Friday, April 25, 2008

Interview with Barbara Techel, author of "Frankie, the Walk n' Roll Dog"



Barbara Techel's first children's picture book is touching and inspirational. It is the true story of a miniature dachshund that falls ill to a paralyzing disease, and how she overcomes all the obstacles while remaining as sweet and gentle as before. The book carries a powerful and important message for children and adults alike. Thanks for being here today, Barbara, and for sharing your thoughts with us.
Do you consider yourself to be a born writer?


No, I guess I wouldn’t consider myself a born writer. Though I have always loved to write sentimental letters to my family and friends.

Did you always want to be a writer?


I can’t say it was a life time dream of mine until I found something inspiring to write about, which is animals. I also came to a crossroads in my life when I was about 41 years old. My chocolate lab Cassie had been diagnosed with terminal bone cancer. It really made me pause and reflect on life. I then decided to do some deep soul searching to figure out what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. Combining my love of animals and writing about them has brought me immense joy.


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


“Frankie, the Walk ‘N Roll Dog” is a true, non-fiction children’s book. My dog, Frankie, a miniature dachshund, inspired me to write her story. She became paralyzed at the age of six and now rolls around in a dog cart. Her zest for life is amazing! She has taught me so much about making positive choices when we have challenges. People were so compassionate towards her and wanted to know her story that I felt the calling to share her story.


Tell us about your children's books.


This is my first children’s book. I want to write a series of Frankie’s books teaching children not to judge others and to look for the best in all situations they face in life.


Have you ever suffered from writer’s block?


I’m not so sure there is such a thing as writer’s block. For me, if I don’t write it is because I am procrastinating.


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?


Going for walks is something that inspires me. I have my “learn and grow” walks as I call them, and I listen to motivational and inspirational speakers. I also love to read books on writing, which always inspires me. Music, especially piano music, brings writing out in me too.

Describe your working environment.


Though I wrote Frankie, the Walk ‘N Roll Dog at my kitchen table, I realized during that time how I love nature and need quiet. I wanted a room/space to call my own for writing and reflection. So, I sold my red sports car to pay for a 10 x 12 room my husband built for me off of our deck. It has 6 windows and a great view! My husband calls it, “MySpace.calm,” and it is exactly that!


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


No, I am not a disciplined writer, unless I am being held accountable or am on deadline. Once I have an idea of what to write though, I can really run with it and continue through to the end, along with all the editing. I learned to love the editing process.


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


Yes, I have both. My website is Joyfulpaws.com and my blog is http://www.joyfulpaws.typepad.com/.


What are you working on now?


Another children’s book about Frankie. I also do a quarterly newsletter about Frankie and am just starting a monthly E-magazine called Joyful Paws which will be short stories about animals. Anyone can sign up for these free at my Web site.


Where are your books available?


My Web site and Amazon. If you order from my website I sign each book plus Frankie “pawtographs” each book.


What was your experience in looking for a publisher?


I decided to self-publish for many reasons. I have grown by leaps and bounds and have learned so much by going the route of self-publishing.


What type of book promotion works for you? Any special strategies you’d like to share?


I think being open to all opportunities is what every writer needs to do. Especially with the internet, there are so many wonderful ways to promote. It does take a lot of work, but I am enjoying the marketing process. One of my bigger promotion strategies is marketing to our area schools and libraries and doing presentations.


Who are your favorite authors?


Sarah Ban Breathnach, Dr. Wayne Dyer, Natalie Goldberg.


What was your favorite book as a child?


Charlotte’s Web and Three Little Horses at the Kings Palace.


What is the best advice on writing you've ever received?


To always write from the heart…and to just begin! And also to give yourself permission to write and not worry about spelling, grammar, etc.
We hear again and again that picture books are incredibly difficult to write. Why is that?I think because you have to remember what it was like to be a child. You have to say so much in fewer words. And you have to be descriptive with your words and sentences to keep the young readers attention.

