Hello everyone, out there in The Toucan Nation! I know it’s been a while since I’ve given any updates on what the Toucan and I have been up to, so here we go.
The publication of “The Alligator’s Red Shoes” has been moved back again and we now anticipate a mid-April, early May release, or hopefully a bit sooner, so stay tuned! You know how it is with the feather-brains in production, sometimes things don’t go as planned.
If you click around the site you will notice, it’s all brand new! We’ve made an entirely new site just for the Toucan and his friends and so it is easier for all of you to keep up with what we are doing. We love having you come by for a visit and we will be updating things a great deal over the next few weeks, so we hope to see you here often as we keep things rolling along. You are the reason we do what we do!
Anyone wanting to meet me and the Toucan in person? If so, please go to our contact section and leave us a message, we would love to meet you and your friends at your event, at school, at the library or anywhere else you want. We will come and talk and read together and you can get your very own copy to “The Sneezing Toucan” signed by me! You can also pre-order “The Alligator’s Red Shoes” to add to your collection, and I will sign that one too so it’s all ready when it arrives!
That’s all the updates for now, but check back often because we have a lot going on and we don’t want you to miss a thing!
The Toucan flew his way last week to Lavonia Elementary School in Georgia and then on to the Cottageville Library and Lambs Elementary School in South Carolina. Below are some of the highlights of the trip. The video is a small clip of the reason I go to these schools and libraries. If it helps just one student, then it’s all been worth it.
Kim – My sweet Ean, who has just now realized he has a “voice” when it comes to writing, was the one you told he should be a writer. My eyes were filled with tears of joy when you said that to him.
The Alligator’s Red Shoes continues to be in the illustration process and a late February or early March publication date is expected. I will certainly keep you posted! The reading of The Sneezing Toucan on sleeptightstories.org was postponed until a future date and as soon as I know the new date, I will post it.
Stay tuned Toucan Nation! Order your copy of The Sneezing Toucan from me today, just in time for Christmas, and I will include a free gift! Message me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
While attending the SCBWI conference in Charlotte, guess who I FINALLY got to meet in person? My very own illustrator, Samantha Bell! What a treat and special time we had together. Samantha and I discussed our current project, The Alligator’s Red Shoes, and we are working diligently to have it published prior to the holidays. Samantha is an accomplished author and illustrator having written or illustrated over 100 books! Check out her website sometime, https://samanthabellbooks.info/ especially if you are a young artist and are looking for tips and helpful hints. Samantha was gracious and signed 10 of my books and there will be more news regarding this VERY soon and you will not want to miss this announcement.
The Toucan will be flying to Charleston, SC in December for a Meet the Author event at Lambs Elementary and there are plans in the works for another event in Georgia. I am looking forward to seeing my Carolina friends! I still have time available for November bookings so all you teachers and friends of teachers out there, please contact me asap!
The Society of Children’s Books Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) recently held their annual conference in Charlotte, NC. I was fortunate that my schedule allowed me to attend this year and what a great conference it was! Meeting other authors and aspiring authors was a tremendous experience. Learning everything about plotting and pacing and tension and queries to building your brand and online presence and so much more. I am still digesting all the notes I took and will be incorporating them into solid lessons to use as I continue to write for children. My book was available in the conference bookstore and there was an autograph party after dinner! I had the opportunity to chat with Matt Myers, an accomplished author/illustrator, and discuss the illustrative process.
The breakout sessions were conducted by noted authors, illustrators, editors and agents. Each provided their own very unique perspectives pertaining to the publishing journey. My journey is not the “traditional” journey. Heck, my whole life has not been typical, but that is another story altogether. However, the industry has changed and there are now many different paths to publication and you must decide what fits your plan and goals. I really cannot express here how all of you have impacted my journey thus far. More info to follow as Samantha and I continue to work on The Alligator’s Red Shoes. Stay tuned!
