Posted in authors, characters, children, Christian, coming of age, fiction, Indie, KIndle, mystery, novels, parents, readers, teaching our children, Young Adult

Cheryl Abney writes Middle-Grade Historical Fiction

cheryl abney

Cheryl Abney is a retired educator with over 30 years’ experience as a teacher and counselor at all levels—college, high school, middle, and elementary. She is a current member of American Christian Fiction Writers, Florida Writers’ Association, Gulf Coast Writers’ Association, and the Society of Children’s Writers and Book Illustrators. Cheryl loves to create historical fiction stories and has written two middle-grade readers set in the Florida Lake Okeechobee area, circa 1918—Belle of the Glades, and its sequel, The Bone Field Mystery. She lives in the Florida Glades area of her story’s setting with her husband, two Jack Russell terriers (Zoey & Ditto), and her tortoise (Theo). She loves her current freelance position of creating short historical fiction stories for, and she hopes you’ll like reading them as much as she has enjoyed writing them.

Cheryl Abney weaves a new adventure in the old frontier as a young city girl meets rustic fish camp in her book Belle of the Glades. When recently orphaned Isabelle Lacy, is sent to live with her uncle on the shores of Lake Okeechobee in 1918, a whole new world is opened to her–a world shared with snakes, alligators, outlaws, and a new Indian friend.

 The Bone Field Mystery is the sequel to Belle of the Glades, and it takes Belle on an adventure to solve whether there is a Bigfoot at the Bone Field. Both Christian oriented middle-grade readers can be purchased online at as an e-book or softcover through links to Amazon and Barnes & Noble (iUniverse for Belle of the Glades only).


 The_Bone_Field_Myste_Cover_for_Kindle Cheryl Abney

Cheryl, do you recall how your interest in writing originated?

I think I inherited my note-writing from my father, who would leave these small manila- work-tags scribbled with notes on his desk (the top of the refrigerator). I kept diaries when younger and still journal, was PTA secretary a number of years, and loved English and shorthand classes. My first remembered interest dates back to a fourth grade activity of creating a class poetry book—which I still have. We each had to create three poems for this hard-cover book. I was ecstatic.
What type of writing do you do?

I have written nonfiction articles for magazines, newspapers, websites like The Parenting Network and Kids Faith Garden, but my books and short stories are historical fiction for middle-grade readers. That’s where my heart is.

Why did you choose the self-publishing Indie route? Why did I choose this publisher and would you recommend that same Indie publisher?

I was probably premature to self-publish BOTG, because I’d only submitted it half a dozen times, and was encouraged to hang tough by a writing mentor. I retired in 2011 and I wanted to see it in print…felt I didn’t have the advantage of youth to wait years. I chose iUniverse after speaking with a friend who used them, and I did my homework researching the different Indies. My sequel, TBFM, was published through CreateSpace. It involved more work on my part, but I had more control over the product price…which dictates our profit margin.

I know that feeling of wanting to hold your book in your hands. I don’t think patience is an easy virtue for authors.

Do you always write in the same POV or do you switch it up.

I have always written my books in third person POV. It wasn’t until this year, when hired to write historical-fiction short stories for middle graders in first person, that I attempted this POV. It was definitely a learning curve, but I do feel it more effective in getting your reader into the story—as if they’re experiencing it.

I am also working on my adult historical romance, but keeping it in third person POV; so yes, I’m switching it up. I find I have to edit the short, first-person stories carefully so I don’t slip back into my books’ POV.

Are you a pantser or a planner?

I have done both, but I tend to grab an idea and jot a few notes, then write, write, write. I usually end up stopping at some point and creating a plan. But over all, I’m a pantser. I must admit to trying some excellent planning programs, but don’t follow through with them. However, I think it’s extremely important that you do lengthy character sketches of each main character before starting to write. I clip pictures from magazines for images. I’ve heard it said that you don’t “write what you know, but who you know.” Personalities, I steal from people I know. I heard one author assigned character names starting with the letter of the known person’s name, who she could relate the character’s personality to. Important thing, is to get to know your character well, before writing.

What advice would I give to new writers just started with their first manuscript?