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


Thank you for taking the time to read about me and “Frankie, the Walk ‘N Roll Dog.”
www.tips-fb.com

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Latest Review of CRASH!

Cheryl Malandrinos just reviewed my picture book, CRASH!, at The Book Connection.

"Children will love reading about Marcelo and his new puppy in Crash! by Mayra Calvani.

"Marcelo's parents surprise him on his fifth birthday with a golden retriever puppy--the one thing he wanted more than anything in the world. Thrilled beyond all belief, Marcelo must now learn how to take care of his new puppy: feeding him, walking him, playing with him. But all that is easy compared to finding a name for him.

"Crash! is a charming story about a boy and his dog and the special relationship that develops between a child and his pet. Author Mayra Calvani shows off her storytelling talents once again, as she did with The Magic Violin. Calvani has a way of getting right to the heart of children with her touching stories.

"Kudos go out to young illustrator, Anna Pylypchuk, whose beautifully drawn illustrations bring Calvani's story to life. My children each had their favorites drawings from the story. I can't wait to see what Mayra Calvani's next children's book is all about! " --Cheryl Malandrinos, The Book Connection

Thanks for the great review, Cheryl!
www.tips-fb.com

Monday, April 21, 2008

"Demystifying Virtual Book Tours," by Mayra Calvani

These days, when it comes to book promotion, virtual book tours (VBTs) seem to be the hottest thing on the net. I’m not surprised. In fact, whoever invented them was a genius.

VBTs allow you to make your name and book visible to possibly hundreds of people without having to spend a fortune or ever leaving your home. All you need is a computer and internet connection, and all you have to do is get a bunch of bloggers to host you on their blog while you sit in front of the screen with a nice beverage and enjoy the show… Well, not quite.

Yes, you do need bloggers to host you. And yes, you may sit at the computer with a nice beverage and enjoy the tour. But unless you hire a publicist to plan and coordinate your VBT, doing it yourself will take considerable time and effort. Did I say considerable? Let’s put it this way: Be prepare to spend A LOT of time at the computer, not only answering interviews and writing guest posts, but also making sure everything is moving according to plan.

To promote the release of my first children’s picture book, The Magic Violin, which came out last November, I went on a VBT in December. The tour began on December 1st and culminated on Christmas Day, when I gave away a $20 Amazon gift certificate to a lucky winner. Since the book had a Christmas theme, timing was perfect.

Though I had hired a publicist for another tour earlier in October (this one for another book), this time I decided to take on the whole project myself. From one side, the idea felt daunting; from another, I told myself: ‘If I can get at least 15 kind-hearted bloggers to host me, I can do this.’

Since I wanted the tour to start on December 1st, I started planning in early November (I recommend planning at least 2 months in advance).

So the first step when planning a VBT is deciding when you want the tour to take place. You must also have an idea of how many tour stops you’d like to make. For one-month tours, I recommend at least 15-17 stops. Some VBTs may last one week (these are called Mini VBTs); some two weeks; others two whole months. It all depends on how much time, work and commitment you’re willing to give.

Next, prepare a schedule.

This was my schedule during the month of November:

Four Weeks Before the Tour

· Bought a monthly calendar with big squares and enough writing space to help me coordinate tour stops. (This was very helpful in helping me see the whole tour from above.)

· Made a list of possible hosts—authors/bloggers I know, bloggers I admire, reviewers who are also bloggers, bloggers who keep blogs related to my book’s theme/content, etc.

· Made a list of groups/forums where I could announce my VBT and ask for hosts. In my case, these were http://www.gather.com/, http://groups.yahoo.com/group/publishingandpromoting, http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Latino-Hispanicwriters4Kids, http://groups.yahoo.com/group/childrens-writers, http://groups.yahoo.com/group/childrenswriterstoday, http://groups.yahoo.com/group/PumpUpYourBookPromotion, http://groups.yahoo.com/group/booksweloveauthors, and http://www.facebook.com/.

