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Welcome to my blog! I'm a children's book author and reviewer. Browse around for the latest news about my books, as well as author and illustrator interviews, book reviews, and articles on book promotion and the writing life.
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1. The Writing Life with Children's Author Michelle Nott

Before becoming an author, Michelle Nott enjoyed being a French teacher (pre-K to university levels) in the U.S., working for a French company in Paris and an art gallery in NYC. She has also edited and written articles for numerous on-line and print magazines in the American and European markets.

In 2004, Michelle moved to Belgium. When she noticed that her daughters' book collection included more French titles than English ones, she decided to put her creative writing degree to use. Many of these early stories can be found on her blog Good Night, Sleep Tight where she also reflects on raising Third Culture Kids.

In 2015, Michelle and her family returned to the U.S. But with American and French citizenship, they travel to Europe regularly. Their favorite places include the French Alps, the Belgian countryside, and the Cornish coast in the UK. Her family's life and adventures prove great inspirations for her stories.

Freddy, Hoppie and the Eyeglasses is Michelle's first book for children. Her future children's books are represented by Essie White at Storm Literary Agency. She is a member of SCBWI, Children's Book Insider and Houston Writer's Guild.

Connect with Michelle on the web: 

What’s inside the mind of a picture book/early reader author?
Children! Their daily lives. New experiences. Scary experiences. Loving experiences.

What is so great about being an author?
One of the best parts of being an author is having an excuse to write every day, to dream every day, to invent people and places and other worlds. As an author, I also love interacting with my readers and the adults in their lives. I really enjoy book signings. And as I used to be a teacher, I am thrilled get back in the classroom for what I loved most about teaching – the interaction and excitement that comes from working with students.

When do you hate it?
Hate being an author?? This question perplexes me.

What is a regular writing day like for you?
A regular day is irregular. I try to get up at 5:30 and write before breakfast, go for a bike ride or a swim, come back and write for at least four more hours, take a break when my daughters come home from school, and then write more or read in the evening. When my day pans out like this, I feel like a superhero. But, there are days when life puts a wrench in the plan or I may have interviews, school visits, or social media or other networking opportunities planned.

Do you think authors have big egos? Do you?
I think some people have big egos and some don't. I don't think authors would have any bigger ego than anyone else. As far as the writers I know, I think we all understand that writing is a tough business and whether or not someone is published yet does not make them the better person. Everyone's writing journey is different.

So no, I don 't think I have a big ego either. There is so much more I can learn and do to improve my craft.

How do you handle negative reviews?
Publishing is a very subjective business. And readers each have their preferences when it comes to literature. As there are lots of published books out on the shelves that I do not particularly appreciate, I keep that in mind if someone happens to not like my book. It's just part of life. You can't please everyone all of the time.

How do you handle positive reviews?
It always makes me smile when I read positive remarks about my books. I'm always very flattered when people take the time to say something nice about my work.

What is the usual response when you tell a new acquaintance that you’re an author?
Most people find it intriguing and mention how they plan on writing a book once they retire or ask what kind of books I write. When I say I write for children, the reactions are mixed. Most people find it very admirable, while others may say it's “adorable” and not think any more about it.

What do you do on those days you don’t feel like writing? Do you force it or take a break?
I do really try to sit and write no matter how I feel. But if nothing is coming, then I go outside. Usually a swim, a bike ride or a walk does the trick and then I rush home to write down all my ideas.

Any writing quirks?
I try to put myself in the atmosphere of the world in which I'm writing. For example, when working on a MG fantasy that takes place under water, I put out seashells and a sea-salt scented candle on my desk while listening to beach sounds. While working on a MG magical realism story that takes place in Brussels in the 1930s, I surrounded myself with images of particular places in Brussels and listened to French music of the era.

What would you do if people around you didn’t take your writing seriously or see it as a hobby?
Probably at first, on the inside, I'd be fuming. But then I'd calm down and remind myself that they just don't understand. They may never have been so overtaken by a sunset, or the scent of an unexpected plant in the forest, or the feel of a child's cheek on his to want to write it down so to never forget it, and to incorporate it into a story for other people to experience as well.

People who see writing as a hobby may not realize how touched their lives have been by a good book, or a beautiful phrase.

They may not realize that writing is the same as any profession. A certain amount of inner talent does play a role, but so does a lot of perseverance, discipline and hard work.

Some authors seem to have a love-hate relationship to writing. Can you relate?
I love it. Always.

Do you think success as an author must be linked to money?
Absolutely not. Sure, it would be nice if all writers could actually make a decent living from their words. But I knew from the start what a high expectation that is.

For me, success is when families, librarians, and teachers are enjoying my books and using them to send a positive message to children.

What had writing taught you?
Writing has taught me that many, if not all, of my life experiences have served some purpose. Even though many years went by before jumping into children's writing, all those years were valuable and rich with emotions and adventures that I can use in my current stories.


Genre: Early Reader
Author: Michelle Nott
Website: www.authormichellenott.com
Publisher: Guardian Angel Publishing

About the Book:

Freddy and his imaginary frog Hoppie jump into each day. But numbers smudge, words blur, and classmates snicker. By the end of the week, there is no more spring in their step. Freddy knows he should tell his mom about the trouble they are having, but how?

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2. Discount of the day: Daughter of the Sun (Cult of the Cat series, Book 1) only $.99!

Title: Daughter of the Sun (Cult of the Cat series, Book 1)
Author: Zoe Kalo
Genre: YA mythological fantasy/paranormal
Word count: 93,000 words / 330 pages
Official Launch: May 1, 2016

Only $.99 until Wednesday May 11th(regular price $4.99)

Get your copy on Kindle today!

Daughter of the Sun, Book 1 - blurb

Sixteen-year-old Trinity was born during a solar eclipse and left at the doorsteps of a convent along with a torn piece of papyrus covered with ancient symbols. Raised by nuns in the English countryside, she leads a quiet life until she’s whisked away to the Island of Cats and a grandmother she never knew.

But before they can get to know each other, her grandmother dies. All that Trinity has left is a mysterious eye-shaped ring. And a thousand grieving cats. As Trinity tries to solve the enigma of the torn papyrus, she discovers a world of bloody sacrifices and evil curses, and a prophecy that points to her and her new feline abilities.

Unwilling to believe that any of the Egyptian gods could still be alive, Trinity turns to eighteen-year-old Seth and is instantly pulled into a vortex of sensations that forces her to confront her true self—and a horrifying destiny.

What readers are saying….

“This was an amazing story!” –Hot Off the Shelves

“This book was so super good! Great writing, great characters, great plot. Very immersive reading experience.” –Awesome Book Assessment

“Wow- this book was a stunning, magnificent adventure! Very well written and full of intricate details, I was immediately drawn in and just absolutely did not want to put this one down... The intrigue just leaves you racing through the pages to find out what will happen next! I absolutely, completely enjoyed this book and can't wait to see what happens in the next one!” –The Recipe Fairy

“The way [Zoe Kalo] writes cats into the book is astounding. Every little quirk, mew and lick is incredibly authentic. I love it when a writer is skilled at writing about the animals in the character’s story, it makes it more warm and fuzzy, no pun intended.” –Samantha Writes

“Daughter of the Sun is an intriguing young adult mythology read full of mystery, magic, action, and history… [it] kept me flipping pages like an addict.” –Fishing for Books

“Oh my God. This is definitely a ‘something.’ This concept and the plot is soooo unique and weird and fascinating that I did not want to put this down. I literally breezed through this one…. This book was an overdose of kitty love.” –Grape Fruit Books

“If you are looking for a Young Adult Fantasy book that is different from the norm, then look no further. Daughter of the Sun is full of Egyptian mythology, with layer upon layer of mystery just waiting to be uncovered.” –Archaeolibrarian

About the Author
A certified bookworm, Zoe Kalo has always been obsessed with books and reading. Reading led to writing—compulsively. No surprise that at 16, she wrote her first novel, which her classmates read and passed around secretly. The pleasure of writing and sharing her fantasy worlds has stayed with her, so now she wants to pass her stories to you with no secrecy—but with lots of mystery…
A daughter of adventurous expats, she’s had the good fortune of living on 3 continents, learning 4 languages, and experiencing a multicultural life. Currently, she’s working on a Master’s degree in Comparative Literature, which she balances between writing, taking care of her clowder of cats, and searching for the perfect bottle of pinot noir.
Connect with Zoe Kalo on the web: www.ZoeKalo.com /Facebook / Twitter

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3. Interview with Sherri Elizabeth Tidwell, author of 'The Daffodils Still Grow: A Book for Grieving Daughters'

The Daffodils Still Grow was inspired by diary entries of the author/illustrator, Sherri Elizabeth Tidwell, after the death of her mother when she was 14. “My mother committed suicide when I was 14, and after nearly a year of crying and hurting, I was surprised -- almost shocked -- to see the daffodils she planted right before her death still bloom again. It was a big wake-up call to me that, even though she was gone, I could still carry on without her FOR her. Somehow, our loved ones still find a way of communicating with us when we need it the most." Sherri Elizabeth now attends Seton Hill University’s MFA program in Writing Popular Fiction. She has a BA in both communications and studio arts from Austin Peay State University. She hopes that every parent will know how irreplaceable and loved they are to their children and that every child who has lost a parent will know they are not alone. Remember, the daffodils still grow!

What was your experience in looking for a publisher?

After a frustrating experience with another publishing company, I called the CEO of Mascot Books, Naren Aryal, and spoke to him about The Daffodils Still Grow. I emailed him a link to a narration I did of the book on YouTube, which he watched while we were talking on the phone, and we decided to work together. Mascot Books is a hybrid between self-publishing and traditional publishing. I was very happy with the result. It allowed me to have control over the finished product but I also was able to seek out advice and support when I needed it. The quality of the book turned out beautiful, as well.

What type of book promotion works for you? Any special strategies you’d like to share?

I would approach it with a giving spirit. If you can find people who are in need of the story you’re telling, give them your story. They will pay you back in feedback and in doing their own marketing for your book, because they’ll be that excited and that pleased.

What advice would you offer aspiring writers?

Read If You Want to Write by Brenda Euland (1891-1985). She was so encouraging of writers and was such an inspiration that it just leaves you with less resistance to writing and helps you get more done.

What is the best advice on writing you've ever received?

I simply go by the old advice, “Write what you know.” I think that by doing so, the writing comes from an authentic place and has the ability to connect with others on a deeper, more personal level.

Is there anything else you’d like to say to our readers?
Who a person is, I think, should always be entangled into who they are as a writer – or as an artist, or a creator of any kind. Writing (creating) runs deeper than jobs that are done for dollars, and it has the power to bridge gaps, to touch people’s hearts and to heal. Being vulnerable and brave enough to put your heart out there as an artist and as a person is the one decision that will usually make what you are creating worthwhile and make it matter. It will be the one reason why it connects to those who see it or read it. So, be vulnerable. Be open. Be brave and be you.

 For More Information
About the Book:

Title: The Daffodils Still Grow: A Book for Grieving Daughters
Author: Sherri Elizabeth Tidwell
Publisher: Mascot Books
Pages: 38
Genre: Children’s Picture Book
The Daffodils Still Grow is a full-color illustrated book that portrays life after a loved one dies as seen from the observations of a motherless child. “Beautiful and inspiring.”

For More Information

  • The Daffodils Still Grow is available at Amazon.
  • Pick up your copy at Barnes & Noble.
  • Watch a narrated video of the book at YouTube.
  • Discuss this book at PUYB Virtual Book Club at Goodreads.

Sherri Elizabeth Tidwell is giving away a The Daffodils Still Grow T-shirt!