Two notes of advice—join a supportive, productive writers’ group and an editing group; and practice discipline. Set a definite, nonnegotiable time of the day to write, and write most every day. I’m most productive when I treat my writing like the business it is—showing up regularly.

What inspired you to write your first book?

I enjoyed reading Patrick Smith’s A Land Remembered, and Zora Neale Hurston’s There Eyes Were Watching God, both about the everglades; I thought it’d be enjoyable and educational to write about the area I reside in from a young reader’s view.

How did you come up with the title?

When I was a young college student first introducing myself to a class, the professor kiddingly referred to me, that one instance, as “Belle of the Glades.” I’ve never forgotten it, even though I now know the label was referring to Belle Glade (my residence then) by its original name.
Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

May sound corny, but I like to think it says “home is where the heart is.” Home has nothing to do with money, possessions, popularity, location—but a lot to do with security found in family, faith, and friendship.

How much of the book is realistic?

The dates and locations of the islands and settlements bordering Lake Okeechobee, the Palm Beach Canal, 1918 flu epidemic, and environment are realistic. I’ve created the Glades Runner, Sam’s store, and Hayes’s Fish Camp—but representative of the real things.

Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?

Pieces of every author creep into their writings. In BOTG, my youth was more like Belle’s after she came to live at her uncle’s fish camp. I loved wading and catching pollywogs, frogs, and turtles in the pond near home. My friends and I climbed the sand hills and wandered paths in the woods.

What book are you reading now?

I enjoy historical books like BOTG. Right now I’m reading the second in a series that started with an historical time-travel plot—Tomorrow & Always by Barbara Bretton. It’s captivating, as I hope Belle of the Glades is.

Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.

I belong to several writing groups, but Gulf Coast Writers Association (Fort Myers) has definitely been the most interactive and rewarding. They meet the third Saturday of every month. I also meet with three other ladies, Critique Critters, to edit each other’s work once a month.

Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?

Francine Rivers is my favorite author. I just finished her current series that starts with Her Mother’s Hope (Marta’s Legacy). It is historical and crosses three generations. This Christian author, whom I’ve heard and met at conference, writes detailed accounts of another time and place, so that the reader is transported to that era.

Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)

No, because I’ve lived in the area of my setting, Lake Okeechobee, for 43 years. I have, however, visited many of the museums within driving distance to research the material in BOTG. Have you learned anything from writing your book?

I’ve learned how difficult it is to publish and market a book for profit. I’ve learned to stress less and enjoy the journey. An author needs to enjoy the accomplishment—the fruition of their efforts. Enjoy the kind comments and support from readers, and keep their eyes on the original goal to share knowledge and pleasure. I would advise young writers to follow their dream now—for it’s true that “tomorrow never comes.”

Writing for profit has a long learning curve, so take advantage of writing clubs, online seminars, workshops—and write. Google “young author publishers,” and check out CreateSpace. Parents can encourage their children’s writing by helping them navigate CreateSpace and publish 5 copies of their book for a minimal fee.

Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

A link to a short-story sample can be found at, as well as book purchase links. I hope you enjoy Belle’s adventure and will contact me.

Thank you so much for a wonderful interview.  Cheryl’s  books are available through:

Create Space:  The Bone Field Mystery:

Her Amazon Author Page:

iUniverse :

Her website:






Posted in authors, children, education, non-fiction, schools, teaching our children, writers

Dr. Dolores Burton addresses an integrated approach to today’s classrooms

It is my honor to have Dr. Burton with us today on Author Interview Friday.  I rarely have the opportunity to have non-fiction writers here and it is a wonderful change. I know that there have been so many new changes in the school system over the years and although I no longer have children in school, I hear the grumblings from young parents about the school testing programs and the general decline in good teaching. It sounds like you have offered an answer to their concerns.

author photo

Dolores Burton has been an educator for 37 years and consulted on educational matters locally for school districts, nationally and internationally for universities such as Moi University in Kenya. She was recently honored as a Fulbright Senior Scholar and traveled to South Africa to assist the University of Pretoria to create programs for underserved populations.

