. But don’t get carried away with long descriptive passages. If you do, your young reader will lose interest.

Just to be clear. . . .

There are some illustrations (usually line art) in chapter books, which help the young reader to visualize better. There are a variety of chapter books for beginning chapter book readers that have many illustrations – often colored. Some examples are Marcie Colleen’s Super Happy Party Bears series, Kate DiCamillo’s Bink and Gollie, and Mercy Watson also by Kate DiCamillo. This post focuses on longer chapter books for younger readers. Also, I want to be clear that middle grade books have more description than chapter books.


I see writing chapter books as being similar to writing a number of individual picture books related to one big story goal.

So, each chapter has its own beginning, middle, and end that are all centered around that specific chapter’s goal. However, the chapter goal needs to relate to the big goal in some way. Everything that happens in the story should have a strong thread running between the problem or goal established in the beginning and the resolution presented in the end.

Like picture book beginnings, the individual chapter beginning usually establishes the problem or goal for that chapter. It might establish the setting, if it has changed from the last chapter. It most likely establishes the obstacle to achieving the chapter goal. The beginning of a chapter will sometimes subtly reconnect the reader to what happened in the previous chapter.

Just like the middle of a picture book, the middle of the individual chapter shows the protagonist’s attempts to overcome his obstacles. And as with a picture book plot, the chapter story tension escalates and sometimes falls. It may or may not fall, depending on where the author has chosen to leave the reader hanging. 

Unlike picture book endings, individual chapter endings are not usually satisfying endings because you want to entice your reader to look forward to the next chapter. However, you do want to give your reader a sense of satisfaction with each chapter while still keeping her in suspense.  The ending of the chapter often comes in the middle of a scene. Doing this creates questions in the reader’s mind that she will want to see answered. Just as picture books often end with a twist, individual chapters might end with a twist. This engages the reader further.


The combined chapters work to form the story or character arc related to the big story problem or goal.


Like the first page(s) in a picture book, the first chapter hooks the reader by presenting the inciting incident. This is the event that pushes your protagonist out of his ordinary world into the challenging world that the story builds. It also provides the setting, time period, and the voice and tone of the story. Naturally, it introduces the protagonist and maybe some other characters. Backstory is avoided or limited in chapter books for young readers.


The next chapters set the hook by deepening the reader’s understanding of the character’s situation.  They also introduce more characters.


Like the middle scenes of a picture book, the middle chapters show the protagonist’s attempts to solve his problem or achieve his goal. They offer unexpected turns, surprise setbacks, and changes that often require the protagonist to make a decision or choice. With each challenge and decision, the reader becomes more emotionally connected to the protagonist and the story and therefore become more hooked.


With each new chapter the tension rises and the stakes get higher until the protagonist reaches his DARKEST MOMENT. This is where he and the reader experience a period of defeat. This makes the reader want to keep reading while hoping for the best.


The darkest moment is followed by the INNER CLIMAX. The protagonist has some sort of lightbulb moment that causes him to think outside the box. There is usually a perceived or real risk in making the choice that raises the tension. This new thinking, or choice, or decision moves the story forward to the outer climax where the protagonist takes action on his new way of thinking. All the while, the reader is taking this emotional rollercoaster ride with the protagonist.


The OUTER CLIMAX follows the inner climax. This is where the protagonist takes action based on the inner climax decision or choice. Sometimes the inner climax is not apparent or nearly undetectable. But there is always a climax. This is the turning point that leads the protagonist to the resolution of the story.


The RESOLUTION/CONCLUSION of the story presents a new perspective for the protagonist. The reader becomes aware of some sort of change or personal growth in the protagonist. All loose ends are tied up here. The reader should be left thinking about the story and maybe about how he relates, but he should not be wondering about missing elements that should have been resolved in the end. Often there is a surprise twist. Sometimes, the protagonist does not get what he set out to get, but he still learns and grows in some way.


A while back, I wrote a blog post on episodic stories. You can read it here. I wrote it for picture books, but it applies to chapter books as well. When you read the word “scene” in the post, think in terms of scenes within each chapter, but also consider each chapter as a scene. What I want you to see is that all scenes and all chapters need to be connected. I can’t really get into cause and effect in this post, but if you aren’t clear regarding what that is, do some searches and read up on it.

Before I teach an entire course on chapter book writing, I will end this . . . well, sort of. I want to offer a PDF with a basic analysis that I did on THE TALENTED CLEMENTINE by Sara Pennypacker. It breaks the story down as related to the tips I’ve shared in this post. I think it gives a very clear idea of how each chapter tells a story of its own, which is why I see them as being similar to picture books. It also gives a clear picture of how everything that happens in the story is connected to the problem established in the beginning and the resolution presented in the end.

Happy chapter book writing!


Alayne Kay Christian is an award-winning children’s book author and a certified life coach. Her picture book Butterfly Kisses for Grandma and Grandpa (Blue Whale Press, LLC) received the Mom’s Choice Awards gold medal and an IPPY Awards silver medal. Alayne’s Sienna, the Cowgirl Fairy chapter book series launches in April 2017 with the first book, Sienna, the Cowgirl Fairy: Trying to Make it Rain (Clear Fork Publishing).  Her picture book Mischievous Maverick is scheduled to be released by Clear Fork Publishing in early 2018. Alayne is the creator and teacher of a picture book writing course, Art of Arc: How to Writeand Analyze Picture Book Manuscripts. In 2016, Alayne and her husband sold their home in the Dallas, Texas area and became nomads as full-time RVers and part-time sailors.



Alayne has generously offered the prize for today's give-away. She is offering one person a critique on the first five chapters of their chapter book. Only signed-up members of the challenge qualify for the drawing. In order to be entered into the drawing, leave a comment on this post. A winner will be drawn by a random number generator on March 31st.