October 22, 2014

Three Times A Charm with Jax Spenser

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

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

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

Tell us more about your book.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Top 3 leisure activities.

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

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

@jaxspenser Twitter and Instagram

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


GUESTS WELCOME!  I am always looking for guests for Three Times A Charm. If you are an author, illustrator or book reviewer, an agent or an editor. If you have something related to children’s publishing that you’d like people to know about, feel free to contact me about a future appearance.

October 17, 2014

Building Character with Rosa from Sons of the Sphinx

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Buy Links:

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

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

And heres the scoop on Rosas author:

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

Contact Information:

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

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


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

October 16, 2014

Trailer Reveal for Escape Through The Wilderness by Gary Rodriguez

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

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

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

Book excerpt:

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

Gary Rodriguez

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

October 15, 2014

Three Times A Charm with Michael Thal

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

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

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

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

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

Tell us more about your books.

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

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

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

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

Three top books/author recommendation:

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

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

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

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

Three pieces of advice for kids these days:

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

Three professions you wanted to be when you grew up:

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

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


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

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


GUESTS WELCOME!  I am always looking for guests for Three Times A Charm. If you are an author, illustrator or book reviewer, an agent or an editor. If you have something related to children’s publishing that you’d like people to know about, feel free to contact me about a future appearance.

October 10, 2014

Building Character with Cara & Logan from Into the Fire

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What do you want to be when you grow up?

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

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

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

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

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

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

And here’s the skinny on their author:

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

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

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

October 8, 2014

Three Times A Charm with David Fraser & Heather Brainerd

Today on Three Times A Charm we meet the brother/sister writing team, David Fraser & Heather Brainerd. I love introducing my readers to the people who work in children’s publishing.

Glad you could join us, guys. Can you tell us a little about yourselves, please?

Heather's Bio: I live in New York with my photographer husband, our three sons, and a crazy pug-terrier. When I’m not writing, I like to read, go for walks with my dog, and work out while watching the show Bones. I also run a Disney blog, and spend a lot of time daydreaming about my next trip to Disney World…or maybe we should go to Disneyland…or maybe a Disney cruise. Okay, so I’m kind of Disney-obsessed.

Dave's Bio: I also live in New York, but three hours away from Heather. This is probably for the best. I'm most tolerable in small doses. I have a wife and two daughters, who surprisingly choose to live with me and not three hours away. Oh, and we have a dog, too. He's a Yorkie-mutt who really enjoys barking at one in the morning at animals that may or may not be out in our yard. I'm coaching youth soccer this summer. We're the orange team. Last but not least, my optometrist said that I'm going to need bifocals in the near future.

Bifocals – the hazard of being an author. Or maybe simply the ravages of age. Sigh. So, I’m completely intrigued by the fact that you guys are siblings and a writing team. My kids get along great, but I can’t see them doing something creatively collaborative together and still getting along great in the end. Tell us about your latest book, please.

Having tackled the realms of paranormal mystery (the José Picada, PI series) and YA paranormal romance (Dream Shade, written by Heather; Dave is allergic to romance), Shadows of New York is our first venture into the land of Middle Grade. What started as a simple tale about a boy and his werewolf male nanny took over our lives until we became ensconced in the Imaginary World. We hope you like it there as much as we do!

Eleven-year-old Josh Cooper is surprised when his new nanny ends up being a dude, but that pales in comparison to how he feels when he learns the nanny, Aiden, is also a werewolf. Aiden teaches Josh about the Imaginary World, even introducing him to his friends Larry Fancypants (a suave-yet-goofy vampire) and Steve Lickerman (a tall-yet-meek leprechaun). This fascinating world seems harmless, until Josh learns of the shadowy wraith that’s stalking New York, attacking creatures and stealing their powers. As werewolves are ideally suited for fighting wraiths, Aiden is called upon to help capture the elusive Mr. Midnight, unintentionally drawing Josh even deeper into the strange and mysterious.

We recommend our book to readers who like:
The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling
The Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan
The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle

You can meet the adorable brother and sister team, Josh & Rosemary Cooper from Shadows of New York in the Building Character interview from last month.

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

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

Proper use of punctuation, bo staff combat, and sweet dance moves. It's important to be well-rounded.

  • Top 3 leisure activities.

Thrift-shopping for medical scrubs, pig racing, and practicing aforementioned sweet dance moves.

  • Top 3 personal mantras or inspirational phrases.

~"The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing." -Mother Teresa
~"Vote for Pedro." -Napoleon Dynamite

And finally, where can our tech savvy readers find more about you so they don’t miss out on your books?

