February 27, 2013

Three Times A Charm with Maddie Ryan


Welcome to the 2013 version of Three Times A Charm. I love meeting new authors, illustrators, bloggers, agents, editors or promoters from the children’s publishing industry and sharing their careers with you.

Author, Maddie Ryan, is visiting with us. Maddie, tell us about yourself, please.

I appreciate the opportunity to be a guest on your blog and allowing me the opportunity to introduce myself and my work to your readers.

My passion is the love of God, family, friends, writing, reading and cooking. I enjoy writing stories that I myself have enjoyed reading as a child and still enjoy reading; creating characters that fly by the seat of their pants without a safety net. The kind of free living that can be enjoyed by children and adults, spinning my fascination with life’s quirky happenings into comical adventures.

I’m a self-professed chocolate guru. I love to sing into my hairbrush and dance with the family dog (knowing nobody will tape it and put it on You Tube, so you can imagine how wacky my singing and dance moves can be). I’m passionately in love with my husband, family, friends, books, laughter, hockey and lively discussions.

After giving up my dream of becoming a movie star/dancer/singer, I decided that my second-in-line dream was to be a writer. Even if I never got published, I’d still want to write stories with fun character.

I love how much verve you have for life. I bet your characters are lots of fun. Tell us about your book.

My current children’s novel; Pippy’s Wish features, Pippy, an Angel-in-Training. Pippy is quirky, mischievous, lovable and enchanting. She can't wait to graduate, earn her wings and become a cool teen Angel.

Although she sometimes makes mistakes, her ingenuity and humor usually gets out her out of trouble.

Except this time, it's gotten her INTO trouble.

Big trouble.

Can Pippy solve this one on her own?

Pippy’s Wish is a fun, inspirational read for all ages.

Pippy's Wish book also includes a few of Pippy's Favorite Recipes:

- Tangerine Angel Cupcakes with Sweet Cloud Frosting
- Purple Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies
- Pippy’s Super Cool Mac’ N Cheese with Apple Slices & Potato Chips
- Pippy’s Flying Angel Punch

Oh my goodness, yum!

Now for the threes. Help us know you a little better by answering your top three choices to the following questions:

Top 3 skills to hone for people just starting in your business.

1.   Read. Read. Read some more. Read books that you yourself wished you’d written and also read books that don’t work for you. Reading books that don’t work for you, will teach you what not to do in your own writing.

2.   I highly recommend writers don’t follow the “Write what you know” advice” I’ve read this advice for writers in a lot of places, and in my opinion, it’s one that cannot possibly be followed and can stunt a writer’s learning curve and growth.

All writers need to fire up their imaginations with the emotions they have experienced in life: first crushes, heartbreak, love, dislike, losses, gains, thrill of that first job, the kick in the gut when you’ve been fired, or betrayed, the different seasons, traveling, etc. Emotion is what I believe develops great characters and we’ve all experienced a myriad of emotions in our lives. Tap into your own personal emotions, whether it be happiness, fear, phobias, love, heartbreak…whatever the emotion, use that to develop your characters and advance your story.

3.   Shelve your ego and take criticism in the spirit which it is given and that is, to help you hone your craft. We all suffer from self-doubt when writing, and that can be a good thing. Without self-doubt, a writer may publish something that isn’t ready for readers. Let the self-doubt work for you, put on your editing hat and critique your work with an unbiased eye.

 Top 3 pieces of advice for kids these days.

1.                  Never cut your own bangs, especially before picture day.

2.                  Learn how to cook. You don’t have to be a Top Chef contestant, but if you learn the basics such as homemade soup and homemade spaghetti sauce, you’ll never go hungry, save money and impress your friends.

3.                  When I was young, I would wish away time. “I can’t wait for the weekend” (because of some party or school dance). “I can’t wait until I’m sixteen so I can get my driver’s permit.” “I can’t for summer vacation.” (This started the first day of school in September.) One thing my parents told me and instilled in me and to this day is never, ever wish away time. It’s the one thing you cannot duplicate or ever get back. Enjoy your childhood, enjoy each and every day and savor the moments. Time will pass, that weekend will come, that sixteenth birthday will arrive and school will be over to enjoy summer vacation. In the meantime, enjoy what you are doing right now, so that you don’t miss the wonderful minutes, hours and days that you are presently experiencing.


Top 3 personal mantras or inspirational phrases.

  1. To strive to be a better person today than I was yesterday.

  2. To not follow someone else’s path (especially if it’s already been beaten) and to follow my own, leaving a trail, making the journey fun-filled for myself and others.

  1. Embracing positive people and events, feeling grateful for the many blessings in my life.


Maddie, where can our readers go to keep up with you and your writing?



Thanks for charming us on this week’s Three Times A Charm, Maddie. Best of luck with your writing!

THANKS!

ONGOING CALL FOR GUESTS! I am 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.

February 22, 2013

Building Character with Fairy May


It’s Friday! Time for my blog feature, Building Character in which you get to meet a character from a book. Talking to a character outside of their book is fun! Huge. Amounts. Of fun. 

