Sunday, November 30, 2014

Interview with Serena Kearney, Author of Pneuma

pneuma, serena kearney, young adult, YA, scifi, romance
Today we are interviewing Serena Kearney, author of the sci-fi / young adult romance novel

Tell us a bit about yourself. 
I love straws! I love desserts...mmm red velvet! I love animals! My cat, Bongo-Bongo is majorly spoiled! I live in North Carolina, NC GIRL ALL THE WAY! Whoooop! I love to drink tea in the mornings and I love to watch movies and am an avid gamer! LOVE NINTENDO!

How long have you been writing?

 I have been dabbling on and off ever since the year 2000, but I didn’t start getting serious until around 2012. I didn’t start to think about really publishing until 2014.

Describe the plot of your new book in a few sentences.

She does everything she can to protect the ones she loves. She finds out who her real family is. And she has to battle with herself to keep everyone else safe... from her.

Who do you think would most appreciate this book?

Teenagers. Or anyone who loves sci-fi and an epic love story all in one!

What inspired you to write a young adult sci-fi romance?

I have always loved any fiction, whether it be sci-fi, paranormal, magic, zombies, anything like that. I believe there is more out there, whether we all want to admit it or deny it. And romance... I am a SUCKER for romance and love stories! I just love falling in love with their relationships and seeing them grow and go through tough times, but still being there for each other. Because it’s like real life, real love. You have to go through those things, and if you are still together in the end, then you can get through anything together.

Who was your favorite character to write?

Re-reading some of the stories, I would have said my main character Estelle Caldwell, but actually, I really like how I did Dennis. He can make you cry and laugh at the same time.

What genre do you read most frequently?

Any type of love story, it HAS to have romance, otherwise I can’t focus. LOL! Any type of romance, whether it be dystopian, paranormal, or contemporary. I am ALL about it!

How do you think you've evolved as a writer since when you first started?

Oh man... I remember my first draft... it was kind of horrible, but once I re-read it and evolved and re-wrote, I am actually satisfied now. I always find out that I still have a lot of growth to expand my writing more, but like I say, “the draft is never complete as long as the author lives.”

Are there any aspects of your writing that you've been practicing?

 I feel like I have the basics down, but there is still always errors with grammar and punctuation, mainly when I get into a scene is where I make the most mistakes... but that’s life, right? =)

What was your favorite class in school, and why?

My favorite class was actually Art class. When I was younger, I was into drawing mostly, and in the class, we drew a lot and did crafts and they had all the supplies, so it was a win-win! Plus, my teacher pushed my imagination limits, which I found hard at the time, but am grateful for it now.

How do you feel about the increasing popularity of ebooks?

You know, at first, when they were new, I was against them. I thought, hey, I want a real book, not an ebook, but now... I LOVE ebooks! I can just carry my tablet and choose any book I want and read it anywhere!

A brief excerpt from Pneuma: 

Fate. Please be kind. Will he still remember me? Will our first and last kiss be one and the same? Please remember me. Please be with me.
More Information
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Friday, November 28, 2014

Interview with Katrina Cope, Author of Scarlet's Escape (Book 2 of the Sanctum Series)

female protagonist, preteen spy, middle grade, middle-grade

Today we are interviewing Katrina Cope, the author of the preteen spy thriller/sci-fi novel Scarlet's Escape (Book 2 of the Sanctum Series). Jayden & the Mysterious Mountain, Scarlet's Escape, and Taylor's Plight have all been released. Eric & the Black Axes is coming soon.

Tell us a bit about yourself.
I am a wife and mother of 3 boys, teen and preteen. I have always been a quiet and creative person, but at the same time I love mixing with different cultures and personalities.

Is there an author that had a major influence on you while you were growing up?
I have fond memories of reading C.S Lewis and his Narnia series. I also loved reading The Belgariad by David Eddings and Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling.

How long have you been writing?
I have been writing for many years privately: however, since I have released Jayden & the Mysterious Mountain, every spare moment has been committed to writing by continuing the series and planing future books.

Describe the plot of Scarlet's Escape in a few sentences.
It is continuing a year after Avando had rescued Jayden from homelessness. Strange things are happening within The Sanctum, and their movements to fight terrorism are continually being jeopardised.

Secrets are discovered at Ernest State College. On the surface, they appear to be working for the good side, but what are they hiding?

What’s up with Scarlet? Has she blown her mainframe?

Who do you think would most appreciate this book?

