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1. Interview with Children’s Book Author – Stephanie M. Ward

Its Author Interview Thursday and I’m really excited about the special guest we have on the hot seat today.Stephanie Ward I hooked up with today’s author on a book giveaway for kidlit authors during summer. She was the main organiser and it was a great success. It was a pleasure working with her and seeing how she connected several authors from across the globe. She has travelled to many countries across different continents. Although she’s originally from the U.S.A., she now lives in Sydney, Australia. She’s very generous and creative and I believe her passion for life does flow through in her books. So without further ado, please join me in welcoming Stephanie M. Ward.

 

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and the first time someone complemented you on something you had written.

First I just want to say that I’m really excited to be participating in Author Interview Thursday as I always look forward to reading these posts. I’m a bit overwhelmed at being on the other end of one of your interviews, but I’ll do my best to come up with creative answers to all of your interesting questions. And a big congratulations on your new Christmas book, Billy and Monster’s Golden Christmas! I’m looking forward to reading it.

Now, a bit about me…

I’m a small town girl from Spokane, Washington who caught the travel bug at an early age and has been exploring the world ever since I was old enough to drive across the border to Canada.

In fourth grade, we were given an assignment to write a short story. Remember those pieces of grey-ish paper that had a big square where you’re supposed to draw a picture and then about four lines underneath? Well, I covered four of those, front and back and my teacher was quite impressed with my not-so-short story. It was about a pet dog that was taken by an alien and the adventures of the little boy who went to find him. It sure would be fun to read that story today!

 

What can a reader expect when they pick up a book written by Stephanie Ward?

They can expect to learn something, probably about a place that not many people write children’s books about, and have a lot of fun in the process.

 

Congratulations on the publication of your first kidlit book – Wally the Warm-Weather Penguin. Can you tell us about the research process that went into writing this book?Wally the Warm-Weather Penguin

Thanks! I figure it took 10 years from concept to publication of Wally the Warm-Weather Penguin, so yes, there was quite a bit of research. First it was research for my trip to the Galapagos Islands where Wally travels. I was fascinated by the unique wildlife, much of which is endemic. As I was putting together the book, I wanted to share what I had discovered about different species that are endangered in the area. And after learning about how fragile the environment is in the Galapagos Islands, I decided to donate proceeds from the book to the Galapagos Conservancy (galapagos.org) to help protect the animals there. I’m happy to say the first donation was made earlier this year.

 

What role would you say social media plays in building an author’s platform and have you found it helpful in marketing your book?

In almost two decades in corporate marketing, I have never seen an industry whose competitors support each other as much as in the realm of publishing. I have met the most amazing authors, writers, bloggers and friends through social media as a writer. I think it plays a big part in linking to new sales channels, marketing opportunities and ideas as well as good old moral support.

 

What were some of your favourite books as a child? 

Not surprisingly, I loved reading about far away places. There was a series of books about foreign lands that I checked out over and over again at my elementary school library. I also remember reading a book about a little girl traveling alone on the bus to see her grandmother. I’m not sure if she went across town or across the country, but I was amazed by her courage and sense of adventure.

 

What tips would you offer other first time children’s authors with regard to working with an illustrator?Crab Sketch

I had a wonderful time working with a very talented illustrator from Ecuador – Vanessa Landin – for Wally the Warm-Weather Penguin. It was important to me that the illustrator was from the place where the story is based, as I wanted to give back to the community that inspired the story. Vanessa was a student at the time and I would encourage anyone looking for an artist to consider the young talent at art institutes around the world.

 

Toy Story or Shrek?

Shrek – I am truly inspired by the way Shrek seamlessly weaves adult and child humor into one story.

 

What three things should a first time visitor to Sydney, Australia do?

1) Hit the beach – if you visit on a hot day, that’s where everyone is! I love Manly and Balmain.

2) Go to the zoo – Yes, there are some cool Aussie animals there, but the setting of the Taronga Zoo is stunning. You will get some of your best photos from there, likely with a giraffe in them, but gorgeous shots of the harbor and Sydney skyline.

3) Take a ferry – So much of Sydney revolves around water that you should be on it at some point during your visit. Take a ride on one of the iconic yellow and green ferries and be sure to leave from Circular Quay where the Opera House and Botanical Gardens sit on one side and the Harbour Bridge on the other.

 

Can you tell us a few facts about penguins that fascinate you?

Wally was inspired by my visit to both Antarctica and the Galapagos Islands on a yearlong trip around the world.Visiting Antarctica and being amidst Emperor Penguins in the icy conditions made me wonder why they didn’t just pack up and go somewhere warmer. A couple of months later, I was in the Galapagos Islands and saw a colony of Galapagos Penguins hanging out on the beach, swimming in relatively warm water and there was the story: What if an Emperor Penguin learned that he could live on a warm, tropical island?

 

You’ve travelled to more than 50 countries. Can you tell us about a memorable incident on one of your travels?

I’m fascinated by the similarities in people’s lives around the world – we all eat, sleep, observe, listen, talk – we just do it in our own way, place and time. What I keep coming back to are moments – having a picnic under the Eiffel Tower with a warm baguette and chilled bottle of champagne, bone-chilling coldness at sunrise on board a Russian ice breaker travelling through pancake ice in Antarctica, or the hot, dry, sage-like smell of the air in Tanzania. Oh sure, there were incidents, like being mugged in Brazil and sitting in the tent of a nomadic family in Mongolia sharing a cup of fermented mare’s milk, but the small, seemingly insignificant moments are the ones that pop into my head most often.

 

What can we expect from Stephanie Ward in the next 12 months?Wally

I’m so glad you asked :) I’m thrilled to announce that the paperback version of Wally the Warm-Weather Penguin was just released this week and is now available on Amazon. The paperback edition includes a brand new scene with a wonderful new character, a section of Fascinating Facts about the animals in the book and a map of the Galapagos Islands.

In addition, I’m starting work on an app for Wally which is a whole new learning curve but a very fun process. Plus, I’m writing the next adventure for Wally. There are many fascinating (and warm) places in the world that Wally wants to visit, so stay tuned!

 

Where can readers and fans connect with you?

Author Website & Blog –  http://www.stephaniemward.com

Facebook Fan Pagehttp://www.facebook.com/wallythewarmweatherpenguin

Twitterhttp://twitter.com/stephmward

Goodreadshttp://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7877690.Stephanie_M_Ward

YouTubeWally the Warm-Weather Penguin

 

Any advice for authors out there who are either just starting out or getting frustrated with the industry?

Write your story. If your story can’t be defined in a specific genre or written in the traditional format, don’t worry. There are many options for authors to get a book into readers’ hands. I have met some talented indie authors whose wonderful kid lit books are longer than the 1000 word maximum that agents will accept for review. And I recently read a fantastic novella that is the perfect length, but in traditional publishing may have been expanded or reduced to a short story or looked over completely due to the number of pages. It’s a whole new world in publishing today, so don’t worry that your idea doesn’t “fit”, just write your story!

 

Thanks for hanging out with us today Stephanie and ending on such a positive note. I love how you’ve allowed your various experiences to influence your writing and how that has in turn allowed children to experience new worlds that are alien to them. Please do connect with Stephanie at one of the links she gave. We’d love to hear your comments and questions, so leave a few lines below. Grab a copy of Stephanie’s book for a loved one at the link below and do share this interview on social media.

Get Wally the Warm-Weather Penguin on Amazon

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2. Author Interview with Mystery Writer GG Collins

It’s Author Interview Thursday! Woohoo. Today’s special guest reached out to me after reading an AIT special earlier this year and I’m so glad she did. She has a background in journalism and runs several blogs on topics dear to her heart. She’s written two paranormal Mystery books and has other titles in the works. In liaising with her as I prepared for this interview, I have to say that I have been inspired by her passion for the writing craft as well as her transparency. We really do have someone special in our midst today, so please join me in welcoming GG Collins.

 

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and something most people don’t know about G.G. Collins? 

My friends know this, but it’s not general knowledge. People shouldn’t call me before 10 a.m., 11 is better. What my friends know is that I stay up quite late to write and therefore sleep in the mornings. Early calls usually find me incoherent and muttering swearwords. As one might gather, I dislike mornings, but also Brussels sprouts and clouds. On the up side, I love travelling (even on a bad day). Sunshine and chiles improve my mood greatly. I continue to report and write for my blogs. I have two. Can’t ever have too many blogs. They arereluctantmediumatlarge.wordpress.com my book blog and paralleluniverseatlarge.wordpress.com a news, views and reviews blog. You can also find me on Twitter @GGCollinsAuthor. There is a rap star by the same name so “Author” had to be added for clarification.  

 

Tell us about the first time someone complemented you on something you had written? Book Cover Newest LM 6-2014

The first time one of my stories was chosen as the cover. My editor told me it was good work. I beamed all the way to my car. It’s difficult to beat that first time.  

 

You have currently published two books in the ‘Rachel Blackstone Paranormal Mysteries’ series. Was it a conscious decision to write a series and what led you to do it? 

No, I didn’t have a series in mind. I learned of the Native American ritual to return the dead and all I could think about was what if the wrong spirit returned? By the time I finished the book, I just didn’t want to let these characters go. I am writing a stand-alone book too, but I like my Reluctant Medium, Rachel Blackstone. Long may her cynicism live.  

 

What key ingredients should a good crime/mystery book possess? 

My books are paranormal mysteries so I have more latitude than pure crime writers do. I begin my story where it starts, usually in the first line. At that moment, something is going very wrong. The mystery unfolds a little at a time as new elements (some supernatural) present themselves and up the ante.  Periodically the threat level heightens or the need for action revs up. It’s a delicate balance. You don’t want to reveal too much, too soon, but there has to be enough mystery to keep readers interested. I enjoy putting Rachel through as much mayhem as she can stand. If I go too far, I have to let her have a mental health day.  

 

What three things should writers avoid when writing dialogue? Book Cover Reluctant Medium Newest 5-2014

Unnatural or pretentious lines (unless your character is a pompous gadfly) should be avoided. We usually don’t speak that way in conversation. Each character should have a consistent voice. If you’ve been away from your manuscript for awhile, this is especially important. Find that voice again. Be careful using contemporary vernacular. It might shorten the shelf life of your book. Stay away from phrases like: “don’t you know,”  “she goes” and “awesome” unless this is specific to one character.

 

Have you ever struggled to give a character a distinct voice and what did you do to solve this? 

My stories are dialogue-driven and I enjoy letting my characters go. Rachel has a big mouth. She’s sardonic and quick, but can make a complete fool of herself around men. Chloe is her best friend and is usually more diplomatic—but she does occasionally curse in French. Like most of us, I’ve met many of these characters in everyday life. Whenever I have trouble finding someone’s voice, I think back to a person I’ve run across who was this type. Here’s where even the nastiest person you’ve ever met can pay off. Make them a character! Get even!  

 

What book or film has the best dialogue that inspires you to be a better writer and why? 

I’m a fan of Chris Haddock’s Canadian TV shows such as “DaVinci’s Inquest” and “Intelligence.” His stories have realistic dialogue. His characters feel authentic. The dialogue is much like that you or I have with friends and co-workers. There’s a BBC show called “Last Tango in Halifax” that is a hoot! All because of cleverly penned dialogue and superb delivery. In American TV, I like the writing in “Longmire,” thanks to the influence of Craig Johnson, the writer of the popular series. “Supernatural” has some fine writing. They kind of slip it in between the demons and the vamps, but it’s there. That’s why they’re in their 10th season. The cute guys don’t hurt, but it’s the substantive writing that knocks me out. Someone on the writing staff has insightful views about hope and things we can’t understand. In books, I find mystery writers Lia Matera and Edna Buchanan refreshing. Wit is always a good thing, but smart wit is tremendous.

 

How do you handle bad reviews? 

Most people are kind in their reviews, but occasionally one is not helpful and just plain mean-spirited. In this instance, we book writers have to realize that it’s not us. The unkind words have more to do with the person who wrote the review and what kind of life, or day, they’ve had. These go into File 13 where they belong. Some writers have had bad experiences with what is referred to as a troll, people who go from place to place on the internet spreading vile prose with limited vocabulary and issues with sentence structure. If I should ever get one of those, just know I have a very thick skin. Most of my reviews have been complimentary and readers enjoyed my books. Of course, this makes me happy. The Rachel Blackstone Paranormal Mystery Series is supposed to be fun—and maybe a bit scary. But writers must realize that not everyone likes the same thing. That’s okay.  

 

Toy Story or Shrek? 

(Laughing.) I’ve seen neither so I really can’t comment. I saw “WALL-E” twice.  

 

As a journalist, can you give us tips on how to make people ‘spill the beans’ in an interview situation? Watermark G G Collins in -office-

Everyone has seen this done on a news show. A journalist asks a question, the person being interviewed says something short like “yes” or “no.” When nothing more is forthcoming, the reporter sits there quietly, the seconds tick by with dead air, the person can’t take it any more and out it spills. Another “technique” is to phrase a question in this way: “Some people might say . . . you’re a tyrant” or “you’re a crook.”  How would you reply to this accusation?” This way, the reporter is afforded some distance, but still gets the answer needed for the story. Personally, I’m not comfortable doing this, but they can be an effective tools, particularly in hard news. And that may be why I’ve covered primarily arts, health and personal stories. I’ve found that being truly interested in what your interview is saying goes a long way to crafting a good story. Once I ask the first question, there is nothing in the world but the person sitting in front of me.  

 

What is the worst thing a person can say or do to a journalist? 

Lie. You don’t have to be a journalist to detect a lie. Most anyone can do it. But in reporting we come to depend on our regular sources. If someone lies, and we know it, that could become the story. And they’ll likely never be asked for another interview. Word gets around.  

 

What three things should a first time visitor to your hometown do? Watermark Santa Fe Plaza

Bask in Santa Fe’s Plaza and people watch. Eat at The Shed; it’s my favorite restaurant and my characters too. It’s family owned, has great New Mexican dishes and yummy margaritas. Take the short drive up the ski basin road (Artist Road which becomes Hyde Park Road) for the breathtaking views. And eat the chiles. Oops, I think that was four.  

 

Can you tell us a bit about a book you’re currently working on? 

Oh sure, that would be “Atomic Medium.” In this story, Rachel Blackstone must go back in time to 1945. Two evil men have slipped through a portal at a local retail shop, once the office of The Manhattan Project. If they succeed in their diabolical plan, it could change the outcome of WWII. It’s no small thing for Rachel and Chloe; just save the world. 2015 marks the 70th anniversary of the atomic bomb, which was developed in Los Alamos, just north of Santa Fe.  

 

Any advice for authors out there who are either just starting out or getting frustrated with the industry? 

