May 31, 2016

Commencement Speech - The Human Experience

Let’s face it, it’s unlikely I will ever be asked to give a commencement speech, but this time of year all the You Tube links to inspirational speeches show up in my news feed and my very own son graduates high school in a few days, so I was inspired to give a commencement speech regardless of the lack of venue. Pretend we are in an auditorium packed with family, friends, and-most importantly-graduates. The Principal/Dean steps to the lectern…

***

Today we present our graduates with a woman who is a wife, a mother, an author, a daughter, a sister, an aunt, an employee, and a friend. Welcome Kai Strand.

*Applause*

Thank you to the faculty, staff, parents, family, friends, and students for the warm welcome. You may be wondering why I’m standing here in front of you today. I don’t have major accomplishments to tout; such as, organizing clean water for people in remote African villages, or providing warm coats for homeless children. I don’t even have an impressive degree to accredit me. I spend my days working a couple different jobs, raising children, coordinating efforts with my husband to keep our family functional, and picking up dog poop. I’m a very average person. Which is the point, really.

Of those of you who eagerly wait the moment you move your tassel across the mortarboard, many of you have grand dreams and endless ambition. You hope to change the world. Maybe you plan to become a scientist, a politician, a doctor, or a lawyer. To discover new technology, pass groundbreaking law, cure cancer. And some of you will do just that.

But most of you, like me, will live ordinary lives. As the years progress, you’ll have several jobs, some of which you’ll like a lot, most that you wont. Maybe you’ll report to someone or you’ll be the one others report to. I’ve been both. Over the course of your lives you’ll buy cars, maybe a house or two, you might get married and raise a family. There will be points in your life where you’ll struggle to make ends meet and each meal will include either potatoes or pasta – the only foods you can afford. Luckily, there will likely be periods where you are flush and able to buy speedboats or tour Europe. Or maybe you’ll be satisfied with being able to afford a daily Starbucks indulgence. This ebb and flow in life is normal. Very normal.

But you know what? Even normal people make a difference. Each day, when you go to work, or stop to pick up groceries, or browse for your next pleasure read at the bookstore, you will interact with people. You will talk about important things or make casual observations. Your words, your attitude, your actions will impact each and every person you meet. You will inspire a person or tear them down with a simple response to the service they provide. Holding a door open for the weary person behind you might be all he or she needs to walk into the lab where they’ve seen countless failures. All they need to cure cancer.

Albert Einstein, Steve Jobs, Eleanor Roosevelt, they did not live in a bubble. When they weren’t changing the world, they lived mundane lives and were impacted, inspired by every day people.

Recently a woman told me I inspire her. She has several novels started and not a single one finished. I think that I finish novels impresses her more than the fact that I have twelve novels published. When she admitted to her inability to finish novels, I felt a familiar tug of empathy. Finishing is hard. So I shared some tips of how I push myself through to the end. It was a nice conversation. And you know, it isn’t the first time I’ve been told, “you’ve inspired me.” No matter how many times I hear it, I react the same way. I cock my head and stare, like a curious kitten. It always takes a little longer for the meaning of the words to compute in my head. Even more surprising than the fact that my actions or words have resonated within someone is the fact that someone is watching. As an author I have a public persona. One I work hard on. Being quippy on Twitter takes a lot of effort. Yet even after all the hours I pour into making sure people are watching me, I’m still surprised to learn people are watching me. Let me tell you, people are watching you too. Not just your mother, or the brother who loves to hold things over your head, but your four year old niece, the quiet employee you work with on Thursday afternoons, the sales associate at the bookstore where you buy all your reading material, the professor who you’ll eventually hit up for a reference letter.

Even my ordinary life has had extraordinary moments. At the tender age of thirteen I traveled alone to France to spend the summer with a family I didn’t know. In my mid-twenties I visited Dublin, Ireland to hire and train an employee at a brand new manufacturing plant. Of course, as a mother, there were four life-altering moments when each of my children was born. But there was also my freshman year in high school when a boy I’d known my entire life, died from injuries he’d suffered from falling off his bicycle. And then when my roommates and I lost many of our treasured childhood belongings in a fire. There was that time my boss called me at home to ask me if the rumors she’d heard about me quitting were true – and that she was pretty sure the rumor about me sneaking off to empty hotel rooms with the bellboys, wasn’t true. Each of the extraordinary moments—whether good or bad—all had one thing in common.

Me.

