Saturday, February 22, 2014

The L-O-N-G. . . L-O-N-G. . . Walkabout


A writing friend, Penelope Cole (Magical Matthew/Mea series), commented today
about the post before this one. She thought my writing was getting even better.

Aboriginal playing a didgeridoo

That got me thinking about how Trial By Walkabout, my latest adventure for boys and tomboys, finally made it to publication. The title is prophetic!  It was the first book I ever wrote. Surprised? Well the original version and the final proof have very little in common - except the title and the fact they were both set in outback Australia.

Let me now begin the way I advise all my critique clients:
set the scene for this tale by adding the time,
the place, and the characters. . .

Long, long, ago, when the personal computer was just a gleam in Bill Gate's eye, and my three kids were still in grade school, I wrote a book about a feisty koala and his Aussie bush mates.  I had always dabbled in writing, but this was my first full length book.  I was sure it would be a winner. Many of the publishers I sent this gem to are now defunct, or swallowed by publishing's current literary behemoths. I was full of hope and excitement. You know, new writer dreams combined with lack of writing and publishing insights. My balloon was soon pricked, and I rewrote the book umpteen times, with similar enthusiasm (?) from each batch of publishers I dismayed.

By this time the Internet was UP and staggering. Writing lists blossomed online, and I discovered Yahoo and all it's satellite writing groups.  I joined the Children's Writers and Illustrators group (CW for short) and began to learn the writing ropes from a few of the original members. These talented ladies helped me enormously. The concept of mentoring and networking was new to me. They helped me polish my natural rhyming talent, and I was off and running - writing picture books in rhyme.  That old flop Walkabout mouldered in a bottom drawer - forgotten.
Then I did something I should have done way earlier, I formed two critique groups, one called RHYMERS and another called OPUS.  There was some member turnover to begin with, but we finally had 2 cohesive groups that I am sure changed the writing paths of ALL the members forever. I discovered that it is amazing what you can learn from reading the work of others.  Plus the comments and suggestions I received on my own writing began to resonate with me.

Manuscripts and time rushed past. I took another look at Walkabout.  Everything I had learned in Opus and from the CW list jelled into one thought.  Scrap the animals and rewrite with kids as my characters. This idea was followed by another. Join SCBWI and become a conference junkie!  No sooner thought than done.  More time, more rewrites.  

Now the Internet sizzled, and Social Networking raises its pushy head.  I dive in boots and books!!  I design a website.  I begin doing Manuscript Critiques - not freebies like before, but PAID critiques. YEA!    THEN MY WORLD EXPLODES. . . I get a contract for one of  my picture books. Then ANOTHER and ANOTHER! I began blogging.

Time to really become serious about mid-grades in general and Walkabout in particular.  You guessed it - more rewrites and fine tuning, with OPUS cheering me along. Between all this, other rhyming picture books are written and published, PLUS my first mid-grade book  - only not Walkabout!
This !@#$% book is earning its title, fair-dinkum. EUREKA, my publisher (GAP) sees the movie Australia and loves it.  So, thanks to a movie, I finally earn a contract for Walkabout.  About time!!

Now I am confident enough to dip my toe into the self publishing arena.  The competition is fierce, if a little short on grammar and writing skills. The Revenge of Thelma Hill and Down Under Calling are polished, cover art done (thanks Awesome Agy Wilson), and finally sit on my Amazon page with my other books. But not without anguish, last minute errors, and a few sleepless nights.  STILL NO PUBlISHING DATE FOR WALKABOUT!  Will it be published posthumously on my behalf, after I go to that great writing room in the sky?

TRUMPET BLAST PLEASE - Walkabout finally made it to the book shelves of Amazon and elsewhere. Lynda Burch, my publisher, must take credit for grammar polish and trimming my mad passion for commas.  Hey, I'm great at plots, cool characters, and terrific pace.  Blimey, you can't expect me to shine at everything!

I am reminded of the old Lucile Ball movie, the "Long Long Trailer" - yeah, I know it dates me.  Only my book was a long . . . long . . . long. . . Walkabout instead.  This book wound through the years with me, gaining strength, power and way better writing.  As I grew in my craft, so Walkabout grew from a trite tale about critters, into a multicultural look inside what makes two very different Aussie teens deal with what life throws at them.