I have worked for a book publisher and while there can be some advantages to publication by a book house, there are also some drawbacks. If your book isn’t one of the chosen to get tight promotional dollars, you will likely do as much marketing and promoting with a publisher as you would going the indie route. I opted to self-publish and haven’t looked back. If you have found yourself knocking on publishers’ doors and getting nowhere, try going indie. It’s a terrific creative experience, even if you eventually go with the bricks and mortar publisher. Have a presence on the internet so an interested editor can see what you can do. Start blogging and be sure to take advantage of author pages on Amazon, Goodreads, Shelfari, Ask David and Book Goodies. With a little experience, you’ll determine which work best for you and your book. I recently joined Twitter and now I can’t believe I was reluctant to do so. It’s fun and you get great exposure. But don’t constantly urge people to buy your books. Get involved in what’s going on and reply or retweet others. You’ll make friends quickly. Avoid spending so much time marketing that you stop writing. The more books you have out, the more sales you’ll rack up.

 

Thanks for all the wonderful advice and letting us into your world GG. I’ll personally be revisiting this page in the days and weeks ahead to feast on your wise words. GG and I would really appreciate your questions and comments, so do drop a line or two in the comments section below. Be sure to share this interview using the Social Media buttons and you can grab one of GG’s books at the link below.

GG Collins on Amazon

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3. I'm My Own Dog Blog Tour

Thanks so much to Candlewick Press for asking us to join the I'm My Own Dog blog tour. They're giving away a copy of the book, and David Ezra Stein answered some questions for us! Read on and enter to win using the Rafflecopter widget (US, ends 11/14).

   

About the book

Many dogs have human owners. Not this dog. He fetches his own slippers, curls up at his own feet, and gives himself a good scratch. But there is one spot, in the middle of his back, that he just can’t reach. So one day, he lets a human scratch it. And the poor little fella follows him home. What can the dog do but get a leash to lead the guy around with? Dog lovers of all ages will revel in the humorous role-reversal as this dog teaches his human all the skills he needs to be a faithful companion.

About the author

David Ezra Stein is the creator of many award-winning picture books, including Interrupting Chicken, which was awarded a Caldecott Honor, Because Amelia Smiled, and Dinosaur Kisses. He lives with his family in Kew Gardens, New York.

Find out more about him at www.davidezra.com.

   

Q & A with David Ezra Stein

Alethea at RNSL: I loved I'm My Own Dog. Do you have (or have you previously had) a pet like this? How did you develop the alternative view he takes on ownership?

David Ezra Stein: Hi Alethea! Thanks; I have had quite a few pets in my life. When I was a kid I was allergic, so I had mainly guinea pigs, fish, and a snake. I think all my books, and especially the characters, come from my own emotions and my relationship to the demands that life makes on me. When I wrote this book, I was feeling a desire to be true to myself, and suddenly I became aware of the voice of this dog character. He began telling me about himself. I wrote it down. Then I followed through by figuring out what the rest of his life would be like. I realized he would eventually need someone else, and that’s where the man came in.

RNSL: This book is quite hilarious. What do you think developed your particular sense of humor?

DES: Oh, thank you so much. I guess I had funny parents and also, I think I had a rough time in childhood in some ways, and humor is always what got me through, and gave me a sense of power. If you can laugh, you can survive. I was attracted to humor and gobbled it up wherever I could. Sesame Street was a big influence. In the ‘80s we had so many really funny movies. For example, Spaceballs absolutely blew my mind as a kid. I was rolling in the aisle of the movie theater, getting popcorn stuck to my clothes. Commercials were also little haikus of humor. Calvin & Hobbes comic books were a huge inspiration.

RNSL: You have a great, loose, flowy style of illustration. Can you tell us a bit about how you started drawing and creating art?

DES: I tried almost every medium as a kid. My parents were both artists. I scribbled right onto the pages of books I liked. To be part of the art. I was always attracted to ink: the blackness against the white paper, and the way it flows. Even though I am a city guy, I have had an affinity for the natural world all my life. I used to go out painting with my mother at about age 10 and try to capture the beauty of old houses and gardens. It’s always been a value of mine to be a fine artist, like Van Gogh or Matisse. In college I got into drawing out on the spot again, which is wonderful to do in New York City. I could do that every day. I still do it whenever I can. Now I bring watercolor, too, another flowy medium, as you say.

RNSL: You both write and illustrate your stories. Do you prefer one mode over the other, and why or why not?

DES: They are both ways of getting an idea down. Especially in the early stages of a book. I can’t do just one. I love going to the painting stage, though. There is a delightful wordlessness about it, like music. It says things that can’t be said in words.

RNSL: I have two cats, who aren't so much independent (they still need me to open the food cans) but who sometimes behave as if I am quite an inferior, hairless, clumsy feline. My husband is often considered the better cat in the household (he is warm and a bit furry, and excels at paper ball games). Do you think you will do a story for cat lovers sometime in the future? (In a very roundabout way, I'm asking what you're working on next.)

DES: Ha, ha! Sounds like you might have a book in there, yourself! Yes, I am open to doing a cat book. I love cats, actually, and have rescued a couple. They are so interesting and weird, as well. Uncanny would be the word. For now, I have a frog book coming next summer, called Tad and Dad. It’s about a little tadpole who jumps into Dad’s lily pad every night. Think co-sleeping with frogs.

RNSL: Thanks for answering my questions, David! I'm off to draft that picture book...

alethea_signs_nl2014.png

Giveaway Rules:

  1. Open to US residents only. Ends 11/14/2014.

  2. We are not responsible for lost, stolen, or damaged items. 

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  5. Winner will be chosen randomly via Rafflecopter widget a day or two after the contest ends. 

  6. Winner will have 48 hours to respond to to the email, otherwise we will pick a new winner. 

  7. If you have any questions, feel free to email us. You can review our full contest policy here

  8. PLEASE DO NOT LEAVE ANY PERSONAL INFO IN THE COMMENTS. Sorry for the caps but we always get people leaving their email in the comments. Rafflecopter will collect all that without having personal info in the comments for all the world (and spambots) to find. Thanks!

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4. Suzanne Bloom Is A Foolish Optimist

Author/Illustrator Suzanne Bloom

Author/Illustrator Suzanne Bloom

Suzanne's Newest Book

Suzanne’s Newest Book

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Welcome author/illustrator Suzanne Bloom for the final post of our four-part series. If you are a new or aspiring children’s picture book author (or illustrator), I hope you have found some inspiration and encouragement in the last three posts, and I hope that continues today. This week I ask Suzanne about quiet stories, writer’s block, and how to keep from getting discouraged.

I discovered I have something in common with Suzanne, besides our love for picture books. We have both been told by editors that our work is quiet. I wasn’t quite sure what that meant the first time I heard it. Is that good? Bad? What? Since the editor who told me that my story was quiet didn’t seem interested in acquiring it, I surmised that quiet must be bad. And if that’s the case, then my story must be bad, and my writing style must be bad, and maybe I’m not cut out to be a picture book writer. See how easily that self-doubt creeps in?      

What I have learned since then is that quiet doesn’t equal bad. It is a certain style of writing, and a lot of my work is written in that style, but it’s not bad, it’s just harder to sell to today’s publishers, who seem to want quirky, funny, quick-paced, action-packed, stories. That being said, quiet books are still being published, just not as much. And if you truly want to, you can rework your story into something a little less quiet.

Suzanne, what does an editor mean when he/she says a story is quiet? And how do you feel about quiet stories?

Is it quiet because nothing happens? Do your characters have a problem to solve? Is there a beginning, middle and ending? Have you left space for the reader to make discoveries? What distinguishes your story from the mile-high pile of other manuscripts?

A formidable editor said, in a tone I couldn’t pin down, “You write quiet stories.” Was she kindly dismissing me? Maybe. But, being the foolish optimist, I chose to interpret it as a definition. Yes, indeed! I write quiet stories. My stories are about the little bumps on the road of friendship. They are about friends working things out. They hold moments of emotional truth for the listener and the reader. Think about The Quiet Book (by Deborah Underwood). Deborah Underwood’s “list” text coupled with Renata Liwska’s illustrations is absolutely delicious. It’s sly and tender and true. As visual learners, children look at books more carefully than adults do. This is a boon for illustrators who can amp up the level of detail suggested by the text.

Thank goodness for editors. We need them as surely as they need us. A manuscript needs a champion to shepherd it though the gauntlet of financial decisions, list requirements and the multitude of other manuscripts.

Yay, there is a place for quiet picture books in the world. Now, for those of you who get writer’s block, you’re not alone. We will all be afflicted with it from time to time. And we all deal with it in our own ways. Personally, I tend to wait it out for a while. I will often read and reread everything I have written for that story up to that point over and over again until I get unstuck. If that doesn’t work, then I’m usually done for the day. Let’s see what Suzanne recommends.

Suzanne, how do you combat writer’s (or illustrator’s) block? 

Is it inertia or page fright? No matter. Cook something, clean something, completely reorganize your kitchen cupboards, wax the car, weed the garden, walk the dog, conduct a search for the best carrot cake in a four state area, read every writer’s blog you can find, think about starting a blog, open the fridge 8 or 9 times to see if anyone made you something yummy.
Fill your days with Productive Procrastination Projects until you can no longer stand the avoidance, and think maybe that little opus on your desk or PC looks like a better option. Write around the block – scribble, doodle, sketch until that shaky, snaky line looks like an idea.
Alas, that idea may have a mind of its own. More than once the story I started gets elbowed aside by one that’s more insistent or fully formed. In the schoolyard that is my brain, my stories do not stand in a straight line. Oh no, they jostle and shove and argue over who is the line leader, except for that pouty one in the back who refuses to say a word.

Great advice, Suzanne! Now, how do you keep from getting discouraged in the highly competitive world of children’s picture book publishing?

On this emotional and professional roller coaster, there’s a nasty twist called the Spiral of Second Guessing followed by the Plummet of Self Worth. It seems to last forever but is over pretty quickly. Ride it out.
At the beginning of every project and sometimes again in the middle it becomes clear that I’ve forgotten how to draw and write. This story stinks and why would anyone ever read it? And it doesn’t even matter because who cares, anyway!
We are so hard on ourselves.
When I get discouraged, I call someone who loves my work and is not a family member. I call a treasured writer friend. We commiserate and whinge a little but then as good friends do, we remind each other of our successes, dedication, and how we are so much more suited to this than being the CEO of a Fortune 500 company or any other of many, many options.

If you are a writer, illustrator, or both, thank you for working to put something beautiful into the hands of children.

Thank you, Suzanne, that last line sums it up perfectly. That’s really what it all comes down to, if writing children’s picture books is in your blood, if it’s a part of you that you can’t imagine being without, and you long to put something beautiful into the hands of children (and there’s nothing more beautiful than a picture book), then don’t give up, don’t quit, don’t get discouraged, your dream can come true. You can be published. Keep writing, keep submitting, keep improving, and keep the faith. Believe me, I know! 

Suzanne Bloom was born mid-century in Portland, Oregon, which accounts for her love of overcast days. She moved to Queens, New York in time to finish kindergarten. Her first book We Keep a Pig in the Parlor was published in 1988. She has authored and illustrated many more books since then including The Bus for Us (2000) and the popular Goose & Bear series, which includes A Splendid Friend Indeed, Treasure, What About Bear, Oh! What A Surprise!, Fox Forgets, and her latest, Alone Together. She has been given a Theodor Seuss Geisel Honor Award and has been selected for the Texas 2×2 list of 20 best picture books (twice). She currently lives in upstate, New York with her husband in the house they built 34 years ago, down a dirt road and on a hillside. She has two grown sons, one cat, and one dog. To learn more about Suzanne, please read the interview I did with her back in 2010, or check out her website: www.suzannebloom.com.

{Suzanne’s First Drawing, Age 3} I confess. It’s true. Before I wrote, I drew! An artist at three, marking the page – my dad and I were circles with little circle eyes. We looked like a jellyfish family. We all are artists, first. Little by little other activities catch our interest and we move on. But not always. I found more success drawing and painting than adding and multiplying, or dancing or playing sports. According to report cards from elementary school, I was a pleasure to have in class, though not working up to potential. Indeed, who among us works up to potential? I remember learning to read. Sprawled out on the ugly rug in the living room, looking at the funny papers spread before me, I watched in amazement as the squiggly lines shaped up into a word. The word was “Scamp”, son of Lady and the Tramp. And with that, the funny papers became my magic carpet. My gateway books were Goldens. So Big!, Animal Babies, and Mr. Dog still sit and stay on my book shelf to remind me that my collection began even before I was reading on my own.


2 Comments on Suzanne Bloom Is A Foolish Optimist, last added: 10/30/2014
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5. Interview with Gary Rodriguez, Author of Escape Through The Wilderness

Gary RodriguezGary Rodriguez is president of LeaderMetrix Inc., a consulting company that specializes in senior-level executive coaching, organizational development and conflict resolution. He is the author of the new adventure novel Escape through the Wilderness scheduled for release in June 2014.  

His first book Purpose-Centered Public Speaking was an instant hit and recently republished by Tate Publishing.  

His extensive resume includes eighteen years as an executive in the radio business where he spent several years as one of the original managers of Infinity Broadcasting. He was twice nominated as medium market manager of the year by the Bobby Poe report, a national media publication.  

For over thirty-five years, Gary has spoken in public both nationally and internationally. Gary’s resume includes a season in the U.S. Army where he was highly decorated as the youngest Drill Instructor in the Army’s history at age 18 years. He was also awarded the Silver Star (the nation’s third highest award for valor) while serving in Viet Nam. 

Visit the book’s website at http://ettw.tateauthor.com/ You can also find Gary at http://leadermetrix.com/ and http://www.leadermetrix.com/authorspeaker.  

 

Can you tell us what your book is about?

Let me begin by telling you that the Idaho wilderness is the setting for the book. Here’s a brief overview of the story.

Sixteen-year-old Savannah Evans walks with a slight limp thanks to a gymnastics accident that dashed her Olympic dreams. But that doesn’t stop her from attending a summer adventure camp. At Camp Arrowhead, she quickly befriends Jade Chang and Rico Cruz, but Conner Swift acts like a bully and taunts her because of her injury.

The four are teamed together for an overnight white-water rafting adventure. What was supposed to be a fun expedition turns into a nightmare when there’s a serious incident and their adult guide disappears down the river.

Without their guide and desperately trying to steer an out-of-control raft, they pass the “Last Chance” marker and enter miles of furious rapids.

When the four drag themselves out of the river, they’re bruised, beaten, lost, and twenty-five miles from camp. Because of late-night campfire tales of Vexel, a vicious animal that roams the nearby woods, Savi and the others are terrified.

Savi becomes the unlikely leader who is forced by unexpected circumstances to try to guide the group back to Camp Arrowhead. Limited supplies, injuries, and the constant threat of Vexel—who everyone fears is stalking them, complicate the harrowing return trip.

Readers will enjoy dramatic survival scenes and the group working together, solving problems, and learning to overcome all sorts of obstacles and adversity.

Why did you write your book?

Escape Through The Wilderness is an analogy about life. Often, in today’s world, young people are faced with unexpected difficulties and forced to overcome fierce opposition. The book was written to show readers ways they can face and overcome difficulties with a measure of faith and a little help from their friends.

In our culture, we are quick to recognize and celebrate individual achievements. However, there are some obstacles in life that require the help of others to overcome.