I controlled my reactions. The words I used. The impression I left. I chose if I wanted to learn something from the experience or just be sad or bitter or gloating. As I rose to the occasion, or stayed strong, or restrained my anger—the whole time—there were people watching. Though I usually never thought about that aspect of it. If I was a homesick 13 year old or, like now, a nervous 51 year old giving a (fake) commencement speech, I am the constant in the equation. And regardless of if your aspiration is to be an astronaut or a schoolteacher, or if you go on to inspire a cashless economy or work at the dollar store, if you achieve your doctorate or never step into a classroom again, our human experience is the common denominator. Always.

Every day, every one of you will make a difference in large or small ways. You will—you do—change the course of life by who you are. I challenge you to consciously be a positive influence on this world in your day-to-day life while you work toward that big change your livelihood will make. Go off and do big things, but in the mean time, do a lot of really great small things.

Congratulations graduates.

May 25, 2016

Three Times A Charm with Katy Newton Naas

Welcome to Three Times A Charm. I love to introduce readers to the people involved in children’s publishing. Today we welcome middle grade author, Katy Newton Naas. Katy, can tell us a little about yourself?

I’ve been creating characters and telling stories since the day I learned to talk. As a child, they sometimes got me into trouble. I knew I wanted to write books when I won a Young Author's competition as a second-grader for my short story titled, "The Grape Pie." (Don't let its tasty title fool you - it was actually a sad little tale!)

I devoured books as a child and young adult, always doing chores and odd jobs in order to make enough money to buy more of them. Though I continue to age, my true literature love is and has always been children's and young adult fiction.

I currently teach middle school reading and high school English in southern Illinois, as well as children's church. I graduated from Southern Illinois University-Carbondale with a bachelor's degree in English Education and a master's degree in Reading and Language Studies. I enjoy my life out in the country with my husband, two kids, and fourteen pets.

Fourteen pets! Holy cow. Wait, do you have a cow among those pets? You’re here to talk about a couple books today. Tell us them.

Here are the blurbs to accompany my two middle grade novels, Guardian and Operation: Bully Renovation.

GUARDIAN:
Drake, Kinsey’s assistance dog, has been her best friend since the day she met him. They have a special connection – he can sense her seizures before they occur. The other students have always loved having Drake in the classroom, making Kinsey feel special, not strange. But just a short time in a new middle school changes all of that.

OPERATION: BULLY RENOVATION
            Jack Sullivan is Blackwell Middle School’s scariest bully. When students and teachers see him coming down the hallway, they run the other way. He has no friends; he doesn’t need them. School is a waste of his time.
            But after a car accident with his father leaves him in need of surgery, Jack has to have a tissue donor. Strangely, he then begins having memories from events that never actually happened to him – memories of being bullied by bigger, meaner boys. Jack learns he is experiencing cellular memory, making him receive the memories of his tissue donor…who just so happened to be a weak, helpless victim of bullying.
            Jack decides he has to make things right. To do that, he offers each of his former victims an apology, along with the chance to let each one get even with him. But Jack quickly learns that earning their forgiveness won’t be easy... 

I recommend my book to readers who like:

GUARDIAN: dogs, stories about people with challenges
OPERATION: BULLY RENOVATION: pranks, laughing

Those both sound great. 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.
Wonder by RJ Palacio – because you will fall in love with Auggie in a way you’ve never experienced from any other book character
Wolf Hollow by Lauren Wolk – because Annabelle is so incredibly strong and learns that her actions matter
Freak the Mighty – because it changed my life when I was a kid and after I read it, I knew all I wanted was to write books

  • Top 3 leisure activities.

1)      Spending time with my kids…all 16 of them! (2 children, 3 dogs, 3 cats, and 8 ducks)
2)      Curling up in my chair with chocolate milk and a good book
3)      Writing. I make time to do it every day, even if things are crazy-busy and it’s after midnight before I get started.

  • Top 3 favorite places.

1)      THE BEACH. Any beach. Just let me feel the sand in my toes.
2)      Disneyworld. Even when you’re all grown up, you can still feel the magic there!
3)      Playing outside in the yard with my kids, no matter the season. Snowball fights, water balloon fights, baseball games…I love it all!

Where can our tech savvy readers find you and your book online?


Katy, it’s been a pleasure hosting you today. Best of luck to your books and with your writing.

THANKS!

May 23, 2016

A Rare Review - A Family for Leona by Beverly Stowe McClure

When I helped with the cover reveal, I promised a review of A Family for Leona. And here it is!

