The Monstore: Debut Picture Book by Tara Lazar

Monstore Cover

Tara Lazar is an amazing woman with an amazing name that just sounds like the moniker of a children’s author. She is also a wonderful mother to two adorable daughters, a blogger extraordinaire, and a tireless advocate and promoter of picture book authors and illustrators. Her annual writing challenge, PiBoIdMo (Picture Book Idea Month)—hosted on her website each November since 2008—has inspired hundreds of folks to stretch their imaginations and brainstorm picture book ideas, some of which have been developed into manuscripts that went on to be published.

Well, I’m thrilled to announce that Tara’s debut picture book—The Monstore—has just been released by Aladdin, and it’s a doozy!

The Monstore is the kind of story that kids will want to read over and over again, and the delightful illustrations by James Burks ensure that parents will also enjoy repeated readings.

Underneath a trap door at the back of Frankensweet’s Candy Shoppe is the Monstore, catering to all your monsterly needs. Zack is in need of a monster to scare off his pesky little sister, Gracie, who ignores the “Keep Out!” sign on his bedroom door. But the plan backfires, and unable to return his monster—the store policy is “No Returns, No Exchanges, No Exceptions”—Zack soon has a houseful of goofy-looking beasties who turn against him, teaming up with Gracie to frighten Zack. Ultimately Zack proves he can be a good older brother, but it’s Gracie who steals the story and comes up with a clever resolution.

A great story coupled with brilliant illustrations adds up to a superb picture book that is sure to be a bedtime favorite. Check it out!

The Monstore
Story by Tara Lazar
Illustrations by James Burks
Aladdin, 2013

ISBN-13: 978-1442420175

Available at:



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Visionary Fiction Challenges Our Species to Evolve




(The original post of this article can be found at:

Human nature is not fixed. It has evolved over the course of millennia and is capable of further change. Is it overly grandiose to suggest that visionary fiction could help play a role in such a transformation?

Most likely, but I shall nevertheless make the case.

Visionary fiction overlaps with several better established genres, such as science fiction, fantasy, speculative, and inspirational fiction. What’s unique about visionary fiction is its focus on the expansion and evolution of the human mind, imagining new frontiers for the human spirit.

What’s the importance of visionary fiction in today’s world?

There is no denying that we live in an era of unprecedented change and extraordinary uncertainty about the future. It’s the Age of Crises. Population explosion, pollution, natural disasters, climate change, economic recession, scarcity of resources, terrorism, and ethnic wars all threaten to disrupt or end civilization as we know it.

Perhaps science and technology can help solve some of these dilemmas. But even the most astonishing technological breakthroughs will not save us if they are not accompanied by a transformation in how we think, act, and relate to each other.

Just as science fiction has furnished the inspiration for many technological advances, it’s conceivable that visionary fiction could help provide the inspiration for a new awakening of the human spirit.

For it is now evident that it’s the shortsighted, self-centered, greedy, and xenophobic aspects of human nature that have created our predicament. Only by evolving into a wiser, more generous, compassionate, and cooperative species can we hope to survive.

My novel, Crashing Eden, envisions a world in which humans are transformed by regaining the capacity to hear the primordial vibration of the universe, reestablishing Edenic consciousness. This may be pure fantasy, but unless we can manage to overcome our differences and think on a planetary scale, our future may well be bleak.


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Visionary Fiction Alliance website goes live!

logo for Visionary Fiction Alliance







Here’s the cool logo of the newly formed Visionary Fiction Alliance, of which I’m a founding member.

A handful of authors met at the Goodreads Visionary Fiction Group and we started a web ring in order to promote interest in visionary fiction. Our new blog went live on August 17th, and will serve as a resource for readers, authors, agents, reviewers, and publishers. I’m excited to be a part of this undertaking.

To celebrate the launch of the VFA, we’re offering a chance to win seven VF titles from our founding members. You can enter the giveaway through the end of August.

You can also check out my new article—Visionary Fiction Challenges Our Species to Evolve—which has been posted on the VSA site.

