October 31, 2014

Building Character with Queen Cataleen from The Outlanders

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

Be sure to click through and enter the Rafflecopter Giveaway at the end of the post!

This week Strands of Thought plays host to Queen Cataleen from The Outlanders. Great of you to join us, your majesty. Can you tell our readers a little about yourself, please?

I am Cataleen, Queen of the Outlands, born of the queen’s blood and chosen to rule by Luna, former queen of the Outlands. I consider myself a private person, so be honored I graced you with my presence.

Of course we are honored. There is so much responsibility in being a queen. As well as a lot of expectation. Is there anything about you that people are always giving you a hard time about? How do you feel about it?

No one understands the role of a queen. It is my job to protect and defend my country. If there are a few collateral losses along the way, I honestly don’t see the problem with it. I am the queen. Because of my queen’s blood, I have been chosen by the First Ones to rule. I alone make the choices. I will not sit in judgment from my people or those squabbling “rulers” of Etherea and Vanguard. They’ve been fighting for centuries. Maybe the time has come for me to step in and put an end to their miserable existences. Judge that, everyone. <snicker>

What have you learned about yourself or friend or family while trying to…you know…rule?

I have learned that friends and family are worthless. As soon as I became queen, everyone shunned me. It’s fine. I’m a solitary person and don’t mind being alone. I plan to place a king by my side, one I’ve selected for a specific purpose, but I don’t even really need him. I don’t need anyone and never have.

Being independent is a valuable trait in a leader. What are some of the biggest stumbling blocks you’ve encountered trying to resolve your conflict?

Layla Givens, “the Fulfillment.” But don’t worry…I have plans for her.

Thank you for joining us today, your highness. Readers, read on for more about Queen Cataleen’s story, The Outlanders:

With King Jesper dead and Prince Wilhelm mortally wounded, Halfling prince, Nash, and the Fulfilment, Layla, assume the throne of Etherea. They must contend with a new Prophecy Candidate who asserts her position, and Layla is surprised to find her fate intertwined with this challenger. Facing a myriad of choices, Nash and Layla’s decisions affect not only their own futures but that of two kingdoms.

Unbeknownst to the Ethereals or the Vanguards, a slumbering menace stirs in the south, awakened after centuries of slumber. The mysterious Outlanders, a force shadowed in mystery, sit poised to tip the balance of power, sending ripples of fear throughout both warring kingdoms.

Elder Werrick proved a formidable foe, but Layla may yet meet her match in the monstrous Outlander queen. This mistress of the dark’s plans, rooted in revenge and ancient lore, now threaten the livelihood of all three kingdoms.

Racing against time, Layla travels to the Borderlands—home of the Voltons and Ecclesiastics—to discover as much as she can about the war, the First Ones, and the prophecy itself. Lives teeter in the balance, kingdoms sit on the cusp of ruin, and a beast, greater than any she’s ever faced before, plots a catastrophic attack. 

And read about Queen Cataleen’s author:

Erin Rhew is an editor, a running coach, and the author of The Fulfillment Series. Since she picked up Morris the Moose Goes to School at age four, she has been infatuated with the written word. She went on to work as a grammar and writing tutor in college and is still teased by her family and friends for being a member of the "Grammar Police." A Southern girl by blood and birth, Erin now lives in a rainy pocket of the Pacific Northwest with the amazingly talented (and totally handsome) writer Deek Rhew and their “overly fluffy,” patient-as-a-saint writing assistant, a tabby cat named Trinity. She and Deek enjoy reading aloud to one another, running, lifting, boxing, eating chocolate, and writing side-by-side.  

Twitter: @ErinRhewBooks      

a Rafflecopter giveaway

October 30, 2014

New Release and Excerpt! The Lumpy Duckling #mglit #friendship #fairytales #magic

I'm very excited to share with you my newest book release, The Lumpy Duckling - Another Weaver Tale.

Lumpy is the third standalone title in my Weaver Tale series. It's about friendship and expectation, transformation and doubt. Wheezy over thinks things to the point of making them happen. Lumpy is humble, sweet and (thank goodness) persistent. If you have a middle grade reader in your life, I think you'll be happy you shared this book with them.

Lumpy may be hefty with a misshapen mouth, but he’s funny and the most loyal friend Wheezy could ask for. When she meets Unwanted, she casts a wish for people to be able to see her best friend like she does. Her wish nearly kills him.

Available in hard and soft cover and electronic formats:

What people are saying:

Kai Strand explores friendship, perception, and the consequences of wishes in this fast-paced read. –Amazon Customer

This is a wonderful story of loyalty and friendship. It also shows how one’s fears and insecurities sometimes sabotage the good things we have in our lives. Like Wheezy, we have to learn to trust, to accept change, to be patient and understanding, and to try not to jump to conclusions. The end is most satisfying, but it’s an exciting, nerve-wracking ride getting there. The Lumpy Duckling is highly recommended for middle grade readers. –Penelope Anne Cole, award winning author

Excerpt, Chapter 1:

“Now where has that girl gone?” Mrs. Frickles grumbled. “Eloise Talemaker?”
Eloise popped up from behind the lab table. A clump of frizzy red hair, an escapee from her pigtails, rested like a veil over her left eye. She blew at it ineffectively. “Here, Mrs. Frickles. I guess I was carrying my folder upside down, because my papers fell out. I’m just retrieving them, ma’am.”
The teacher lifted her gaze to the ceiling before taking a deep breath. A frequent reaction she saved for the girl who squatted to the floor again and continued scooping up her papers. “Very well, Eloise. Make it quick.” Glancing across the room she smiled fondly at Wendell and checked his name off on the roll sheet.
Not one to allow an opportunity to make fun of a less popular classmate pass her by, Tosh hissed a tale at Eloise.