Terms & Conditions:
  • By entering the giveaway, you are confirming you are at least 18 years old.
  • One winner will be chosen via Rafflecopter to receive one The Daffodils Still Grow t-shirt
  • This giveaway begins February 1 and ends April 29.
  • Winners will be contacted via email on April 30.
  • Winners have 48 hours to reply.
Good luck everyone!


a Rafflecopter giveaway

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4. Chapter reveal: Trish's Team by Dawn Brotherton

Genre:  Tween Fiction (Middle Grade Fiction)        
Author:  Dawn Brotherton
Publisher:  Blue Dragon Publishing
Purchase on Amazon

The debut release in Dawn Brotherton’s Lady Tigers series, Trish’s Team is a terrific new young adult tale featuring Trish Murphy.  A member of the Blue Birds, a recreational fastpitch softball team for 11 and 12 year old girls, Trish Murphy longs to be a member of the Lady Tigers, the elite travel team comprised of the best of the best players in the area.  When she is presented with the opportunity to try out for the team, Trish jumps at the chance. There’s just one small problem—it seems Trish’s parents don’t understand her love of the game.  Chances are they’ll be even less understanding and when they find out that team practice conflicts with Trish’s orchestra practice…

But being part of the Lady Tigers—and nurturing newfound friendships with the other team members—is Trish’s top priority.  When she tries to pull a fast one to get what she wants without considering the consequences, Trish puts everything in jeopardy. Trish’s decision could ultimately affect more than just the game: it could affect her friends.  Along the way, Trish discovers that being a part of the Lady Tigers is about much more than playing fastpitch softball:  it’s about being a part of a team.  But Trish may have to learn a painful lesson. After all, it really isn’t if you win or lose, but it’s how you play the game.  

Chapter 1

Trish Murphy stood in center field and brushed her brown bangs off her forehead with the back of her right hand. Frowning in concentration, she waited for the next pitch. In front of her, Ashley stepped onto the pitcher’s mound, hesitated only briefly, and then spun her right arm in a clockwise motion to deliver a good-looking pitch. Smack. The ball sailed toward center field. Racing forward, Trish got under it, just like the coach had shown her. Plop. It landed snugly in her glove for an easy out.
“Nice catch, Trish!” Coach Tim called from the dugout. She smiled and threw the ball to the infield. It was a beautiful throw, yet it bounced out of the second baseman’s glove and rolled to the pitcher.
Rolling her eyes in frustration, Trish hurried back to her spot in the outfield.
Two outs, one to go.
Trish watched as, on the mound, Ashley took the signal from the catcher. Nodding, Ashley positioned the ball inside her glove, stood tall on her wind up, and fired the ball to the exact low-inside location the catcher had indicated.
“Strike one,” the umpire called.
Shifting her stance to the right slightly so she could look around the pitcher’s back, Trish waited to see where the next pitch would cross the plate. She was betting it would be low and outside this time.
“Strike two!” she heard across the plush grass that lay before her.
Yep, low and outside, she thought, grinning. Ashley was a pretty good pitcher, and with Alisha catching for her, they were a great team.
Trish knew the next pitch would be a change-up, high and inside. She smiled as the batter was caught off guard, swinging before the ball had even reached the plate. “Strike three! Batter’s out!” the ump called.
“Yes!” the team cheered as they raced for the dugout.
Coach Tim met them as they ran off the field, holding his hand out for high-fives. “Come on, girls, gather around. Nice catch out there, Trish. Beautiful strike-outs, Ashley. We’re behind by one run. Let’s swing some sticks.”
The Blue Birds was a recreational fast-pitch softball team for 11- and 12-year-old girls that only played 10 games a summer. The coaches were volunteers and mostly dads of the girls on the team. Trish felt lucky that she was on Coach Tim’s team. Some of the dads didn’t even know how to play softball, let alone teach the girls to play. Coach Tim was different. He had played baseball in college, so at least he knew the game.
Trish glanced around the softball complex hoping her mom might be there. She didn’t really expect to see her, but she was disappointed anyway.
She heard a loud cheer come from the field behind where the Blue Birds were playing. She saw the orange and black uniforms of the Lady Tigers. Trish sighed. She would love to play for the Tigers. The coaches only picked the best-of-the-best players for the travel softball team. They played ball almost every weekend in long tournaments.
“Head in the game, Trish,” Coach Tim said, refocusing her attention on her own team.
“Come on, Becky, you can do it!” Trish yelled to the leadoff batter.
Trish turned to read the lineup hanging on the fence. It was the top of the line-up. Trish grabbed her helmet and bat. She was batting fourth.
Hearing the crack of the bat, she looked up in time to see Becky hit a short pop-up to the third baseman. The player tried to catch it, but the ball dropped in front of her, and Becky beat out the throw to first.
“Batter up!” The umpire seemed in a hurry to keep the game moving. Clara quickly stepped inside the chalk-outlined rectangle of the batter’s box. The pitch came quickly on the inside corner. “Strike one.”
Clara stepped out and took a few practice swings. She settled into the box again. It turned into a long wait as the pitcher threw four balls in a row. Clara jogged to first; Becky went to second.
Trish watched in anticipation as Samantha moved toward home plate for her turn at bat. Trish put on a helmet and stepped out of the dugout to take a few practice swings, getting her timing down for the pitches.
Samantha stepped into the box. She was tall so the outfielders backed up, anticipating that she would hit the ball far. Crack. The ball flew over the third baseman’s head, landing in the grass. The left fielder raced in and scooped up the ball, preventing the runners from scoring.
Bases loaded. No outs. Trish stepped into the box. She knew she didn’t look very impressive. At only four-foot-six, she hadn’t reached her full height by a long shot. Her legs were long, slender, and solid muscle. She was used to people underestimating her, but she liked it that way. It usually worked to her advantage.
Trish settled in as the pitcher began her wind up. The pitch came in. Way inside. Trish leaped out of the way. The next pitch was outside, and the catcher missed it. Becky raced past Trish to cross the plate as the fans cheered.
“Just a base hit, Trish,” her coach called.
“You can do it, Trish!” The fans were all cheering her on. She kept her concentration on the ball leaving the pitcher’s hand.
The pitch was coming in perfect, right down the middle, ideal height. It was slow, so Trish looked at it again. It had a weird spin. She didn’t swing. Right before the plate, it dropped. “Ball three.” Trish was thankful for the many hours of extra batting practice Coach Tim had spent with her. He had shown her how to truly watch the ball.
The next pitch was almost the same, but it didn’t appear to be spinning. Smack. It went over the second baseman, missing the right fielder’s glove and rolled all the way to the fence for a triple. Clara and Samantha scored as Trish rounded the bases.
The fans were cheering. The score now read, “Blue Birds: 9; Redhawks: 7.”
“Nice hit, Trish,” Coach Tim said, smiling broadly.
Trish’s grin lit up her face. She clapped her hands and cheered on the next batter from third base.
Alisha hit a nice single to left center field that allowed Trish to score. The girls lined up to high-five her as she came into the dugout.
Ashley hit a fly ball to right field that cost them an out, but moved Alisha to third. Amber grounded out on a hit to second base, leaving Alisha in place. Ton-Lou flew out to left field to end the inning. The girls were in high spirits because they were winning, and the other team only had one more chance to bat.
“Good inning, ladies; let’s hit the field. Hold them for three more outs,” the coach said.
The first Redhawk hit the ball to Lexi on second base who easily picked it up and threw her out at first. Trish was a little nervous when the other team’s number four batter stepped to the plate. She was tall for a 12-year-old and had already hit it to the fence once this game. She took a few steps back and angled toward left field.
Ashley delivered the pitch low and inside. The batter got under the ball, and it went high into foul territory on the left field side. Much to Trish’s surprise, Ashley put the next pitch in the same place. This time the batter swung and missed.
Trish smiled. She knew the coaches called the pitches from the dugout. She would have to ask Coach Tim why he called two in a row the same way. That wasn’t very common. She liked to learn as much as she could about the strategy of softball, not just the technique.
The third and final pitch stayed low but to the outside corner. The batter swung but didn’t even come close. Two outs.
The number five batter had hit the ball to center field twice already in previous innings so Trish was ready. The batter let the first pitch go by but got ahold of the second. It was a long fly ball to deep center field.
Trish immediately turned her body and began to run toward the fence. She ran full out, praying her left fielder would be there to back her up if she missed it. At the last possible second, Trish dove at where she predicted the ball would be, capturing it in her glove as she hit the ground. That ended the game; final score was 10-7, Blue Birds.
The girls cheered enthusiastically. Trish couldn’t stop smiling as the coach and other girls clapped her on the back as they lined up to shake hands with the Redhawks. Even some of the opposing team members congratulated her on such a great catch. It felt wonderful!
She looked around at the crowd waiting outside the fence, but there was no sign of her parents. Trish wished that they had been there to witness her final catch.

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5. Chapter reveal: ON EDGE, by Gin Price

Title:  ON EDGE
Genre:  Mystery/YA Mystery
Author: Gin Price
Publisher: Poisoned Pencil
Find out more on Amazon

About the Book:

When a serial-killing graffiti artist starts painting your picture all over town…it puts a girl on edge.

Emanuella "LL" Harvey puts her gymnastic skills to good use as a member of her brother's Parkour group. Freerunning, jumping, and climbing over their corner of the city like it's an obstacle course gives them something to take pride in and keeps them out of trouble—sort of. But trouble finds LL when she runs into Haze, a talented graffiti artist whose sister Heather was murdered two years before. Freerunner and Writer promptly fall in love, but they decide to hide their relationship till they're sure it's the real thing—and until they can find a way to placate LL's hotheaded brother, who has it in for Haze and his gang. But when portraits of LL—done in Haze's distinctive style—start popping up on city walls, all hell breaks loose. LL's brother threatens a gang war, which LL tries to avert by identifying the Writer who is really responsible for the paintings. But when another teen is murdered, it looks bad for Haze, especially when LL discovers that Heather's killer and her portrait-painter are one and the same.

