October 19, 2016

My International Classroom Visit

There are certain decisions that become more important when you know they will be on display. Which travel mug to use? The ceramic Starbucks hot air balloon. Lip color? Nothing too dark. The shadows can make you look like you’re going for the goth look. Pants or skirt? Pajama bottoms – it’s Skype, headshot only.

If you’re on my social media, you know I had the amazing opportunity to visit with a class of tenth grade literature students from Lycée International Nelson Mandela, Académie de Nantes. For those of you who have no working knowledge of French “Académie de Nantes” means school of Nantes. As in Nantes, France. Nantes, France is approximately 5,000 miles from my hometown of Bend, Oregon. Needless to say, I had to get up early that day. But not to travel, just to do my hair and make sure to catch the students before they went home for the day. There's quite a time difference between the west coast of America and France.

Last July the very innovative teacher, Marie-Hélène Fasquel, invited me to participate in a project with her class. Together we chose an excerpt from one of my young adult books. I provided some witty and charming information about myself for a slide show, which included a picture of 13 year old me standing under the Eiffel Tower, and Marie and I agreed on a date in October.

At the time it felt so far away, but I’m pretty sure I blinked and it was 6:00 am Pacific Daylight Time, Thursday, October 13th, and the first student was taking the hot seat in front of the camera.

“What is the hardest thing about writing? What is the easiest thing about writing?”

"Middles are the hardest!"

Each of the students came and sat in the hot seat to ask their question and listen to my answer. I was so grateful to Marie for arranging for me to meet each student like that. Plus my writer brain was exploding from all the fabulous character fodder. These students all had an uncanny confidence and attractiveness. 

One of the students asked if kids in American classrooms study my work like they were. I was a little sad to say that though I’ve done a number of classroom visits none of them have been after they studied a book, but then I remembered there is a class reading one of my books together and I’ll visit when they finish. So it’s happening. Yay!

There were some questions that are always hard for me to answer; favorite author, favorite books. When asked if I’ve ever read a book and realized my own books had influenced the writing, I hated to admit that I suspect I’m too dense to ever recognize that. Seriously, I can totally imagine myself thinking, "This is good. I like this author’s style." But never making a connection. Ha ha.

“Do you have to travel a lot as a writer for inspiration?”

“It isn’t required, but it’s a good excuse!”

I turned the tables a little and asked if they read my excerpt or listened to the audio recording. They all chimed in that they read it. Such smart kids! I mean, I don't write in French. I asked who liked to read and they all raised their hands so we talked books a bit.

The visit was just under an hour and it went way too fast. I’m beyond thrilled to know they spent time studying my work. I hope it resonated in some way like meeting them has within me. I can’t thank Marie enough for opening that door.

Merci beaucoup! À l'année prochaine.

October 14, 2016

Cover Reveal for The Next Best Thing by Wendi Nunnery

Don't forget I've got a fun/easy giveaway running through Sunday. See this post for details and then hop on over to my Facebook and Twitter to share all the messages to enter to win. 

The Next Best Thing Blurb:

Four years ago, Emma Fraser’s first love took his own life. Now, twenty years old and in college, Emma and her best friend, Andy, are still mourning the loss of a friend and brother. Nothing is the same as it once was…and things are about to change even more.

Too heartbroken to even consider falling in love again, Emma stays distracted by school and work. Until she meets Landon and, for the first time ever, finds herself believing she might actually have a future with someone. But when Deegan Burke—the man responsible for all of Emma’s heartache—gets out of prison early, Emma is suddenly confronted by her worst fears. And when faced with choices she never thought she’d have to make, Emma discovers that the only person she really wants by her side is the last person she ever expected.

Pre-Order The Next Best Thing Here and Get 50% Off!

Author Bio:

Wendi Nunnery is the author of The Mayfield Family StoryThe Best Kept Secret, and The Next Best Thing. She is also the founding editor of Lady Literary Magazine and her work has appeared in The Huffington PostThe Simply Beloved, and Introvert, Dear. Wendi is a proud Georgia Southern University alum and believes colorful language is good for the soul. She lives, loves, and mothers in Atlanta, Georgia.