Ten-year-old Leona Chapter doesn't understand why her papa left his six children at the Brooklyn Home for Homeless Children after their mother's death in 1921. Each day she prays he'll return and take his children home. God, however, isn't listening. Her brothers and sisters are either adopted or run away, leaving only Leona and Baby Mildred in the orphanage. Leona promises she and Mildred will be together for always. A promise she cannot keep, for Leona, along with her friend Noah, who she defends from the bullies Hiram and Jehu, and several other orphans, are soon on a train headed to Texas, while her sister stays at the orphanage. Leona vows she'll go back to Brooklyn, the first chance she gets. An Orphan Tran tale of the early 1900s

My thoughts:

I’d heard of Orphan Train novels, but I’d never read one until A Family for Leona. Though it’s hard for me to imagine the depth of desperation it would take to leave your children at an orphanage, I guess it is perhaps better than starvation and homelessness. Poor Leona and her siblings deal with the shock of being left in their own ways. Leona holds onto hope for a desperately long time that her father will come back to claim them. One by one, the children go in different directions until it’s Leona’s turn and she is sent across the country with a handful of orphans, none of which are her siblings. She’s homesick, confused and still holding onto hope that her father will claim her again, so it takes her a while to settle into her new home, a farm owned by a lovely older couple whose children are grown.

Leona is a spitfire of a girl. She steps in when she witnesses bullying, even when her assistance isn’t really wanted. Her spunk serves her well though as she works her way through the unexpected turns her life takes. And I admit, I got a little weepy at the end. Mrs. McClure offers us a very touching resolution.

This is an important part of our country’s history and I recommend this book for any middle grade reader who likes historical fiction, and for the libraries that serve those readers. Another wonderfully written story from Beverly Stowe McClure.

A copy of the book was provided for free by the author in exchange for an honest review.

A Family for Leona is available from
 

About the author, Beverly Stowe McClure:

Most days, you'll find Beverly at her computer writing stories young voices whisper in her ear. When she's not writing, she plays the piano. Her cats don't appreciate good music and run and hide when she tickles the ivories. She's sometimes called the "bug lady." She's not telling why.
 
Find Beverly at

May 20, 2016

Book Blast - Aqua by Katherine Armstrong Walters

Aqua  Aqua by Katherine Armstrong Walters Eighteen-year-old Marin has few clues about where she came from, outside of a recurring nightmare of a horrific boating accident. Determined to prove to the world and to herself that she can overcome her water phobia and lead a normal life, she enrolls in a summer internship at a marine research facility in California. When a cataclysmic accident suddenly brings her drowning nightmares into reality, she learns a secret about herself that begins to unlock the mystery lurking in her hidden memories. What she discovers could be the key to her past, but opening that door forces her to choose between two worlds and two hearts, and starts a chain of events that could destroy everything and everyone she loves.

  amazon get it

  Praise for Aqua: “This book grabbed me right away and never let me go! The characters were fresh and believable and immediately took you into their world. Not sure who the intended audience would be but I am 68 and enjoyed it immensely but my 16 year old granddaughter would love it too! Kathy Walters allows us to enter into the world of her imagination and escape our own for a while. I am looking forward to more from her!” ~Gerri Stephy “Heart-stopping adventure and swoon-worthy romance that will take your breath away.” ~Heather Hepler, author of Frosted Kisses and The Cupcake Queen.

  AquaQuote2add to goodreads


Excerpt

Over twenty feet of surging seawater now separated her from her life-saving gear, and the force of it shoving through the submerged beach exit dragged her, spinning her around the rocky cave. Three feet of air was all that was between her and the dripping roof. Her fingers scrabbled to gain a handhold in the slippery walls, her legs fighting the current to gain access to the beach opening, ducking her head underwater, straining with all her might toward it, but the water pouring in beat her back. Her mind spun frantically, jumping through stages in her life; despair at what Paul would think, angry at her stupid fantasy of living without the fear of the deadly water swirling around her. There was nothing but terror to believe in now. Who would be foolish enough not to be afraid of this living, breathing monster sucking the air from her lungs? The top of her head brushed the rocky roof and she pressed her face to the broken surface, screaming and crying and pleading for help. This was it; this was the end of everything. She clawed desperately at the rocks, crushing her face to the melting air, pushed by the hand of the merciless sea. The last pockets sifted noisily up through the rocky ceiling, through small cracks and fissures that led to the surface many yards above, merging her dying screams with the thin whistling pressure of the triumphant ocean, disappearing into the darkening sky.  