This week we are Building Character with Fairy May. It’s so great to have you with us, Fairy. Tell us a little about yourself.

Hi! I'm Fairy May and I live in a place called Fairyland. There are lots of different types of fairies and many of us have very important jobs. When I grow up I want to be a tooth fairy. It's one of the hardest jobs to do though. The other fairies sometimes get mad because I make a mess and get things wrong but one day I'm going to be the best tooth fairy ever... I just need to study really hard and then I'm sure I'll pass the test.

Study and practice are the best ways to become good at something you are interested in. Way to go, Fairy May. So, tell us, what is standing in your way?

I'm not exactly a natural talent when it comes to school and I often get things wrong. I really want to be a tooth fairy though and so I'm sure I can overcome my problems. Just because something is difficult doesn't mean it can't be done.

Tell us about you. What is your strongest personality trait?

I don't give up.

That’s a good one! And what are your three favorite foods?

I love fruit and vegetables. Especially the ones that are good for cleaning your teeth. Apples, celery and strawberries are my favorites. The natural fibers in apples help wash away food particles and the tiny fibers of the celery act a bit like dental floss. Strawberries are my favorites though as they help polish the teeth and keep them white and shiny.

What do you want to be when you grow up?

A tooth fairy. Not just any tooth fairy either. I want to be the BEST tooth fairy ever!

What words of wisdom would you like to share with our readers?

To follow your dreams. Sometimes it's not easy but with a bit of hard work we can achieve a lot. It's definitely worth the effort.

Thank you Fairy May for visiting with us. Good luck becoming the BEST tooth fairy ever. Readers, you can find out more about Fairy May’s pursuit of tooth fairydom-ness by reading her book:

Fairy May dreams of one day becoming a tooth fairy but she struggles at school and always seems to get things wrong. With hard work and determination she prepares for her test. Will she realise her dream and become a tooth fairy?

Purchasing links (print):
 Purchasing links (kindle):

·         Amazon.com

 

You can also ask your local bookstore or library to stock it using the ISBN-13: 978-1481951425 or ASIN: B00BA8ZERA


About Fairy May’s author:

Jo Linsdell is an award winning blogger and freelance writer living in Rome , Italy . She is also the author of several books including the popular Italian for Tourists, A Guide to Weddings in Italy  and the best selling children's picture book Out and About at the Zoo. Her latest book Fairy May was released on 1st February 2013. You can find out more about her at www.JoLinsdell.com

Visit Jo and learn more about her other work:

Author website: www.JoLinsdell.com
Social Media Links:
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If you have a character from a children’s, tween or young adult book that you’d like to see interviewed on Building Character, please contact kaistrand at yahoo dot com.

February 20, 2013

Three Times A Charm with Stuart R. West


Welcome to the 2013 version of Three Times A Charm. I love meeting new authors, illustrators, bloggers, agents, editors or promoters from the children’s publishing industry and sharing their careers with you.

Author, Stuart R. West, is visiting with us. Stuart, tell us about yourself, please.

I’m Stuart R. West, author of the new YA book, Tex, The Witch Boy. I live in Kansas, which is a curse and a blessing. It’s a curse, well, because it’s Kansas. It’s a blessing because Kansas is ripe with story ideas and oddities. I intend on setting most of my forthcoming books in Kansas because you’re supposed to write about what you know. And you don’t want to read about my hum-drum tenure in corporate America! I was a graphic and production artist for twenty-some years with a label manufacturing company. Boring!

I’m married to a wonderful professor of pharmacy at a local university and have a beautiful daughter, now in college, who has just now decided to unleash her inner bad girl. Sigh. What’s a parent to do?

Thank goodness I can’t advise you on that. If my daughter is releasing her inner bad girl at college, I’m not hearing about it (she just called, says she’s not J).

Tell us about your book.

Tex, The Witch Boy is a YA thriller, suspense, comedic, dramatic, lightly paranormal, romance tale about anti-bullying. It’s important to me to spread the word about bullying and I hope to reach those who need it most: teenagers. This book was designed to appeal to both males (I believe they’re not represented enough) and females. All of the bullying incidents detailed in the book happened either to me or a friend of mine in high school. Other modern details were garnered from my daughter’s recently finished tour of duty.
I’m gonna’ let my blurb chat about the basic plot: Being in high school sucks. Just ask Richard “Tex” McKenna, a Kansas sophomore. Dealing with bullying, burgeoning love, the loss of parents, and dodgeball is bad enough. To top it off, he's just found out he's a witch!  Oh, and fellow students are being murdered.  The suspicious eyes of local law enforcement are looking right at Tex and his loyal group of friends.  And so are the killer’s. Will Tex's new-found skills prove helpful? Or cause even more problems? 
Tex, The Witch Boy is the first of a trilogy, all of which have been written and all deal with current hot topic issues and social problems teens go through these days. There’s a spin-off as well about a secret character introduced in the second book. Can’t tell you about her yet or I’d have to kill all of you. Kidding! (Or…am I? Sure, I’m kidding! Or…). Anyway, Muse-It-Up Publishing has just released the first of the trilogy.
It sounds great and I love the cover. Tex is very compelling.

