Sunday, December 14, 2008

My Interview about School Visits

Hi all,

I was recently interviewed by blogger/author Jessica Kennedy on the subject of school visits.

You may read the interview on her blog:

Doing school visits and presentations is somewhat new to me but I've shared all I've learned so far. I hope you find my tips helpful!

Happy holidays!


Friday, December 12, 2008

Crash is a columnist for Keep on Wagging Newsletter!

Crash the Puppy (my fictional, children's picture book character) is a columnist for Keep on Wagging, the new newsletter of Max the Golden Retriever, the super popular doggy blogger.

If you love dogs, especially golden retrievers, and would like to subscribe to Keep on Wagging, visit:
You will find Crash's column in each issue.

Max the Golden Retriever also has a shop with many gifts ideas for those golden retriever enthusiasts.

Crash is honored to be a columnist for the famous Max! Thank you, Max!
To learn more about Crash, visit the publisher's page at:

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Time-for-Bed Angel, by Ronica Stromberg

The Time-for-Bed Angel
written by Ronica Stromberg
illustrated by Kristina Stephenson
Lion Hudson
ISBN: 978-0-7459-6073-9
Copyright 2008
Picture book, Hardback, 32 pages

The Time-for-Bed Angel is a sweet, cute children's book about a little naughty boy and the guardian angel who keeps a watch over him until it's time for bed.

Our little protagonist can't stay still as he goes about the house performing his mischevious antics. Of course, the time-for-bed angel follows him around, trying to persuade him to bed. The job of a guardian angel can be quite exhausting at times, especially when it comes to putting little boys to sleep!

The illustrations are fun, colorful and expressive, bringing the story to life. The story itself has very little text and is aimed at the youngest audience (2-6). The book has a calming tone, making this a very nice book to read at bedtime. It also evokes a feeling of love and security in children.

--by Mayra Calvani

This review originally appeared on Armchair Interviews

Saturday, December 6, 2008

THRIFTY BOOK BUYS: e-Books are GREEN - They Save Trees!

Mayra Calvani
wants you to know:

The word is out. . . Children's e-Books, on CD or Download, Are the Bargain of the Year!

Cheaper than paper, they are the epitome of "GREEN.
"These are QUALITY BOOKS - fun, inspirational and educational.

BUY a "green" CD and save a tree. Do your bit to save the planet!


Kids Are Computer Savvy!

ADD to a LAPTOP or PC and Books on CD can distract kids before a doctor or dentist appointment, on rainy Sundays, holidays. . . , or in the back seat on long car trips.


Children's BOOKS

The Magic Violin




Mayra Calvani



Find a wide range of wonderful children's books, by authors who care about children.On Download, CD, and . . . . . Hard Copy!


Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Review of Safely Through the Night, by Elena Pasquali

Safely Through the Night
written by Elena Pasquali
illustrated by Dubravka Kolanovic
Lion Hudson Plc
July 2007
Hardcover, 32 pages

Safely Through the Night is an enchanting, magical bedtime story about a little girl following a starbeam through the night.

Not alone on this magical quest, her teddy bear Cinammon and her blankie, Hug, go with her.

Our tale begins as our little protagonist, Emily, sitting in bed and looking at the night sky, suddenly sees a shooting star. She snuggles with Cinammon and Hug, falls asleep... and the adventure begins: A starbeam knocks on her window, Emily reaches for it and begins to wind it up like wool. Through the night and the clouds they travel, through the trees and the dark woods, faster and faster... until, high up, Emily mets her angel.

Dreamlike, ethereal illustrations in soft pastel colors accompany this wonderful story that children will love to listen to again and again. The artwork--more specifically, the star and the starbeam--has glitter and texture, making the pages fun to touch. The mood is quiet yet uplifting, making this a perfect bedtime story.

Safely Through the Night would make a lovely holiday gift or be a worthy addition to any home or classroom library.
Reviewed by Mayra Calvani
This review originally appeared on Armchair Interviews.

Monday, December 1, 2008

The Slippery Art of Book Reviewing is an EPPIE 2009 Finalist!

Hi all,

I'm happy to announce that The Slippery Art of Book Reviewing is an EPPIE 2009 Finalist under the Non-Fiction Category!
Visit for reviews, excerpts, blurbs, and interviews with the authors.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

My Interview at Blogcritics Magazine

Hi all,

It was nice being on the interviewee seat for once at Blogcritics Magazine.

Dorothy Thompson, CEO of Pump Up Your Book Promotion, was kind enough to interview me as part of my November virtual book tour.

You may read the full interview here.


Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Slippery Art of Book Reviewing - Day 9

Hi all,

Today on the 9th day of my VBT I'm over at Unwriter, where Ron Berry has written a wonderful review of my book.

Thank you, Ron!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Interview with Author Mary Cunningham

Mary Cunningham is the author of the popular 'Cynthia's Attic' tween fantasy/time-travel series. She's also the co-author of the soon-to-be-released book, WOOF: Women Only Over 50, an uplifting collection of personal anecdotes and poems about how it feels and what it means to be a woman in her fifties. Mary lives in the beautiful mountains of West Georgia and is a member of The Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, The Georgia Reading Association, and the Carrollton Creative Writers Club.

Who came up with the idea for the WOOF book?

Oh, my goodness! It’s been so long ago, the story has gotten muddled, (They say the memory is the first to go!) but I’ll do my best. Co-writer, Diana, and her friend Carol were discussing the “joys” of reaching the half-century milestone. Their commiserating and laughter resulted in the idea to form a club/support group of friends who are still puppies at heart, beginning with themselves, another friend, Dot, and me. Melinda soon joined the ranks.

The WOOFers Club soon led to the book. The first edition of WOOF: Women Only Over Fifty was published in 2000. An updated, (translation: BETTER!) edition will be published DEC 1, 2008 by Echelon Press. The book has been a complete collaboration with Diana Black, Melinda Richarz Bailey, and me.

How was it writing a book with two other authors? Would you do it again?

There were some rough patches on our first go-round several years ago...imagine three “divas” trying to write a book together! But, we learned tons from that experience! The new and improved WOOF has been a total pleasure. We had a purpose. To make this book the best it could be, and to reach women who are creeping up on Fifty, or have already stumbled over the line and need a good laugh.

What was the best part about writing this book?

The best part, for me, was writing stories and poems from personal experience, and realizing that being fifty doesn’t have to be depressing. It can actually be funny, and more importantly, freeing! I’ve gotten beyond worrying about what other people think of me, and I hope readers will get the same message and learn to howl at the aging process.

Your WOOFer name is 'Milkbone'. Why and what's behind the names?

The acronym for “Women Only Over Fifty” is WOOF. We use canine terms and analogies in stories and chapter titles, such as, Are We Barking Up the Wrong Tree? Purebred Potpourri and Over Fifty Tailwaggers. In the process, the natural evolution was to give ourselves dog names. Diana is d.d. dawg, Melinda is Mad Dog and my name, Milkbone, comes from one of my favorite expressions. It’s a dog-eat-dog world and I’m wearing milkbone underwear.

What's all the fuss about the WOOFers Club? Who can join and what do they do?

The club is for anyone wishing to join a sisterhood for the ever-increasing number of women approaching or over Fifty. We have our own e-mail address,
where women can choose and register a WOOF name of their choice and also vent frustrations, tell their own funny story, or submit poems. We’re also planning to run contests in the near future.

WOOF also has its own blog. Tell us about this. What do WOOFers blog about?

Oh, I love the blog! We not only write posts about our own over-fifty experiences—good and not so good—we invite all women to be guest bloggers. For instance, we’ve had an over-fifty woman relay her experience with TaeKwondo, and we’re so open-minded, we even posted a blog about a special cat, Dewey Readmore Books. So, gotta story to tell? E-mail us at We will be choosing one or two guest bloggers each month.