Find us:
Twitter: Heather:  https://twitter.com/HFBrainerd
              Dave: https://twitter.com/DonaldFarster

Find our books:

Thanks for joining us on this week’s Three Times A Charm, and for providing our day’s laughter. Best of luck to you both and to Shadows of New York. Congrats on entering the world of middle grade!


GUESTS WELCOME!  I am always looking for guests for Three Times A Charm. If you are an author, illustrator or book reviewer, an agent or an editor. If you have something related to children’s publishing that you’d like people to know about, feel free to contact me about a future appearance.

October 7, 2014

Cover Reveal & #Giveaway for Gears of Brass

Gear up for GEARS OF BRASS! 

A world like ours, but filled with gears of brass, where the beating heart is fueled by steam and the simplest creation is a complex clockwork device.  

Within this tome, you’ll find steampunk fairy tale re-tellings, as well as original stories that will send your gears turning.  

Welcome to the steampunk realm, with eleven authors guiding your path. 

GEARS OF BRASS is a steampunk anthology published through Curiosity Quills.  It will be available for purchase on November 10, 2014.  Within the pages, you’ll come across clockwork inventions and steampunk-ified fairy tale retellings.  Eleven authors will guide you through worlds filled with airships, top hats, and corsets. 

Meet the authors:
Jordan Elizabeth writes young adult fantasy for Curiosity Quills, including ESCAPE FROM WITCHWOOD HOLLOW which was published in October and the upcoming TREASURE DARKLY; she’s represented by the Belcastro Agency.

J. Million is the author of Last of the Giants and can always be found reading or writing.

Lorna MacDonald Czarnota is a professional storyteller and author of several books including, Medieval Tales That Kids Can Read and Tell, Breadline Blue, Legends Lore and Secrets of Western New York, Wicked Niagara, Native American and Pioneer Sites of Upstate New York, and Dancing at the Crossroads: Stories and Activities for At-Risk Youth Programming.

SA Larsen is represented by Paula Munier of Talcott Notch Literary and is the author of published short stories, community-interest stories, and magazine articles focused on children. 

Grant Eagar is an Engineer who would take the tales he told his children at bed time, and transform them into fantasy stories. 

Clare Weze is the author of The House of Ash (forthcoming) and the co-author and editor of Cloudscapes over the Lune.

Eliza Tilton: gamer, writer and lover of dark chocolate; author of the YA Fantasy, BROKEN FOREST, published by Curiosity Quills Press.

Heather Talty's stories have been featured in Enchanted Conversation, as well as her own fractured fairy tale site, Mythopoetical (www.Beatrixcottonpants.com).

W.K. Pomeroy is a third generation writer who has published more than 70 short stories/articles/poems across many genres and styles, which now includes Steampunk.

Christine Baker is the author of Lana's End, The Guild of Dagda, and many more. 

Natalia Darcy: a bookilicious reader, tea drinker and Zumba aficionado who enjoys playing cards against humanity and washing her hair with ice cold water. 

You can get your steampunk fix before GEARS OF BRASS is released in November.  To enter for your chance to win a copy of GEARS OF BRASS, you will need to share the cover.  This can be on your blog, Facebook, Twitter… Each time you share the cover image, log it into the Rafflecoper to record it.  It will give you more chances to win.  The drawing for the winner will be held on October 27th

a Rafflecopter giveaway

October 6, 2014

The Prophecy by Erin Rhew

The Prophecy has a new look. The author has a new name. But you can still count on her awesomeness! Check out THE PROPHECY, book one in the Fulfillment Series.

About the book:

Growing up on a small farm in the kingdom of Vanguard, seventeen-year-old Layla Givens lives a deceptively tranquil existence. But her carefully constructed life quickly falls apart when she’s abducted by a religious zealot who proclaims her The Fulfillment of an ancient peace prophecy and whisks her away to marry her greatest enemy.

Wilhelm, Prince of the Ethereals, is reluctant to meet his new bride. He's grown up believing Vanguards are evil, an enemy to fight and fear...not love. Can he set aside his prejudices and work alongside Layla to bring lasting peace after centuries of war?

Nash, a loner who has never fit in, carries a huge secret, one big enough to destroy both kingdoms. When he accidently meets Layla, he’s no longer content to live in the shadows, but he must resist his growing attraction—for her safety and for the longevity of the two kingdoms.

When Nash's secret is revealed, a firestorm sweeps through both realms, with Layla at the center. Now she must choose between duty and desire while the fate of two nations hangs in the balance.