Dr. Burton recently retired as chair of teacher education and a professor at New York Institute of Technology. She is a former middle and high school mathematics and computer science teacher and school district administrator responsible for the installation of district-wide and county-wide technology implementations and professional development for teachers. She is permanently certified in New York State as a classroom teacher of mathematics, building administrator and school district administrator.

Her first book, The Complete Guide to RtI: An Implementation Toolkit, was published in December 2011 by Corwin Publications and her second book, Mathematics, the Common Core, and RtI: An Integrated Approach to Teaching in Today’s Classrooms, was published in September 2013. She has published in numerous journals and presented in regional, national, and international venues on topics related to; mathematics, STEM, using technology to enhance teaching and learning, differentiated instruction and assessment and using brain based learning strategies to reach all students among other topics. In the early 1980’s she authored 10 modules of software to prepare students for standardized tests in mathematics and was the first author admitted to the Author’s Guild for authoring non-print material.

She has a special interest in using research to close the achievement gap of the traditionally underserved populations; nontraditional learners, English Language Learners, students with special needs, and others at-risk for academic failure.

Before we begin, can you explain what “RTI” actually is or “the Common Core?”

To answer your question, I’ll take a quote from our first book, The Complete Guide to RTI. A change in regulations that govern education in this country took place in 2001 with the legislation, No Child Left Behind. In place of accumulated experience, past practice, expertise, professional judgment, and training as the basis for decision-making, the standard for educational practice would be the scientific method: “systematic, empirical methods . . .  rigorous data analysis . . . observational methods . . . experimental or quasi-experimental designs .”

Response to Intervention (RTI) is a multi-tiered approach to identifying and supporting students with learning and behavior needs. Its purpose is to provide high quality, scientifically based instruction in the general education classroom. The RTI process includes ongoing student assessment and monitoring of individual student progress (progress monitoring) that tracks the results of targeted and “tiered” interventions. These interventions are introduced first to all learners (beginning at the elementary school level), and then increased for those who show a need for additional support. This additional support comes from a multi-tiered approach that provides differentiated instruction to develop their skills.

While no single RTI model is universally practiced among all grade levels, generally, the three (sometimes four or five) separate tiers of specific learning strategies offer increasing levels of intensity of instruction to accelerate students’ rates of learning, based on their individual needs.

Common Core refers to the Common Core State Standards in reading and mathematics that are implemented on a state level for education. The proper name in Florida for the Reading standards is “English Language Arts and Literacy”.

When did you first know you wanted to be a writer and was there a particular inspiration to get started?

As a teenager I wanted to be an artist; then I thought about becoming a teacher of mathematics. I chose mathematics because as a math teacher I would not have to write, just work with numbers. I did not think I was a very good writer but knew I was a good math student. My interest in writing began about 15 years ago. Over my professional career, I had written many reports, memos, etc. but had not found my passion. My passion was ignited when I started doing research for my dissertation and learned from my professors ways to create new ideas and knowledge to share about best strategies to use to help children and adults learn new concepts. Around that time, personal computers were being installed in schools and the use of technology for teaching and learning was very exciting to me; like a really challenging jigsaw puzzle. Around the same time word processors were becoming more powerful (thank goodness for spell check!) and suddenly I could write about what I was discovering about using computers in schools to benefit students.

How long did it take to publish your first manuscript?

The process to publish our first book, The Complete Guide to RTI: An Implementation Toolkit, started in the summer of 2008 and continued until the book was published in December of 2011. The book proposal was completed and submitted to the publisher in June 2010. We received the contract from our publisher in August 2010. The book went through a peer review process several times during this period and each time a response to the peer reviewers’ comments needed to be submitted to the publisher. This added to the time between idea and publication.

The book we are discussing today started as an idea while writing the mathematics chapter in The Complete Guide to RTI. Once I started the research for the chapter, I realized to do justice to this topic; it would take more than a 20 page chapter. Hence, Mathematics, the Common Core, and RTI: An Integrated Approach to Teaching in Today’s Classrooms was born!

Are you published through a traditional publishing house? How did you find your publisher?

