May 31, 2013

Building Character with Madison Lawton from Ghost of Pine Mountain

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 Madison Lawton from Ghost of Pine Mountain: The Adventures of Max and Maddie. Madison, it’s so good of you to join us on Strands of Thought. Tell us a little about yourself and what your life is like.

Hi! I'm Madison Kathleen Lawton. My friends call me Maddie (Max calls me Madds), so you can, too!

I live with my mom, dad, older brother, and best dog in the whole world, Dawg. Yes, I named him Dawg. He was a stray who kept hanging around our house because…well, because I kept feeding him and giving him water and patting his head. "Hey, dog, watcha doing? Yes, you're a good dog. Here's a juicy, leftover chicken leg." Any questions why he stayed?

I'm going into eighth grade in the fall, along with my best friend, Max. I'm not the most popular girl in school, but I've had most of my friends since kindergarten. I enjoy a competitive game of softball and do a fantastic job warming the bench on the middle school basketball team. I struggle for B's while Max barely cracks a book for A's, which drives me crazy!

I'm pretty fussy about my appearance and LOVE shoes! Unfortunately, our family finances only allow for the occasional purchase, so I make it count with one fabulous pair of sandals in the summer. 

In other words, I'm a pretty normal thirteen-year-old. At least I was until Max and I discovered a secret at the Pine Mountain Gold Museum on our first day of summer vacation. 

Tell us about your best friend.

Maxwell Jason Thomas and I share the exact same birth date, with the huge exception that I am two hours and thirteen minutes older. A fact I never…okay, always hold over his head. Hey, a girl's gotta do what a girl's gotta do.

Our families have lived in West Georgia–Villa Rica, to be exact–through several generations, and we've been friends as far back as I can remember. Long before celebrating our February birthdays–the first as teenagers–we fought, laughed, and explored any animal (dead or alive), vegetable, and mineral that dared cross our paths.

Max loves science, astronomy, geology, and anything that squirms, slithers, or crawls. He knows the name of every constellation, so I wouldn't count him out being the first man on Mars.

I'm not sure why we've never gravitated toward the boyfriend-girlfriend trap; maybe it's because we've forever considered ourselves brother and sister–again, my being the much older sister. Whenever Max feels the need to re-enforce the specifics of our relationship, he'll announce, "You're okay, but red hair and freckles will never be my thing."

I can live with that.

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

What really bothers me is when friends make fun of the fact that I haven't exactly "developed" at the rate of most girls in my (soon-to-be) eight-grade class, like Brianna Ashley or Cassandra Morton. For the most part, Max knows to avoid the subject, although he did, once, in front of a large group of friends, I might add, compare my curves to those of his ten-year-old brother. To his credit, he quickly apologized, and promised never to go "there" again.

"Sorry, Madds. I wanted to cut out my tongue."

"Get in line," I'd muttered. 

Okay, so I'm not completely innocent, either, especially when it comes to his vertically challenged height and Dumbo ears. But, we do try to keep our teasing to a minimum, avoid personal attacks, and always, always have each other's back.

What are your three favorite foods?

Only three? Well, let's see. I love my grandmother's rhubarb pie. Yeah, yeah, I know. Teenagers aren't supposed to like rhubarb, but she adds enough sugar to keep it mildly tart, but delicious. And her piecrust is award winning, evidenced by numerous blue ribbons from the county fair.

Oh, yeah, you said three, right? I love anything chocolate, and I adore pizza! I've never tried chocolate pizza, but never say never!

What do you want to be when you grow up?

I used to dream of being an astronaut, but since I struggle for C's in math class, I guess that's out. Ever-present motion sickness probably isn't a good trait either, huh? I can see it all, now. On my way to Mars, losing my lunch along with anything and everything I've eaten in the past two weeks. Not good.

That's why I switched to Famous Author, although my dad tells me authors don't generally make a good living and that I'd better get a reliable day job. Since I will, however, be the next J. K. Rowling, I don't think that will be necessary. Besides, Max and I plan to have enough adventures to keep me writing for decades!

If that doesn't satisfy your curiosity about me, Maddie Lawton, check out our very first adventure: Ghost of Pine Mountain! Max and I promise to entertain!

If you could change one thing in this world, what would you change?

I'd make bullying against the law. Nothing leaves life-long scars like being teased and ridiculed by your peers. Oh, sure Max and I kid each other, but we both try to be careful not to hurt each other, and we would never bully anyone else. If I see someone being bullied, I try not to make a big scene and embarrass them, further, but I do go out of my way to let the bully know it's not cool. Then I try to be extra friendly and kind to the one being bullied. This usually diffuses the situation and the bully quickly loses interest.

I'd also put chocolate at the top of the food pyramid.

Thank you, Maddie for visiting us on Strands of Thought. We appreciate your time and I love your enthusiasm. Readers, here is more about Maddie’s book: Ghost of Pine Mountain: Adventures of Max and Maddie (story one)

Teenagers, Max and Maddie, discover more than they bargain for during a visit to the Gold Museum where a mysterious old miner tells a fantastic tale, and then gives the pair a tarnished gold coin he claims has special time-travel powers. Along with the coin, comes a strange message. Wherever you decide to go, leave your destination a better place than a'fore you arrived. Do that, and your travels will continue.