· Wrote a ‘template’ message to use for contacting hosts. (This included a short intro, info about my book with links to the cover and blurb, my request to be hosted on their blogs, etc).

Note: I requested not only interviews, but also guest posts and reviews. Reviews are great tools of book promotion and you can always use them later. Keep in mind not all reviewers will agree to read ebooks and you may have to send them print copies. When you contact the hosts, make sure to tell them you would be delighted to return their favor in the future (You better keep your promise, too! This is all about helping each other, after all). Also, let them know you’ll be aggressively promoting the tour, thus bringing traffic to their blogs.

Three Weeks Before the Tour

· Began receiving responses from bloggers, agreeing on dates, and recording the information on the calendar. The information included the name of the blog, the host’s name, and whether or not it was for an interview, guest post or review.
· Began completing interviews.
· Sent review copies to reviewers
· Started looking for possible material to be used as guest posts. For one host, I used an old article. For another, I wrote a new one.

Two Weeks Before the Tour

· Continued answering interview questions and sending them to the hosts (These interviews can be very time consuming, so don’t leave them for the last minute!)
· Continued preparing/writing guest posts.

A note about interviews: Try to keep the interviews fresh, offering links and information. After a few interviews, they tend to sound boring and repetitive because the hosts’ questions are often similar. For one of the interviews (http://www.sueeves.com/2007/12/interview-with-author-mayra-calvani-by.html), I incorporated a video of a famous violinist playing Vivaldi’s “Winter”, the piece mentioned in my book. Make sure they aren’t too long either. People have busy lives and will not spend hours reading an interview. On the other hand, make sure most of your interview answers aren’t one-liners. My favorite combination for interviews is a mixture of short, witty answers with longer, more thoughtful ones.

One Week Before the Tour

· Continued to answer and send off interviews.

· Double checked the calendar to make sure all was in order—especially dates.

· Posted the complete VBT schedule on the main page of my website and blog. To see my schedule, go to: http://mayrassecretbookcase.blogspot.com/2007/11/win-20-amazon-certificate-on-christmas.html

· Send a reminder to all your hosts. (For this purpose, it’s practical to put your hosts’ contact info in a separate email folder and to email them together when needed).

The First Day of the Tour

· Announced the tour to everybody I know—friends, relatives, colleagues, groups, and forums—inviting them to take a look and follow me about the blogosphere by providing a link to the complete schedule and mentioning the prize giveaway at the end.
· Made sure the links to the blogs on my VBT schedule were hyperlinked correctly.

During the Tour

· On the day of each stop, I announced the new post to all my contacts— including all the groups mentioned before.
· Visited each tour stop to read the comments and interact with the people who wrote them, which meant writing comments myself.

Interacting with the public was great fun and, in fact, I was quite overwhelmed with the response I received. Some people followed my tour from beginning to end, and for that I was deeply grateful. Some posts received close to 20 comments, the highest some of the bloggers had got for any of their posts so far. All together, I think I got over 120 comments. On Christmas, the day of the prize giveaway, I made a hand-written list of all the people who’d left comments in order to draw a winner. Once chosen, I announced the winner’s name on my blog. Being able to give the prize on Christmas Day was extra fun.
Final Tips:

· One week before the tour starts, send a press release to your local newspapers/stations and online directories. I didn’t do this with my December tour but plan to do it with all future ones.
· If possible, tie your VBT with a holiday. November and December are great months for Christmas books; October for scary/paranormal books, and so on.
· Don’t just think ‘kit lit blogs’. Think of your niche audience. I realized this late in the tour, so I didn’t have time to search for violin-related blogs. For my next tour, I plan to contact dog/puppy/pet care blogs, since my book will be about a boy caring and finding a name for his new puppy.
· Offer a gift on the last day of your tour to motivate people to follow you around the blogosphere and leave comments on your stops. Never give a copy of the book you’re promoting. If people think they might win it at the end, they won’t buy it. Prizes may include gift certificates, goody baskets, other books, and even free critiques!
· Visit your own tour stops on a daily basis in order to interact with the visitors and answer their questions, if any.
· Always thank your hosts. After the tour, thank them again and offer to return their favor in the future.
· It’s human to forget. Two or three days before a tour stop, send a polite reminder to the host.
· Be prepared to be flexible. Some times the tour stops may not take place as planned and dates must be changed at the last minute.
· Don’t think just interviews. Keep your tour varied—interviews (may be audio, too!), guest posts, reviews.
· Keep the complete VBT schedule on your site and/or blog and update it on a daily basis, adding links and/or hyperlinks as necessary.

Once the tour has ended, put your feet up and celebrate with a glass of champagne. You’ve earned it! www.tips-fb.com

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Some Exciting News!


I'm thrilled to announce that I'll be donating 50% of my royalties for CRASH! to ALMOST HEAVEN GOLDEN RETRIEVER RESCUE AND SANCTUARY, A NON-PROFIT ORGANIZATION.





The money will be used for the dogs' food, medication, bedding, etc. No golden retriever is turned down in this organization, no matter their condition or age.

As a proud owner of a golden myself, it gives me such a warm feeling to be able to send a contribution to these angel creatures who make our lives so very special.

Help the goldens! To purchase a copy of CRASH! visit: http://www.guardianangelpublishing.com/crash.htm
What reviewers are saying...

"Anyone who is a parent with a child that has begged, hollered, and begged some more for a pet will enjoy Crash and Marcelo, the little boy who gets his wish. The glee and joy in his cute little face is described vividly by author Mayra Calvani.

Reading “Crash”, a child and a parent discover the responsibilities that come with owning a pet. Marcelo also discovers that naming his new family member is not as easy as he thought. Many ideas come to his head, none really fitting in with the cute Golden Retriever.The name he finally picks surprises his parents. But as you read, you realize this is the PERFECT name...

This is a great book to buy for your child, you know, the one who is begging and hollering and begging some more for a pet. It will teach and prepare them for the responsibilities surely to come when a pet finally comes gift-wrapped."
--Lea Schizas, Muse Book Reviews
www.tips-fb.com

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Review: Joey Gonzalez, Great American, by Tony Robles


Nine-year old Joey Gonzalez has a dream... to become a GREAT AMERICAN.

Unfortunately, not all teachers believe ALL children capable of greatness, especially if they belong to a minority group, like Joey does.

On his first day of third grade, Joey walks to school with friends, some of them from ethnic backgrounds as well. However, his high spirits soon come to an end when he meets his class teacher, Mrs. Glass. Tall and thin, garbed in a demure black dress, her fingers witch-like and pointy, she crushes his self confidence by calling him 'different' and labeling him as a minority. She also points out that "it's a little bit harder for minorities to learn..."

Later, as he walks back home with his friends, they talk about the race card and affirmative action. Confused by these new terms and ideas, Joey goes to his Mom. Did she lie to him? Why did she say he could be a great American? Why didn't she tell him that he was a minority?

Fortunately, all ends well and Joey and his friends teach Mrs. Glass a lesson.

Joey Gonzalez, Great American is an important book and one schools should have in their permament shelves. It not only teaches children about such concepts as minority, race card and affirmative action, but also about self confidence and believeving in oneself. As Joey's Mom says in the story, "You should stand up and speak the truth no matter what people think or say. That's being a great American."

This is a bilingual book, so each page is written in English first, then in Spanish. The soft illustrations by artist Jim Pryor match well the theme of the story and bring it to life. This is not only an educational book, but an interesting story children will enjoy. Highly recommended.

Visit the author' website.
Purchase the book from Amazon.

About the author....