Gin Price 
Chapter One 

            I wasn’t going to make it.
I had a stitch in my side as widespread as the distance between the Pizza Pie Pagoda and the apartment roof we ran across, so the chances I’d screw up and smack my head against the concrete waiting below were pretty good. The waist of my yoga pants began to unroll, the fabric sliding down with every pump of my aching legs and I had to waste precious energy to pull them up. But if I didn’t, and I stepped on a hem, I’d stumble.
Stumbling would be bad—like lose a tooth on the balance beam the day before prom bad. Already I could feel the quiver of fatigue in my knees signaling my eventual burn out.
            “He’s going to catch me, he’s going to catch me,” I chanted between panted breaths.
            I spoke more to myself than my companion, but he answered anyway. “Nah, Baby-girl, you got this. Forearm, shoulder, booty, then knee up and walk away. Daily cake.”
            I grunted. Easy for him to say. This fiasco made it five consecutive hours of balls-out athletics for me while he was on hour two and only slightly less out of breath than I.
            “Get back here!” The voice behind bellowed, growing closer.
            I threw off my rhythm a fraction to look behind me. “Damn, he’s on us. How’d he get up here so fast?”
            “You realize I had you this time, right?”
            Appalled at my friend Surge’s attempt to claim a victory when the game had clearly been called due to weather conditions—it was raining cops—I ran faster, pushing myself beyond my limits toward the roof’s edge. I didn’t care if my pants fell around my ankles mid-flight; I was going to win our little game today—and moon the state of Michigan doing it.
But first, I had to stay out of jail.
            “Whoa! Come back.” The cop yelled. He sounded more concerned now than angry.
            Too late. There was no coming back once we’d made the decision to run.
            “Boosh!” Surge yelled as we both hopped the lip of the roof and leapt across the expanse between the buildings, sprawled out and reaching through the air like action heroes.
Unlike the movies, nothing happened slow enough for me to process the danger of a jump. I committed to the plunge and depended on ingrained knowledge to take over.
The Pizza Pie Pagoda building came up fast. I bent my legs to absorb the shock and let my exhausted body fall forward and to the side. The remaining energy of the landing pushed me over in a Side-Roll, taking the impact from thigh to shoulder until the momentum brought me up to my feet again. Hurray incoming bruise.
            Surge’s Roll was swankier than mine, but for once he didn’t gloat. Probably because we didn’t have time.
            “You kids all right?” The cop called from the building over.
            We didn’t take the time to answer him verbally. We just waved off his concern and continued to ignore his command to give ourselves up. Surge grabbed my elbow and helped me to the side of the pizza place where we were able to hang off the side of the roof and drop down into the alley.
            “How you doing?” Surge asked me, once we were making distance between us and the cop.
            “Well, I worked my butt off in gymnastics practice, ran around the mall only to get kicked out because of your food court tabletop trick—”
            “You’ve got to admit that was swank,” he interrupted. “How was I supposed to know they were going to call in the real blue?”
            “And now I’ve spent the last ten minutes upgrading from a trespassing ticket to an arrest.”
            “Only if we got caught, which we didn’t. So you owe me five bucks.” He grinned at me and I couldn’t help but return it.
            “We aren’t off main, yet.” I slapped his extended palm away. “When I’m home and couching you’ll get your five.”
            I tugged off my black hoodie as we walked, stuffing it behind a dumpster to come back for later. We knew the drill. You didn’t walk around wearing the same colored clothes after a cop was running you down. The next corner you turned would probably have you stuffed in a squad car before the first lie left your mouth. Changing shirts wasn’t much, but it was better than nothing. Besides, with my hoodie on, most cops mistakenly took me for a guy. I guess they thought girls had better things to do than monkey around the cityscape.
            “Damn, there’s the cop,” Surge said.
            I looked down the block from where we stood and frowned. He didn’t seem to notice us any more than the other pedestrians, but to be safe, I tugged Surge into The Slow Drip.
            The few tables the coffee-shop had inside were up front with a window view, while racks and racks of tee shirts and other gift items created an aisle to the registers in the back. Outside, a few more two-seater tables were full of the loitering public, making blending in a little easier.
            “I guess we take a time-out for refreshments,” I said.
            Surge paced, looking out the store front with his lips pursed. “He’s going to keep circling and look in here eventually. Not sure stopping was a good idea this time.”
            “Hey Surge,” a girl called out from behind us.
            I turned and nodded a greeting at Ramona as she chatted Surge up. Dressed in her coffee-pot-shaped apron and teardrop visor-hat, she was clearly working the counter.
Wenda, her best friend and my gymnastics nemesis, walked up and stood next to her. We were all on the same team but no one would know it the way they acted—except Wenda and I were both wearing our Kennedy Gymnastics Team tee shirts.
            “Hey guys,” I said, trying to be a beacon of polite through the thick fog of seething hatred. Ramona tried to smile but settled on a grimace. Wenda didn’t even try to hide her nostril-flare face.
            “Ramona-girl, you think you could get us out the back of this place?” Surge asked.
            Standing on her tiptoes, Wenda leaned up to whisper something in Ramona’s ear while staring at me.
            “I can take one of you through,” Ramona started to say.
            Surge snorted. “Forget it.”
            “No, no.” I knew this was a good opportunity to draw less attention to ourselves. “Surge, you go out the back and I’ll go out the front.” I smiled my second best smile at Wenda, while talking to him. “We’ll meet up at the library and finish what we started earlier.”
            His glare at the two girls melted when he turned to me, and I suspected he did that on purpose to show anti-bitchery support. “Ooo. I accept your challenge! I’ll even beat you there.” He winked and then turned to Ramona. “Lead the way, mama.”
            With Ramona taking Surge out the back door, Wenda and I were left standing there. “Guess I’ll see you next practice.” I said.
            “Oh didn’t you hear? We’re going to do individual practices until coach returns from her vacation.”
            Odd. I hadn’t heard, but I wasn’t exactly surprised. Since Regionals and even at practice earlier, I suspected some of the girls were mad at me. Now I had my suspicions confirmed.
            “Well, then. See ya at school.”
            “Whatever.” She did the hand brush-off and turned her back on me, cutting me down without saying another word.
Shaking my head, I turned and left the coffee shop.
No one had ever looked at me with such hatred before, and I couldn’t figure out where it came from. I knew gymnastics competition pitted us against each other a lot, and I’d definitely ridden the group hard at Regionals at the end of last season, but it seemed like there was more to her attitude than just rivalry, but whatever. I couldn’t puzzle through her bullshit when I still needed to get a few blocks away to avoid a tour of the city jail.
Losing my concern for Wenda was easy once I was Freerunning again on my way to the Library. No troubles or stressful thoughts stood a chance against the heart-pumping adrenaline rush that was Parkour.
I raced down streets using the objects in my way to increase my pace instead of slow me down. I swung under a metal railing and leaped over its parallel twin. I jumped over a fire hydrant and the three bikes locked on the rack right next to it, all without choking up.
My seamless movements cancelled out Surge’s head start, and as I rounded the corner on the last block to the library, I caught sight of my friend a block to my right.
At the same time, he noticed me.
I heard his laugh across the distance and the challenge within it spurred me on. “Oh you are so gettingshown,” I promised quietly, forcing my legs into motion.
So close, so close! If I could get to the lion statue first, I’d get the prize, but Surge wasn’t going to make it easy on me. We both ran full speed, coming closer to each other and to our destination.
            I vaulted over one wide stone railing, Kong-style, with my feet straight out in front, ready to catch me for my landing.
            I didn’t expect anyone to be standing there.

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6. In the Spotlight: Mimi's Adventures in Baking, by Alyssa Gangeri


Embark on a baking adventure with Mimi where she will measure, mix, and bake her way to the perfect batch of gingerbread men. If Mimi can do it, so can you!

Mimi's Adventures in Baking Gingerbread Men is the third book in the Mimis Adventures in Baking series.



Alyssa’s Website / Twitter / Facebook

Chef Alyssa has been baking since she was a little girl in her grandmother's kitchen. Since graduating from the Culinary Institute of America she has worked for famous chefs and elite companies such as the Ritz Carlton, Tom Colicchio, Norman Van Aken and Gray Kunz. She currently is the Executive Chef at Riverwalk Bar and Grill on the Historic nook of New York City, Roosevelt Island. She also has a boutique custom cake company called AllyCakesNYC where she creates cakes to appease the imagination. Through her journey of baking she developed Mimi, her very own miniature version of herself.
As a child she loved baking and everything that came with it. As an adult and food lover she realized there was something missing when she frequented bookstores. A interactive children's cookbook. And we are not talking about a boring old cookbook for kids with lots and lots of recipes, and some pictures. Children these days have just as much interest in the kitchen as there parents do, but the ordinary cookbook is just not going to cut it. She created Mimi's Adventures in Baking  to give children and adults a way to get into the kitchen and allow the child to become the chef and the adult the assistant. With each book has one recipe and an interactive storyline the child can read, and at the end go into the kitchen and do what Mimi did!  And for the "non-baking" parent, these elite pastry chef recipes are tested and ready for even the most inexperienced baker! Impress other moms with Mimi's creations!
Mimi's Adventures in Baking 
will also teach children how to measure, mix and bake their way through the kitchen while also giving safety tips along the way. No more boring cookbooks! Now there is a fun, exciting and educational way to learn how to bake!

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7. Review: 'Dee and Deb Off They Go Kindergarten First Day Jitters' by Donna McDine

Title: Dee and Deb Off They Go Kindergarten First Day Jitters
Genre: children’s
Author: Donna McDine
Publisher: Guardian Angel Publishing, Inc.
Purchase linkwww.donnamcdine.com and Guardian Angel Publishing and Amazon 

About the Book: The anxiety of finding one’s own place and friends in kindergarten without the comfort of having her fraternal twin sister nearby at first overwhelms Dee until she realizes even without her fraternal twin sister, Dee and her classmates for the most part are in the same boat.

My thoughts:

This is a super cute picture book about two twin sisters, Dee and Deb, who go to kindergarden for the very first time. The story focuses on Dee. She's anxious about being separated from Deb, as they go on their separate classrooms. However, Dee soon finds out that mostly all of the other kids in her class have the same worries she has, and she ends up making a very good friend, soon realizing that she can have other friends besides her twin sister Deb. The little girls are adorable. This is a very simple story written for ages 3-6. If you have twins in your family who are soon attending school, this is the perfect book to read to them and discuss first day jitters and separating issues. Recommended!

About the Author:

About the Author: Multi award-winning children’s author, Donna McDine’s creative side laid dormant for many years until her desire to write sparked in 2007. Her latest release Dee and Deb Off They Go Kindergarten First Day Jitters joins the four early reader children’s picture books, A Sandy Grave(January 2014), Powder Monkey (May 2013), Hockey Agony (January 2013) and The Golden Pathway (August 2010) all with Guardian Angel Publishing. Join McDine as her adventures continue as she ignites the curiosity of children through reading. She writes and moms from her home in the historical hamlet Tappan, NY. McDine is a member of the SCBWI.

Connect with Donna on the Web!

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8. On the Spotlight: 'Dee and Deb Off They Go Kindergarten First Day Jitters' by Donna McDine

Donna McDine's latest children's picture book is a charming, fun tale about first day jitters. Be sure to check it out for the kids in your family who will be going to school soon!

Title: Dee and Deb Off They Go Kindergarten First Day Jitters
Genre: children’s
Author: Donna McDine
Publisher: Guardian Angel Publishing, Inc.
Purchase linkwww.donnamcdine.com and Guardian Angel Publishing and Amazon 

About the Book: The anxiety of finding one’s own place and friends in kindergarten without the comfort of having her fraternal twin sister nearby at first overwhelms Dee until she realizes even without her fraternal twin sister, Dee and her classmates for the most part are in the same boat.

About the Author: Multi award-winning children’s author, Donna McDine’s creative side laid dormant for many years until her desire to write sparked in 2007. Her latest release Dee and Deb Off They Go Kindergarten First Day Jitters joins the four early reader children’s picture books, A Sandy Grave(January 2014), Powder Monkey (May 2013), Hockey Agony (January 2013) and The Golden Pathway (August 2010) all with Guardian Angel Publishing. Join McDine as her adventures continue as she ignites the curiosity of children through reading. She writes and moms from her home in the historical hamlet Tappan, NY. McDine is a member of the SCBWI.

Connect with Donna on the Web!

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9. Interview with Jen K. Blom, author of 'New Pony Day!'

Jen K Blom is an international award-winning author living in Berlin, Germany with her daughter, husband and hairless cat Yoda. Visit www.pony101.de to get all sorts of great updates and activity sheets featuring Josie, Floki and Pasta!

Her latest book is the children’s picture book, New Pony Day!

For More Information
    Welcome to Mayra's Secret Bookcase, Jen! Did you always want to be a writer?

    Always did! Wrote my first poem at 5, and carried on from there. Took a long time to get to this point but definitely, definitely worth it!

    Tell us about your recent release. What was your inspiration for it?

    My recent release is NEW PONY DAY, a picture book about a little girl and her quest to find the perfect pony – who was there all along * spoiler!

    My daughter is the inspiration for this series.

    The process began over two years ago with a glimmer of an idea for my daughter (who was then 3). She adores horses, but had problems understanding certain things about them. Josie (then Heba) and her pony Floki (then Nosy) popped in my head, but it took a visit to the Sharjah Children’s Book Festival as a featured author to make me realize: I could make this book myself. Now, for her. While she was young. And so it happened!

    It took awhile to decide on the format, whether I would submit to trad pubs or not, but in the end I had a shiny new book. It was definitely one of the more satisfying experiences of my life – and not only because I recently read her the final version with pics and she loved it.

    Tell us about your children's books.

    The PONY101 series is my first picture book series, and is targeted towards horse-crazy kids that also want to learn great facts about horses. It fills a great gaping hole in the marketplace, as well: there is no real series about a horse and a kid out there – especially not one that covers the theatrical (ALIEN VS PONY) as well as the more mundane (IT’S GROOMING DAY – coming soon).

    I am a hybrid author, which means I have been published traditionally (POSSUM SUMMER and OUT OF THE WILD, with an agent for my middle grade books) as well as indie for the picture books. So far, I’m really enjoying my indie experience.

    Do you have a website/blog where readers may learn more about you and your works?

    I do! www.pony101.de is a combined blog/website with lots of interesting facts, a blog, and activity sheets. I’m working on a special site there just for kids that read the books, but that might take a bit to finish. J

    What are you working on now?

    I am presently working on the second book’s illustrations in the series, ALIEN VS PONY. We had a vote to see which would come first (I was all for the grooming one, but was overruled. Because aliens!)


     About the Book:

    Title: New Pony Day!
    Author: Jen K. Blom
    Publisher: Jen K. Blom
    Pages: 28
    Genre: Children’s Picture Book

    Today’s the day Josie gets her new pony – if she can find him, that is! Her cat Pasta’s along for the ride, too, but there’s no telling if he’ll help or not – he’s a cat!

