Friday, July 31, 2015

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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Monday, June 1, 2015

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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Monday, May 25, 2015

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.

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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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Wednesday, April 8, 2015

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! 

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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.            

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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
                        www.amazon.com/Helping-Herbie-Hedgehog-Melissa-Abramovitz/


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Monday, April 6, 2015

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 4th grade, 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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Friday, March 27, 2015

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


Title: Green Gooey Goop
Author: Anna C. Morrison
Publisher: Green Gooey Goop
Pages:16
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. 

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