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April 1, 2015

#IWSG Wednesday and Weird Noises


To sign up, visit the IWSG Master, Alex Cavanaugh
Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

The awesome co-hosts this month are Suzanne Furness,Tonja Drecker, Toi Thomas, Rachna Chhabria, Fundy Blue, and Donna Hole! Be sure to visit them all!

Now for my post. Very short due to the competition with A to Z Challengers.

Since it's April 1st, I feel I can admit that I'm a fool. A fool for trying so darned hard to make this whole writing thing work. A fool for dreaming of some modicum of success to alleviate my guilt over devoting so much time to it. A fool to continue struggling. The towel is in my hand. The time to throw it approaches. Damn the fickleness of a creative career.

***

On a much more positive note, I'm thrilled to share that my lovely critique partner, Beverly Stowe McClure, has a brand new picture book!

Three girls, Emily, Autumn, and Olivia, find their over-active imaginations taking over their common sense one night during a sleep-over. Children, and adults, will readily identify with the characters. We’ve all heard weird noise at night and have freaked ourselves out by imagining the worst. The surprise twist at the end was one I thought might be the right one, and it was fun to know my guess was right. Sort of. 

The artwork is sweet and has an old-school charm that really fits the story. I highly recommend this book for mystery solvers and pet lovers!



Pick up a copy here:

Please be sure to congratulate Beverly on another job well-done and check out Weird Noises in the Night for the young readers in your life.

March 27, 2015

The Rewards of Awards Programs - Guest Post by Brenda Hasse

After cutting open the box and picking up the top copy, you hold your novel in your hand. You sigh and run your palm over the cover quite pleased with the final design. Flipping it over, you grin remembering your struggle to write the synopsis, read it checking for typos, and admit it was more difficult to write than the entire novel. It is a proud moment. Many people say they want to write a book, but you actually did it. Recalling the sweat equity that dripped into each word enclosed within the cover, a question forms within your mind. What do I do next?

It is time to spread the word of your achievement by creating a website, Facebook page, Twitter account, LinkedIn, a blog, etc. Contact a local newspaper to feature an article announcing your recent publication. Print bookmarks, banners, and posters to promote your book. Approach book stores and set up book signings. The signing may or may not be successful. Either way, it will promote your novel. One day, just on a whim, you enter a bookstore to see if your book is in stock. It is not. Pulling a random book from the shelf, you examine the cover and scrutinize the imprint on the gold or silver sticker to determine the name of the award. Does it matter which accolade the author received? No! Whatever the award or color of sticker, this novel was honored by a panel of judges to be the best of those entered in the category. Returning the book to the shelf, you imagine the cover of your novel with a bright, shiny sticker in the lower right corner.

Going For The Gold

There are many contests for authors to enter. Varieties range from short stories, poetry, ebooks, regional, national, or international. Each contest’s website states their submission requirements. Are there entry fees? For the majority of the contests, yes, although many offer “early bird” entries at a reduced cost. Read the qualification for submissions carefully. Many list the eligible copyright year(s). If choosing to enter, ensure you have fulfilled all requirements – payment, book submission (paper copy and/or ebook), and paperwork. Copies of your book(s) used for judging are usually donated to local reading programs.

The Thrill Of Being Recognized

In the final month of 2010, I entered my pre-teen/young adult novel Wilkinshire in several writing contests. My theory, if I received recognition for my writing, then sales would increase. With increased sales, more readers would enjoy my novel.

I discovered the Midwest Book Awards through an internet search. I verified my novel met the criteria and entered. I also submitted my novel in the Moonbeam Children’s Book Awards. As judging commenced over the next several months, I continued to write.