“Sneezy Wheezy—such a klutz.
The start of class she is prolonging,
by dropping all her prized belongings.
She should just sit on her…butts.”

Eloise, or Wheezy as all the kids called her, shook her head. “Tosh, stick to horror stories. Rhyme isn’t your thing.”
“Horror?” Tosh crossed her arms over her chest and spun on her lab stool presenting her back to Wheezy.
Smiling to herself, Wheezy stuffed her papers into her folder. Tosh’s usual style of Word Weaving was actually a pretty standard storytelling voice, nothing close to horror, but Wheezy couldn’t resist the dig at the girl’s mean personality. With all her papers collected, Wheezy scrambled onto her own stool at the table next to Tosh just in time for Mrs. Frickles to start the day’s lesson.
Wheezy’s next class was history. She gathered her belongings and followed her classmates out the door.
A fresh layer of spring snow had fallen the night before. The morning warmed enough for it to begin to melt off, and lavender, purple, yellow, and white crocuses poked holes through their nighttime blanket to greet the students while they walked through town from class to class. The town of The Tales was unique in that classes were held in people’s homes. History expert, Mr. Middy, taught class in the front sitting room of his house. Wheezy plunked onto a cushy couch next to Harken Herald.
“Hey Hark.” Wheezy yanked the tie off her left pigtail, recaptured the wayward hank of hair and re-tied it again.
Hark blinked at her. “Uneven.”
Wheezy shrugged. “Just so it stays in this time.”
The couch cushion under Wheezy puffed with air, launching her sideways into Hark. She giggled and leveraged herself against his arm so she could push herself back into the middle of the couch. The burst of air tickled her nose. She sucked in one breath, two breaths, and finally a sneeze burst from her.
Hark grunted in frustration, frowning at Poesy before offering a blessing to Wheezy.
“That never gets old,” Poesy said, smirking at Hark. She set her messenger bag on the floor unconcerned about the growing puddle of snow melting off her boots. She looked at Wheezy expectantly.
The second and third sneezes followed. Wheezy’s sneezes were always divisible by three.
“Bless you. Your pigtails are uneven.” Poesy reached for the one Wheezy just fixed.
Fluttering her lids to clear her watery eyes, Wheezy flipped her head to present the other one. “I have a hank that keeps escaping that one, so they have to be higher.”
“Not. A. Problem.” Poesy stuck her tongue out of the corner of her mouth while she worked to even up her friend’s hairstyle.
Wheezy scowled when Tosh sauntered through the front door, batting her eyelashes at the class heartthrob, Edward Telling. The two popular kids didn’t even glance in Wheezy’s direction. She and her friends were considered a non-issue unless the perfect opportunity to tease one of them presented itself, like it had in science that morning.
Poesy glanced to see whom Wheezy scowled at and quickly looked back at the hair she tied into place, a blush coloring her cheeks. It bothered Wheezy that Poesy had developed a crush on Edward; City Word Weaving Champion, youngest to ever receive the title of Top Tales Debater, the most decorated poet under the age of eighteen, and an epic ego, appropriately oversized from all the recognition. Poesy with her spiky black hair and uneven hems didn’t stand a chance against the ‘Toshes’ of The Tales. And there were plenty of ‘Toshes’ for Edward to choose from.
     Besides, isn’t seventh grade too young to worry about boys? In that way at least. She always worried about her very closest friend, Lumpy. She and Lawrence Nightingale had been inseparable since she tripped over him in the sandbox almost nine years ago. Well, inseparable might be a bit strong, since they couldn’t even go to school together, Lumpy being a year older than
her and all.
     Being picked on wasn’t the only thing they had in common. Wheezy smiled. They both liked…um…they preferred…um. Her smile fell away when she stared out the window picturing herself and Lumpy together.
     They had nothing in common. He liked to watch sports and whittle wood; she liked to create sand art and find shapes in the clouds. He chowed down steak and pan fried potatoes, or liverwurst and ketchup sandwiches, while she nibbled pickled zucchini spears and rye crisps. He spit into a pennywhistle, calling it music, while she sang like a songbird.
     Even their Word Weaving was different. She weaved reports and updates of current events while he …um…whatever his weavings were classified as, they made people laugh. Gnawing the inside of her cheek, she searched for a
commonality in their personalities, hobbies or interests. A reason they were friends.
     An image of Lumpy, a dirt stained baseball cap slightly askew, round face, red from laughing, an ever present lumpy grin on his lips which sparked in his bright blue eyes, formed in her mind, and a smile brightened her face again. It didn’t matter that they had nothing in common. He was her best friend. That was enough for her.
Again Lumpy is available in hard and soft cover and electronic formats:

Visit my website to read more about the entire Weaver Tale series:

October 29, 2014

Three Times A Charm with Conda V. Douglas

Today on Three Times A Charm we welcome author, Conda V. Douglas. I love introducing my readers to the people who work in children’s publishing.

Great of you to join us, Conda. Can you tell us a little about yourself, please?

Growing up in the ski resort of Sun Valley, Idaho, my childhood was filled with authors, artists and other creative types. I grew up with goats living in the kitchen, buffalo bones in the living room and rocks in the bathtub (long story). I've traveled the world from Singapore to Russia (in winter!) and my own tiny office, writing all the while.
Now my life is filled with my cat, dog, permanent boyfriend and writing.

