One Writer’s Journey

November 12, 2018

Cover Reveal

I love it when I find the cover for one of my upcoming books online.  This time, lucky writer that I am, I have two titles in the same series.  Abdo Publishing will release Animal Evolution early in January.

For whatever reason, the cover for The Evolution of Mammals was posted about two weeks ago but I wanted to wait until the cover for The Evolution of Reptiles was also posted. I’ve been checking Amazon daily waiting. . . waiting . . . writers are not always known for their patience.

These were two of the most challenging books I’ve written.  Imagine trying to distill the evolution of reptiles as a whole down to 9 chapters.  In truth, that was much easier than doing the same thing for mammals.

For example, I really wanted to include a chapter on elephants.  But I simply could not find enough solid information for an entire chapter.

That said, between the two books I worked in so many incredible animals including cheetah, horses, horned lizards, sea turtles, tuatara, and much more.  I got to write about DNA, fossils, chemical studies, and early theories including Darwin’s theory of evolution.

I can’t wait for these two titles to arrive.  I know it will be a while but certainly this time I’ll manage to be patient.

–SueBE

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September 12, 2018

STEM Titles Coming Soon

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It really is a toss-up whether I prefer to write about social sciences and history or science.  I think that’s why anthropology was the ideal field of study for me.  So when my editor contacted me and asked if I wanted to do a title in a series of evolution, it wasn’t a matter of yes or no. Instead I asked how many I could do.  Evolution of Mammals and Evolution of Reptiles will come out in January.

They were difficult titles to outline.  Imagine trying to fit all of mammalian evolution into 15,000 words.  I ended up going through different mammalian groups and looking at various traits.  I wanted to cover some animals just because they are popular (dogs and horses) but then there were some that are just fascinating (whales).  Others fell by the wayside as I started trying to find sources because there simply wasn’t enough to create a descent chapter.

Researching these books was also a lesson in why you need to make sure your research is up-to-date.  Where various animals fit into the complex family tree that includes all species has changed as our knowledge has grown.  Every once in a while I’d look something up and get a big surprise.

But this is also why it is great to work with a good editor.  As much as I read, my editor has read things I hadn’t.  “I think you need to include this.” Writing rock solid nonfiction is definitely a team effort.

Whenever someone asks me to name my favorite title that I’ve worked on, I laugh.  They tend to change over time.  Right now?  I’d have to say these two books on Evolution.  Science and history.  What could be better?

–SueBE

May 8, 2018

Book Covers

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Normally I get really excited when I find the cover art for one of my upcoming books.  This time?  Not so much.  It isn’t the art that is the problem but the topic.

I’m not surprised anymore when RedLine asks me to write a difficult book.  But these were tough.  Part of it was the topic.  Writing about addiction is just really difficult because you have to go after stories of people’s lives falling apart.

But it is also incredibly difficult to research something like this.  Editors and publishers want statistics but accurate statistics are tough to find. First of all, there’s the matter of legality.  Police can gather statistics about the people they arrest, but not those no one even suspects.  Hospitals and treatment centers can collect data on people who seek treatment or are admitted through the ER.  But that leaves a large number of people uncounted.

Add to this the fact that everyone collecting statistics has a bias. Law enforcement wants to show they are providing an essential service as do hospitals and treatment centers.  People who are trying to legalize various drugs, including certain types of steroids, downplay potential problems.  Family members, social workers and more – they’re all biased and understandably so.

But this all contributes to the difficulty in writing about these topics and also the importance.  If a nonfiction writer has a hard time sorting out fact from fiction, so will a young person.  While I’m not excited about the cover art, I’m glad I put in the effort needed to write about these topics.

–SueBE

April 2, 2018

My Books: Which Is My Favorite?

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Last week, Twitter pinged me to let me know that I had a notification and I clicked through to find the above tweet.  Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen wanted to know which book was my favorite. No way I could answer this in a tweet so I promised to blog about it today.

First things first, I think it is fairly situational.  It just depends.

The Ancient Maya was my first so clearly it is my favorite.  My academic background is anthropology and then history. An ancient culture was a perfect fit and I’ve always had a thing for the Maya.  Always.  When I took a Smithsonian class on superheroes, we had to design a hero based on an ancient god.  The one I chose was, not surprisingly, Mayan.  In this book, I loved having the opportunity to bring people from so long ago alive for young readers.