Both books were published by Corwin Publications, a division of Sage Publications. I found the publisher by identifying books in a similar genre and making a list of their publishers. I attended conferences and met some of the staff of 3 or 4 potential publishers and gave them a one page flyer that described the premise of the book and the titles of the chapters. I focused on Corwin because I liked the conversations with the Corwin editors I met. I guess you can say it felt right. I followed up with a 70 page book proposal (most likely over kill) based on the directions for authors on the Corwin website.

What was the hardest part of the writing process; the outline, the synopsis, query or building the story itself?

The hardest part of the writing process for me was getting over “writers block”. Periodically I would sit down at my computer and stare at the screen. Absolutely no thought would enter my mind regarding whatever topic I was trying to write about. My technique to get over that “mental freeze” was to just start writing even if a page or two made no sense in the context of the book and was eventually discarded. For me, the process of typing on the computer sometimes helps to make my brain think.

What advice would you give to new writers just getting started with their first manuscript?

The most important advice I can think of for new writers is, “Write every day!”. The more you write the better writer you will become. When you are not writing; read. Reading the work of good writers has helped me to analyze my own writing. I have writing buddies that read my work are “critical friends” Before we start the process we agree to not to take the suggestions personally and be honest with each other about how we can make the chapter, article or proposal better. Sometimes my husband becomes my “critical friend” especially when I am trying to judge how clear I have presented an idea.

What is the premise of the book we are promoting today?

Mathematics, the Common Core, and RTI: An Integrated Approach to Teaching in Today’s Classrooms was written to help pre-service and in-service teachers, parents and administrators to create opportunities for all students to be successful in mathematics. We tried to give strategies that are easy to use that will help children in grades 1 through 8 to succeed in the new more rigorous Common Core Mathematics State Standards   and the English Language Arts and Literacy State Standards, whether they are challenged or typical students. There are chapters describing the Common Core State Standards in mathematics and literacy, special strategies for students for whom English is not their first language, students with special needs and a chapter to help parents understand the new Common Core Standards  and resources for them to help their children. The book was released on September 26, 2013 and is available on and

Burton_Mathematics_the_Common_Core_and_RTI       42181_Burton_Complete_Guide_RTI_72ppiRGB_150pixw (2)

I must apologize for the small copy of the Complete Guide to RTI book.  One thing I am not is a computer wiz and try as I may, this was the best I could do.

Can you share a few paragraphs from your book to wet our appetite?

This is an excerpt from Chapter 1:

The most pervasive mandates in American schools today are the Common Core State Standards (prescribing the content of instruction) and Response to Intervention (prescribing a data-based method of instruction). Most of the resources available to help teachers work with either mandate treat the two as separate entities, without reference to the other. As a result, mathematics educators are calling for some way of working with CCSS and RTI as a single, unified program that they can use in their classes, rather than as separate, isolated mandates. Discussions with teachers reflect John F. Kennedy’s frustration with his advisors when he reportedly complained, “All my economists say, ‘on the one hand . . . on the other.’ Give me a one-handed economist” (quoted in Krugman, 2003, p. 11). Teachers need a single inte­grated approach to mathematics instruction—not two, let alone three or more—that addresses the needs of all their students.

In preparation for this book, we reviewed the growing collection of mate­rial on CCSS and RTI that is available to educators, and as we listened to col­leagues who are introducing the two programs to their schools, it became clear that what they needed was not another handbook telling them what CCSS or RTI is. What they want is, first, a way of untangling the perspectives of the many experts within the fields of the Common Core and RTI. Second, they are asking for help in charting a path through the potential interactions between RTI and the other mandated requirements their schools face, par­ticularly the Common Core, but also the No Child Left Behind legislation, the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics Standards, differentiated instruction and universal design, inclusion, parent involvement, and the demands of their local school policies. Teaching mathematics is a more com­plex activity than ever before, and the need for a unified instructional strat­egy to teach all students has never been stronger. There is pressing need for a book that integrates the multiple new requirements into a single, compre­hensible process that can help teachers succeed with the mandates of CCSS and RTI, but more important, to help each of their students achieve success in mathematics. That is our goal.

Where can readers buy your books? 

On Amazon:

On   for The Complete Guide to RTI     for Mathematics, the Common Core and RTI