The books are written firstly for 10yr olds, but many adults also enjoy reading them. Anyone who enjoys a little spying, sci-fi, or a book series with twists that keep you thinking.

This is the second book in the Sanctum series. Did you do anything differently while writing this book?
Book 1 is more of a set up book for the series. It does have action, but not as much as the rest of the series. I made sure this book had more action and this is increased in book 3 Taylor’s Plight.

Who was your favorite character to write?
Such a hard question. I love writing all characters, esp. the evil or plotting ones. I enjoy writing Scarlet. She is so feisty, but at the same time loves to have fun.

Do you consider fan feedback when writing? For instance, if fans really like a certain character in an earlier book, are you more likely to feature him/her more in the sequel?
I love to hear comments from readers about their favourite, or not so favourite characters. Different people connect with different characters. I love hearing what they think may happen or how they would like to see things progress.
katrina cope, tween novel, author, middle grade author
Preteen novel author Katrina Cope with a parrot.

How many books will be in the Sanctum series? What made you decide this number?
My thoughts are that there will be 5 books in the original Sanctum Series. I decided this when writing book 4. It just felt right to end it with book 5. I have people asking for it to continue more than this, but there are certain outcomes that need to be written in book 5 that I am certain will finish the immediate series. In the near future, I am considering to write an offset series based within the Sanctum, possibly using some or the same main characters. There is so much that can happen that involves this mysterious mountain school operated by a cheeky AI.

How do you think you've evolved as a writer since when you first started?
Without a doubt, I have learnt so much with so much more to learn. I am in the process of completing a certificate in creative writing. I love writing but it is a lot of hard work.

Are there any aspects (e.g. character building, world building) of your writing that you've been practicing?
Yes. All of it. I don’t think I will ever stop learning to try and improve. Besides doing the course, I make sure I read many different genres, taking in the different writing styles and effectiveness and also what works in storytelling and what doesn’t.

How do you feel about the increasing popularity of ebooks?
I see the benefit of ebooks. I personally enjoy paperbacks more, but I have read many ebooks over the last couple of years and enjoy being able to take many different books with me if I go away. They are great space savers.

What are your goals as a writer for the next ten years?
My goal is to keep writing and publishing many quality books and to keep learning and improving as a writer.

What is the most impactful experience you have had with a fan?
I appreciate all feedback from fans. I do have one in particular who has told me his 9 year old son has read and reread my books. The gentleman has trouble reviewing them because he can’t get his eReader off his son to read the books. To me, that is priceless.

Have your family and friends been supportive of your writing?
My immediate family have been very supportive and several friends. My books go through my two oldest sons and my husband first for approval. I now have the problem that my printed manuscript disappears before I have finished writing it. Then I get asked several times for the next book before I have a chance to edit and send the current book to the editor.

Is there any aspect of writing you don't like?
Editing. I am slowly adapting but it is not my favourite part and takes so long. It is definitely necessary though.

Have you ever had writer's block? If yes, how'd you deal with it? If you have not had writer's block, why do you think you haven't?
I get writers block when I am stressed. It is a matter of getting rid of the stress and allowing  yourself to relax and move on. Sometimes it can help to go for a quite walk, exercise or socialise with good friends and having a good laugh.

Do you write with a computer, typewriter, or pen and paper? Why do you use this tool?
I write with a computer. It is quicker for me. I love the easy editing, and these days, I don’t think I would be able to read my own handwriting.

Do you have a project in mind for when you finish the Sanctum series?
Yes, I have several. I am currently writing a middle grade book that would appeal to my youngest (lover of all things silly, 9yr old) for my assignment for my course. I may expand on that book as a series later. I also have a few young adult series/trilogies planned.

Is there anything else you'd like potential readers to know about your book?
The book and series are different than any other books I have read so far. It has a mixture of humour mixed in with serious issues from society that are battled and sorted out by our young heroes.

An excerpt from Chapter 1 of Scarlet's Escape:

- Chapter One -

The Pressure Is On

Sweat trickled down his pale young skin. Down his forehead it travelled, pausing for a brief moment when it hit his eyebrow. It gathered amongst the short hairs, waiting briefly, before continuing as a larger drop to the outside corner of his brow. It resumed down the side of his cheek to the edge of his jaw, making its way to his chin, ultimately dripping directly onto the ground below.