I am not sure where to start because there has been a lot happening in the last month or so. I submitted The Sneezing Toucan to the Wake County Library system for a review and possible inclusion into the library collection. Several weeks went by and then I received this in my email. “Congratulations on the publication of your book, thank you for submitting it for review. Our Collection Development Librarians have reviewed it and I’m pleased to say that we have decided that we will add this book to the library’s collection!” – Dan, Selection Manager, Wake Co. Library System. I was surprised and elated and I hope in the very near future, I will be able to “check out” my own book! If your local library would like to acquire a copy or multiple copies, please contact me! For my friends in Berkeley, Dorchester, Charleston, Talladega, Coosa, Montgomery, Camden, Duval, St. Johns, Nassau, Oswego and Onondaga counties, please contact your city/county public library and ask them to order a copy of The Sneezing Toucan today!
Summer is flying by as we all know it can. I hope you took advantage of some time off and made it to a beach or river or lake somewhere. My brother Mike and his son Thomas rented a couple houses at Topsail Beach, here in North Carolina. We spent a Saturday and Sunday with them and our cousin Val was able to come up from Fayetteville with her two kids as well. We had a great time of eating and sharing and of course plenty of time in the water and sand.
When I did my book launch last year for The Sneezing Toucan, some of you asked how I got started writing these stories. Well, you are about to find out! I went Christmas shopping many years ago and had stopped by a wonderful gift shop in downtown St. Marys, Georgia. As I went to the counter, standing there was a Dept 56 collectable. It was an alligator with trees and presents all down the spine. BUT, what really caught my eye was that the alligator was wearing red high heeled shoes! I went home that afternoon and just couldn’t get that gator out of my head. Here is a picture of the collectable I found on Ebay and an ornament I bought years ago.
So, I went to the computer and just started typing and out came the first story, The Alligator’s Red Shoes. I read the story to the girls, who were little at the time, and they laughed and said “Dad, that’s funny!”
Well guess what my friends!! The Alligator’s Red Shoes is on the drawing table with Samantha Bell as illustrator again! I can hardly contain my excitement! She has sent the first batch of sketches and I want to share a couple with you. Just like The Sneezing Toucan, I will be asking young students to submit drawings for the website, so be on the lookout for that announcement soon. Here are a couple of the first sketches Samantha sent.
Recognize that boy in the window? Wait and see what’s in store as The Alligator’s Red Shoes makes it way through all the sketches and changes and then finally heads to the printer. A new character will be introduced to all of you and only The Shadow knows who it will be!
This second book will definitely have ties to the first and will also have future connections to book number three. Yes, book number three has already been written and is undergoing a review process and will be in the queue in a very short time. I must give credit to my daughter Bailee, who inspired me to build these books around a fictional town. After much thought, it hit me the other night as I was trying to get to sleep, Harpersville. It has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it?
That’s all for now my friends! Send me your requests for a Meet the Author event so I can get you on the calendar. Enjoy the rest of your summer and if you are already back in school, have a great year!!
Where on earth does the time go? I mean seriously! School is nearly out in so many parts of the country and Harper Lu has already got a head start on summer vacation by taking a trip to New Hampshire. I remember that Kenny Chesney song, Don’t Blink. Man, he ain’t kidding!
The Sneezing Toucan continues to fly around the country and we did some local flying too! Dixon Road Elementary School, along with hundreds of other schools, participated in a Scholastic Book Fair event. The Sneezing Toucan made an appearance and did a book signing and reading for Family Night. Shout out to Miss Holly Mangum for coordinating this terrific event at Dixon Road!
Not long after the Scholastic Book Fair event, The Sneezing Toucan winged his way to Raleigh and the Sycamore Creek Elementary School. This was the schools first author visit in 2 years and I was extremely grateful for the opportunity to come and share with all six kindergarten classes! We packed the library’s reading corner with 2 classes each and those children asked some really terrific questions! I want to thank Miss Andrea Lyons and Miss Tammy Mims for all their assistance and coordinating all those classes! Great library, great staff and great kids! Those Crocs Rock!