Connect with Wendi:

Learn More About Wendi’s Books:

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/13621604.Wendi_Nunnery

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Wendi-Nunnery/e/B00NI34FUC/ref=dp_byline_cont_book_1

October 10, 2016

Word of Mouth #Giveaway

Let’s have some fun! Help introduce me and my work to fellow readers and you might win one of two fun big mouth key chains.

Bright and early each morning during the week of October 10 – 16, I’ll put a post on my Facebook page and Twitter that you can share. You’ll know which post because it will include the hashtag #BigMouth. Each time you share them, you’ll be entered for a chance to win one of two fun key chains. The winners will be chosen randomly (week of October 17th) from a pool of all the shares.

Just to be crazy, I’m gonna make this open internationally, so share and share and don’t worry about who’s watching, because everybody can get in on this one. To qualify to win not only must you share my message on Facebook and/or Twitter, you must follow me on the social media outlet where you shared my message. 

On Facebook and Twitter, enter "Kai Strand #BigMouth" in the search field and share and/or retweet each result!

Thanks for your participation! I hope it's fun for you - and GOOD LUCK!

October 5, 2016

Back on Submission Again

Have I ever told you how much I love spreadsheets? Yeah. *Sighs* I’ve got a spreadsheet for everything. Henceforth, I know the last three things I submitted were novels to my current publishers – two years ago. They were all accepted – so yippee for that!

There are points in your career when you stop and re-evaluate the direction you want to go, the opportunities you have, and if your goals have changed. I’m sitting smack dab in the middle of that point right now. It’s like a huge, deserted crossroads. It’s dark. There are tumbleweeds and maybe a scarecrow – or an ax murderer. Like I said, it’s a dark and vast point. I can’t really see where any of the roads lead. They all seem to have similar terrain; things to trip over, rises and valleys, occasional smooth, groomed patches. I’ve traveled along a couple of the paths already and had a mixture of good experiences, mediocre experiences, and lackluster experiences. In other words no path is perfect and sometimes knowing the path makes you hesitant to take it again.


So, I decided it was time to dust off the submissions spreadsheet, add a 2016 tab and get my current WIP out there into the world and see if I can attract agent representation. Oh my gosh, am I really doing this? See the thing about this route is the pace – or lack there of. Even if I were to have an agent request a full today, I’d still have to wait for them to read and then assuming they love it and decide to offer representation, and we do the contract signing, etc, then the manuscript will go through another bout of edits before it goes out on submission to publishers. Which is always followed by another hurry up and wait…but let’s assume an editor loves it and we go through the contract process together and then the edits with the publisher and the cover stuff and marketing and …well, best case scenario – this book will publish at the end of 2018.

The expected response.
But it only takes one YES!
Working with small press and self-publishing, I published 12 books in 4 years. Waiting a minimum of 2 years for this one book to see daylight – in a perfect storm of contracts and edits – that has me worrying my bottom lip. But, knowing the unlikelihood of a perfect storm to line up for a speedy two year publication? Now I’m hyperventilating again. I mean, longer than two years? Really? However, I’d really, really like to take the next step in the world of publication and broaden my distribution and I feel my best opportunity is with agent representation. So, I’m going back into submission mode.

Believe it or not, you can help. Like or comment on my Facebook page or Instagram. Post a review on Amazon/Barnes & Noble/Goodreads for the books of mine that you’ve read. Agents get a TON of submissions. They are actually harder to attract than a publisher! If an agent is considering my manuscript and sees that I have an engaged audience of readers, they are more likely to offer me representation. And I'd be grateful for the help.

What will I do in the meantime? Write. I’m working on a fantasy. What better way to distract myself from obsessively checking my email than to escape into a completely made up world? And at least I get to add to my spreadsheet, and color code, and update, and geeky things like that. 