Black Lives Matter has been such an important book because it has found its way into so many schools.  Although one reviewer described the book as irritatingly neutral, I worked hard to achieve that neutrality.  I wanted the facts about police shootings to speak for themselves.

But I also love What Are Race and Racism? because that book allowed me to explore the biology of race for young readers.  Hint: There is no biological basis at the genetic level.  Race is a social construct that has and continues to impact lives because of the choices we as human beings make.  I just hope that somewhere a class will read this book and learn at least that much.

Hidden Human Computers is a favorite because through it I was able to write, with Duchess Harris, about the lives of inspirational women. Women who didn’t wait for someone else’s permission to do science that mattered.

I love The Dakota Access Pipeline because it combines so many topics that fascinate me – anthropology, history, science and environmentalism. And it is such a vital and timely topic.

I have been very luck in that so many of the books that I’ve written touch on vital topics. Depending on the day I’ve had and the topics that I’ve been considering, my favorite book will shift.  I’m a lot like that with food too.  Oh, coffee.  My favorite.  Mmm, tacos.  I love tacos.  Baba ganoush – love it!  My tastes and interests vary greatly whether we are talking books, food, knitting, music, art, movies and more.  But that’s the great part of being a nonfiction writer – I get to explore so many topics.

What’s my favorite?  Ask  me three weeks in a row and you will probably get three different answers but each will be true when I give it.

–SueBE

December 18, 2017

Book Covers Revealed

Merry Christmas to me!  Abdo Publishing recently posted my two most recent books with them.

The Dakota Access Pipeline is a January release.  Here is the publisher’s description:  “The Dakota Access Pipeline follows the controversy surrounding the building of the pipeline and the associated month-long protests at the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in North Dakota.”

Advertising Overload was written with Duchess Harris.  It is part of a new Abdo imprint, Duchess Harris, designed around authoritative, scholarly content.  Here is the publisher’s description for this one:  “Media outlets rely on advertising for financial support, but in many cases it’s becoming more difficult to determine where the news ends and advertising begins. Advertising Overload takes a closer look at the encroachment of sponsored content and paid advertisements in areas where consumers might not expect to see them, as well as the ways that companies use collected data to push targeted advertising at consumers.”

While I’m proud of my work on both books, I’m really looking forward to seeing The Dakota Access Pipeline.  This is a topic that is near and dear to my heart.

I’m lucky to get to work on so many books with Abdo.  Their design team is top-notch!  I’ve got several more projects in the works with them so I’ll keep you posted as those move into publication.

Until then?  I’ll be enjoying my two latest.

–SueBE

June 12, 2017

New Book: Coming In July

 

Take a gander at my latest book cover!  Professional Gaming Careers comes out in July from Norwood Press.

 

Going head-to-head with a group of friends can be a lot of fun. But beating the best gamers in the world can lead to fame and fortune. The growth of E-Sports has put professional gamers on the same stage once occupied solely by athletes. Competitions, sponsorship, and live streams are all part of a lucrative career as a professional gamer.Video games aren’t just a hobby any more. E-Sports is on the rise and reaching people of all ages. This series looks at 4 facets of competitive video gaming: the industry, the careers, the game development, and the competition. Each book contains fast facts and in-depth sidebars, plus a glossary, an index, and places to go for more information. E-Sports: Game On! is a great mix of high-interest content with STEM connections.”

 

This book was a lot of fun to write but I also discovered something interesting.  My son and his friends and people their age were really excited about this particular project.  People my age?  “Is that a job?”

And this is why you need to know your audience.

 

So looking forward to seeing this one in print. It is always interesting to see

 

how my various publishers design a book.  So if you’ll excuse me, I have several weeks to watch for the mail carrier.

–SueBE

August 22, 2016

Women in Science and Women in Sports

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women in sciencewomen in sportsWhat a great way to start my week.  My two most recent books are out from Abdo Publishing.  Women in Science and Women in Sports are part of the eight title series, Women’s Lives in History.