I was notified, via email, Wilkinshire was a finalist in the 2010 Midwest Book Award. There were three finalists in my category of pre-teen fiction. Each writer was guaranteed a silver medal. The email also encouraged my attendance at the award ceremony. I live in Michigan and the ceremony was to be held in Minnesota. My husband sensed the award was a pretty big deal and booked our flight tickets and hotel room. The event was impressive. It was held in an art center building with a string quartet playing, hors d’oeuvres, wine, lovely linen covered tables, and long tables around the perimeter of the room displaying the entered books. The books chosen as finalists donned a silver sticker. When I saw my book, it had a silver sticker. My heart sank with guilt assuming we had incurred the travel expenses for naught, but then realized as I looked at the many books, none of them had a gold sticker. I joined fellow authors at a table and visited. Within a short time, the quartet stopped playing and we were ushered into the auditorium containing a stage draped with gold curtains. The Midwest Independent Publishers Association (MIPA) chairwoman began the ceremony. She used a Power Point presentation to introduce each category and announce the gold medal winner. The three finalists novel covers per category were projected onto a screen that stood on the stage. When the chairwoman announced the winner, two of the book covers disappeared revealing the gold medal novel. When my category was announced, my heartbeat increased and my palms became damp. I took a picture of the novel covers displayed on the screen. When I lowered my camera and looked at the screen, my cover stood alone. I will admit, my eyes welled with tears as I kissed my husband and made my way to the stage to accept my award.

Later that year, Wilkinshire was awarded a silver medal in the 2011 Moonbeam Children’s Book Awards for Young Adult Fantasy. The eventful day began with a book signing. Authors were encouraged to dress in costume. Since my novel is based in the medieval time period, I dressed in a renaissance gown and hat. The award ceremony was held in the evening. All finalists were presented medals with certificates and given a moment to speak at the podium.

The Bottom Line       

Did the awards help improve my sales? Yes and no. I believe many elements go into selling a book. An award helps the buyer to recognize a quality book. However, Wilkinshire is a “print on demand” (POD) book. Many bookstores refuse to stock a POD because they cannot return unsold copies. I have found independently owned bookstores will stock a POD. However, be prepared for the 40/60 split and stocking fees. I am currently transferring Wilkinshire to another printer that offers a free return policy. I anticipate sales to climb.

Until that time, I continue to write, challenge myself by participating in National Novel Writing Month, freelance, and publish my work. My latest young adult novel is The Freelancer, published October, 2014. Have I entered it in contests? You bet! 

Brenda Hasse is an award winning author of two young adult novels, three children’s picture books, and freelancer. She lives in Michigan with her family and cats.
For further information, please visit www.BrendaHasseBooks.com, Brenda Hasse Books on Facebook, or Brenda Hasse on Goodreads.

Wilkinshire Synopsis

Though few in the medieval kingdom of Wilkinshire have seen the legendary dragon known as Bogotah, many fear him. Stories passed down for generations tell of his capability to breathe fire, spread deadly disease, and consume livestock and people to appease his insatiable appetite. Even so, Bogotah upholds his duty to guard the kingdom and his treasured secret.

After the assassination of their lord, the residents of Wilkinshire line the muddy street to meet their new rulers. Appointed to reconstruct the battered kingdom, Lord Philip and his wife, Lady Rachelle, are in disbelief at the magnitude of their undertaking as poverty-stricken citizens greet them with rotted teeth, filthy clothing, and pathetic living conditions. As the lord and lady settle into their new residence, Lord Philip is confronted with the peasants’ belief that Bogotah is to blame for Wilkinshire’s misfortunes. In order to put the citizens’ superstitions to rest, he must discover who is responsible for the kingdom’s bad luck.

Meanwhile, Lord Thaddeus of Lancaster, an evil soul consumed by greed, waits for the opportune moment to claim Wilkinshire for himself. Spurred on by a voracious desire to obtain the legendary Treasure of Wilkinshire, he will stop at nothing to obtain it.

Only time will reveal the fate of the kingdom and of the spectacular treasure hidden somewhere within its walls.


The Freelancer Synopsis

It has been more than a decade since he ran away from his abusive father and turned his back on Wildenham, the kingdom he was to inherit. Now over a score in age, Lord William has earned the reputation as a renowned mercenary. Despite rumors of a restless spirit haunting the kingdom, he accepts a contract to return to Wildenham to kill Lord Clayborn, the man who murdered his father.
                       