October 3, 2016

October #InkRipples – Masks

I love Andrew Lloyd Weber’s, Phantom of the Opera, and this is one of my favorite moments of the production. Beside the epic choreography, the scene—the lyrics—are so relatable. ♫Look around. There’s another mask behind you♫ We’ve all known people who wear a mask whenever they are in public.

Most people aren’t as obvious as the Mayor from Halloween Town, but if we look really, really close, we might be more aware of when their head spins between a frowny face and a smiling face.

We also know people like the queen bee at school who compliments your skirt – to your face.

But you know what? We all have to wear a mask at one point or another. When you run into an ex co-worker at the pizza shop one night and she asks how it’s going. Are you really going to tell her your husband’s business failed, your oldest kid got busted for shoplifting, and you can’t find a job for more than $13/hour? No. You’re going to paste on the Mayor’s smile and say, “Fine! Everything is fine. You?”

The important thing is to know when to wear a mask and when not to. It can be far too easy to simply wear one constantly. But we need time in our lives without our masks in order to make connections. To live. To learn. To love.

To live: Imagine you talked your way into a job above your skill level by alluding that you had the proper experience. As you settle into your new job at the higher pay, you go out and buy a new car, maybe rent a larger apartment, because you’ve hit the big time. But each day you run into situations you aren’t actually able to handle. Since you wore that mask of experience to get the job, you can’t ask for help. What do you think will happen? You will crash and burn. But if you approached the position with the experience you do have and stated your desire to excel at the job they are offering and asked how you might go about getting experience in order to be qualified for the job…you will have represented yourself honestly and probably earned their respect.

To learn: The problem with a mask is it often limits your perspective. Looking through eye holes can cut off peripheral vision. Have you ever done the teamwork exercise where you place several items on the seat of a chair, have people stand in a circle around it and describe what they see? Not everybody sees everything. But when they share their view, it combines with yours to make a complete picture.

To love: Think about it. If you only ever saw your partner while wearing a figure-hugging girdle under your clothes, what happens when you take that bad boy off? Your partner will feel deceived. Not because you are suddenly lumpy, but because you always have been and you never trusted them enough to share that. Now, let’s re-imagine this relationship where you take off the figure hugging girdle sometime around the second or third date. Or maybe only don it for those truly special occasions when you want to feel extra sexy. Guess what. It’s YOU your partner falls for. Not your lump-less figure. But you can’t know that if you don’t give them the chance.

Masks can be totally acceptable. But chose wisely when to don one.

The mask I feel I have to wear most often is the This situation isn’t annoying me one bit mask. What mask do you feel you put on most frequently? 

#InkRipples is a themed meme hosted by Mary Waibel, Katie L. Carroll, and Kai Strand posting on the first Monday of every month. To participate compose your own post regarding the theme of the month, and link back to the three host blogs. Feel free to post whenever you want during the month, but be sure to include #inkripples when you promote so readers can find you. The idea is that we toss a word or idea into the inkwell and each post is a new ripple. There is no wrong interpretation. Themes and images and more information can be found here.

September 15, 2016

Cover Reveal for Motley Education by S.A. Larsen

I'm SO excited to share the cover reveal for S.A. Larsen's upcoming middle grade book Motley Education. I read an early version of this book and you're gonna want to put this bad boy...er girl...on your reading list! 

First let's hear about the book:

Forget having a lively after school social life, Ebony Charmed is fighting to keep the entire Afterlife alive.

Ebony’s less-than-average spirit tracking abilities are ruining more than sixth grade at Motley Junior High: School for the Psychically & Celestially gifted. Her parents argue so much her dad moved out. And, even though he’s scared of his own shadow and insists on bringing his slimy, legless lizard everywhere they go, Ebony wouldn’t survive without her best friend, Fleishman.

When Ebony’s Deadly Creatures & Relics’ project goes missing, she learns her missing project is one of the keys to saving the spirit world. Now Ebony and Fleishman must battle beasts from Norse Mythology to retrieve her project before spirits are lost, the Well of Urd dries up, and Ebony loses all hope of reuniting her family. But someone lies in wait, and he has other plans...including creating a new world of spirits without them in it.