Max, eager to accept the challenge, and Maddie—more reluctantly—travel back in time only to discover they're right where they started—Pine Mountain near their West Georgia hometown…two hundred years in the past!

Early 1800s miners, searching for gold on top of the mountain, and American Indian villagers, thriving alongside Sweetwater Creek, cross paths with Max and Maddie when an angry mother bear, protecting her cub, threatens the thirteen-year-old best friends.

Will their first journey back in time, end with deadly consequences, or will the early settlers and natives band together to save the young time-travelers, and strengthen prospects for further adventures?

And now read about Maddie’s author:

Author, Mary Cunningham grew up in the sleepy little town of Corydon, Indiana; and she really means, "In town!" Her house was just beyond the main intersection that took Southern Indiana cars and trucks from north to west. That was well before I-64 zoomed traffic just north of town, so imagine the teeth-grinding sound an 18-wheeler made wheeling around the tight corner, then downshifting as they passed her house. Winter? Not so bad. Summer with the windows open? Countless sleepless nights spent sitting on the porch with her dad telling stories and learning about the constellations.

After 10 years as a bank teller, followed by a horrifying stint as a travel agent and more rewarding experience teaching travel and tourism and the airline computer reservation system, she finally realized that her heart belonged to writing.

Her childhood experiences, and a recurring dream about a mysterious attic, inspired her to create characters, Cynthia and Augusta Lee, for an award-winning, five-book, 'Tween series, "Cynthia's Attic." Like characters, Cynthia and Gus, Cynthia (her real childhood best friend) and Mary grew up in a small, Southern Indiana town...the setting for the series.

Cunningham is also co-author of the humor-filled lifestyle book, (WOOF) Women Only Over Fifty, along with published short stories, Ghost Light, and "Cynthia's Attic" short story, Christmas With Daisy.

At present, she is writing a new 5-story historical/time-travel 'Tween series beginning at the Pine Mountain Gold Museum in West Georgia, and continuing throughout the United States. Ghost of Pine Mountain: The Adventures of Max and Maddie, has just been released on Kindle.

She is a member of The Georgia Reading Association, and the Carrollton Creative Writers Club.

When she gives her fingers a day away from the keyboard, she enjoys golf, swimming and exploring the mountains of West Georgia where she makes her home with her husband. Together they've raised three creative children, along with an adopted "furry" daughter named Lucy.

The author spends non-writing time showing power point presentations, on gathering ideas and the writing process, to schools and libraries.

Ghost of Pine Mountain Links:

Mary Cunningham Books:


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.

May 29, 2013

Three Times A Charm with Laura Hesse

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.

Today’s guest is author, Laura Hesse. Welcome to Strands of Thought, Laura. Tell us a little about you, please.

For ten years, I worked as a Timber Cruiser and Firefighter in northern Alberta and Ontario; in fact, I was one of the first of two women to be hired to serve on a Helitack crew by the Alberta Forest Service back in 1982. That was where I started writing. In the evening, you can only stare into a fire for so long. I loved my old Underwood typewriter. In life, all things change. Eventually an outhouse became a luxury item, and I knew it was time to quit!

After that, I worked in real estate as an unlicensed real estate assistant and a fully licensed Realtor for twenty years, but it didn’t impassion me the way that writing did.

I opened my publishing company, Running L Productions, in 2003. It was the fulfillment of a lifelong dream, one that has been with me since I was 16. I wrote my first independently published novel, One Frosty Christmas, while recovering from major surgery in 2001 and have never looked back.

Tell us more about your books, Laura.

My Holiday Series is a Walt Disney themed series of novels geared towards horse loving young adults and teens.  One Frosty Christmas, The Great Pumpkin Ride, and A Filly Called Easter are Canadian bestsellers. Sales took off after a local book reviewer compared One Frosty Christmas to the Black Stallion. All of these novels have placed in the top 50 on Amazon in their various holiday categories with A Filly Called Easter climbing to #5 in 2010. The original screenplays are currently under option to Select Services Films in LA.

I expanded my portfolio of novels with the teen romance/family drama, Two Independents, the west coast paranormal thriller, The Thin Line of Reason and the black comedy/murder mystery, Gumboots, Gumshoes & Murder in the last few years.

Visit my blog at for more information .

What readers would you recommend your books to?

Fans of
1.       Black Stallion Series
2.      Heartland Series
3.      Murder She Wrote

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

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

My horse, my computer and chocolate.

  • Top 3 pieces of advice for kids these days. 

Success is hard work and it’s worth it, don’t be afraid to ask questions, and never give up on your dreams…you can put them off, but don’t stop believing in them.

  • Top 3 super heroes – and why they are your favorites. 

Tarzan – cause swinging through trees would be fun, Jane – cause she gets to hang out with Tarzan and his monkeys, Zorro – cause he has a super cool cape and a gorgeous horse.

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

READERS, it’s your turn! Laura wants you to share your top 3 responses to:

1.      Which horse story do you love the most?
2.      What book or writer inspires you?
3.      If you camped out at a haunted cabin in the woods, what three things would you take with you?

Thanks for charming us on this week’s Three Times A Charm, Laura. Best of luck to you and your writing.


GUESTS WELCOME!  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.