The rare times I'm not writing, I love to read, teach exercise classes, bike and swim, hoping to stay in physical and mental shape for more writing and sometimes succeeding!

Rocks in the bathtub, huh? Interesting. Tell us more about your books.

In my popular tween fantasy Mall Fairies series the first two in the trilogy are out now: The Mall Fairies: Exile, followed by The Mall Fairies: War, and a cookbook full of dessert recipes plus fun fairy short stories The Mall Fairies Sweet Tooth Cookbook. The fairy inspiration for my Mall Fairies came from the sparrows that live in the Boise Towne Square Mall in Boise, Idaho. When not rescuing fairies from humans, cats and themselves, I work on the last title in the Mall Fairies trilogy, The Mall Fairies: Destiny.

I also delight in writing my Starke Dead creative woman mystery series with jeweler Dora Starke. The more Dora discovers cursed jewelry, her aunt digging graves, and a rampant poisoner, the more fun I have—although sometimes Dora complains about her plight! First up and available now is Starke Naked Dead, with a necklace worth millions and a stark naked body! Next up, Starke Raving Dead, in which Dora's mad Aunt Maddie proves the aptness of her name.

I recommend my book to readers who like: Terry Pratchett's Wintersmith, A Hat Full of Sky, and I Shall Wear Midnight (all about the same main character, Tiffany Aching, a teenage wannabe witch).

Sounds like you offer a varied selection of books. Now, let’s do the three’s. Please share you top three answers to the following questions so we can get to know you a little better.

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

First off, and most important, learn the basics! Grammar, spelling and manuscript format will insure that your writing is professional and is easy to learn. After all, it takes a ton of time and energy to write anything, so why not spend a little bit of effort helping your manuscript to succeed?

Second, read and read widely. Yes, we all have those genres we love to read, and if we're writing same, it's great to read in that genre to learn how to do the form and do it well. But also read other genres, nonfiction, fiction and everything you can. And don't just read, read critically, step outside of the reader role and ask: What works with this piece of writing? What doesn't? How can I apply this insight to my writing?

Last is to learn as much as you can about the business of publishing. This is easy and difficult at the same time as the publishing business, once fairly straightforward, is now constantly changing. But part of being an author is being read and there are a vast number of sites where you can find all sorts of information about the publishing business today, in fact sometimes too much info! Don't let that discourage you from discovering all you can. This can help your writing career be a success. 

  • Top 3 leisure activities.

Ice skating, travel and always, always reading (although not while ice skating).

  • Top 3 personal mantras or inspirational phrases.

Inspiration is the act of drawing up a chair to the writing desk.
You can't edit a blank page.
And my favorite: Keep writing!

Where can our tech savvy readers find you online?

Thanks for joining us on this week’s Three Times A Charm, Conda. 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.

October 28, 2014

Star of the Team by Beverly Stowe McClure

MG contemporary

I'm posting a rare review today for a spirited middle grade book by Beverly Stowe McClure. Beverly is a valued critique partner of mine, but this book made it into the world without me seeing it first. I've been SO excited to read it. Beverly is such an inspiration to me and I love her quiet and kind writing style. She says so much through her characters while you (the reader) grin like a loon—not even aware of the fact that you've learned an important lesson. 

My review:

Star of the Team by Beverly Stowe McClure has many of my favorite middle grade elements. Our main character, Kate, is a perky and likeable kid, who loves to play basketball. New girl, Emily, joins their team and her gloating attitude rubs Kate the wrong way. When Kate is injured and can’t play, she worries that Emily will out score her and earn the Star of the Team honor.

I enjoyed the genuine dynamics among the kids and with the adults. Kate works hard to solve her problem—often with humorous results—while also accepting her new place on the team. She might not like being the assistant's assistant, but she does it to stay involved. But I think what I liked the most was her genuine love of basketball. It seems strange in this enlightened age we live in that I am saying this, but it’s so nice to see a book about girls playing sports and taking it seriously.

Star of the Team is a well-written book that models good behavior in undesired circumstances, and demonstrates how a person can gain more by redefining their goals.

About the book:

A girl.
A dream.
An accident.
A dream shattered.

Eleven-year-old Kate Taylor dreams of being the star of her basketball team, Angels. When Kate’s tooth is knocked out at one of the games and her mother, who is also her coach, says she can’t play until the tooth the dentist replants heals, Kate’s dreams are in jeopardy. Add Emily, the new girl at school who claims she’s the best, and Kate faces a challenge to prove that she is the star.

Will Kate succeed? Or will Emily ruin Kate’s plans?

Available from:
Barnes and Noble: http://tinyurl.com/18r6ox4

Beverly Stowe McClure:

Most of the time, you’ll find Beverly in front of her computer, writing the stories little voices whisper in her ear. When she’s not writing, she takes long walks and snaps pictures of clouds, wild flowers, birds and deer. To some of her friends, she is affectionately known as the “Bug Lady” because she rescues butterflies, moths, walking sticks, and praying mantis from her cats.
For twenty-two years Beverly taught children in grades two through five how to read and write. They taught her patience. Now, she teaches a women’s Sunday school class at her church. To relax she plays the piano. Her cats don’t appreciate good music and run and hide when she tickles the ivories.

 Best of luck to Beverly and Star of the Team!

October 24, 2014

Building Character with Meg Flannigan from Perfect for You

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

This week Strands of Thought plays host to Meg Flannigan from Perfect For You. Glad you could join us, Meg. Can you tell our readers a little about yourself?

I’m Meg Flannigan, a senior at Treemont High. I’m the second best player on the tennis team, and I’m dating Asher Davidson, the quarterback of the football team.

