The Book Report: Dead Comic Standing by Karen Vaughan

 On THE BOOK REPORT: Dead Comic Standing by Karen Vaughan
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Dead Comic Standing
With a chance at success quelling their fears, a slew of new comics are eager to have a chance, even with a psychotic serial killer out to get them all, to step on stage following each seasoned comic murder in Karen Vaughan's, Dead Comic Standing. It's a humorous whodunit full of hilarious comedy relief by many of the future victims in this tightly written book. You get the benefit of a cozy mystery, a sizzling romance and laughs all in one that keeps you reading until the end. I so enjoyed this book! 5 stars.
Karen Vaughan's site:

The Authors' Words: An Interview with Author and Illustrator, Cheryl Johnson

Illustrators Workshop

The Authors' Words:                            
Cheryl Johnson
An Interview with Author and Illustrator, Cheryl Johnson

A recipient of the Mom’s Choice Award, the 10th of October, 2014 marked the day when Cheryl was awarded the seal of excellence for her first three books. It meant that her first three stories passed a rigorous panel of judges who evaluate both the stories themselves and the illustrations. As a non-traditional aged student starting art college at 38 years old, going to school was certainly a challenge. Cheryl was a single parent of four children, worked as a cake decorator in a local family bakery and commuted over an hour each way to the city of Portland to work. Working hard it took seven long years to get her degree in Fine Arts, with a minor in Art History from MECA, Maine College of Art. Today, Cheryl has published many children's stories and illustrated others for authors.

Hi Cheryl! So glad you could do this interview with me!
Cheryl, what circumstances inspired you to pursue your art?   

Well, I was interested in drawing from a very tender age-about 2 or 3.I drew television sets with rabbit ear antennas and UFO space ships on the floral papered walls of our dining room. It didn't get appreciated.

That's one of my first memories of drawing. I ALWAYS loved to color and by the time I was ten,I was drawing for hours at a time. I made home made books in the 5th and 6th grade with my friends as characters.

At 15 I was convinced I would be a female Leonardo Da Vinci when I grew up.

Drawing what was in my imagination was a way to control something,create my own world. It was an escape from a chaotic home life. It was an addiction,along with music I loved that kept me from using drugs or alcohol as a teen.

I loved the idea of creating my own stories from preteen. Again,it was a way of controlling my world. I was a loner as a child and spent a lot of time walking in our woods or fields,talking to myself and spinning fantasies in a force field that surrounded me.


What drew you to writing for children?

What drew me to writing mostly for children is the freedom. I get to write from what I still connect to,I remember everything about my childhood and myself.I remember reading fairy tales and books like Narnia and A Wrinkle in Time and they fed my imagination. I love writing children's stories because I can really run with them.

To me, it feels as though they have no rules or boundaries in imagination. I can make snails play the guitar and mushrooms bounce.

How have you come up with the characters in the books?

Oh my gosh. I think of new characters every day. When I walk my three miles,it seems to unleash a lot of creativity in me.That's how I came up with my Cloud Hill book.It rushed at me from the universe-the whole story and 8 days later I had it up on Createspace published.

Tell us about your characters, Mish, Chonk, Sidley, Snee, Pobkin and their relationship, if any?

My characters of Mish,Sid,Chonk just started to grown from one little story about 35 years ago.Now I have a head FULL of additional characters waiting to see the light of day. The latest addition is Brax-a very small mushroom man who came from the "bad side of the forest". I am introducing two not so savory mushroom men named Malvin,the leader and his side kick Grut. I LOVE drawing these guys.They have rubber faces. It's hard to stop coming up with more ideas for stories. I don't even try to stop the flow.

Cheryl, you are the recipient of the Mom’s Choice Award! Where in you home does is the award displayed?

I was a nobody. But now, I can use sites like Createspace to self publish and I'm THRILLED.

My mom passed away 23 years ago and never got to see any of my books in print. She would have been very proud.

I don't have the award displayed on a wall for Mom's Choice but I do include it in every book I do now, in the back of the books where I show the other ones I've written.

What was your original goal to achieve as an author and artist, and have you reached it?

My original goal as a writer and an artist was to hold a book in my hands that I actually published. I have done almost 20 now. It is the most gratifying accomplishment in my career to date,and I am just getting started. I published Mish #1 in Oct 2013. I intend to surpass Dr.Suess in quantity by 2017. Hopefully there will be a best seller in there somewhere.

What mediums do you work in?

I draw for my children's books exclusively with my Wacom tablet. I used to use Prisma markers but once I was introduced to digital art,I was hooked. It is without waste,or limits.I feel as though I was gifted a magic wand 3 years ago and thank heaven EVERY day!

You were a single parent of four children working as a cake decorator in a bakery and commuted over an hour each way to work and it took seven years to get your Art degree. What drove you?