I hear you've done a few signings already, before the official release of the book. What has been the response from the public so far?

Overwhelmingly positive. We love it when women buy the books for themselves, or read a poem or story and say, “That’s me!” Letting women know they’re not alone is our prime objective...well, that and selling books, of course. :-)

Is there anything else you'd like to tell our readers?

No map to guide you through the "joys" of middle age? Join three witty, savvy, resourceful women as we chart our own course. Yep! You’re invited!
As you romp through issues of expanding waistlines, deepening wrinkles, empty nests and muddled memories, we promise you’ll find good things to bark about!

Monday, November 17, 2008


Hi all,

The Magic Violin has garnered yet another rave review, this time by the popular Stories for Children Magazine.

"Mayra makes this storyline and its backdrop magical, with just the right hint of mystery to it. Her characters' "voice" comes through loud and clear. Accompanied by the crisp, detailed, and lifelike illustrations of K.C. Snider, this book is a "keeper". This is a great read, especially for kids interested in music, mystery, magic during the holiday season, and the beauty of winter."

Read the full review here.



The Slippery Art of Book Review VBT continues

Today I'm over at A Writer's Words, an Editor's Eye, where Lillie Ammann has written a wonderful review of my book, The Slippery Art of Book Reviewing.

Thank you, Lillie, for the great review and for hosting us on your blog!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Reviewers vs Bloggers: The Controversy

Hi all,

Today I'm over at Morgan Mandel's blog with an interesting post about reviewers and bloggers.

Stop by if you get a chance. I'd love to hear your thoughts!


Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Impact of Online Reviewers on Newspapers

Hi all,

Today on the 5th day of The Slippery Art of Book Reviewing VBT, my co-author Anne K. Edwards has a guest post over at The Book Connection: Impact of Online Reviewers on Newspapers.

I hope you'll stop by to take a look. Comments are welcome!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Young Artist Workshop

Award-winning illustrator Kevin Scott Collier is now offering a free online workshop for children who'd like to learn to draw.

Check it out:

By watching Kevin draw, the children learn the tricks of illustrating. They can also draw together with Kevin as they watch him on video.

This is another great site for young artists!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Review of WOOF: Women Only Over 50

WOOF: Women Only Over 50
by Diane Black, Mary Cunningham and Melinda Richarz Bailey
Echelon Press
ISBN: 1590806069
Paperback, 160 pages, $12.99

Your hair is getting white, you’re losing muscle tone, you wish gravity didn’t exist so wrinkles wouldn’t take hold of your face, menopause is finally kicking in—really kicking in. Is it the end, or the beginning of great things to come?

Authors Diana Black, Mary Cunningham, and Melinda Richarz Bailey share their experiences--sometimes sad, sometimes joyful, sometimes funny--about their road ‘downhill’… or is it really—to middle age. They also share their dreams and realizations about life and what it really means to be 50.

This book is a combination of short personal essays, poems, and witty quotes that will touch your heart and enlighten your mind about the aging process. At the end of each chapter the authors invite readers to write their own experiences and thoughts, so you may want to have a pencil or pen in hand as you read.

Bad hair days, chocolate (and expanding waistlines!), dogs, the menopause (flashing!), being a woman, cell phones and computers are some of the topics covered in the book. Take a look at this short segment on the powers of chocolate:

Seriously, how could something so rich and luscious;
something that can make most grown WOOFers lie, cheat
and steal; something that can, with one delicious, melt-inyour-
mouth morsel bring a menopawsal, endorphin
deprived, raving lunatic back from the brink of insanity;
be bad for you?
Oh, don't pretend you don't know what we're talking
about. Who hasn't searched underneath the sofa cushions
in January for a stray piece of Halloween candy?

And of course, every WOOFer over 50 must have a WooFer name. In the book, Diana Black is ‘d. d. dawg’, Mary Cunnigham is ‘Milkbone’, and Melinda Richarz Bailey is ‘Mad Dog’. Towards the end there is a list of names with their behavioral characteristics, so you can choose the one that best suits the WOOFer in you.

WOOF: Women Only Over 50 is a light, humorous, entertaining, and certainly uplifting read. I finished reading it in two hours. Many of the segments are hilarious and made me laugh out loud—and mind you, I’m not 50 yet. This little book would make a great Christmas or birthday gift to anyone who loves a good laugh, but especially to those Woofers over 50.

For those interested, the authors have formed a club for WOOFers:

And there’s also a blog:
Check out the book on Amazon!

Sunday, November 9, 2008

The Slippery Art of Book Reviewing - Day 3

Hi all,

Yesterday I was over at Mary Cunningham's blog with a humorous piece about
Amazon reviews and mothers in law.

If you'd like to take a look, the link is


Friday, November 7, 2008

Interview with Author Michele Scott

It is my pleasure to introduce you to Michele Scott. Michele is a graduate of the University of Southern California, where she studied journalism before dedicating herself to writing fiction. She's the author of the Wine Lover's Mystery Series and the Equine Mystery Series. She writes children's fiction under a pseudonym, M.K. Scott, and she's here today to talk about her mid-grade children's fantasy, Zamora's Ultimate Challenge.

Thanks for this interview, Michele. Why don’t you begin by telling us a little about yourself?

I’m obviously a writer. I’m a mom with three kids (ages 7-17). Writing has been a passion of mine since I was a kid. My other passion is horses. My daughter and I have horses and we ride at least four days a week. I spend my days writing and my afternoons riding. I love to cook. I’m a bit on the silly side, which either annoys my kids or makes them laugh (depending on their mood). I enjoy being around family and friends, and having a lazy day once in a while to catch up on my reading—another passion.

When did you decide you wanted to become an author?

I knew when I was about nine-years-old that I wanted to be a writer. I have never wavered from that decision.

Do you have another job besides writing?

As I mentioned, I am a mom, so to me that in itself is a full time job. I used to work in wine sales, nut as my deadlines grew closer together with each book, I had to quit my day job and focus solely on my writing.

Were you an avid reader as a child? What type of books did you enjoy reading?

I most definitely was an avid reader as a kid. I read everything I could. My favorites were Nancy Drew, Black Stallion series, The Narnia Chronicles and I loved A Wrinkle in Time.

Tell us a bit about your latest book, and what inspired you to write such a story.

My new book Zamora’s Ultimate Challenge was inspired by my kids. I actually wrote the first version of this book eight years ago while pregnant with my youngest. At the time, I was not published and had been writing thrillers. The doctor put me on bed rest, and I found that I could not do the research I typically did when writing a thriller. I decided that I wanted to write a book for my own children, and that was Zamora’s Ultimate Challenge. I never tried to sell the book because that was never my initial intent. I met Karen Syed (the publisher at echelon press) and we got to talking. She was looking for a book who featured a boy protagonist. I told her about my book and she asked to see it. At the time, I honestly did not expect anything to come of it. Obviously, I was wrong.

How would you describe your creative process while writing this book? Was it stream-of-consciousness writing, or did you first write an outline?

Typically I do write from an outline. This is one of two books that I have not used an outline.

Did your book require a lot of research?

No. This book is pure fun and comes straight from the imagination.

What was your goal when writing this book?

To have my kids read it and learn something positive from it.

Who is your target audience?

I’d like to think that everyone is a target audience for a book like this, but if I have to narrow it down, then depending on a child’s reading level, this book is a fit for kids 7-11 (not the store).

What will the reader learn after reading your book?

There are some basic spiritual themes in this book (not religious). I think they are presented in a fun, fantastical way that hopefully will get parents, teachers and children talking about goals, the power of positive thinking and the understanding that virtually nothing is impossible if you put your heart and soul into it.