Nice to meet you, Meg. It sounds like things are going real well for you. Congrats. A lot of kids your age are all dealing with all sorts of drama and conflicts. But not you, right?

I sort of have a few actually. I’m still trying to get over my sophomore-year boyfriend dumping me by kissing another girl in front of my locker. It sort of screwed me up. But I’m with Ash now, and he’s amazing. Things would be near perfect if Noah Turner—as in THE Noah Turner, most sought after guy at Treemont High—didn’t all of a sudden show an interest in me.

Oh, geez. Guess I jumped to conclusions. So now what are you gonna do?

I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. I know what it feels like to have your heart stomped on, and I can’t bring myself to hurt Ash or Noah.

Well, that’s good of you, Meg. But you also have to keep yourself in mind, too. What have you learned while trying to work through this problem?

I learned you can’t abandon your friends, because they’re the people who will pick you up and help you put yourself back together. I also learned that no one has the power to make you feel like less of a person unless you let them.

That last one is a super important lesson. Way to go! Tell us about your best friend. You aren’t in this alone, are you?

Grayson is the type to tell it how it is. She doesn’t sugarcoat anything, which can be brutal at times, but I know she means well and she loves me despite my faults.

Let’s learn more about you. What are your three favorite leisure activities?

Hanging out with Ash, playing tennis with Grayson, and finding out what else Noah and I have in common.

Meg, it was really great of you to stop in and visit with us today. Readers, here is more information about Meg’s story, Perfect For You:

Seventeen-year-old Meg Flannigan isn’t very self-confident, but what girl would be after her sophomore-year boyfriend dumped her by making out with another girl in front of her locker?

Now a senior, Meg catches the eye of not one, but two gorgeous guys at school. Sounds good, right? What girl wouldn’t want to be in Meg’s shoes? One cute boy happens to be her boyfriend, and the other? Well, he wants to be. And Meg? She’s torn between Ash, the boy she’s been with for nearly five months, and Noah who is pretty irresistible. 

But Meg is playing with fire. Pitting two boys against one another, even if she doesn’t intend to, could end badly if she isn’t careful. PERFECT FOR YOU is a teen romance from bestselling author Ashelyn Drake, where one girl will risk everything to find her perfect match.

And here is some information about Meg’s author:

Ashelyn Drake is a New Adult and Young Adult romance author. While it’s rare for her not to have either a book in hand or her fingers flying across a laptop, she also enjoys spending time with her family. She believes you are never too old to enjoy a good swing set and there’s never a bad time for some dark chocolate. Ashelyn also writes speculative fiction as Kelly Hashway. She is represented by Sarah Negovetich of Corvisiero Literary Agency.

If you have a character from a children’s, middle grade or young adult book you’d like to see featured on Building Character, contact Kai via email: kaistrand at yahoo dot com.

October 22, 2014

Three Times A Charm with Jax Spenser

Today on Three Times A Charm we welcome author, Jax Spenser. I love introducing my readers to the people who work in children’s publishing.

Great of you to join us, Jax. Can you tell us a little about yourself, please?

Greetings, Earthlings! Prepare to be conquered! Okay, I’m kidding… mostly. I’m author Jax Spenser and I’ve been working in the story biz for quite a while. First as a creator of excuses back when I was a youngin’ and then most recently as creative exec (an awful term, it’s very close to being an oxymoron) in Hollywood. I’ve spent years developing my stories and enjoyed quality time in Southern Florida with a phenomonal group of writers discovering and honing my craft. Many of those people have moved on to successful careers as authors and I’m proud to be associated with them. I absolutely love reading but feel I must be one of the worst readers on the planet, not for any illiteracy reason, but because I have the focus of a sand gnat (which, I pronounce gah-nat) at high tide. My reads of choice: scifi, horror, and any good YA read I’ll endeavor to apply my gah-nat attention. I also love working with kids as a track coach, hurdles being my speciality. Coaching is time well-spent as it always has some incredible life lesson for not only the kids, but myself—“finish strong!” and “don’t forget to breath!” You know what I’m saying? Anywho, I’m so excited that my stories are finally invading readers everywhere. Please check out my blog and subscribe to my newsletter at www.jaxspenser.com/subscribe for updates and scoops!

Tell us more about your book.

I friggin’ love this world that’s being created in The HIDE Series (Something Else Publishing)! HIDE is about a sixteen year old boy, Keegan Roe, who barely escapes with his father from an assualt by his abusive mother and that escape somehow transports them to the very creepy town of Sedonia Falls, Arizona. Keegan appears to do a 180 as everything changes in his world; he goes from zero to hero in a matter of days. One day he’s in the lower depths as a social outcast and the next he’s feeling altitude sickness because of his new status along side the most popular girl in school. But all the while Keegan becomes more aware that something terrible lies beneath the perfect life he’s now taken on. A ray of hope arrives in the form of the very cute Lizzy Bruce, who not only befriends Keegan, but turns out to be the key to his survival, and possibly the planet’s.

Hopefully, it’s obvious to the those paying attention to the cover art that this story, yes, it has humble beginnings but soon it’s escalating to global (planet-sized fun) adventure as the story progresses. I envisioned this as a multi-part series that takes the reader on an epic journey as Keegan begins to realize his true potential.

Help our readers out. What books are most like yours?

Great, love this stuff… only can I do authors? HIDE is the test tube love child of Stephen King, J.K. Rowling, and Patrick Ness. If we could actually combine their literary DNA in a laboratory, that is. 

Okay, Jax – now it’s time for the three’s. Please share you top three answers to the following questions so we can get to know you a little better.