Lord Clayborn’s only child, Lady Christine, is a beautiful, high-spirited seventeen-year-old, who prefers to spend her time practicing with a sword rather than fulfilling her role as the Lady of Wildenham. Many suitors have asked for her hand in marriage, but she has refused every offer. Against her father’s wishes, she vows only to marry for love.

Meanwhile, in the neighboring kingdom of Thornwick, a notorious thief, Harlan, hides among the kingdom’s defenders in order to escape prosecution for his crimes. His vindictive nature draws the attention of his lord, who orders Harlan to travel to Wildenham and assassinate Lord Clayborn. Aware of her rumored beauty, Harlan demands Lady Christine’s hand in marriage as payment for the deed.

As the race against time begins, who will kill Lord Clayborn first? Will Lady Christine be forced to marry a man she does not love? Will Lord William have the determination to fulfill his contract and return to his solitary lifestyle as a mercenary, or will he accept his destiny and become the Lord of Wildenham? 

March 25, 2015

New Release - Finding Thor

I'm excited to announce the release of my tenth published novel. Finding Thor is a young adult romantic suspense.

Cara Cassidy always envisioned love as Thor, slamming his hammer into the earth, and the vibration resonating within her for a lifetime. She never expected love would be a thousand tiny actions from a normal boy. When international intrigue hits small-town America, more than the car chases will get your blood pumping.

Tragedy has left Cara Cassidy broken and the only thing keeping her from giving in completely is her guilt. Until Nik Rock.

Nik stirs up feelings in degrees she has never experienced, and causes her to do things that most assuredly give him the wrong impression – like kiss him before their first date. Somehow, he breaks down the walls around her emotions until she has no choice but to forgive herself and feel again.

But a mysterious, troubled past follows Nik, and Cara may prove to be his weakest link.

When a royal princess shows up looking for Nik, and an international gang arrives looking for missing jewels, Cara lands in mortal danger. Will she be able to save herself? What will happen to her newly repaired psyche if she loses Nik?

Romance, mystery, and high stakes – just another day in high school.

Available in print or electronic formats from:
Be sure to add it to your Goodreads shelf! Thank you in advance for your honest review. Reviews help books get noticed. When books get noticed, people buy them. When people buy them, authors can continue to eat - and therefore write. 

A great blend of romance, mystery, and action, Finding Thor is a must read.

A little behind the scenes information about Finding Thor:

One of my go-to movies when I’m looking for suspense and intrigue is National Treasure. Yet, I really love a good romance, too. One day I decided to see what would happen if I did a mash-up of National Treasure and Wuthering Heights.

"A romance that grips you by the collar and doesn't let you go until the end."

I chose the tragic element of Wuthering Heights because as a reader I really enjoy seeing a character overcome tragedy. In Finding Thor, the tragic incident happens six months before the story even begins, but Cara is still wallowing in it. There isn’t a lot in her life that spurs her to deal with it and move on. She doesn’t even realize how much meeting Nik Rock changes her until after many of the changes take place. I think a lot of the lessons we learn and the growth that we experience in real life is like that. It’s so much easier to see your path after you tamped down a trail through the tall grass.

"Cara Cassidy changed so much throughout and the love she found in Nik, umm swoon!"

Happy reading!









March 23, 2015

The Author's Tightrope Walk

Being a writer is a tough business. The creation process is usually extremely personal and downright lonely. The editing stage picks away at your self-confidence. Seriously, how many times can you hear, “Find a better word” before you believe that all your words suck. The publishing process is often confusing, slow, and lacks communication.

Finally, your work is “out there” for reader pleasure. The release goes well. There’s some buzz about your book. Reviews. Excitement. Sales. Yay.