What type of writer are you—the one who experiences before writing, like Hemingway, or the one who mostly daydreams and fantasizes?

Both. I daydream and fantasize, but I have also incorporated many of my own personal experiences in some way into my books.

Agatha Christie got her best ideas while eating green apples in the bathtub. Steven Spielberg says he gets his best ideas while driving on the highway. When do you get your best ideas and why do you think this is?

My ideas come at various times—cooking, driving, and in the shower. I suppose this is because my mind never leaves me the heck alone. I have been known to get up from the dinner table to write something down, and come back twenty minutes later. My family has pretty much gotten used to this. It’s just one of mom’s quirks.

Do you get along with your muse? What do you do to placate her when she refuses to inspire you?

We get along well. When she refuses to cooperate, I take her for a walk. It tends to work.

From the moment you conceived the idea for the story, to the published book, how long did it take?

I write a book about every four months. This book took me about six months. I was pregnant, so sleep got in the way (and eating for two).

Describe your working environment.

It varies. There is a computer in my room that I work on. A laptop that I move from the kitchen table to Starbucks or Pannera, or to my parents’ house when I can’t think at home because the laundry and dirty dishes have piled up, and are calling my name.

What type of scenes give you the most trouble to write?

I love to write dialogue, so I think writing out narrative with gorgeous prose and description is really tough.

Do you write non-stop until you have a first draft, or do you edit as you move along?

I write a first draft all the way through, then go back and edit.

They say authors have immensely fragile egos… How would you handle negative criticism or a negative review?

I curse the reviewer and their children and their children’s children! Just kidding. You have to be tough in this business. Not everyone is going to like everything that you write. I try not to read negative reviews if I can help it. I have my own beliefs behind negative reviews—“if you have nothing nice to say, then don’t say anything.” Everyone has a right to their opinion, but it’s just that, and just because I don’t like a book doesn’t mean I have to review it. Someone else will likely love it. As a writer, I know what goes into this process --blood, sweat and tears. Most of us are lucky if we can pay the bills from our writing, making what we do as writers our passion. To insult someone’s dream is hurtful and painful. However, writers have to understand that it is part of the business and a tough skin is needed.

As a writer, what scares you the most?

That people will hate what I write.

When writing, what themes do you feel passionate about?

Love, justice, humanity, and family.

Are you a disciplined writer?


How do you divide your time between taking care of a home and children, and writing? Do you plan your writing sessions in advance?

I get the kids off by 8:00, come home and check e-mails while I eat breakfast, write until noon and have lunch, check e-mails again, and then write until 2:30, pick up my youngest and we go riding, come home and fix dinner, check everyone’s homework, feed animals and get ready to go to bed and start all over the following day. I don’t plan out my writing sessions in advance, but I always know that I will be writing no later than 9:00 a.m., and I will accept no less than ten pages a session.

When it comes to writing, are you an early bird, or a night owl?

An early bird.

Do you have an agent? How was your experience in searching for one?

I do have an agent. It is a difficult process, and I recommend Jeff Herman’s Guide. Study it, send out only what they ask for and then keep on writing. It took me twelve years to get an agent and sell a book.

Do you have any unusual writing quirks?

Hang on—I am deferring to family members. Okay, they say that I laugh while I’m writing and that I talk out loud. I don’t think that’s a quirk.

What is your opinion about critique groups? What words of advice would you offer a novice writer who is joining one? Do you think the wrong critique group can ‘crush’ a fledgling writer?

Critique groups can be good if they are honest and as long as there are at least a couple of writers who are ahead of you in the game. Critique groups should never ever be mean or personal, and they also shouldn’t be flowery and sugar coat the work if it needs help. There are nice ways to tell someone that the book isn’t working. For a novice writer, remember to take everything with a grain of salt. Listen, don’t take what is said to heart, let it sit within you for a few days, then take a look at what the group said. If at that time, you see their point, then make the changes. If you still think they are full of it, keep it as is. Remember, you are the writer, so you get the last word. I do think critique groups can ‘crush’ a fledgling writer. I almost had that experience twenty years ago as a newbie. The leader was harsh on my beyond what is acceptable. Other writers tried to console me and I almost gave up. However, if you’re a real writer and this your passion, then people can say what they will, and you may take it to heart for some time, but you will eventually find your way back. Once a writer, always a writer.

Have you ever suffered from writer’s block? What seems to work for unleashing your creativity?

I have not suffered this particular ailment. I have been vaccinated against it. However, if I feel it trying to ‘get’ me, I go for a walk.

Technically speaking, what do you have to struggle the most when writing? How do you tackle it?

Time. I wish I had more time to write more books. I am not sure how to handle this as I do need sleep.

How was your experience in looking for a publisher? What words of advice would you offer those novice authors who are in search of one?

My agent found the publisher. I recommend that novice authors query agents when they feel they are ready.

What type of book promotion seems to work the best for you?

If I knew I would be on The Times list. Word of mouth still sells books better than anything else. I do a culmination of things. I have a website, newsletter, myspace, blogs, etc. Viral marketing is important in the age of The Internet. I also tell anyone and everyone from people on planes, to waiting for their car at the car wash, to waiting to be seated in a restaurant about my books.

What is(are) your favorite book/author(s)? Why?

This question is always so hard for me. I can never give one answer. I love so many different authors and books. I am a book whore. I probably spend more money on books than I do writing them. I read every night before bed and I pretty much enjoy almost every book I read. I’ll tell you what I am reading now and I can say that I am enjoying them: One Fifth Avenue by Candace Bushnell, The Shack by William P. Young, and The Writing Class by Jincy Willet. I read three to four books at a time. I think I have A.D.D.

What is the best writing advice you’ve ever received?

Bum Glue by Bryce Courtenay (The Power of One). Bryce likes to say, “Glue your bum to the chair and write.”

Do you have a website/blog where readers may learn more about you and your work?

Please visit my website at Readers can read excerpts from all of my books, enter contests, and learn a bit about my writing process.

Do you have another book on the works? Would you like to tell readers about your current or future projects?

I am currently finishing up a women’s fiction novel that is about women and their friendships with one another as well as the relationships between mothers and their children. I don’t want to jinx it, so that’s all I can say. My next mystery Corked by Cabernet will be out in February under Michele Scott.

As an author, what is your greatest reward?

When I receive an e-mail from a reader telling me that they love one of my books, or characters. That makes what I do worth every second.

Anything else you’d like to say about yourself or your work?

Buy it. I have three kids to put through college. Joking aside—writing is what I do, it’s what I love and I would love to have you read my work and drop me a line.

Thanks for stopping by, Michelle! It was a pleasure to have you here!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

The Slippery Art of Book Reviewing Virtual Book Tour - Days 1 & 2

Hey there,

This month I'm off again touring the blogosphere, this time to promote my nonfiction work, The Slippery Art of Book Reviewing.

On the first day of the tour, Nov. 4th, I was at Donna McDine's wonderful blog, Write What Inspires You. Donna posted the prologue of the book and we had a very succesful first day with lost of comments from visitors. Thanks again, Donna, for allowing me to be a guest on your blog!

Today on the 2nd day of the tour my co-author and I are off at Book Pleasures for an interview with Editor in Chief Norm Goldman.



Tuesday, November 4, 2008

The Magic Violin book trailer...

Check out the lovely trailer Kim McDougall of Blazing Trailers made of my Christmas picture book, The Magic Violin. Make sure your volume is up so you can hear the second movement of Vivaldi's "Winter".

The Magic Violin is available on Amazon, B&N, the Publisher, and your local bookstore.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Review of The Pillar of Light: The Legends of Milana, by A.L. Travis

The Pillar of Light is a middle-grade novel that will appeal to young fans of mystery, fantasy, and adventure stories.