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

1)      The War of Art is necessary for any person looking to raise themselves to a professional status no matter what your passion.
2)      Salem’s Lot, because it’s the first book that scared the Battlestar Galactica footsy pajamas off of me. It’s a genuine scare no matter what your age.
3)      And Acting, The First Six Lessons for the reason that it was the first book that spoke to me not just on the level of acting but on a philosophical level, opening my eyes to a world view of how my art can feed my life and vice versa.

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

1)      Know your story. I’ve learned from experience that it’s not good enough to just start writing. Backstory, hard work, and praying to the gods of Planning are the keys to fully realized plots and characters. I’ve learned numerous lessons on this topic.
2)      Learn how to tell your story. Practice, critique, make MISTAKES, revision, and more practice are the only things that make you a better writer.
3)      Tell your story to someone. It’s not a story, if you’re not trying to get it out to an audience to read—seriously, if you’re keeping it in a drawer, isn’t it just a journal entry?

  • Top 3 leisure activities.

1)      Watch film or TV serials. I am a multi-medium writer (that includes writing specs for TV and film) and since we now live in the world of full seasons of You-Name-It on Apple TV, On Demand pay channels, Amazon Instant Video, ITunes Store, etc. where the full monty can be ingested in a matter of days and weeks, I’m in Heaven. Yes, I might be a content addict.
2)      Reading. Say no more. Except this: it appears this activity occurs only at night when I’m least awake and mentally aware. Example, I may have read the first page of Game of Thrones about 207 times because of dozing off.
3)      Writing. It’s a bit like comfort food for me: it doesn’t mean that what I’m writing has literary merit, it just means it makes me feel good.

We live in a tech savvy world. Where can our readers find you online?

@jaxspenser Twitter and Instagram

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

October 17, 2014

Building Character with Rosa from Sons of the Sphinx

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

This week Strands of Thought plays host to Rosa from Sons of the Sphinx. Glad you could make it today, Rosa. Can you tell our readers a little about yourself, please?

Hi! Im Rosa. Im 15 years old and a sophomore in high school. Im your typical teenagerwell, almost. I dont have many friends anymore, but its hard to blame the other kids. If I was them, Id probably steer clear of me too, at least most of the time. No one is ever mean to me; Ive grown up with most of them, and on my bad days, they try to ignore me. Wish I could do the same to those who talk to me. Mostly I just shake my head and carry on.

Well that sounds sort of sad, Rosa, but I admit, Im really curious about why youre on the outskirts. What kind of conflict are you up against?

OMG. That is a loaded question. I mean, Im 15. Conflicts are part of my daily life! Passing my classes. Trying to get a date for school dances. Dealing with Nanas gift nearly every day while I try not to lose my mind.

Oh, I bet youre talking about in the story. Right, I should have known that. Well, without giving too much away, my ability to hear dead people talk pits me against an evil man, introduces me to the most handsome boy Ive ever seen, and puts my life in danger. Sounds great doesnt it? Nope. Not at all.

Oh, wow! Hearing dead people does not sound fun at all. The cute guy does, though. So tell us more about you. Whats your strongest personality trait?

That would have to be my sarcastic humor. When you have a gift like mine, you need something to fall back on. Here are a few instances of it:

It would be something to tell my, myRight, I could tell the kids in my classes that I went to ancient Egypt with the ghost of King Tut. Can you hear the death knell? Bring out the strait jacket.

Most girls I know have had at least one boyfriend and have even gone on dates, even it is was with a group of kids. Me, the last time I held hands with a boy was in the fourth grade. We went on a trip to the zoo, and I had to hold hands with red-headed Erik as the we crossed the roadHow sad it that?

In front of me is desert, sand, open sky, and heat for as far as I can see. Already sweat is starting to run down my face and neck. I thought gym class was bad. Im not even moving here, and its as if a river is coursing through me. I sweat more standing still in this country than I ever did playing basketball.

Ha! I guess I should have guessed that, but I love the extra examples. If you could change one thing in this world, what would you change?

I would make it so my Nana was still alive. I know that sounds self-centered, but she left me with her gift and didnt give me any advice. Im not sure what Im supposed to do with it. It scares me, really scares me sometimes. I often wonder if she was ever scared. Now that Ive been through this experience, I long to talk with her about itto see if there is a way to go out and do good with it, not just wait around and see what happens.

Aw, I wish I could help. That isnt exactly something you can Google, huh? Thanks for visiting with us today, Rosa. Readers, here is more about Rosas story, Sons of the Sphinx (which just won the 2014 Literary Classis Silver Medal in the Pre-Teen/Tween category.)

Two souls separated by three millennium. One with a gift that is more like a curse; one on an almost impossible quest
Destinies entwined; one seeks to find herself while the other seeks his lost queen. To succeed, the pair must right the injustices 3,000 years in the past.
Only together can they fulfill The Prophecy, but in the process they must defeat the Pharaoh Horemheb.
Dishonor and death are the fate of the defeated.

Armed with what she considers her grandmothers curse, 15-year-old Rosa agrees to help the ghost of King Tut find his lost queen Hesena. Though Hesenas ba inhabits part of Rosa, finding the whole spirit of Hesena so that she and Tut can be together for the first time in over 3300 years proves to be a harder task than Rosa first thinks. Thrust back into Ancient Egypt with Tut, Rosa discovers that finding Hesena is not all she must do. She must also keep out of the reach of the living Horemheb - who crosses mortal boundaries using Seths evil magic - if she is to stay alive to make it back home.

Buy Links:

Sons of the Sphinx: Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00MVGC96Y/

Sons of the Sphinx: Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/469860

And heres the scoop on Rosas author:

Cheryl Carpinello is a retired high school English teacher with a love for the ancient and medieval worlds. She has traveled through both, and she hopes to inspire young people to read more through her ancient and medieval tales.

Contact Information:

Blog: Carpinellos Writing Pages  http://carpinelloswritingpages.blogspot.com

Website: Beyond Today Educator  http://www.beyondtodayeducator.com


If you have a character from a childrens, middle grade or young adult book youd like to see featured on Building Character, contact Kai via email: kaistrand at yahoo dot com.

October 16, 2014

Trailer Reveal for Escape Through The Wilderness by Gary Rodriguez

Today, thanks to Pump Up Your Book tours, we get a sneak peek at ESCAPE THROUGH THE WILDERNESS by Gary Rodrigiuez. 

Title: Escape Through the Wilderness
Author: Gary Rodriguez
Genre: Tween/Young Adult Christian Adventure
Paperback: 256 pages
Publisher: Tate Publishing (June 2014)
ISBN-13: 978-1-63268-201-7
  Purchase at: https://www.tatepublishing.com/bookstore/book.php?w=9781632682017 and at http://www.amazon.com/Escape-Through-Wilderness-Gary-Rodriguez/dp/163268201X/ 

Escape Through the Wilderness coverAbout the book: Sixteen-year-old Savannah Evans walks with a slight limp thanks to a gymnastics’ accident that dashed her Olympic dreams, but didn’t stop her from attending an adventure camp in Idaho. At Camp Arrowhead, she quickly befriends Jade Chang and Rico Cruz, but Conner Swift taunts Savi because of her injury. When the four are teamed together for an overnight white-water river rafting adventure, Savi refuses to get in the same raft with Conner. Unfortunately, the director will not reassign her. A fun expedition down the river turns into a nightmare when their raft slams into a huge rock and their adult guide disappears down the river. Without their guide and desperately trying to steer an out-of-control raft, they pass the “Last Chance” marker and enter the larger rapids. With Jade pinned between the raft and a rock, and Rico clinging to a lifeline, Savi must cut the raft free. When the four drag themselves out of the river, they’re bruised, beaten, lost, and twenty-five miles from camp. Because of late-night campfire tales of Vexel, a vicious animal that roams the nearby woods, Savi and the others are terrified. Savi becomes the unlikely leader who tries to guide the group back to Camp Arrowhead. Limited supplies, injuries, and the constant threat of Vexel—who Savi fears is stalking them, complicate the harrowing return trip. Readers will enjoy dramatic survival scenes and the group working together, solving problems, and learning to overcome adversity.

Book excerpt:

The river turned slightly to the right and then they saw the nightmare ahead. The turbulence was like nothing they had seen before. The water appeared completely white and rushed forward at a furious pace, breaking over and against rocks on both sides. The only way through was a narrow slot between the rocks, which they needed to hit just right, to make it through safely. “Watch for rocks,” Doug warned with a shout. “And hold on!” As they shot through the tight gap between the rocks, water rose above the raft on both sides. They flew through the first surge and then saw the river bend slightly left between a new set of obstacles. “Paddle left!” Doug yelled over the thunderous roar. “Hard left!” he shouted again. “Rock!” Savi screamed. Water drenched them from every direction. Conner removed his right hand from the paddle for a second to wipe off his glasses. “Rocks left!” Savi shouted.

Gary Rodriguez

Gary Rodriguez is president of LeaderMetrix Inc., a consulting company that specializes in senior-level executive coaching, organizational development and conflict resolution. He is the author of the new adventure novel Escape through the Wilderness scheduled for release in June 2014. His first book Purpose-Centered Public Speaking was an instant hit and recently republished by Tate Publishing. His extensive resume includes eighteen years as an executive in the radio business where he spent several years as one of the original managers of Infinity Broadcasting. He was twice nominated as medium market manager of the year by the Bobby Poe report, a national media publication. For over thirty-five years, Gary has spoken in public both nationally and internationally. Gary’s resume includes a season in the U.S. Army where he was highly decorated as the youngest Drill Instructor in the Army's history at age 18 years. He was also awarded the Silver Star (the nation's third highest award for valor) while serving in Viet Nam. Visit the book’s website at http://ettw.tateauthor.com/ You can also find Gary at http://leadermetrix.com/ and http://www.leadermetrix.com/authorspeaker.  
Escape Through the Wilderness Virtual Book Tour Schedule
Monday, October 6
Tuesday, October 7
Author interview at PUYB Virtual Book Club
Wednesday, October 8
Spotlight and giveaway at Inside BJ’s Head
Thursday, October 9
Friday, October 10
Book spotlight at The Writer’s Life
Monday, October 13
Video trailer reveal at Putting Words Down on Paper
Tuesday, October 14
Book review at My Devotional Thoughts
Wednesday, October 15
Thursday, October 16
Video trailer reveal at Stands of Thought
Friday, October 17
First chapter reveal at Rebecca’s Writing Services
First chapter reveal at FictionZeal
Monday, October 20
Book review at By the Book
Tuesday, October 21
Wednesday, October 22
Author interview at Blogcritics
Thursday, October 23
Author interview at Beyond the Books
Friday, October 24
Book spotlight and giveaway at Mary’s Cup of Tea
Monday, October 27
Book spotlight and giveaway at Maureen’s Musings
Tuesday, October 28
Book review/spotlight and giveaway at Mom Loves 2 Read
Wednesday, October 29
Author interview at As the Pages Turn
Thursday, October 30
First chapter reveal at Blooming with Books
Friday, October 31
Book spotlight and giveaway at Blooming with Books
Escape banner 2

October 15, 2014

Three Times A Charm with Michael Thal

Today on Three Times A Charm we welcome author, Michael Thal. I love introducing my readers to the people who work in children’s publishing.

