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:

Friday, October 11, 2013

"Warm Up Exercise for Your Next Writing Session," by Donna McDine

Getting your body ready for your exercise routine or sporting activity is imperative. Stretching of the body and keeping it hydrated helps maintain a healthy level of activity. How does this relate to writing you may be asking by now? When you settle in for your writing session do you have difficulty getting out of the starting gate? Why not “warm up” first? Hey wait a minute I don’t need to stretch my body before writing it’s not strenuous. It may not be on the body, but it certainly is on the mind.

To get your creative juices flowing, don’t focus on your current work-in-progress, edits or research. Rather… journal about your day, an issue or concern you may be experiencing, your hopes and dreams for the future, you name it any topic is game. Through my daily journaling I often times come away with clarity on a particular matter in my life, which then frees up my mind for the creativity to flow. Once you experience the benefits of journaling it will most likely become a habit that you look forward to completing each day. It doesn’t have to take a lot of your time. 15-20 minutes of journaling works well for me.

You will be surprised how energetic you will approach your current writing project once you clear your mind.

I’d enjoy hearing about how you prepare for your writing sessions.
Wishing you successful writing sessions through journal exercising!


Donna McDine is an award-winning children’s author, Honorable Mention in the 77th and two Honorable Mentions in the 78th Annual Writer’s Digest Writing Competitions, Literary Classics Silver Award & Seal of Approval Recipient Picture Book Early Reader, Readers Favorite 2012 International Book Awards Honorable Mention, Global eBook Awards Finalist Children’s Picture Book fiction, and Preditor & Editors Readers Poll 2010 Top Ten Children’s Book ~The Golden Pathway.

Her stories, articles and book reviews have been published in over 100 print and online publications. Her interest in American History resulted in writing and publishing The Golden Pathway. Donna’s recent releases of Powder Monkey and Hockey Agony will be joined by two more books to be published by Guardian Angel Publishing, A Sandy Grave, and Dee and Deb, Off They Go. She writes, moms and is a personal assistant from her home in the historical hamlet Tappan, NY. McDine is a member of the SCBWI, Children’s Literature Network and Family Reading Partnership.

You can find out more about Donna McDine, her books and World of Ink Author/Book Tour at

To learn more about the World of Ink Tours visit   

Title: Hockey Agony
Category: Chapbooks for Tweens
Author: Donna McDine
Artist: Julie Hammond
Paperback ISBN: 9781616333607; 161633360X
eBook ISBN: 9781616333614; 1616333618
Price: $9.95 paperback / $5.00 e-book

Peer Pressure and Honesty many times go hand-in-hand.  What is Larry to do when his teammate asks him to cheat when he is given the responsibility to run the clock during the big hockey game?  Outwardly, it may seem he will follow suit, but his conscious tells him otherwise at the moment of truth.

Title: Powder Monkey
Category: Academic Wings
Author: Donna McDine
Artist: KC Snider
Hardcover ISBN: 9781616333843; 1616333847
Paperback ISBN: 9781616333850; 1616333853
eBook ISBN: 9781616333867; 1616333863
Price: $19.95 hard cover / $9.95 paperback / $5.00 e-book

Forced into a life at sea by the Royal Navy Press Gangs, 12-year-old Tommy Kitt finds himself in a floating sea of misery. Poor living conditions and beatings occur daily. Despite his small size, Tommy must summon the courage and physical ability to prevail in a situation he cannot escape.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

On the Spotlight: Upir and the Monster Gang, by Sharron Thornton and Raymond Thornton

Coming from a long line of highly respected vampires, Upir knew that going to Neewollah, the Monster Mausoleum, would help him live up to his family’s reputation, but he never anticipated the terrifying turn his stay there would take. Upon entering, Upir befriends several strange creatures and their nights soon become treacherous when they have to dodge flying skulls whose hollow eye sockets shimmer with bright blue lights, avoid huge plants with tongue-like tentacles that devour young monsters, and run from a mad scientist who loves to use the monster students in his experiments. Most of all, they try to stay away from Muriel, an ill-tempered, nasty gorgon girl with slithering snakes for hair. She is the leader of three cantankerous monsters that follow her every command. Her group is bent on destroying Upir and his gang.

Without warning the young monsters find themselves entangled in a plot to destroy the Monster race. Will they escape the clutches of this horrifying villain and alert the Monster world, or will they become his loyal soldiers? 

About the Authors

Sharron Thornton taught elementary school for 35 ½ years. She felt it was important that her students developed a love for reading. One of the special times of each school day was right after lunch recess when she read a novel to her children. It didn’t take the kids long to get quiet and settle down for they were anxious to hear where the next chapter would take them. Sharron soon realized that books were doors to imagination for all children at all levels of learning.

When she retired, Sharron missed all of those young faces. She missed their emotional involvement with the characters and story lines from the books she read to them. So, she decided to work on an illustrated novel with her son Raymond who is an artist. Thus, Upir and the Monster Gang was born, a world of monsters, mad scientists, zombies, ghosts, vampires and all things that live in the night. Sharron has been writing for almost a decade. Besides the Upir series, she is working on several other children’s novels.

Raymond Thornton is an artist from Northwest Indiana. At the age of fifteen he started his fine art training at the Drisi Studio Academy of Fine Art. For five years he studied the finer points of painting and drawing. He then continued his studies at Columbia College and the American Academy of Art in Chicago where he received a degree in fine art.