Then comes that blogger (or Facebooker, or Tumblr-er, etc) who says something about the best friend’s love of Ugg boots and how that doesn’t belong in YA. (A hypothetical situation…stay with me on this.) The reader decries how their sensibilities are deeply offended. They raise the flag about your transgressions against responsible teen fashion. Their post is widely circulated. Others jump on board leaving comments on blogs, Goodreads, and Facebook disparaging your ill-treatment of fashion sensible teens everywhere, because certainly all teens not only have a natural fashion sense, but also funds to support the current trends and how dare you suggest otherwise.

tightrope walker - Free Images photo by Kristin Smith
Okay…you blink a few times and take a few deep breaths. You're nervous about approaching the subject since it’s such a hot button topic, but while promoting your book, you decide to give a little nod to those offended by bad fashion sense and you tweet, “Despite the odds, Celia finds love in her Ugg boots.” Twitterverse goes wild. In 140 characters or less, they tweet their offense to your insensitive approach to a well-known label. They vilify your fashion prejudice and insist you’re a horrible, closed-minded person who can't accept people with different tastes. They hashtag #boycottYOU and it’s trending!

With trembling fingers, you sit down to type your next novel. You’re careful to dress all of your teens in the most neutral clothing there is. Every single one of them wears jeans and t-shirts, without logos, and sneakers or flipflops.

Yep, you guessed it. Reviews are in. You’re accused of a lack of vision. Of being narrow-minded. In your own defense you say in an interview that you grew up in a small rural town, where everybody wore denim and flannel. Social media goes crazy over how you stereotyped country folk everywhere. Once again #boycottYOU is trending.

Sometimes I feel like authors can’t win. We are either too much of something—or too little. Pushing the envelope too far or we find a letter opener embedded in our chest with a note reading, “Push farther.”

But here’s the deal. Authors really only have lived the one life. Maybe it has been filled with world travels and international education. Or maybe it was isolated and simple. But whatever it is, that’s the experience we bring to the story we're telling. Thank you for reading. You’re entitled to your opinion. You are free to write a review (or contact the author directly) explaining why you’re outraged. You have the choice to never read the author’s work again. But browbeat the author until they close their social media accounts—pretty excessive.

I repeat, writing is a tough profession. The bandwagon-mentality makes it tougher. I ask that when you feel hyper sensitive to a topic, instead of raising a flag, or before taking up someone's cause,  ask yourself, “Is it the author’s agenda to further poor fashion sense among teens?” (or whatever the hot button is for you). Because more than likely you’ll realize that maybe—just maybe—the author has a different experience with that topic and would appreciate a well thought out note about why the topic is sensitive to you, opposed to you raising the pitchfork and storming the castle to kill the beast.

I understand that authors have to be prepared to hear criticism of their work. What I am addressing is when the criticism becomes an attack and I'm asking that people stop and think before they flay. 

In the inspiring words of Ellen Degeneres, “Be kind to one another.”

March 20, 2015

Building Character with Herbie from Helping Herbie Hedgehog

Hi everyone! Welcome to Building Character. I’d like to introduce you to Herbie, the main character in Helping Herbie Hedgehog by Melissa Abramovitz. Great to have you join us today, Herbie. Can you tell us a little about you, please?

Hello, I’m Herbie Hedgehog. Melissa, who invented me, tells everyone I’m totally clueless. But the truth is that I only pretend to be clueless to help her pursue her dream of making learning fun for kids. On second thought, maybe I am kinda clueless. Today I wore a shoe on my head to protect it from the sun. Someone told me I really should buy a hat. 

So, Herbie, usually a character in a book has some sort of conflict. What conflict are you up against?

Oh gosh, my only conflict is with my own cluelessness. I don’t like imposing on people to help me figure out how to do things. But the up side is that there are lots of nice, helpful kids in this world. They’re always willing to help me out, and we laugh together when I do things like trying to ride my bike across the ocean. 

Oh my! That’s quite an undertaking. What have you learned while trying to resolve your conflict?

I’ve learned that having a posse of helpful kids and loyal friends makes life do-able. Like my friend Possum Paul is the best. Last time we played tennis, I brought my pogo stick to hit the ball. Good ole Paul let me use the extra golf club he brought.

What is your strongest personality trait?

