Friday, December 20, 2013

Book Review: ‘Beware of the White’ by Kai Strand

ImageThis middle-grade novel was an entertaining, delightful read!
Terra is a sweet, smart girl, very close to her mom, and not what one might call popular at school. In fact, she’s often a bit bullied at times. She also suffers in silence for the death of her dad years ago.
The action begins soon after Terra’s 12th birthday, when she receives an unexpected visit from a mysterious Spirit Ambassador who tells Terra she’s a Nature Spirit of the Underworld and who escorts her to the secret, underground city of Concord. As is the tradition, Terra must now begin to learn what talents she possesses and how best to use them in the Underworld cities. Thus, she embarks on a journey of discovery; she must learn her reason for being there and she must also learn about those she is there to help. Soon, everybody agrees she’s the Spirit in the prophecy, the one being who will fight Blanco, the evil leader of the Trepidus, and bring back peace to Concord — a daunting quest for one so young, especially one who doubts her skills and talents.
I thoroughly enjoyed Beware of the White. This is the start of an exciting fantasy series (The Concord Chronicles) for tweens. There’s mystery, action and adventure, and even a hint of romance between Terra and her protector, Frank, a Security Spirit. Author Kai Strand does an excellent job with her world building, creating a fascinating, original universe that will appeal to young readers. Terra is a sympathetic protagonist, one who bravely faces her problems in spite of her insecurities. Readers will root for her as she embarks on her quest to fulfill the prophecy and find her destiny. The writing itself flows beautifully, and is very appropriate for the tween audience. Strand makes every word count. Recommended for fans of fantasy!
Visit Kai Strand’s website.
Purchase Beware of the White from Amazon.
 My review was originally published in Blogcritics.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Tradebook Tips from Andrea Buginsky, Author of 'Destiny' (Book I in her New Avalon YA Fantasy Series)

Today I’m hosting Day 4 of a 5-day virtual tour, sponsored by the National Writing for Children Center, for Andrea Buginsky’s new book, Destiny.

About Andrea Buginsky

Andrea Buginsky is a freelance writer and author. “The Chosen,” a middle-grade fantasy novelette, was her first book, and was followed by “My Open Heart,” an autobiography about growing up with heart disease. “Nature’s Unbalance” is the second story in THE CHOSEN series. Andrea is currently working on NEW AVALON, a YA fantasy series. Book 1, Destiny, is available on Amazon.

Tradebook Tips from Author Andrea Buginsky

My books are aimed for young teens in middle school and those entering high school. Each of my books has the same theme to them: Reach for the Stars and Make Your Dreams Come True. I write about characters who don’t come across as the hero, but over time, find their inner hero. These characters usually start off not thinking of themselves as hero material, and being shocked to hear about their destinies, but over time, they conquer their own fears, and prove to themselves, and those around them, that they are the hero they’re meant to be.

I believe my books would be wonderful for teachers to use to teach their students how to overcome their own fears, and find their inner hero. I think when the kids read my books, they see themselves: a scared young person trying to make it their world, and find himself. Someone searching for something, even if he has yet to figure out what. It is my hope that reading my books will help him focus and figure it out.

My theme about reaching for the stars also comes across in my books. If my characters didn’t reach far and wide to reach their stars, they wouldn’t see their own dreams come true. Older children, who are faced with life challenges they never had to face before, face similar experiences. What are their dreams? How do they make them come true?

Teachers can use my books to help their students start to determine what their dreams are, and what steps they can take to reach them. They can use my books to help show their students that the unsure feelings they have about themselves are normal.

My biggest wish is that my readers will get out of my books exactly what I put into them. I would be thrilled to know that the wonderful teachers out there are using my books to help their students do just that.

About the Book

Constantly teased and taunted by the popular girls, Elena Baxter desperately wants to fit in. On her sweet sixteenth, she receives two shocking gifts: telekinesis and the surprising truth about her heritage. With high hopes that things will be different now, Elena returns to school to find that nothing has changed. Only this time her hurt feelings and frustration boil into something even she cannot understand. When her powers explode, chaos ensues and she learns that her new ability is greater than she ever desired. As she learns to control her powers, Elena discovers there’s so much more to her heritage than she ever imagined.