Katherine   Author Katherine Armstrong Walters Katherine Armstrong Walters has been making up stories since she was old enough to talk. She was born and raised in Salt Lake City, Utah, but moved to Texas where she and her husband, Kelly, have enjoyed living in the country and raising their five fabulous sons, two cats, one snake and a small herd of chickens. When she’s not writing she loves sketching, editing, painting, reading, being outdoors, remodeling, and travelling with her family. Her favorite hobbies include boating and Star Wars.
  Blast Giveaway – $100 Amazon Gift Card or $100 in Paypal Cash Ends 6/1/16 Open only to those who can legally enter, receive and use an Amazon.com Gift Code or Paypal Cash. Winning Entry will be verified prior to prize being awarded. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 or older to enter or have your parent enter for you. The winner will be chosen by rafflecopter and announced here as well as emailed and will have 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be chosen. This giveaway is in no way associated with Facebook, Twitter, Rafflecopter or any other entity unless otherwise specified. The number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning. Giveaway was organized by Kathy from I Am A Reader and sponsored by the participating authors. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW.   a Rafflecopter giveaway

May 18, 2016

Three Times A Charm with Jessica Calla and She Laughs In Pink

Hey y’all! Welcome to 3x’s A Charm. I love, love, love to introduce readers to the people involved in children’s publishing. Today we welcome new adult author, Jessica Calla. Jessica, wow us with a little about you, please.

I'm Jess! I write contemporary adult and new adult romance. My first book, The Love Square was published earlier this year by Limitless Publishing and continues to receive positive reviews. I am a provisional PAN member of Romance Writers of America, including RWA's Young Adult, Contemporary Romance, and New Jersey Chapters, and I hold membership in the Women's Fiction Writers Association. Recently, I became the oldest intern in history at Bookfish Books and a Team Member for the inaugural launch of FicFest, a Twitter contest to hook agents to writers. During the day I play as an attorney as well as deal with children, husband, and dog, and navigate New Jersey traffic.

I’m not sure I’ve ever heard anyone say “play” and “attorney” in the same sentence! Now, tell us all about your book.

My new adult romance, She Laughs in Pink, released yesterday, May 17, courtesy of BookFish Books. It's Book 1 of the Sheridan Hall Series, which takes place in the fictional New Jersey University. She Laughs… is the story of Chase and Juliet, who struggle to make new lives for themselves after tragic pasts and fall in love in the process.

I recommend She Laughs… to readers who like:

Easy, by Tammara Webber
Hopeless, by Colleen Hoover
Thoughtless, by S.C. Stephens

Okay, 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.
For writers, I recommend On Writing, by Stephen King, The Right to Write, by Julia Cameron, and Show Your Work, by Austin Kleon.

       Top 3 things you learned about the business after becoming a writer.
1. Social media matters to connect with readers and writers. 2. It's hard to sell books, and marketing takes time. 3. Rejections are a way of life for a writer.

       Top 3 favorite places.
I love movies, so movie theaters are heaven. I love the Jersey shore. I love being snuggled in my bed under tons of blankets.

Jess, please share with us where our tech savvy readers can find out more about you and your work. Especially that brand new book.



Thanks for visiting with us today, Jess. It was great to get to know more about you and She Laughs in Pink.

THANKS!










May 9, 2016

New Release - A Family for Leona by Beverly Stowe McClure

You know those people in your life who, with a mere mention of their name make your heart goes all squishy? My critique partner, Beverly McClure, does that for me. She's the real deal. True, honest, goodhearted. And you know what? That shows up all over the place in her books. It is my pleasure to share her newest release with you.

Ten-year-old Leona Chapter doesn't understand why her papa left his six children at the Brooklyn Home for Homeless Children after their mother's death in 1921. Each day she prays he'll return and take his children home. God, however, isn't listening. Her brothers and sisters are either adopted or run away, leaving only Leona and Baby Mildred in the orphanage. Leona promises she and Mildred will be together for always. A promise she cannot keep, for Leona, along with her friend Noah, who she defends from the bullies Hiram and Jehu, and several other orphans, are soon on a train headed to Texas, while her sister stays at the orphanage. Leona vows she'll go back to Brooklyn, the first chance she gets. An Orphan Train tale of the early 1900s. 
 
A Family for Leona is available from
 

I've read an earlier version of this book and I'm very excited to read the final version and share my thoughts with you, so keep your eyes open for an upcoming review. Better yet, buy your own copy and read and review it. You'll be happy you did.