I think it’s that I can laugh at myself. Ya know, everyone does silly things sometimes, and everyone needs some help sometimes. So I don’t beat myself up. I go with the flow and laugh with my friends.

Is there anything about you that people are always giving you a hard time about? How do you feel about it?

Well, people are always saying that one thing I did was beyond clueless. I rented a submarine and brought it to a ski resort. Hey, I thought it would be fun to ride it down a snowy mountain, but it didn’t work out too well. No big deal; next time I’ll be sure to bring my roller skates.

It sounds like your life is always an adventure! If you could change one thing in this world, what would you change?

I think I would invent a new tree species called a spaghetti tree.

Lol! I hope it comes complete with meatballs. Thanks for joining us, Herbie. It was great to get to know you. Readers, here is more information on his book: Helping Herbie Hedgehog.

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.Suggested age range for readers: 2-7



Now, read about Herbie’s author:

Melissa Abramovitz has been a freelance writer/author for 30 years and specializes in writing nonfiction magazine articles and books for all age groups. She is the author of hundreds of magazine articles, more than 45 educational books for children and teenagers, numerous poems and short stories, several children’s picture books, including ABCs of Health and Safety (Guardian Angel Publishing) and Helping Herbie Hedgehog (Guardian Angel Publishing); 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 and The Working Writer’s Club.

Please include contact information; websites, blogs, social media here: Website is www.melissaabramovitz.com   I’m on Facebook, but otherwise I’m a social media ignoramus.

Happy weekend, everybody!


Do you have a character from a childrens/tween/young adult book that you’d like to have interviewed on Building Character? Send me an email at kaistrand (at) yahoo (dot) com.

March 18, 2015

Three Times A Charm with Kevin A. Springer

Welcome to Three Times A Charm. I love to introduce readers to people involved in children’s publishing. Today we have middle grade author, Kevin A. Springer to share his debut book with us. Kevin, please tell us about your book.



A little about Extraordinary Sam





In EXTRAORDINARY SAM, Sam Miller seems like an ordinary 12 year-old boy, but the discovery of a mysterious box from his missing grandfather changes his life forever. He soon finds himself in a strange world full of adventure and magic where he must battle pirates, giant spiders, and an evil tyrant. To survive, Sam must overcome his fears, solve the riddles, and most of all, be extraordinary.

If you like Extraordinary Sam, you might also like:

The Water Castle by Megan Frazer Blakemore
Gregor the Overlander by Suzanne Collins
The Real Boy by Anne Ursu

Now it's time for the three’s. Give us your top three answers to the following questions so we might get to know you.

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

1) Christopher Healy’s Hero’s Guide series. The tale of the four Prince Charmings is a clever, laugh out loud funny adventure

2) Katherine Applegate’s The One and Only Ivan. I couldn’t put down this touching tale of Ivan the Mall Gorilla. The story does a magnificent job of portraying the thoughts and emotions of a gorilla who spent 27 years behind glass in a mall. I read this book three times and cried each time.

3) Leisl Shurtliff’s Rump: The True Story of Rumpelstiltskin. This twist on the classic fairy tale reveals the truth about who this classic character really was. The curtain gets pulled away and we get to know Rump as a kind, yet flawed boy, trying to discover his true name and change his destiny.  


Top 3 tools of the trade you couldn’t live without.

1) Thesuarus - for when that perfect word escapes/eludes me

2) YouTube – watching videos of movement helps me write action sequences.

3) Starbucks – less about the coffee and more about the atmosphere of their cafes. 80% of my writing happens there.

Top 3 things you learned about the business after becoming a writer.

1) You are going to hear no before you find your yes.

2) Critique groups are invaluable

3) Social media is vital


More about Kevin A. Springer


I grew up on a farm in Maryland where I spent a lot of time running around with my dog, playing in the woods and letting my imagination roam free. Being a father of two young boys has let me reconnect with that creativity.


I am a self-proclaimed dreamer and a kid at heart. When I’m not writing or reading, I am coaching soccer or helping with homework. I live outside of Atlanta with my wife, two extraordinary boys, and dogs. I am also a co-founder of the Middle Grade Mafia blog.