In the depths of the Brazilian jungle, a husband-wife team of missionaries suddenly receive a strange visit: An amazingly tall man with long black hair, carrying in his arms the battered body of a young girl with blond locks. Muttering some enigmatic words, the mysterious man leaves the girl with them, along with a strange necklace that the man urges them to hide before he turns around and disappears into the forest.

In the missionary hospital, the kind couple care for the girl, Nani Val Dynia, until she recovers her consciousness. When she wakes up, however, she doesn't recall who she is or where she came from. During the next three years, the couple take care of Nani, always wondering about her unknown origins.

Then, a group of high school students arrive to the jungle to help the natives and Nani volunteers to guide them to the nearest village. But before they reach their destination, their car crashes and they suffer a terrible accident. Upon waking, they find themselves in a bizarre, extraordinary parallel world. Where are they? Is this the land Nani comes from? What is the mystery of the six pillars? Will they ever find their way back home?

The Pillar of Light is the first book and a good start in The Legends of Milana series. I found the writing engaging and the dialogue natural. The descriptions help create the right amount of visual images without being intrusive to the flow of the story. The first few chapters were particularly interesting, prompting me to read on. The author keeps a good pace throughout most of the book. I found the mythology of the parallel world, however, a little confusing, especially the early explanations of the concepts of 'Healing' and the connection of male and female pairs at birth. For the most part, though, the mythology is imaginative and entertaining, and I had a good time reading about Nani and her friends.

To find more about the book, visit the author's website.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Review of My Doggie Says, by Fred M. Haney

Are you tuned with your dog? Enough to understand the signals and messages it sends you everyday? How well do you communicate with your canine companion?

In My Doggie Says, the author pays a tribute to his beloved dog, Jamie, a golden retriever who never stops sending him messages with his eyes, expressions, barks, and physical behavior.

Of course, all dogs sends us messages and 'talk' to us, but not all dog owners are tuned enough to their dogs to perceive or understand these messages.

The author took photographs of Jamie in different situations, capturing Jamie's body language during four years, then he set to the task of writing about them, the result which is this book.

Writen with humor and warmth, this is an award-winning book that will be enjoyed by all dog lovers, especially owners of golden retrievers. It might even help you build a warmer, closer relationship with your doggie and inspire you to become a better 'listener'.

Note: My Doggie Says is an Indie Excellence Award Winner (pet books category).

Visit the author's website.

Review of The Tutu Ballet, by Sally O. Lee

Every Saturday in the forest, the mothers bring their children to MS. Berry's ballet class. Among the students are Belinda the Bear, Mirabel the Mouse, Harriet the Hare, and Fillipo the Fox. There's much reason for excitment, as Ms. Berry is planning a recital. However, not all is going according to plan during rehearsals. Belinda likes to kick too much, Harriet twirls uncontrollably, Fillippo loves to jump wildly, and Mirabel won't stop doing her plies. Will the recital be a success or a disaster?

The Tutu Ballet is a very cute picture book with lovely illustrations (my ten-year old loved them) done in pen and ink and pastel watercolors. Though the font is original and created by the author herself, I found it a bit hard to read at times, especially when it was set against a dark background on the first page of the story. I also felt that for a picture book, there were some superflous words and that the prose could have been edited better for tightness.

But all in all, this is an enjoyable picture book that I read with interest and that will delight little girls who are learning ballet. It is a story of love, patience, and team work, and the rewards we may get when we combine the three.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Check out the trailer for CRASH!

This cute, charming trailer is the creation of Kim McDougall, founder of Blazing Trailers and author of The Rainbow Sheep, The Stone Beach, and Angel Venom. Thank you, Kim!

Monday, October 20, 2008

The Slippery Art of Book Reviewing is a 2008 National Best Books Awards Finalist!

Anne K. Edwards and I are proud to announce that our nonfiction book, The Slippery Art of Book Reviewing, is a 2008 National Best Books Awards Finalist!

For a full list of finalists and winners in all the categories, visit:

For information about our book, visit:

Mayra Calvani

Monday, September 29, 2008

Review of Nina's Waltz, by Corinne Demas

Nina’s Waltz
by Corinne Demas
Illustrated by Deborah Lanino
Orchard Books
ISBN: 0-531-30281-4
Copyright 2000
Children’s picture book, 32 pages, $16.95

Author's website:

Early one morning in the serene landscape of the countryside, Nina and her Dad take a trip to a fair, where a violin contest will take place. The prize is two hundred dollars, money they need, as they’re a poor family. Her dad, who in Nina’s eyes is the best player in the whole world, plans to play a tune he wrote especially for Nina, “Nina’s Waltz”. Once at the fair, however, a wasp stings his hand and he’s unable to play. Who will take his place? Will Nina do it? But how, when she’s petrified by the idea of playing in public?

This is a charming tale about the magic of violin music and the loving bond between father and daughter. The author, using simple yet softly lyrical prose, shows us a glimpse into a young girl’s life and her resolution not to let her dad down. This is also a story about the power of self esteem and believing in oneself. The illustrations are beautiful and even dream-like at times, bringing to life the countryside, Nina, and the ethereal magic of violin music. This would make a lovely present to any little violin player, especially a girl.

I feel sorry when books like this go out of print. Copies are still available from ‘Other sellers’ at

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Review of The Tiniest Tiger, by Joanne L. McGonagle

The Tiniest Tiger is a charming, educational, and beautifully illustrated picture book that should be on the shelf of every library and elementary school class.

While playfully chasing a butterfly, a little kitten finds himself lost in the zoo. As he tries to find his way back home, he meets different types of big cats--lions, tigers, cheetas, pumas, jaguars, bobcats, among others--and learns their distinct characteristics, such as their size, weight, status on the endangered species list, origin, life span, etc. In the process, the kitten learns a lot about the big cats and about himself.

This is a book that both teaches and entertains and carries a valuable message about the beauty of big cats and the importance of saving them from extinction. Some words and concepts may be a bit difficult for younger children to grasp, so this is a book that probably should be read to a child by a parent or a teacher. The illustrations are simply beautiful and give off a feeling of serenity (like the one on the cover). It's never too early to begin teaching children about endangered species and this book will help you do just that.

What I also like about this book is that the author is donating a percentage of the proceeds from the sales to conservation projects for endangered wild cats in Africa, Asia, North America, and South America, through the Conservation Fund of the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium.

The Tiniest Tiger
52 pages
Ages 4-8
Purchase from Amazon.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

On the Spotlight: Multi-Genre Author and Editor Lea Schizas

A resident of Montreal, award-winning multi-genre author and editor Lea Schizas describes herself as a late bloomer who “finally woke up after a 23-year self-induced coma taking care of the family, and rediscovered my passion for writing.” She is the co-founder and Editor-in-Chief of two Writer’s Digest 101 Top Writing Sites of 2005 & 2006 and recipients of the Preditors and Editors Most Useful Writing Sites Award: Apollo’s Lyre and The MuseItUp Club. She's also the founder of The Muse Online Writers Conference, The Muse Marquee, and co-founder of Coffee Cramp eZine. Her published works include The Rock of Realm, Doorman's Creek, Aleatory's Junction, and The Muse on Writing, among other books for children. Because of her supportive, helpful sites and groups for writers, Lea is affectionately referred to as 'Mother Hen'. Her book review site, Muse Book Reviews, caters to authors of most genres.

Lea's books...

When Kyle Anderson and his two buddies decide to explore a cave hidden within Doorman's Creek, the last thing they expected to find was a skeleton... and an unknown entity, throwing them right into the path of a serial killer.

Faced with a sudden gift of visions into past and present disappearances, Kyle must now track down who the murderer is before another family member gets killed.

What if you were hit with the realization you were of royal lineage…to another realm? This is exactly what fourteen-year old Alexandra Stone has to face in the Young Adult fantasy novel ‘The Rock of Realm’.

In everyday life we face dilemmas, obstacles, and situations where a decision needs to be made. Whether we choose the right or wrong path, only time will tell. In Aleatory, the residents are used to strange occurrences, to newcomers traveling through but never returning. But for these newcomers, Aleatory’s Junction will prove to be more than just a fork in a corner out of town.

ISBN: 1-55404-400-6Genre: Fantasy/SF eBook Length: 354 Pages Print: 502 PagesPublished: October 2006Imprint: Double Dragon Publishing
Print Book Available Here

Vampires, werewolves, zombies… all legendary creatures hunting their preys, all containing their own personal tales and backgrounds.
But the most evasive story to be told is that of Lord John Erdely from the Carpathian Mountains in Romania, Transylvania.

Lord John Erdely lived in the 16th century and date of death cannot be confirmed since no body has ever been found. It is rumored, but no documents support this theory, that he dealt in black magic to suppress the ongoing collaboration of the churches to bring a unified religion to all people, a Greek Catholic practice.
It is also rumored he may have used black magic to contain his servants, to blind and deafen them from words spoken to them while on errands for the Lord within the village of Cornifu. Villagers became increasingly suspicious of Lord Erdely when family members went missing.
Enter the present time…

All visitors staying in Cornifu Hotel are surprised with a mystery invitation for a one day excursion to Erdely Castle. Befuddled but amused at the same time, they accept, unaware of the events to follow.
Join our characters as each discovers secrets and mysteries that will change their lives forever.

To purchase Lea's books, visit her website.

Subscribe to Lea's Monthly Ebook Newsletter!

"For a yearly subscription of ONLY $10.00, you get twelve issues of Monthly eBook Newsletter - with bonus issues scattered throughout the year. Some of the links are: AGENTS - PUBLISHERS - REVIEW SITES - PROMO SITES - MAGAZINES - ASSOCIATIONS - and more. You'll also get writing articles and an opportunity to showcase your own bragging rites."--Lea Schizas

Lea also offers critique services for children's picture books and novels.
Picture books under 1,000 words: $30
Longer works: $2 per page.

Friday, September 5, 2008

My Interview with

My co-author Anne K. Edwards and I recently had the pleasure of being interviewed by Norm Goldman of

We talked about our book, The Slippery Art of Book Reviewing, and writing and reviewing.

You may read the interview here.


"The Difference Between Middle Grade & Young Adult," by Laura Backes

The Difference Between Middle Grade & Young Adult
by Laura Backes, Children's Book Insider

It's often difficult for writers to know whether they're creating a middle grade novel (ages 8-12), or a book for young adults (12 and up). Because many of the themes and situations are similar for the two age groups, authors go by the age of the main character: if the protagonist is under 12, it's middle grade; over 12 means young adult. But the differences are more complicated than that.

The author of the true, classic middle grade novel does not worry about vocabulary choices or simple sentence structure; once children are ready for these books they are good readers. Middle grade novels are characterized by the type of conflict encountered by the main character. Children in the primary grades are still focused inward, and the conflicts in their books reflect that. While themes range from friendship to school situations to relationships with siblings and peers, characters are learning how they operate within their own world. They are solidifying their own identity, experiencing the physical and psychological changes of puberty, taking on new responsibilities all within the boundaries of their family, friends and neighborhood. Yes, your character needs to grow and change during the course of the book, but these changes are on the inside. Middle grade readers are beginning to learn who they are, what they think. Their books need to mirror their personal experience.

Charlotte's Web, the classic middle grade novel by E.B. White, is a perfect example. Wilbur the pig is threatened by his world: he's worried that once he grows up, he'll be sent to the butcher. And while his friend Charlotte saves Wilbur from death, the book is really about the meaning of true friendship and how Wilbur gains confidence and self-esteem. This year's Newbery winner, The View from Saturday by E.L. Konigsburg, is about four children and their sixth grade teacher as they compete in the regional Academic Bowl. But the competition is a backdrop for the individual journeys each child takes on the path to becoming a team, and how they help their teacher find her own place in the world. The real victory is how each of the five main characters goes through some inner struggle during the book and ends up in a better place.

Characters are also a key element to young adult novels, but these books often have more complicated plots than those for middle grade. Protagonists experience an internal change, but this change is triggered by external events and fits into a bigger picture. They begin to step outside themselves and see how they influence, and are influenced by, the larger world. They go beyond their backyard and encounter adult problems for the first time. In Suzanne Fisher Staples' novel Dangerous Skies, 12-year-old Buck Smith is suddenly made aware of the racial hatred and prejudice entrenched in his small Southern town when his best friend is a suspect in a murder investigation. By the end of the book, Buck has lost his innocence and his eyes are opened to the ethical shortcomings of his family and the neighbors he has known all his life.

The age of the main character and length of the manuscript are still a rough guide in determining the audience (middle grade manuscripts tend to be 100 pages or shorter, with young adult books being longer, though this is not always the case), but the kind of conflict the characters encounter is a better measuring stick. Many publishers have created a new young adult category for ages 10-14, for books that bridge the gap between middle grade and young adult, and have designated novels with older themes as ages 15 and up. The story, rather than the character's age, delineates the audience, as in Carolyn Coman's What Jamie Saw (a 1996 Newbery Honor Book). The book features a nine-year-old protagonist, but the subject of domestic abuse prompted the publisher to give it an age range of ten and up. As an author, it's your job to decide who you want to reach with your book -- elementary kids, junior high or high school -- and then create characters and conflicts accordingly. Regardless of genre -- science fiction, mystery, historical or contemporary -- if your characters are learning about themselves and the world in the same way as your readers, your audience will find you.

--Laura Backes is the publisher of Children's Book Insider, the Newsletter for Children's Writers. For more information about writing children's books, including free articles, market tips, insider secrets and much more, visit Children's Book Insider's home on the web at

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Review of Sisters of Misery, by Megan Kelley Hall

Maddie Crane has lived all her life in Hawthorne, a little town close to the infamous Salem, MA. Together with her mother and grandmother, she lives a pretty routine life. But there is some darkness about her. For one, her father abandoned her and her mom, and, together with four other school 'friends', Maddie belongs to a secret club called Sisters of Misery, one of those mysterious fraternities going back many generations. The leader is Kate Endicott, a rich, evil girl who has a psychological hold over Maddie and the other three girls, and whose favorite past time is to make other people suffer. Though Maddie is a good girl, she's too affected by peer pressure to stand up to the girls.

Then one day her cousin Cordelia and her mom come from California to live with them in Hawthorn. At once, Maddie is mesmerized by her beautiful redheaded cousin. Cordelia is mysterious, ethereal, and very different from the regular girls at school. Immediately, Kate is overcome with jealousy and does her best to humiliate Cordelia. She also torments Maddie with having to choose between her loyalty to her 'sisters' and her friendship to Cordelia.

Eventually, things go too far, and what is supposed to be a night of harmless initiation on the Island of Misery turns into a bloody, sadistic ritual...

I have very mixed feelings about this book. I like the author's prose and the way she weaves elements of history, witchcraft, and superstition into this modern day story, but there are aspects of the novel that didn't work for me nor allowed me to connect with the protagonist.

To start, the protagonist is a weak follower. She's good at heart, but never really stands up for what she believes is right, in spite of the atrocious, sadistic actions of her so-called 'best friends'. I found the violence in this book excessive for the age group (13 and up, I'm guessing, since the protagonist is 15). I feel that the author is talented enough without having to resort to shocking her readers in order to get their attention (yes, I feel this book is one of those with shock value). I would have found the novel more believable if the characters were older. The villainess, Kate Endicott, is so mean that she borders on the cartoonish. Her evilness is too exaggerated, to the point of being unbelievable. Let me put it this way: Cruella could learn some tips from this fifteen year old. The most sympathetic character is the victim, Cordelia, which is a real pity because she is gone for half of the book.

But, as I said, there are many good things about this book. The prologue is really grabbing, in fact one of the best and most memorable I've read in a long time. The darkness and the vivid, macabre images will stay in my mind for a while. The story moves at a fast pace, is quite suspenseful, and has a lot of imaginative twists and turns, so I'm sure many readers will enjoy this book.

I, however, kept turning the pages, hoping that justice would be done and that Maddie would get some backbone and stand up to her 'friends'. Even though I know the story isn't finished and there will be a sequel, I was disappointed. Granted, Maddie is a victim of peer pressure, but to me, a protagonist must have substance, even if she initially starts off being weak. So I guess this is my problem with Maddie. For me, she lacks substance. Reading this novel has remainded me of the important role of a sympathetic protagonist.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Rave Review from ForeWord Magazine

Heather Shaw, Editor-in-Chief of ForeWord Magazine, just gave my book a rave review.

I'm absolutely thrilled!

“There’s not a reviewer out there that wouldn’t benefit from this review of reviewing… this is a great reference book for libraries…”

Read Heather's full review here.

ForeWord seems to have a lot of weight with libraries, and since I'm in the process of an emailing campaign to libraries, this review comes very handy. My co-author and I are contacting all public libraries by state and sending them promotional flyers by email. So far I've done all the libraries in MA. It is a very time consuming activity and after we do a couple more states we'll check with the publisher to see if our promotional efforts have been effective. For a list of public libraries by state, we're using this site:

We're also planning to contact college bookstores and English departments of colleges and universities. Already our book is being used as a textbook for a book writing course at Loyola College, MD, so we're quite excited about that and hopeful that other schools will follow.

Here's what other reviewers are saying...

"The Slippery Art of Book Reviewing should be considered mandatory reading for novice and aspiring book reviewers, as well as having a great deal of enduring value as a reference for even the more experienced reviewer. Additionally, The Slippery Art of Book Reviewing will provide to be informed and informative reading about the book review process for authors, publishers, publicists, booksellers, librarians, and the general reading public." --Reviewed by James Cox, Editor-in-Chief, Midwest Book Review.

"This book from Mayra Calvani and Anne K. Edwards is the first 'Reviewer's Desk Reference' for book reviewers at all levels."
--Reviewed by Ernest Dempsey, The World Audience

"As an experienced reviewer I learned that I do not know it all and will keep my copy of The Slippery Art of Book Reviewing for reference. It is not a book I will loan out because it won’t be returned...If you want to break into book reviewing, The Slippery Art of Book Reviewing is a must-have reference. Heed the author’s advice and you can write reviews that will get you and the books you review noticed." --Reviewed by Sharon Broom, Armchair Interviews.

"The Slippery Art of Book Reviewing is a useful took for both amateur and professional book reviewers, as well as book review editors. There should be no doubt that the good tips, thoughtful perspective and resource information can be of considerable value to anyone wishing to practice this art." --Reviewed by Emily-Jane Hills Orford, Allbooks Reviews.

"I do recommend The Slippery Art of Book Reviewing as a must-have resource guide. Calvani and Edwards present a well-written gold-mine to potential reviewers as well as a source of information for experienced reviewers and authors." --Reviewed by Irene Watson, Reader Views.

"The Slippery Art... is an invaluable resource for anyone interested in book reviews - writers, reviewers, publishers, publicists, librarians, booksellers and readers." -- Reviewed by Francine Silverman, Editor of The Book Promotion Newsletter

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Dream Realm Award Finalist


I just discovered that my novel, Dark Lullaby, was one of three finalists at this year's Dream Realm Awards for the Horror category.

The winners were announced at a science fiction convention in Houston, Texas on August 16th.

Even though I didn't win, I'm deeply honored to be chosen a finalist. I'll be receiving a framed certificate in the mail soon. I'm looking forward to displaying it on my office wall.


Monday, August 18, 2008

Review of Janoose the Goose, by J.D. Holiday

Janoose the Goose
by J.D. Holiday
Book Garden Publishing
Copyright 2008
ISBN: 978-0981861401
Children's Picture Book
11"x 8 1/2" paperback, 24 pages, $10.00
Visit the publisher's website and watch the trailer at

In the farm, all is well until the naughty fox decides to stop for a little visit... well, a little visit that translates into bullying and terrorizing the little innocent ducklings. Luckily, Janoose the Goose is there to defend the duckling and chase the fox away. Impressed by the goose's bravery, the other farm animals decide it would be great if Janoose could stay at the farm and keep order, but Janoose is supposed to fly away soon, and besides, there are no jobs available for her at the farm. But if Janoose leaves, who will defend the other animals against the fox? Will Janoose be able to stay, after all?

Janoose the Goose is a cute, engaging story that will be enjoyed by young children ages 3 to 8. My daughter, though she's old for the book, read it with interest and loved the illustrations. The artwork, done also by the author, fits the story well. The illustrations, though simple, are colorful and attractive and have a traditional style that I've always enjoyed in children's books. Janoose the Goose is a worthy addition to a any kid's or classroom shelf.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Brillante Weblog Premio-2008

I would like to thank young adult author Beverly McClure and children's author Margot Finke for nominating me for the Brillante Weblog Premio-2008. Thank you so much, Beverly and Margot! It is an honor and it was such a delightful surprise to be nominated.

As a nominee, I get to make my own nominations... and here they are!!!!

Lea Schizas,
Amy Moreno,
Cindy Reeg,
Jessica Kennedy,
Donna McDine,
Mary Jean Kelso and K.C. Snider,

Rules for next recipients of the Brillante Weblog Premio are as follows:

1. The award may be displayed on a winner's blog.
2. Add a link to the person you received the award from.
3. Nominate up to seven other blogs.
4. Add their links to your blog.
5. Add a message to each person that you have passed the award on in the comments section of their blog.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Guest Post: "Is There a Picture Book Designer in You?" by Jan Amenta

I recently finished painting watercolor pictures for one of my children's picture books with the intent of designing the book myself. It was the goal that made me willing to conquer the challenge of learning the page layout software Indesign Creative Suite 3 or CS 3 by Adobe.

I was comfortable using Adobe's Photo Shop having made examples of pages for a previous picture book project. In fact, I designed most of the pages, which led to the realization that I could design my books if I had the right tool.

Listening to other authors and self publishers, they seem to fall into two groups. Those that hired someone to do the designing and those who do it themselves.

Indesign CS 3 cost about $750 US and came with a video workshop and once I registered the product I took the free offer for a one month trial to to access Adobe's library. I also bought Adobe Indesign CS 3 ClassRoom in a Book, with lesson files on CD that take you through the layout exercises. The internet was where I got most answers to my questions by researching on Google and elsewhere. Also, there are websites by Indesign professionals and internet groups that have a wealth of information. To get answers to hard to find questions I went to the These are all key to understanding the Indesign CS 3 software.

Once I got the hang of it, and knew where things were, including what tools to use and how to use them, I could not believe how cool this software program was. For instance, to make a page in the book, I made a frame on a first layer, using File> Place, I added a picture, chose the text layer, made another frame and added the text. You can resize an object or picture right on the page, apply drop shadows, and ghost background images, and add gradients which is a gradual blending between colors. And there is another way to get pictures placed in a document and that is to open Adobe Bridge which is a separate tool that comes with Indesign. In Bridge you can look for files anywhere on your hard drive by opening Bridge right inside the Indesign workspace and view contents you need to bring into your document and then, just drag and drop the picture.

If you have basic knowledge of art software such as Photo Shop or Corel Painter, like to learn, and don't mind doing research you might be able to design your children's picture books yourself.

While you consider this as your option you should start by reading a few books on book design, especially picture book design. I found that looking at other children's books got my imagination going.

Before you start the design process you will need to decide where the book will be printed so you can get information from the printer on what their needs are.

You will need to know the template sizes for the interior and book cover. There are margins, bleeds and gutter sizes to know and what settings should be on or off just to name a few.

If this all sounds like it's too much then don't do it. Go another route to get your book designed and in print. There are plenty of good publishing services that have designing as part of their packages or you can hire a professional book designer.

--Jan Amenta writes children's picture books under the pen name of J.D. Holiday. Her book, Janoose the Goose, is the first in her "Read-a-long with Your Child Storybook" series. Visit her website at:

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Cool Contest to Enter at Armchair Interviews


I just heard from Andrea Sisco at Armchair Interviews that they have a cool summer contest going on!

Here is the message by Andrea and Connie:

Announcing 2008 Contest: Summertime Blues For all you authors out there — or those who simply like to write --Tell us in fewer than 1,000 words (in any genre) a short story that takes place in summer. Our panel of judges will be looking for:
  • Good storytelling
  • Unique turn of words
  • Use these words: summer, hotdogs, campfire, “Kumbiah” and blues.
  • Well-written (grammar, word usage, etc.)

Winning story will receive $50 in prize money and the first and second runner-up will receive two books of our choosing. All three stories will be published on our site. AND you can list your winning honor on writing resume or book proposal.

  • Submit to as a Word doc (if Word not available, submit it inside an email)
  • 1,000 words maximum
  • Please underline the required words used (listed above)
  • Your favorite genre
  • On cover sheet, list genre, name, email address, mailing address

Deadline is September 30, 2008

Only one submission per person Winners will be notified after the judging decisions are made. Get writing, get creative--and don’t wait until September 29 to submit. And good luck!

Andrea and Connie

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Book Review: Frankie, the Walk n' Roll Dog, by Barbara Gail Techel

Frankie, the Walk n' Roll Dog
Barbara Gail Techel
Illustrations by Victoria Kay Lieffring
Joyful Paw Prints
Children's book, paperback, 49 pages
Age: 4 & Up

This is a beautiful, uplifting story about hope and overcoming challenges. It is also a brightly illustrated picture book that will touch and delight young readers.

Frankie is a miniature dachshund who lives a happy life with his beloved human parents and dog sister, a gentle chocolate lab named Cassie. Frankie spends his days learning to go potty, taking long bicycle rides with Mom, and visiting his favorite market, where he enjoys baked goods and flowers. He's the center of attention wherever he goes and kids love him. He also has two doggie friends, Olive and Baci.

For Frankie, life is beautiful, playing with his friends and soaking up the warm sun on the grass.

Sadness eventually knocks on the door: Cassie, his doggie sister, falls ill and passes away. But as it's often the case, the bad thing brings up a good thing, and soon Kylie, a labrador retriever puppy, comes into their lives. All seems perfect for a while...

Then the unthinkable happens: Frankie has a terrible accident. He suffers a spinal injury. Will Frankie walk again? Will he overcome his handicap? Will he be happy again?

Frankie's story is uplifting and inspiring! It is the perfect book to read to children in order to teach them not only how to overcome challenges, but also about compassion and the handicap. I found the illustrations, which appear to be computer enhanced, original and delightful in a simple, very modern way. The colors are bright and cheerful. This is the kind of story that may be enjoyed by both children and adults alike, especially by those people who love dogs. The book is longer than your standard picture book and has lots of text, so while you may not be able to finish it in one sitting as a bedtime story, you can read it to kids in short installments.

Book Review: What Dog Are You? Discovering Your Inner Pooch

What Dog Are You? Discovering Your Inner Pooch
By Lori Lebda and Tami Bergeson
Wing Span Press
Copyright 2008
ISBN: 978-1-59594-174-9
Paperback, 75 pages

Have you ever wondered which breed of dogs shares your personality traits or physical appearance? If you were a dog, what dog would you be? With the help of this book, you can find out the answer.

The book has three quizzes: Pooch-Onality (which dog shares your personality quirks?), Dapper-Dogs (which dog do you most resemble?), and Biscuits or Bones (which breed shares your same opinions?) The questions are fun and whimsical; the quizzes friendly and easy. My family and I had a great time doing the quizzes for each other and finding out the type of dogs each of us were. Once you add the result values, you go to the ‘Leader of the Pack’ score list to find out the dog that matches you and also see its picture (black & white drawings). Towards the end, there’s also a short section about the major dog groups and their characteristics.

Though the quizzes aren’t scientific, the book is amusing. My ten-year old loved it and brought it to school the next day to share with her friends. An entertaining, fun book for family and friendly gatherings! If you love dogs or own one, you’ll want to add this little pamphlet to your shelf.

--Mayra Calvani, Mayra’s Secret Bookcase

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Interview with Kamilla Reid, author of The Questory of Root Karbunkulus

It's a pleasure to have you here, Kamilla. Do you consider yourself to be a born writer?

Well, I remember I was eight years old and we were still living in the orange and white house. We moved around quite a lot and that's how we remembered our homes, by their colors. So, it was while living in the orange and white house that my teacher gave us an assignment to write a story. I cringed at first because it meant serious interference with my playtime, in particular with Terry M, my puppy love (despite the fact that he liked Jamie but alas, another story).

Anyhow, being the keener I was back then (what happened?) I got to work on my story that very first day after school. And never stopped. Suddenly, playtime didn't matter. Nor did supper or gasp! -Terry M! All I wanted to do was continue with this wonderful feeling of creating. I wrote and wrote and wrote. And then I asked my teacher if I could also draw the pictures.

When my 'masterpiece' was completed I got an A+ and my teacher sent it in to Owl magazine, which published it. After that I was hooked.

Tell us about your recent release. What was your inspiration for it?

I had the idea for DréAmm, the location for my book many, many years ago and because I was involved in live theatre I wrote it as a musical. But I never really liked the feel of it in this format. It felt limited. Plus, I hadn’t quite come into the ‘hook’ yet, that thing that made me go “yes, this is it!” It wasn’t until years later when I caught a snippet of that TV reality show “The Amazing Race” that I finally got that ‘aha!’ moment. I loved the idea of teams of kids all racing against each other in a glorified kind of scavenger hunt to find something very, very important. DréAmm then became a magical land where virtually anything could happen. That’s when the main character, Root Karbunkulus just showed up and showed me around. Of course then the plot got really got good with all sorts of agendas going on, personal and otherwise. In the end, the name ‘DréAmm’ stayed but everything else was ditched.

Around this same time I was leaving the theatre and facing a new role as Single Mum; the perfect combination for finally doing that thing that you promised yourself that you would do but never did.

Tell us about your children's books.

The “Questory of Root Karbunkulus” is a teen fantasy series of six books. Each book involves a race for a new item of great importance, with a team being eliminated at the end. Here is a brief synopsis:

Young Root Karbunkulus gets an invitation to participate in 'the coolest scavenger hunt of all time!' Finally, her chance! She can escape the Aunts and prove once and for all there’s no stinkin’ “L” on her forehead! So what if she's up against hundreds of other kids. It can’t be worse than murder ball. The rules say teams of three. Okay, okay her appointed team mates, Lian and Dwyn are screws-in-the-temples annoying...but livable...and really no worse than Goatface Kor or Hilly Punyun who, forget the panties, has a tiara for each day of the week. More rules: Can't use magic on competitors. Doh! Oh well, at this point her magic is of the non-existent variety anyhow so…next! The first item up for grabs is the Miist of Kalliope, apparently some dead magician's elixir. No prob. But wait. Out of hundreds of teams, there are only six of these Miists to be found? Leaving only six teams left to go after the next item? Then five, four, three, two…woah...this could get ugly....hmmm...compete and win...or go back to exfoliating those hard, crusted entities called Auntie Octavia's feet?
Root Karbunkulus accepts the invitation. It will be a race of many, many hated things. But it will also be a contest of courage, friendship and the rising of soul. Within it Root will learn the terrifying truth behind the mysterious items. She will also discover, to her horror that she is not a player in an innocent kid’s race but a pawn in a vicious adult game

Some writers go on long walks, others keep a journal, write at a café, or listen to music. What do you do for inspiration and unleashing your creativity?

If ever I’m feeling kind of blocked I have a bath. I’ve come to know now that a relaxed mind is a creative mind. So when I’m trying too hard I just plop in the ol’ tub with a bit of lavender and almond oil and it starts flowing again. Of course then I have to jump out soaking wet and get it all down J A morning jog with my two pooches is great as well.

Describe your working environment.

I like quiet, away from synthetic noise. I live right on a lake and so I throw my windows open and invite the sounds of geese and ducks and grebes and chickadees and robins in. This is the perfect peaceful, creative environment for me.

Are you a disciplined writer? What is your working style?

Yeah, I’d say I’m pretty disciplined. I get up most days at 4:30 or 5am, jog around the lakes with my dogs and then get to writing. I love writing in the mornings when I feel most refreshed and in tune with myself and my work.

Do you like to outline and plot ahead, or are you more of a stream-of-consciousness writer?

I absolutely have to work out the plot, all the plots ahead of time. So, before I even started book one I had to work out every major plot point and every main character’s arc for all six books first. Sometimes I have no idea what the event specifically will be, only that something has to occur that will plunge so-and-so into emotional turmoil or great joy or even death…that sort of thing. But even in the forging of the plot I feel as creative as when I am writing or dialoguing detail. It all melds together with each level getting more and more specific. I love it! It’s like when I was writing and directing for theatre from scripting, to rehearsals, to decorating the set to honing the timing down to within a second. Every bit as important and exciting.

Do you have a website/blog where readers may learn more about you and your works?

Oh yes! I have an amazing website that will blow your socks offJ. It has my award winning book trailer and all sorts of very cool things including a forum and downloads and contests and reviews. The graphics and music are truly incredible. It was an absolute blast to make and best of all, kids love it! They can order the book from there, too.

Is there anything else you’d like to say to our readers?

I love hearing from readers and post many emails on my blog. Come and join me there!

Thank you so much for granting me this time to share with you and your readers. It was a thrill and a pleasure.

Thank you, Kamilla! And good luck with your book!

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Book Review: Trouble Finds Rooter and Snuffle, by Shari Lyle-Soffe

In this the third book of the Rooter & Snuffle raccoon series, Soffe gives us three more delightful short tales, each with an important message.
In "My True Friends," Rooter falls under the bad influence of Twitcher, the bully rabbit, and turns his back on his friends. Fortunately, this new attitude of his doesn't last long and he's able to realize what a true friend means. More importantly, he does something about it.

In "The Pity Party," Little Snuffle is feeling sorry for himself--is having, in fact, a pity party. Luckily, Rooter makes up a new game to help his little raccoon brother regain his confidence. Rooter reminds him that we all have our special gifts, we just have to find what those gifts are.
In "Yes We Can," Mrs. Quackers the duck is in serious trouble, and it's up to Rooter and Snuffle to help her and her baby ducklings. When they don't succeed, however, they must get the help of Slappy Beaver. As it turns out, it was a piece of garbage what almost killed the mother duck. This story teaches how we can protect wild animals from getting hurt by simply throwing the garbage in a can instead of leaving it everywhere for creatures to find. It is a story that teaches responsibility and a love and respect for animals.
Whenever I read the words "Rooter & Snuffle", I know I'm in for a good time. I have read all of the books in this series and enjoyed them all. What I like most about this author is that she teaches Christian values without being 'preachy'. The short tales are fun and engaging, and Collier's bright illustrations a symphony of colors on the pages. The expressions on the animal faces are just darling, transmitting their emotions to the reader. If you have young children (3 & up), I can whole-heartedly recommend this series!
Book Info:
Trouble Finds Rooter and Snuffle"
Author: Shari Lyle-Soffe
Illustrator: Kevin Scott Collier
Guardian Angel Publishing, Inc.
eBook ISBN 13: 978-1-933090-85-6
Print ISBN 13: 978-1-933090-72-6
Paperback, 19 pages, $9.95
Suggested age: 3 (read to age) to 9 (read alone)

Book Review: Maybe We Are Flamingos, by Safari Sue Thurman

Maybe We Are Flamingos is an adorable picture book about two baby flamingos who are troubled by the way they look and wonder if they're in the right flock.

When baby flamingos Flora and Fernando are born, they're surprised to see that, while all the other flamingos are pink, they are white. How could this be? To make matters worse, they later turn grey. Is something wrong with them? Why aren't they pink like the other beautiful flamingos around them?

Full of fear at what the possible answer might be, they decide to ask their mom.

To their delight, they find out that it's only a matter of time before they'll turn pink like the others, and that looking the way they do now is completely natural.

Later, they also learn why flamingos are pink, making this book not only entertaining but educational as well.

In sum, this is a delightful and deftly written picture book that young children ages 3 and up will love to listen to again and again. Thurman chose each word in the story carefully, the prose flows so well. Collier's illustrations are a splash of color on the pages, transporting the reader to a warm, tropical place. Maybe We Are Flamingos would make a beautiful gift to any young child and is a sweet book I'd highly recommend to add to your child's bookshelf.
Purchase and watch the trailer here.

Book Review: Rainbow Sheep, by Kim Chatel

Rainbow Sheep is an original, sweet story about a little shepherdess called Genevieve and her flock of sheep.
Genevieve is troubled because it has rained so much lately that the sky is always grey. When she tries to get the attention of the rainbow, she sees that its colors have faded and that it is sad. It has lost its will to live and love, its passion for beauty and life. Only by regaining hapiness will the rainbow shine again in all its glory. But how will Geneive bring joy back into the rainbow's life? You'll have to read the story to find out, and also to find out how the little sheep end up being as brightly colored as the rainbow.

I found this to be an usual story with surrealist elements. Chatel's language is lyrical at times, blending beautifully with the soft fantasy elements of the tale. The story also has the tone and cadence of a legend. Another aspect I found most original is that instead of illustrations, Chatel uses sculpted wool to create the artwork. This technique is known as needle felting.

I found myself engaged all through the book not only with the story, but also with the interesting wool figures. The colorful little sheep will be loved by children and the underwater scenes are especially bright and lovely.

Rainbow Sheep is a great way to introduce kids to this new craft. At the end of the book, you'll find descriptions, demostrations, and a glossary on needle felting. This is a children's picture book that will be enjoyed by adults and children alike, and one that will make a valuable addition to any library or school bookshelf.
Watch the book trailer and purchase here.

Product Info:
Rainbow Sheep
by Kim Chatel
Illustrated by Kim Chatel
Guardian Angel Publishing, Inc
ISBN-10: 1933090847
ISBN-13: 978-1933090849
Copyright April 2008
Picture Book, fantasy fiction/arts & crafts nonfiction
Paperback: 24
Retail Price $10.95
Reading age: 4 (read to by adult) to 10 (read alone)