Tony Robles was born in Brooklyn, New York. After serving in the U.S. Navy, he pursued a career in law enforcement with the U.S. Customs Service. He and his wife currently live in the Pacific Northwest and have two children and one grandchild.Growing up Hispanic in a tough neighborhood supposedly made Tony Robles one of the “disadvantaged,” needing special preferences in order to compete. Tony’s mom didn’t agree, and she is the inspiration behind this book.

Book's Blurb...

“How can I become a great American if I’m not an American in the first place?”
Third-grader Joey Gonzalez dreamed of becoming a great American. His plan? Study hard and learn everything he could. Then one day, his teacher said that because he was something called a “minority,” he wasn't smart enough to make his dream come true!

Still, something called “affirmative action” could help him, she said…But as Joey taps into the strength, intelligence and courage of his Spanish ancestors, he learns that personal pride, self-reliance and a love of learning—not special preferences—are the keys to becoming a good citizen…and a great American. www.tips-fb.com

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Review of CRASH! by Lea Schizas of Muse Book Reviews


"Anyone who is a parent with a child that has begged, hollered, and begged some more for a pet will enjoy Crash and Marcelo, the little boy who gets his wish. The glee and joy in his cute little face is described vividly by author Mayra Calvani.

Reading “Crash”, a child and a parent discover the responsibilities that come with owning a pet. Marcelo also discovers that naming his new family member is not as easy as he thought. Many ideas come to his head, none really fitting in with the cute Golden Retriever.

The name he finally picks surprises his parents. But as you read, you realize this is the PERFECT name... This is a great book to buy for your child, you know, the one who is begging and hollering and begging some more for a pet. It will teach and prepare them for the responsibilities surely to come when a pet finally comes gift-wrapped." --Lea Schizas, Muse Book Reviews

I would like to thank Lea for such a great review and also to recommened to all of you Lea's affordable promotional packages for authors. For only $5 she'll advertize your book on her high-traffic site for one whole month! Really, where can you find such inexpensive promotions? I just bought several ads for my books. You may see them here:
http://museitupclub.tripod.com/
http://museitupclub.tripod.com/MissionStatement.htm
http://museitupclub.tripod.com/News%20and%20Info.htm
For only $8, she'll add your book to her Bookstore for a whole year!
http://museitupclub.tripod.com/Muse%20Bookstore.htm
Go to her site and check it out! www.tips-fb.com

Friday, April 4, 2008

Just released... CRASH!




Marcelo is thrilled when he gets a golden retriever puppy for his birthday, but now he faces one of the toughest jobs of his life, not only because owning a pet is a huge responsibility, but because he has to find the perfect name for it—and that’s hard!

"The book will delight the hearts of children and pet lovers alike."--Swamy Reviews, http://swamyreviews.blogspot.com/

"A delightful tale about a little boy who has his dearest wish granted... Anyone who ever wanted a special pet as a child will enjoy and relate to this happy story." --Anne K. Edwards, author of Jeremy and the Dragon

Now available from Guardian Angel Publishing
www.tips-fb.com

How to Throw a Book Launch Party

Hi,

I came across this great article by Cynthia Leitich Smith, author of the YA novel Tantalized.

To read it, click here.

Happy reading!
Mayra www.tips-fb.com

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

On the Spotlight: Joey Gonzalez, Great American


“How can I become a great American if I’m not an American in the first place?”

Third-grader Joey Gonzalez dreamed of becoming a great American. His plan? Study hard and learn everything he could. Then one day, his teacher said that because he was something called a “minority,” he wasn't smart enough to make his dream come true!
Still, something called “affirmative action” could help him, she said…But as Joey taps into the strength, intelligence and courage of his Spanish ancestors, he learns that personal pride, self-reliance and a love of learning—not special preferences—are the keys to becoming a good citizen…and a great American.

Meet the Author, Tony Robles:

Tony was born in Brooklyn, New York. After serving in the U.S. Navy, he pursued a career in law enforcement with the U.S. Customs Service. He and his wife currently live in the Pacific Northwest and have two children and one grandchild.Growing up Hispanic in a tough neighborhood supposedly made Tony Robles one of the “disadvantaged,” needing special preferences in order to compete. Tony’s mom didn’t agree, and she is the inspiration behind this book.
You can visit his website at http://www.joeygonzalez.us/

This book is bilingual, meaning that the story is written in both English and Spanish. Get your copy on Amazon.

I'll be posting my review of Tony's book on April 10th, as well as an interview with the author at Blogcritics Magazine.
www.tips-fb.com

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Interview with Illustrator K.C. Snider

Children's book illustrator K.C. Snider hails from Oregon. In this interview she talks about her working environment, the importance of discipline, and her collaboration with authors.

Do you consider yourself to be a born illustrator?

Yes! I’ve been drawing since I was 10 years old. I can’t remember wanting to do anything else but to be an artist. I greatly admired the work of Norman Rockwell, America’s most famous illustrator; his work had a great influence on me. As a young adult, I attended commercial art school and graduated with honors. I intended on becoming a commercial illustrator, but marriage and family came first. With encouragement from many people including my husband, I began to paint again and became more of a fine artist. Now through my association with Mary Jean Kelso and then Guardian Angel Publishing, I have been able to add illustration to my portfolio.

Did you always want to be an illustrator?

I would say that I have always been an illustrator because even when I am painting a piece that is just for my own enjoyment, I am telling a story.

What do you do for inspiration and unleashing your creativity?

When I was illustrating Mayra’s picture book, “The Magic Violin,” I played classical music. It was a great inspiration to me. Usually, it is not hard for me to get inspiration. Because I love my work so much, sometimes my fingers just itch to pick up the brush or pencil.

Describe your working environment.

I have a studio with lots of windows in my home that is devoted to my work. Right now, we are doing a little remodeling and I’ll have a new wood floor and a cabinet with a glass door to display my ribbons and awards for my art. My studio is my sanctuary. My husband, Fred, has a separate studio for his framing which we built this past year. That has given me a lot more space in my own studio which I needed because I may have a number of pieces in progress at any given time.

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

Yes, I am very disciplined. As a trained commercial artist, I know that I have to complete my work in a timely manor. And I love my work; I love the sense of accomplishment when a piece is finished and I get kudos from my family and friends. Although I work at all times of the day, I do a lot of my work in the evening. At times I will get so engrossed in my work that it will be 2 am before I put down the brush or pencil. When I’m illustrating, I typically have a work of fine art in progress that I switch to from time to time just to give me a break. Right now my work in progress is a painting of some pioneer children, their teacher and a one-room school house in the late 1800’s.

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

You bet: http://kcsniderart.com/

What are you working on now?

I’m illustrating the second in the series of ‘Andy and Spirit’ books written by Mary Jean Kelso, titled “Andy and Spirit Go to the Fair.” The first in the series, “Andy and the Albino Horse,” will be published by Guardian Angel Publishing in April 2008. This has been a very challenging series for me because the subject is much more complicated. Andy is a young boy in a wheelchair, so I have a new dimension to think about. And Spirit is an albino mustang, a very unusual horse. This series promises to be a wonderful story line for children and parents as it teaches about tolerance and compassion.

Where are your books available?

Guardian Angel Publishing, B&N, Amazon or order in person at Barnes and Noble or Borders book store.

What was your experience in working with a writer?

The first book I illustrated was “The Christmas Angel” written by Mary Jean Kelso who happens to be a personal friend. During the process of illustrating that book, Mary had very little input. Then I was given the opportunity to illustrate “The Magic Violin” written by Mayra Calvani. Mayra wanted more input and I want to thank her for all of her assistance during the process. I learned so much about working with a writer as the emails flew back and forth from Oregon to Belgium. It was a great experience. Now that I am illustrating another book for Mary, we are communicating constantly about the illustrations and I feel that my work is better because of this collaboration.


www.tips-fb.com