May 25, 2013

The Prize Packages

In celebration of the launch of my new book BEWARE OF THE WHITE, three lucky winners will be chosen to win one of these book related prize packages:

A book bag, a locker magnet, a signed bookmark and a Molly (made by me!)

A book bag, a water bottle, a signed bookmark and a Molly (made by me!)
A book bag, a water bottle a signed bookmark and a framed drawing of a Trepidus (drawn by my daughter)
Prizes not meant for young children. US addresses only. For a complete tour schedule, click HERE

a Rafflecopter giveaway

May 24, 2013

Building Character with Kelor from Trail of Bones

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 Kelor from Trail of Bones. Kelor is here as part of the I'm A Reader Not A Writer book tour. Welcome to Strands of Thought, Kelor. Tell us a little about yourself and what your life is like.

I am Kelor, a giant panther born to a life in a cage by a cruel master. They torture me and force me to fight, but they have no idea how powerful I really am. Each day I look for an escape... they can't hold me forever.

What conflict are you up against? 

Conflict? I was born in a cage so my entire life is conflict. They rarely feed me, I'm taunted by a guard - a one-horned minotaur, tortured by The Warden, and forced to fight in the battle of the beasts. I'm up against it all, but one day they'll see how strong I truly am... and they'll pay. 
What have you learned about yourself while trying to resolve your problems? 

The fire monster killed my family. It took them away from me while I watched and could do nothing.  The Warden, he promised he'd let them go if I spared his life, then he did nothing but let them burn. They were innocent and died because I wasn't able to save them. 

Tell us about your best friend. 

Who, Magnus?

I don't know if he's my friend, well, perhaps, but sidekick sounds better. After all, he's a Shade Wolf, or a mutt as I like to call him. He frustrates me. He has more strength, more potential than he realizes but he doesn't use it. Sometimes you have to fight, and if you're like me, you fight to win... every time! 

What is your strongest personality trait? 

No doubt about it, my will. You can test me, tease me or torture me, take things away or leave me for dead... but I will never, never give in or give up. I may have entered this world a prisoner, but I will leave it on my terms, my way - end of story. 

I admire your spirit, Kelor. How about we get to know you better? What are your three favorite leisure activities? 

Eating, sleeping, and hunting. I'm a giant panther, what else would you expect? Well, I guess I do enjoy watching Magnus run for his life, and Navarro screeching while he's fighting a dozen swamp foxes. It sounds mean, I know, but trust me, it is also hilarious. I guess you'd just have to be there to understand. 

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

Magnus and his pack of Shade Wolves say it all the time, which is rather annoying, but I suppose there's some truth to it. "Run with purpose". It means to not waste time, life, energy, seasons... everything you do should be for a reason. 

Thanks for visiting today, Kelor. We're rooting for your freedom!

To learn more about Trail of Bones or Trail's author Chris Salisbury, visit the book tour page.

May 20, 2013

Readers Want To Know Nick Green Author of The Storm Bottle

Thank you for joining us on Readers Want To Know! Please introduce yourself and your book.

Hi! My name’s Nick Green, and my latest book is The Storm Bottle. It’s an adventure set in Bermuda and its surrounding ocean, and the cast of characters includes both humans and dolphins, and possibly a whale or two. I usually say it’s for readers aged 9 and older – though most of its readers have been a lot older. That’s the thing about ebooks I guess.

My other books make up The Cat Kin trilogy, published by Strident: The Cat Kin, Cat’s Paw and Cat’s Cradle.  These are dark action adventures set in London, and book 1 has been made into a BBC audiobook.

Nick, tell us, if you were stranded on a desert isle with a character from your book, which one would you choose and why?

I’d choose Hal, the seventeen-year-old fisherman who usually gets roped into being Bibi’s accomplice. He’d be useful as he can fish, and sail, and also has a boat – as we’re stranded here I’m assuming that something is wrong with the boat, but maybe he can help me build a raft or something. He’d certainly be better at finding his way home than I would. Bermuda, where he lives, is effectively a desert island itself (there’s no groundwater – all drinking water has to come from the rain).

Hal is also good company, he’s funny, can tell a good story and is very good natured. A bit too good natured for his own good, maybe. People do tend to take advantage of him…

If you could live through one scene from your book, which would it be?

Most of the underwater action would be pretty special to see if you were just a landlubbing human being. The dolphin characters in the book are constantly chasing, hunting, squaring off against each other and fighting battles – they have highly dramatic lives. I wanted my dolphins to be as real as possible, so almost everything they do in the book, wild bottlenose dolphins really do. They form complex alliances, they call each other by name, and they repay their debts and settle scores. They’ve even been observed making long, unexplained voyages from Bermuda into the middle of the Atlantic. I wondered, where are they going, and why? The book imagines an answer to that mystery.

But the scene I’d most like to witness is one that’s so extraordinary, so unique, that it leaves even the dolphins slack-jawed with wonder, because they’ve never seen anything like it in the ocean before.

Which is your favorite supporting character from your book and why?

Jill the dolphin is a lot of people’s favourite, and mine too. At first she seems like quite a helpless case, because her tail has been mangled by a fishing line, leaving her effectively crippled. But what she lacks in speed and agility, she more than makes up for in the size of her brain – and her heart. She’s Michael’s most loyal and resourceful friend, and he’d almost certainly end up dead in the water without her.