So nice to have you join us, Michael. Can you tell us a little about yourself, please?

I’m the author of four published novels—Goodbye Tchaikovsky, The Abduction of Joshua Bloom, and The Koolura Series—The Legend of Koolura and Koolura and the Mystery at Camp Saddleback. Since 2009 I have been a columnist for the Los Angeles Examiner writing articles about parenting and education.

Moving from the frigid Northeast to comfy Southern California in 1973, I taught elementary and middle school for 28 years until a freak virus left me deafened at the age of 50. I reinvented myself as a writer composing over 80 published articles in print magazines as well as novels for middle grade and high school aged students.

You can learn more about me on my website at www.michaelthal.com. My books can be purchased on Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble in print and as e-books.

Tell us more about your books.

Goodbye Tchaikovsky is about a violin virtuoso being plunged into a deaf world, necessitating him to adapt to a new culture and language in order to survive.
The Abduction of Joshua Bloom tells the story of a teen and his alien abductors who justify their act in an attempt to save their people. Joshua finds himself in a world dominated by women, and men are subjugated to their whims. He travels to a dinosaur world, visits a water planet, and a world doomed by a star about to nova.

The Legend of Koolura tells the story of a sixth grade girl and how she obtained the cool powers.  She has the ability to dematerialize at will and reappear where she chooses. She can move objects with her mind and she can even defy gravity!

In Koolura and the Mystery at Camp Saddleback Koolura is back in her second adventure. Koolura has the ability to teleport, levitate, heal, and even fly. But at Camp Saddleback Koolura wakes up drained and powerless. Who or what has stolen her psychic powers?

Okay – now it’s time for the three’s. Please share you top three answers to the following questions so we can get to know you a little better.

Three top books/author recommendation:

One of my favorite writers is Anne Louder McGee. She’s one of the many Indie authors who get lost in the forest known as Amazon. I’d like to share three of her wonderful YA novels.

Anni’s Attic- Anne McGee’s historical novel, Anni’s Attic, provides a heart-wrenching look at the atrocities of the Civil War and its affects on the lives of the people living in the Savannah countryside. The YA book is a marvelous character study of Anni and Jenn. During the course of the war the cousins encounter spies, racial hatred, the Underground Railroad, and Sherman's March to the Sea. In the confines of a secret attic in White Magnolias, the cousins begin to depend on each other, and in so doing learn what love and respect truly means.

The Mystery at Marlatt Manor: Anne Loader McGee brings us this fast paced middle school novel about teen sleuth Mallory who uncovers a mystery around a missing girl and the weird people that seem to be hunting for a possible lost treasure. Mallory’s grandmother, Aggie, may lose her beloved home and Mallory has strange dreams that may be the key to solving everyone’s problems, including the manor’s mystery.

Mystery of the Missing Ming: Mallory Gilmartin is back again in this new mystery. With her signature crisp sentences and humorous dialogue, McGee keeps readers engaged in a fun-filled adventure that unfolds during the 1970s in Cedar Creek, Virginia. The cast of characters include Aggie Hobbs, Mallory’s 60 something grandma, who expects her grandchildren to call her Aggie, OR ELSE! Sidekick, Kyle, reluctantly gets involved in Mallory and Aggie’s schemes that too often get him into trouble with his dad and or the law. Added to the mix is Mallory’s gift of communicating with the dearly departed.  McGee swirls this around with her magical wand creating thoroughly enchanting novels that readers won’t be able to put down.

Three pieces of advice for kids these days:

1.      Make education your top priority. In the 21st Century you’re not just competing with kids in your city, state, or country. Competition is on a global scale, so prepare yourself with skills to make yourself marketable.
2.      Put your family before your friends. Friends come and go, but your family will always be there. Nurture that relationship as if your life depended on it, for some day it just might.
3.      Push yourself to exercise every day. The best health insurance policy you can buy isn’t Obama Care, it’s gym membership. Work out at least 4 days a week vigorously making it a lifelong habit. If you do, when you reach old age, you won’t look it, inside and out.  

Three professions you wanted to be when you grew up:

As a child I wanted to be a doctor. Once in college, I thought of becoming a diplomat, but after a few summers as a camp counselor, I decided to become a teacher. Now here is why your education is so important. Let’s say you want to become a professional basketball player, and you’re really good. Now let’s say a player on the court runs into you forcing you to fall and break a leg. You are soon told you’ll never play probasketball again. Your education is what you can fall back on.
After 28 years of teaching I suffered from a severe hearing loss caused by a virus. I couldn’t understand a word my students said to me. My ENT specialist suggested I take disability, which I did. My education helped me retrain myself to become a successful writer. In my youth I had prepared myself for that “broken leg.” You should do the same.

Thanks for introducing us to another Indie author. Finally, where can our tech savvy readers find you online?


Books by Michael Thal: http://www.michaelthal.com 
Twitter: https://twitter.com/koolura

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

October 10, 2014

Building Character with Cara & Logan from Into the Fire

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

This week Strands of Thought plays host to Cara and Logan from Into the Fire. Hey guys! Glad you could join us. Tell our readers a little about yourselves.

Hi, I’m Cara Tillman. I’m not supposed to talk to anyone about being a phoenix but Ashelyn says you guys are cool so I guess it’s okay. Anyway, I’m about to be reborn for the very first time and after having a front row seat to my little brother’s rebirth, you could say I’m a little terrified.