    For More Information

    Book Excerpt:

    My name is Josie and I'm happy as I can be. 

    My kitty Pasta and I have a job just our size, you see. 

    Today’s the day I choose my pony.

    All mine. Only for me me ME!

    I’ll know him when I see him! 

    I KNOW I will. Only…

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    10. On the Spotlight: 'The Secret Lives of Animals,' by Stacy Tornio

    The Secret Lives of Animals


    The Secret Lives of Animals is the perfect mix of field guide know-how and armchair entertainment. In addition to the standard field guide notes and range maps, the meat of the book will offer up “spark moments” in nature—something fascinating or memorable that catches your attention and sets you on a path of lifelong learning. The Secret Lives of Animals will feature more than 100 North American animals and over 1,000 tidbits in a fun, colorful, illustrated format.





    Website  /  Facebook  /  Twitter  /  Pinterest  /  YouTube

    Stacy Tornio is an Oklahoma girl at heart, though she’s lived in Wisconsin for the last 10 years. As editor of Birds & Blooms Magazine, Stacy is able to share her love of backyard nature. Her first book, Cathy’s Animal Garden, takes readers on a picture journey into the neighbor’s scary backyard in search of a homerun baseball. Project Garden, her recent book, is a monthly guide filled with activities to keep the whole family gardening all year long. Along with her husband, Steve, Stacy enjoys watching her two children explore nature in their Milwaukee backyard and on trips up north.

    Ken Keffer was born and raised in Wyoming.  A vagabond naturalist, he’s done a little bit of everything, from monitoring mice and vole populations and picking up carnivore scat in Grand Teton National Park to researching flying squirrels in the Tongass National Forest of southeast Alaska, and monitoring Bactrian camels in Mongolia’s Great Gobi Strictly Protected Area. He’s also worked as an environmental educator in Wyoming, northern New Mexico, coastal Maryland, and along the shores of Lake Erie in Ohio. Ken enjoys birding, floating on lazy rivers, and fly fishing in the mountains out west.

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    11. Interview with Christopher Nuttall, YA Fantasy Author of ‘Trial By Fire’

    nuttall_pix_med (1)Christopher Nuttall was born in Edinburgh, studied in Manchester, married in Malaysia and currently living in Scotland, United Kingdom, with his wife and baby son. He is the author of 20 novels from various publishers and thirty-nine self-published novels. More than 100,000 ebooks in the Schooled in Magic series have sold since March 2014.
    Sample Chapter HERE.
    Purchase on Amazon / OmniLit
    Congratulations on the release of your latest book, Trial By Fire, Book 7 in your Schooled in Magic series. When did you start writing and what got you into fantasy? 
    Well, I started writing seriously around 2004-2005 and … well, I write the sort of books I like to read. I began with a military thriller, then went through alternate history and alien invasion before starting to experiment with fantasy. Frankly, I’m still fond of all four genres, although military science-fiction is probably my favorite. 
    What is your book about? 
    Oh, a hard question.
    The Schooled in Magic series follows the adventures of Emily, a teenage girl from our world who is accidentally kidnapped by a necromancer and swept into an alternate world where magic is real, dragons fly through the sky and young magicians are sent to boarding schools to learn magic. But it’s also a series about the introduction of new ideas into a static society and just what happens when those ideas are developed, then start to mutate.
    Trial By Fire follows Emily as the repercussions of her actions in earlier books finally come back to haunt her, putting her at the center of a deadly plot that will force her to fight for her life – or die at the hands of a relentless enemy.
    What type of challenges did you face while writing this book? 
    Making it convincing, alas.
    Ok, that sounds absurd; fantasy is not, by definition, convincing. A world where someone can be turned into a toad with a snap of a witch’s fingers isn’t our world. However, it does have to follow its own logic – and, if that logic is violated, people tend to protest. (They also protest if humans don’t act like humans, although creatures like Elves get a free pass – they’re not human.)
    TrialByFire_med1One very notable example comes from Harry Potter (I use this because most of my readers will probably be familiar with the series.) In Goblet of Fire, Harry is forced to compete in a deadly contest that could easily leave him dead … apparently because having his name put in the titular Goblet creates a magically-binding contract that enforces participation. But we know Harrydidn’t put his name in the Goblet … which raises questions about how the contract was binding in the first place. (And why, if you can create a contract binding someone, they don’t use it on the Dark Lord.)
    (Personally, I tend to think that Dumbledore was the one under contract; he’d sworn to make sure anyone whose name came out of the Goblet had to compete, which would have included Harry as well as the other guy. And it would be perfectly in character for Dumbledore to keep mum about this and push Harry forward.)
    In Trial By Fire, I worked hard to put together a trap for Emily that wouldn’thave a thinking fan banging his head off the wall. I hope I succeeded. 
    What do you hope readers will get from your book? 
    Well, I hope they will have an enjoyable story.
    Let’s be honest here. I’m not trying to write something that will echo down the ages, something with the staying power of the Foundation series. I’m writing so my readers will have fun reading the books. If they learn something about the importance of technology, the spread of ideas and just what can happen when whole new approaches are explored … well, that’s a bonus. 
    Did your book require a lot of research? 
    The series absorbed a great deal of research . I actually spent years reading about the Middle Ages, just to flavor my work. The Allied Lands themselves have a great deal in common with Europe, particularly in the Reformation era. I studied how those societies worked, what drove them, how their people thought and what weakened them in the face of stronger enemies.
    Of course, there are differences – the presence of functional magic, for a start. 
    Many writers experience a vague anxiety before they sit down to right. Can you relate to this? 
    Sometimes. Oddly, I feel it while crafting the next installment in a successful series.
    Trial By Fire was originally intended to serve as the end of the first arc of novels set within the Schooled in Magicuniverse. I knew it had to be spectacular, the moment when Emily steps up and takes firm control of her life, and so I was nervous about actually having her do it. I hope it lives up to its purpose. 
    Do you have a writing schedule? Are you disciplined? 
    Very disciplined. Truthfully, you don’t get anywhere in writing unless you’re disciplined.
    I get up, eat breakfast and drink coffee, then get to work. I set myself a goal of three chapters a day, except for the first day; that generally takes around five hours. Then there’s the task of checking the beta reader comments and editing the manuscript. Between drafts, I generally try to move to something different or edit completed manuscripts. 
    How do you define success? 
    Success comes in the form of people buying my books and writing good (and thoughtful reviews). I know; I probably won’t win any major awards. (I did win the Wishing Shelf Independent Book Awards for Bookworm.) However, I’m happy with being paid and being told I did a good job. 
    What do you love most about the writer’s life? 
    I get to work from home, set my own hours and generally be my own boss. And then there’s the fact I get to meet fans, even if I am a little shy. 
    Do you have a website or blog where readers can find out more about your work? 
    I have a website, a blog, a mailing list and a Facebook fan page.
    The website contains free samples – I try to give away at least a couple of chapters, sometimes as many as ten – and a number of older books that are completely free. They’re really ones I wrote during my first period as a writer; not good enough to be published, perhaps, but people liked them. A couple have even been rewritten for later publication.
    The blog and Facebook page cover everything from my musings to fan comments and suchlike, allowing a degree of fan participation. All are welcome. The mailing list, however, is only for new releases – I believe in trying to avoid spamming people where possible.
    Where is your book available?
    The ebook version of Trial By Fire is available for purchase from Amazon Kindle, Apple iBookstore, BN Nook, Kobo Books, OmniLit, etc.
    The print version of Trial By Fire will be available from Amazon, Barnes and Noble Bookstores, Brodart, Coutts, Davis-Kidd Booksellers, Emery-Pratt, Follett, Ingram, The Book Despository, The Book House, etc.
    Purchase links will be available on the chapter excerpt page:
    What is your advice for aspiring authors? 
    I think I’ve said this before, time and time again, but the best advice I can give is work hard, work hard and work hard. Writing is 10% inspiration and 90% hard work. It is very rare to get a first novel published, unless you have VERY strong connections with the publishing industry or a name you can exploit (and those books tend to be terrible). Eric Flint said you really need to write at least a million words before you have something worth reading and I tend to think he was right.
    Once you have a manuscript, get a few readers to look at it and give you honest feedback. If they said “this sucks, because [insert reason here]” listen to them. They may be wrong, which is possible, or you may have failed to explain something properly. Either way, they should make you think about it … which is better than having a review that boils down to “this author is an idiot.”
    And grow a thick skin. You’ll need it. 
    Anything else you’d like to tell my readers? 
    I offer cameos for anyone who reads a book and reports an error to me. All (again) welcome.

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    12. Interview with Fiona Ingram, author of 'The Search for the Stone of Excalibur'

    Fiona Ingram was born and educated in South Africa, and has worked as a full-time journalist and editor. Her interest in ancient history, mystery, and legends, and her enjoyment of travel has resulted in the multi award winning The Secret of the Sacred Scarab, the first in her exciting children’s adventure series—Chronicles of the Stone. Fiona has just published the second book entitled The Search for the Stone of Excalibur, a treat for young King Arthur fans. She is busy with Book 3 entitled The Temple of the Crystal Timekeeper.

    Do you consider yourself to be a born writer?

    I think so. I have always scribbled something, either plays for the family, stories to entertain my young brothers, poetry to amuse family members, and then later writing a book just came naturally. Being an avid reader also helps!
    Tell us about your recent release. What was your inspiration for it?

    The Search for the Stone of Excalibur is the second book in my Middle Grade adventure series The Chronicles of the Stone. Book 1 began the adventure after my mother took me and my two young nephews on a family trip to Egypt. I came back and penned The Secret of the Sacred Scarab right away and, when I reached the end of the book, I realised my young heroes hadn’t saved the world yet; they needed more books! The second adventure takes the heroes to Britain, where King Arthur’s sword has been discovered and there is a powerful stone embedded in the hilt. Could this be the source of Excalibur’s legendary powers?

    Tell us about your children's books.

    I never imagine that one book, which began as a short story filled with anecdotes about our trip to Egypt, would end up as a book, and then a book series. The series is extremely gripping: young heroes Adam and Justin have to locate seven ancient Stones of Power scattered throughout the known world of several thousand years ago. Adam has a special connection with the stones. United, the stones enable someone to read the legendary Egyptian Book of Thoth, the most powerful book in the world, and thus learn the secrets of ultimate knowledge, achieve immortality, and control time, eternity, and the creatures of the land, sea and air. Of course there are baddies who also want these stones, and they pursue our heroes as they travel the globe in search of these powerful objects. Each book takes the kids to a new country, exploring ancient history, geography, culture, mythology, legends, and archaeology within each story. It’s an amazing adventure for the heroes as they meet people who help or hinder them on their quest. 

    What are you working on now?

    Book 3: The Temple of the Crystal Timekeeperis non-stop adventure! Continuing the adventure that ended in Britain just a short while ago, cousins Adam and Justin Sinclair, with their friend Kim Maleka, are now hunting for the third Stone of Power, one of seven mysterious stones lost centuries ago. This stone might be located in an ancient city, hidden in the depths of the Mexican jungle. When their small plane crashes in the jungle, Adam, Justin, Kim, and James – their archaeologist friend - are rescued by an uncontacted tribe. James, who is wounded, must stay behind as the kids, with only a young boy, Tukum, as their guide, make their way through the dense and dangerous jungle to find the city. Raft riding on a crocodile-infested river and evading predators are just part of this hazardous task. Of course, their old adversary Dr. Khalid is close behind as the kids press on in search of the lost city of stone gods. But he is not the worst of their problems. This time Adam will clash with a terrible enemy who adopts the persona of an evil Aztec god, Tezcatlipoca, and is keen to revive the ancient tradition of human sacrifice. Adam, Justin, and Tukum must play a dreadful ball game of life and death and maybe survive. Will they emerge alive from the jungle? Will Dr. Khalid find the third Stone of Power before they do?

    What type of book promotion works for you? Any special strategies you’d like to share?