Raymond’s oil paintings have been exhibited across the country. He has received many awards including the gold medal at the 96th annual Allied Artists of America Exhibition and an award of excellence at the 2012 Oil Painters of America Eastern Exhibition. He has illustrated many national ad campaigns. Most recently he illustrated and co-created with author Sharron Thornton, his mother, Upir and the Monster Gang. It is an illustrated novel about a young vampire and his monster friends which features over 60 full colored illustrations.

Their latest book is Upir and the Monster Gang.
Visit their website at

A note from the authors...

Beginning October 1st and running through November 16th we are doing a pre-launch, first edition sale of our book. Attached to this email is a link to our Kickstarter page. There you can watch our video and see some of the Upir and the Monster Gang products we have listed. One of the great things about Kickstarter is that it’s like a grassroots campaign that spreads and then builds momentum.

After the Kickstarter we have marketing and distribution lined up to take Upir and the Monster Gang to the next level, but we need your help getting it started. Please share our Kickstarter page with your family and friends on your email lists, social media and any other networks you may have and then ask them to share it also.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Mini interview with MaryAnn Tarto, author of Milton the Square Shell Turtle

My guest today is children's author MaryAnn Tarto, who has a super cute new book out about a little turtle named Milton. 
Welcome to my blog, MaryAnn. Why don't you start by telling us a little about yourself. 
I grew up in a suburb of Cleveland, Ohio.  I currently live in Wadsworth, OH. With my husband Dennis and our cat.  After high school I attended Southern Ohio Business College and received a degree in communication.  I also attended Cooper School of Art for one year.  I worked several years for a publishing company in Cleveland. My husband and I enjoy nature walks, antiques, yards sales and being with our family.
What are some of the things that have inspired your writing?
I would have to say when I write my stories I am inspired by past memories, special events and nature.  All of these combined get my creative juices flowing and my imagination takes over and I love when that happens.
Do you do first drafts on a computer or by hand?
I do both.  I keep notebooks and pens in every room and I’ll jot down an idea and use it later.  Typing on the computer is much faster for me, but I wear reading glasses when I use the computer and often I need to give my eyes a break.  So doing both works best for me. 
How do you see the future of book publishing, both traditional, electronic and print on demand?
In this day and age of technology and people wanting the need to speed(per say), I see good things ahead.  Supply and demand are necessary for a growing economy.  
What happens before sitting down to write?
I will usually grab a cup of coffee, make sure my trusty old dictionary is on the desk next to my computer(because it is amazing how being out of school for ages can cause me not to spell correctly) then I’ll turn the computer on and get my thoughts in order and begin to type from my notebook of ideas only to realize those ideas suck and I need to come up with new ones, so I just start typing away to see wha t I can come up with, and usually, that works best for me.  However, I still jot down ideas, even when I’m typing at the computer and I will use those for a later reference. 
Do you do a lot of research for your books?
Yes.  When I wrote Milton The Square Shell Turtle, I researched all I could on turtles because I wanted a land turtle, not a water turtle and I wanted to be sure there was such a thing.  Come to find out, there are and each with their own personality.  Also in my next book Milton befriends two hedgehogs, so I’m researching all I can about them.  (Fascinating little creatures)

 About the Book:
Milton is a story of a turtle. Unlike other turtles with round or oval shells, Milton has a square shell. One afternoon, and being new to the area, he decides to take a walk to the pond to relax.
Just when he thinks he finds the perfect spot, he can't stay. Not wanting to cause a problem, he goes further up the pond, only to discover, home is the best place to relax.

Title: Milton the Square Shell Turtle
Author: MaryAnn Tarto
Illustrator: Diane Lucas
Publisher: Halo Publishing, Int.
Genre: Children’s Picture Book
ISBN: 978-1-61244-103-1
Publication Date: June 2013

Places available for sale:

You can find out more about MaryAnn Tarto, her book and World of Ink Author/Book Tour at

To learn more about the World of Ink Tours visit

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Book Review: ‘The Blue Between’ by Patricia Little

Sixteen-year-old Heather Lucas is playing soccer one day when she’s hit by lightning, leaving her with a weird scar on her hand. The girl who she clashed with when she got struck dies. Thus Heather becomes the odd one at school, the one everyone whispers about.
To make matters worse, her mom suddenly abandons her, and she experiences blackout moments that she can’t explain. Her dad doesn’t believe her and she’s forced to see a psychiatrist. Also, a new boy at school, Alex, has taken a keen interest on her — an interest that goes beyond the fact that she’s a pretty girl. Who is he, and why is he so interested in her scar and a place called Alanar — a make-believe place Heather’s mother used to talk about?
As Heather becomes more in control of her blackout moments, she taps into ‘the blue between,’ a place outside of space and time, only to discover shocking realities about her mom and her own origins. The stakes are high, and her mom isn’t the only innocent being she must save from the void…
I thoroughly enjoyed this well-written, entertaining story for young adults. It has a strong, brave, sympathetic heroine, an interesting array of secondary characters, mystery, action and adventure. The story moves at a pretty quick pace, propelled by high-tension scenes and realistic dialogue.
The author keeps the mystery alive throughout, offering increasing bits of information as the plot progresses until the action-packed climax and satisfying ending that can only be the beginning of an exciting new series. I also enjoyed the author’s original world-building.
If you’re a fan of YA fantasy and the paranormal, but are tired of werewolves and vampires, I recommend you pick this one up.
Find out more on Amazon.
My review was previous published in Blogcritics.