The police just showed up at your main character’s door. Why?

They’re looking for Bibi, but Bibi’s not in. She’s run away from home and taken her step-brother Michael, who is apparently suffering from brain damage after a near-drowning. What no-one but Bibi knows is that Michael is really not Michael anymore – his body is now inhabited by the mind of a dolphin named Rodrigo. Which is why he’s acting, shall we say, a little odd.

Your main character is caught outside in a sudden rainstorm are they mad, happy or indifferent? Why?

Bibi is a real outdoors person, so she’s not bothered in the least. Bermuda rain is warm, anyway, and maybe she needs to refill her bottles of drinking water. However, even she has her limits – and these are sorely tested towards the end of the book. There’s weather, and then there’s weather.

About the book:

The Storm Bottle

Swimming with dolphins is said to be the number one thing to do before you die. For 12-year-old Michael, it very nearly is. A secret boat trip has gone tragically wrong, and now he lies unconscious in hospital.

But when Michael finally wakes up, he seems different. His step sister Bibi is soon convinced that he is not who he appears to be. Meanwhile, in the ocean beyond Bermuda’s reefs, a group of bottlenose dolphins are astonished to discover a stranger in their midst – a boy lost and desperate to return home.

Bermuda is a place of mysteries. Some believe its seas are enchanted, and the sun-drenched islands conceal a darker past, haunted with tales of lost ships. Now Bibi and Michael are finding themselves in the most extraordinary tale of all.

About the author:

You can follow me on Twitter at @nickgreen90125 if it takes your fancy. If the numbers 90125 mean anything to you, then you already know something about me, and that’s probably all you need to know. Do pop by and say hi!

Thanks for answering the burning questions on Readers Want to Know!

May 17, 2013

Launch of Beware of the White by Kai Strand!

Five words about BEWARE OF THE WHITE: Adventurous, Smart, Nail-biting, Funny, Cool!


As is tradition, Terra learns on the Saturday past her twelfth birthday that she is a Natures Spirit. It is her legacy to serve in the peaceful underground city of Concord. Learning she is named in a prophecy and being threatened by the leader of the death tribe…that part breaks tradition.

The Trepidus are the death janitors of the Underworld, responsible for delivering fatalities with a smile and cleaning up after themselves until Blanco, recent leader of the Trepidus, decides the day of reckoning for his species is coming. He begins organizing the creatures and leads them toward an uprising. The prophecy says there is one person who can stop him. Terra.

With Spirit of Security, Frank, protecting her, Terra attempts to complete her training and discover her Spirit talents. Together, they go on a rogue investigation to learn how to defeat Blanco. In the end, it comes down to a battle of the minds. The future of Concord is at stake. Will Blanco, the older, more experienced being win? Or will Terra, the young, new Spirit earn back the peace of the city?

Buy It:
Or look for it on iTunes


To celebrate the launch of BEWARE OF THE WHITE, I have awesome book related prize packages. Be sure to enter to win (bottom of post). And return again and again to claim entries as you qualify. I will also have Spontaneous Giveaways during my book tour. Those giveaways won’t be announced so be sure to follow my tour closely so you don't miss any fast and furious giveaways. Only virtual stalkers will have the opportunity at all the fun!


May 17th - Launch Day -

MuseItYoung & MuseItYA Interview with Terra from Beware of the White
Tamara Lowe Spotlight on what you have in common
Medeia Sharif Spotlight on the bully
Mayra Calvani Book inspiration
Kelly Hashway Spotlight on the threat!
Melanie Robertson-King Spotlight on the players.
Erin Albert 12 Random Things About Me
Melissa Goodwin Book Spotlight with Excerpt

May 20th -

Katie Carroll - Do The Hard Work (guest post)
Antagonize Me - Character interview with Blanco

May 23rd -

Nancy Stewart - Book's Journey To Publication

May 25th -

Selena Robins - Spotlight on First Crushes
Donna McDine - Spotlight on Rainbows

May 27th -

Rosemary Gemmell - Spotlight on Inspiration

May 28th -

Stuart West - World Building (guest post)
Beverly Stowe McClure - Author Interview

May 30th

Hazel Nutt - Top 10 Book Marketing Tips

June 1st -

Mary Cunningham - Book Spotlight

June 3rd -

Dorothy Dreyer - Writing Suspenseful Middle Grade (guest post)
Pen & Ink - Editorial Experience (guest post)

June 5th -

Penny Ehrenkranz - Author Interview

June 7th -

Strands of Thought - Character Interview of Frank
Cheryl Malandrinos - Review of first chapter

June 9th -

Rita Monette - Spotlight

June 11th -

Darlene Foster - Never Give Up On Your Dream (guest post)

June 12th -

Maggie Lyons - Writing for Small Presses (guest post)

June 14th -

Jo Linsdell - Feature Friday

June 17th

Sara Stinson - Falling In Love with your Character (guest post)

Talk about the giveaways and prize packets

a Rafflecopter giveaway

May 15, 2013

Three Times A Charm with Rosemary Gemmell

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.

Today’s guest is author, Rosemary Gemmell. Welcome to Strands of Thought, Rosemary. Tell us a little about you, please.

Many thanks for having me on your blog, Kai.

After working part-time and studying for a BA and MA in literature and history while the children were growing up, I’ve now been a freelance writer for many years. Many of my short stories and articles are published in UK magazines, in the US, and Online and a few stories have won prizes over the years. My first historical novel, Dangerous Deceit, was published by Champagne Books in Canada in May 2011 and a Victorian novella, Mischief at Mulberry Manor, was published on kindle in December 2012 (both as Romy).

The Jigsaw Puzzle is my second tween novel published by MuseItUp Publishing in Canada, and Summer of the Eagles was published last year (both as Ros). I’m a bit of a butterfly writer, as I write in so many different genres and styles! I’m a member of the Society of Authors, the Scottish Association of Writers and the Romantic Novelists’ Association. Happily married, with two grown-up children, I love to dance!

I’m trying to imagine you telling us all of this with a Scottish brogue. I imagine it is as soft and lilting as a brogue can be, but hard to understand when you’re excited. Am I close? Rosemary, in that charming accent of yours, tell us more about your latest book?

The Jigsaw Puzzle is suitable for ages around 9-12. Here’s a short blurb:

Twelve-year-old asthmatic Daniel stays with his bossy cousin, Amy, her mum, and two cats in the Scottish countryside during the Christmas holidays while his parents take a trip to sort out their problems. When Amy and Daniel make up an old jigsaw puzzle, the cottage and garden begin to change.

In between searching for the missing Title Deeds of the cottage, they complete the jigsaw and find a strange rhyming puzzle hidden within the box. Then Daniel and Amy become trapped in the past. Will they solve the cryptic written puzzle and find their way back to the present before it’s too late to save themselves, the destruction of the woods, and their cottage?

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.

> patience

> perseverance

> ability to never give up

  • Top 3 pieces of advice for kids these days.

> believe in yourself

> enjoy the magic of childhood

> get lost in reading good books

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

> air stewardess

> librarian

> nutritionist

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

Flights of Imagination children’s blog:
Reading and Writing blog:
Twitter: @rosemarygemmell

Thanks for charming us on this week’s Three Times A Charm, Rosemary. Best of luck to you, your writing.


GUESTS WELCOME!  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.

May 14, 2013

Spotlight on This I Promise You by Tressa Messenger

Inspired by real life, emotional events:

This I Promise You by Tressa Messenger

You only get one first of anything, and no matter the time, or space, or age, you never forget your firsts.
When thirteen year old Nicky Moore’s parents decide to buy a small summer beach cottage at Atlantic Beach, North Carolina, she thought her life would end. It didn’t matter the beauty of the area - land and water as far as the eye could see - she was bound and determined to make her family’s summer vacation as dismal as she felt. That was until she met a boy from down the beach; a beautiful boy, with the most intense brown eyes she had ever seen and a smile that could light the ocean on fire. A summer that Nicky thought was doomed from the start, turned into a summer that she would never forget; one full of firsts. It was impossible for her to know years later how one seemingly little decision could change everything forever, but soon, as an adult, Nicky will find out that everything she once thought were real and the promises once made, were lost in a sea of inner turmoil.

Learn more about Tressa Messenger and her books: 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

May 10, 2013

Building Character with Andy Smithson: Blast of the Dragon's Fury

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 a World of Ink tour host to Andy Smithson: Blast of the Dragon’s Fury. Welcome to Strands of Thought, Andy. Tell us a little about yourself and what your life is like.

Hi, I’m Andy Smithson.  I’m ten years old.  I live in Lake Hills, TX. I love playing video games, especially Dragonslayer. My parents both own companies and are always really busy.  I have an older sister, Megan (aka Miss Perfect).  My parents like her better than me. She’s always getting straight A’s.  Me, not so much. I feel like I’m always in trouble at home for not being responsible or respecting someone. I don’t try to get in trouble, it just seems to follow me. My brain does funny things.  At times, I feel like I’ve been transported to a different place.  I know, it sounds crazy, but it’s true.  When I get back, people never believe me, especially my parents.  They tell me to grow up and usually punish me to try to teach me a lesson not to daydream. I’m not!  No way I’m going to convince them of that though. Anyway, I was being punished, I had to do dishes by hand, I know, stupid, especially since we have a perfectly good dishwasher.  What doing dishes has to do with learning to respect authority I’ve no idea.  So, I was doing dishes one night when everything went dark and I ended up crashing into the King’s Laboratory.  Talk about weird!

What conflict are you up against? 

I’m supposed to retrieve several ingredients to break a 500 year old curse of dense fog that’s been put on the land. 

What have you learned about yourself while trying to break the curse? 

I used to just think about myself. But since I got to the land of Oomaldee, everyone has treated me so well.  They actually respect me and ask my opinion.  I love these people and I think they love me.  The King even said so.  Made me feel warm and fuzzy inside.  Anyway, I’m scared about all I’m up against, like fire-breathing-dragons, people-eating-giants, vicious attacking vultures and more.  In the past, I would have just turned my back on the problem because it’s not mine.  But, I’m not this time.  Because I love these people, I’ve decided to help even though I’m scared to death, at times.  It feels like a new beginning for me.

Tell us about your best friend. 

My best friend is Alden.  He’s a servant in the castle.  I met him when I first got there.  He loves riding his Pegasus, Optimistic.  He’s really good at it too!  He won first prize in the Tower Chase competition at the annual Festival of Oomaldee.  He’s a good friend.  I’ve never known anyone like him. We get along really well.  I respect him for standing up against the prejudice that the people in Oomaldee have against the people of Carta where he’s from.  Oh, he’s got bright green hair, too.  And I love his mom, Marta.  She makes the best chocolate chip cookies! 

What are your three favorite leisure activities? 

Playing videogames, playing videogames, playing videogames, in that order.

What are your three favorite foods?

I love chocolate chip cookies, just out of the oven, all gooey and soft…  Ooooh, so good.  I also love chicken and dumplings and S’mores.

What do you want to be when you grow up?

Maybe a videogame designer.

Andy, if you could change one thing in this world, what would you change?

I just want my mom and dad to respect me and accept me for who I am. 

Thanks for joining us today, Andy. Your adventure sounds thrilling! Readers, here is more information about Andy’s story, Andy Smithson: Blast of the Dragon’s Fury.

L. R. W. Lee’s debut novel, Andy Smithson: Blast of the Dragon’s Fury, is described as a riveting book filled with visible humor, clever touches, vivid imagery, and unexpected twists and turns, that can’t be put down.  From the After Life, ten-year-old Andy Smithson’s relatives initiated a curse 500 years ago.  Now they no longer agree it should continue and one is willing to sacrifice Andy’s life to end it.  Unaware of the disagreement and with no say in the matter, Andy is unexpectedly and magically transported from his home.  He finds himself in the Land of Oomaldee, facing mortal danger at every turn as he seeks to find a scale from a rare red dragon, the most ferocious of dragon species, to break the curse and save his life.

Both the eBook as well as the paperback are available at or you can get the paperback and other gear, like T-shirts, at my website at  While you’re there, be sure to check out the Read, Review, Refer reward program where you can get a free copy of the next book.

Read about Andy’s author:

As early as 8 years old, L. R. W. Lee wanted to write a book, but had an inner barometer that measured whether her words would just fill up space/time or meaningfully contribute to better another’s life. At the time, she felt like she didn’t have anything meaningful to say.  She hoped she would one day.

Born in Upstate New York, her family didn’t have a lot of money. She and her older brother were encouraged to use their imaginations to entertain themselves.  And use them they did – climbing trees and tree forts, using a quilt for a matchbox car city, making puppets and putting on shows, and much more. 

L. R. W. Lee went to college and got a degree in Accounting.  However, most folks frown on “creative accounting”, so she put her imagination on hold.  Her business interests eventually led her to founded and grow a successful company which, with her partner, she successfully sold in January 2012, leaving her time to imagine and write for the first time.

L. R. W. Lee lives in scenic Austin, TX with her husband, her daughter who is a Longhorn at UT Austin and her son who is in high school. The Sound of Music is her favorite musical. She hates scary movies. But, loves piano and strings music, sunsets in Hawaii and a good cup of decaf, French press coffee (yes, decaf!). She also loves Ansel Adams prints, as well as all manner of kinetic art.

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.

May 8, 2013

Three Times A Charm with Mindy Hardwick

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.

Today’s guest is author, Mindy Hardwick. It is rare when I’ve had the privilege of meeting an author in person, but Mindy and I did indeed meet recently at EPICon in Vancouver, Washington. It was lovely sharing a table with Mindy during the awards banquet! I hope we can do it again next year in Texas.

Welcome to Strands of Thought, Mindy. Tell us a little about you, please.

I am the author of STAINED GLASS SUMMER, a 2013 finalist in the EPIC Awards in Children’s, as well as the young adult romance, WEAVING MAGIC. The inspiration for WEAVING MAGIC came from the poetry workshop I facilitate with kids in a juvenile detention center. I am currently working on a memoir about that experience. I hold an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College. When I’m not writing, I love to take long walks on the Oregon Coast beaches with my dog, Stormy. 

How wonderful of you to work with kids in juvenile detention. My hat’s off to you. Can you tell us more about your latest book?

STAINED GLASS SUMMER is the story of twelve-year-old Jasmine who adores her photographer Father and wants to be an artist just like him. But when Dad abandons the family, Jasmine is sent to spend the summer with her Uncle on a Pacific Northwest Island. Soon, Jasmine is learning stained glass from island glass artist, Opal, and thinking she might just be developing a crush on Island boy, Cole. But, it’s not until Jasmine finds herself mentoring another young artist that she can truly let go of her Father and call herself an artist by her own terms.

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.

1.      The Writer’s Journey by Christopher Vogler. This book is one of the best on plotting using the hero’s journey. I often use this book to teach kids in workshops as well as help plot my stories. It works for all types of stories from memoir to romance to children’s books.
2.      Now Write: Fiction Writing Exercises from Today’s Best Writing Teachers: I think it’s important to have at least one book with writing exercises. These can be used as quick, get you in the mood for writing, or, I find them helpful for teaching workshops to all ages.
3.      Second Sight by Cheryl B Klein. Cheryl Klein is an editor for Scholastic who gave some great talks to SCBWI Conferences over the years. She compiled a lot of those talks and information into this book. If you struggle with character, or want to learn more about creating children’s characters, this is the book!

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

1. Read everything you can. Children’s books are very different from ten years ago. It’s important to stay current.

2. Take classes and attend workshops and conferences. Workshops, conferences and classes are invaluable for the people you meet as well as the opportunities to pitch to editors and agents and learn about the business of writing.

3. Find a critique partner. It’s really important to share your work with others who are writing too, and this does not mean friends and/or family. One of the best ways to find a critique partner is to join organizations such as SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators), and/or attend workshops and classes.

Top 3 leisure activities.

1.      Collage and journal art
2.      Sewing—I love sewing things such as Kindle covers and various shapes and sizes of book bags.
3.      Traveling to fun places like the Oregon Coast and taking walks on the beach in all types of weather.

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

Twitter: @mindyhardwick

Thanks, Mindy, for charming us on this week’s Three Times A Charm. Best of luck to you, your writing.


GUESTS WELCOME!  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.

May 6, 2013

Readers Want To Know Elizabeth Parkinson Bellows

Today, the Im A Reader Not A Writer blog tour brings us the delightful Elizabeth Parkinson Bellows to talk about her Alexander Drake books. (I apologize this is in all caps. I've tried everything to fix it short of retyping the entire interview myself!)

Welcome Elizabeth! Thank you for joining us on Readers Want To Know! Can you please introduce yourself and your book?

Thank you for having me! I am a mom & keeper of chaos to three little ones… ages 7 and under. I also write childrens fantasy in my pockets of time. I started the Azra’s Pith Series when my son was born. It is full of the things I love ― an enchanting world with colorful creatures, magic, intrigue, and Alexander (the unassuming hero)… along with some dark sorcery and nasty flying creatures.  Books 1 and 2 are available now. Book 3, “The Butterfly Curse” is just about finished.

If you were stranded on a desert isle with a character from your book, which one would you choose and why?

Julien – his energy is peaceful; so if I happen to be freaking out and talking to volley balls or dancing like a lunatic around a fire he might have a chance of calming me down. He would make for great company because he loves to joke around. If all else fails he is an Empyrean wizard; he could simply morph into his owl form and fly us home.

You and your main character are throwing a dinner party. Would the party be BIG, medium or an intimate gathering, and who would be on the guest list and/or what would be on the menu?

Dinner (and eating in general) is a big deal in Azra’s Pith. So, of course a dinner party would have to be huge! There is no need be rude and leave out the hoppers, or the dirt pips, and certainly not anyone from Mundi’s Village… or any Empyrean Wizards. Things will get a little rowdy in the palace of Verhonia that night. After a hearty vegetable stew for dinner (yep… just vegetable stew), there would be diving contest in the courtyard fountain… those crazy hoppers. The Empyreans would be flying through the palace walls with dirt pips on their backs. Who is not invited? Dark sorcerers, banished empyrean wizards, and vicious flying murks. We don’t want the guests being eaten for dinner along with the stew.  

If you could live through one scene from your book, which would it be?

Oh wow, tough one. There are so many that I would love to be in. As a kid I was on a determined quest to find portals to magical lands after reading “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe”. So, of course I would want to jump into the magical tree and through the passageway! Landing in Azra’s Pith with Ferdinand as my companion would be amazing. Alexander is a lucky kid, he just doesn’t realize it because he is too busy running from murks and dark magic.  

Did you cry while writing this book? How many times? Why?

Through Alexander’s journey he has a heavy heart and is trying to find out what happened to his mother.  His struggle to cope with a distant, secretive father and a mother he never knew was tough at times to write. At the end Alexander receives a gift; something that once belonged to his mother. Oh dear… I don’t want to give anything away! That said, I cried writing that scene like the silly, sappy fantasy geek I am.
Which is your favorite supporting character from your book and why?

Ferdinand, the fearless hopper has been my favorite to write. He’s uptight and temperamental. He knows everything (at least he thinks he does) He is brave to a fault and incredibly handsome (again… he would like to think so) for a frog. Oops! Don’t ever call him a frog unless you want an hour long lecture about the origin of hoppers. He is also one of the few remaining go-betweens in the realm. If you find a magical key lying around; then a talking frog pops out with long gangly limbs, a pudgy belly and a feisty disposition…expect a wild adventure.

Elizabeth, you’ve been such a fun guest and your books sound amazing! Thanks for joining us and we wish you tons of success with your books and your tour!

Alexander Drake's Extraordinary PursuitAlexander Drake new coverMeet Alexander Drake, a curious young man living in a drab, oversized mansion with his secretive father. He spent his days playing alone. In the back of his mind he wondered what happened to his mother, and why his father was tight-lipped about the past; but secrets have a way of getting out. It all started with a stay at his grandmother’s cottage. Alexander found strange clues tucked away in his father’s old bedroom. With a mysterious key and several maps in his pack he set off on an innocent search for answers about his family. When he discovered a secret passageway the search took a dramatic turn. He suddenly worried about what was searching for him. Alexander was being hunted by a sorcerer from his father’s past. Answers lead to more questions and the journey of his life. Join Alexander for a thrilling adventure in Azra’s Pith, a place of beauty and magic… but beware—something evil lurks in the shadows.