    It’s an understatement to say I have tried everything because I have. I work very hard at marketing my books. Some options have been a waste of money; others have yielded mediocre results. However, a hugely successful strategy for me is what I am doing right now; going on a blog tour. It is organised; the hosts are keen to have you; their readers are interested in the genre you write; you can tell potential readers things that maybe you don’t get an opportunity to do otherwise; and also you have a chance to offer readers something special as a thank you, and to encourage them to read further. You can also get reviews from hosts interested enough to read your book/s and give their opinion. It’s also a way of creating a following of people who will continue to read your books and will look out for them in the future. Another very successful strategy is entering book awards because that tells people your book is of a high quality. I was fortunate that my first MG adventure, The Secret of the Sacred Scarab, won a bunch of awards, and that certainly influenced my getting international publishing contracts. 

    Is there anything else you’d like to say to our readers?
    If you are a parent or have young relatives just getting into reading, the greatest gift you can give them is to instil a love of reading. Enjoying reading is a learned process, and a young child associates the pleasure of reading with a parent or beloved relative with the pleasure of reading as they grow older. Literacy is priceless, and reading and loving books will set that child’s feet firmly on the path to a successful future.

     For More Information
    About the Book:

    Title: The Search for the Stone of Excalibur
    Author: Fiona Ingram
    Publisher: Biblio Publishing
    Pages: 376
    Genre: Juvenile Fiction
    Format: Paperback/Kindle/Nook

    Continuing the adventure that began in Egypt a few months prior in The Secret of the Sacred Scarab, cousins Adam and Justin Sinclair are hot on the trail of the second Stone of Power, one of seven ancient stones lost centuries ago. This stone might be embedded in the hilt of a newly discovered sword that archaeologists believe belonged to King Arthur: Excalibur. However, their long-standing enemy, Dr. Khalid, is following them as they travel to Scotlandto investigate an old castle. Little do they know there is another deadly force, the Eaters of Poison, who have their own mission to complete. Time is running out as the confluence of the planets draws closer. Can Justin and Adam find the second Stone of Power and survive? And why did Aunt Isabel send a girl with them? 

    Join Justin and Adam as they search not only for the second Stone of Power, but also for the Scroll of the Ancients, a mysterious document that holds important clues to the Seven Stones of Power. As their adventure unfolds, they learn many things and face dangers that make even their perils in Egypt look tame. And how annoying for them that their tag-along companion, Kim, seems to have such good ideas when they are stumped. Book extras include some historical background on King Arthur, the Dark Ages, warfare and weaponry during Arthur’s time, and details on Excalibur. A fascinating peek into the life and times of the real King Arthur, perfect for young time travelers and budding archaeologists.

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    13. On the Spotlight: The Aqua Lie, by L.L. Hunter

    Title: The Aqua Lie
    Series: The Aqua Saga book 2
    Author: L.L. Hunter
    Genre: YA Dystopian
    Cover Designer: Regina Wamba of Mae I Design and Photography
    Release Date: July 31st
    Ever since being told he had to work for General Maddox in order to see Pym, Rush has had more than enough time to contemplate how to get out of this deal.
    When he is invited to play a high stakes poker game with the General and his father, he is a little suspicious of the General’s motives.

    When he discovers just what he is playing for, it has Rush seeing red.
    The prize: Pym’s heart.
    But if he loses, he will have to watch his friend Troy take Pym to the annual General’s Masquerade Ball while he sits on the sidelines.
    And the hardest part of it all – trying to keep his secret from Pym.

    In the much anticipated sequel to The Aqua Secret,
    Will Rush be able to keep up the facade, or will it all be unraveled by midnight?

    Purchase The Aqua Lie

    Purchase The Aqua Secret

    L.L. Hunter is the author of over 20 published works, including The Legend of the Archangel Series and The Eden Chronicles. She has studied everything from veterinary nursing, forensic science, and dramatic arts, but has always known her true calling was to be an author. She has been writing since her teens – everything from fan fiction, to song lyrics, to plays and musicals. When not working on her next paranormal romance, she can be found at home in Australia, reading somewhere comfortable with one or both of her “fur babies.”

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    14. Interview with Michelle Beber, author of 'Angels, Angels, Everywhere'

    Michelle Beber has certifications as an Angel Intuitive and Angel Oracle Card Reader from renowned "angel lady," Doreen Virtue, as well as certifications as a Spiritual Teacher and Archangel Life Coach from Doreen's son, Charles Virtue.

    In 2008, Michelle's life changed when she attended a spiritual retreat and learned about angels and how they communicate through repetitive number sequences known as "angel numbers." Little did she know that this insight would lead her on an amazing spiritual journey that would directly connect her with angels and result in the discovery of her life purpose.

    Always grateful for the spiritual guidance she has received, Michelle looks forward to sharing the knowledge she has gained to inspire others, especially children. Michelle is a member of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI).

    Her latest book is the juvenile fiction/children’s picture book, Angels, Angels, Everywhere.

    Do you consider yourself to be a born writer?

    Yes. I believe each of us comes into this world with innate talents that are meant to be used to make the world a better place.  Some of us realize those talents earlier in life and others, like me, find our purpose later in life. 
    Did you always want to be a writer?

    I’ve always had a love of writing, but I didn’t have a career plan to be an author or journalist.  I enjoyed creative writing as a child and wrote poetry as a teen.  When I got to college, I chose Radio-TV-Film as my major with a desire to work in television production, but I also took many journalism classes and absolutely loved it!  That led to an internship in the NBC-TV Press and Publicity Department which included writing press releases.

    I had hoped to find a job in publicity, but since those jobs were hard to come by, I ended up in the business and legal area of the entertainment industry.  Ironically, that knowledge has proven invaluable as I have moved into my career as an author.  I believe everyone learns what they need to know as they work toward their particular life purpose.

    Everything I’ve learned in my life has prepared me to do what I’m doing.  Not only was I was blessed with the passion and ability to write, but also I have a keen aptitude for research.  I learned everything I could about copyright, the steps necessary to self-publish a book, the importance of branding and having an online presence, and how to market and promote your finished product. 

    Tell us about your recent release. What was your inspiration for it?

    My debut children’s picture book, Angels, Angels, Everywhere,was literally Divinely inspired.  I’m an “angel intuitive” which means that I’m able to “connect” with the angelic realm.  I’m also what’s known as a “lightworker” who’s working with Archangel Michael to bring God’s healing love and light to the world, especially to children.  I receive messages from angels, and some of those messages evolved into children’s picture book manuscripts. 

    Tell us about your children's books.

    With every book that I put into the marketplace, I hope to teach, touch, and entertain each reader.  That’s my “brand,” and I’ve trademarked the slogan:  To Teach, To Touch, To Entertain™. 

    Do you have a website/blog where readers may learn more about you and your works?

    Yes.  My website is www.michellebeber.com, and my blog is called www.heartofalightworker.com. 

    Where are your books available?

    My soft-cover book and e-book are available at www.amazon.com, www.barnesandnoble.com, and in the bookstore at www.balboapress.com.  

    What type of book promotion works for you? Any special strategies you’d like to share?

    I love social media, and I highly recommend it!  I never thought I’d ever say that because I used to think it was a ridiculous waste of time, but I’ve met so many wonderful, inspirational people who are genuinely interested in what I have to say and my work.

    My Twitter presence led to an appearance on a blog talk radio show where I was interviewed and able to read my book.  You never know where or when an opportunity may arise, so be open to all possibilities.  You must have an online presence and connect with your target audience.

    What advice would you offer aspiring writers?

    The internet is filled with tons of information on traditional and self-publishing.  Do plenty of research on the different avenues available to you, and follow the path that is best suited to your particular circumstances.    

    Don’t feel pressured to get your book out there.  It’s not a competition.  What’s meant for you will be yours because it’s part of your life purpose.  There’s room for everyone because we each bring our own unique flair to our creations.

    If you’re passionate about writing, and you have ideas coming to you that you love, go for it!  Don’t let anything stop you from achieving your dream.  It’s what you were meant to do.  Stay positive, work hard, and have patience.  It can take a long time to put your book into the marketplace, but once you do, it’s the most gratifying feeling you’ll ever have.

    We hear again and again that picture books are incredibly difficult to write. Why is that?

    I’ve heard that too, but for some reason, they come very easily to me.  My opinion is if it’s difficult for you, then it’s probably not what you’re meant to be doing.  Writing shouldn’t be a chore.  It should flow naturally.  Of course, there will be an occasional “writer’s block,” but overall, the process should move along smoothly, and it should be enjoyable! 

    How do you see the future of children’s picture books?

    I’m hoping my books will inspire other writers to contribute to the rapidly growing children’s self-help category.  There are lots of great books out there that are fun to read, but I think books that empower children are also just as important, and they can be done in an entertaining way as well. 

    Is there anything else you’d like to say to our readers?

    If you know in your heart and soul that writing is your passion, go for it!  Have confidence in your abilities, and don’t let anyone else’s opinions stop you from pursuing your dream.  Keep your thoughts positive, and you’ll manifest a positive outcome.  Stay true to who you are, and learn to have patience.  Great things take time.

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    15. Interview with Anne Sawyer-Aitch, author of 'Nalah Goes to Mad Mouse City'

    Anne Sawyer-Aitch (pronounced like the letter “H”) is a puppeteer and stilt-walker. When she decided to create her first book, Nalah and the Pink Tiger, she began experimenting with different styles of illustration, and finally discovered a technique that uses her skills as a maker of color shadow puppets. She calls it “Illuminated Illustration”, and it involves cut-away designs, layering, and backlighting. In her capacity as a puppeteer, Anne creates puppet pieces of all kinds: parade floats, giant stilt puppets, and intricate color shadow shows. She is a MN State Arts Board Roster Artist, teaching puppetry all over the state, and has been touring around with her first book & her Nalah and the Pink Tiger show for the last two years. Nalah Goes to Mad Mouse City is her second book. She lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

    For More Information
    Tell us about your recent release. What was your inspiration for it?

    In my newest book, Nalah Goes to Mad Mouse City, the adventures of Nalah continue! One day Nalah finds herself bored and lonesome because all of her imaginary friends have gone away on vacation. But wait – not all. Mad Tooth, the little mouse who lives in her sock drawer, is still busy munching away on her knee-highs. When she finds out why Nalah is sad, she offers to take her down through the sock drawer into a mouse metropolis. The result is a tale of wild dancing, cousins and mice, taffy and a sock monster.

    This book was inspired by my little niece, Nalah. She is a very lively girl who is always getting into mischief. She sparked the first story, Nalah and the Pink Tiger. The series has taken on a life of its own since then. 

    Tell us about your children's books.

    There are the two Nalah books mentioned above. I have illustrated a book for the MN Humanities Commission as well called The Imaginary Day. My next projects include a third Nalah book (Nalah in Piggy Wig Paris) and a book about animals in winter. The latter is something I started developing when I began painting small creaures sleeping: hedgehogs, squirrels, dormice, sleeping. I want to make a little board book for toddlers that parents can read to them at bedtime.

    Describe your working environment.

    Ha! I’m a puppeteer as well as an author/illustrator, and that means I save everything. I work in all sorts of mediums, from fabric to clay to paint and paper cutting. I’m always re-configuring my dining room table based on the project at hand. 

    Do you have a website/blog where readers may learn more about you and your works?

    What are you working on now?

    Aside from the books I mentioned before, I’ll be developing some new puppet pieces, including the Spanish version of Nalah Goes to Mad Mouse City, and a Mexican folk tale in toy theatre style. 

    Where are your books available?

    What was your experience in working with an illustrator author?

    I illustrated both of my books. I think both in words and in pictures, so I enjoy doing it that way. I use a lot of speech bubbles in my books. Probably because I grew up reading my Mom’s old Donald Duck comics.

    What type of book promotion works for you? Any special strategies you’d like to share?

    Because I’m a professional puppeteer, I have a puppet show that goes with the book. I’ve been performing that at various sites and selling books that way. But also through social media, Amazon, Good Reads, and shops that support local artists. 

    What advice would you offer aspiring writers?

    Don’t worry about how you are going to publish it. There are lots of ways to do that. You don’t need anybody else’s permission. Focus on making something you enjoy.

    Who are your favorite authors?