It was not that the temperature was hot and humid. Instead, it was because this salty sweat was concocted from the fast flowing blood, pumping through his twelve-year old frame, from the pressure of the job at hand. Jayden glanced over at Aaron to see if he also was showing signs of the pressure. It was dark; however, there was enough light shining on him to see his face. Yes, there it was. He too was showing signs. Aaron was sweating as much, if not more, from the intensity of the task at hand. They had previously been running for about five minutes so that they could arrive as quickly as possible at their destination. Now they were sussing it out from a safe distance, watching for any activity that could be threatening to them.

In front of them stood a small village that looked like a little army camp, perhaps containing rebel soldiers. They had been given strict orders to check the place out and destroy any type of weaponry they came across. These orders were easy to follow, as this place had been marked as an extreme threat, in the form of terrorism against innocent people. Jayden placed his back firmly against the trunk of a rather large tree on the opposite side from the village. Aaron watched him intently and followed suit, trying desperately to blend as much as possible into their surroundings.

Aaron was a spectacular fighter in Tae Kwon Do, one of the best that Jayden knew of, especially at his age. However, at the moment, Aaron was paying particular attention to Jayden’s actions. It was discovered soon after Jayden joined the group at The Sanctum that he was extremely gifted both at camouflage and blending into his environment. This had been revealed purely by accident, when they had played a game of skirmish in the trees outside their school building. Jayden had succeeded so well that they couldn’t even see his tracking light on the computer tracker. It had been a little over a year since Jayden had taken Avando’s offer and joined the group at The Sanctum, leaving behind the harsh life on the streets. Although he would have been happy with an ordinary, caring home, he was astonished when he was taken to live in a school called The Sanctum, which was built within a large mountain. This mountain was not only truly amazing, but it was decorated with marble, had the best views which were likely to be seen only in a travel catalogue and it was eco friendly too. It was also equipped with a really smart computer or artificial intelligence called Scarlet. She was super intelligent; even hilarious at times and not to be crossed. There were significant consequences in that and all played out by her.

Jayden peeked around the back of the tree, looking attentively for any movement. He thought he saw something on one of the outside corners in the shadows. His heart immediately pumped extra blood through his body in anticipation of a possible enemy who might be moving around in the dark. Aaron’s face grew a worried look under the crop of his dark brown hair. He indicated for Jayden’s attention to be zoned into the movement he had observed. Jayden nodded in acknowledgement, crouched down, and crept his way over to the edge of the trees for a closer look. Aaron followed closely behind him, making use of the magnifying advantage of binocular vision Jayden zoomed in his sight towards the moving shadow. He saw an external garbage bin located in that corner and from the side of this, he saw the movement again. Realising that the movement was from something small and furry, he put it down to being a cat or some other foraging animal. He breathed purposefully in a slow repetitive manner, letting his heartbeat settle down with the realisation that it was only a creature of the night. Moving his attention to other parts of the village, he scouted the area again without seeing some sign of any other movement.

He spoke into the mouthpiece of his roving communicator strapped to his head, “Seraph?” it being another name for a messenger or an angel.

“Copy!” the quick, friendly response from Robert’s distant voice instantly soothed their nerves a little, as they knew that they were not totally alone.

“We’re in need of some better eyes,” Jayden requested to him.

“Not a problem! Clearer vision is coming your way,” Robert affirmed.


Jayden and Aaron waited quietly while continuing to watch the village ahead. It seemed like a pretty sleepy village at the moment. A couple of lights shone dimly lighting up the main street area. At present that seemed like the only signs of occupation, besides the stray creature feasting off the full garbage bins.

It wasn’t long before Jayden felt a fluttering on the coat of his camouflage uniform. He looked down to see an insect crawling out of one of his pockets. It was black with beady eyes and long transparent wings with conspicuous veins. He recognised it as he had seen it in the trees around The Sanctum. It was a Cicada. Once it had finished crawling out of his pocket, it seemed to be looking straight at Jayden and started to sing like it was trying to tell him something. It then flew over to Aaron and landed on his chest and also stared into his eyes. After singing a little Cicada song, it flew off and landed back on Jayden’s chest and once again stared back into his eyes.

“Ahh … Seraph? Is that you?” Jayden asked hesitantly through his roving communicator.

“Affirmative!” Robert’s voice confirmed.

Thankful that it wasn’t just some weird, eye staring insect, Jayden breathed a sigh of relief. It looked just like the real thing. Robert’s inventions never ceased to amaze him. He was a whiz with all technology and all sorts of amazing gadgets, yet he was only twelve. Talk about a prodigy! It wouldn’t be noticeable when you look at him though, especially after seeing him eat. He really loves his food but, unfortunately, lacks all kinds of manners, including hygiene. With Robert, that all seems to fly out the door when food is involved. Jayden shivered feeling repulsed just thinking about it.