Destiny is available online at

Find out more about Andrea Buginsky at

Follow Day 4 of Andrea’s tour tomorrow at

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Theme for the Day: Writing Tips from Dorit Sasson

As a writer for the academic market, here are a few tips for trying to break into this market:

If possible, sign on with an agent. When I submitted the proposal on my own, I went to each website and looked up the proposal guidelines. It took forever to get a response from busy editors.

In the academic market, there is just ONE agent who can help you in the entire US believe it or not, and this agent of mine has been around for a long time. He is respected by many educational publishers and gets responses faster than I would ordinarily get on my own.

Another great reason to procure an agent is that he is better able to negotiate royalties. In the academic/educational market, the royalties are very low so every percent increase can work in your favor. 

2. If you’re writing a book for teachers, use the conversational tone. This is especially important when incorporating pedagogical theory. Teachers have been drained and inundated with theory during their undergraduate and graduate studies and the last thing they want is another theory book.

Speak to your target audience like a “colleague” so that you really provide them with highly useful and practical information they can find rather easily.

Some publishers, specifically those who work with universities and colleges, really want a combination of both theoretical pedagogy and practical information. If you decided to work with these publishers, get a hold of the books they published in the past to get a feel of how their authors dealt with this issue.

3. Whether you’re a novice or an experienced literacy writer, a K-12 teacher, or a university-level educator, you will benefit from the insights in this content-rich book, Beating the Odds: Getting Published in the Field of Literacy.

This book has helped me at each stage of the “publishing and writing game.” When I first started writing, I needed some guidance on getting started by approaching various journals.

Later, I expanded my target market, by writing educational resource material and then finally, to the book writing educational market. As I write in my story, “How I Got My First Book Contract” finding an agent for my book definitely helped, but I needed to know specific tricks of the trade since writing for the field of literacy works very differently than other markets such as adult and children’s trade markets.

Please follow Day 5 of this tour tomorrow at

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Today Only - Dec. 4th - A Bad Mad Sad Day for Mama Bear is on sale for only $.99!

Little Bear offers Mama Bear various items to make her feel better, but she’s too busy to notice—until he gives her his super, so good, so very special dolly. Silly humor, alliteration, repetition, and onomatopoeia make this a fun read-aloud story. A celebration of the special love shared between mother and child. For ages 3-7.

ONLY $.99 on Kindle TODAY ONLY

Monday, December 2, 2013

Meet Constance (aka, Connie) Corcoran Wilson

Today I'm hosting Day I of Connie Corcoran Wilson's virtual blog tour, presented to you by The National Writing for Children Center. 

Connie is touring the blogosphere to promote her adorable children's book series, The Christmas Cats


I've been writing for pay since I was ten years old, beginning when I was sent out by my hometown (Independence, Iowa) newspaper to interview the locals. This was, no doubt, a gimmick that local editor Reeves Hall thought would be cute, but it started me on a lifetime (58 years+) spent writing and teaching others to write.

I've taught composition and English classes at all 6 IA/IL Quad City colleges and taught junior high school students for 18 years, before founding the second Sylvan Learning Center in the state of Iowa (Bettendorf, IA, Center #3301) in 1986.

Prior to starting my Sylvan (Nov. 15, 1986), I worked for Performance Learning Systems, Inc., of Emerson, New Jersey, writing "Training the Teacher As A Champion," a 1989 release by that largest-in-the-nation teacher training firm.

In 2003, my daughter was dating a young man, Andrew Weinert, who was a promising artist. Rita, Andy's mother, had been my student during my years at Silvis Junior High School. I asked Andy  to draw  cats attired in "silly hats" promising him, faithfully, that this would become a book. I sent the drawings off to a publishing group that lost all his original artwork. All I had were the scans of his work in my computer.

The drawings languished in my computer for a full 8 years before the layout artist, who was helping me with pixel improvement so I could  publish It Came from the '70s: From The Godfather to ApocalypseNow,  said he might be able to do something with the scans, since computers had improved  in the intervening 8 years.