See? Awesome, right? Go ahead - add it to Goodreads. I'll wait...


Okay, now for the reveal. Ack, so, so cool!!!!!

Title: Motley Education (Book One: The URD Saga)
Author: S.A. Larsen
Release Date: October 10, 2016

Motley Education has been aligned with Core Standards for grades 4-7. A guide will be available on the author’s website to download for FREE after the book’s release date.

About S.A. Larsen

S.A. LARSEN is the author of Motley Education, the first book in a middle grade fantasy-adventure series. Her work has appeared in numerous local publications and young adult anthologies Gears of Brass and Under A Brass Moon by Curiosity Quills Press. Look for her debut young adult novel, Marked Beauty, set for release in 2017. Find her in the land of lobsters, snowy winters, and the occasional Eh’ya with her husband of over twenty years, four children, a playful pooch, and two kittens.

You can visit her online at www.salarsenbooks.com.

Follow her on Facebook | Twitter | Instagram and connect with her on her Website & Blog.

Rafflecopter Giveaway 
Five lucky winners will each receive a signed bookmark and assorted swag! Contest runs from 09/15/16 to 09/23/16. Winners will be chosen by random.com.

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September 14, 2016

Three Times A Charm with Kathy Coatney

Welcome to Three Times A Charm. I love to introduce readers to the people involved in children’s publishing. Today we welcome children’s non-fiction author and photographer, Kathy Coatney. Kathy, we’d love for you to tell us a little about you.

California native Kathy Coatney has spent long hours behind the lens of a camera, wading through rice paddies, dairies and orchards over her twenty-year career as a photojournalist specializing in agriculture. With her roots in agriculture running four generations deep, she felt a deep concern that children didn’t know how their food was produced. Envisioning a new direction for her writing, she launched From the Farm to the Table series of nonfiction children’s books about agriculture. 

Happily married for over thirty-five years, she and her husband have two grown sons, a grandbaby on the way and a menagerie of animals—a black lab who thinks she’s human, a house cat that looks part bobcat, and half a dozen cottontails that roam freely on her property.
Kathy not only pens two series of children’s books, From the Farm to the Table and Dad’s Girls, a tribute book told by six-year-old Lily about her dad who died while her mom was pregnant with her sister, Violet.

Also writing under Kate Curran, Kathy loves—and writes—deeply emotional, feel-good contemporary romances.

Let’s hear more about your books.  

From the Farm to the Table Bees
From the Farm to the Table Beef

My other children’s book is Dad’s Girls,

Lily and her dad were very close. They spent lots of time together. Friday was her dad’s day off, and they did special things together while her mom taught school. But then a few months before her sister, Violet, was born, her dad died, and everything changed.

This is Lily’s story about all the special memories of her dad. She told it to preserve the memories for her and for Violet, who never had a chance to know him.

Now let’s move on to the threes. Give us your top 3 responses to the following to help us get to know you better.

  • Top 3 books you recommend reading and why you recommend them. 

The first two books From the Farm to the Table are some of my favorites that teach children about the import job insects and animals do to make our food.  The third book, Dad’s Girls is about Lily the little girl on the cover of the From the Farm to the Table Olive book. Her father died suddenly last year of a heart attack at the age of the 34 leaving behind Lily and her unborn sister, Violet. This book is a collaboration between Lily, her mom, Jenny and myself to remember a man we all loved dearly.

  • Top 3 leisure activities.

I have several activities I enjoy, mountain biking, running, hiking that I don’t get to do as often as I’d like, snowshoeing, cross country skiing, kayaking and yoga that I’m not getting to as often as I’d like but going to start again.

  • Top 3 personal mantras or inspirational phrases.

If you want to be big think big, go big or go home, just do it.

Finally, please share with us where our tech savvy readers can find out more about you and your books.     

Thanks for joining us today, Kathy. It was great to get to know more about you and your work.