Teaser Excerpt:

            Even though she had no chance to escape now, Layla shoved the Elder with all her might. The blow sent him flying into the baker’s door, which splintered under the force, and she darted forward.  The Vanguard soldiers moved to block her. 
            “We are all Vanguards,” she pleaded. “Please let me go.”
            For a moment, they hesitated.  Layla used the opening to slip around them.  She ran as fast as her legs would carry her, but they proved to be too slow.  Within moments, the soldiers leapt upon her, knocking her to the ground.  Wrenching Layla up by her hair, they dragged her back to the Elder, whose face now bled from his encounter with the baker’s door.

            “I see you’re going to be trouble.” He brushed the dirt off his robes.  “You can’t escape your destiny, girl.”

Buy it now from Amazon!

You can pre-order book 2: THE OUTLANDERS.

About the author:

Erin Rhew is an author and fitness trainer.  Since she picked up Morris the Moose Goes to School at age four, she has been infatuated with the written word.  She went on to work as a grammar and writing tutor in college and is still teased by her family and friends for being a member of the "Grammar Police."  In her free time, Erin enjoys acting, running, kickboxing, and, of course, reading and writing. 

Find me online:

Twitter: @ErinRhewBooks

October 3, 2014

Building Character with George from George Knows

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

(Real fast, FRIDAY is the last day to enter to win a signed copy of KING OF BAD & series trading cards. When you are done reading this interview - click on the Damaged Goods image in my side bar. -->)

This week Strands of Thought plays host to George from George Knows. Thanks for joinging us today, George. Can you tell our readers a little about yourself, please?

I’m a basset hound familiar. Everything inch of me is designed as a perfect hunting dog. I am, if you don’t mind my saying, the most gifted familiar ever born. My magic is strong within me. Even my drool is magical!

I should mention, Tillie’s Tale, the second in the Magical Drool Mysteries, comes out in February

How exciting, but let’s talk about your current adventure. What kind of conflict are you up against?

Peeps don’t understand the importance of the magic in the woods. Then there are the monsters that no one sees, unless it’s a kid knowing there is one under the bed. They’re right. But the Packparents forget and ignore the Packpups.

Oh my goodness! That’s more than I expected. Tell us, what are some of the biggest stumbling blocks you’ve encountered trying to resolve your conflict?

My Peeps. They get in the way, use inferior senses, and try to confuse me.

How about your person? Tell us about your her.

My partner is a 12-year-old witch in training, Karly. She’s learning her craft, as well as trusting in me.

Now, let’s learn a bit about you personally. What are your three favorite leisure activities?

Sleep. Is there anything else?

What about food? What are your three favorites?

Only three? Why would a brilliant basset hound limit himself to three.

Peeps are foolish.

Three favorite books or movies?

Books and movies are stupid. Books can be lost, instinct is much better, and movies have no smelltaste.

George, if you could change one thing in this world, what would you change?

Peeps would be more like dogs. There would be NO war if Peeps just sniffed each others butts and accepted we are all the same.

Thanks for joining us, George! Readers, here is more info about George’s book.

An egotistical magical basset hound named George believes it's his duty to train and protect his 12-year-old Girlpup, a greenwitch named Karly. He and his Girlpup must solve a murder as well as save their park from being developed. George is the perfectly designed familiar for the job.

And here is more information about his author:

Mindy Mymudes runs with the Muddy Paws Pack in Milwaukee, WI. She insists she is alpha, even as the dogs walk all over her. She hunts, cleans the den and keeps them entertained. When she can escape the pack, she enjoys digging in dirt, listening to audiobooks, and weaving the antics of the pack into stories. The alpha male, Tall Dude, just shakes his head and stays out of the way.

@GeorgeBasset Twitter

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

October 1, 2014

Three Times A Charm with Trisha Leaver

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

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

Hi all *waves hello* I live on Cape Cod with my husband, three children, and one rather irreverent black lab. Seriously, I spend half my days trying to coax him out of my neighbor’s yard! J

When I am not corralling my dog, I spend my days writing YA Psychological Horror and YA Contemporary although those lines seem to be blurring a bit with my new WIP. CREED, my co-authored YA horror, hits shelves November 8th from FLUX. My solo YA Contemporary, THE SECRETS WE KEEP, releases April 28th, 2015 from FSG/ Macmillan.

Wow! Sounds like you have a couple exciting events looming in your near future. Tell us more about SECRETS.