Now if you will kindly indulge me a few moments of your time. I meet once a month with a writers group and our fearless leader is Linda Loegel. Linda is a gifted writer and author of several historical fiction books which are terrific reads and I would highly encourage you to check one out. I said she is fearless, but it wasn’t tongue and cheek. She has been hot air ballooning, skydiving, parasailing and flown in a glider and a bi-plane with a leather helmet and all. Almost all of that was done later in life and some after the age of 60 and more. Then, she recently got married, pushing the age of 80! It is with sadness that I write that her husband of only 2 years, Stewart Hemby, died of heart attack this past week.
Now Linda had always encouraged me to write and challenged me every month and then some, to write, even if it wasn’t a rhyming story. So, many months ago, the Society of Children’s Books Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) issued a bulletin that was calling all writers for a unique opportunity. Godwin Books, an imprint of MacMillan Publishers was putting together a collection of short stories to be included in a book title The Haunted States of America. They were still looking for stories from North Carolina and about 15 other states. I said, “Well, why not?” I looked up several stories about ghosts and goblins and legends in NC for some inspiration and one really stood out, the ghost of Mako. After some more research, my fingers started flying. The story was for young readers and could not be more than 1300 words. I took the story and made some modifications, writers liberty, LOL, which was perfectly ok with SCBWI, and after a couple weeks and before the deadline, submitted a story.
Back to Stewart. As I was writing the draft, of course I sent updates to Linda for her keen eye on grammar and punctuation and she told him I was writing a ghost story. He said “He needs to write about the ghost of Mako!” Linda about fell over and said “He is!” Little did I know that Stewart had been in Wilmington in his younger days and took several dates out to see the ghost. I immediately called Linda and talked to Stewart. Turns out, Stewart had seen him several times and gave me incredible details. Fast forward. I submitted my story and waited. Competition was fierce, but alas, the story was not selected. Yes, I was a little disappointed, but it felt pretty cool to write something out of my comfort zone and stretch my writing a little bit. I will not forget Stewart and Linda’s contribution to the story, as you will read.
I want to leave a couple of last thoughts. What do YOU want to do? Write a book? Go skydiving? Travel overseas? Go back to school? Design clothes? The list is endless. What are you waiting for? Just go do it, don’t wait any longer. Every tick of the clock is a second you cannot bring back. Challenge yourself, push yourself and let others push and challenge you too.
Thanks for indulging me. In memory of Stewart, here is my story….
Tar River Trestle
The late summer sun shone through the windows of the State History 101 classroom and J.B. was bored out of his mind. The testosterone flowing through his body and his short attention span didn’t help matters either. He could hear Mr. Patterson babbling on about ghosts and goblins along the North Carolina coast and all the folklore that passed from generation to generation. “Ghosts my ass,” he thought. At the sound of the bell, he bolted out of his seat and quickly walked through the halls and out the front door of Bunn Middle School. After a short bus ride home, he entered his grandparents’ garage, grabbed his fishing rod, some bait and his ten-speed mountain bike, and headed down to the abandoned railroad trestle that spanned the Tar River. He knew those big catfish hung out near the pylons in the middle of the river and J.B. was determined to snag one before sunset. Ignoring the old danger sign, he pedaled carefully over the rotted ties until he was halfway across the bridge directly between two pylons forty feet below. Baiting the hook with some chicken liver, which his grandfather always kept in the garage fridge, J.B. dropped his nylon line into the river and waited for that familiar tug of a monster mud cat. This was his favorite place to come when he wanted to get away from the pressures and drama of middle school. He had even left his phone on the kitchen table so he didn’t have to listen to the constant alerts of Instagram and Snapchat and all the TikTok wannabes making ridiculous videos. He reeled the line back in and found the hook empty and grabbed another liver. The sky above was changing from clear to overcast and way off in the distance he heard a small rumble. “Ah, perfect fishing weather,” he said aloud and eased the line down next to the other pylon below. J.B.’s mind began to wander as he watched the river flow gently by. His eyes closed briefly, mesmerized by the sparkling water. The sound of a whistle blaring in the distance caused his eyes to fly open. He looked around and realized that his surroundings had dramatically changed; the sun had fallen behind the trees and now the clouds appeared ominous. Through the woods on the east side of the bridge, he could