Now for the threes. Help us know you a little better by answering your top three choices to the following questions:

  • Top 3 tools of the trade you couldn’t live without. 
I’d say the top three tools in writing I can’t live without would have to start with the support of my loving wife and daughter. Couldn’t do it without ‘em! They’ve been constantly supportive and encouraging (Um, although they might be a little outraged to find out I called them “tools!” We’ll just keep that tidbit between us.).
Next, is my writing sofa! I already wore out one leather sofa. Where I sat while writing has sunken in, specially formulated to fit my posterior.
Finally? Coffee! Lots and lots of coffee!

  • Top 3 pieces of advice for kids these days. 
I love this question! Most importantly, I’d tell kids who are bullied to find an adult at your school who you trust and let them know about it. Do NOT be afraid of “ratting” bullies out. It’s not worth “hall cred.” Really, it’s not.
I’d also love to tell them to be themselves. Don’t worry about the “popular people.” They’ll be happier if they find their own way instead of following.
Finally, drink lots of school and stay in milk (or…something like that!).

(I added the bolding to Stuart’s answer, because it is great and important advice)

  • Top 3 authors. 
I’m gonna’ kinda’ cheat here. I wouldn’t say they’re my favorite three authors, but they were certainly the most influential on my first book.  If you tossed Stephen King, Harper Lee and Joss Whedon in a room together, Tex, The Witch Boy’s sorta’ might come outta’ their unholy collaboration. Now, of course I’m kidding. No way I’m as good as any of these giants. But I’m trying. And they’re all very awesome in very different ways.

Stuart, where can our readers go to keep up with you and your writing? 


Find out more about Stuart:
Email: texthewitchboy@gmail.com

Thanks for charming us on this week’s Three Times A Charm, Stuart. I hope you don’t end up in the doghouse over the ‘tool’ comment – ha ha. Best of luck with your writing!

THANKS!

OPEN CALL FOR GUESTS! I am 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.

February 15, 2013

Building Character with Victoria from Victoria and the Ghost


Welcome to my blog feature, Building Character, in which you get to meet a character from a book. Talking to a character outside of their book is fun! Huge. Amounts. Of fun. 

This week Strands of Thought is host to Victoria Peterson from Victoria and the Ghost. Welcome, Victoria. Tell us a little about yourself and what your life is like.

My name is Victoria Peterson. My life isn’t fair. I never thought that when I was fifteen-years-old, I would end up away from my mother, my friends, and Dallas.  Dad got this really dumb idea to move my seventeen-year-old sister, Marcy and me away from civilization. He even expects me to tend chickens. Can you believe that? Why, my nail job won’t last a month, at this rate.

Now, Mom, well, I’m her favorite. We both love…love….love shopping. This spring we missed few shops in Dallas before Mom’s beautiful wedding. After she and Sam left on their honeymoon to the Caribbean, well, of course, I had to move in with Dad. I totally understood. It’s only temporary until Mom returns and settles into her new life.

You can read my story in a book called, Victoria and the Ghost.

I moved across the country when I was fifteen, but I was excited to. I’m sorry you aren’t. I don’t suppose you can give it a bit more time…see if it grows on you?

I need to find a way to get back to Dallas. I’m a good city slicker. (That’s what Brad & Shelley call me.) But a lousy country girl. And, that’s the truth.

Okay, I get it. You don’t like the country life. How long until your mom is settled into her new life?

Just between you and me, I act all citified and sure of myself. I tell everyone I’ll be going back to Dallas soon, but Mom doesn’t want me, and I don’t want anyone to know that my own mother rejected me. Don’t tell anyone. Okay?

Oh, Victoria, that I truly am sorry to hear. That must have upset you very much. So, I guess you have to make it work with your dad. What about friends? Have you made any new friends?

The first girl my age that I met in the country was Shelley Halverson. Some friend she turned out to be. She stabbed me in the back with gossip. After I follow her advice about how to ride a horse, the horse gets hurt, and she blames me. Can you believe it? Then she acts all friendly and gives me a “welcome to the country” party. At least, she did introduce me to a really, hot cowboy. Giggle Then she tried to break us up when he found me better looking than her.

Let’s learn more about you. Is there anything about you that people are always giving you a hard time about? How do you feel about it?

 Strange things happen in Clara Cemetery, okay? I can’t talk about it, but they do happen nearly every time I go there. When I say something, people think I’m crazy, or else they think I’m a poor little city girl who made up an invisible friend because I’m lonely. Come to think of it, that’s a good idea, but that’s beside the point. I just can’t tell anyone. If I told my dad, he’d have a fit. Christians don’t believe in ghosts, you know.

What are your three favorite leisure activities?

Shopping, wearing new clothes, and shopping again. Giggle

What do you want to be when you grow up?