September 12, 2016

Cover Reveal - Timeless by Crystal Collier

TIMELESS (#3 Maiden of Time) by Crystal Collier #CoverReveal

You know how it is to walk around with a secret? Well, yeah...I've been holding this info aside for -what seems like - FOREVER! But today I finally get to share it with you too. Crystal Collier is revealing the beautiful cover for the final book in her Maiden of Time series. It's as eye-catching as the first two covers and knowing what an awesome author Crystal is...well, I'm sure the book is just as spectacular. Giveaway below, free 1st chapter available...but first...drum roll...

Book Title: TIMELESS (Maiden of Time #3)
Author: Crystal Collier
Genre: YA Paranormal Historical
Release Date: November 1, 2016


In 1771, Alexia had everything: the man of her dreams, reconciliation with her father, even a child on the way. But she was never meant to stay. It broke her heart, but Alexia heeded destiny and traveled five hundred years back to stop the Soulless from becoming.

In the thirteenth century, the Holy Roman Church has ordered the Knights Templar to exterminate the Passionate, her bloodline. As Alexia fights this new threat—along with an unfathomable evil and her own heart—the Soulless genesis nears. But none of her hard-won battles may matter if she dies in childbirth before completing her mission.

Can Alexia escape her own clock?

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Crystal Collier is an eclectic author who pens clean fantasy/sci-fi, historical, and romance stories with the occasional touch of humor, horror, or inspiration. She practices her brother-induced ninja skills while teaching children or madly typing about fantastic and impossible creatures. She has lived from coast to coast and now calls Florida home with her creative husband, four littles, and “friend” (a.k.a. the zombie locked in her closet). Secretly, she dreams of world domination and a bottomless supply of cheese. You can find her on her Blog, FacebookGoodreads, or follow her on Twitter.

Want the first chapter free? Sign up HERE.


September 7, 2016

Three Times A Charm with Marilee Crow

Welcome to Three Times A Charm. I love to introduce readers to the people involved in children’s publishing. Today we welcome picture book author, Marilee Crow. Marilee is a fellow Angel—we’re both published by Guardian Angel Publishing. As a matter of fact, her new book, Saving Ellie, was illustrated by the lovely K.C. Snider, who illustrated the covers of my Weaver Tales books.

Tell us a little about yourself, Marilee.

I live in Meridian, Idaho. I am a retired PE teacher. I am also a former competitive gymnast. I competed for Long Beach State. After college, my husband and I opened our own gymnastic center, which we had for 18 years. After selling our business, I worked in Special Education as an aide and then an assistant PE teacher at a private school for students with social emotional problems. I have always been interested in writing. When I was 12 I wrote my own Nancy Drew mystery. My sister typed it up for me and we stapled it together like a book. I just never found the time to pursue the writing until we gave up gymnastics. Gymnastics took up pretty much every waking hour.

Wow, that’s the first thing I thought of when you said you competed! SO much dedication. I’m impressed. Tell us about Saving Ellie.

Saving Ellie is about an eight year old Polish child whose life gets turned upside down when the Germans invade Poland in 1939. Ellie is Jewish and her family makes the ultimate sacrifice and puts their trust in friends and strangers to keep Ellie safe until they can get her on a ship to America.

I recommend my book to readers who like Diary of Anne Frank.

It sounds very emotional. Now for the threes. Give us your top 3 responses to the following to help us get to know you better.

 Top 3 leisure activities.

My leisure activities include playing the guitar, crocheting, and writing. I crochet little bears because books and bears go together. I love doing craft events.

 Top 3 professions you wanted to be when you grew up.

Gymnastic coach.

            Top 3 favorite places:

             As you can see, I like being around water.
            Top 3 personal mantras or inspirational phrases.