The adventure chronicles four teens coming to terms with their own struggles in the midst of stiff opposition and complicated circumstances. Learning to overcome adversity is a part of everyday life. My goal is to highlight the value and benefits of strong faith and real friendships.

Can you tell us a little about your main and supporting characters?Escape Through the Wilderness cover

There are four main characters and one supporting character in the story. Savi Evans is a sixteen-year old from Oxford, Mississippi and the lead character. She’s an extraordinary person who positively impacts the lives of those around her. Rico Cruz is seventeen and lives in San Antonio, Texas. He’s the handsome tender-warrior type and a strong leader in his own right. Jade Chang is also seventeen and resides in San Francisco, California. She feels out of her comfort zone because this is her first time stepping into a wilderness setting. Conner Swift lives in Chicago, Illinois and is seventeen as well. He lives in the shadow of a successful father and has something to prove. They each have their own reasons for attending the camp. Lastly, there’s Luke. I can’t talk much about him without giving away the story. But readers will most certainly grow to love and appreciate him.

Are you consciously aware of the plot before you begin a novel or do you discover it as you write?

You are asking an interesting question. I’d have to answer it by saying, yes and yes. When I planned out the story, I started the process by beginning at the end. I asked myself what I wanted my readers to experience and learn from the book. However, I also held my plan loosely which allowed for spontaneous inspiration and ongoing creativity. I believe it’s important to have a plan but to allow room for the plot and characters to develop as they come to life.

Honestly, developing the ending was difficult for me. I got stuck for a while. So I decided to get on my knees and pray for inspiration. I believe my prayer was answered. I hope your readers agree with me once they’ve read the book.

Your book is set in northeastern Idaho. Can you tell us why you chose this setting in particular?

I chose a setting in the United States that was centrally located and yet very remote. The wilderness terrain needed to be challenging, and the river used in the whitewater rafting trip had to be dangerous. It also had to be an isolated locale without cell service to make communication with the outside world next to impossible.

Have you suffered from writer’s block and what do you do to get back on track?

Writer’s block has never been a problem for me. That’s not to say that I don’t have lulls in creativity or motivation. Of course, I do. But when that happens, I don’t consider it a “block” and I don’t try to power through it. Instead, I take it as a sign that I need a break from writing. Taking a short time away is sometimes a wise and healthy choice. I don’t panic if I lose my motivation or inspiration to write for a time. Runners don’t always run. Sometimes their body needs time to rest and recover. In the same way, putting too much pressure on yourself to always write can stifle both your creativity and your inspiration. There is nothing wrong with taking some time to chill out and focus on other activities. A short break will often revive you and rekindle your passion and desire to write once again.

After I give myself a break (it may be a couple days or even a couple weeks) I sit down again and read what I’ve written previously. That gets me right back into the flow of my work and often I find a new sense of inspiration to write. Some days I have to work a little harder at writing than other days. But I think that’s a part of the normal ebb and flow of a writer’s life. Sometimes runners feel like they can run forever. But on other days they feel like it is more of an effort. The same is true of writing.

What do you like the most about being an author?

One of the most gratifying things about writing is creating a story that others find exciting and inspirational. When I finished writing Escape Through The Wilderness and reread the manuscript, I was amazed that the story came out of me. I believe I was given this inspiring story as a gift. If I had chosen not to write and share it, the story would have died inside me and never been told. But I thank God that didn’t happen. In fact, the opposite is true. The gift he gave to me is now my gift to the world. I hope the story entertains and encourages all who read it.

Escape banner 2


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6. Interview Alert: Harriet Muncaster

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I recently interviewed author/illustrator Harriet Muncaster to learn more about her debut picture book I Am A Witch’s Cat, which was published this summer, but is perfect for Halloween. Her book contains fascinating scenes filled with incredibly detailed miniatures. I was an instant fan from page one. And the story is clever and sweet. It’s about a child who claims her mother is a witch (a good witch) and she is a witch’s cat, and she goes on to show the reader all the reasons why she knows her mother is a witch. But more than that, the story is about a special relationship between a child and a parent. Please read the interview and get to know rising star Harriet Muncaster.

Q. Please tell us a little about yourself and how you got started in children’s books.

HM. Hi Lauri, I am so glad you like my book and thank you for having me on your blog! I have always loved making, drawing, reading and writing so I always knew I wanted to do something visually creative. However it wasn’t until we went on a school trip to an exhibition of James Mayhew’s work that I realized I could channel my creativity into children’s books. The thought had never actually occurred to me before and I had never been told that it was possible to do an illustration course at university as opposed to just a general art course. I think I was about 16 or 17 at the time. I absolutely loved James Mayhew’s work at the exhibition and it opened my eyes to the possibility of becoming a children’s book illustrator myself. I did a foundation course in art and design after school and that made me more certain that illustration was the right path for me to take. After that I did a degree in illustration and then an MA in Children’s Book Illustration at Anglia Ruskin in Cambridge. We were given some good exposure on my MA course – our work got taken out to Bologna Book Fair and that is where my Witch’s Cat book was spotted! In fact, it was a project I did on that course.

Q. You have a unique artistic style, which is evident in your picture book I Am A Witch’s Cat (which is gorgeous, by the way). How would you describe your style?

HM. Thank you! I am not really sure how I would describe my style to be honest. I kind of feel like I fell into it without meaning to. I was on my MA course and thought I would try out a book by making work in 3D out of paper and photographing it. I had done something similar before on my degree course where I made a paper model of a Snow Queen’s room. It was just the room though, I hadn’t taken it as far as putting characters in at that point. I guess that was my first ever foray into 3D illustration! So I thought I would try a similar technique to illustrate a book on my MA course. It went down quite well, I actually got highly commended for it in the Macmillan prize so my tutor suggested I do my next project in the same way. That project turned out to be Witch’s Cat, and it went from there. I enjoyed doing it because I absolutely LOVE making tiny things and I enjoy playing with lighting to get different atmospheres. (I actually think I prefer making physical things to drawing, it feels more natural to me.) I wanted it to be a warm book with an autumnal feel but also a bit magical. I watched a lot of the old Bewitched episodes while I was creating it.
So overall, to answer the question, if I were to describe my style in Witch’s Cat it would be: paper and fabric room sets with cut out characters, photographed with (hopefully!) warm lighting to give an autumnal feel. 

Q. Can you tell us a bit about your process from beginning to end when you created I Am A Witch’s Cat?

HM. Well, I think I went about it in a pretty ordered fashion. Even though I am a messy person in real life, when it comes to work I find I have to be very ordered and focused. Firstly I thought of the story. Then I thumbnailed the whole book, did a dummy book and then started making the final art! To make the final art I made miniature scenes- about dollhouse sort of size, out of paper and card and bits of fabric and then photographed them. 

These are some of the very first sketches of Witch’s Cat from my sketchbook. 

harriet muncaster 5 (2)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And here are some work in progress shots when I was making the 3D scenes. 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

These are all the food boxes and tins for the supermarket scene.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The first finished version of Witch’s Cat (the one I created on my MA course) had more of a scrapbook feel to it but that got changed for publication.

Q. Photography plays a large part in your artwork.Would you consider yourself a photographer too?

HM. I’m not sure actually… I suppose I am in a way! I don’t feel as though I am worthy of the title ‘professional photographer’ though as I don’t feel I know enough of the technical stuff. Also I don’t own all the equipment!

Q. Do you personally create all of the miniatures you use in your artwork? (I especially love the tiny books I saw on your website!)

HM. I try to make as many of the miniatures as I can out of card, but I think sometimes it adds interest to put an actual miniature in there like a real dollhouse lamp or something. Sometimes, if I want to make something look properly 3D I will make it out of Fimo. Or sew it! Like these little soft toy cats in Witch’s Cat.

Q. I Am A Witch’s Cat is a perfect pick for Halloween. Was that your intention when you created it? 

HM. No, I didn’t specifically think of Halloween funnily enough! But I was intending it to have an autumnal feel. I can see now though that it works well as a Halloween book!

Q. And how popular is Halloween in your part of the world?

HM. Halloween was never a big thing at all for me growing up. We weren’t even allowed to go trick or treating in my family! Halloween was a bit of a non-event in my house. It wasn’t until I went to university that I discovered that some people do like to celebrate Halloween. I’ve been to a few Halloween parties since. It’s definitely not as big a deal in the UK as it is in America though – Nowhere near!

Q. What projects are you working on right now?

HM. I have been working on a range of books about a princess called ‘Glitterbelle’ with Parragon publishing. I think they are coming out in January – or sometime round then anyway! I have just illustrated them, not written them and some of them are activity books. They are all done in my 3D style. I have also been working on a second Witch’s cat book called Happy Halloween Witch’s Cat which will come out next July. And then there are some other picture books I have been working on too but I can’t say much about those yet!

Q. Why do you believe picture books are important?

HM. I cannot imagine a world without picture books! Well, I can, but it would be a very boring world. I absolutely adore them because they are like little worlds you can just escape into. My absolutely favourite picture books are the Dorrie books by Patricia Coombs. I love the atmospheres they evoke. Of course there are other reasons why picture books are so important – like the use of them for teaching to read, introducing children to ideas, addressing important issues in a way children can relate to, provoking exploration and questions, bonding over bedtime reading etc… but that is my reason for loving them, the escapism and inspiration they provide. Also, writing and illustrating picture books is like being the director of a mini play/film. You have complete control to create a whole new world.

Q. Where can fans go to learn more about you and your work or to simply connect with you?

HM. I have a blog: www.victoriastitch.blogspot.com

Q. Any closing thoughts or words of wisdom?

HM. I don’t think I actually have any words of wisdom! I have just always done what I love and luckily it has led me to being able to do it as my full-time job. Maybe I would say: listen to criticism, use it to help you become a better illustrator/writer/artist/(insert word here) but ultimately do what inspires you and what you believe in. Don’t let anyone change that. 

Oh my goodness, I love the tiny orange and yellow quilt on the bed, and the tiny food boxes, and the tiny plush kitties! Thanks for sharing, Harriet, and much success with all of your books!


2 Comments on Interview Alert: Harriet Muncaster, last added: 10/24/2014
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7. Author Interview with Helen and Lorri Carpenter

It’s Author Interview Thursday and I’m so glad you’ve joined me and my special guests today.HL Carpenter I got in touch with our special guests back in June and due to my schedule and theirs, we had to delay the interview but I’m so glad they’ll be sharing their journey as authors with us today. We get the special privilege of seating with a mother-daughter team who’ve found a unique way to combine their creative talents without ever having the local police come to break up a fight. They write in different genres and I was very impressed by their willingness to explore different channels to expose their books to a new audience. Pull your chair a little bit closer and join me in welcoming Helen adn Lorri Carpenter.

 

Can you tell us about the first time someone complimented you on something you wrote? 

It may not have been the first time, but we do remember a compliment we received from a reader in North Carolina who sent a greeting card via postal mail. He said that though he knew our story wasn’t true, he had found it laugh-out-loud funny, and he thought something like that could happen to anyone…and had in fact, happened to him.

We wrote back to express our appreciation for his card, and to tell him the story—which involved us getting locked out of the house and having to climb in through the bathroom window—was indeed true. We also admitted it was less funny at the time…

 

What can a reader expect when they pick up a book written by HL Carpenter?SkyHorse 3D Cover

We write sweet, clean stories the whole family can enjoy. We like to picture our readers snuggled under the bed covers or curled up on the couch or in a sunny window seat, lost in the world we’ve created.

We’re partial to strong, practical, intelligent female protagonists who have a steadfast friend or two with a sense of humor, and a supportive if exasperating family or family substitute. So those are things readers will find in most of our books too.

  

Helen and Lorri, you co-write books together. Can you tell us a unique challenge this situation presents and how you both overcome it? 

We write collaboratively and the challenge is what you’d expect—we sometimes get into disagreements because we each love our words. We find that a reasonable “cooling off” period helps eliminate most of the conflict.

Having a poor memory is useful too. :)

  

You’ve successfully written in different genres. Can you tell us the advantages and disadvantages of this? Cause for Murder Cover

We tend to get bored easily, so switching genres is a great way to keep the ideas and the words flowing. Another advantage is that there’s always something new to learn, because each genre has its own peculiarities. Hey, we resemble that remark! :)

Disadvantages include the problem of marketing. We’re readers too, so we understand the desire to know what to “expect” from a writer. On the other hand, as authors, we dislike being boxed in.

Some authors solve this problem by creating pseudonyms for different types of writing. We think keeping up with one persona is enough work, and we figure our readers are plenty smart. If we clearly label our stories, readers won’t be confused.

   

What have you found to be a successful way to market your books? 

Yeah. Marketing. The slow, one-reader at a time method seems to be our default mode. We’ve had the best results with guest posts like this one (thanks for the opportunity, David!) and old-school techniques like giving out bookmarks.

We’re trying new things, too—for example, we entered our cozy mystery, A Cause for Murder, in the new Amazon Kindle Scout program. The program is essentially crowd sourcing. That is, readers nominate books for a publishing contract. While there’s plenty of chatter about how the program might not be very beneficial for authors, we’re generally open to trying new things. We figure one of the perks of being an indie author is the opportunity to experiment with different venues and opportunities. So we read the contract and decided to participate.

Annnnnnddd…we’re pleased to announce the launch for A Cause for Murder is Monday, October 27!

An excerpt and an author interview will be available on Amazon that day. We’ll let you know how the “cozy” marketing experiment goes.

 

What three things should writers avoid when writing dialogue? Fyne Literature

“We’re not fans of fancy dialogue tags,” they said.

If “said” isn’t enough after dialogue, then something is wrong with the sentence. The reader should know what’s going on from the words, not because the writer has added a description of the way the words are supposed to sound.

Based on editing comments we’ve gotten, another thing to avoid is overuse of character names. “Not that we would know personally of course, David,” they said. :)

Finally, we think words no one actually ever uses outside of crossword puzzles should generally be avoided…unless your hero is a naturally pompous speaker. “I really must request elucidation on that prohibition,” the hero said.

  

I’m fascinated to know what your definition of success as an author is? 

Our definition changes. When we started writing, we thought finishing a complete manuscript (an entire book, whee!) meant success. Then we thought having an editor respond favorably to our query meant success. Once that happened, we thought being successful meant getting published.

Now…hmmm…let’s see… oh, yes! Reaching the bestseller list and having a book optioned for a movie is definitely success.

After that happens…well, we’ll create the next definition when we get there. :)

 

What book or film has the best dialogue that inspires you to be a better writer and why? SkyHorse Ad

Pretty much anything by Dean Koontz. His characters pulse off the page and his descriptions…well, we don’t have suitable words to express our admiration. Plus he’s funny!

  

Toy Story or Shrek? 

Toy Story. A sweet cowboy hero, what could be better?

  

What three things should a first time visitor to Florida do? 

Stop comparing Florida to the place you came from. Slather on buckets of sunscreen. Sit on the beach wearing a floppy straw hat and snooze.

For maximum enjoyment, do all three of those things at once.

  

What can we expect from HL Carpenter in the next 12 months?