My son and his wife had twin girls in 2009. I wanted to complete the book as a Christmas present for the girls for 2011, when they were two. I approached Andy to do a few more drawings to make the book about "Christmas Cats."

Andy was in the final throes of receiving his PhD in Graphic Arts from Northern Illinois University. He did
not have the time to take on another project, but the girls' Venezuelan nanny, Emily Marquez, an amateur artist, said she, too, would like to attempt to finish the book as a gift for her young charges. (The book is dedicated to Emily). And so the first book, "The Christmas Cats in Silly Hats," was born, as a Christmas gift for my then-2-year-old granddaughters.

 There was no book in 2012, because Andy, post-graduation, was busy.  I began the search for another professional illustrator and found Gary McCluskey, a Rhode Island native, who did a wonderful job bringing the Christmas rats to life.  Gary is working on Book Three now.

To find out more about Connie's tour as well as her next stop, please visit The National Writing for Children Center

Monday, November 18, 2013

Picture Book Trio for Little Violinists

Eight-year old Melina wants to become a good violinist. When she loses confidence, her Rumanian teacher Andrea decides it’s time for a magic dose of self-esteem. A mysterious old woman in rags gives Melina some curious advice; a violinist Russian hamster, who happens to live under the old woman’s hat, offers her a virtuoso performance; a shooting star fills her with hope on Christmas Eve. Is Melina actually playing better, or has her violin become magic? Who is the old woman in the town square, and why does she wear the same emerald ring as her teacher Andrea?
For ages 4-8.
 “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.”
–Stories for Children Magazine
“… The Magic Violin is an inspiring and uplifting book about a young girl and her realization that believing in oneself can have a very magical outcome… Mayra’s book definitely has a strong message, one that is important and everlasting. For children and jaded adults alike, The Magic Violin will lift spirits and just may give you and your child the boost to believe in your power to reach your goals.”
–Mama Divas

Frederico is a tiny mouse with a big dream: he wants to become a violinist. Each day he watches as Stradivari makes his famous violins. Each night, he sneaks into the workshop to play. But the violins are too big! Then, unbeknown to Frederico, Stradivari sees him playing and begins carving a tiny device. Could it be a famous Strad especially for Frederico?
Ages 3-8.

“Cute and curious, a little mouse transports us into Antonio Stradivari’s magical workshop. In a sweet playful way, Frederico conveys to us his love for the violin, while he introduces us to this marvelous instrument. Lovely tribute to a genius, whose exceptional instruments have delighted us for 300 years!”—Dorina Raileanu, violin teacher, author of the Dorina Violin Method

“Frederico’s story is adorable and touching. I’m sure it will entertain many children, teach them a few things about the violin–and who knows, perhaps even give them the desire to learn to play!”—Francine Engels, Suzuki violin teacher
“Frederico the Mouse Violinist, written by Mayra Calvani, is a sweet story about a small mouse who lives in the workshop of the famous violinist, Antonio Stradivari. My family and I loves animal tales. I read it to my seven year old son, Noah, and he loved it. The illustrations are beautiful, and this story will entertain and teach children, ages 4-8, about violins for years to come.” –Book Reflections

Five days before Christmas, Emma is captivated by a doll in a shop window. Each day, she sneaks out of the orphanage to check if it’s been sold, but the shop owner, Madame Dubois, sends her away. Will the magic of Christmas bring Emma, Madame Dubois, and the doll violinist together?
ABC’s Children’s Picture Book Finalist!
Honorable Mention Award in the 75th Annual Writers Digest Writing Competition!
Ages 3-7.
“The story reminds me of the true meaning of Christmas. It is a time to reach out and give to the less fortunate. It is also a time to have compassion for the homeless and orphans like the main character Emma…This story will pull at your heart, and it will inspire you to go donate tons of toys to your local orphanage this upcoming holiday season.”—Speak4Languages
“I loved this picture book! It reminded me of Christmas stories from my own childhood. This is a feel - good picture book that will be enjoyed both by the child and by the adult who reads it to them since it truly embodies the spirit of Christmas. The Doll Vioinist would be the perfect gift for that little girl on your Christmas list!” –Kidztales

Friday, November 8, 2013

A Bad Mad Sad Day for Mama Bear is out on Amazon

I'm happy to announce that my latest children's picture book, A Bad Mad Sad Day for Mama Bear, illustrated by award-winning artist K.C. Snider, has just been released by Guardian Angel Publishing and is now on Amazon... (soon on Kindle and iTunes with voice-over).