Well, I believe Mom is the most sophisticated, beautiful woman. This divorce business was all Dad. He ignored her and so pushed her into the arms of a man who appreciated her value. That’s what I think. Oh, and I believe in God. Did I tell you that? And…I believe Dallas is the most wonderful city to live in and one day I’ll be a highly successful clothes buyer at the market there and in NYC. That’s about it.

What words of wisdom would you like to share with our readers?

I had two rules when my story started.
1. Owning the best stuff causes people to like you.
2. Mom is a queen, and I’m just like her.

What I know now is:
1.      Owning the best stuff causes people to hate you.
2.      Mom is selfish.
3.       Dad and my sister, Marcy, aren’t all bad. Just partly. Giggle.

Thanks for visiting with us, Victoria. Here is more about her story, Victoria and the Ghost:

At fifteen, Victoria, a city girl, loses her mother’s love and copes with country isolation, no friends and no one who cares, until she meets a ghost.

When her mother leaves the family to become a Dallas trophy wife, Victoria’s dad moves her and her sister to a North Texas farm to herd cattle and raise chickens. Refusing to believe this is more than a temporary set-back, Victoria tries to make new friends which isn’t an easy task. The first one stabs her in the back with gossip and a sharp tongue. Meanwhile, her new stepsister takes Victoria’s place in her mother’s heart. Rejection and anger stalk Victoria like a rattlesnake in the cemetery. Good thing she makes friends with a ghost and through him, a good-looking teenaged cowboy.

Victoria and the Ghost can be purchased through these two links.

4RV Publishing Catalogue Book Store


Amazon


About Victoria’s author:

Janet K. Brown lives in Wichita Falls, Texas with her husband, Charles. She began writing while her three daughters were kids but did not study the craft or submit her work until she retired in October, 2005. Writing became a second career.
     
4RV Publishing released Janet’s debut novel, an inspirational young adult, Victoria and the Ghost, July, 2012. Janet studies her three grandchildren for help with teen expressions and actions.
     
Pen-L Publishing released Janet’s non-fiction book, Divine Dining Dec. 3, 2012. It’s a 365 devotion book to guide you to Healthier Weight and Abundant Wellness.
     
She and her husband love to travel with their RV, visit with family, and work in their church.

Contact Janet at:

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If you have a character from a children’s, tween or young adult book that you’d like to see interviewed on Building Character, please contact kaistrand at yahoo dot com.


February 13, 2013

Three Times A Charm with Scott R. Caseley


Welcome to Three Times A Charm. I love meeting new authors, illustrators, bloggers, agents, editors or promoters from the children’s publishing industry and sharing their careers with my readers.
  
This week’s guest is author, Scott R. Caseley. Scott tell us about yourself, please.

I was born in Nashua, New Hampshire and grew up in the next town over, Hudson. Being raised in a town that grew up around me was very interesting as I evolved to see where it had been and look at where it’s headed with pride. I wrote my first short story in the second grade, and the pen has been glued to my right hand ever since. But, I also made sure to have a full boat of interests besides the written word.

After graduating from Alvirne High School in town, I enrolled in Franklin Pierce University where I majored in Mass Communication and minored in History. While in attendance at the small liberal arts institution, I enlisted the help of some 225 people to put together my first movie that I co-directed with a friend who graduated earlier than me. It won me an award called the Creative Achievement Award for Excellence in Mass Communication.

A few years after I turned my tassel from right to the left, I directed a second film financed through working retail and temp jobs. I also was cast in a few films where I played bit parts including one where I portrayed myself. Sometime later, I directed a documentary short in New Hampshire and Massachusetts. I also directed a talk show for a good stretch of episodes after appearing as a guest on one of the initial episodes. I am also obsessed with healthy living, cooking low-fat, low-calorie recipes, and working out in as many as six different ways in a week.

In January of 2013, my first novel Isosceles was released by MuseItUp Publishing, at the end of a odyssey spanning many years writing and revising the story, which started out as a screenplay. The story reminds me of my hometown, it has grown up, gotten much bigger, but still has the points it’s had from the very beginning. And, this story is only the beginning of my journey as a novelist. . . .

What a fascinating journey you’ve had so far. Scott, can you tell us more about Isosceles?

When he finds his best friend Trey Goodsby dead and almost completely submerged in a bathtub filled with bloody water, Sean McIntyre is determined to find out if it was an accident or suicide. If it was suicide, why did he do it? And, did his death accidental or intentional have anything to do with Madeline Edwards, the woman who came between them constantly through their thirteen-year friendship? Isosceles, a coming-of-age mystery romance begins with the death of Trey Goodsby, and explores his relationships with family, friends, his romances, and which of the circumstances he found himself in that led to the tragic event, and the repercussions for those he left behind.



Now, for the Threes. Share with us your top 3’s to help us know you a little better.