About Elizabeth Parkinson Bellows:

Being the frizzy-haired tomboy with buck teeth gave me a slight case of shyness as a kid. A colorful imagination meant escape and adventure at the drop of a hat.
Over the years I learned that the insecurities I carried around were a waste of time. I still prefer a football game to a manicure any day of the week. That indispensable imagination has found its way into my writing providing a sense of joy and a true purpose.

May 3, 2013

Building Character with Erik from A Pirate, A Blockade Runner and a Cat

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 Erik from A Pirate, A Blockade Runner and a Cat. Erik, it is so good of you to join us on Strands of Thought. Tell us a little about yourself and what your life is like.

Hi, I’m Erik Burks, 13, a guy that once had a great life. I had friends and baseball, a mom and dad. But this summer everything fell apart. Now I’m living halfway across the country, no dad, no friends, no baseball. Just my mom and Aunt Molly. My life is over.

Oh, Erik, I’m so sorry to hear all of that. Now what are you going to do?

I’m trying to convince my mom to move back to Texas. I think she acted too hastily. You see, when I found this black lace bra (not my mom’s) in my dad’s car, she went ballistic, threw some clothes into a suitcase and the next thing I knew we were on a plane to South Carolina. Now Mom and I are living with Mom’s sister (Aunt Molly) and my friends and baseball are still in Texas. 

What are some of the biggest stumbling blocks you’ve encountered trying to get your mom to see reason?

Well, first Mom won’t even discuss going home. I can’t say as I blame her, if the lace means what I’m pretty sure it means, but she could think of me, her only child, what I want. Second, my dad hasn’t called, sent smoke signals, or emailed or text messaged me to see if I’m okay. I guess he doesn’t really miss me. Third, Mom thinks I’m too young to stay by myself while she’s at work so she has the old (and I mean old) man next door babysitting me. Talk about humiliation. I’m glad my friends in Texas can’t see what my life has become.   

What have you learned about yourself during all of this?

I’ve learned I’m pretty selfish and will do most anything to get what I want. I’m not proud of myself, just desperate.

Erik, tell us about your best friend.

I never thought I’d call the twins, Star and Storm Knight, friends, but we’ve been through a lot together and they’re kind of cool, in a weird way.  Star knows everything a person is thinking, which means I have to guard my thoughts. Some things are too private for her to know. And Storm is goofy but brilliant. Contradiction, huh?

Let’s get to know you a bit better. What are your three favorite leisure activities?

Baseball, eating, and baseball. Yeah, I’m crazy about the sport.

What do you want to be when you grow up?

Major league baseball player.

If you could change one thing in this world, what would you change?

I’d make parents have to ask their kids their opinions about things that affect the kid, like moving to a new town and being honest with their kid instead of keeping secrets, like we’re too dumb to figure out what they’re doing.

Erik, we wish you lots of luck with your unfortunate situation. I’m glad you have made friends in your new town, because it would be hard to go through so much change all alone. Thanks for visiting!

Thank you, Ms. Strand for letting me tell my troubles. Erik, AKA Ek

I love that nickname! Be sure to tell Storm that ‘Ek’ makes me smile! Readers, here is more about Erik and his story, A Pirate, A Blockade Runner and a Cat (a great middle grade read, by the way!):

Thirteen-year-old Erik Burks’ life is falling apart. When he discovers a lace bra in the glove compartment of his dad’s car, his mom leaves his father and drags Erik from being king of the hill in Texas to the bottom of the pits in South Carolina. No Dad, no baseball, no friends, just Starry Knight (a girl who reads minds) and her equally weird brother, Stormy, the twins that live down the block.

Just when Erik thinks life can’t get any worse, while hanging out at the beach one evening, he and the twins notice lights radiating from the lighthouse. The only problem is the lighthouse was deactivated years ago. Stranger still, a ship materializes in the moonlit harbor. Curious, the twins and a reluctant Erik investigate and discover the ghost of a blockade runner, a phantom cat, and a pirate who prowls Charleston Harbor, all searching for rest.

A former nonbeliever in the existence of ghosts, Erik cannot deny the proof before him. And he has a revelation: The ghosts may be the answer to his desire to return home. Erik soon makes a deal with the ghosts. He’ll help them find what they’re looking for so their spirits can rest in peace. In return, the ghosts will scare Erik’s mother so she’ll be on the next flight back to Texas. Star thinks his plan stinks, but Erik wants his life back, even at the cost of his mother’s sanity.

MuseItUp Publishing:

Learn about Erik’s author:

Beverly Stowe McClure, former teacher, is now enjoying a second career: writing. She never planned to be a writer, but in the classroom she and her students did such fun activities in art and science that she decided to write about some of them. Luckily, a few magazines liked what she sent them, and her articles have appeared in Humpty Dumpty, Jack and Jill, Ladybug, Focus on the Family Clubhouse, Jr., and others. Nine of her stories, from picture books to MG/Tween and Young Adult novels have been published. She also has a doggie article in Chicken Soup for the Soul: What I Learned from the Dog.

For fun, Beverly enjoys genealogy and discovering what her ancestors were like many years ago. She plays the piano. (Thank you, Mom, for making encouraging me to practice.) She takes long walks where she snaps pictures of wildlife and clouds, and of course she reads, usually two books at a time. Watching baseball is another of her favorite activities. Retirement is highly recommended.

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.