Well, first, as we mentioned, we’re excited to announce our cozy mystery, A Cause for Murder, will launch in the new Amazon Kindle Scout program on Monday, October 27!

Here’s an exclusive sneak peek at the cover. An excerpt and an author interview will be available on Amazon at launch on Monday, and readers can vote to nominate A Cause for Murder for a publishing contract.

We also have a middle grade novel featuring a ghost that will be ready by year end. And we’re working on another young adult fantasy and a series of themed short stories that will be finished in 2015.

We have a busy year lined up!

 

Where can readers and fans connect with you?Carpenter Country

You’ll find us in Carpenter Country, a magical place that, like our stories, is unreal but not untrue. We invite you to visit http://www.hlcarpenter.com/ and sign up for our newsletter to keep up with what’s happening in Carpenter Country.

Or you can catch up with us at

Amazonhttp://www.amazon.com/HL-Carpenter/e/B007SHS9LA/

Goodreadshttp://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5820921.H_L_Carpenter

Google+https://plus.google.com/102212877836673370583/posts

Pinteresthttp://www.pinterest.com/hlcarpenter/

 

Any advice for authors out there who are either just starting out or getting frustrated with the industry? 

You’ll probably hear about the difficulty of breaking into today’s overcrowded market and the impossible odds of ever reaching the best-seller list. Those things are true.

So what?

The market has always been overcrowded and the odds have always been impossible. You can’t win the lottery if you never buy a ticket.

 

Thanks for being with us today Helen and Lorri. I’ve been inspired by the nuggets of wisdom you’ve shared with us today. I also applaud your efforts to try different paths and enjoy the journey along the way. I hope you’ve gained something from my interview with Helen and Lorri. You can share this interview on various social platforms by clicking one of the links below. We’d also be happy to entertain any questions, comments or differing points of view you may have.

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8. Suzanne Bloom Loves Fab Goo Taffy

Author/Illustrator Suzanne Bloom

Author/Illustrator Suzanne Bloom

Suzanne's Newest Book

Suzanne’s Newest Book

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Please welcome back author/illustrator Suzanne Bloom for week three of what will be a four-part series designed to encourage new and aspiring picture book authors as they navigate the perilous path to publication. 

Today’s topic is Rejection, with a capital “R”. If you’ve already been sending out submissions and have received rejection letters (or e-mails) back, it’s a major letdown. I’ve been there. I’m still there. But as cold as the rejection feels, you must try try try not to take it personally. I know you poured your heart and soul into your story. But always keep in mind that publishing is a business and publishers are companies. And just like any company, publishers must make money in order to stay in business. Since publishing companies receive hundreds of submissions each month and thousands per year, and they cannot publish them all, they are very selective and choose what they believe has the potential to make money. That doesn’t mean your story wasn’t good. It just means that it wasn’t right for that publisher. Even veteran authors still get rejections.

Several years ago, when I was feeling particularly bummed over yet another rejection, I asked an anonymous editor if editors realized they hold authors’ dreams in their hands. I don’t remember what the response was, but I have since come to realize that it is not the responsibility of editors or agents to make my dreams come true. So don’t get mad, get motivated. And above all, don’t give up. If you’ve made your story the absolute best is can be, send it out again. I wonder what Suzanne does when she receives a rejection letter? Let’s ask. 

Suzanne, how do you handle a rejection letter? How about 5, 15, or 25?

It’s really hard to believe that 15 someones don’t love your story as much as you do, isn’t it? Is it time to put that story away for a while or forever? Let it rest and get to work on something else. After a month or so look at it again with fresh eyes. This also applies to harsh critiques. Several of my stories (which are brilliant, according to me) shall never see the light of day. I came across a mock “rejection” letter which said, “We’re sorry to say that due to the number of similar rejection letters we have received, we cannot accept your rejection letter at this time. Good luck placing your rejection letter elsewhere.” Alas, I have paraphrased and I don’t know the source.

Love the mock rejection letter and the advice! Listen to Suzanne, picture book writers, she knows what she’s talking about. 

Of course, sometimes the feeling of rejection comes in the form of a harsh critique from an agent, editor, or even a critique group member. Again, it’s hard not to take the criticism personally, especially when we’re proud of the work we’ve done. I can tell you that I am always surprised when I get a harsh critique. How could they possibly find fault in my story. But now I understand that there’s always room for improvement. Remember too, that you don’t have to make changes to your story based on critiques. You don’t have to agree with every thing that’s said. But keep in mind that agents and editors are professionals and usually know their stuff, and if you should happen to get a critique from one, I recommend you at least consider their suggestions to improve your work. 

And let me add, that I would be lost without the help of my critique group, Picture Me Published (PMP). It is invaluable. My stories have improved astronomically thanks to the thoughtful suggestions of my three groupmates, Sarah, Jess, and Brooks. I highly recommend joining a group. Don’t worry if it doesn’t feel right, you can always politely drop out and search for another. My first group didn’t work out (not for lack of trying), but it’s okay because PMP is a perfect fit for me. 

Suzanne, how should we handle a harsh critique?

In the privacy of your own space, dance like Rumpelstiltskin: stomp, gnash, holler and fume. Whew, take a breath and revisit the story and the critique…not necessarily at that moment – when you’re ready to hear and evaluate the suggestions. What rings true? What holds back the story? I thought “Fab Goo Taffy” was the best name ever for the candy that was traded for a time machine. My wise editor said it wasn’t insect-centric enough for my ant eating characters (A Mighty Fine Time Machine). Certain that there was no substitute, I stewed and fumed, until I came up with Buggy Bon-Bons. It’s so hard to defend an idea without sounding defensive. And even when we’re certain each of our words is precious and perfect, there is always room for rumination and possibly improvement. But here’s the biggest question: Are you willing to make changes for the good of the story?

Please come back next week for the fourth and final installment of my “Suzanne Bloom” series, in which I ask Suzanne how to combat writer’s block, what an editor means when he/she tells you your story is too quiet, and how to keep from getting discouraged. I can’t wait!

{Suzanne Bloom At Work In Her Studio}

{Suzanne Bloom At Work In Her Studio}

Suzanne Bloom was born mid-century in Portland, Oregon, which accounts for her love of overcast days. She moved to Queens, New York in time to finish kindergarten. Her first book We Keep a Pig in the Parlor was published in 1988. She has authored and illustrated many more books since then including The Bus for Us (2000) and the popular Goose & Bear series, which includes A Splendid Friend Indeed, Treasure, What About Bear, Oh! What A Surprise!, Fox Forgets, and her latest, Alone Together. She has been given a Theodor Seuss Geisel Honor Award and has been selected for the Texas 2×2 list of 20 best picture books (twice). She currently lives in upstate, New York with her husband in the house they built 34 years ago, down a dirt road and on a hillside. She has two grown sons, one cat, and one dog. To learn more about Suzanne, please read the interview I did with her back in 2010, or check out her website: www.suzannebloom.com


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9. Dante’s Inferno and the Non-Fiction Writer: by Terry Jennings

I am pleased to bring you a post from a writer friend TERRY JENNINGS, whose specialty is CHILDREN’S NON FICTION.  here’s Terry:

If Dante had been a non-fiction writer, in the Divine Comedy he would have put a circle in hell for writers whose overriding vice is Pride of Research. I never read the Divine Comedy but I did read Dan Brown’s Inferno and I know Dante liked those little circles where you would burn for eternity to expiate your sins. So if at any time there is a writer’s confessional, I would have to own up to that vicious sin—researching so much and having such pride in my cool factoids and data that sometimes I forget that the research should play a supporting role, not be all consuming like the fires of hell. And the part that makes this whole thing vicious is that along with pride can come a bit of arrogance and infallibility. I’ve done all this research and I know all there is to know, right? Recently, during the editing of my fact-based picture book, Sounds of the Savana (Arbordale, 2015), fate (or my sweet editor, whichever you choose) knocked me off my high horse.

Normally, my problem is not to include every tidbit and morsel in a manuscript. That is a sin I have worked hard to overcome. I figure I have slaved to get those lovely little gems and I have to put them somewhere. They have to be of use. I try dropping them into cocktail conversation. For instance, “Did you know that vervet monkeys have different kinds of vocalizations for different predators?” Or “Did you know spiny mice slough off their skin if a predator catches them? All that nasty owl will get is a piece of skin—and the mouse’s skin regrows by the next day. Imagine that!” I eat up that kind of stuff, but it makes people around me fall asleep.

Since I can’t use them socially, I want to include all my new knowledge in my manuscript. After many rejections, however, I have learned to listen to the wise and include only what works organically in the story, what drives the story forward. I have had to, sadly, leave a lot of wonderful information behind, condemning it to that nether world of unused facts. At first it was hard, but working with Arbordale has eased the pain. They have back matter in each book. A place where I can display many of my beloved nuggets. And if there’s not enough room in the back matter, they have a website with lots more information and activities. And when I remembered my own website could be a third bucket into which I could drop the remaining morsels, I danced a jig.

Now that I have the perfect place for all my darlings, the stories flow more easily. They can be even more engaging. I don’t have to explain that sound waves are deflected by temperature differences in Sounds. All I have to do is have a lioness roar on one side of the lake and the wildebeest hear her as if she were right next to them. Then . . . in the back matter or the website, I can put all sorts of amazing stuff about how the layer of cool temperature over a warm lake can deflect the sound wave so that it travels farther than when the temperature is uniform. I can let them know that in a 60 mile circle around Mount St. Helens, no one heard the eruption. They saw it like a silent movie—all because of the temperature difference between the roiling volcano and the layer of cool 8:32-in-the-morning atmosphere above it.

Pride of Research can also lead to avoidance.  There is many a time when I’m almost ready to let the book go but I talk myself into just a bit more research so I don’t have to let my baby out into the world so everyone will say it’s ugly. Or the writing’s going bad and I dive headlong into a new strand of investigation so I don’t have to face my shortcomings.
With Pride of Research also comes a certain arrogance. Admit it. I know you’re out there. Just like me. We check and triple check every fact and have three page bibliographies for an 800 word piece. It doesn’t have to be overt self-importance. It can just be that cozy warm feeling that we’ve done your job well. We always try to do our job well. Carolyn Yoder (editor at Calkins Creek, an imprint for historical children’s books) would be proud.

IMG_7974

That, however, is exactly how my pride of research came tumbling down around me.
“So, the illustrator wants to know what kind of owl would eat a spiny mouse?”
My sweet editor at Arbordale sent shivers of shame down my spine. In Sounds of the Savanna, “sound” shows up through predator and prey interactions. Since predators silently sneak, swoop, snatch, and stalk and prey squeak, squeal, heeaw, kerchew—actually make sound—when caught or almost caught, I foolishly concentrated on the prey. Every stalked critter, big and small was thoroughly researched. Its demeanor, its diet, its vocalizations, how it takes care of its offspring and of course, which animals preyed on it were minutely scrutinized. And it goes without saying I already knew they lived on the Savanna because that was my first criterion for choosing the species. But the predators? I had given them nary a thought. The research on the spiny mouse said owls eat them and that was good enough for me. Without much thought I could write that the owl swoops on silent wings with deadly talons—beautiful, although generic, tags—and that was sufficient. Was it arrogance or just plain forgetfulness? I know better. When I wrote my book about the recovery after Mount St. Helens’ eruption, I had tons of lists of the trees and animals that lived on the mountain and approximately when the species returned. I can’t believe I didn’t check on the spiny mouse’s predator. Turns out the Verreaux or Milky Eagle Owl loves spiny mice. And it didn’t take me too long to find it. Phew!

If that had been all, I might have come out with my dignity bruised, but still extant. But not long after the owl came the question about the vervet monkeys and their predator. Vervet monkeys have a vocalization for snakes. What snakes? All I could find was boas. My idea of a boa is huge. Vervet monkeys, not so big. I suggested they avoid the conundrum altogether by having the snake hidden in the grass. But by now I was absolutely distraught. Really? Two unidentified predator species? How could I? I checked to make sure there were no more hanging in the breeze and it turns out there weren’t. The other predators were well known dudes like leopards and lions, animals an illustrator can draw without getting down to differentiating between species.

I have been chastened, however. I promise to never let my pride of research make me blind to the shortcomings of my manuscript ever again. I will continue to do my job well, even better than I have because as non-fiction or fact-based fiction writers for children we are passing that information on to kids, and perhaps some day some one will take our book and use it as fodder to his or her pride of research.

Bio:

Terry Jennings began writing in 1999. Her first piece “Moving Over to the Passenger’s Side,” about teaching her fifteen-year-old to drive was published by The Washington Post. She has written a few other articles for them and Long Island News Day, as well as Ranger Rick, and a family humor column in my local newspaper, The Reston Connection.

She also writes educational text for the Smithsonian Science Education Center and other educational outlets. Gopher to the Rescue! A Volcano Recovery Story (Sylvan Dell, 2012) was named Outstanding Science Trade Book by the National Science Teachers’ Association and the Children’s Book Council. Her other book, The Women’s Liberation Movement: 1960-1990 (Mason Crest, 2013) was named to the Amelia Bloomer Project’s recommended feminist literature for women birth to 18. Sounds of the Savanna, a book about sound as told through predator/prey interactions in the African savanna is on its way with Arbordale Publishers. It’s due out fall of 2015. Terry is currently working on a historical novel about the Cuban Revolution (1959-1961) loosely based on my childhood along with a couple of other picture books–one on Magnetism and one on Erosion.   IMG_0003

Contact her at:

website: Terrycjennings.com
science blog for kids: kcswildfacts.com


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10. Guest Post - Amber Schamel Interview

Today we're interviewing historical author Amber Schamel.
Bestselling author Amber Schamel writes riveting stories that bring HIStory to life. She has a passion for history, books and her Savior. This combination results in what her readers call "historical fiction at its finest". A homeschool graduate from a family of 12 children, Amber found her calling early in life. First published at age 21, she has continued to hone her craft. Between ministry, family and working in their family businesses, Amber loves to connect with readers. Find her on the Stitches Thru Time blog, or on any of the major social media sites. 


Amber, can you tell us about your new release, The Messiah's Sign?
Sure! Thanks so much for having me on the blog today. This book released just yesterday, so I'm so EXCITED to share it with readers.
The Messiah's Sign is the second book in the Days of Messiah series. It follows the storyline of Book One, but from the husband's point of view. Here's what it's about:
Dreams…they shouldn’t bother him, but when Tyrus’ worst nightmare is vindicated, he has no choice but to face reality. His wife has been unfaithful, and God has punished her with the most feared disease in the land: leprosy. Banishing her to the leper colony, Tyrus struggles to raise their son alone and protect him from a merciless outlaw. But when Malon begins following the teacher from Nazareth, what remains of their business and reputation is at stake. Can Tyrus save his son from the beguiling lies of a false Messiah before he loses the only thing he has left?


What sparked this story?
Book one started as a short story, but a lot of people told me I should expand it. I picked up the story and began thinking about what the entire story would be like, and that's when the Lord drew back the curtain to show me not only Aaliyah's story at the leper colony, but also the story of her husband and son. Tyrus—as the heartless husband that banishes Aaliyah to the leper colony—is the villain of book one, so I wanted to show readers his side of the story.