  • Top 3 skills to hone for people just starting in your business.
1.      Listening – Much of contemporary writing is dialogue-heavy, and what better way to make sure yours is authentic sounding rather than cliché filled is listening to those around you. Pay attention to their word choices, cadence, the emotion they carry through conversations.
2.      Reading – When you want to write in a certain style, or if you have a genre in mind, you should read all the books, essays, screenplays, poetry that reflect similar themes to see how those who came before you did their works.
3.      One hour of writing every day – Every day, you should spend it with pen or pencil in hand jotting down notes, writing a poem, journaling, blogging, writing a short story, or even as much as thousands of words for your first or next novel. This will help you to strengthen your language, maybe expand your vocabulary. Who knows a poem you write today may inspire a novel down the line. A poem I wrote in high school found its way into my novel, so you never know.

  • Top 3 leisure activities.
1.      Yoga – When I like to detach myself from the busyness of a day, and relax, I do some yoga. It’s relaxing for the mind, but it has also led me to be better at the other five types of exericise I like to partake in through flexibility, stamina, and strength.
2.      Cooking – One of the best ways to drop pounds is to eat out less and cook your own meals. Ever since watching Jack Tripper (played by the late John Ritter) on “Three’s Company”, I have loved to cook.  My repoitoire now covers seventy plus recipes I have found online, through friends, family, or in books from five continents. Does anyone reading this know any great Australian or New Zealand recipes?
3.      Exercise of several varieties – Back in early 2011, I started a fitness challenge, and over time I have begun introducing more exercises into my regimen. I love yoga most of all, but I also enjoy walking (either on the treadmill or outdoors), light weight training, hula hooping, and occasionally some jogging.

  • Top 3 professions you wanted to be when you grew up.
(Side note: I have attempted all three of these to various degrees of success and failure, but I’m glad that I tried them all.)
1.      Filmmaker – Directed a feature film, a documentary short, and a talk show.
2.      Actor – Acted in a number of films including one where I played myself. Also was trained on how to be a stage actor and finally a voice actor and was trained by the legendary Jordan Rich.
3.      Writer – Before Isosceles, co-wrote a feature length screenplay, followed by a second feature length screenplay by myself, co-wrote a documentary short, interviewed people for an online magazine

Scott, where can our tech-savvy readers go to keep up with you and your writing?

Twitter: @scottrcaseley

Thanks for charming us on this week’s Three Times A Charm, Scott. Best of luck to you and your brand new book, Isosceles.

THANKS!

OPEN CALL FOR GUESTS!  I am 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.

February 11, 2013

Maturing in Life and as a Writer


When I was but a lass
·        I was enthusiastic about learning.
·        Eager for guidance and advice.
·        Bursting with energy and vitality.
As I transitioned into my teen and young adult years
·        My open-minded attitude for input waned.
·        I found myself more sensitive to criticism.
·        I discovered that the world revolved around me, and I could do no wrong. It was truly amazing – as was I.
The next stage of adulthood was more humbling
·        I learned that I did make mistakes.
·        I was expected to clean up after myself when such a thing happened.
·        I experienced disappointment; both the effect of and as the cause of.
These life lessons ushered me into the stage I’m currently in
·        Now I work hard.
·        I stay honest.
·        I try to recognize my mistakes when I make them so that I can fix them.
·        I’m learning how to ask for help.

When I was but a beginning writer
·        I was excited to write.
·        I read craft books, attended workshops, joined critique groups.
As I transitioned into the next stage of writerdom
·        I grew sensitive to feedback.
·        Suspected some input was personal.
·        Thought I could do no wrong. My writing was truly amazing – as was I.
Then I entered the stage of writing that allowed me to
·        listen to feedback,
·        identify my mistakes,
·        learn from the research and from my education.
Now, the writer that I am feels so different.
·        I’m mature.
·        I’m focused.
·        I work hard.
·        I’m honest.
·        I love to support others.
·        I write, it’s cruddy, so I revise, I look for input, I listen to all of it and apply most of it.

I was struck by the similarities of the journeys. The maturity process in both adventures has such similar arcs. Has your journey through writing mirrored your journey through life?

February 8, 2013

Building Character with Leaf from Leaf and the Long Ice


It’s Friday! Time for my blog feature, Building Character in which you get to meet a character from a book. Talking to a character outside of their book is fun! Huge. Amounts. Of fun. 

This week Strands of Thought is excited to host Leaf from Leaf & the Long Ice. It’s so great to have you with us, Leaf. Tell us a little about yourself.

I’m Leaf – a Twig. I’m a stick creature, but don’t think I’m so small.  I’m as tall as a robin!  I have emerald-green leafy hair, and I like to hide in trees.  I sprout from the Old Seeder Twig Branch, and I live in a huge knothole high up in the oldest and tallest tree in the South Forest.  I have a Pappo, a Mumma, a creepy, little sister named Fern, and irritating twin brothers called Buddy and Burba, who are just babes.  I know lots of wild creatures in the forest – some friendly, and some are really scary.  There are lots of other Twigs who live in different kinds of trees like Cappynut Twigs, Willow Twigs, Hemlock Twigs, and Furrypine Twigs, but I don’t know them all because Twigs keep to themselves most of the time.  We all look different, and we make different tools and stuff.  So, we’re always learning new things from each other.