About the author, Beverly Stowe McClure:

Most days, you'll find Beverly at her computer writing stories young voices whisper in her ear. When she's not writing, she plays the piano. Her cats don't appreciate good music and run and hide when she tickles the ivories. She's sometimes called the "bug lady." She's not telling why.
 
Find Beverly at
 
Happy reading!

May 4, 2016

Three Times A Charm with Common Deer Press

Welcome to Three Times A Charm. I love to introduce readers to the people involved in children’s publishing. Today we welcome publisher, Ellie Sipila from Common Deer Press. Thanks for joining us, Ellie. Tell us a little about you, please.

Hi there. I’m Ellie Sipila, and I’m the acquisitions editor/publisher of Common Deer Press.

On top of being a published writer myself, I hold a Publishing certificate from Ryerson University. Being the professional kind of nerd, after a short (and somewhat unfulfilling) stint in Engish Lit, I figured out that actually, my passions were with making books, not so much dissecting them. So I enrolled at Ryerson for all three kinds of editing, went on to get a specialization in editing books intended for young readers, then rounded out my education with courses in book design and physical and digital book production. Now, at Common Deer, I am living the dream by acquiring great manuscripts and making them as awesome as is humanly possible.

Oh that sounds both exciting and impressive. Can you tell us more about your publishing house, Common Deer Press?

Common Deer Press is looking for the unusual. We are tired of being “common” deer. We want to be different. You know those deer you see form time to time in the woods munching bark, scratching their fleas, wearing glasses? NEITHER DO WE!!! We want to be those deer (minus the fleas part).

Have a set of interconnected short stories? We want that. Have a YA novel written completely in verse? Send it our way. Basically, as long as there is not too much kissing (ie., no erotica please), we’re interested. Children’s books, adult books, fiction or non (or fiction that pretends it’s nonfiction). Throw it at us.

I recommend my publishing house to writers who were rejected by Quirk Books, or those who have had trouble selling their work because it wouldn’t “pigeonhole” into a specific genre. (We don’t really like pigeonholes either. Gross. Just sayin’.)

*Snort* Now for the threes. Give us your top three answers to these questions to help us get to know you a little better.

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

1)      Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk written by David Sedaris and illustrated by Ian Falconer. This book embodies what we love in a book and what we’d love to publish at CDP. It’s funny, a little bit disturbing, and it’s highly unique. Also, it’s a beautiful book full of colour illustrations and awesomeness. Yes please!
2)      Warren the 13th and the All-Seeing Eye by Tania Del Rio and illustrated by Will Staehle. It’s spooky, it’s silly, and it’s GORGEOUS visually.
3)      The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux. Beautiful writing, music, and spooks! Doesn’t get much better than that.

  • Top 3 leisure activities.

1)      Reading (I truly have the best job in the world)
2)      Playing the cello
3)      Wait…what does the word “leisure” mean again?


  • Top 3 favorite personality traits that appeal to you.

Easy:
1)      Quirky
2)      Funny
3)      People who believe EVERYTHING I say and obey me 100% of the time.

Ha! I think that last one is inherent of publishers. *wink* Ellie, where can our tech savvy readers find Common Deer Press?

Twitter: @AHerdOfDeer

Thanks for joining us today, Ellie. It was wonderful to get to know the quirkiness behind the curtain and to learn more about your publishing house. Many happy submissions!

Thank you so much, Kai!

May 2, 2016

May #InkRipples – Memories



I have to admit that I have a really cruddy memory. I’m that person that smiles and nods as you ask, “Remember when…?” Because chances are I’m barely remembering what happened. But I can usually remember how I felt while we did whatever it was we did together.

I’m the same way with books. When I sit down to write a review immediately after finishing a book – I have to look up the main character’s name. Sheesh! Before Goodreads, I re-read books all the time. And I wouldn’t figure it out until I was about a 1/3 of the way in the second time around. Wow! It isn’t a slight on any of the fine authors out there. I just don’t remember the details. Or some of the high level stuff, for that matter.

It’s great when a book is made into a movie though, because I don’t have to worry about getting all angsty when they stray from the book. And in the case of a series, I eventually remember enough detail of the earlier books as I read on.

But as I mentioned, I have feelings about books I’ve read and that tells me more than anything else how well I enjoyed it. If I have a warm fuzzy or a thrilling buzz when I think of the book, then I know I enjoyed it. But if you say, “Oh my gosh! When Katniss shot the arrow into the ceiling of the arena, wasn’t that amazing?” Chances are I’ll smile and nod while desperately trying to pull up the memory.

Are you a high level person? Or a detail person? How does you memory work – or not?

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.