Books for Kids - Skype Author Visits
Manuscript Critiques


Thursday, February 20, 2014


We authors live or die by those all-powerful
Reviewer's Words

The !@#$ Review Pitts:

The book had a weak and unbelievable plot. The characters were not well fleshed,
the pages were wordy, and the ending was disappointing.  Dodge this one - 1 *

You fall into a major depressive tailspin, lock yourself in your room (with either alcohol, chocolate, or ice cream), and swear never to write another book. Does the Maffia still accept 'contracts' on way nasty reviewers?  If the review was particularly cruel, you might go with all three of the above mentioned comforts.

Alternatively. . .

This book is a masterpiece of literary writing.  The characters are richly crafted, the plot is gripping and realistic, and the writing is tight, terrific, and powerfully crafted. Could not put it down.
Thoroughly recommended  - 10 **********

You go crazy with the news on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ Linkedin and more.  Your fingers are numb from texting friends your fabulous news.  Toasts with friends and family make you forget, for about 5 minutes, that you must BLOG the good news as well.  You wonder about the cost of a NY Times add, or even a local plane to do a fly-over and "smoke" the good news to the locals? You don't sleep for three days, while the underwear draws of your entire family are in dire need of clean socks, skivvies and bras.  WHO CARES. . . YOU got a RAVE REVIEW!!!  It even impressed your mom-in-law! Ye-e-e-e - Haw!!


You've read my fantasy versions
Now for the


I received what I think are two SUPER Reviews for my new young teen book,

Trial by Walkabout

And NO, I did not advertise in the NY Times or hire a plane. 
However, I do plead guilty to all  the rest - so sue me!!

Below is why I went a little crazy:
Wouldn't YOU?

Trial by Walkabout 
 Author: Margot Finke 

Publisher: Guardian Angel Publishing
                       Paperback ISBN: 9781616334505; 1616334509                     
eBook ISBN: 9781616334512; 1616334517
Reviewer: Karen Cioffi

'Walkabout' is Great Mid-grade Reading

The Writer’s Digest article “7 Ways to Make a Good Story Great” offers a lot of insight into this topic. It explains that as a writer you need to (1) ‘go beyond the five senses; (2) take advantage of your characters idiosyncrasies; (3) write the nitty-gritty; (4) don’t write down, thinking the audience won’t get it; (5) don’t include irrelevant content; (6 and 7) involve the emotions of the reader.

Margot Finke’s 'Walkabout' easily covers all these elements. It is truly good writing that has the reader anticipating the next page. The story’s protagonist is 13-year-old Josh Howard. He and his older brother, Tom, are at odds, fighting all the time and telling lies about each to their parents. With their parents away, Tom locks Josh out of the house after a fight

“Outside,you!” A hard shove shot Josh out the door flat on his back in the dirt. The door slammed shaking the frame. “You can stay out there ‘till the rains come for all I care.” Tom’s voice faded as he moved further indoors.

This is the catalyst that launches Josh into a world of survival, danger, hunger, Dreametime stories and tribesmen. Josh, who wants to get even with his brother, goes on an Aussie walkabout with an Aboriginal friend, Bindi. Bindi needs to go on this journey to fulfil his ‘manhood’ ritual. The two friends face lethal snakes, a huge and dangerous male kangaroo, a pack of wild dogs, a vengeful emu, and a crazy Medicine Man.
The story’s action is well crafted and Finke blends just the right amount of back-story throughout the book so the reader learns of the rich Aboriginal background and the treacherous outback terrain. In one scene, Josh and Bindi hide up in trees to escape death by a pack of wild dogs:

Shutting his eyes, he pleaded over-and-over. “Make them stop! Make them stop!” Finally, the victim grew silent. A sob escaped Josh. The slobbering sounds made by the dogs of death filtered up to him.He tried not to hear the soft tearing noises. And the smell—the stench of every creature these four-legged killers had ever slaughtered rose from them in putrid waves.

The writing is powerful and at times raw, as shown above, just what boys love. But, along with the heart pounding action, it also teaches subtle, yet powerful lessons about lying and loyalty. Trial by Walkabout takes the reader on an amazing ‘growing up’ journey through the Australian outback. This is great children’s reading and I highly recommend it for middle-graders and young adults.