The Cicada flew off into the air and headed towards the village. In the corner of his night vision glasses, Jayden noticed another small screen appear. It seemed to be bouncing all over the place. Trying not to get motion sick, he looked intently at the screen. Once he focused, Jayden realised that it was actually the vision from the eyes on Robert’s cicada. It flew around the closest buildings first, pausing on the windows while taking a good look inside. The cicada must have had night vision installed, as it could even see clearly inside the windows where there were no lights.

Robert’s voice came over the headset, “First area is clear. You’re right to go.”

“Copy!” Jayden responded.

Proceeding with caution, Jayden started making his way closer towards the edge of the trees. He moved slowly, purposely trying to continue to blend in with his surroundings, just in case some impending threat had been overlooked. Aaron continued following Jayden’s example though, at the same time, keeping an eye out for any danger.

A loud hoot sounded in the tree not far from where they had stopped. They both jumped at the noise and then looked at each other and smiled, having a silent laugh at their edginess, once they had realised that it was only an owl. Progressing forward, they reached the edge of the trees, dropped to their stomachs and started to crawl, commando style, towards the first outside building of the village. With all senses on full alert, they proceeded while continuing to keep an eye on the screen from the cicada’s vision. Limb by limb they crawled closer to the first building. They were almost there when they noticed that the cicada had come across a room full of people dressed in army camouflage uniforms.

Continued …
 More Information
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Thursday, November 27, 2014

Interview with Suresh K Sharma, Author of The 3rd American Dream

american dream, Wealth Creation, Prosperity, Economic Growth, Innovation, 21st Century, Millennial, Distributed Manufacturing, MOOCs, 3D Printing, Energy Abundance

Today we are interviewing Suresh K Sharma about his non-fiction business book The 3rd American Dream, which focuses on Innovation, Entrepreneurship and Economic Growth.

Suresh is a seasoned global business leader recognized for his pragmatic vision, operational excellence, technology inventions, cross-border mergers and acquisitions, and entrepreneurial successes. He has contributed extensively to the Energy, Aerospace, Advanced Materials, Defense, e-Business, Healthcare, Six Sigma Quality, Network Security & Analytics, Global Sourcing, Supply Chain, and FMCG industries. A former GE executive-turned-entrepreneur, his passion is to grow both small and medium businesses into profitable, successful enterprises. Most recently, he published his second book - “The 3rd American Dream” (2013). This book details how innovation and entrepreneurship, are yet again, transforming the next economic expansion in the United States that is bound to have unforeseen global impact.

Describe the purpose of your book in a few sentences.

In a new global economy, the so-called American Dream has undeniably shifted from a mid-century phenomenon to an increasingly unnerving question mark. However, according to the author, a new wave is on the rise, and here. The next dream is very much in the making for anyone with any innovative and entrepreneurial spirit. In his new compelling book, The 3rd American Dream, Suresh - an internationally acclaimed business leader, entrepreneur and a thought-leader - shares his insights and conviction supported with a pragmatic roadmap to make it happen faster. Drawing from his own demonstrated global business and entrepreneurial successes, as well as his perspective as an immigrant, Suresh is committed to inspire all Americans to unlock their potential and to realize an unprecedented wealth creation in the twenty-first century. The heart of this book is about American way of life, entrepreneurship and innovation. Impact and reach, however, is bound to be global. According to the author, it’s time to move on to a new way of thinking, living, and doing business, especially after the recent demoralizing recessionary times. Rather than a traditional business book, Suresh’s approach represents an entirely new genre that stitches all the special-knowledge domains - “the verticals” - into one fabric - be they: people, culture, economics, capital, technology, policies, infrastructure, society, business or historical lessons - to make meaningful practical life decisions going forward. It’s easy to read but definitely thought provoking. He thus lays out a pragmatic and inspirational game plan for Americans to create a groundbreaking ecosystem - at individual as well as societal level - that would result in a new wave of infinite economic expansion. To do so: • The 3rd American Dream first provides a quick historical context of the “American Way of Life,” revisiting characteristics long associated with this country’s success, such as Americans’ entrepreneurial nature; commitment to innovation; impulse to aspire to a greater life; and repute as creative problem solvers. How is the younger generation is changing the game in their own entrepreneurial and innovative ways? What can you do as an individual? What can be your future roadmap in this huge economic potential and prosperity? With examples, he brings out how entrepreneurship and innovation are universal, and independent of age, gender, industry, and location. • Suresh then explores the future of the country, proposing how to create a new business ecosystem. To make it real, he addresses ways in which to make game-changing improvements in crucial platform industries such as: Healthcare, Energy, Education, and Manufacturing. Finally, his book puts forth the notion of inclusive growth, which can occur by creating the next generation of jobs within the country, with a new generation of wealthier, innovative, and entrepreneurial middle class of twenty-first century America. With keen insight, and an American “can-do” attitude, the author has created a refreshing look at the country’s future prospects, and is happy to report that with right approach, the American dream will surely live on, but will clearly be global in its reach.