see a small light. As he peered into the maze of trees, he heard the ticking of his reel and then the rod began to bend with a huge mud cat on the hook. “Holy crap!” he shouted pulling up the rod quickly to set the treble hooks. A quick look back into the woods and J.B. was sure he saw a small bright light making its way through the trees. His mind was whirling now as the whistle became louder and the light even brighter. “A train? There is no way it could be a train, this line has been deserted for years.” His mind continued to race and then from the end of the bridge he saw a figure emerge onto the tracks but something was different about it. As a brilliant flash of lightning rippled above, the figure came into focus, and it was running, arms flailing and legs pumping. At that moment, J.B. realized what was different and let out a hair-curling scream. The figure’s body didn’t have a head! But as frightening as the figure was, even more frightening was the headlight of a train behind it, smashing through the overgrown trees and thundering down the old steel rails approaching the Tar River trestle. Completely terrified now, he dropped the rod and jumped on his bike and started pedaling like a mad man. He glanced back over his shoulder and screamed again as the train whistle blew and the distinct sound of the powerful locomotive filled the night air. The decapitated torso was still running wildly across the tracks with its arms reaching towards the sky as though he was trying to grab the stars above. J.B. felt the entire bridge shake and tremble as the oncoming train roared and bellowed toward him. He didn’t see the railroad tie sticking out and as the front tire hit, the bike suddenly veered to the right, heading over the rail towards the cold dark river below. With one last look back as he began to fall over the edge, he saw the headless apparition in the bright lights of the oncoming train. It was only a few feet away and in the blink of an eye, he noticed that the missing head was severed clean and there was a trace of blood on his old denim jacket. His blue bib overalls had stains of grease and mud and his rubber boots reminded him of a pair of worn Wellington boots his grandfather had. The blast of the whistle snapped J.B. out of his trance and in slow motion, gravity took over. As he fell with the bike, his arms flew up. Looking heavenward, he felt two hands reach down for him, tightly grabbing his wrists. He suddenly stopped falling and instead of landing in the water, was lifted in the air by the beheaded man who threw him over his shoulder. The chilling sound of the black locomotive howled as it raced onto the trestle. J.B. kicked, screamed, and pounded the back of the decapitated man, trying to free himself from his grip. He even took a swing at what should have been his head but hit nothing but air. It was then that he noticed on the back of the denim jacket in bright red letters against a dirty white background, a logo of the Atlantic Pacific Railroad, and right above the red R.R. were three scrawled letters. J…o…e. “Joe” was now nearing the end of the trestle and the pounding, screeching, and churning of the train’s wheels and engine was deafening. J.B. was bouncing from shoulder to shoulder since there was no head to hold him on one side or the other. The angry locomotive barreled across the bridge and was only thirty yards behind them when Joe leaped from the tracks, gently landing on a soft patch of grass. J.B. looked up in time to watch the train roar by, blasting its whistle and shattering its way through the trees on the west side of the trestle, finally disappearing into the night. J.B. saw the headless man standing over him then collapsed back onto the soft grass. J.B.’s eyes fluttered open as a gentle rain splashed his face. There in the grass next to him was his bike and fishing rod and the biggest Tar River catfish he had ever seen. He grabbed the rod and fish, jumped on the bike, and raced back to his grandparents’ home. His grandfather was on the porch. “I was just about to go looking for you. Are you all right? Come inside and get out of this rain. Hey Linda, come look at the size of this catfish J.B. caught!” As his grandparents stared at the monster mud cat, J.B. quickly told them what had happened, every detail etched in his memory. His grandparents looked at each other incredulously. His grandmother said with a quivering voice, “Tell him the story, Stewart.” His grandfather left the room and in no time returned with a well-worn denim jacket and slowly sat in the kitchen chair next to his grandson. He fingered a fraying patch and taking a deep breath, said, “Let me tell you about my great great uncle, Joe Baldwin, the Ghost of Mako.” (C) Jim Munroe, rhymes4life.com 3/2022
Hello Toucan Nation! First and foremost, I believe I owe all of you an apology for not keeping my blog updated. As so many of you know, life comes by in a blink and the next thing you know, months have passed. My Facebook account was hacked many months ago and I am still in the process of trying to acquire all my friends back. IF, you received a new friend request from me, listed as James Munroe, not Jim Munroe, please accept it and tell others about it too.