Amazon:  Softcover (Kindle coming)
Website for autographs  plus my FREE Aussie Recipe Book

Survival by Walkabout
Margot Finke

Reviewed by:
Penelope Anne Cole
Award winning author of Magical Matthew and Magical Mea

 So, how do I like her latest middle grade novel, Trial by Walkabout?  It’s another love fest!  This is a compelling adventure that keeps you on your toes,  wondering what could happen next as Bindi and Josh go “walkabout” in the outback. l'lI admit I’m a fan of Margot Finke’s books.  I loved everything about her  Down Under Calling.  I thought The Revenge of Thelma Hill was just scary enough.  I also enjoyed the banter between Taconi and Claude -- plus learning more about life “Down Under.”

Young teens Bindi and Josh are the grandsons of Taconi and “the Boss,” the previous owner of the Cooperoo Cattle Station.  They grew up and played together before Josh went off to boarding school.  They’ve grown apart over the years and meet up again in this story when Josh is locked out of his house after a fight with his big brother Tom. 

Josh thinks up a plan to get even with Tom and going walkabout with Bindi fits his needs perfectly.  But the actual walkabout is more of an adventure than the overnighter Josh bargained for.  The way the teens deal with the outback’s strange creatures, living off the land – even surviving personal danger – makes for great fun and edge-of-your-seat excitement.

I can’t give away the ending.  Suffice it to say that Josh learns a lot on his walkabout about the important things in his life and personal values.  He learns more about friendship and relationships along the way.  He struggles with his original plan to get back at Tom and wants to set things right, if possible.  It’s good to see his character grow.

Exciting stories that entertain us and remind us of our moral compass – these are the kind of books we need more of.  Thanks to Ms. Finke for another winning teen book.  Trial by Walkabout is recommended for ages nine to fourteen – especially reluctant boy readers.

Published by( Guardian Angel Publishing.) 
Amazon:  Softcover (Kindle coming)
Website for autographs  plus my FREE Aussie Recipe Book

'Walkabout' is one of 4 young teen books I am offering FREE to teachers, in return for their class reading it, and adding a CLASS REVIEW on Amazon.  I will also  do a Skype Author Visit to each class that reviews my books.

See this  BLOG POST for details.


Books for Kids - Skype Author Visits 


Tuesday, February 18, 2014



WIN 1 of these FREE BOOKS
for your class to read.

To WIN, your class must agree to read the book you choose,
and then write a CLASS REVIEW and put it on Amazon.

I offer  a choice of 4 mid-grade books:
2 adventures for boys and tomboys,
+ 2 books for both girls and boys. 

The first teacher to contact me gets to choose the book she wants.

a FREE Skype Author Visit

to classes that read my books and write a  CLASS REVIEW  for Amazon. I will chat about how I write and where my book ideas come from.  I am also happy to answer any questions the classes have. FREE "Sneak Peek" Inside ALL my books  -  Books on AMAZON

to choose from

*Taconi and Claude Double Trouble – Set in the Aussie outback circa 1945.  A coming of age tale about a young aboriginal boy and the problems he faces: a man ceremony, his crazy dad, Dreamtime Spirits, and the chatty and wise Claude - a cockatoo.
*Survival by Walkabout – A follow up to Taconi and Claude  - current Aussie outback.  Sibling rivalry and lies light the fuse that drives this dangerous adventure. The Aussie outback is unforgiving and so is the Medicine Man. Will Josh and Bindi survive, or will the wild dingoes pick
 their bones?
*Down Under Calling - When a reluctant grandson in Oregon is pressured into writing to his grandma in Australia, wonderful things happen. Both have a need for love and reassurance. Back and forth the letters go: Josh shares his daily problems, and Grandma Rose shares memories from her childhood,  plus tales  that astonish her grandson and his friend Kelly. Together these three shrink the Pacific Ocean into a puddle they can easily ford.

*The Revenge of Thelma Hill – When Frannie and her twin brother Jeff move to Oregon, ghosts are not on Frannie’s mind.  She worried more about making new friends and the sibling rivalry between her and Jeff.  But Frannie discovers that a persistent ghost is hard to refuse. She and her very reluctant twin are soon plotting to trap the ghost’s dangerous killer, and trying to keep it all from their overworked Dad.

"Fairdinkum Aussie Recipe Book"

Seeing I'm a transplanted Aussie now living in Oregon, and 3 of these books feature Australia, it's animals and customs, I am also offering my FREE, fun, "Fairdinkum Aussie Recipe Book."  Teachers or students who would like to read about, or try the Down Under Tucker I grew up eating, will receive a FREE copy.

HEY. . . Before you leave.


13 Books for Kids - Skype Author Visits