We each contributed a “blog blessing,” as well, and here’s my little ditty:

May the VSA
Inspire today
And foreshadow
A better tomorrow.



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A True Wonder: Ann Patchett’s State of Wonder





A couple of years ago I happened upon Bel Canto, a novel by Ann Patchett. The story moved along at a crawl. The plot was minimal. And yet I was entranced by the novel and couldn’t put it down. The characters were fascinating, the setting was described in such rich detail, the atmosphere was enchanting, and Patchett’s writing was exquisite.

I don’t know why it took me so long to pick up another of her novels. I suppose I didn’t want to be disappointed. After all, it seemed unlikely that she could write another such masterpiece.

State of Wonder was published last year by HarperCollins, and I finally got around to reading it this past week. Is it on par with Bel Canto? Well, no. But in my opinion, few books are.

Once again, however, the characters are wonderfully drawn and the settings are vividly brought to life. Once again, Patchett evokes an atmosphere that is spellbinding. And I found this novel even more emotionally engaging than its predecessor; several scenes were intensely moving.

It’s rare, even in otherwise excellent novels, that I encounter an ending that is fully satisfying. This one is unforgettable. I think it’s perfect.

Some detractors of the book complain that the scientific aspects of the plot are highly questionable, and I have to agree. For me, though, those elements were only mildly annoying and not central to the concerns of the novel.

Overall, I highly recommend State of Wonder. I can’t wait to read Ann Patchett’s other novels. Based on the two I’ve read so far, I’m convinced that she is one of our finest living authors.


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Tara Lazar: Mother, Author, & Blogger Extraordinaire



Back in 2009, Tara Lazar posted a review of Otto Grows Down on her blog, Writing for Children While Raising Them. Her review was so beautifully written and so enthusiastic that I immediately got in touch with her and we’ve been friends ever since. We critiqued each other’s manuscripts, commiserated with each other’s personal and professional struggles, and shared news and publishing industry gossip.

At the time, Tara had yet to have a story accepted for publication. Now, I’m thrilled to report, she has three! The Monstore will be published next June by Aladdin/Simon & Schuster. They will also publish I Thought This Was A Bear Book in 2014, and that year will also see the publication of Little Red Gliding Hood by Random House.

I admire how Tara has accomplished all this while raising two young daughters as well as writing and managing one of the premiere kidlit blogs on the Internet. She is my hero!

So check out Tara’s blog. This week she features an interview with me and is also giving away a copy of Crashing Eden. I can’t wait to see Tara’s books in print!

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God Condemns Crashing Eden



In a rare interview on Good Morning America, God denounced my YA novel, Crashing Eden, as “blasphemous rubbish.”

With His face blurred and His voice artificially altered, God proclaimed, “This book will corrupt young minds with its irreverent tone, sacrilegious content, and contemptuous portrayal of Me. It ought to be banned from schools, libraries, and any remaining bookstores.” God also criticized the story’s uneven pacing and weak character development.

Likening the novel to The Last Temptation of Christ and The Da Vinci Code, the Lord declared that “Crashing Eden distorts history and makes a mockery of sacred texts.” Asked about his one-star rating of the book, God replied that He would have given the book zero stars “if that was permitted by Amazon.”



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OTTO GROWS DOWN Goes Out of Print




My debut picture book, Otto Grows Down, was published by Sterling in 2009. I was lucky to be paired with the illustrator, Scott Magoon, a fabulous artist who has gone on to illustrate a bunch of wonderful books, including Spoon, Mostly Monsterly, and Chopsticks. Scott was a delight to work with, and Otto turned into a true collaboration.

Otto may not have won any awards, but it sold well, and it won the hearts and minds of many children and parents across the country. It has been gratifying to hear from parents, booksellers, and librarians that kids adore the story. In her blog post titled “What is Your Kid’s Favorite Book?”, Carissa Rogers wrote:

“I hope I can say this clearly enough. My little boy LOVES this book.
No. That was pathetic. Let me try again.
–He sprinkles this book on his cereal for breakfast.
–He sleeps with it.
–His older sister likes it just as much and often BEGS to read it to him!
–I’m not exaggerating. He would forgo a trip to the park, for an extra reading of Otto Grows Down.
–It travels on vacation with us.