    In children’s ficiton, I love Maud Hart Lovelace, the D’Aulaires, Wanda Gag, William Steig. Also the Harry Potter books. They are so Dickensian.

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    16. Guest Post by Melissa Abramovitz, author of 'Helping Herbie Hedgehog'

    It's a pleasure to have Melissa Abramovitz on my blog today! In this guest post, she talks about the story behind her latest children's picture book, Helping Herbie Hedgehog, which she is promoting at the moment with The National Writing for Children Center. Let's give her warm welcome! 


    Long before I started writing professionally, I recognized the fact that I, and other people, learn much faster when someone – a teacher, parent, or others – makes the learning fun. Later, as the mother of two boys, I found that using humor or downright silliness made it so much easier to engage my children in doing chores or other things that they did not particularly want to do, like taking a bath. I also found that the childrens’ books they, and I, most enjoyed often contained humor. And I found that one thing toddlers, preschoolers, and early elementary school-aged children get a kick out of is being right and correcting other peoples’ silly mistakes.

    Most of the books, poems, and magazine articles I write are educational in some way, and while they are not all funny, I always try to make them fun, in line with my observations about what I and my children most enjoyed reading. Many years ago, I got the idea to write a series of funny poems about animal characters that need to figure out how to get places and go about other activities. Knowing how much small children enjoy being right, I decided to engage young readers in helping the characters decide what to do. For instance, if the character was traveling to the moon, should he ride a bicycle? The first character I devised was a lion named Laffy Lion. For the next poem I used a character named Klutz Kangaroo. I came up with several more characters to use in other similar poems about different jobs, sports, household appliances, and types of furniture.

    One thing I think many people who include humor in their writing experience is uncertainty about whether anyone else will find the humor funny. I know I often wonder about this! The fact that my own kids, other family members, and friends laughed at these poems was encouraging, and this gave me the courage to decide to incorporate all these poems into a children’s book. I decided to make it an early chapter book/picture book, with each chapter devoted to different activities and concepts. But I realized I should use only one main animal character to unify the story. I knew my character had to be clueless, but I also wanted him to be lovable so children would want to help him out. I could have made the character any one of a number of species, but in the end, I decided on a hedgehog because they’re cute despite their prickles. The name Herbie just seemed to fit with “hedgehog.” My original title was “Can You Help Herbie Hedgehog?” to emphasize the interactive nature of the book.            


    About the Author

    Melissa Abramovitz has been a freelance writer/author for 30 years. She’s the author of hundreds of magazine articles for all age groups, from preschoolers through adults; more than 40 educational books for children and teenagers; numerous poems and short stories; the children’s picture books ABCs of Health and Safety and Helping Herbie Hedgehog; and a book for writers titled A Treasure Trove of Opportunity: How to Write and Sell Articles for Children’s Magazines. Melissa graduated from the University of California San Diego with a degree in psychology and is also a graduate of the Institute of Children’s Literature. She is a member of SCBWI, NABE, and The Working Writer’s Club.

    About the Book

    Herbie has places to go and things to do. But he needs some help ‘cause he hasn’t a clue! If you’ll help Herbie decide what’s right and wrong, he’ll be busy and happy the whole day long! Herbie the clueless hedgehog needs help figuring out how to get places and go about his day. Amusing delightful rhymes invite kids to give helpful advice while learning about everyday things in this early chapter book/picture book. Should Herbie ride his bicycle to visit his cousin who lives across the ocean? Will his TV set cook a meal? He really needs these kids’ help! Recommended for ages 2-7.

    Title: Helping Herbie Hedgehog
    Genre: Children’s picture book/early chapter book
    Author: Melissa Abramovitz
    Publisher: Guardian Angel Publishing

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    17. Interview with Whitney Stewart, author of 'Meditation is an Open Sky: Mindfulness for Kids'

    Whitney Stewart grew up in New England and graduated from Brown University. She published her first award-winning, young adult biography after interviewing the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet, the subject of two of her books. She trekked with Sir Edmund Hillary in the Everest region of Nepal; interviewed Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi in Rangoon, Burma; and traveled extensively in Asia to research the lives of Deng Xiaoping, Mao Zedong, and Siddhartha Gautama, the Buddha. She is the author of three middle-grade novels and multiple middle-grade nonfiction books, including an unknown tale of Abraham Lincoln and artist Francis Bicknell Carpenter. Her newest picture books include A Catfish Tale, a bayou retelling of the Grimm brothers’ Fisherman and his Wife, and Meditation is an Open Sky: Mindfulness for Kids.

    Welcome to Mayra's Secret Bookcase, Whitney! Tell us, do you consider yourself to be a born writer?

    I was born with deep intuition, curiosity about people, and a love of story and language. Those are my innate qualities. So, in that sense, yes, I am a born writer. But writing takes talent, discipline, study of the craft, imagination, and patience. I have developed those over the years.

    Did you always want to be a writer?

    Yes. I started to love writing stories in 4thgrade, and submitting to publishers in 10th grade.

    Tell us about your recent release. What was your inspiration for it?

    I have been meditating since high school. I traveled to Tibet and India when I was in my twenties and learned meditation from Tibetan Buddhist monks. I came home and wanted to teach kids the basics of meditation without religious affilitation.

    My new picture book, Meditation is an Open Sky: Mindfulness for Kids, is nondenominational book of simple meditations easy enough for preschoolers and sophisticated enough for adults.

    Tell us about your children's books.

    I began by publishing young adult biographies of Nobel laureates and adventurers (the Dalai Lama, Aung San Suu Kyi, Sir Edmund Hillary and more). Then I branched out into writing middle grade nonfiction on such subjects as shipwrecks and Abraham Lincoln. Now I am publishing picture books (fiction and nonfiction) for the youngest readers. Last year I published A Catfish Tale, a silly retelling of Grimms’ The Fisherman and His Wife, set in the Louisiana bayou. I am now working on a middle grade novel set in New Orleans and a middle grade nonfiction book about the hunt for a missing German WWII soldier. 

    Have you ever suffered from writer’s block? If yes, how did you ‘cure’ it?

    Yes, I suffered from a creative block after Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans where I live. I was evacuated by helicopter from a rooftop after waiting five days in a flooded building. I had to move away from home for 4 ½ months and spent most of my time filing FEMA papers and insurance claims. After I returned to New Orleans, I could not settle easily into my writing routine. I took a private drawing class for a few months to experiment with another creative outlet. I am not a natural artist, but I loved this class nonetheless. I did charcoal portraits of faces. Then I imagined them in stories, which helped me start writing again. After the class ended, I then wrote and published a children’s novel and two shipwreck books. 

    Some writers go on long walks, others keep a journal, write at a café, or listen to music. What do you do for inspiration and unleashing your creativity?

    I take long walks or a bike ride almost every day. And I travel and research the history of the places where I go. I write nonfiction, so I turn my travels into writing projects. I used to journal when I traveled, but I don’t often do that now. I’m not sure why. However, during my three most recent research journeys, I published an online, eight-part travel series of my adventure.

    Describe your working environment.

    I work at home in my office library. I am surrounded by windows. I love my office except it has be very noisy when my neighbors on both sides renovated their houses, or when my neighbor’s landscape crew comes through every Monday with leaf-blowers and loud machinery. 

    Are you a disciplined writer? What is your working style? 

    Yes, very disciplined. I work every weekday from about 9am or 10am (after exercising) until 5pm or 6pm. I don’t usually write on weekends unless my family is out of town and I have a deadline. I don’t write at night either. I am a morning person.

    Do you like to outline and plot ahead, or are you more of a stream-of-consciousness writer?

    I wish I did outlines or worked on plot first. I am not good at that. I just plunge right into my story and craft the fiction plot or nonfiction chapter sequence later. I often attempt to plot in advance but give up.

    Do you have a website/blog where readers may learn more about you and your works?

    What are you working on now?

    I spent three years on an international hunt for a German WWII soldier (my husband’s uncle) who disappeared from the Russian front after he wrote his last two letters home on January 12, 1945. I was always curious about this man and could not accept that he faded from life without a trace. After Hurricane Katrina, I discovered a box of his war letters in an attic of a flooded house. I went to Germany and Poland three times to follow his last known days. I even worked with a Polish metal detector expert to dig up shrapnel and bones in a former WWII battlefield where my soldier fought. I have learned from the soldier’s letters that he never wanted to fight for the Nazi government and wanted both sides to put down their guns and let the world leaders negotiate peace.

    I am now writing a middle grade book that weaves together the soldier’s story with my story to find him. It will be illustrated with drawings, old photographs, and war documents. When I have a solid draft, I will pitch it to publishers. 

    Where are your books available?

    At online and indie bookstores. I did publish a few museum press books that are only available now from these museum stores.

    What was your experience in looking for a publisher?

    This is always a challenge. It take time, energy, research, and patience. I used to do all of my own submitting. Now I have a literary agent who submits my work to publishers. I recommend having a agent in today’s publishing climate.

    What was your experience in working with an illustrator?

    Normally, children’s book writers do not get to choose their illustrator. The publisher does that. In those situations, I am often consulted on early drafts of illustrations. I have contributed comments when I see an inaccurancy in a drawing or when something does not match my text. One time an illustrator drew a left-handed guitar player, but my character was right-handed. I caught the mistake that I knew kids would also discover.

    I have also sent photos of a setting if the illustrator does not have access to such.

    I have been lucky to work with a few friends on illustrations. I did not tell them how or what to draw. But, if they asked for my feedback, I exchanged ideas with them. Illustrators rock! I have deep admiration for them.

    What type of book promotion works for you? Any special strategies you’d like to share?

    Marketing is not my strong suit. I am shy about promoting my books unless I am invited to give a talk. That’s when I have fun because I love to connect with my readers of any age. I am comfortable talking in public and prepare well for each talk.

    I also promote my books on social media, but I prefer to give talks and let my connection with people help sell my books. 

    What advice would you offer aspiring writers?

    Have a thick skin and don’t take things personally. Keep moving forward. Every rejection is only a challenge to revise your story and find another publisher. Also, develop a writing habit and discipline, even if you can only write for an hour a day.
    And finally, READ.

    Who are your favorite authors?

    That’s a tought question, which I answer differently depending on what I have been reading lately. Some of my favorite children’s book writers (not complete list) are: Suzanne Fisher Staples, Sally Rippin, Laurie Halse Anderson, Shaun Tan, Peter Sis, Allen Say, James Cross Giblin, Marcus Zusak, and Susan Campbell Bartoletti.

    What was your favorite book as a child?

    Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler.

    What’s your favorite children’s book of all time?

    Impossible question. Sorry. That said, The Book Thief  and Owl Moon are definitely at the top of my list. 

    What is the best advice on writing you've ever received?

    Revise. Revise. Revise. 

    We hear again and again that picture books are incredibly difficult to write. Why is that?

    I love writing them. But every single word counts, especially now when word counts are way down for picture books. Finding the right pacing, element of humor or poignancy, and plot line is very tricky in 14 double-page spread.

    How do you see the future of children’s picture books?

    I just read an article, reported by the great Harold Underdown (http://www.underdown.org/) who has his finger on the pulse of children’s book publishing, that sales for children’s books are on the rise and outdid that of adult books in the last quarter. I think the field will survive the digital age. However, nonfiction books seem to be more and more limited. That’s a challenge for me because I love writing nonfiction. I need to rethink the way I write nonfiction so that I can continue to connect with young readers. 

    Is there anything else you’d like to say to our readers? 
    I love communicating with you. Send me questions and book ideas on my website. Invite me to your schools and libraries so we can meet. Find me at @whitneystewart2 or at http://whitneystewart.com/. Or read my travel series about the hunt for a missing German soldier at http://www.travelgumbo.com/blog/finding-reiner-disaster-to-discovery.
    And thanks for loving books.

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    18. Book Review: Green Gooey Goop, by Anna C. Morrison

    Title: Green Gooey Goop
    Author: Anna C. Morrison
    Publisher: Green Gooey Goop
    Genre: Children’s Picture Book
    Format: Paperback/Kindle

    Find out more on Amazon

    Book Description:

    A little girl is presented with a different sort of a meal when her mom serves her green gooey goop. Interesting and icky ingredients appear one by one as the little girl decides what's in this noxious-smelling concoction. The little girl creates a flood, and her dog's fur turns green. Suggested age range for readers: 0-8

    My thoughts...