Who do you think would most appreciate this book?
Millennial, and between 16 to 45 years of age

What inspired you to write this book?
Check the ‘Inspiration’ - the very first section in the book.

What was the most interesting thing you uncovered while doing research for the book?
The United States is in fact the biggest emerging market, and out best times are yet to come.

How do you think reading your book will impact people?

Positive and inspirational.

Tell us a bit about your background as an entrepreneur.
5 Start Ups, 1 Failed, 1 Publicly-listed, 1 is ranked #31 fastest growing company by Inc 500, 1 average, and 1 merged with a Fund. 

How has your experience as an immigrant shaped your vision of American economic success?
Made it better.

What do you think brought about the end of the second American dream?
Understanding of an equilibrium between the necessity of supply&demand for a free market driven economic expansion.

How do you think federally backed startup funding will benefit the economy?
Long and steady economic expansion in the 21st century driven by unlocking full innovative potential of entrepreneurs. The idea is not to get hung-up by one Silicon Valley but have hundreds of such ecosystems across the country to drive growth. Create a level playing field for all of our young generation.

You’ve done a lot of international traveling. What gives you faith in the American economic system?
The fundamental ‘American way of life’, business ecosystems, and innovative potential driven by incredible R&D infrastructure is a great differentiator. However, our policies will have to be predictive to stay relevant to present in the light of knowledge explosion. 

Do you think America’s policy makers are enabling the third American dream you write about?Not enough. We need more pragmatic visionaries who can make tough calls to truly reform and realign our framework for future and not just rest on past laurels.

What do you have in mind for your next writing project?
‘Innovation Capital’

Is there anything else you'd like potential readers to know about your book?
This book stitches the existing knowledge of various specialist domains for you to be able to make meaningful decisions for your own life going forward.

More Information

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Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Interview with Sandi Masori, CBA and Rachel Porter, CBA, Authors of The DIY Balloon Bible For All Seasons

balloon art, sandi masori balloons
Today we are interviewing Sandi Masori and Rachel Porter about their crafts and hobbies book The DIY Balloon Bible For All Seasons: How To Wow Your Friends and Impress Your Relatives With Amazing, Easy Balloon Decorations.

Tell us a bit about yourself.
balloon, balloon art, sandi masori balloons
A turkey balloon idea from the book.
Sandi Masori, CBA CMT, is a four- time best-selling author, TV personality, coach, marketer and balloon expert, (and a mom, daughter and wife). She began her journey into balloons in 1994 when she was a first grade teacher in Los Angeles. She quickly found that she had an affinity for balloon shapes and began busking in the bars and night- clubs of LA. She also started using balloons in the classroom to encourage good behavior. By and by she was invited to perform in Japan and spent a year and a half making balloons in the Kansai region. Eventually her travels took her to Israel, where she met her husband and started the transition from balloon entertainment to balloon decorations as well. Masori and her husband moved to San Diego in 2000 and opened up under the name Balloon Utopia, where they have been operating as San Diego’s premiere balloon company ever since. From the time that she began making balloons, Sandi has been sought after to teach at international conventions and workshops. She was the first female balloon artist to release an instructional video for the balloon twisting industry. Masori also authored and published two other best-selling books on balloons. She has produced hundreds of instructional videos, for both her own channel and those of her clients. Sandi’s YouTube channel, Sandi Masori Balloons has over 8,000 subscribers. She has appeared on local and national TV shows like Daytime and The Today Show, and has been called by the media “America’s Top Balloon Expert”.

Rachel Porter, CBA, of Balloon Splendor in Mt. Vernon, WA, started doing balloons in 1994 after a ten year career working for a military contractor and quickly became one of the premiere decorators in Western Washington. Transitioning from a technical, analytical environment to a highly artistic and dynamic environment revealed a creative side to her personality that was previously untapped. Simply put, Rachel enjoys creating. Naturally inquisitive, she likes to watch and learn from other artists, appreciating the different techniques employed in creating beautiful things, and applying or adapting the new techniques to her balloon art. Besides creating with balloons, Rachel enjoys crocheting, gardening, and repurposing everything. “There’s a deep satisfaction I feel, when I step back and look at something I’ve made myself,” she commented, “for me, it’s not about being thrifty, it’s about expressing myself in as many ways as I can.”