What do you want readers to take away from The Messiah's Sign?
As hard as you try, you will never be sufficient on your own. It takes Christ working in you.
For those that have read volume one, I want them to realize that you cannot hate someone until you de-humanize them. The villain of book one becomes the hero of book two, and we see the motivations behind his 'heartless' acts. In truth, Tyrus was doing the best he could. If we can empathize with people in our lives, it will go a LONG way in keeping the roots of bitterness at bay.

What are you working on next?
I am finishing up a really fun series with three other historical authors on the signers of the Declaration of Independence.
I'm also setting to work on a Christmas story set during the Civil War entitled The Christmas Pardon.
In the aftermath of the Civil War, a young lawyer battles with the U.S. Supreme court. In what seemed to be a Christmas miracle, he had secured a pardon for his friend from Lincoln himself. The army executed the boy anyway. On the fifteenth anniversary of his death, will the lawyer finally clear his friends name and bring justice to his memory?

 I'm running a giveaway for a fan to pick the name of my two main characters! You can enter the giveaway here: http://www.amberschamel.com/contests.html


Thank you for joining us today, Amber.
Thank you for hosting me! It's been a pleasure. I'd like to invite each of you to join me in celebrating my new release on my Facebook Launch party tonight! We'll have trivia, giveaways, behind the scenes tidbits and TONS of fun. Join us tonight at 6pm mountain time! https://www.facebook.com/AuthorAmberSchamel


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11. Suzanne Bloom Has A Lot Of Towels

Author/Illustrator Suzanne Bloom

Author/Illustrator Suzanne Bloom

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hello future (traditionally) published picture book authors. As promised, I have author/illustrator Suzanne Bloom back this week to help me help you along your path to publication. If you are an aspiring picture book author, you may feel as if you will never be published. I know, I’ve felt the same way. And as a new picture book author (yes, I still consider myself new because even though I have been writing for nine years, I just signed my first contract last year and my book is not yet out), I wonder if I will ever publish another. So I understand your frustration. You may be wondering if there’s something you could be doing to move you further along. I wonder what Suzanne thinks? Let’s find out.

Suzanne, what could an aspiring picture book author (or illustrator) do to help them break in?

Are you attending conferences or workshops? This is a good way to meet authors, illustrators, editors, art directors, and agents. There may be an opportunity to have a manuscript or portfolio reviewed. Do you have a critique group? Have you thought about trying a different genre, or submitting to children’s magazines? Have you visited the book store and studied the current crop of picture books, chapter books or novels to see what is being published now?  

Great advice! And I would add that there are a lot of fairly recent books on writing, illustrating, and publishing children’s books that offer tons of useful information. Check your local library. Also, I recommend joining professional organizations such as the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) and the CBI Clubhouse. And don’t forget the Children’s Writer’s & Illustrator’s Market book. It contains helpful articles, as well as listings of publishers, agents, contests, conferences, and more.    

Suzanne, how long should an aspiring picture book author (or illustrator) keep trying before they throw in the towel?

How many towels do you have? It was 10 years between my second and third book. I would drive by a fast food restaurant with a NOW HIRING sign out front and wonder if that was meant for me. A sensible person would have sought gainful employment; with benefits and a retirement plan. I opted to become a visiting author instead. I found a balance between the solitude of the studio and the lively exchange of ideas with young students. Many suggestions from grade-schoolers have shown up in my illustrations, like the volcano and the snake in My Special Day at Third Street School by Eve Bunting. I decided that if I couldn’t make a living writing, I could make a living talking about writing.  

And in between talking about writing, Suzanne kept on writing and submitting and writing some more. And I’m so glad she never “came to her senses” because now there are nearly twenty fabulous picture books with her name on them, and I’m positive she hasn’t thrown in her last towel yet. So don’t give up, aspiring authors. You can be published too! It just takes time, patience, and following good advice from those who have been in your shoes.

Come back next week when I ask Suzanne how she handles rejection letters and harsh critiques.

{Suzanne Bloom At Work In Her Studio}

{Suzanne Bloom At Work In Her Studio}

Suzanne Bloom was born mid-century in Portland, Oregon, which accounts for her love of overcast days. She moved to Queens, New York in time to finish kindergarten. Her first book We Keep a Pig in the Parlor was published in 1988. She has authored and illustrated many more books since then including The Bus for Us (2000) and the popular Goose & Bear series, which includes A Splendid Friend Indeed, Treasure, What About Bear, Oh! What A Surprise!, Fox Forgets, and her latest, Alone Together. She has been given a Theodor Seuss Geisel Honor Award and has been selected for the Texas 2×2 list of 20 best picture books (twice). She currently lives in upstate, New York with her husband in the house they built 34 years ago, down a dirt road and on a hillside. She has two grown sons, one cat, and one dog. To learn more about Suzanne, please read the interview I did with her back in 2010, or check out her website: www.suzannebloom.com


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12. Author Interview: Amy Herrick of The Time Fetch



I love author interviews. It gives me a chance to share the faces and personality behind the names on book covers. 

Featuring Amy Herrick: Author of The Time Fetch

Amy Herrick is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. Every morning, she and her dog take a long walk in Prospect Park in Brooklyn, New York, looking for adventure. They’ve seen and heard many wondrous things there, some of which have served as inspiration for this story. The Time Fetch is her first book for young readers.








1. The Time Fetch is your first book for young readers. What inspired you to write for children?

AH: Learning to read is kind of like learning to ride a bike.  It’s a very wobbly business at first and there’s a lot of different skills you have to bring together to make it work.  In the beginning you’re very klutzy and you’re focusing with all your might and then all of a sudden----Presto! Alacazam! It clicks! You’re doing it!  That time of your reading life, when you first take off and you’re free and you’re flying and nobody is holding on, is the golden time, the glorious time.  It is the time when you first realize all the treasures that reading can hold—that it can entertain you, that it can allow you to travel through space and time, that you can get yourself terrified without having to actually put yourself in danger, that it can give you the power to see inside of other people’s heads.At this age, when you love a book, it takes you over completely.  It sears itself on your memory and you carry it with you for the rest of your life.Imagine writing a book that someone would experience in that way.  I thought I’d give it a shot!

2. Where do you get the inspiration for your characters? Are they modeled after anybody you 
know?

AH: Edward was the first character I created.  In the beginning, he was the only one.  He was inspiredby my older son, who was pretty lazy as a kid and still who tends to be in his head a lot, trying to figure out the true nature of reality.Then Feenix showed up because I felt that Edward needed a nemesis. In the beginning she was much nastier than she ended up being.  I wanted someone who was all fire and restlessness and always in trouble and she was based largely on my younger son who is a wild thing and who spent most of his middle school and high school years in detention.  Danton came in a side door and I wasn’t expecting him to be so important, but I realized that if Edward needed a nemesis, he also needed a sidekick who could center him and the reader, and who represented a more balanced, natural way of being in the world.
Brigit arrived, I think, because I wanted the symmetryy of two boys and two girls.  Her shyness is based largely on my own early, always blushing years.

3. Speaking of the writing process, how long did it take to write The Time Fetch and what part of writing takes the longest.

AH: It took me a long time to write this book.  I worked on it over several years.  I wrote a complete draft, which I ended up scrapping because it felt too lightweight to me.  The hardest part for me is always the first part, the getting a story off the ground—like a kite.  The kite has to have the right shape and weight and tail and then you’ve got to get lucky with the weather and the wind.  Once you’ve got it up there, it gets easier and easier to just let the string out.

4. What is the most important message from your novel you would like readers to grasp?

AH: I was trying to explore a lot of ideas that interest me in this book. But probably the one I’d most like readers to take away is voiced by Mr. Ross, the science teacher.  He’s talking about entropy —the tendency for everything in the universe to move from a state of order to disorder, to die, to fall apart.   He says to his students:  “But think about it, my young seekers. There may be ways to slow entropy down. Even reverse its progress.  You can align yourself to fight alongside the powers of order and creation.  You can battle to keep things going, even join the ranks of those who devote their lives to making greater harmony and knowledge.  Or you can sit back and allowthings to run down.”

5. Tell us what it is like to see the final cover of your novel and see it in print?

AH: Doesn’t matter if you’re four years old or ninety-four, it’s always gratifying to have other people react with thought and care to something you’ve made. When you feel like an illustrator and a designer have created a cover that really catches the heart of what you’ve tried to do, it’s hard tostop thanking your lucky stars and kissing strangers on the street.  That’s the way I felt when I first saw this book with its cover on.

6. Who are some of the children's book authors you look up to?

AH: Oh so many wonderful authors I read over and over.  Last night I was rereading George MacDonald’s Princess and Curdie written back in 1872.  The goblins in this story are as well-imagined as any fairytale creatures lurking under beds or feet.  It is said that George MacDonald influenced many around him and many who followed—including Lewis Carroll, C.S. Lewis and Madeleine L’Engle, each of whom have influenced me and so many other readers and writers.   Afew others I keep by my desk: E.B. White’s Charlotte’s Web (for White’s perfect, delicate, hilarious touch), Katherine Briggs’ Hobberdy Dick (a moving historical fantasy about a moment intime when old beliefs are giving away to new ones), Susan Cooper’s The Dark is Rising (suspenseful and often verging on the good-edge of scary, this is a story which uses mythology, Arthurian legend and ancient Celtic folklore)

7. What advice would you give to young readers who dream of becoming writers someday?

AH: Read a lot. Keep a journal.  Ask other people for their stories (especially the old folks!) and write the good ones down in your journal. Be brave!

8. What kind of feedback have you received that has helped you in writing your next book? Will there be a sequel to Time Fetch? Tell us about your next project

AH; Since so many people have asked me if I was planning a sequel and since I feel I’m not quite ready to let go of Feenix, Danton, Brigit and Dweebo, I’ve decided to give it a try.  The Time Fetchwas a winter solstice tale, so this next one will be a companion story that takes place at the summer solstice.


Check out my review on The Time Fetch.

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13. In Real Life: Tour Stop

  I must admit my interest was immediately piqued when I heard about this Young Adult graphic novel that appealed to both my gamer soul and my feminist sensibilities. I was not let down! I enjoyed this graphic novel so much I thought the only flaw was its brevity. Perhaps too short to really go as in depth in characterization, or with the issues as I’d’ve liked, but still an all around solid story. I found In Real Life to be a very heartfelt and eye opening story about the intersection of gaming, feminism, economics, and labor rights.     And as such, we are so pleased to be a part of the 30 Questions with Cory Doctorow tour! Below I am privileged to present the questions and answers on our leg of the tour.   Anda gains a lot of confidence through her success with the all-girl gaming guild. What message... Read more »

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14. Interview with Children’s Book Author – Liam Moiser

Its Author Interview Thursday and today we have a children’s book author from Yorkshire in England.Liam Moiser He was introduced to me by Sherrill S. Cannon who was my special guest  earlier this year. My special guest today has being getting the attention of a few movers and shakers in the publishing world with notable mentions at a few industry events. He’s only starting out but I really see great things on the horizon for him. Please join me in welcoming Liam Moiser.

 

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and how you ended up being a children’s book author? 
 I live in a town called Goole in East Yorkshire with my brother and Father. I have two half-sisters that live with my stepdad. I lived in Goole for a bit when I was small but don’t remember much about it because I moved to Rawcliffe Bridge where I spent most of my childhood. I moved back to Goole to live with my father when I was 14 and I’ve lived here ever since. I have been working for a fast food company now for three years. I think I just liked how children’s books can differ and you can put more imagination into them. So I decided to give it ago.

What can a reader expect when they pick up a Liam Moiser book? 
They can expect a lot of twist and turns in the plot line. I love to keep people guessing about what is happening. Without giving too many spoilers away, I made sure that in my Moore Field School Series I put twists and turns in the book. For instance, in the first book I made sure that I introduced some ghosts right at the end. At first I was going to add them at the beginning, but in the end I thought I’d keep everyone in the dark about them until they were needed.
I added them for a reason, because they play a big part in the plotline. You find out more about them in the second book, but when the third book comes out you’ll find out a lot more. This is when I will wrap up the trophy mystery but I will leave it open for future books. I have a few new ideas I want to work on, but I have also got plans written down if I want more Moore Field School Books.

What in your opinion makes a great children’s book? 
I think that you need to be able to interact with the child and make them see the book through their own eyes. I also think that it is vital that you keep the children on their toes. You want them to be able to imagine the situation.

You had two honourable mentions at the London Book Festival and New Book Festival plus you were announced as a Readers Favourite Finalist. Can you tell us how all that came about and your reaction when you heard? incidents
My mentor, Sherrill S Cannon, who I can say has been amazing and supportive of my work told me about the competitions and so I decided to enter them. When I heard that I received praise for my work I just couldn’t believe it.
I have recently been told that I won an HM award in the Readers Favourite International Contest. I am extremely happy about this because I won over some good competition to get the HM Award. I have already proudly put the seal on my book and printed out the certificate, which will be going on my wall soon.

How do you handle bad reviews? 
I haven’t received a review that was less than 3 stars yet. I know some people out there who have read the book probably weren’t keen on it but all I can say is that each person has his own taste. If I can make a difference with just a few people, then all this will have been worth while.

What has been your most successful marketing method for promoting your books?

Local Media. I’ve appeared on the Local Radio Station a few times and I’ve also appeared in the local paper. When I went back to school with a signed copy of my book, they not only put it on their website but they also sent out a press release that was picked up by the Hull Daily Mail. I have also had success in getting my books into Libraries.

What were some of your favourite books as a child? 
When I was really small I loved reading Postman Pat, Thomas the Tank Engine and I’ve read some Pokémon books as I grew up. I loved the Harry Potter Series, Famous Five and I’ve read a lot of others. If I list them all we would be here all week because I just loved reading.

What mistake(s) have you made while writing/publishing your books that you would advise other authors against? Mystery Book
One mistake that I had was to under estimate the e-book market. I thought I could do without it but I’ve decided to put the first book on E-book now. It took me a year to realize how big e-books were.
How do you reward yourself on completing a book or achieving a specific publishing goal? 
I treat myself to a meal so that I can just go out and relax. When I am writing, I am in a zone so I just concentrate on that if I can.

Toy Story or Shrek? 
This is tough but I’ll go for Toy Story. 

What should a first time visitor to Yorkshire in the Northern part of England do while there? 
This is really hard because I know what I’d want to do and that is go visit the Haribo factory. But if I had to pick one thing I’d say to visit the North Yorkshire Moors because the scenery is amazing.

What can we expect from Liam Moiser in the next 12 months? 
I haven’t decided yet what I want to do. I know I have a few school visits lined up and I’m hoping to get some more interviews lined up. As for on the book front, I’m thinking of a 2016 release for my third book. I don’t want to ruin the series by having a rubbish ending to this trophy mystery, so I want to make sure everything is perfect.