    I know from experience that young children laugh at icky, smelly, disgusting things...and for this reason they'll enjoy Green Gooey Goop, especially if the parent or other adult reads it to them in a funny voice and with the right beat. The verses have a nice rhythm and the pictures are humorous and quite green, of course! In general, I think this is a cute picture book. The only thing I found disappointing is that it finishes quite abruptly. From an adult's perspective, I was expecting the story to continue and reach some sort of conclusion, but it just ended. From a kid's perspective, I suspect they'll enjoy what happens to the girl's dog. Recommended for a fun read aloud time with kids.

    About the Author

    Anna C. Morrison is an author of children’s books, including Silly Moments and Green Gooey Goop, with many more to follow.  She is also an adjunct professor for multiple colleges and universities, both face-to-face and online.  While she instructs various levels of English composition, she also teaches classes on literature, film, feature writing, and technical writing, among others.  In addition, she has worked with Adapt Courseware as a writing consultant on three video course projects, including college skills and composition.  Anna received her MFA in Writing from Spalding University in Louisville, Kentucky, and her BA in English, Creative Writing, from California State University, San Bernardino.  Anna is an active member of SCBWI and is available for book signings.  She lives in Southern California with her family and pets. 

    For More Information

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    19. Guest post: "The Importance of Believing in Yourself" by Irene S. Roth, author of 'Seasons of Empowerment for Adolescent Girls'

    Following-through and being diligent can help a writer be a lot more in control of their writing career and projects.  Are you plagued by fears when you write? Are you always wondering whether you are working on the right project or performing at your optimal level?  Do you always second-guess yourself to the point where you stop to write and answer email or do anything but write?

         If you answered any of these questions in the affirmative, you are probably a fearful writer.  I believe that writers who are fearful lack self-confidence, and when they build up their self-confidence, they will be much more fearless. It is hard to be productive and enjoy writing when you are constantly harassed by negative thoughts and feelings about your ability.  What you need is to become tranquil and peaceful in order to do your best writing. And you can do this with a bit of practise and a change of mindset.

         One of the best ways to assuage your fears as a writer is to not let them overwhelm you during your scheduled writing time. Yes, I know this is easier said than done, but here are a few relatively easy things that you can do to change your mindset.

    ·       Know which project you want to work on before you sit down to write. This way you won’t have to keep guessing what you have to do. Try to complete all of your goals for the day as you scheduled them. This will give you the self-confidence that you need to develop self-confidence.

    ·       Have a long range plan and vision for your writing career.  After a few of the writers in my local critique group reflected on their vision and wrote it down they have had very few fears since when they sit down to write. Sometimes knowing where you are going in your writing career and having goals, both short and long-term, can make such a huge difference for your self-confidence as a writer.

    ·       Make your office space very welcoming and comfortable. Remove all distractions, such as phones and cell phones as well as the internet if possible. If your computer is connected to the internet, turn it off until after you have done your writing!

    ·       When you come into your office to write, take a moment to connect with your center by closing your eyes and taking a few deep breaths. This will center you and allow you to do your best writing. In addition, you will feel a lot more fearless.

    By taking these steps, you can become a much more fearless and self-confident writer. And once you become a more self-confident writer, you will be very productive and happy. And you will also look forward to your writing time. All you need is a change of mindset from passive to proactive.

         Following-through is making sure that you believe in yourself. And believing in yourself can be made quite easy. All of you have to do is take the steps that I have outlined above.

    Irene S. Roth is an academic and freelance writer for teens, tweens and kids. She has written over 500 book reviews and 1,000 online articles on different topics for teens, tweens, and about the craft of writing. She also teaches workshops on writing and craft at Savvy Authors. She lives in Stratford, Ontario with her husband and cat. Visit her at https://irenesroth.wordpress.com/
    In Seasons of Empowerment for Adolescent Girls, Ms. Roth argues that there are four seasons of empowerment for adolescent girls. Sadly no adolescent girl can simply wake up one day, snap her fingers, and be empowered to tackle the world and all the forces that exist inside and outside. Becoming empowered to be who we are can be truly difficult. This book consists of a step-by-step guide to help adolescent girls achieve self-improvement.
    Purchase at Amazon


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    20. Book Review: Olive and the Great Flood, by Connie Arnold

    Book description:

    Olive is a gentle, friendly dove who wants to help her friend Noah, his family and the other animals with her on the ark. She tries to soothe them during the rain and has an important assignment, to discover when it's safe to venture from the ark after the flood. Suggested age range for readers: 4-8

    My thoughts...

    This is a lovely picture book to read and enjoy. In her simple, lyrical language, most appropriate for young children, talented children's author Connie Arnold tells the story of Noah, his Ark, and the Flood. At the heart of it is Olive, the beautiful dove, who has a most important job to do in this already most important tale. The tone is calming and peaceful, making this book not only educational but also perfect as a bedtime story. I really enjoyed the colorful illustrations by Kathleen Bullock. They really fit and suit the story. Children will have fun pointing out all the animals both in the Arc and under the seas. I truly recommend this delightful picture book for young children!

    Purchase from Amazon and Guardian Angel Publishing

    Visit the author's website at: http://childrenbooks.webs.com 

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    21. Excerpt and Cover Reveal: 'Super Bad' by Kai Strand

    Watch out. Things are about to get really bad

    Excerpt from Super Bad:

    The classroom door opened and Sandra glanced toward it, along with the thirty other kids in the room. She snickered and raised her eyebrows at Lexa when a young man wearing a Hermes costume, complete with wings fluttering on his heels, floated in.
    “I’m not gonna lie,” Lexa leaned over to whisper. “I hope a draft lifts his skirt so we can see what’s underneath.”
    Sandra giggled. “My guess is bun huggers. Gold lame to match his shiny winged cap.”
    Lexa waggled her eyebrows. “Shiny gold buns. I like.”
    The teacher frowned at the young man. “Can I help you?”
    “I have a delivery for Sandra Tohler.”
    Sandra gulped. This couldn’t be anything besides embarrassing. A tidal wave of heads turned toward her causing her cheeks to flush with heat.
    Seeing where everyone’s attention settled, the Hermes guy floated between the rows of desks and came to rest near hers. “Sandra Tohler?”
    Reluctantly, she nodded.
    He cleared his throat before delivering a soliloquy in a clear, resonating voice that Sandra was sure the students in classrooms across campus would hear.
    “Sandra, oh Sandra, my lovely, stormy vixen, hear my humble plea. Your essence has absorbed into my every thought and now I wonder how I will sit for my exams. Will I answer essay questions by describing the intense sable color of your hair, or the enticing moss of your eyes that makes me imagine us lying in each others arms in a fairy forest?”
    Sandra’s forehead hit her desk with a loud thunk, her voice a mumble against the surface. “Please stop. Go away.”
    But the Hermes guy continued in his orator’s voice. “I’ve relived our kiss uncountable times. Your lips were velvet soft, but demanding.”
    A chorus of “Ooo,” erupted through the room.

    SUPER BAD The unexpected conclusion to the Super Villain Academy series.

    The world is in chaos. Violence and thievery reign. And with the supers still balanced, it’s only getting worse. Without good versus evil, the supers care less and less. In order to restore purpose, the world needs its super heroes and its super villains, but the one who balanced them in the first place is missing.

    Sandra’s concern over finding her brother, Jeff, isn’t her only problem. Her pathetic excuse for super powers has left her needing a new ankle. And though she’s still very much committed to her boyfriend, Source, she’s growing unreasonably attracted to Set, the boy who double crossed Jeff by stealing his girlfriend.

    When Sandra is taken and held as bait by kids who want to unbalance the super world, it becomes the inciting event that changes things for supers everywhere and forces them to answer the question, “Hero or villain?”
    Super Bad is scheduled for release in June, but there have been whispers of it releasing sooner. Don’t miss out. Subscribe to Kai’s mailing list and be among the first to know.
    King of Bad - Jeff Mean would rather set fires than follow rules. He wears his bad boy image like a favorite old hoodie; until he learns he has superpowers and is recruited by Super Villain Academy – where you learn to be good at being bad. Is Jeff bad enough for SVA?

    Polar Opposites - Heroes and villains are balanced. After Oceanus is kidnapped, Jeff learns the supers are so balanced, they no longer care to get involved. Ironically Jeff’s superpowers are spiraling out of control. Will they find Oci before he looses it completely, and will they find her alive?
    Win a $10 Amazon gift card or an ecopy of either King of Bad or Polar Opposites. Plenty of chances to win. Open internationally. Enter here:
    a Rafflecopter giveaway

    About the author:

    When her children were young and the electricity winked out, Kai Strand gathered her family around the fireplace and they told stories, one sentence at a time. Her boys were rather fond of the ending, “And then everybody died. The end.” Now an award winning children’s author, Kai crafts fiction for kids and teens to provide an escape hatch from their reality. With a selection of novels for young adult and middle grade readers and short stories for the younger ones, Kai entertains children of all ages, and their adults. Learn more about Kai and her books on her website, www.kaistrand.com.

    0 Comments on Excerpt and Cover Reveal: 'Super Bad' by Kai Strand as of 2/16/2015 3:59:00 AM
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    22. Interview with Alinka Rutkowska, Author of ‘Cinderella’s Secret Slipper’