Story by Susan Darling
Yes it took 7 years to get my degree. I LOVED college,but it took it's toll on my children and myself. I was diagnosed with cancer shortly after graduation in 2000 and had to take deferments on my college loan.It's been a night mare but that's another story.I started self publishing as a way to use my talents to try and make enough to pay back my loans. Although I have sold over 1100 books,it's a far cry from being solvent. I will not give up hope though.

Was there any particular children’s author or authors who influenced you?

I was influenced by several children's book artists. They are Maraja,Nardini and Addrienne Segur. I have my childhood books still with their fabulous artwork in them. They are very precious to me.

My advice to other aspiring authors or illustrators is to love what you do.

I paint a lot of traditional commission work to pay the bills but I make sure I spend a fair amount of time focusing on what I love.

I can't stress enough that you have to be passionate about your work.It's what keeps you going when no one is watching or paying you.

I want to sell a million books. But if I don't ever become truly financially successful in the book industry,I won't have any regrets. None at all.

I do it for myself, and to spread joy and try to promote goodness in my little corner of this world.

What project are you working on now?

I am working on about 4 books right now, of my own-one is Brax The Little Rebel.I have a chapter book waiting to finish called Steven's Visit. I have an autobiography called Cheryl's London Summer of '73. I'm working on my own adult coloring book,which will probably take me to 2020. I also do artwork for other authors and that keeps me busy at times.

Where can people find your artwork? 
Story by Jan Kubiac

I can be found here on Facebook everyday. I also have a website.

Story by MW McKenney
My books are on Createspace and I do a lot of commission work and paint from pictures people send me online, mostly.

Story by Marco Greer

Thank you so much, Cheryl for doing this interview. I appreciate it.

All Cheryl Johnson's Children's Books can be found at:
AND Bought AT:

FIND OUT MORE ABOUT CHERYL & See Her Wonderful ArtWorks for Sell AT:

The Book Report: The Toilet is Overflowing & the Dog is Wearing My Underwear by Debbie Roppolo

On The Book Report: 

The Toilet is Overflowing & the Dog is Wearing My Underwear
Debbie Roppolo

If only most of us could have a sense of humor and take  parenting in stride raising our children might be more of a joy than the hardships we feel it is from time to time. It's just not the case for most of us with the responsibility of having a small life depending on us.
I never thought of the early years after my daughter's birth as funny or could I have turned most of the day to day  problems and headaches into a comedy routine. BUT,  Author Debbie Roppolo has a knack for doing just that even with the many surprises and heartaches that she faced daily.
Debbie takes a light-hearted look at taking family trips with her boys, and how their smelly feet and day-old spilled ice cream embedded in upholstery are indistinguishable: how kissing a porch post came about: what you can do with coffee grinds and olive oil: and how she ended up taking one of her sons' to the Vet just to name a few.
The Toilet is Overflowing & the Dog is Wearing My Underwear is a heartwarming book full of anecdotes teaching us all to see the lighter side of life with laughter. It made me take a look back at some frightening events and see the funny side of them I can laugh at now, though I shed many tears then. I laughed as I read. You will love this a book, too.

Debbie Roppolo

The Toilet is Overflowing & the Dog is Wearing My Underwear at:
Find her other books at:
Debbie's Site:
Read More about Debbie Roppolo

An Interview With Award-Winning Author, Debbie Roppolo

Debbie Roppolo
Author Debbie Roppolo is the author of many short stories published in newspapers, magazines, including being published in Chicken Soup for the Coffee Lover's Soul, and Chicken Soup for the Dog Lover's Soul. Klutzin’Around the Christmas Tree, (which I read and LOVED,) was the title for an anthology. 
In 2011, Debbie published her first children's book, Amelia Frump and her Peanut Butter Loving, Overactive Imagination which she patterned the character "Amelia" after her own childhood. In 2013, Amelia Cooking Up a Peanut Butter Storm won second place in the Purple Dragonfly Book Awards. Her book, He's My Brother focuses on how siblings sometimes feel alone after a diagnosis of autism.
He's My Brother
Cooking is her second passion, and Roppolo holds the honor of being a six-time award-winning baker, and the author of an award-winning cookbook.
Hi Debbie, Thank you for doing this interview. I appreciate it. 

How do you come up with your stories and the characters for the books?
I was a very mischievous and imaginative child, and it seemed my goal to hasten the graying of Mom’s hair by embarking on adventures such as getting married in kindergarten. That lasted all of ten minutes, ending abruptly when my mother caught my best guy friend and I exchanging wedding rings made of twisted gum wrapper foil and topped with an “ABC” gum as the gem.
Mom always said “…you’ll get your raising,” but I never understand what she meant until I had children of my own.
Both mine and my kids’ antics are so over-the-top in the imagination department, I base my characters in all my books on our adventures and personalities.