How fascinating! Your life sounds idyllic to me. What kinds of problems do you and your family run into?

Twigs always have to watch out for other creatures in the forest – like hookbeaks that stick us in their nests, softeye does that eat us, and snarlers that bat us around like toys.  But that’s not such a big worry, ‘cause we’ve been around for thousands of years, and know most of the forest skills we need to survive, plus we have very clever tools!  Pappo’s teaching me all about hunting and tools.

But lately, the seasons are strange.  Like the cold season isn’t so cold anymore so these horrible crawlies we call barkbiters swarm and destroy our trees.  And the thick snowcap on Echo Peak is melting.  At first we have floods, and then no fresh water later when the hot season comes.  The creatures are suffering.  The trees are dying.  The wildfires are the worst.  Twigs worry most about lightning ‘cause Twigs mostly live in trees, you know!

Oh, you have all sorts of challenges and things to worry about.  Tell us about your best friend.

Rustle is a Ridge Twig, and the best friend any Twig could ever have!  He makes leaf-flyers, and gave me a ride on a giant, red-leaf-flyer once. We flew right over the Wide Valley!  Rustle is really smart in the forest ‘cause he’s lived there all by himself ever since he was just a bud.  You see, his family disappeared in a terrible forest fire.  That’s when his paps threw him out of a tree to save his life.   Rustle is so clever!  He can sound like any forest creature you can think of … even the stinky kinds!  Rustle is the best!

We’d love to learn more about you. What is your strongest personality trait?

I’m awfully stubborn.  It’s not always a good thing, ‘cause I don’t know when to quit when I should, so sometimes I get in trouble.  But lately, I’ve helped my family get rescued from a flood, saved some trapped North Forest Twigs from barkbiter swarms and a firestorm, and I even made a knotty, old Willow Twig hermit help me find my brothers when they got lost in the blue tunnels of the Long Ice on Echo Peak.  So sometimes being stubborn is a good thing.

What do you want to be when you grow up?

The best hunter in the forest! The best at collecting stuff, that is! Twigs collect stuff all the time like gemstones for their walking sticks.  Or I’d like to be Rustle.

I’m always wishing I were more like my best friend too. She’s so generous and giving and loving. If you could change one thing in this world, what would you change?

I’d be sure all Twigs know how to protect their own tree.  If we stick together, we can save enough places to be sure the forest lasts a long time.

Leaf, thanks so much for visiting with us. You’re passion and energy are infectious. Readers, here is the blurb from Leaf’s latest book, Leaf & the Long Ice.

A tiny stick creature named Leaf lives in an old forest at the foot of an ancient volcano, which is capped by a massive glacier called the Long Ice.  Leaf often entertains his younger, twin brothers with stories about the rare snow beasts that still survive on the Long Ice even though it shrinks more and more as the seasons grow hotter.  One afternoon, the twins run away to play in the snow before it all melts.  They hitch a ride on a giant moth, befriend a snowshoe bunny, and stumble upon a hermit's creepy cave.  Mistaking the hermit’s odd pets for a cave beast's meal, the twins rescue them all.  When a bold mountain goat kid leaps into the expedition, a mighty eagle attacks!  Panicked, they rush into the glacier’s icy tunnels, and are lost in a maze of melting, blue tubes.  Yet, all is not lost, for with the help of a courageous pika Leaf and the hermit join forces to find the twins.  But in a dreadful turn of events, it is the snow beasts of the Long Ice that will decide their fate.

Twig Stories’ royalties are shared with conservation nonprofits.

Leaf & the Long Ice ~ on Amazon.com ~ paperback & kindle; and other online stores
Paperback list price: $11.99  ~  Kindle version will be available soon $2.99!


Use Createspace Estore for a 20% discount > $9.59 (save $2.40!)
Use Code: QBK2J6DZ


About Leaf’s author, Jo Marshall:

Jo Marshall lives in the Pacific Northwest near volcanoes, rainforests, grasslands, and the ocean.  In 1986, while living in West Berlin, she earned a B.A. in German Language and Literature, and for many years, Jo lived in the D.C. area as the legal assistant to two General Counsels of two nonprofits at their national headquarters.  She enjoys learning about climate change, reading mysteries, working puzzles, and listening to NPR.  She is a member of the Society of Environmental Journalists, the Pacific Northwest Writers Association, Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, and RABMAD - Read A Book Make A Difference. She shares her royalties with conservation nonprofits.  Jo resides in Snohomish, Washington with her husband, son, daughter, and many loving creatures.

You can learn more about Leaf’s other adventures and some of Jo’s adventures by visiting:

Please visit the Twig Stories website soon! http://www.twigstories.com 
Tweet Jo: @Twigstories.
Follow her Pinterest boards: @Twigstories
Facebook author page: www.facebook.com/twigstories
Facebook fan page:    www.facebook.com/twigstoriesbooks
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If you have a character from a children’s, tween or young adult book that you’d like to see interviewed on Building Character, please contact kaistrand at yahoo dot com.

