Got It Covered–Almost

Dear Cover Browsers,

Most of my writing time this May has been spent working with the publisher and designer on the cover for Nutmeg Street: Egyptian Secrets. The process hasn’t always been easy, but it’s been worth it.

You’ve probably heard the expression, “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” But the truth is most people do! Think about it. You’re shopping for a new book. The cover must catch your eye and be compelling enough so the volume finds a new home in your world.

For us Middle Grade (preteen audience) writers, the cover must be age appropriate, yet have “wow factor,” plus reveal something irresistible about the characters and story–enough for the book to grab the hand and heart and stick like Crazy Glue.

My vision for my cover has changed during the negotiation process with the publisher and designer over points enormous and minuscule. One moment, I’m disappointed when a cherished idea is rejected. Then, I’m elated when one is approved! Suddenly, a great idea I hadn’t thought of enters the mix. When I can remain objective, it’s inspiring to behold the designer’s artistry, the publisher’s expertise, and my wishes shift and merge. It’s definitely a give-and-take process, making the cover better with each round. As of today, we’re almost there! Later this year, I will have the great “Cover Reveal” for your take on our efforts.

So get a clue, Readers, and get my book, cover and all, next February. I hope it grabs you and doesn’t let go long after you’ve finished reading it, cover to cover.


Very Mysterious!

Dear actual or wannabe mystery-book-loving Readers,

I just discovered and joined a mystery book blog! (Though figuring out how to navigate it is still a mystery.)

The site contains comprehensive lists and commentary about cozy (non-gory) mystery books and series for all ages and allows input from readers.

I certainly hope to see Nutmeg Street: Egyptian Secrets mentioned and praised there early next year. Hint, hint….

So get many clues: If you’re a mystery fan, or want to become one, join at to start lurking in its shadows with me.



Tasting Words

Can you taste words?

Rani Kumar, one of my Botanic Hill detectives, and I can! We share an extra sensory ability called synesthesia. No, it isn’t fatal! It’s actually fun.

Synesthesia is a mixing of the senses in the brain where one type of brain stimulation–such as hearing a word or name–makes you experience something else. For Rani and me, that something else is a taste or a smell. We were born with it, and it can’t be “turned off.”  But we wouldn’t want to. It’s like eating, minus the calories!

Some synesthetes associate a word, number, or musical note with a color. Those are the most common types. Rani and I associate words and names with foods or aromas. Our type of synesthesia is very rare. Two to four percent of the world’s population has some form of synesthesia. But only 0.2 percent or lower of the world’s population has our type, lexical-gustatory synesthesia. Some famous people with synesthesia were Van Gogh, Duke Ellington, Plato, and Socrates.

I know what you’re thinking. You want some examples, right? Well, my first name–Sherrill–makes me taste a cherry lollipop. My last name–Joseph–is a Mounds candy bar. (My maiden name–Johns–is Ivory soap; I’ll take candy over soap any day!) And Rani’s examples? Well…you’ll have to read the book!

So get a clue, synesthetes and non-synesthetes: Watch in Nutmeg Street: Egyptian Secrets how Rani uses synesthesia as the detectives solve their case.

What’s Jean-Francois Champollion Doing Here?

Dear Readers and future Egyptologists,

Recently, I was looking for appropriate images for my book cover for Nutmeg Street: Egyptian Secrets. Hieroglyphics came to mind, the picture script of the ancient Egyptians that decorated the temples, tombs, and sarcophagi of their kings and queens. That’s when I discovered Jean-Francois Champollion!

Champollion was born in France and lived from 1790 to 1832. By age sixteen, he had learned six ancient languages, in addition to Latin and Greek. Whoa! Using those skills, Champollion noticed Greek words on the famous Rosetta Stone (Look this up!) next to some hieroglyphics. He figured if he used the Greek, he could translate each hieroglyph. Viola! He was correct! His discovery helped scientists unlock the secrets of ancient Egyptian culture, history, customs, and burial practices. Champollion earned fame, book deals, and the title, “Father of Egyptology.”

So get a clue from Monsieur Champollion and his hieroglyphics: Use your talents and keep your ears and eyes open. You never know what secrets you might unlock–or where–that could benefit the world!






Why I Write

Dear Readers and Writers,

In 2013, when I retired from a long career in teaching, I missed kids–especially interacting with them daily. Their creative questions and insights taught me much about them and more about myself. Their ability to fix my tech tools on the spot showed me that I didn’t know everything. They kept me grounded in the present and hopeful for all our futures. I took seriously, then, my wise students’ challenge to write a better story than the one we were reading. Lo and behold, by 2014, the first book, Nutmeg Street: Egyptian Secrets, in my Botanic Hill Detectives Mysteries series was born!

I don’t pretend that I will ever become rich and famous from my books. After all, I’m not J.K. Rowling! Those are not my goals, anyway. And the self-satisfaction I get from expressing my creativity through writing, which is considerable, is secondary. Rather, I write to try to get a good whodunit with kindred, role-model characters–who make being smart and respectful, cool–into kids’ hands and hearts. If even one reader gets half as much enjoyment from my work as I did from reading Nancy Drew as a child, then I will have accomplished my mission. And just maybe that one reader will be…my granddaughter!

On February 1, 2020, when Book 1 is released, I will be reminded that I cannot predict what influence, if any, I might have on readers. Each could have their own takeaways from my work far beyond my imagination. But I will become rich in the knowledge that I have given back to kids. So get a clue and get ready to reap my rewards!




Take Flight(s)

Well, I’m still stuck on the staircase!
Here is a quote I like that involves staircases. It was written by a European writer named Franz Kafka, who lived from 1883-1924. Ponder this deeply: How does this quote apply to your life?

“So if you find nothing in the corridors, open the doors, and if you find nothing behind these doors, there are more floors, and if you find nothing up there, don’t worry. Just leap up another flight of stairs. As long as you don’t stop climbing, the stairs won’t end. Under your climbing feet, they will go on growing upwards.”

So get a clue, Readers, and keep exploring and growing upwards.