             I have a few quotes that I keep by my computer when I’m writing. The first is “Books are a uniquely portable magic.” It is a quote by Stephen King.  “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at the typewriter and bleed.” That’s my favorite. It’s a quote by Ernest Hemingway. There is also a page I copied from a writing book. “For some of us, books are as important as almost anything else on earth. What a miracle it is that out of these small, flat, rigid squares of paper unfolds world after world and world, worlds that sing to you, comfort and quiet or excite you. Books help us understand who we are and how we are to behave. They show us what community and friendship mean; they show us how to live and die.
            It is from a writing book called Bird by Bird.

            Top 3 favorite personality traits that appeal to you.


            Top 3 places you find writing inspiration.

            I collect pictures out of magazines. I
             have a daughter and have written down some of the funny things that have happened as she grew up.
            I also love to hear other parents talk about their children.

Here at Strands of Thought, we have some tech savvy readers. Where can they find you and your book online?

My email address is pepperwd@aol.com  I have a website: booksbymarilee.blogspot.com and I am on Facebook.

Marilee, it’s been a pleasure getting to know you. Best of luck to your books and with your writing.


September 5, 2016

September #InkRipples – Banned Books

Reader #1: “I’m offended by teens having sex. They shouldn’t allow those books into school libraries. Our teens might learn to have sex from them.”
Reader #2: “I don’t care if teens have sex as long as they aren’t the same gender. That might encourage an otherwise straight kid to be gay.”
Reader #3: “At least sex is a natural thing. What I can’t handle is if the teens are magic. What if it teaches people to try magic and they end up in Hell because of it? ”

Okay, I seriously have to stop. I’m just pissing myself off trying to come up with all the ignorant ways people condone book banning.

September 25 – October 1, 2016 is Banned Books Week. It is an annual event that celebrates the freedom to read. Read that sentence and more on this article about Banned Books Week: http://www.ala.org/bbooks/bannedbooksweek

Some of the banned books I’ve read include scandalous titles such as:

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon banned or challenged for reasons of offensive language, religious viewpoint, unsuited for age group, and other (“profanity and atheism”).

An Abundance of Katherines by John Green, banned or challenged because it contained sexual references.

The Absolute True Story of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie, banned or challenged because of the use of the word scrotum. (Oh, wait? Can I use that offensive word?)

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell, a book that made me laugh out loud and giddy as a schoolgirl was banned or challenged because of its use of profanity and its treatment of sexuality.

Hop on Pop by Dr. Seuss. Yes, you read that right. Parents wanted it removed from libraries because it promotes violence.

There are so many books that are challenged that we never know about because some small-minded person felt they should make a decision for all of us. Chances are you’ve read a banned or challenged book without realizing that title has experienced strife somewhere in the world.

As I’ve navigated this crazy job of parenthood, I’ve run into different subject matters that I didn’t want my children exposed to until their maturity developed. I suggested titles they should read and shouldn’t read along the way. THAT, ladies and gentlemen is the key. If you don’t want your child exposed to the word scrotum YOU can exercise your parental right to keep the book out of your child’s hands. However, YOU can’t make that decision for my child. For all you know we have words like scrotum, penis, and vagina stenciled on our bathroom walls to assure our children grow up knowing the different body parts. It’s not your place to decide if that’s right or wrong for MY children.

And—just a suggestion—when you’re reading Hop on Pop with your child—I don’t know—maybe you can have a quick conversation about how that would really feel to jump on a person’s stomach.

Supervision. Communication. PARENTING.

So, come on, live a little. Read a banned book to celebrate the right to read. Read it with/to your children and have an open conversation about the character’s excessive use of profanity or the consequences of having sex/doing drugs/being a bully. Be a parent and open your mind and the minds of those fine young people you are raising.

What banned books have you read? What title do you plan to read this year to celebrate the right to read?

Ripples in the Inkwell is a themed meme hosted by Mary Waibel, Katie L. Carroll, and Kai Strand posting on the second Monday of every month. To participate compose your own post regarding the theme of the month, and link back to the three host blogs. Feel free to post whenever you want during the month, but be sure to include #inkripples when you promote so readers can find you. The idea is that we toss a word or idea into the inkwell and each post is a new ripple. There is no wrong interpretation. Themes and images and more information can be found here.