–He plans to name his firstborn child Otto, regardless of gender.”

A college student was so taken with the story that she wrote a song about it and performed her creation on YouTube.

For those who never read the book, it’s the story of a boy who becomes trapped in backward time after making a birthday wish that his baby sister was never born. Like Crashing Eden, the central theme involves guilt and remorse over mistreating a sibling, and the wish to repair the damage.

Both stories probably emerged from my own remorse for having teased and harassed my younger brother. This theme of having harmed a sibling is such an abiding part of my psyche that at times I’ve wondered whether I’m a “womb twin survivor.” That’s someone who started life as a twin but was born alone, perhaps resulting in unconscious survivor guilt. (Yes, I realize that sounds bizarre, but who knows?)

Anyhow, it’s with some sadness that I announce that Otto Grows Down has gone out of print. Yet I take some comfort from Einstein’s belief that the past, present, and future coexist simultaneously, and that “the separation between past, present, and future is only an illusion, although a convincing one.” If this is the case, then as Otto bows out he simultaneously arrives, and will exist eternally.

Here’s a poem I wrote that never quite made it into the book:


What Is Time?


What is Time? What is Time?

Can anybody say?

Can you go to sleep tomorrow night

And wake up yesterday?


Will last Tuesday ever come again?

Or next year come round twice?

If summer never went away,

Now wouldn’t that be nice?


What is Time? What is Time?

Have you solved the riddle yet?

Can you stuff Time in your pocket?

Can you catch it with a net?


The Past is now behind us

And the Future’s yet to show.

Let’s celebrate the Present—

It’s the only time we know!




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Crashing Eden Giveaway


I am giving away two free copies of Crashing Eden. Enter to win at Goodreads, where the contest runs from today through June 8th. Open to anyone from the U.S. or Canada.

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Crashing Eden by Michael Sussman

Crashing Eden

by Michael Sussman

Giveaway ends June 08, 2012.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter to win


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Crashing Eden is now in Paperback




I’m happy to announce that my novel, Crashing Eden, is now out in paperback. It’s available at Solstice Publishing and at Amazon, where it has garnered several 5-star reviews.

I’ve also been busy doing interviews on various book blogs, including Nicki J. Markus, I Am a Reader Not a Writer, and Books R Us.

I’m grateful to those generous bloggers and invite others who might be interested in doing a review, interview, and/or giveaway to contact me.

And any filmmakers who might be interested in making the novel into a movie can access my dreamworld via this portal. 😉


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My Son; My Muse

As a baby, my son was high maintenance. I stayed home with Ollie for the first couple of years and he always demanded my full attention.

At the time of his birth, I was preparing to record a CD of my own piano compositions. Ollie, however, had other plans for me. My job was to entertain him, and he made it clear that this did not include playing piano. The only time available to practice was during his naps, but I didn’t want to wake him.

So I canceled the hours I’d booked at the recording studio and shifted from playing music to writing fiction. Since it was a quiet activity, I could write during my son’s naps and in the evenings after he went to bed.

I wrote a comic mystery novel, titled Soup to Nuts, which I never managed to publish. But my writing continued to improve.

By the time Ollie was five, I’d read him hundreds of picture books. I didn’t care for most of them, and decided I could do better. So I began writing for children, and in 2009 my debut picture book—Otto Grows Down—was published by Sterling.

As Ollie aged, I started writing for older kids. He had an incredible imagination and became something of a writing partner. He supplied me with ideas and gave me invaluable feedback on my stories. He was even a good editor.

When Ollie was eleven, I began working on a young adult novel. Being precocious, he was already reading some YA novels himself. Ollie helped me construct the plot, develop characters, and refine the manuscript. The result, Crashing Eden, has been released by Solstice Publishing. I dedicated the book to Ollie. In truth, his name should accompany mine on the cover.

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