Describe the purpose of your book in a few sentences.

To bring amazing balloon art to the crafters and do-it-yourselfers. We want everyone to be able to experience the joy and satisfaction of transforming a room, party or event.

Who do you think would most appreciate this book? 

Crafters, diy-ers, Martha Stewart lovers, Michaels, Jo-Ann Crafts, and Hobby Lobby junkies. 

When did you first become interested in being a balloon artist?

For me, (Sandi), it started as a way to support my teaching habit (first grade).  I found that I was really good at it and that it made people happy.  I also found that no matter where I went, balloons were universal and transcended languages, borders and cultures. 

What do you like most about being a balloon artist?

When you decorate with balloons, everyone walking into the room gets an instant mood lift- there’s something about balloons that reaches the deepest part of us and brings out our joyful inner child. 

What is the memorable event you have done balloon art at?

We do both entertainment and decorations, so we have been really blessed to get to go to a lot of different types of events.  I think out of all of the events of the past 20 years, there are two that really stand out for me.  The first was when the late Tony Gwynn retired from the Padres.  They commissioned us to make a giant walk- through baseball tunnel out of balloons, and we had to design it so it could get on and off the field in 5 minutes after the game was over.  So the game ended, and then we had to wheel this 10’ balloon baseball onto the field.  It was a sold- out game, and looking up into the stands with that many people all around you is just dizzying, awesome, but dizzying. 

The other event that really stands out to me was when Southwest Air opened up their direct San Diego/ Denver flights.  They flew me and some penguins from Sea World to Denver to entertain on the inaugural flight. So, the penguins and I were walking up and down the aisle of the plane, them toddling as they do, and me passing out penguin balloon sculptures that I had made in advance. 

What inspired you to write this book?

I have a pretty popular You Tube DIY balloon channel (Sandi Masori Balloons), so writing the book just seemed like a natural evolution to the videos. We’ve noticed that there are two types of people, the DIY-ers and those who would rather hire someone. The DIYers want to make their own for the satisfaction of creating.  We noticed that a lot of the DIY instructions being put out there for balloons was just, well, bad.  Most of it was not put together by balloon professionals, so there were lots of critical instructions that were missing.  We wanted to give the DIYers the opportunity to do some great balloon work that would get the reaction that they were really looking for. 

Rachel is a crafter, besides being a balloon artist, and I am a teacher.   So we felt we had a pretty good sense of what people might like, and what they would be able to do without pulling their hair out.  We hope that we were able to get a really good balance of exciting designs, but still do-able for most people.

Do adults have different preferences for their balloon art compared to kids?

Although every so often adults will ask for “blue” balloons, most of the time, they are just as captivated by the magic of the art as kids are.  Maybe even more so, because while kids will get excited that it looks like something, adults will notice the artistry and attention to detail.  Like I said before, there’s something about balloons that brings out the joy of our inner child.

How did you connect with Rachel Porter? What’s it like to create balloon art together?

Rachel and I met at an invitation only industry workshop. We ended up being roommates, and she stayed up all night with me helping me prepare for the CBA exam (certified balloon artist).  Though I had been in the industry for a long time, I had not taken the CBA until then.  We became great friends.  I love collaborating with her because we have really different styles.  When our styles come together it’s something really awesome- better than what either of us would have come up with on our own, I think. 

What do you have in mind for your next writing project?

The next project will be book two of the series- focused on milestone events—balloons for birthdays, weddings, anniversaries, bar mitzvahs, quinceaneras, sweet 16s, etc.  You get the idea.  We’ll probably start filming the videos for it in the next month or two.  Because balloons are so visual, and 3 dimensional, I think it’s really hard to learn it just from a book.  Also, as a former teacher, I can’t help but try to address the various learning styles, so for that reason, every recipe has a step by step video counterpart to help you learn the design..

Is there anything else you'd like potential readers to know about your book?

We have a facebook group so people can post their pictures and ask us questions (http://www.facebook.com/groups/diyballoonart ) We want to be really accessible and make sure that the crafters who get the book and try the designs have everything that they need to succeed at it. We’d really love to meet them there, see their stuff and get to know them.