THE SECRETS WE KEEP (releasing April 28, 2015 form FSG/ Macmillan) is YA contemporary about the complicated relationship that exists between sisters.  I have a sister, an Irish Twin as my mom used to say. The bond between us is different than the one I share with my best friend or even my spouse. My sister and I have a common past and shared dreams for the future. We have decades of secrets, and lies, and promises connecting us. Growing up, she was my biggest competitor and my fiercest cheerleader. Sisters tell you the truth, no matter how raw and painful that reality may be, then pick you up and carry you until the ache fades away. The relationship between them is complicated, and maddening, and built on a rock-solid foundation of devotion and loyalty. I wanted to capture the depth of that bond, show that even in the darkest hours, it is our sisters who have the potential to either break us or carry us through.


A girl takes over her twin sister's identity in this emotionally charged page-turner about the complicated bond between sisters

Ella and Maddy Lawton are identical twins. Ella has spent her high school years living in popular Maddy's shadows, but she has never been envious of Maddy. In fact, she's chosen the quiet, safe confines of her sketchbook over the constant battle for attention that has defined Maddy's world.

When—after a heated argument—Maddy and Ella get into a tragic accident that leaves her sister dead, Ella wakes up in the hospital surrounded by loved ones who believe she is Maddy. Feeling responsible for Maddy's death and everyone's grief, Ella makes a split-second decision to pretend to be Maddy. Soon, Ella realizes that Maddy's life was full of secrets. Caught in a web of lies, Ella is faced with two options—confess her deception or live her sister's life.

I recommend my book to readers who like:

            MY LIFE NEXT DOOR, Huntley Fitzpatrick
            LIKE MANDARIN, Kristen Hubbard
            JUST LISTEN, Sarah Dressen

That sounds great! And it comes out right after my birthday, which will make it easy for me to remember. Okay – now it’s time for the three’s. Please share you top three answers to the following questions so we can get to know you a little better.

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

Patience.  I often say that publishing is the “hurry-up-and-wait” industry.  There will be a flurry of activity sandwiched between months of silence. We see a lot of hype around the huge book deals where the author sold in less than four days. THEY. ARE. RARE.  I repeat, they are rare. Silence does not mean inactivity, but things take time in this industry. Acquiring a book is a multi-step process, requiring the approval of several different people.  Be patient during that process. Start something new, revise an old project, CP for another author, but do something to occupy your mind during these information droughts. 

Developing an armadillo-type thick skin.  Rejection and criticism are necessary evils in the publishing industry. They are not a reflection of you personally, but rather one singular person’s opinion of your writing.  Acknowledge your disappointment and give yourself an hour or two to stew over it. Eat massive amounts of chocolate, commiserate with your CP’s, and then move on.

A sound understanding of grammar. Commas are annoying, pesky, complicated, and ohh so necessary punctuation marks that I had very little appreciation for before I started writing. Now I have an intimate, love-hate relationship with them. By the end of your first manuscript, you will too J

  • Top 3 snacks to munch on while working.

~Chocolate covered expresso beans.  I eat far too many, but they are my writing fuel.

~M&M’s, specifically during the editing phase. I frequently edit in hard copy. I find that having the words printed out in front of me helps me catch those little mistakes that my eyes often glance over on a screen.  Anyhow, I put one M&M at the bottom of each page. When I am done revising that page, I get to eat it. J

~Trail mix (and only the kind that has chocolate in it) Why? Because you can pop a whole handful in your mouth and keep going. No need to get up and rummage through the fridge or worry about getting your keyboard all sticky.  Plus, they sell it in the health food aisle, so chocolate and all, it has to be good for you, right?

  • Top 3 pieces of advice for kids these days.

~Not everything you read or hear deserves to be commented on. If it angers you, walk away, get some distance and clarity before you respond.

~ Always be true to yourself, regardless of what everybody else is doing.

~Color outside the lines. Use every crayon in the box, then go back and use them again … all at once … because creativity is not meant to be contained.

  • Top 3 personal mantras or inspirational phrases.

~ If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together. ~African Proverb

~I try to create sympathy for my characters, then turn the monsters loose. ~Stephen King

            ~The work never matches the dream of perfection the artist has to start with. ~William Faulkner

And finally, where can our tech savvy readers find more about you so they don’t miss out on those new books?

Thanks for joining us on this week’s Three Times A Charm, Trisha! Best of luck to you and Creed and The Secrets We Keep.


GUESTS WELCOME!  I am always looking for guests for Three Times A Charm. If you are an author, illustrator or book reviewer, an agent or an editor. If you have something related to children’s publishing that you’d like people to know about, feel free to contact me about a future appearance.