    alinka_cartoon_low - Version 2Alinka Rutkowska is an award-winning and best-selling author and coach who’s been featured on Fox Business Network, the Examiner, She Knows, She Writes, Blog Talk Radio, The Writer’s Life and many more. She’s here today to talk about her latest children’s picture book, Cinderella’s Secret Slipper.
    Welcome to Blogcritics, Alinka! Congratulations on the release of your latest picture book,Cinderella’s Secret Slipper. When did you start writing and what got you into children’s books? 
    Thank you. I’ve been writing since I remember. One of my most notable achievements as a school girl was founding the second school newspaper. There already was one, but I thought it needed some healthy competition. That got me into the writing and publishing world very early on, and I have loved it ever since.
    I’ve always loved children’s books, but I only wrote my first one when I took a break from the corporate world to travel around the world. I then had more time to get in touch with myself and to understand what I really wanted to do in life – and that’s to have the privilege to shape young readers’ minds through my stories.
    Tell us a bit about Cinderella’s Secret Slipper
    Cinderella’s Secret Slipper tells the story of our favorite princess while she’s living her “happily ever after.” She’s a mom and has some real-life problems like her son smashing one of her favorite glass slippers against the wall. Since it’s the only glass pair she has and she’s very nostalgic about it (after all she was wearing it when she first met her husband!), she’s on a quest of putting the slipper back together again, which turns out to be quite challenging.
    The early reviewers really appreciated the “real-life” aspect of the story and very much enjoyed the humor.
    Writing the story was challenging, as it’s completely different from my “Maya & Filippo” series, which focuses on world-travel and profound messages. Cinderella’s Secret Slipper is shorter, lighter and funnier. It’s main aim is to entertain, but the insightful reader will find a profound message in it as well, it’s just very subtle.
    What was your inspiration for it? 
    I love classic fairy tales, and I know that when they end with “and they lived happily ever after,” they don’t really end. There’s so much more to tell and I’m fascinated by it!
    I also got much more tuned into what my audience wants and this seemed to be a perfect fit. Now that the pre-release reviews are out, it makes me very happy to see that my readers are delighted with this story.
    What is your writing process like? 
    I usually come up with an idea and write it down in my “drafts” folder. Then I let it marinate in my head for a while. At a certain point I feel like I have to let it out and pour it all onto paper. Then I read it, change a few things and move on to something else.
    After a while I read it again and again and again… change a lot of things and send it off to my critique group. If it comes back with positive feedback andCinderella Coversome minor improvement suggestions (as opposed to “flush it down the toilet”), I edit the story again and if I’m satisfied, I send it to my editor. We toss it to each other back and forth, and then the illustrator gets the manuscript.
    How was your experience working with an illustrator?
    I’ve been working with the same illustrator since book one, and he’s created the artwork for 15 of my titles. It was love at first sight. He liked the idea of my books when we first talked about it, created a few drafts, which I loved and we’ve been working happily ever after.
    I usually just send him the story, and when he sends it back the illustrations are perfect 95% of the time. If I want a change, there’s never a problem.
    My readers have paid me many compliments for the artwork, which makes me very happy. I have had offers from other illustrators, but when they came back with their drafts I just couldn’t imagine having those illustrations in my book. I wouldn’t feel like the book is “mine” anymore.
    What was your publishing process like? 
    I publish all my books independently. I really enjoy the speed of the process and the control I have over all aspects. I’ve also learnt a lot about publishing and feel like I don’t need a traditional publisher. However, I have a lot of respect for traditional publishers and have sold rights to 16 of my titles to traditional publishers abroad.
    What has writing for children taught you? 
    Writing picture books is very different from writing any other fiction. Since the expected word count is around 600, writing for children taught me brevity. I learnt to hook the reader from the very first sentence, create a compelling story that draws the reader in, have him on the edge of his seat wondering if the main character will ever solve his problem and then create a climax and often a surprising ending.
    This has to be done in around 600 words, which is less than half of this interview, so it’s quite challenging. I learnt to weigh every word for its life and cut off anything that doesn’t move the story forward.
    Writing for children is both an art and a science!
    What do you know now that you didn’t know when you published your first book?
    So much! I’ve always been a nerd with my nose in books, and that hasn’t changed much, only now my nose is also in online articles and courses, so I learn new things every single day.
    I’ve learnt plenty about book marketing, optimizing my books’ metadata for online sales, getting reviews, selling in bulk, foreign publishing deals and much more. This has allowed me to create a business helping other authors.
    I’ve also attended several events for authors and made connections that led to opportunities I haven’t even dreamt of.
    What do you find most challenging about book marketing? 
    I graduated in management and marketing but that’s very different from book marketing online! My degree did give me the confidence that I should be able to do this though :) But it’s the confidence that allows me to move on, not the degree.
    Book marketing is such a broad subject, and the landscape keeps changing so quickly that the most challenging thing is to keep up and to be able to identify the things that work for you. That’s why it’s important to test and understand where most of your results are coming from.
    There are many avenues to success and also success means different things for different people but the important thing is to focus on those marketing strategies that bring you what you want to achieve.
    How do you celebrate the completion of a book? 
    Ha! I don’t think I do because it’s never really complete. When I’m done with the first draft, there are many edits to come. When I have the final manuscript, it needs to be illustrated. When I have the illustrations, the book needs to be put together. When it’s ready, I wait for the proof to come.
    When I see the physical proof I get really excited, and I always carry it around with me because I love to look at it. While I keep admiring my proof, I prepare the launch of my book. While the book is being launched, I’m already thinking about other promotional campaigns and about other books.
    So I guess the only time I really celebrate is when I go to one of those award ceremonies and get a medal. While it’s hanging on my neck and gently swaying as I move around the room and make new connections, I feel really blissful but I’m not sure if that beats what I feel when that first proof comes in the envelope.
    What do you love most about the writer’s life? 
    The freedom. I worked in big multinational companies before, and while I had great positions and a lot of visibility I was just one little part of a huge machine. And in the end, I had to do what was expected of me.
    With book writing and publishing I have much more control, flexibility, I make my own decisions and I do it when I want to. The difference is huge.
    What is your advice for aspiring children’s authors? 
    Just do it. I know that at the beginning you will be very focused on the writing and you will have no author platform and no marketing experience, but that’s just how it works. We all had to start, and you will eventually learn to do many of the things you need to know to succeed.
    Experience comes with practice, and if you are passionate about what you’re doing, that passion will take you places.
    Anything else you’d like to tell my readers? 
    I’d like to give them some presents! If you enjoy children’s picture books, I’d like to give you a free copy from my award-winning collection – go grab it here: http://alinkarutkowska.com.
    I have something special for authors as well, it’s my “200 Book Marketing Tips” ebook, which you can download for free at http://alinkarutkowska.com/authors-home/.
    Thank you!
    My interview with the author originally appeared in Blogcritics Magazine.

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    23. Review of 'Cinderella's Secret Slipper' by Alinka Rutkowska‏

    Cinderella discusses with her husband what to give their son for his fourth birthday.  They decide on a party, then on what they will wear to that party. It is decided Cinderella will wear the glass slippers that started it all. 
    But there is a problem, She has only one glass slipper.
    She finds the missing slipper and that leads to another problem. Therein lies the tale of a frantic search for a solution.
    This is a fun read, even for the grown-up with a child still living in their heart.  The little and big children who read the story will enjoy the fun quiz at the end of the story.  For this reader it was a test of a short term memory that does need testing at times.  I passed!
    I’m very happy to recommend this story to anyone who read and enjoyed the old fairy tales and will welcome a new generation of the same type of story.  I often wondered how Cinderella’s Happy-Ever-After worked out.  Now I have the answer.
    I know the young reader of any age will like this tale and enjoy it as much as I did.  I can recommend it for the pleasure it brings to the world of reading and learning to read. Enjoy. I sure did.
    Reviewed by author and reviewer Anne K. Edwards

    Find out more on Amazon.

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    24. “Cinderella’s Secret Slipper” Giveaway!

    Children's author Alinka Rutkowska is excited to announce the launch of her latest picture book, Cinderella's Secret Slipper! Enter her giveaway for a chance to win a paperback copy AND a $50 Amazon gift card. 

    You may enter the giveaway HERE.

    Stop by tomorrow for a review of this book by guest reviewer and children's author Anne K. Edwards.


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    25. An interview with award-winning mom-son writing team Lisa & Michael Cohn

    Lisa Cohn and Michael Cohn, age 6, are an award-winning mom-son team. They have appeared on the Today Show, on SiriusXM Radio, in Disney’s Babble, in the Oregonian, on AM Northwest, and in many other media. Their first book, Bash and Lucy Fetch Confidence, won a Mom’s Choice Silver Award and was named finalist, USA Best Book Awards. Lisa’s articles have appeared in national publications, including the Christian Science Monitor, Mothering, Mamalode, Parenting and Brain, Child: The Magazine for Thinking Mothers. Michael reviews children’s books on the authors’ YouTube channel. His video reviews are filmed in taxis, libraries, ski lodges, bookstores, parks and gyms! Lisa and Michael visit schools in person and via Skype. Their latest book is the children’s book, Bash and Lucy Fetch Jealousy.

    Welcome, Lisa & Michael! Do you consider yourself to be a born writer?

    Yes, I started writing when I was in third grade. I wrote poems for my mother. She sent me to a school where I wrote every day, and my teachers always encouraged me to be a writer.

    Tell us about your recent release. What was your inspiration for it? 

    When my dog, Lucy, died suddenly of cancer at the age of 6, I was devastated. I couldn’t sleep, eat or work. In an effort to recover from my grief, I started a children’s book that starred my dog, Lucy, as a wise but mischievous golden retriever who instills confidence in the kids on a sports team. I got stuck, and invited my book-loving 4-year-old, Michael, to help me finish the story. He jumped in, helped me finish the book, and soon became my co-author and chief vlogger. He began doing dog book reviews on YouTube, and authors started asking him to review their books. He was then featured on the Today Show as a book-loving budding book critic.

    It’s been an adventure, to say the least. Our first book, “Bash and Lucy Fetch Confidence,” won a Mom’s Choice Silver Award and was named finalist, USA Best Book Awards. We just released our second book, “Bash and Lucy Fetch Jealousy,” which won a Mom’s Choice Silver Award. We spend a lot of time doing author visits with school children, which is very rewarding. We do this in person and via Skype.

    Tell us about your children's books. 

    Our aim is to share our love of dogs,writing and reading. I was so touched by my dog’s bravery in the face of cancer; I wanted to teach kids all about the amazing things dogs do for kids. In the first book, the dog, Lucy instills confidence in the kids on a soccer team by kissing them and making them laugh. In the second book, she actually coaches the team. A team of special-needs kids comes along and says they want Lucy to coach their team. 

    Both books explore the magical connection between dogs and kids.

    Have you ever suffered from writer’s block? If yes, how did you ‘cure’ it?

    As I mentioned above, my son cured my writer’s block when I was writing the first book.

    Some writers go on long walks, others keep a journal, write at a café, or listen to      music. What do you do for inspiration and unleashing your creativity? I take walks. I also brainstorm with my son, who is now 6. He’s a Gemini—a big idea generator!

    Describe your working environment. 

    What surprises people most is my stand-up work station. I work standing up, with an ergonomic key board. I have a wonderful view of a forest and my kids are usually nearby.

    Are you a disciplined writer? What is your working style?  

    I work in the morning, and always fit in some kind of exercise. I generally run around with my kids in the afternoon, and sometimes squeeze some work in in the evening. Even though I look very disorganized, I’m very disciplined. It feels bad NOT to work.

    Do you like to outline and plot ahead, or are you more of a stream-of-consciousness writer? 

    I do  both. I do a little planning, and then go with it. I think it’s critical to be open to changing the plan. I almost always find myself with a different ending than the one I planned.

    Do you have a website/blog where readers may learn more about you and your works? 


    What are you working on now? 

    We’re just getting the word out about our second book. I also write nonfiction. And I write for parenting and dog websites to spread the word about our books.

    Where are your books available? 

    Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble, our website and other places!

    What was your experience in looking for a publisher? 

    I worked with a publisher on one of my first books. But for this series, I wanted to crank out the books quickly while my son, Michael, was still interested in the project. So we self-published, which has been a fun learning experience.

    What was your experience in working with an illustrator? 

    Our illustrator, Heather Nichols, is amazing. We met her at a market where she did caricatures. When I was looking for an illustrator, I woke up in the middle of the night and realized she was the one. She’s extremely generous. She does caricatures at our book release parties and donates 100 percent of the proceeds to the Oregon Humane Society.

    What type of book promotion works for you? 

    Working with bloggers is great! Get as many reviews as possible. Use social media. Create a blog and find a topic that’s helpful or unusual to readers.

    As a writer, I specialize in PR for writers and artists.  I always tell authors that they should NOT send their books to book editors; they should come up with a human-interest angle and send their pitches to feature editors. And they should plan an event and publicize it. What’s more, it’s also helpful to have more than a book; authors should have a mission. Our mission is sharing with kids our love of dogs, reading and writing.

    Is there anything else you’d like to say to our readers? 

    Writing a book is a labor of love. For us, it’s not about making money. It’s about sharing our love of dogs, reading and writing. It’s been an incredibly rewarding experience, especially working with school children.  My son, Michael, is so proud of our books (and we also produced an audiobook of our first book, featuring voice-overs by Michael and his friends). He loves to visit schools and talk to kids about our books—and books in general. He’s in heaven if he can find a group of kids enthusiastic about talking about KidLit!

    For More Information
    About the Book:

    Title: Bash and Lucy Fetch Jealousy
    Author: Lisa and Michael Cohn
    Publisher: Canines and Kids Publishing
    Pages: 40
    Genre: Children’s/Pets
    Format: Paperback
    From an award-winning Mom-Son team featured on the Today Show, Bash and Lucy Fetch Jealousy is a contemporary boy-and-dog book. Bash's dog, Lucy, helps coach his soccer team, and Lucy leads the team to the championships by kissing the players and making them laugh. But Bash is overcome with jealousy when Lucy enchants a team of Special Olympics kids who say they want her to coach their team. Can Bash overcome his jealousy and learn to share Lucy with kids who say they need her? This is Book Two in the Bash and Lucy series, following Bash and Lucy Fetch Confidence, a Mom's Choice Silver Award winner and finalist, USA Best Book Awards. 

    For More Information

    • Bash and Lucy Fetch Jealousy is available at Amazon.
    • Pick up your copy at Barnes & Noble.
    • Discuss this book at PUYB Virtual Book Club at Goodreads.
    Book Excerpt:
    At every game, Bash’s dog, Lucy, trotted around the field in her blue coach's hat and shirt. She led Bash’s team to victory with her four-legged leadership skills.

    She smothered the players with kisses, cheered them with happy yaps, snuggled with them when they made mistakes, and offered a friendly paw to every team they beat.
    Watch the book trailer!

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