More information
Buy the book on Amazon 
Visit the book website 

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Caldric Blackwell, Author of The Boy Who Couldn't Cry Wolf

kindle picture book, children's picture book, werewolf book, wolf picture book, free kindle picture book
Today we are interviewing children's book author Caldric Blackwell about his picture book The Boy Who Couldn't Cry Wolf.

Thanks for coming back. I know we interviewed you around a year ago for your early chapter book The Enchanted River Race.
Thanks for having me back! It's a pleasure.

For readers who didn't read your last interview, tell us a bit about yourself.
I grew up in the Bay Area, but went to college in Santa Barbara. In college, I studied English and psychology. After writing short stories for awhile, I eventually transitioned to writing children's books. The Enchanted River Race was my first published work.

Tell us about your new Kindle picture book, The Boy Who Couldn't Cry Wolf.
The story follows six-year-old Byron Woodward, a werewolf who can't howl, as he embarks on a mission to learn to howl after being chosen to lead a full-moon ceremony. He learns a lot about howling during his journey, but more importantly, he learns a valuable lesson about believing in himself. The language of the book is fairly simple, so it's a great book to be read to younger children or to be read by a child learning to read.

What inspired you to write this story?
The idea for The Boy Who Couldn't Cry Wolf came to me while I was doing autism research as an undergraduate psychology student. I was involved with a research project that sought to improve communication skills in children. During the project, I saw firsthand how important self-confidence is for children, and I came up with the idea of writing about a six-year-old werewolf who lacks self-confidence.

Why did you decide to use werewolves in the plot?
Having werewolves as the main characters adds a bit of a fantastical element to the story. It allows the reader to escape into the story more than they would if I wrote about a six-year-old boy living in a big American city. It's important to note that the werewolves in The Boy Who Couldn't Cry Wolf are very friendly! They are not scary whatsoever.

Emma Phillips is the illustrator for The Boy Who Couldn't Cry Wolf. How did you get connected with her?
I met her through my sister. I saw some of Emma's art, and I was very impressed with it. I approached her about illustrating my picture book, and that's how the collaboration started.

What was it like working with Emma on the picture book?
The whole process went really smoothly. Emma did a great job of transposing the ideas in my manuscript into beautiful illustrations. We did a lot of emailing back and forth because I was in Louisiana while most of the illustrations were being done. She'd send me sketches, and I'd email her back with feedback.

What are your favorite picture books that you've read recently?
There are a lot to choose from! I'd have to say my favorites are Journey by Aaron Becker and The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt. I love Journey because it has such beautiful, adventurous illustrations. I love The Day the Crayons Quit because it has such a humorous, novel premise.

What do you have in mind for your next project?
I'm working on a middle-grade series. I've really been enjoying the experience because I get to work with a more complex plot than usual due to the older target audience.

Anything else you want to add?
I'd like to add that The Boy Who Couldn't Cry Wolf is one of many free Kindle children's picture books available to Kindle Unlimited subscribers. Information about all of my books can be found on my website, www.caldricblackwell.com.

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Wednesday, November 12, 2014

D’Metria the Vedy, Vedy Bad Judge

An interview with the D'Metria Benson Watch about the picture book D'Metria the Vedy, Vedy Bad Judge.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

The highlight of my life when all is said and done, will never be practicing law, it will be holding a precious child and reading them a story or singing them a song.  This book was written for children and carries the fundamental truths found in most children’s story.

Why a Children’s book in a legal domain? 

Straight ticket voting is the only reason D’Metria Benson was elected.  Once again she won by the lowest margin in the County.  I hope this book speaks to mothers and women at home, not necessarily involved in politics so they might understand the consequence the entire community must address as a result of straight-ticket Democratic voting.

I also hope it speaks to movements like Battleground Texas – whose efforts were virtually of no consequence in Texas but did work to allow D’Metria Benson to win by a greater margin.

The issue is not complex, D’Metria Benson is a bad judge. 

Is there an author that had a major influence on you while you were growing up?
William Faulkner seemed to break all the rules resulting in grand and effective communication.

How long have you been writing?
Since I could write.

Who (age, gender, etc) do you think would most appreciate this book?

Mothers, children and attorneys and clients victimized and ravished by the incompetence and partiality of D’Metria Benson.

What inspirations contributed to this book?

Once my life was severely impacted by a dishonest judge who received massive contributions from other parties. 

One day in his court at eleven a.m. I told him, “You are wrong.” 

He asked the bailiff to escort me to jail until I was ready to apologize to the Court. 