What is your latest book?
I recently took a break from kid’s literature by penning my first parenting humor book, The Toilet’s Overflowing and the Dog is Wearing My Underwear. It’s based on the misadventures I’ve had with my children.

Tell us about all of your books?
Amelia is a nine-year-old girl who loves rolling in mud puddles (pretending their chocolate pudding) and wearing pants she created out of trash bags. Needless to say, this same very active imagination sometimes gets her into trouble.
One night, as the winds howl through the treetops, Amelia sees a spooky, bony finger tapping on the glass outside her bedroom window. Can her wild imagination save her in time, or will she be the final ingredient in a Grubby Sock Casserole?

Amelia Frump…is Cooking Up a Peanut Butter Storm:

This is the second book in the Amelia Frump series and a 2013 winner of a Purple Dragonfly Award.
I created this book based on the experiences I had with both of my grandmothers during my childhood. There was so much laughter, so many lessons learned all while helping my grandmothers in their kitchens.
I wanted to give families the opportunity, to bring them together in the kitchen and build memories.
The activity/cookbook contains bits of trivia, puzzles, coloring pages, and of course recipes featuring peanut butter.

He’s My Brother:

The diagnosis of autism devastates every member of a family, sometimes impacting siblings the hardest. Twelve-year-old Jonathan Roper is no exception. Forced to move away from everything that he's familiar so that his younger brother Cameron can get better services, Jonathan feels alone and forgotten. Can he overcome his feelings of resentment and sadness, or will Cameron's autism drive a wedge between the brothers that can't be overcome? This book also contains answers to frequently asked questions, a resource page, and more.

The Toilet’s Overflowing and the Dog is Wearing My Underwear:

In the BC (before children) years, award-winning humor author Debbie Roppolo believed parenting would be a breeze. Had she known motherhood entailed fishing cell phones from toilets and pulling cocoa puffs out of noses, she might have become a nun. Armed with a sharp wit, her stories, and the realization that parenting is sometimes a contact sport, Roppolo enlightens the reader with the knowledge that parenting is a wonderful journey, especially if the path is edged with humor.

What drew you to writing for children?
Childhood is such a wonderful, magical time. I wanted to create adventures for readers that emphasized using imagination and celebrated being a mischievous kid.

Do your stories convey themes or messages?
There’s so much emphasis on how people should look and act. My books emphasize believing in oneself, accepting the differences in others, finding and celebrating humor in life.

When did you have your first story published?
I’ve written for newspapers, magazines, and a few Chicken Soup for the Soul books since 2003. My dream to have a book of my own published was realized in 2010 when Amelia Frump and her Peanut Butter Loving, Imagination was published by DWB Children’s Line.

What made you decide to publish it?
At first, Amelia was rejected by more publishers than I care to admit. When I’d all but given up, my older son pointed out that I’d always said, “…you can do anything, as long as you try and put your mind to it.”
I loved that he listened to at least one thing I’d said. Grudgingly, I admitted he was right, and continued to submit the story until it was contracted.

You once wanted to be a vet. What happened to that dream?
Two of my father’s friends were vets, my cousin was a wildlife biologist, and I spent a lot of time with those three gentlemen. As a result, anything concerning animals and veterinary medicine fascinated me and I thought I’d become a vet.
Events have a way of changing the mind, and the vet dream faded during my college years when my palomino mare showed up at the barn with huge gashes and scratches on her—she’d been attacked by a mountain lion.  My dad’s vet friend offered a simple solution--I was to peel the scabs off the horse every day and wash it with a weak solution of Dawn dish soap and water.
Sounds simple, right?  I almost passed out the next day when I heard the sound of the first scab peeling off the hair.  My mother finished the job that day (and for the next week) and my dreams of being a famous animal surgeon disappeared faster than the spilled water on the parched ground. 
Debbie, you have written a book on autism. Tell us about it?
The inspiration for He’s My Brother is based on a conversation I had with my older son Jonathan. After we received the diagnosis of autism for my younger son Joseph, all the attention shifted from being given equally to both children to just Joseph. We were dealing with finding the appropriate therapies, and dealing with our emotions. As a result, Jonathan’s needs were sidelined. When I noticed a change in his behavior, I talked with him, and he admitted he was as devastated as we were, but felt there was no one to voice his fears to. And he was resentful, because in a sense, his life was turned upside down, and he felt forgotten.
Jonathan pointed out that there were several siblings of special needs children he knew that felt the same as he did—alone, scared, and forgotten.
The book is about a boy dealing with the same feelings as Jonathan and how he coped with them. He’s My Brother also contains answers to frequently asked questions, a resource page about autism and more.