February 6, 2013

Three Times A Charm with Marit Menzin


Welcome to Three Times A Charm. I love meeting new authors, illustrators, bloggers, agents, editors or promoters from the children’s publishing industry and sharing their careers with you.

Today’s guest is author and artist, Marit Menzin. Marit tell us about yourself, please.

I’m a collage artist as well as an author. My award-winning art has been seen in galleries, magazines, and other publications. I was the recipient of the 2010 Ann Barrow Scholarship from the New England chapter of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators and a finalist at the 2005 SCBWI Winter Conference Showcase in New York City.
In college, I studied chemistry and biology, and later computer science. I have loved art since childhood, and Song for Papa Crow, my first picture book, combines my love of nature and art. I’m a member of SCBWI.

What a seemingly eclectic background for an author/artist. Tell us more about Song for Papa Crow.

I’m the Author/Illustrator of Song for Papa Crow, a children’s book published by Schiffer Publishing, on July 28, 2012 for Pre-K to 2nd grade. My book received a Mom's Choice Awards Gold Honor for Distinctive Illustration in December 2012.
"The illustrations of this book are done in collage. Each bird comes to life with this technique and each one looks amazingly realistic. The story is one that is entertaining and easy to understand. It's one that can provide lots of discussion, not only about the various birds in the story, but about being oneself. The story ends with Little Crow learning an important lesson and returning safely home with Papa Crow. Children will be fascinated to learn that hummingbirds often use the silk of a spider's web when building a nest." - Cindi Rose, Examiner

"Our songs are to be shared with all, but especially the ones we hold dear. Song for Papa Crow is a children's picture book following Little Crow as he tries to learn more songs to fit in with the other birds, but soon learns that the song most important to him and his father is his own. Song for Papa Crow is a story of being yourself, with charming and colorful illustrations throughout, making it a choice pick for parents to read along with their children." - James A. Cox, Editor-in-Chief, Diane C. Donovan, Editor Midwest Book Review

2012 Top Ten Reads MyShelf - http://www.myshelf.com/toptenreads.html

Now, for the Threes. Share with us your top 3’s to help us know you a little better.

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

Holes by Louis Sachar

This is one of the best Young Adult books that I have ever read!! Stanley Yelnats -- note the palindromic name that implies a trap -- is a good boy with bad luck, who is sent to a boys' detention camp for a crime that he did not commit. After digging holes with the other boys in the hot Texan sun, Stanley realizes that the purpose of his hard labor is not just to build character, but there is something specific that the warden is looking for. Stanley decides to dig for the truth, and in the process he learns about friendship, survival, control, and the unbearable cynicism of life.

Timeless by Alexandra Monir

In the book Timeless, I traveled with Michele Windsor to New York City in 1910. Michele thinks that she's an ordinary California girl, but her life shatters into pieces when her mother dies in a car accident and she has to move to New York to live with her aristocratic grandparents. There, at her wealthy grandparents Fifth Avenue mansion, Michele discovers a diary that takes her back in time where she meets her ancestors, and a very special man, Phillip Walker. Michele falls in love with him and she is torn between the present and the past. I LOVE this book and wish that it never had to end. The author, Alexandra Monir, is a singer/songwriter, and the book contains my favorite mix of different concepts – time travel, romance, music, and historical fiction. My only wish for the book is that the author would have expanded more on both the history of New York City and the city’s high society at the beginning of the Twentieth Century. Overall, I still give the novel FIVE STARS, and I can't wait for the sequel!



The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle

This is an interactive children’s book for little fingers that follows a hungry caterpillar as he eats his way through the days of the week.  The illustrations are beautiful and colorful, and the book is a delight for parents and children alike.


  • Top 3 most admired people and why you admire them.

Steve Jobs – for being a creative genius who contributed so much to today’s technology.

Franz Peter Schubert – for his passion and amazing uplifting contribution in music.
           
            M.C. Escher – for his genius mathematical art.

  • Top 3 pieces of advice for kids these days.

Listen to your parents—they know what’s best for you!

Be grateful to your family—they help you feel comfortable about yourself.

Part of being cool is having the courage to say “No!” to your friends.

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

A scientist, an author, and a conductor.


  • Top 3 personal mantras or inspirational phrases.

 “Some people come into our lives, leave footprints on our hearts, and we are never the same.”
- Franz Peter Schubert

"I would trade all my technology for an afternoon with Socrates."

- Steve Jobs

“Every artist dips his brush in his own soul, and paints his own nature into his pictures.”



Marit, where can our tech-savvy readers go to keep up with you and your writing?

Marit Menzin

Thanks for charming us on this week’s Three Times A Charm, Marit. Best of luck with your creative work.

THANKS!

OPEN CALL FOR GUESTS!  I am 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.

February 1, 2013

Building Character with Ashlinn O'Hara from Wanted


Welcome to my blog feature, Building Character in which you get to meet a character from a book. Talking to a character outside of their book is fun! Huge. Amounts. Of fun. 