I wanted to thank you all for your tremendous support in 2021 with the successful book launch of The Sneezing Toucan. I have officially went over the 500 mark and although it may not sound like a lot, I think it’s pretty dang good. There is still much more work to do as I push towards my goal of 5000. There are @5-600,000 books published every year and fewer than 5% of those will sell more than 250 copies. You have helped me double that amount and I really appreciate your support and encouragement.
I was able to present The Sneezing Toucan via zoom to the kindergarten classes at Laurel Park Elementary School in Raleigh and a shout out to Heather Millsaps for her efforts in setting those up. The Toucan also flew to Polenta Elementary here in Johnston County. Special thanks to Sayonna Grace Adams and her outstanding children there. They asked some really great questions!
If you are a teacher or know a teacher that would like a visit from The Sneezing Toucan, please don’t hesitate to contact me. My off time is starting to fill up and summer will be here before we know it and all those kids will be on vacation. I am willing to travel anywhere in NC, SC, GA, FL and VA. Let me hear from you! Any school attended will be given an autographed copy of the book for their school library.
I have some pretty exciting news to share with you! Yes, I am working on a new book for publication and I hope to let you all know more about that soon. BUT, that is not what I want to share. As most of you know, I have been writing for a long time now and I have written hundreds of poems and last year published a children’s book called The Sneezing Toucan. BUT, what if I told you that I have also written a few songs? Last year, a friend of mine in Alabama, Rocky Lucas, shared a post on Facebook. A friend of his, Troy Jones, a Nashville songwriter had passed and Rocky had written a tribute to him that included these words, “I’ll see you when I get there.” I was so moved by those words that I wrote a song and sent it to Rocky. He has been working on this for awhile and just about a week ago, he messaged me and sent a studio recording. Ladies and Gentlemen, I present to you for the first time “When I Get There”
Thanks Rocky for the amazing job and I truly hope one day it can be heard on the radio!
Well, that’s all for now. I hope you all are having a good start to 2022. Hopefully we are free of masks and can see each others smiling faces once again! Thank you again for your incredible support!
It’s amazing to me how quickly time passes. Summer is winding down, still hot as heck, and Miss Harper Lu started 4th grade last week. I turn around and blink and four or five weeks have just blown by. I am sure all of you know that same feeling and we have no way of stopping or slowing down that clock.
The Sneezing Toucan continues to fly off my shelf and has landed in some familiar places as well as some new ones. As school opens back up, I am looking for opportunities to share the book with many classrooms here in Raleigh and anywhere else an invitation is extended. Book sales have been steady and my latest order has arrived, although it wasn’t the full amount. For some reason, I ended up with Pastor Cummings new book that was suppose to be delivered to him in Illinois! The publisher is trying to figure that one out. I have a number of books in stock, so contact me and I would be thrilled to send you a copy!
