Sunday, February 22, 2015

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  www.tips-fb.com

Monday, February 16, 2015

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?”
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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.
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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?
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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. www.tips-fb.com

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

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.
www.tips-fb.com

Friday, February 6, 2015

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.
www.tips-fb.com

Thursday, February 5, 2015

“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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www.tips-fb.com

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 cafĂ©, 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? 

www.BashAndLucy.com

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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Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Book Review: ‘The Blackwell Family Secret: The Guardians of Sin’ by Jonathan L. Ferrara


blackwellThe Blackwell Family Secret: The Guardians of Sin is book 1 in Jonathan L. Ferrara’s YA urban fantasy series. I must say this was a thoroughly enjoyable read, and I can’t wait to read the sequel.
After his parents are killed by a demon, sixteen-year-old Nicholas Blackwell is put under the protection of the Vatican and sent to a boarding school surrounded by a deep forest: St. Christopher’s Academy, complete with iron gates, gargoyle statues, and gateposts that leer at him. As his life is in danger, this is the only place where he can be kept safe. One night he ventures into the woods and a serpent tricks him into eating the forbidden fruit, with disastrous consequences–for the Guardians of the Seven Deadly Sins have been unleashed, and now Nicholas must go into the City of Demons and defeat the Princes of Hell, and in the process discover his family secret, one that could change the entire world…A daunting task for a teen, even if he happens to be the school’s cockiest leader of mischief.
I loved the book. Nicholas is a charming protagonist, cleaver, arrogant, yet brave and selfless at times. Ferrara’s world, inspired by Biblical tales, of course, is elaborate and imaginative. I especially loved his focus on the Seven Deadly Sins–what they are, where they came from, etc. Angels and demons are intertwined with fantasy elements, and the whole concept of good and evil is explored.
There’s romance, action, adventure, and mystery. It is also a bit dark at times, which I enjoyed. Ferrara is a talented writer, his prose smooth and his dialogue witty. The pace was excellent and the story kept moving forward with increasing tension until the very satisfying ending that left me hungry for book 2. Recommended!
Find out more on Amazon.
My review was originally published in Blogcritics.
www.tips-fb.com