Review copies are available upon request. You can contact me at

Book blurb:

Little Bear offers Mama Bear various items to make her feel better, but she’s too busy to notice—until he gives her his super, so good, so very special dolly. Silly humor, alliteration, repetition, and onomatopoeia make this a fun read-aloud story. A celebration of the special love shared between mother and child. For ages 3-7.

Available as ebook, softcover and hardcover.

A Bad Mad Sad Day for Mama Bear
By Mayra Calvani
Illustrations by KC Snider
Guardian Angel Publishing
Hardcover ISBN: 9781616334345; $15.95
Softcover ISBN: 9781616334352; $10.95
eBook ISBN: 9781616334369; $4.99
24 pages

Purchase Links:

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Guest post: "Do Dogs Dream?" by Sal Barbera

If you're a dog owner, then like me, you've probably watched your pet sleeping.
And after numerous times of seeing that odd 'third eye' and the blinking and nose twitching you've probably started to wonder just what in the world your dog is dreaming about.
I know that: 'Do dogs dream?' isn't an everyday question. But if you own a dog, you wonder about:
·       The eyes rolling around.
·       The paws running through the air whilst lying on their side.
·       The sudden whoop, whoop, whoop sounds.
·       And a tiny growl or low bark.

All while soundly sleeping.

As both an author and illustrator, I've taken some artistic license with my sleeping dog, Max (who is my dog character Sweetles ™) and made some assumptions about his dreams. He didn't mind at all. I asked him.

My wife Sheri and I discussed what events would occur in Max's dreams.

We know he dreamed about the simple things in his life like:
·       A standard poodle at the park.
·       A little girl that had stopped to pet the top of his head and casually tug his ear a bit.
·       A noisy quail family bobbing, pecking and scurrying past the window.

But we decided he must also dream of things more cerebral and important.
Although we never had any concrete evidence we decided that he actually dreamt up profound and ingenious solutions to personal or social problems he encountered during the day. Like social injustice for example.

We liked that idea so much that we applied it to an entire series of books I'm writing called 'A Sweetles Dream'®. (Sweetles is one of the dozens of names that we called Max.)
In the beginning of the books, Sweetles ™ is seen playing in a field or park or marsh and he sees something that he goes home and dreams about. In my first book, Mary Elizabeth The Spotless Cow, he sees a little cow frolicking across the field. That night he dreams of a cow without spots. Sounds so simple, and yet this cow arrives at a new farm where all of the other cows have spots. And so they don't like her because she's different from them. So they won't have anything to do with her. Her challenge is to get them to like her and ultimately become her friend.

This is what can come from wondering what your dog dreams!

I'm going to leave you with Sweetles ™ motto: 'Have fun, learn and play - that's a Sweetles day!'

About the book:

The story of "Mary Elizabeth The Spotless Cow" takes us on the journey she travels to figure out how to get the cows at a new farm to like and accept her.
While she hopes to find friendship at her new home, instead she learns what it means to be different from everyone else. (Spotless!) Mary Elizabeth uses clever ideas and a sense of humor to help her on her quest for friends at the new farm.
This inspiring tale shows how perseverance in spite of obstacles, using a sound thought process to arrive at solutions and the importance of having fun, using humor and enjoying playtime can build friendships.
When you buy this book, 50% of net proceeds go to Phoenix Children’s Hospital Child Life Program to make a difference in the lives of children with critical and life threatening illnesses.

Watch the trailer:
Purchasing information: During the month of October, purchase Mary Elizabeth The Spotless Cow from the Sweetles website for only $12.00 (List price: $17.99). When you buy this book, 50% of net proceeds go to Phoenix Children’s Hospital Child Life Program. Visit for more information.