Where can fans and readers of your books discover more about you and connect with you? Liam in Yorkshire
I have a facebook page and a twitter page and an author website.
https://www.facebook.com/AuthorLiamMosier
https://twitter.com/Moiser201
http://sbprabooks.com/LiamMoiser/
If you click on the sbprabooks link, you will see a contact page. This will send an email directly and I aim to reply within 48 hours of receiving any emails that anyone has for me.

Any advice for authors out there who are either just starting out or getting frustrated with the publishing industry?


What I can tell people is that no matter how few of the books you sell, you have achieved something. That is how I look at it. I have sold in America and the UK at the moment, and without it being published no one would have read it. So remember that even if you make just one person smile you have achieved something!

 

Thanks for spending some time with us today Liam. I have to say that I find your honesty and love for the craft very refreshing. I know we’ll be hearing great things about you in the future. Please click the link below to grab a copy of one of Liam’s books and we’d be delighted if you could leave a comment or question below.

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15. In the Limelight with Middle Grade Author: C. S. Ulyate…

I want to thank and welcome magnificent middle grade author, C.S. Ulyate for sharing his personal writing journey with us on my blog today. C.S.’s book Seasons is the first book of a series and can be purchased from Amazon, and other on-line bookstores. Bonus: Stay tuned for a chance to win an ecopy of Seasons at the end of this post. So let’s get this interview started…

How long have you been writing, C.S.?

I’ve been writing for about 8 years now and will continue to write every day.

Now that’s dedication! Where did you get your idea and inspiration to write Seasons?

The idea for Seasons came from an environmental awareness project that I worked on in 2010. I fell in love with drawing and writing about a list of villains that represent different forms of pollution. Add a bit of wacky costumes, inspiration from video games, and give the villains’ world breaking superpowers and you got Mother’s Nature’s true nightmares.

What sets Seasons apart from other books/series in the same genre?
Miss Plastic

The thing about Seasons is I wrote it in mind for ADHD non-reader and female audience. I understand that finding the perfect book to read can be a bit of challenge for kids. The plots can be slow and drag on until finally something starts, but by that time the readers have already lost interest. I throw my readers into constant conflict and mystery, and make it as unexpected as it can be. I write the book like a video game; I’ll keep my characters moving to new locations, send them into the sewers, burning forests, and where ever a battle with Pollution takes place.

In the middle grade genre, I always hear about super powered boys getting to go on an awesome battle adventure full of dangerous monsters and evil forces. That’s why I have Winter take the main role with her brother Fall right behind her. Winter’s independent, she’s wants to rescue her sister and is willing to start a war over it. She may have a love interest, but her end game isn’t to fall in love with the boy, but solve the mystery of Mother Nature’s disappearance. Her ice abilities will become stronger as the series progresses to the point where she may be able to create the next Ice Age.

The world certainly needs authors like you to bring awareness to what’s happening to the Earth. As a middle grade/young adult author, what is your writing process?

Mr. Oil
My writing process involves listening to tons and tons of music from Pandora. Music brings me into the writing vibe and motivates me to come up with some awesome scenes. I’ll research the pollutions that I’m going to cover and scientific topics like water or soil to develop an overall theme. I also create a small outline for each chapter. I’ll plug in what characters I want and decide where I want them to be mentally by the end of the chapter.



How long did it take for you to start and finish Seasons?

Seasonstook me around four months to write and another four months for the editing process. I want to make sure my novel is as polished as it can be.

Wow, you’re certainly focused! Do you have any advice for other writers striving to write in your genre, C.S.?

I’ve always wanted to answer this question! I would say have good judgment when you’re
Professor Voltage
researching about the writing world. There is tons of conflicting information out there that can lead you in the wrong direction. Be wise and keep researching until you’re certain. When being critiqued, don’t worry—some people will love your work and others may absolutely hate it. Know your strengths and strengthen your weaknesses. When writing for the Middle Grade genre, it’s ok to be immature; it’s our business to be immature. Don’t be afraid of what you are, some of the best inspiration comes out from things we never expect.

Wonderful advice! I love your take on strengths and weaknesses. So, what’s next for C. S. Ulyate the author?

I’m currently working on book two for Seasons: Waves of Madness. As well preparing for the two new series I will be writing in the future. Curious what the series are? Don’t worry the main characters have already made cameos and introduced themselves in Seasons.
I also have a hint for any of my readers looking forward to book 2.

Be welcomed into the sea, but for those who seek Hy-Brasil will turn to madness.
Queen Noise

The Perfume Inhales

The Farmer Counts

The Toymaker Ticks

Intriguing! You’ve got me hooked. Okay, here’s one for me, since I’m writing a time travel series—If you could time travel anywhere into Earth’s past, where would you go and why?

Pre-American colonization, way back before Columbus, the Native American world is so mysterious and filled with lost history. Traveling through that time would make up for an interesting adventure.

Synopsis:

Twelve-year-old Winter is starting to believe she might be going crazy. It seems like every other way she looks, she’ll see soup cans and plastic bags form into monsters to terrorize her. But when Winter discovers that she and her three siblings were born from Mother Nature, everything is about to change. Winter’s evil relatives have kidnapped her little sister Spring and are using Spring as bait to bring Winter to Yellowstone National Park. 

Now Winter and her other two siblings have five days to get Spring back. However, Winter must be strong if she ever wants to confront her evil relatives that control oil, plastic, tin, and their monstrous trash pets. She will need to learn to surf on rivers and master her ice-age ability, unravel the past for her Mother’s disappearance, and control the nightmare that makes her maple syrup for blood boil. Unknown to Winter, the true evil waits for her underneath the Park.

Buy Links:


Bio:


C.S. Ulyate (Cameron) grew up in California. As a kid, he could be found climbing mountains or kayaking in the ocean when he had free time from acting rehearsals. As an author, he loves writing about adventures that he never read as a kid. And he loves to break the rules. Who said wizard pirates can't ride mechanical dinosaurs? In the past, he has worked for several acting agencies and promoted environmental ad campaigns. 







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16. Suzanne Bloom Is “Dancing With A Phantom In The Dark”.

Author/Illustrator Suzanne Bloom

Author/Illustrator Suzanne Bloom

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One thing I really love to do here at Frog on a Blog is help other picture book writers, especially those who are new or aspiring authors. That’s why I’ve enlisted one of my favorite authors and illustrators (and friend), Suzanne Bloom, to help me offer words of encouragement and wisdom to all of you who may be feeling discouraged. We’ll hear from Suzanne in a moment. First, allow me to tell you a bit of my own publishing story. 

After eight years of trying, I was finally offered a contract last year for one of my picture book stories, and I have a second story soon to be published in digital format. Depending upon how you look at it, you are either thinking Wow, that was a really long time or Hey, that’s great. Both thoughts are technically right. But believe me when I tell you that those eight years of waiting and hoping, and collecting rejection letters, were also discouraging. I considered giving up many times. I questioned my writing ability and even my worthiness to be published. But I didn’t quit because I love writing picture book stories and my dream was to be published. And now, I am so glad I didn’t give up.

And I don’t want you to give up either. That’s why, once a week for the next seven weeks, I will pose questions to Suzanne about how to handle rejection, how to combat writer’s block, how to keep from getting discouraged, and more. My hope is that you will find encouragement to continue on your own personal path to picture book publication. 

I will post the first question next week. Now, let’s hear from Suzanne:

139 words, 300 words.  So few words.  How do you make them count?  How do you make us care about a character?  It may be that all the ideas have been used, but not all the stories have been told.  Borne of your observation and experience, what will you bring to the page? 

Whether we are wordless or wordy, scribbling or sketching, we face similar challenges and frustrations.  My own creative process feels like dancing with a phantom, in the dark.  I’m not sure where it will lead but I’ve decided to trust and follow.  My stories are small, but their emotional truth is big.

Thank you, Suzanne! I can’t wait to hear more from you!

Suzanne Bloom was born mid-century in Portland, Oregon, which accounts for her love of overcast days. She moved to Queens, New York in time to finish kindergarten. Her first book We Keep a Pig in the Parlor was published in 1988. She has authored and illustrated many more books since then including The Bus for Us (2000) and the popular Goose & Bear series, which includes A Splendid Friend Indeed, Treasure, What About Bear, Oh What A Surprise, Fox Forgets, and her latest, Alone Together. She has been given a Theodor Seuss Geisel Honor Award and has been selected for the Texas 2×2 list of 20 best picture books (twice). She currently lives in upstate, New York with her husband in the house they built 34 years ago, down a dirt road and on a hillside. She has two grown sons, one cat, and one dog. To learn more about Suzanne, please read the interview I did with her back in 2010, or check out her website: www.suzannebloom.com


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17. In the Limelight with Fantasy Author: Carol Browne...

I want to thank and welcome fantastic fantasy author, Carol Browne for sharing her personal writing journey with us on my blog today. Carol’s book The Exile of Elidel is the first book of a trilogy and can be purchased from Musa Publishing, Amazon, and other on-line bookstores. Bonus: Stay tuned for a chance to win an ecopy of The Exile of Elidel at the end of this post. So let’s get this interview started…

How long have you been writing, Carol?

I started scribbling when I was about seven years old. From that point on I always wanted to be a ‘proper’ writer. It was a very long time before I achieved that goal – we’re talking nearly five decades!

I feel you, Carol. It sounds like we’ve been on the same path. Where did you get your idea and inspiration to write The Exile of Elindel?

In 1976, I was listening to a jukebox in an English pub when Mike Oldfield’s In Dulci Jubilo came on. The music conjured up an image in my mind of two fantasy characters who seemed to be nearing the end of some kind of quest. I felt compelled to write their story and find out who they were and what was going to happen to them. I set them in Dark Age Britainbecause Anglo-Saxon had been part of the English degree I had just completed at University and the era appealed to me. I felt I was going with these characters on their adventure, watching as they collected back stories and companions along the way.

What sets The Exile of Elindel apart from other books/series in the same genre?

I have to confess to not being a great reader of the sword-and-sorcery type of fantasy genre, so there’s little I can compare mine with. I like to think my elves are a bit different, though. They’re vegetarians and they talk to animals and have tremendous reverence for nature. They would definitely join the Green party if they were around today!

I also like to add humour to lighten the mood. Too much angst and jeopardy can get very tedious. I mixed up the genres a little too. In Book II there is an element of sci-fi as well as fantasy, while in Book III there’s a good dollop of horror. I’ve added some light romance as well; so something for everyone!

You’ve certainly thought of everyone, Carol! As a fantasy author, what is your writing process?

I write my first draft in longhand and have all my notes and research Blu-tacked to the walls of the room where I work. Once I commit myself to writing something, it is with me all the time so I take a pen and paper out with me in case I get any fresh ideas. I have a housekeeping job and frequently have to stop to jot something down. I hate it when characters start talking to each other in my head. I have to say ‘Shut up! I can’t write all that down now.” It’s infuriating that I can’t set aside regular time slots for writing. I guess I’ll have to hang on till I retire.

Seems like you’re always prepared when your characters come a-calling! How long did it take for you to start and finish The Exile of Elindel?

That’s a difficult question! I can’t remember that far back. (Those files have been deleted!) I do remember the first draft being ENORMOUS. It rambled on forever; more padding than a king-size duvet. I wrote it in the summer of 1977 and spent the next thirty-odd years lugging it around in suitcases, storing it in attics, taking it out to rewrite it and submit to publishers, putting it back in the attic.

Thirty years? Now that’s dedication! Do you have any advice for other writers striving to write in your genre, Carol?

Use your own original voice and ideas. Don’t try to be the next Tolkein.

Brilliant advice! Everyone is unique in their own way. So, what’s next for Carol Browne the author?

The rest of the trilogy will be out next year: Book II, Gateway to Elvendom, in March and Book III, Wyrd’s End, in December – as long as everything goes smoothly with the editing process. Meanwhile, I’m nearing the end of my work in progress, a paranormal thriller. I recently wrote myself into a corner with this one and so lost a few days while I worked things out. I have discovered over the years that if you are stuck with a plot or character, there’s always a solution, but it might have to simmer away in the old brain pan for a while before it bobs to the surface.

It sounds like you’ve got your work cut out for you! Okay, here’s one for me, since I’m writing a time travel series—If you could time travel anywhere into Earth’s past, where would you go and why?

If I could go back to the Battle of Hastings in 1066, and somehow make sure the Saxons won instead of the Normans, I would. But let’s be realistic! I have always admired Horatio, Lord Nelson, and I love those old ships of the line. (I stood on board HMS Victory myself during a visit to the Naval Dockyards in Portsmouth a few years ago, and it is a day I will never forget). If I could, I’d like to go back to the time of the Napoleonic Wars and meet Nelson. I’d love to know if he was as charismatic as everyone said he was.

Thank you very much for having me on your blog, Sharon. I did enjoy the experience!

BLURB:
 
Elgiva, a young elf banished from Elvendom, must seek shelter among the Saxons as her only hope of surviving the coming winter.
Godwin, a Briton enslaved by the Saxons, is a man ignorant of his own inheritance and the secret of power he possesses.
A mysterious enemy, who will stop at nothing to wield absolute power over Elvendom, is about to make his move.
When destiny throws Elgiva and Godwin together, they embark upon the quest for the legendary Lorestone, the only thing that can save Elvendom from the evil that threatens to destroy it.
There is help to be found along the way from a petulant pony and a timid elf boy but, as the strength of their adversary grows, can Elgiva’s friends help her to find the Lorestone before it falls into the wrong hands?

BIO:

Carol Browne first appeared on the planet in 1954. She regards Crewe, Cheshire, as her home town and graduated from Nottingham University in 1976 with an honours degree in English Language and Literature. Now living in the Cambridgeshire countryside with her dog, Harry, and cockatiel, Sparky, when she’s not writing fiction, Carol spends her time as a housekeeper, proofreader, and ghost writer in order to pay the bills. Pagan and vegan, Carol believes it is time for a paradigm shift in our attitude to Mother Nature and hopes the days of speciesism are numbered.

BUY LINKS:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AuthorCarolBrowne
Twitter: https://twitter.com/@CarolABrowne


ENTER TO WIN: Carol has her magical elfin hat cleaned out and rearing to go. All you have to do is leave a comment along with your contact information, and Carol with add your name into the hat for a chance to win an ecopy of The Exile of Elindel. You have until midnight EST Monday, October 6th2014 to submit your comment, and then POOF— the magical elfin hat picks the winner! Good luck, everyone!

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18. Interview with Travel Writer – Savannah Grace

It’s back! Author Interview Thursday is back. And my special guest to open this season is Savannah Grace who was on the hot seat back in August 2013.Savannah Grace - Travel Author Savannah is a travel writer and has visited close to (if not more than) a hundred countries. Her first book ‘Sihpromatum – How I Grew my Boobs in China‘ has more than 250 glowing reviews on Amazon and has featured on several bestseller categories. Her latest book ‘Siphromatum – Backpacks and Bra Straps‘ was released a few days ago. I was privileged to have an Advanced Review Copy and have begun reading it. Like her first book, it’s filled with exotic locations and adventures from various countries. Savannah was so kind to stop by today and answer a few questions of mine. So without further ado, let’s get right to it.

 

In what country did you find the friendliest people?

I find all of the “est” questions the most difficult. The people in Mongolia really stand out as some of the friendliest people on earth. Despite having so little, they have the biggest heart and happily share everything they can, or more, with others. While I was in Mongolia, I learned that, “There is no word for stranger. Only friends that haven’t met.”

 

What was the most useful item you bought while travelling?

Replacing my journals when they were full. I can’t think of anything more useful than paper and a pen. Recollection through the written word, is the most insightful and educational.

 

How does Backpacks and Bra Straps differ from How I Grew My Boobs in China - Your first book?Backpacks and Bra Straps

With some experience under our belts, and a real, mutual passion for travel, in “Backpacks and Bra Straps” our travels become more intense and daring than in “I Grew My Boobs in China”. In the first book I focused on the departure and drastic change of leaving our normal lives and how I grew both physically and mentally. Now, there is less whining from me, and I go into more depth on each of the other characters. We venture into more remote lands and see one of the most life changing sights; The sunrising over Mt. Everest. All the while, I stay true to the Sihpromatum series which means “A blessing that initially appears to be a curse”.

 

What is your top travel tip?

Don’t take things personally and be willing to embrace change and different mentalities, morals and cultures. Travel is a chance to wear someone else’s shoes, and remember that you are in their country.

 

Where have you made more connections: Facebook or Twitter?

I have had Facebook much longer than Twitter and have many close friends there, but Twitter is a much broader network, and I have undoubtedly made more connections through Twitter. When I form a strong bond on Twitter I will most often invite them over to FaceBook.

 

What part of this book made you very emotional as you recollected what you went through?

Oh, this is a great question. Putting myself back on those many trains and buses, and reliving the emotions I felt as a teenager in such remote lands was sometimes an emotional ride. Homesickness, while looking up at the stars. Or the unforgettable trek through the Himalayas to see Mount Everest.

 

Camels or donkeys?Mauritania

Haha, camels. They are much more exotic. They both make annoying noises, but camels sound like they come from another planet.

 

What was the last film you saw?

No joke, “Gone with the Wind”. What a coincidence!!! An absolutely fantastic movie and even better book. Highly, highly recommended.

 

Tell us of a funny experience you had in this book?

An unexpected funny moment was when my lovestruck brother proposed to a Russian/Kazakh girl he’d met less than 24 hours earlier on a bus.

 

What can we expect next from Savannah Grace next?suriname jungles

There’s so much more coming. I have so many stories still left to tell. The next instalment “Rusty Tracks and Booby Traps” will cover our steps through The Maldives, Sri Lanka and vibrant, never sleeping India. Staying with a probable drug lord and his 3 wives and 18 children in Afghanistan, an extensive overland journey circumnavigating Africa and submerging myself back into “normal life” and my first romance, are only a few examples of what’s left to come in the Sihpromatum series.

In current time, I am planning to go on a 4-6 month backpacking trip through South East Asia that I will be documenting in depth.

 

Fantastic! Thanks for sharing with us today Savannah. Please click the link below to get your own copy (as an ebook or paperback) and discover something new about our world through Savannah’s tales.

Grab a copy of Siphromatum – Backpacks and Bra Straps

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19. Interview With Kerry O’Malley Cerra: MG Author

I am so pleased to be doing a post with Kerry O’Malley Cerra, the author of the middle grade book, JUST A DROP OF WATER.  What better way to honor Labor Day than to have Kerry talk about the book and freedom. Here’s Kerry:

1. Tell us about your personal connection to 911.
Pretty quickly after the attacks, it was discovered that Mohamed Atta—the lead hijacker of the plane that flew into the north tower in New York City—lived in our town. Fear was already heightened throughout America, but this information almost paralyzed me. I had three small kids and I couldn’t help but wonder if we’d seen Atta at the grocery store, a restaurant, the park, the bank. At the same time these scenarios were running though my head, I discovered that a close college friend—who is Muslim—was having a difficult time and that his parents, who lived in the town where the terrorists took flight lessons, were being questioned. I wish I could say I believed their innocence in that moment, but it would be a lie. I’ve never really forgiven myself for that.                           Just a Drop of Water Cover

2. What motivated you to write JUST A DROP OF WATER?
As I mentioned above, I didn’t like myself for doubting my friend and his family. Once my head cleared and the fear subsided a little, I knew—with all that is in me—that they were innocent. I started to wonder why I doubted them in the first place. And, I wondered if my kids, at their young ages, would have ever doubted their friends. At what age do we go from trusting and innocent, to fearful and jaded? I wanted to explore that, and Just a Drop of Water is the result.

3. What’s the message you want readers to take away from the story?

I sincerely hope that the theme of peace comes though. While the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11 were tragic, I hope we can learn from them. Acceptance is the key to peace, and that begins with children. I don’t mean acceptance of terrorism, but acceptance of religious, cultural, racial, and all other differences to eventually create a world where we can live side by side, peacefully. When I see and hear stories about children in the Middle East being brainwashed and trained to hate at such young ages, it breaks my heart. Why can’t we be doing the same thing but with the opposite message? I hope that Just a Drop of Water is a step in that direction.

4. Our theme this month is FREEDOM. How does that idea resonate with your book and all that took place during the events of 911 and the writing of your story?

I’ve always loved the word freedom. It’s a strong word that evokes much emotion for me. Though freedom equates to rights, those rights come with much responsibility. That’s a hard concept for kids to grasp. In the story, Bobby is free to be whom he wants and he chooses to be a bully. Jake has the freedom to defend Sam. But, both of these roles come with responsibility and both, ultimately, have consequences. This is the part that Jake struggles with the most. If Bobby hits Sam, Bobby deserves to be hit in return, but all this does is get Jake in more trouble. He can’t see the fine line between standing up for what he believes in, yet finding a way to do that peacefully—finding a way to do it that won’t get him in trouble. How does this relate to war? If terrorists attack our country, is it okay to attack them back? When does defense cross the line? Is it better to find another way to solve the problem? These are all questions the book raises, and questions to be considered when freedom is discussed. I hope teachers, parents, and/or librarians will talk about this with kids as they read the book.              Kerry Offiicial Author Photo copy

You can reach Kerry at:
Twitter @KerryOCerra Website is: http://www.kerryomalleycerra.com

Just a Drop of Water:   Kirkus calls the book:
“A perceptive exploration of an event its audience already sees as history.”
“…the supplemental material middle-grade history teachers are looking for…”

Ever since he was little, Jake Green has longed to be a soldier and a hero like his grandpa, who died serving his country. Right now, though, he just wants to outsmart—and outrun—the rival cross country team, Palmetto Ridge. But then the tragedy of September 11 happens. It’s quickly discovered that one of the hijackers lived nearby, making Jake’s Florida town an FBI hot spot. Two days later, the tragedy becomes even more personal when Jake’s best friend, Sam Madina, is pummeled for being an Arab Muslim by their bully classmate, Bobby.
According to Jake’s personal code of conduct, anyone who beats up your best friend is due for a butt kicking, so Jake goes after Bobby. But soon after, Sam’s father is detained by the FBI and Jake’s mom doubts the innocence of Sam’s family, forcing Jake to choose between his best friend and his parents. When Jake finds out that Sam’s been keeping secrets, too, he doesn’t know who his allies are anymore. But the final blow comes when his grandpa’s real past is revealed to Jake. Suddenly, everything he ever knew to be true feels like one big lie. In the end, he must decide: either walk away from Sam and the revenge that Bobby has planned, or become the hero he’s always aspired to be.
A gripping and intensely touching debut middle grade novel by Kerry O’Malley Cerra, Just a Drop of Water brings the events of September 11, which shook the world, into the lens of a young boy who is desperately trying to understand the ramifications of this life-altering event.
You can now pre-order my book from these locations:
Amazon / IndieBound / Barnes & Nobel / Book A Million / Powell’s Books

 


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20. Meet Middle-Grade Author James Gordon...

I want to thank and welcome middle-grade author, James Gordon for sharing his personal writing journey with us on my blog today. His featured book, Hi, My Name is Bobo: A Weekend in the Life of a 5th Grader can be purchased from Amazon, and other on-line bookstores.

How long have you been writing, James?

I have been writing since 2007, published first book in 2009, The Confessional Heart of a Man.

 Where did you get your idea and inspiration to write Hi, My Name is Bobo: A Weekend in the Life of a 5th Grader?

A friend of mine mentioned to me that I had not written a book that his children could read. So I decided to take two weeks and write Hi, My Name is Bobo.

What sets Hi, My Name is Bobo: A Weekend in the Life of a 5th Grader apart from other books in the same genre?

Bobo is different because the main character is African American. Unlike most children's books, there isn't one central message. However, Bobo exemplifies the innocence and hopeful excitement that a young man should have when dealing with school, first love, etc.

 As a children’s author, what is your writing process?

Not much a process really. I do pull pictures and watch programs to put me in a youthful mindset.

How long did it take for you to start and finish Hi, My Name is Bobo: A Weekend in the Life of a 5thGrader?

It took two weeks to write, have edited, and complete Bobo.

Do you have any advice for other writers striving to write in your genre, James?

Make it special and real. Children and their parents need new adventures to go on. So write on....

What’s next for James Gordon the author?

I have a top secret project that I'm working on and will be released soon. 

Okay, here’s one for me, since I’m writing a time travel series—If you could time travel anywhere into Earth’s past, where would you go and why?  

I would like to go back to various junctures in history when people were harmed and reverse those instances.

Bio: James Gordon is the award winning author of Hi My Name is Bobo (A Weekend in the Life of a 5th
Grader). He hails from Chicago Illinois. As G.P.A.(Greatest Poet Alive), he has written five other books of Poetry. James can be seen in the movies (Persian Version and Animals) and TV (Chicago Fire and Chicago PD). He can be found on Twitter at gr8estpoetalive.

Buy link:


Connect with James on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/HimynameisBobo

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21. Interview with C.H. MacLean, Author of Two Empty Thrones

C.H. MacLean

To young C. H. MacLean, books were everything: mind-food, friends, and fun. They gave the shy middle child’s life color and energy. Amazingly, not everyone saw them that way. Seeing a laundry hamper full of books approach her, the librarian scolded C. H. for trying to check them all out. “You’ll never read that many before they expire!” C. H. was surprised, having shown great restraint only by keeping a list of books to check out next time. Thoroughly abashed, C. H. waited three whole days after finishing that lot before going back for more.

 With an internal world more vivid than the real one, C. H. was chastised for reading in the library instead of going to class. “Neurotic, needs medical help,” the teacher diagnosed. C. H.’s father, a psychologist, just laughed when he heard. “She’s just upset because those books are more challenging than her class.”  C. H. realized making up stories was just as fun as reading, and harder to get caught doing. So for a while, C. H. crafted stories and characters out of wisps and trinkets, with every toy growing an elaborate personality. 

But toys were not mature, and stories weren’t respectable for a family of doctors. So C. H. grew up and learned to read serious books and study hard, shelving foolish fantasies for serious work.

Years passed in a black and white blur. Then, unpredictably falling in love all the way to a magical marriage rattled C. H.’s orderly world. A crazy idea slipped in a resulting crack and wouldn’t leave. “Write the book you want to read,” it said. “Write? As in, a fantasy novel? But I’m not creative,” C. H. protested. The idea, and C. H.’s spouse, rolled their eyes.

So one day, C. H. started writing. Just to try it, not that it would go anywhere. Big mistake. Decades of pent-up passion started pouring out, making a mess of an orderly life. It only got worse. Soon, stories popped up everywhere- in dreams, while exercising, or out of spite, in the middle of a work meeting. “But it’s not important work,” C. H. pleaded weakly. “They are not food, or friends, or…” But it was too late. C. H. had re-discovered that, like books, life should be fun too. Now, writing is a compulsion, and a calling.

 C. H. lives in a Pacific Northwest forest with five cats, two kids, one spouse, and absolutely no dragons or elves, faeries, or demons… that are willing to be named, at least.

You can find, follow or chat with C.H. MacLean at the following on-line locations:

Website/Blog: www.chmaclean.com

Facebook

Twitter

Pinterest 

Where did you grow up?

While I grew up in several places, including Hawaii and Colorado, I spent most of the time in coldest Minnesota.

When did you begin writing? 

I wrote all through school and afterward. But I didn’t think I was a writer, if that makes any sense. I only really believed in who I was after meeting the love of my life.

Do you write during the day, at night or whenever you can sneak a few moments?

I sit down to write in the early morning and late afternoon, sometimes at night. But I get ideas and scribble things down at any random time. I think that is some of the best writing.

What is this book about? Two Empty Thrones 2

Haylwen thinks she can relax, but she hears the silence before the storm. The evil king of the magic users will break every rule to gain control of the One of prophecy. Even the dragons dare not interfere. Haylwen, trapped in the middle, is confronted by all of her fears and the choice of who she will be. Continuing the story from One is Come, Two Empty Thrones increases the intensity of the series and shows Haylwen’s growth as the stakes are raised. 

What inspired you to write it? 

Haylwen’s story exploded in my head, and sucked me in like a black hole. As a reader, this is the book I would love to read. Knowing readers will love it, I just had to share. The tale of this curly-haired girl who thinks she is less than normal when she is really powerful beyond her dreams inspires me still. 

Who is your favorite character from the book?

I don’t really have a favorite, as they are all interesting in different ways. While just a minor player, Tommy’s character resonates with me. His abilities and personality connect him to Haylwen on a karmic level, and his history makes Haylwen a life-saving inspiration for him. 

Was the road to publication smooth sailing or a bumpy ride?

Only mildly choppy, but it seemed like I had to tackle more than I expected.

If you knew then, what you know now, is there anything you would have done differently?

I would have started earlier, of course. As this is my second book, I know now what I didn’t know with the first, and am learning more to apply to the third.

Where can readers purchase a copy of your book? 

Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, Apple, or Smashwords.

What is one piece of advice you would like to share with aspiring authors everywhere?

Write what you love, pour your heart out for the reader. Never forget that the readers are the reason you write.

What is up next for you? 

Fire Above, my third book, about a young man who dares to dream and starts the first dragon-human war, should be published in March of 2015. The third book in the Five in Circle series, We the Three, where the dragons explode and begin the world-remake, will be released shortly after that. 

Is there anything you would like to add?

Ignore impossible realities. Hold to your dreams and you will find magic everywhere you look.

I’d also like to thank you for your interest in me and my book Two Empty Thrones!

 

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22. Interview with C.H. MacLean, Author of Two Empty Thrones

C.H. MacLean

To young C. H. MacLean, books were everything: mind-food, friends, and fun. They gave the shy middle child’s life color and energy. Amazingly, not everyone saw them that way. Seeing a laundry hamper full of books approach her, the librarian scolded C. H. for trying to check them all out. “You’ll never read that many before they expire!” C. H. was surprised, having shown great restraint only by keeping a list of books to check out next time. Thoroughly abashed, C. H. waited three whole days after finishing that lot before going back for more.

 With an internal world more vivid than the real one, C. H. was chastised for reading in the library instead of going to class. “Neurotic, needs medical help,” the teacher diagnosed. C. H.’s father, a psychologist, just laughed when he heard. “She’s just upset because those books are more challenging than her class.”  C. H. realized making up stories was just as fun as reading, and harder to get caught doing. So for a while, C. H. crafted stories and characters out of wisps and trinkets, with every toy growing an elaborate personality. 

But toys were not mature, and stories weren’t respectable for a family of doctors. So C. H. grew up and learned to read serious books and study hard, shelving foolish fantasies for serious work.

Years passed in a black and white blur. Then, unpredictably falling in love all the way to a magical marriage rattled C. H.’s orderly world. A crazy idea slipped in a resulting crack and wouldn’t leave. “Write the book you want to read,” it said. “Write? As in, a fantasy novel? But I’m not creative,” C. H. protested. The idea, and C. H.’s spouse, rolled their eyes.

So one day, C. H. started writing. Just to try it, not that it would go anywhere. Big mistake. Decades of pent-up passion started pouring out, making a mess of an orderly life. It only got worse. Soon, stories popped up everywhere- in dreams, while exercising, or out of spite, in the middle of a work meeting. “But it’s not important work,” C. H. pleaded weakly. “They are not food, or friends, or…” But it was too late. C. H. had re-discovered that, like books, life should be fun too. Now, writing is a compulsion, and a calling.

 C. H. lives in a Pacific Northwest forest with five cats, two kids, one spouse, and absolutely no dragons or elves, faeries, or demons… that are willing to be named, at least.

You can find, follow or chat with C.H. MacLean at the following on-line locations:

Website/Blog: www.chmaclean.com

Facebook

Twitter

Pinterest 

Where did you grow up?

While I grew up in several places, including Hawaii and Colorado, I spent most of the time in coldest Minnesota.

When did you begin writing? 

I wrote all through school and afterward. But I didn’t think I was a writer, if that makes any sense. I only really believed in who I was after meeting the love of my life.

Do you write during the day, at night or whenever you can sneak a few moments?

I sit down to write in the early morning and late afternoon, sometimes at night. But I get ideas and scribble things down at any random time. I think that is some of the best writing.

What is this book about? Two Empty Thrones 2

Haylwen thinks she can relax, but she hears the silence before the storm. The evil king of the magic users will break every rule to gain control of the One of prophecy. Even the dragons dare not interfere. Haylwen, trapped in the middle, is confronted by all of her fears and the choice of who she will be. Continuing the story from One is Come, Two Empty Thrones increases the intensity of the series and shows Haylwen’s growth as the stakes are raised. 

What inspired you to write it? 

Haylwen’s story exploded in my head, and sucked me in like a black hole. As a reader, this is the book I would love to read. Knowing readers will love it, I just had to share. The tale of this curly-haired girl who thinks she is less than normal when she is really powerful beyond her dreams inspires me still. 

Who is your favorite character from the book?

I don’t really have a favorite, as they are all interesting in different ways. While just a minor player, Tommy’s character resonates with me. His abilities and personality connect him to Haylwen on a karmic level, and his history makes Haylwen a life-saving inspiration for him. 

Was the road to publication smooth sailing or a bumpy ride?

Only mildly choppy, but it seemed like I had to tackle more than I expected.

If you knew then, what you know now, is there anything you would have done differently?

I would have started earlier, of course. As this is my second book, I know now what I didn’t know with the first, and am learning more to apply to the third.

Where can readers purchase a copy of your book? 

Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, Apple, or Smashwords.

What is one piece of advice you would like to share with aspiring authors everywhere?

Write what you love, pour your heart out for the reader. Never forget that the readers are the reason you write.

What is up next for you? 

Fire Above, my third book, about a young man who dares to dream and starts the first dragon-human war, should be published in March of 2015. The third book in the Five in Circle series, We the Three, where the dragons explode and begin the world-remake, will be released shortly after that. 

Is there anything you would like to add?

Ignore impossible realities. Hold to your dreams and you will find magic everywhere you look.

I’d also like to thank you for your interest in me and my book Two Empty Thrones!

 

Two Empty Thrones banner


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23. Interview With YA Author Josh Bellin.

Today I am thrilled to bring you my guest and fellow author (who happens to share the same fabulous Agent Liza Fleissig of the Liza Royce Agency) Josh Bellin.  Josh’s debut YA SURVIVAL COLONY 9 will be released this month with Margaret K. McElderry Books.  And, you can check out the post I did for Josh today on his website: http://www.joshuadavidbellin.com

Synopsis:    Querry Genn is in trouble.

He can’t remember anything before the last six months. And Querry needs to remember. Otherwise he’s dead weight to the other members of Survival Colony 9, one of the groups formed after a brutal war ravaged the earth. And now the Skaldi have come to scavenge what is left of humanity. No one knows what the Skaldi are, or why they’re here, just that they can impersonate humans, taking their form before shedding the corpse like a skin.

Desperate to prove himself after the accident that stole his memory, Querry is both protected and tormented by the colony’s authoritarian commander, his father. The only person he can talk to is the beautiful Korah, but even with her, he can’t shake the feeling that something is desperately wrong. And that his missing memories are at the very center of it.

Tag line: Forget the past. Fight to stay alive.

PRAISE, Critical Acclaim, BUZZ for:                       SC9 Cover medium
SURVIVAL COLONY 9
Joshua David Bellin

2014 YA Nominee – The Nevils, Noted Cli Fi Novels of the Year

Margaret Peterson Haddix, New York Times bestselling author of the Missing Series:
“Set in a gritty post-apocalyptic world, SURVIVAL COLONY 9 is both an adventure and an exploration of what it means to be human. This debut novel made me feel almost as desperate to find out the secret behind Querry Genn’s existence as he felt. And what a surprise when everything was revealed!”

Kirkus Reviews:
“Querry’s memory loss allows for exposition to smoothly unfold. With each description, the Skaldi menace becomes more vivid and horrifying….The ending doesn’t explain everything, but it is action-packed and completes Querry’s emotional arc. Readers won’t want to face the terrifying Skaldi, but they’ll enjoy reading about them.”

Jonathan Maberry, New York Times bestselling author of Rot & Ruin and V-Wars:
“Joshua David Bellin brings serious game in a post-apocalyptic thriller that collides breathless action with devious world building and genuine heart. A terrific novel!”

Booklist:
“…thanks to its deliberate pacing and Querry’s garrulous first-person narrative, debut author Bellin’s novel is strongest in what it does not reveal. Tantalizing mysteries abound among the human and inhuman inhabitants of the bleak landscape, and the postapocalyptic plot is satisfyingly full of twists.”

School Library Journal:
“Survival Colony 9 will appeal to sci-fi fans who will anxiously await the planned sequel.”

Publishers Weekly:
“Debut author Bellin weaves a bleak postapocalyptic tale of survival against overwhelming odds…”

Feathered Quill Book Reviews:
“…this debut novel by Joshua Bellin is most certainly an edge-of-your-seat thrill ride. The action never stops, and Querry is definitely a character you will root for!”

Heather Anastasiu, author of the Glitch series:
“Gripping and action packed. Just when I thought I knew what was coming, another twist would shock me. Superb!”

http://www.joshuadavidbellin.com

Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books (Simon & Schuster)

ISBN: 9781481403542      Release date: September 23, 2014

Biography: Joshua David Bellin has been writing novels since he was eight years old (though the first few were admittedly very short). He taught college for twenty years, wrote a bunch of books for college students, then decided to return to writing fiction. Survival Colony 9 is his first novel, but the sequel’s already in the works! Josh is represented by the fabulous Liza Fleissig of Liza Royce Agency. http://www.lizaroyce.com

Josh loves to read (mostly YA fantasy and science fiction), watch movies (again, mostly fantasy and sci-fi), and spend time in Nature (mostly catching frogs and toads). He is the self-proclaimed world’s worst singer, but plays a pretty mean air guitar.

Oh, yeah, and he likes monsters. Really scary monsters.             Joshua Bellin PR 3

Website: http://www.joshuadavidbellin.com
Blog: http://theyaguy.blogspot.com/
Twitter: http://twitter.com/TheYAGuy
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/joshuadavidbellin
Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7393959.Joshua_David_Bellin
Survival Colony 9: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18457362-survival-colony-nine
Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Survival-Colony-Joshua-David-Bellin/dp/1481403540/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1393982949&sr=1-1&keywords=survival+colony+9


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24. Michelle Knudsen EVIL LIBRARIAN Blog Tour Interview!

Be sure to read  my review of Michelle Knudsen's new YA novel, EVIL LIBRARIAN. 1) As I was writing my review of EVIL LIBRARIAN, I realized that what I wanted to talk about most was the relationship between Cyn and Ryan and the internal monologues the reader is treated to, especially the private, crazy stuff that Cyn (and all of us) thinks to herself. I have to admit, I groaned quietly to

0 Comments on Michelle Knudsen EVIL LIBRARIAN Blog Tour Interview! as of 9/12/2014 2:12:00 PM
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25. Interview With YA Author Janet Fox.

I “met” Janet after reading her fabulous YA historical novels and letting her know how much I enjoyed them.  She was kind enough to read  WHEELS OF CHANGE before it was published and wrote a wonderful blurb that appears in the book. We’ve had an e-mail friendship ever since. I couldn’t wait to talk to Janet about her YA novels and her new venture: a debut MG. Janet was also kind enough to feature me on her blog today.  You can check out that post at: http://www.kidswriterjfox.blogspot.com

1. SIRENS takes place in the “Roaring Twenties”. What attracted you to writing about that era?                   Sirens front cover.indd
SIRENS is set in New York City in 1925. When seventeen-year-old Josephine Winter’s father ships her off to live with her rich cousins on the glittering island of Manhattan, he says it’s to find a husband. But Jo knows better–there’s trouble brewing, and in 1925, all that glitters is not gold. Caught up in a swirl of her cousin’s bobbed-hair set–and the men that court them–Jo soon realizes that this world of jazz and gangsters and their molls hides a nest of lies. But when she befriends the girlfriend of one of the most powerful and dangerous gangsters in town, Jo begins to uncover secrets–secrets that threaten an empire and could destroy everyone she loves. Jo is faced with a choice: hang on to her soul, or lose herself in the decade of decadence.

My first two YA historical novels were contracted for together, and I linked them by tying in  characters, although the second is not strictly a sequel. Just as I was putting the finishing touches on FORGIVEN my publisher contacted my agent and asked if I would be interested in trying my hand at a novel set in the 1920s. I said yes, and wrote a proposal, and they accepted it.

I don’t always say yes to suggestions like this. But I’ve always been fascinated by the twenties – it was a time of such rapid social change as to be explosive. Plus there are nuances like the fascination with the supernatural and the subtle political rumblings that led straight toward World War II. I had a lot of fun researching and writing SIRENS.

2. You wrote two other wonderful YA Historical Fiction books: FAITHFUL and FORGIVEN. How did you come to be a writer of historical fiction?

Thank you! It was a total accident. I don’t consider myself to be an historical fiction author, and in fact most of my current projects are anything but. FAITHFUL, my first novel, was really written as a way for me to deal with the sudden death of my mother. When I went to craft Maggie’s story about her search for her mother, I picked Yellowstone as a setting, and 1904 as the year only because I was interested in that period of history and it’s a fantastic period within the Park.                Faithful high res

FORGIVEN carries on from FAITHFUL but I set it in San Francisco because as a former geologist I wanted to write about the 1906 earthquake.    Forgiven with award

3. As someone who also writes historical fiction, I’m interested in how you conduct your research. Tell us about your process.

I almost never research ahead. It’s important to me to know my character first, so I often write quite a bit before I feel the need to dig into research. Once I know my character, then I try to craft a story that will delve into the rich human experience. And then I often research on the fly – hunting for material that I need to know.

For example, with SIRENS, I knew Jo and I knew she was going to befriend Lou, and I knew the two girls would get mixed up somehow with a gangster and bootlegging. But it wasn’t until I heard a radio interview one winter night with the author of a book about the 1920’s magician Howard Thurston that I realized that the twenties’ obsession with spiritualism would be central to my theme. It fit my character, it fit the story, and it was an interesting aspect of the twenties that doesn’t get much attention.

That said, at some point I do the following: read newspaper ads and articles of the period; read something written in the period; read the society columns of the time; find vocabulary lists or terms popular at the time; find clothing catalogs of the time; look for popular pastimes. These all comprise my socio-economic understanding, the atmosphere that surrounds my character.

4. You recently sold your first middle grade historical titled CHATELAINE: THE THIRTEENTH CHARM. Can you tell us about that and how it was writing your first MG novel?

Actually CHATELAINE is much more fantasy than historical. Yes, it’s set in 1940 and the children are escaping the blitz; yes, there is a German spy and an enigma machine. But after that, it’s very much a story about ghosts, a steampunk witch, an immortal wizard, children who are disappearing, artifacts with magical powers, peculiar teachers, a creepy castle, the rainy Scottish Highlands…in short, a slightly scary run-for-your-life mystery.
I loved writing this novel. It came out of nowhere – actually it was inspired by a piece of jewelry I saw on the internet – but as I was writing I was remembering all those days as a preteen when I was holed up in the corner on a rainy afternoon with one of the Narnia books or an Agatha Christie novel. Kat is such a great character and I had so much fun writing her story and then embellishing it with wild and crazy twists and turns…I hope readers will love it, too.

It sounds amazing Janet. I will definitely be adding that one to my reading list!

5. Of all your memorable characters, which one is your favorite and why?

Wow. That’s like loving one of your children more than the others!

I guess if I had to be pinned to the wall, I would say Maggie, because she’s my first. But then there’s Kula, feisty Kula, who begged to have her story told. And Jo – she’s such a determined, strong-willed girl – and Lou, who comes from nothing and has street-smarts. Now Kat, she’s the pragmatic girl who has to develop her imagination…and then there’s Rima, from my next novel…obviously, this is the impossible choice!

Thanks so much, Darlene!                                    janet fox

Janet Fox writes award-winning fiction and non-fiction for children of all ages. She became a children’s author in the mid-90s, when her son’s learning differences led her to develop her non-fiction book for Free Spirit Publishing, GET ORGANIZED WITHOUT LOSING IT (2006). Other work for children includes short fiction (Spider Magazine) and science non-fiction (Highlights for Children). Her young adult debut novel, FAITHFUL (Speak/Penguin Group, 2010) was an Amelia Bloomer List pick, and was followed by a companion novel, FORGIVEN (Penguin, 2011), a Junior Library Guild selection and WILLA Literary Award Finalist, and a YA historical set in the 1920s, SIRENS (Penguin, 2012).
Her debut middle grade novel CHATELAINE: THE THIRTEENTH CHARM is an historical fantasy (Viking, 2016). She is a 2010 graduate of the MFA/Writing for Children and Young Adults program at Vermont College of Fine Arts, a former Regional Advisor for the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, and a former high school English teacher. Janet lives in Bozeman, Montana, where Janet and her husband enjoy the mountain vistas.

You can also find her at http://www.janetsfox.com and at http://www.kidswriterjfox.blogspot.com


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