This week Strands of Thought is host to Ashlinn O’Hara from Wanted. Welcome, Ashlinn. Tell us a little about yourself and what your life is like.

Thank you so much for having me! This is my first interview, hope I do okay. :) I’m not really good at talking about myself. Oh, I should start by telling you who I am, huh? My name is Ashlinn O’Hara, I’m 17, and I’m a witch.

I know, talking about yourself can be hard, but we have a curious and kind audience, so that should put you at ease.

Wow, a witch! I don’t meet many of those. What kind of trials and tribulations does a witch run up against?

Well, I’m a witch. When we turn 18, we reach our full power. Apparently, I’m pretty powerful, and the vamps in school can tell. A vamp can use a witch’s power to enhance his or her own abilities. When the Vampire Council heard about my power, they decided I had to become someone’s familiar, otherwise World War Vampire would break out or something. The worst part? The dude I’ve been totally crushing on for months, Conor Peterson, is the one who discovered my power and he’s offered to claim me. Great right? Think again! To become a familiar means you have to get bitten, and I’ve been bitten before - attacked - not so much fun, so I’m not a huge fan of the biting. Oh, and my best friend, Matt, who I’ve known, like, forever, LIKE likes me and has volunteered for the job, also. And - it seems my power is all wonky, I haven’t yet mastered the control part yet. Yeah, it’s all kinds of complicated.

Vampires and familiars too. Holy moly, you are up against some crazy troubles. The biggest things I had to worry about in high school were my hairstyle and having a locker next to the most popular guy in our class. I’d say your worries are a bit bigger. That’s sweet that Matt really likes you.

Um, hello? Best friend having crush on me! It’s horrible! I love him - as a friend, a brother, and I need him in my life. If I hurt him, I’m afraid he’ll pull away. There’s also the fact that Conor tried to bite me without permission, so I’m confused whether he likes me or my power. Then there’s the random popular dude, Tre - who has never talked to me before, and is suddenly asking for my phone number and trying to seduce me in the cafeteria - gross.

Tre definitely just wants your power. Duh! But I’m totally hung up on the Matt thing. He sounds so sweet. Do you have any other good friends?

Well, my absolute best friend is Matt, well, WAS Matt. He saved my life when we were younger and since then he’s always been there, like my brother, sticking up for me, supporting me. But this whole situation has me all confused and he’s having like warm fuzzy feelings for me, and I’m just not sure how I feel about that. Usually, he’s fun, laid-back, easygoing, and we just hang. Cora is my best girlfriend. She’s awesome because she totally has been there for me through the whole Conor/Matt/Tre situation. We have sleepovers, eat ice cream, watch Channing Tatum movies, fun girl stuff.

Tell us more about you. What are your favorite foods?

Ice cream - Ben & Jerry’s - definitely! Pizza, and chocolate!

What do you want to be when you grow up?

I used to want to own a little occult shop. Now, my future is so uncertain, I just want to get to college without being a vamp snack.

Three favorite books or movies?

Huh… I haven’t had time to read much lately. Cora and I love Magic Mike, though! We watch it in her basement when her parents aren’t home. :) I also like The Covenant because it’s about hot guy witches. :) And Interview With a Vampire - classic!

I had a girlfriend who dated a male stripper. It was weird. He was always gyrating. Always. Ew! I loved Interview w/a Vampire, but I’ve never even heard of The Covenant. I’ll add it to my queue.

Any words of wisdom you’d like to share with our readers?

Oh, wow… wisdom? Huh… Be yourself, and stand up for what you believe in. It’s okay to be different - embrace what makes you YOU. Not sure - is that wise? :)

Very wise! Thanks Ashlinn for visiting with us. Good luck with your crazy situation!

About the book:

Attacked as a young witch and left for dead, Ashlinn is deathly afraid of being bitten again. Having survived until she’s almost eighteen without donating blood to any of her vamp friends, Ashlinn figures she’ll continue to live bite-free. After her crush reveals how powerful she is, however, the Vampire Council declares she be claimed as a familiar, which requires biting. Ashlinn doesn’t want to be owned, even by hot vamp, Conor. Luckily, her best friend, Matt, volunteers for the job. She is given one week to choose her protector, and the list of willing biters keeps growing. Will she go with best friend Matt, hot vamp Conor, or someone else to protect her? Will she be able to get her power under control by then? Will she overcome her phobia of being bitten? And who says she needs to be protected, anyhow?




About the author:

Annika James lives in small-town Wisconsin with her husband and two beautiful kiddos. She spends her days working to pay the bills and her nights dreaming of more fun ways to do so. Her passions include writing, reading, music and traveling with her family. She dreams of a world where vampires and powerful witches really exist, because life would be so much more interesting.

For more on Wanted and Annika, visit:



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If you have a character from a children’s, tween or young adult book that you’d like to see interviewed on Building Character, please contact kaistrand at yahoo dot com.