The most difficult part of these two books wasn’t deciding what to include and what to leave out.  That said, that was difficult.  No matter how many different women I included, someone was left out.  Some aspect of science or some sport were left out.  Between narrative, examples of sporting or scientific women, and the sidebars I worked in as much as possible.

The most difficult part was discovering and refining the narrative that linked them all.  These books are nonfiction.  The stories that they tell are factual, but I had to have an overarching narrative.  How were things changing in this field?  At this time?

As is always the case, I learned a lot writing these books.  Would I want to do something similar again in the future?  Maybe.  These were the two most difficult books that I’ve ever written.  I knew sports would be tough because my background in and knowledge of sports isn’t as broad as my background in science.  But science was just as difficult if not more so.  Let’s just say that I thought digesting physics so that I could write about it was tough until I had to work on the section on pure math.

Difficulties aside, I’m glad I wrote them and I can see them filling a need in the schools.  Yes, there are books out about female athletes and female scientists but they focus on a few people (Wilma Rudolph and Marie Curie). Yes there are few others but not as many as you might expect.  These books will help fill that void.

Really, really looking forward to having the author’s copies in hand.

–SueBE

March 14, 2016

Guess what came in the mail?

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 2:34 am
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trench warfare and black livesFriday, I got a package in the mail from Abdo — yay me!   Black Lives Matter came out in November of 2015.  I’m not sure why this one took so long to arrive since Abdo has always been pretty prompt before now.  Maybe it has something to do with the fact that it is on its 3rd printing.  So glad that they are getting this into so many young reader’s hands.

Trench Warfare has been out since January.  Frankly, I was a little apprehensive about this one in terms of the art work.  So many of the images that I saw while researching this were incredibly gruesome.  Let’s just say that there were a lot of rats in and around the trenches.  Ugh.

One of the things that you should consider before working with a publisher is whether or not you like their book design. The fact is that some publishers do much better than others.  Abdo’s books are consistently gorgeous but that isn’t to say that they all look alike.  Black Lives Matter actually manages to look angry which is fitting for a book on the contemporary civil right movement.

Have I ever decided not to submit to a publisher based on their book design?  Maybe I’m fickle but the answer is yes.  I checked out the books from one newer publisher and discovered that they illustrations were often badly placed on the page and out of focus.  Other deal breakers for me would be lack of white space, a hard to read font, or a design that is too busy.

What design elements would make you look for another publisher?

–SueBE

January 19, 2016

My New Book: Trench Warfare

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:30 am
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trench warfareHip, hip, hooray!   Both of my 2016 books are out as of January 1.  I’ve already posted about 12 Incredible Facts about the Cuban Missile Crisis (12-story), so today I’m going to focus on Trench Warfare (Abdo).

It seems like each and every time I write one of these books, I learn a thing or twenty. This time I learned a lot about World War I and Great Britain.  I already knew a little something about the war from the US perspective but my focus this time around was the fighting in the trenches.  For the most part, that was over before the US got involved.

I learned how to dig a proper trench and how to lay them out so that a single enemy soldier can’t conquer a whole trench system. I learned about the health problems (rats and lice) and trench medicine.  On the brighter side, I even got to write about trench art — most often carvings made from shell casings.

I learned that an annoying number of sources about this topic are in French.  That’s a huge problem because I only read about 20 words of French — 3 numbers, an assortment of body parts learned from children’s songs, a few to do with food and one cuss word.

Writing buddy Shannon Moore wrote a book in the series as well, Harlem Hellfighters.  Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to request her book through the library. That’s my way of making sure they buy it!

–SueBE

September 25, 2015

My New Book, Part 2

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Pearl HarborGuess what just came?  My other new book — The Bombing of Pearl Harbor from Abdo.  That’s right.  Two books in a week.  Believe me.  This is not my typical week.  This is too much like Christmas.  My typical week more closely resembles controlled chaos.

Speaking of chaos, I’m currently working on 3 different deadlines.  I have one more science experiment to figure out and then rewrite and four activities to photograph for one job.  I’m almost done with the first draft of chapter 1 on another.  I just have two more sidebars to go but I also have to outline the remaining 8 chapters.  And I have 45 contest entries to judge.

As busy as I am, I’d much rather have this type of chaos than the chaos depicted on the cover of the book!  That said, I’m still happy to have my latest book baby here with me.

–SueBE

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