Twitter - @kevinaspringer

Middle Grade Mafia
www.middlegrademafia.com
@midgrademafia

Thanks for joining us on this week’s Three Times A Charm, Kevin. Best of luck to you and Extraordinary Sam.

GUESTS WELCOME!  I’m always looking for guests for Three Times A Charm. If you are an author, illustrator or book reviewer, an agent or an editor. If you have something related to children’s publishing that you’d like people to know about, feel free to contact me about a future appearance.

March 13, 2015

Inspiration Behind Fireflies - Guest Post by Bree Wolf

In my head, I’ve always been a writer, editor, proofreader and what-not. I can’t help it. It’s compulsive – you decide if that’s good or bad. Then a couple of years ago I actually picked up a pen and jotted down my first ideas. Not sure why it took me so long. Maybe it was the universe telling me the time had come to leave my shell and step out into the world.

That thought actually inspired Fireflies, #1 in my Airborne Trilogy.

Gabriel is a sad boy; it’s as simple as that. His parents argue all the time and barely notice he is there. Desperate for at least a little warmth and attention, he turns to a role-playing computer game. Then everything changes when he is sent to stay with his grandparents over the summer and forced to abandon his online quest…to join a real one.

Life is scary, and Gabriel is terrified by what he might find outside his door. Then again, life is also wonderful, if you choose to live it! As Gabriel takes one step out the door, and then another and another, he doesn’t only find friends, but many reasons to smile and laugh.

Fireflies is a story of struggle, but most importantly it’s a story of triumph. I hope that young readers see that they need to stand up for themselves, sometimes even to their parents. If you’re unhappy, do something about it. Don’t wither away in sorrow! It’s a lesson Gabriel has to learn, and although he is the one being rescued by his new friends in the beginning, he himself also turns into a hero, changing a friend’s life forever.

I hope to publish Butterflies (#2) this summer. Again the story follows Gabriel as he and his friends are faced with a new complication, love. And once again only dealing with what life throws at you will lead to a happy ending!

About the book: 
In the buzzing city of New York, 12-year-old Gabriel Scott retreats from his parents' constant arguing into a virtual world of adventure and companionship. Unfortunately, as summer comes along, his parents ship him off to Kenton Woods to stay with grandparents he hasn't seen in years.  Trapped in a world of small town life, Gabriel suddenly finds himself cut off from the only friends he ever had when he discovers that his grandparents don't even own a computer.

After sulking in the house for a few days, his grandfather drags him outside and Gabriel takes his first steps into the real world. Gathering all his courage, he talks to Liam, their neighbors' son, who hands him a small sheet of paper and asks for his help. From that day on, Gabriel follows Liam and his friends on a treasure hunt across town. With the entire school on their heels, they rush to solve riddle after riddle, slowly closing in on that which no one has ever found before. Along the way, Gabriel meets the head-butting twins Jack and Jordan, their dog Cat, the insane story-teller Eddie and Hannah, a young girl locked up in her room.

Hand in hand, they work to help Hannah escape and take her along on their adventure. Having spent her entire life cut off from the rest of the world, Gabriel finds a kindred spirit in the red-haired girl with the glowing eyes. But one day, a secret Hannah has been carefully hiding from the group rears its ugly head and threatens to shatter Gabriel's new life and the place he thought he'd finally found in the world.

Buy link ‘Fireflies’: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00FJ7S3OY  

About the author: 
With a deep love for literature, Bree Wolf became a writer early on when she discovered that many of the books she wanted to read hadn’t been written yet. While obtaining a Bachelor of Arts in English and Education and a Master of Arts in Specialized Translation, she followed her fancy across different genres, deciding on a whim what to write about. Although she herself is her own toughest critic, she is always on the lookout for inspirational assistance. Help her work out the bugs in her writing by leaving a comment or writing a review.

Okay, so much for the slightly weird, third-person perspective. On a more personal note …

… as a part-time English teacher I sometimes can’t seem to resist the urge to correct people’s grammar – so, beware!

… I’m hopelessly addicted to chocolate, which is why you generally don’t find any in my kitchen (not because I don’t buy it but because it never really makes it from the shopping bag to the shelf).

… while eight legs don’t bother me so much, six however accompanied by an annoying and insistent buzzing have me running for the hills (well, I don’t like things that sting).

… and last but not least I feel I should mention my inability to leave the volume control of the TV on anything but an even number (you’re thinking OCD? Yeah, that thought had occurred to me too).

Well, I guess that about sums it up!


March 11, 2015

Three Times A Charm with James Gordon

It’s time for Three Times A Charm. I love to introduce readers to people involved in children’s publishing. Today we have James Gordon with us. Welcome James. Can you share a little about yourself, please?

My name is James Gordon, an award winning author, poet, and storyteller from Chicago’s South Side. I am the author of the Amazon Best Selling Children’s Book, “Hi My Name is Bobo (A Weekend in the Life of a 5th Grader) and several other books under the pen name G.P.A. (Greatest Poet Alive). I can also be seen on the tv shows Sirens, Empire, Chicago Fire, and Chicago PD, as well as on Twitter at gr8estpoetalive.

I’d love to hear more about My Name is Bobo. Can you tell us about the book and share the inspiration behind it?

Sometimes a weekend can seem like a lifetime to a growing child. He may experience like, fear, anticipation, and other emotions without smooth transition or even realizing it. This is the life of Bobo, a fifth grader, who loves his family, the Superfriends, and chocolate milk. As he introduces himself, get to know him, and you will absolutely love him!!


There is not an abundance of children’s books that focus on or have a main character that is African American.  One of the main reasons I wrote “Bobo” and am making it a series is to fill that gap. When I was growing up, “Fat Albert” was the cartoon character we had to watch and follow. That wasn’t the case, but now there is Bobo.

I recommend my book to readers who like: Judy Blume’s “Then Again, Maybe I Won’t” and “Through My Eyes’ by Ruby Bridges

Now it’s time for the threes. Give us your top three answers to the following:

  • Top 3 tools of the trade you couldn’t live without.

I could not do without an editor, a group of readers that tell the truth, and an intense need to promote myself.

  • Top 3 leisure activities.

I play video games, walk and play with Scooter the Beagle, and watch a BUNCH of movies.

  • Top 3 personal mantras or inspirational phrases.

My favorite inspirational phrases come from not obvious places. Here goes: “To be the man, you have to beat the man, and I’m the man. WOOO!!” Ric Flair,    “I am the best ever…” Mike Tyson, and “You are the best at being you.” Joel Oesteen

Where can our tech savvy readers find you online?

Facebook: James Gordon
Facebook page: Hi My Name is Bobo
Twitter: gr8estpoetalive

Thanks for joining us on this week’s Three Times A Charm, James. Best of luck to you and Bobo.

GUESTS WELCOME!  I’m always looking for guests for Three Times A Charm. If you are an author, illustrator or book reviewer, an agent or an editor. If you have something related to children’s publishing that you’d like people to know about, feel free to contact me about a future appearance.



March 9, 2015

5 Books With Covers That Screamed "READ ME!"

My talented and generous critique buddy, Mary Waibel, has her review of Finding Thor on her blog. Please hop on over to Waibel's World and see what she has to say about my young adult romantic suspense releasing Thursday! 

So, this week I’m talking book covers. I admit, I have been known to judge a book by its cover and while browsing Goodreads, or maybe Amazon, recently I noticed that purple seems to be the new black. So many pretty book covers whose color schemes revolve around purple. At first I wondered if I was simply noticing the purple covers because Finding Thor’s cover is in purples, but so was Beware of the White, and I didn’t notice them then, so I'm going out on a limb and declaring a trend.

Anyway, that got me thinking about which books I read because of the cover. Not blurb. Not reputation or buzz. Simply because I thought, "Oooo, what's that one about?" as soon as I saw it. So here are a few:


The Dark Divine – I love the stark legs in the vulnerable pose against the black background. And I really love the flowing material. Eye catching contrast. Gives motion. Increases the feeling of vulnerability. They continued the theme through the series. Gorgeous covers.


Silver Phoenix – An Asian girl, standing in a strong pose, wearing a bright fuchsia kimono. Yes, please! Without even reading a blurb I know I’m going to get strength of character and culture.


Bunheads – I love the pretty, geometric design made from ballerinas. I know, sometimes I’m such a girl!


The Selection – Speaking of being such a girl – the dress! It got my attention immediately. The pose intrigued me. I loved the mixture of shy and flirty. Another series that successfully carried the theme throughout.


Ghostopolis – Such a cool looking world. A boy sitting on the skeleton of a horse. I had to know what the heck was happening in this story.
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Not all books have the opportunity to capture my attention simply with their covers. Being an author with my ear to the ground, I often know too much about a book before seeing the cover. However, when the opportunity arises, those were some of the things that captured my attention when I was exposed to a book for the first time through its image—enough for me to pick it up and read.

What about you? What covers captured your attention? 

March 6, 2015

Building Character with Lily from The Attic of Sand and Secrets

Yippee – it’s Friday and this week we have a Building Character interview. Let me introduce Lily from THE ATTIC OF SAND AND SECRETS by Medeia Sharif. Welcome to Strands of Thoughts, Lily. Tell us a little about yourself.

I’m Lily. I’m in junior high school and I live in Florida. My dad is French and my mother is Egyptian. I live in a beachfront house. 

Beachfront in Florida sounds nice, but when people have a story to tell, it isn’t usually a really nice story about catching a tan and learning to surf. What conflict are you up against?

My mother was kidnapped and there have been ransom letters. My father is always at the police station trying to figure something out to get her back, but I’d like to help. People say I’m stupid and I believe them, although I’ve been trying real hard to find clues on how she disappeared.

Oh, Lily, I’m really sorry. I understand why you would feel helpless. What are some of the biggest stumbling blocks you’ve encountered trying to find clues?

Grownups don’t want to deal with me, so I have to go around them while I’m collecting clues. Also, I’ve been going through some unbelievable things—people might think I’m crazy, my dad included.

What have you learned about yourself while trying to help find your mom?

I might be smarter than people think. If I concentrate and look for connections between things, I learn a lot on my own.

Is there anything about you that people are always giving you a hard time about? How do you feel about it?

I’m learning-disabled. It’s not always easy to find the right school or class for me, and the teachers and normal kids think I’m dumb. The mean girls at school have been picking on me lately, which makes me feel rotten. I stay away from them.

Why don’t we lighten things up a little? What are your three favorite foods?

My father owns a chain of bakeries and also cooks and bakes at home. I love crepes, ├ęclairs, and chocolate cake.

Oh my gosh, yum! What do you want to be when you grow up?

I’d love to go into the bakery business, too.

Thanks for visiting with us today, Lily! It was good to get to know you, I hope your mom is found safe and sound very soon. Readers, here is more on Lily’s story THE ATTIC OF SAND AND SECRETS.

Learning-disabled Lily desires to prove herself, although her mind freezes when presented with big problems - such as her mother's abduction. With a French father and Egyptian mother, Lily worries that her mother hid her ethnicity from her French in-laws. However, there's something deeper going on. Lily finds a way into an attic that's normally locked and encounters a mysterious, moonlit Egyptian night world. There she finds Khadijah, an ancient stranger who guides her to finding clues about her mother's whereabouts. Lily becomes a sleuth in both the real world and magical desert, endangering herself as she gets closer to the kidnapper.


And here is the information on Lily’s author:

Medeia Sharif was born in New York City and presently calls Miami her home. She received her master's degree in psychology from Florida Atlantic University. Published through various presses, she writes middle grade and young adult short stories and novels. In addition to being a writer, she's a public school teacher.

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Have a character from a children’s/mid-grade/young adult book you’d like to see on Building Character? Drop me an email: kaistrand at yahoo dot com.