Hey, Logan Schmidt here. Um, what can I say? I moved to Ashlan Falls from New York City, so yeah...life pretty much sucks. Everyone in this backwoods town knows everyone else, and I’m the outsider. The only plus is meeting Cara. She’s...different, and I like that.

Books always have a main conflict. What are you guys up against in Into the Fire?

Cara: I have exactly one month before I’m going to die and be reborn from my own ashes. When that happens, I’ll forget everyone I love. I won’t remember this life at all. Just that I’m a phoenix and that there are hunters who want me dead.

Logan: I’m trying to deal with moving to a new town where I know no one. Doesn’t sound like a big deal, but I’m kind of going through hell at home. My mom died and all I have left of her is the leather jacket I wear. And my dad is a total—let’s just say we avoid each other at all costs.

Logan, I’m so sorry about your mom. And Cara – wow, forget everyone? That’s rough. What are some of the biggest stumbling blocks you’ve encountered trying to resolve your troubles?

Cara: Meeting Logan. He showed up at the worst possible time. I’m supposed to be laying low and helping my brother, Jeremy, relearn who his friends are. The last thing I should be doing is imprinting on the new guy in town, the guy no one knows anything about. It’s too dangerous. We live in fear of hunters every day. Killing a phoenix means the hunter gets to live longer. We are their “fountain of youth.” Of course it’s out of my hands now. The imprint is too strong to fight.

Logan: Meeting Cara. I should have gotten on a bus and gone back to New York the second Dad left me stranded in the smallest town on earth. I would have to, but then I ran into her. I swear it wasn’t just her tiny bikini that did me in. Sure, that got my attention real quick, but Cara’s a mystery. She’s not like anyone I’ve ever met, and I can’t help but want to be near her. Even if she does have this crazy way of making me open up and talk about my mom. I can’t explain what she’s doing to me.

Certainly you are facing these issues alone. Gosh, I hope not. Do you have a best friend? Tell us about your him or her.

Cara: Rachel is the best. There’s nothing she wouldn’t do for me, and I love her for it. That’s why it’s so hard to keep my secret. How am I supposed to handle knowing that I won’t remember Rachel in a month? How can I fake a friendship that’s so strong we’re almost like sisters? Of course when she hits on my little brother in front of me, it’s a big reminder that we aren’t actually related.

Logan: What can I say about Anton? He’s got the life back in New York. Different girl every night and practically lives on his own because his dad is busy working and shacking up with whoever the woman of the week is. Don’t get me wrong, though. Anton always has my back. He’s a great friend, and if I do decide to run back to New York, he’d take me in without question.

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

Cara: Being a phoenix means I smell like cinnamon. All. The. Time. I pretend to chew cinnamon gum and Mom fills the house with cinnamon potpourri. My friends don’t question it, but I have to be careful whenever someone new comes into town.

Logan: People think it’s weird that I wear a leather jacket in June. I get it. It’s not exactly normal, but they don’t understand. It’s all I have left of my mom.

Cara, have you ever tried to douse yourself in perfume to mask the scent? Do they still make Jean Nate? That stuff will cover anything!

Tell, me guys, what are your three favorite leisure activities?

Cara: Swimming at the falls, hanging with Rachel, and... A few days ago I would have said hanging out with my brother, Jeremy, but since his rebirth things haven’t been the same. These days getting to know Logan is pretty high up on my list.

Logan: Running and being with Cara. Sorry, can’t name a third activity. If you’ve ever been to Ashlan Falls, you’d understand. There’s nothing to do here. Wait, does eating at Monique’s cafĂ© count as an activity? The woman makes a mean omelet.

What do you want to be when you grow up?

Cara: I don’t really know what I want to be, but since I’ll have five lives, I have some time to think about it. Unless I meet up with a hunter, but I guess I wouldn’t have to worry about a future at all then.

Logan: Who the hell knows? I can tell you what I don’t want to be though, and that’s a lawyer like my dad. I want to be the furthest thing from what he is.

So glad you two were able to stop in and visit today. I’m pretty curious to find out how it turns out for you both. Readers, here is more info on Cara and Logan’s story, Into the Fire.

Seventeen-year-old Cara Tillman’s life is a perfectly normal one until Logan Schmidt moves to Ashlan Falls. Cara is inexplicably drawn to him, but she’s not exactly complaining. Logan’s like no boy she’s ever met, and he brings out a side of Cara that she isn’t used to. As the two get closer, everything is nearly perfect, and Cara looks forward to the future.

But Cara isn’t a normal girl. She’s a member of a small group of people descended from the mythical phoenix bird, and her time is running out. Rebirth is nearing, which means she’ll forget her life up to this point—she’ll forget Logan and everything they mean to one another. But that may be the least of Cara’s problems.

A phoenix hunter is on the loose, and he’s determined to put an end to the lives of people like Cara and her family, once and for all.

And here’s the skinny on their author:

Ashelyn Drake is a New Adult and Young Adult romance author. While it’s rare for her not to have either a book in hand or her fingers flying across a laptop, she also enjoys spending time with her family. She believes you are never too old to enjoy a good swing set and there’s never a bad time for some dark chocolate. Ashelyn also writes speculative fiction as Kelly Hashway. She is represented by Sarah Negovetich of Corvisiero Literary Agency.

Please include contact information; websites, blogs, social media here:

If you have a character from a children’s, middle grade or young adult book you’d like to see featured on Building Character, contact Kai via email: kaistrand at yahoo dot com.