I have continued to seek new ways of promoting and advertising and I asked a friend of mine in Charleston who has been in the radio and television business for awhile, if he had any suggestions. His first thought was podcasts. Of course I have heard of podcasts but have never really listened to that many. I have found Andy Andrews, but that’s another story altogether. Raymond suggested contacting family oriented podcasts that may have children’s books as a focus. So, I dove in and found hundreds and hundreds of podcasts. It was a whole new world! After narrowing down to just a few, I made some contacts. Well, one of those contacts responded! It was SleepTightStories.org. Their stories add a little happily-ever-after to your bedtime routine and their podcasts have been downloaded millions of times by children and their families all over the world! Sheryl and Clark have given me an opportunity to have The Sneezing Toucan read on their podcast on September 7th! The podcast can be heard on Spotify, Google and Apple podcasts as well. Thank you Raymond Owens for a great suggestion and I am super excited to have the book broadcast on the “airwaves”!
On a personal note, my heart has been heavy these past few days after losing thirteen service members in Afghanistan. My blog is not a political one and will not become one. My thoughts are with these families and cannot fathom the sense of loss and grief. I would just ask that you pray for them and that somehow they can find some measure of comfort and peace in the midst of the storm.
Here is my new business card. If you would like some to pass out, shoot me an email and I will be happy to send a small package to you!
Please send me your pictures! I will be loading pictures soon of children reading The Sneezing Toucan. I want to have at least 50, one for every state represented! So take that picture and send it to me please. Thank you all again for your continued support.
Hello Toucan Nation! How is your summer going? Vacation to the beach or mountains or some foreign country? We managed a couple days off and went to Carowinds and got a little wet and wild. Harper was tall enough to ride a few coasters and I think that girl will be riding quite a few more in the future. As for Boppa, he stayed on the ground for the most part and enjoyed some awesome funnel cake!
As most of you know by now, the hardbacks came in and would you believe, I am almost out? Ya’ll are the best!! I have a great friend that I served in the Navy with and he purchased a number of them and is distributing them all over Maine and other parts unknown. Thanks Gary! Your support is just absolutely mind blowing. If I have been keeping track correctly, The Sneezing Toucan has made its way to half of the country! So, we have some work to do to make sure it flies to all 50 states. If you know folks in Alaska, Hawaii, the Dakotas, Vermont, Rhode Island, pass the word and get that book out there! On the local scene here in Raleigh, the toucan has gone mobile. Special shout out to my old high school friend Debbie and her Maui Wowi stand and my pool buddy Austin and Lina’s Grub Shack. You guys rock and I look forward to making other food truck connections. Look them up and support their business!
I am so excited to tell you about this next bit of news! As many of you know, when I did the book launch, I committed to donating to a couple of great organizations. This past week, I stopped by Read and Feed here in Raleigh. All I can say is wow. This is a great organization and I simply cannot wait to become more involved with them. Shout out to Miss Lisa who showed me around the place and those RVs. Thanks to all of you, they received a nice check along with several copies of the book. I hope to become a mystery reader soon!
In case you were wondering, I have more hardbacks on the way. So please continue to share with all your social circles, email lists, company memos, newsletters and any other forms of communication you may have. Also, if you have a picture of your son, daughter, niece, nephew, granddaughter, grandson or friend or neighbor, that is reading The Sneezing Toucan, I would love to post it here on the site! Who knows, maybe a best picture with a caption could land you a free copy of the book!
That’s all for now. Check the Children’s Book tab for order information. So much more is coming down the road and rest assure that I will be keeping you updated as fast as I can. According to the publisher, I have sold well over 100 online and that means I should have over 100 reviews! Thanks to all of you who have taken a moment and left a few words. I sincerely appreciate it! According to a teacher in Florida “It would be great to use as an example of the use of rhyming in our poetry unit and also during our persuasive writing unit. I think it will keep the students interested from beginning to end and make them smile too.” Now that makes ME smile!