I love your story, Klutzin’ Around the Christmas Tree! Tell us about it and your other stories for adults?
Thank you, JD! I have all the grace of a gazelle on ice. “Klutzin’ Around the Christmas Tree” is a tale of my attempts to give the family a “perfect” Christmas, all beginning with my late night trimming of the tree. And yes, my cat still runs every time she sees the decoration box come out of storage.
My father always stressed that it was important to have a good sense of humor. He was a hard-working, well respected man, but I never took his advice to heart until I had a family of my own.
It's obvious that I live in an Erma Bombeck-type family. In the past I've gotten my hand caught in a turkey rump (dead and prepped, but raw), received a broken nose courtesy of my younger son, and years ago stopped my toddler from playing dot-to-dot on the Dalmatian with a permanent marker.

I learned as a young parent, that either I could laugh at my family's antics, or sit huddled in a corner, feasting on booty stolen from a Hershey's truck.

I wanted other parents to realize that humor can be found in any situation, that they're not alone, and thus the reason for my book, The Toilet's Overflowing, and the Dog is Wearing My Underwear.

Debbie, tell us about the book or books that have won awards?
Amelia Frump…is Cooking Up a Peanut Butter Storm (the activity/cookbook) was the second place winner of the Purple Dragonfly book award in 2013. It was especially a sweet moment because the book was inspired by the relationship with my grandmothers.
Cooking is my second passion, and as a result of my grandmothers’ tutoring in the kitchen, I’m an eight-time award-winning baker. One of the recipes (“Polka Dot Brownies”) in the cookbook is an award-winner.

Was there any particular book or author who influenced you? 
When I was a child, Beverly Cleary captured my interest with all of her Ramona books. Ramona Quimby was a mischievous young lady, getting into the same troubles I did at that age, and that made the story believable and appealing to me.
Because of that style of writing, I too wanted to create a child that wasn’t perfect…someone that children could easily relate to.

Who do you read? 
I still like to reach for Cleary’s books, but now Erma Bombeck is my author of choice. She did an excellent job of taking parenting experiences and making them into humorous, believable tales.

Do you have a new project?
Currently, in my spare time, I’m working on a third Amelia book and a second cookbook.
If you’d like to connect, you can find me at:
Twitter: @debbieroppolo
And you can find my books at the publisher’s site: and , Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other online bookstores
Debbie's site:
Thank you so much, Debbie, for coming on my blog. I always enjoy talking with you, my friend!   Sincerely, JD

Thank you for having me. It’s always a pleasure!  ~Debbie

The Book Report: In A Nut Shell> Charm School by Nelson DeMille

The Book Report: In A Nut Shell!

Since the end of the Vietnam war, there has always been the rumor that the USSR had taken downed pilots from the Viet Cong to Russia. While no one, that we know of, knows for sure is pilots were abandon this is where the USA's 'no man left behind' movement came from. Many authors have used this premise in stories over the years. I, myself have two short stories based on it.

Just when you think the USA is about to do the right thing by service man and women left behind, you just might be wrong, AGAIN, at least in this book, Charm School!  From how the embassy finds out about this infamous school to how the men and women lived for years shows DeMille's genius and his masterful plotting which not all authors have.  Charm School if not the first of Nelson DeMille's books, it's one of his early books. I think it is his best!

MORE on Nelson DeMille:

Book review of The Brownstone On West 53Rd Street, Rehearsal Club Memoir: In A Nut Shell!

In A Nut Shell!

The Brownstone On West 53Rd Street, Rehearsal Club Memoir by Lora Mitchell

Lora Mitchell’s well-written memoir, The Brownstone On West 53Rd Street, Rehearsal Club Memoir, is an eye opener into the show business world in which she worked. The book is heart-warming even through the sometimes emotional distress and you see clearly through Lora’s eyes how life just moves you forward no matter what happens. We all heard about the hardships and demands on women models and actresses and I never acquainted it to my own teen years, but this book puts you right there and you see that there are comparisons that all young women share.
 For me, I was taken back to a time in my life, that at the time, I never knew I would miss. NOT that I had an exciting life, far from it, especially with Lora’s opportunity to work with the famous in her industry. But there were similarities in the innocence of youth, the friendships that were formed with women, men and teachers, the hard work and studying, and going full steam ahead while not knowing what to expect--and enjoying life. While many people around me only dreamed of having such a life it was a world we all knew about among my friends and family just living 13 miles away, over the George Washington Bridge in Paterson, New Jersey.
Lora and Joe DiMaggio on a photo shoot
 I sincerely enjoyed this book like none other I have ever read! 

That's  The Brownstone On West 53Rd Street, Rehearsal Club Memoir, in a Nut Shell!          ~JD

My Interview with Lora Mitchell:

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