The sheriff picked me up at the Court House for lunch.  We returned to the jail and they were having chicken and dressing, my favorite.  He called the kitchen to tell them I was there, asked them to prepare me a dish and then asked them not to spit in my food.  That’s when it hit me, while I may be in the Sheriff’s office, I am incarcerated.  We talked and had much to catch up on.  My incarceration was quite pleasant.

After lunch the Sheriff returned me to the Bailiff, also a friend.  He was an older man with a well worn Bible at his desk. I sat across the desk from him and asked if I could read his Bible.

My first thoughts were, what to read.  The Psalms seemed appropriate, David’s escape seemed right.  But I said, “Dear Lord, show me what to read.”

I opened the Bible at random and it opened to Job.  I read these words, “I have done nothing wrong, I will not apologize.”  My mind flooded with the words, “Really, no … really?”

A sort of humorous answer returned, “You asked.”

During lunch the courtroom had filled with people, apparently word had gotten out, I was going to either apologize or go back to jail.

The Judge asked, “Do you have something to say to the Court?”

“I have done nothing wrong.  I will not apologize.”

“Well, let’s continue,” said the Judge.  There was a lot at stake and my first inclination had been to apologize.  I thought I heard a sigh of relief, there was a rumbling of sorts in the Court Room.  Maybe those were internal thoughts and noises; I will never know for sure.

Nothing in this endeavor has been done without much thought and prayer.  I am writing this book and publishing it because I truly believe it is the right thing to do.

Who was your favorite character to write? 

The mother and her simple belief in right and wrong.

What is your favorite book and why?
Absalom, Absalom by William Faulkner.  Simple truths told through complex characters with simple motivations. Ultimately, I believe motivations are quite simple and manifested in a myriad of actions.

What genre do you read most frequently?
Novels and I still love, love, love beautiful children’s picture books. I am sad parents are pushing their children so hard to excel that children’s picture books have fallen out of favor for chapter books.  I do not believe in learning toys, educational toys. I believe a child should be a child.  I believe in card board boxes, blocks, costumes and imagination … and oh, yes, children’s picture books.

How do you think you've evolved as a writer since when you first started?
I have evolved very little.  I believe Baudelaire was right, “The sad thing is not that we change but that we do not.”

Are there any aspects (e.g. character building, world building) of your writing that you've been practicing?

Once I compared a Shakespearean Play to the musical, “Oklahoma.”  Shakespeare often had a chorus of patriots – a modern day posse.  This allowed him to flesh out his plot and the complexities of his characters.  In modern plays this posse does not exist.  I struggle between looking for a posse and interior dialogue in my novels.  We have that choice now.

Shakespeare was incredibly angry with the church that would not allow him a divorce and an escape from his marriage. You see that anger in most of his plays, even Romeo and Juliet.  This book reflects and anger with the judiciary.

What was your favorite class in school, and why?


How do you feel about the increasing popularity of ebooks?

Great for ebooks. A great medium. There are so many incredible illustrators out there.  I hope this opens doors for them.  Why spend all you time looking for an agent and working to go that route.  Great, Good, Wonderful.

What are your goals as a writer for the next ten years?


Have your family and friends been supportive of your writing?
There is nothing to support. It has been a part of my life for a long, long time. It is just who I am.

Is there any aspect of writing you don't like?


Have you ever had writer's block? If yes, how'd you deal with it? If you have not had writer's block, why do you think you haven't?

No. Writing is a discipline.  Set a goal, write that number of words and stop when you hit it for the day if you are having trouble.  If it’s flowing then continue to write.  I remember one day I wrote 16,000 words.

But when the novel is complete and I look back on it, I cannot tell the difference between those times that I was inspired and those times that I was hitting my daily quota.  Writing is work, it is a vocation and sometimes it requires discipline.

Do you write with a computer, typewriter, or pen and paper? Why do you use this tool?
Pen and paper if traveling.  I remember writing a chapter in a canoe on a float trip.  Computer as well.

What do you have in mind for your next project?

Yes, a novel about the judiciary.

Is there anything else you'd like potential readers to know about your book?
Straight ticket voting is the lazy way to vote. Educate yourself.  I hope this book will help.  D’Metria Benson is a very bad judge.

An excerpt from D'Metria the Vedy, Vedy Bad Judge:

 “It was a beautiful day but the bad news has come,
You have found yourself in County Court at Law Number One.
This disastrous calamity cannot be out run,
Today is a dire time to be a Dallas Texan.”
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