About the author:

Sal is the author and illustrator of “A Sweetles Dream”® book series. As the Creative Director for Hartman-Barbera llc, a family media & entertainment company, he is also an animator, sculptor, painter and all around fun guy. Sal lives the phrase: “A day without laughter is a wasted day”. To that end, he uses his writing, illustrating and animation skills to create endearing characters and comedic stories.
Sal's sense of humor and empathy for his characters explore personal and social situations in ways that makes it enjoyable for both adults and children to experience together. Born in New York City, Sal moved to North Bergen, NJ where he grew up on a steep hillside neighborhood with his four older sisters. He currently lives in sunny Arizona with his wife and artistic partner, Sheri, who he defines as his inspiration. On any given day Sal might be painting, sculpting, drawing, animating, writing or enjoying one of his favorite pastimes: cooking, television, movies and golf.
Visit Sal Barbera’s website at

Mary Elizabeth The Spotless Cow Virtual Book Tour Schedule

October 1st
Interview at Blogcritics
October 2nd
Book spotlight at The Writer’s Life
October 3rd
Book spotlight at As the Pages Turn
October 4th
Book review at Alicia Finn Noack
October 7th
Book spotlight at 4 the Love of Books
Book spotlight at Literarily Speaking
October 8th
Book spotlight at Between the Covers
October 9th
Book spotlight at The Book Rack
October 10th
October 11th
Guest post at Paperback Writer
Book spotlight at Review from Here
October 14th
October 15th
Book spotlight at Broken Teepee
Book spotlight at Beyond the Books
October 16th
Book review at Lynn’s Corner
Book trailer reveal at If Books Could Talk
October 17th
October 18th
October 21st
Book review at My Devotional Thoughts
Book spotlight at Deco My Heart
October 22nd
Book review at 4 the Love of Books
October 23rd
October 25th
Book review at Mary’s Cup of Tea
October 28th
Book review at Thoughts in Progress
October 30th
Book review at Maureen’s Musings
October 31st
Book review at Blooming with Books
TBD: Book review at Classic Children’s Books

Monday, October 21, 2013

On the Spotlight: Sunayna Prasad, author of Alyssa McCarthy’s Magical Missions: From Frights to Flaws

Sunayna Prasad has been writing stories for over thirteen years, starting at the age of six. Now nineteen, she will start her junior year of college this fall, and will study accessory design as well as continue to write for children. Aside from that, Sunayna also likes to cook, watch movies, and draw. She lives on Long Island, New York, with her family. 
Her latest book is the middle grade fantasy, Alyssa McCarthy’s Magical Missions: From Frights to Flaws. 
Visit her website at 

Connect & Socialize with Sunayna!


Twelve-year-old Alyssa McCarthy can no longer stand the toughness of her uncle and wants a better life. But one day she discovers not only the existence of magic, but also a villain hunting her down. The villain uses magic and magical technology to kidnap Alyssa to the Fiji Islands. As much as she wants to go home, she has to face some dangerous challenges first. Not only that, the villain himself must also be defeated. Can Alyssa succeed, even with the help of her mentors?
 Purchase your copy at AMAZON 


Title: Alyssa McCarthy’s Magical Missions: From Frights to Flaws
Author: Sunayna Prasad

Publisher: FriesenPress 

Pages: 216
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1460207017
ISBN-13: 978-1460207017

Did you always want to be a writer? 
No. In fact, I used to think everything I wrote was stupid shortly after writing it.
Have you ever suffered from writer’s block? If yes, how did you ‘cure’ it? 
I suffer from writer’s block a lot. But I do free-writing to cure it. 
Some writers go on long walks, others keep a journal, write at a cafĂ©, or listen to      music. What do you do for inspiration and unleashing your creativity? 
They come up from real-life experiences, content from other books, or are just random. 
Do you like to outline and plot ahead, or are you more of a stream-of-consciousness writer? 
I like to outline. 
What are you working on now? 
The sequel to my current book. 
What advice would you offer aspiring writers? 
Keep going and take your time.
Alyssa McCarthy’s Magical Missions: Book 1: From Frights to Flaws Tour Page: