• Books,  Uncategorized,  Writing

    2020 Book Releases!

    I had so wanted to do a Black only book release post today to support Black Lives Matter.  Unfortunately, I didn’t responses to my Tweets yet (I’m still going to try). It’s expected because it took me some time to get responses to my author posts. If you are Black you can still comment here and hopefully I can get several people for a dedicated post.  https://twitter.com/DaniDuck/status/1267504987367587847

    Even if I’ve already posted your work please feel free to submit you book again for a second post! 

    I do have some Black authors below, and am also including other POC to the list. I may have missed a few people, so feel free to let me know if I missed you!

    ———-

    Books for Grown-Ups

    Dragonborn by Whitney Rines

    Five Amaranthine coveting godhood commit horrific actions against mortals and the world they share and are granted twisted versions of their desire.
    Dragonborn follows the story of Fayet and his own journey to humanity, by watching mortals over time. He eventually falls for a mortal woman named Ayshir and assuming a mortal shell builds a family and home with her.

    However, the events preceding their union and the ones that that follow after, slowly bring a darkness that threatens to destroy his family.

     

    Website: https://www.whitneyrines.com/

    Buy Dragonborn and preview Whitney’s Other Books: https://www.whitneyrines.com/publications

     

     

    This is My America by Kim Johnson

    Every week, seventeen-year-old Tracy Beaumont writes letters to Innocence X, asking the organization to help her father, an innocent Black man on death row. After seven years, Tracy is running out of time—her dad has only 267 days left. Then the unthinkable happens. The police arrive in the night, and Tracy’s older brother, Jamal, goes from being a bright, promising track star to a “thug” on the run, accused of killing a white girl. Determined to save her brother, Tracy investigates what really happened between Jamal and Angela down at the Pike. But will Tracy and her family survive the uncovering of the skeletons of their Texas town’s racist history that still haunt the present?

    Preorder the Book: 

    https://www.getunderlined.com/books/608329/this-is-my-america-by-kim-johnson/

    Kim’s Website: https://www.kcjohnsonwrites.com/

     

     

    I Should Have Worn A Curtain by Samyra Alexander

    This quick read follows one woman’s struggle to accept her childhood trauma, face her relationship with food with honesty and bravery, and overcome an illness that has kept her silent too long.

    Buy the Book: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B088KBYT6C

    Folow Samyra: https://twitter.com/SamyraTell

     

     

     

     

    Fears and Love by Halima ADISA

    Get the Book: https://twitter.com/leemah_deesah/status/1256860072401006593

    Follow Leema: https://twitter.com/leemah_deesah

     

     

     

     

    Island Seas by V.E. WilchCombe

    Can 12yr old Michael Jones survive the night alone on Lightning Cay? It belongs to them, everyone knows this! Island myths and legends come to life in my new fantasy novella.

    Buy the Book: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B084LL15MD

    V.E. Wilchcombe’s Website: https://starbeam88.wixsite.com/mysite-4

     

     

     

    Calculated Murder by H.G Ahedi

    In New York, Roumoult Cranston is infamously known for his keen interest in bizarre cases. So, when Garner Moss, a millionaire playboy is murdered by rich ex model, he is not intrigued. Fate intervenes when Roumoult becomes a prime suspect who was not only at the crime scene but also benefits from the dead man’s will.

    With only seven suspects, including Roumoult, who killed Garner Moss might be a simple question to answer, but why? When motives like jealously, revenge, lust, money, power do not apply, the quest to answer this question will open a Pandora box because, in the case of the Calculated Murder, the living and the dead tread on dangerous terrain.

    Buy the Book: amazon.com/H.G-Ahedi/e/B0

     

    H.G’s Ahedi’s Website: https://harbeerahedi.wordpress.com/hedi

     

    Older by Emily Schaubeck

    A collection of poetry and prose for the lost and broken hearted. As everyone is on their journey to healing as I am.

    Buy The Book: https://www.amazon.com/Older-Emily-Schaubeck/dp/1082090662

     


    Kidlit Books

    Not Your American Girl by Madelyn Rosenberg and Wendy Wan-Long Shang

    Lauren and her best friend, Tara, have always done absolutely everything together. So when they don’t have any classes together in sixth grade, it’s disastrous. The solution? Trying out for the school play. Lauren, who loves to sing, wonders if maybe, just maybe, she will be the star instead of Tara this time.

    But when the show is cast, Lauren lands in the ensemble, while Tara scores the lead role. Their teacher explains: Lauren just doesn’t look the part of the all-American girl. What audience would believe that she, half-Jewish, half-Chinese Lauren, was the everygirl star from Pleasant Valley, USA?

    From amidst the ensemble, Lauren tries to support her best friend. But when she can’t bring herself to sing anymore, her spot in the play and her friendship are in jeopardy. With the help of a button-making business, the music of Patsy Cline, and her two bickering grandmothers, can Lauren find her voice again?

    Buy the Book: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07VVTB9Q2

    Madelyn’s Website: http://www.madelynrosenberg.com/

    Wendy’s Website: http://wendyshang.com

     

    The Henna Wars by Adiba Jaigirdar

    Nishat doesn’t want to lose her family, but she also doesn’t want to hide who she is, and it only gets harder once a childhood friend walks back into her life. Flávia is beautiful and charismatic, and Nishat falls for her instantly. But when a school competition invites students to create their own businesses, both Flávia and Nishat decide to showcase their talent as henna artists. In a fight to prove who is the best, their lives become more tangled, but Nishat can’t quite get rid of her crush, especially since Flávia seems to like her back.

    As the competition heats up, Nishat has a decision to make: stay in the closet for her family, or put aside her differences with Flávia and give their relationship a chance.

    Buy The Book & Adiba’s Website: https://adibajaigirdar.com/the-henna-wars

    Adiba’s Twitter: https://twitter.com/adiba_j

     

    The Ocean Calls by Tina Cho Illustrated by Jess X. Snow

    Dayeon wants to be a haenyeo just like Grandma. The haenyeo dive off the coast of Jeju Island to pluck treasures from the sea–generations of Korean women have done so for centuries. To Dayeon, the haenyeo are as strong and graceful as mermaids. To give her strength, Dayeon eats Grandma’s abalone porridge. She practices holding her breath while they do the dishes. And when Grandma suits up for her next dive, Dayeon grabs her suit, flippers, and goggles. A scary memory of the sea keeps Dayeon clinging to the shore, but with Grandma’s guidance, Dayeon comes to appreciate the ocean’s many gifts.

    Buy The Book: https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/609075/the-ocean-calls-by-tina-cho-illustrated-by-jess-x-snow/

    Tina’s Website: https://www.tinamcho.com/

    Jess’ Website: http://www.jessxsnow.com/

     

  • Art,  Books,  Spring into Writing

    Superhero on the Side: Cyndi Marko

    Cyndi Marko puts the POW in Kung Pow Chicken — The book series, not the food (maybe also the food). She is a writer and illustrator. She started off her career hoping to sell picture books. Things don’t always happen the way we plan, but Cyndi did end up selling books. Just not the picture books she had planned. 

    Cyndi has now created a wonderful collection of superhero chicken books called Kung Pow Chicken. This was my son’s first chapter book. I read them to him when he was in kindergarten. It’s still on the top of my list for fun chapter book series! Cyndi’s new book Kung Pow Chicken: Jurassic Peck comes out in September.  The Kung Pow Chicken Collection can be now bought as a 4 in 1 book!

    Check out Cyndi’s Website here: https://www.cyndimarko.com/

    ————

    The Kung Pow Chicken Collection Cover!

    Dani: Besides writing and illustration, What is your superpower?

    Cyndi: Well, I’m actually pretty put out that I can’t fly or shoot lasers from my eyeballs, but I am a fairly decent cook. I love to put on loud music and just lose myself in the kitchen, and I always sing while I cook.

    Bread made by Cyndi!

    Cooking is a creative outlet for me separate from book work stuff. I’m particularly good at creating dishes from whatever’s on hand when there’s almost no food left in the house because I haven’t gone grocery shopping (which I hate doing), and I’m also good at recreating dishes I’ve had at restaurants. I hardly ever use recipes (except for when baking because science) and prefer to just go by instinct as I’m cooking. (Pro tip: there’s no such thing as too much garlic!)

    I love to bake as well, and have been making sourdough from my own starter for about a year now. I think I most enjoy making soups (I save bones and make my own stock) and baking fancy cookies at Christmas time. I think this love of cooking comes through in my books because I almost always find a way to incorporate food into my stories. There are candy corn cupcakes in KUNG POW CHICKEN and stale jelly donuts in THIS LITTLE PIGGY.

     

    Dani: How has your process changed since you first started creating books?

    Cyndi: I’m much faster now, for one thing. It used to take me months to make a sketch dummy for a picture book, and writing was like pulling teeth. But now I can sketch a dummy for a picture book in about a week, and a book like KUNG POW CHICKEN in about two weeks.

    The biggest difference is scale, I think. I used to sketch at full size and it led me to be a perfectionist. Over the years my sketches got progressively smaller. Now I sketch at thumbnail size and then enlarge when I scan. I can then edit the composition in PhotoShop, and print off and trace using my lightbox when I go to final art.

    As for writing, I’m much more likely to start with a loose outline before jumping into a first draft, which has totally helped my productivity. Also, I found a writing partner who writes and illustrates the same types of books as I do and getting feedback from a peer has been invaluable. (Hi, Troy!)

     

    Dani What’s it like writing your 5th book in a series? Is it hard keeping a series fresh so far into the series?

    Cyndi: It had been about five years since KUNG POW CHICKEN 4, so it was interesting to jump back in with book 5 (JURASSIC PECK). I had to reread the previous books to make sure I got all the details right. It surprised me how little I remembered writing the words or painting the art!

    But I had SO much fun working on book 5. We had more time in the schedule for each step of the book, and I found I was faster and more experienced. KPC 5 also has dinosaurs, and I have always wanted to do a book with dinosaurs so I was pretty much geeking out the entire time. I really love the end result and I hope we get to do many more KPC books. I don’t think I’ll ever run out of adventures for those plucky little chickens!

    Kung Pow Chicken: Jurassic Peck Cover. Coming in September!

     

    Dani: What is your favorite way to relax?

    Cyndi: Reading a book while having a glass of wine and eating Sour Patch Kids (pairs nicely with merlot) or spending time with friends. During social distancing I’ve found ways to spend time with friends online: playing tabletop games on Roll20 or watching a series or movie at the same time and chatting about it over messenger.

     

    Dani What are you working on now?

    Cyndi: So many things!

    Not Kung Pow, but still amazing! This Little Piggy: An Owner's Manual. Cover

    First there’s SLOTH SLEUTH, a graphic novel series about a sloth named Paz who solves mysteries on the fantastical island of Winklefuss. The first two books will come out in 2021 and 2022, published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. I’ve also got BOO! HISS! (Aladdin, 2021), about a ghost and a snake who are roommates in a haunted (by them) house.

    I also have a couple dozen (I’m not kidding) WIPs—works in progress for the layperson—on the go. I’m working on picture books, chapter books, graphic novels, middle grade novels, and maybe a humorous coffee table book for grown-ups. I am sometimes overwhelmed by so many ideas that I am dying to work on that I end up working on none of them and just drink too much coffee and share too many memes. But I am determined to prioritize!

    The covers to all four of the published Kung Pow Chicken books.
  • Books,  Spring into Writing

    2020 Books!

    Here is a short list of books I gathered from Twitter that had releases this year. Check them out and pick up a copy if you like! 

    I’m working through a long list of books suggested to me, so I will not have all of the books in this one post. I will continue to make posts on Tuesdays until I get through the list. 

    If there is a problem with the information on the page, please contact me. If there is a problem with any of the books I may not display them on my site.

    Children's Books

    MISADVENTURES OF A MAGICIAN’S SON  by Laurie Smollett Kutscera released April 1st (published by Blue Whale Press/Clearfork). Middle Grade.

    Website:  

    Buy the Book: https://www.indiebound.org/book/9781732893542

    Taste Your Words by Bonnie Clark. Illustrated by Todd Bright. Picture Book.

    Website:

    Bonnie Clark https://bonnieclarkbooks.com/

    Todd Bright http://www.toddbright.com/

    Buy the Book:

    https://www.amazon.com/Taste-Your-Words-Bonnie-Clark/dp/1546015175/

     

    Legend of the Storm Sneezer by Kristina Sfirlea. Middle Grade.

    Website: https://www.kristianasquill.com/

    Buy the Book: https://www.indiebound.org/book/9781948095563

    The Box Turtle by Vanessa Roeder. Picture Book

    Twitter: https://twitter.com/nessadeeart

    Buy the Book: https://www.bookpeople.com/book/9780735230507

     

     

    The Doggy Doctor and the Upset Tummy by Dr. Jacqueline Johnson illustrated by Chennon Roberts. Coming out later this year.

    Website: https://www.beardeddogpress.com/

     

    She Leads: The Elephant Matriarch 

    by June Smalls. Illustrated by Yumi Shimokawara.

    Website: https://junesmalls.com/

    Buy the Book: https://www.workman.com/products/she-leads

    Sloth Went by Adam Lehrhaupt. Illustrated by Benson Shum.

    Adam Lehrhaupt’s Website: http://adamlehrhaupt.com/

    Benon Shum’s Website: http://bensonshum.com/

     

    Adult


    Cells by Julia Cowan.  Languishing in a mysterious prison, a teenager is torn between exposing his abductors and his desire for a new life. 

    Website & Buy the Book: https://www.blkdogpublishing.com/cells

     

    Creativity Brewing 30 Short Stories Hand-Roasted to Perfection by Kevin Barrick and Jason Schneider

    Buy The Book:

    Website:

     

    BETRAYAL: A Jill Andersen Mystery by J.D. Gunegan

    Website: https://jdcuneganbooks.com/

    Buy the Book: https://books2read.com/b/mdzP8E

     

     

    Steampunk Leap Year by Jessica Lucci

    Buy the Book: https://www.etsy.com/shop/JessicaLucciBooks?ref=seller-platform-mcnav

     

  • Books,  Spring into Writing,  Writing

    Delightfully Dark Dea Poirier

    Write What You Love

    Dea Poirier is just delightfully dark. If I could name one Twitter feed that is just full of fun, it’s hers. Did I mention she’s hilarious? I laugh so much when I read her posts.

    Dea didn’t always think of herself as dark. She tried several different genres before she found her place in the book world. Today Dea is going to talk about her journey to find herself. 

    Dea has two books “Next Girl to Die” and “Beneath the Ashes”. These books have murder, mystery and lots of thrills. You can check out Dea’s website here: https://www.dhpoirier.com/

    Photo of Dea
    Cover of Next Girl To Die

    There’s a bit of writing advice that will still echo through the ether long after we’re all gone — write what you love. It’s great advice, really. Something I think we should all use as our starting point when we put pen to paper. But there’s something more than love that needs to be considered, what’s in your heart. It’s not just love that exists there, there’s so much more.

    When I started writing books—a thousand years ago—what I loved were historical books that had a lot of romance, fun fantasy books, oh and a lot of other books that are in no way representative of anything I could ever write. I thought I could craft books like the ones I loved, but the moment I tried, something very different came out of me.

    My first book was about a teenage version of God playing with the earth like it was an ant farm. He was super mean to the earth because he was bullied at school. Sounds like a fun premise, right? That is until you get to the villain—the dad that God didn’t know he had—that was literally destroying their planet by sucking the life out of it, and Earth was next. It got super dark, super fast.

     Whoops. My second book, I ventured into trying to write a fun paranormal romance about a teenage psychic. What did I end up with? Well, this particular psychic’s gift involved her being able to see and feel the exact way that someone would die if she touched them. An evil stage mother made her famous off this gift, and a radical doomsday cult thought the psychic had to die for the end of days to come… SUPER FUN RIGHT? Oh, and her boyfriend was dying. Good job bringing all the fun, Dea.

    Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed writing these books, but every person that read them began comping my work with The Hunger Games and they’d always say first Wow, that’s really dark before saying anything else about it. Naive baby writer Dea had no idea why they were so dark.

    This went on for years. I’d write a new book and get told it was too dark for the market. ALWAYS. I shifted to historical hoping for a better reception. I mean, if it’s dark because it’s historical, that’s fine, right? Nope. Then on to romance. Haha. I wish I knew what I was thinking. I finally found my stride when my agent at the time suggested that I try writing dark romantic suspense with troubled characters… and mystery is what ended up coming out. Not a single person has told me that Next Girl to Die or Beneath the Ashes are too dark, so yay. I’m hoping that one day a historical fantasy of mine might make it out into the world as well.

    My journey through so many genres taught me that it’s not just about writing what you love, and it never can be. Darkness is what comes out when I write, it’s not something I seek out on purpose, but it’s the subtext in all my prose. It took me a long time—over ten years—to understand what it would take to find the balance of what I love and what’s in my heart. There are some parts of us we just can’t fight no matter how hard we try. Maybe I should have embraced the darkness sooner. 

    Cover for Beneath the Ashes

     

    Bio: Best-selling author, Dea Poirier was raised in Edmond, Oklahoma, where she found her passion during a creative writing course. She studied computer science and political science at the University of Central Oklahoma. She later spent time living on both coasts and traveling the United States before finally putting down roots in central Florida. She now resides somewhere between Disney and the swamp with her son. Her books Next Girl to Die and Beneath the Ashes can be found wherever books are sold.

    Website: Dhpoirier.com

    Twitter: https://twitter.com/deapoirierbooks

    Find my books: https://www.amazon.com/Dea-Poirier/e/B07GNVZ9RK?ref_=dbs_p_ebk_r00_abau_000000

  • Books,  Spring into Writing,  Writing

    Sharon Giltrow, Digital Trailblazer

    Right now it’s a difficult world for everyone. Sharon Glitrow is one of the authors who has had to release their books during a pandemic. She has written a wonderful picture book called BEDTIME, DADDY. Sharon is here today to talk about releasing her book during this pandemic. Lots of great information for both people releasing books now, and in the future where a digital launch may be just a bonus.

    You can visit Sharon’s website here: https://sharongiltrow.weebly.com/about.html

    Releasing a Book During a Pandemic

    By Sharon Giltrow

    Covid-19 has forced all of us to make major changes to our daily lives. We have all had to find ways to do things differently, to adapt and change. My debut picture book BEDTIME, DADDY was released this month, May 1st, through EK books.

    Bedtime Bear Cover
    Cover of BEDTIME, DADDY!

    When I signed the publishing deal for BEDTIME, DADDY back in August 2018, I could never have imagined that twenty months later a pandemic would be sweeping the world. As a result, I have had to adapt and change the way that my book is being released and promoted.

    My in-person book launch for BEDTIME, DADDY was booked for June 21st (Father’s Day in the Northern Hemisphere). My favourite book shop in Fremantle, Western Australia, Paper Bird Children’s Books and Arts, was going to host the event. However, as a result of the required and essential Covid-19 social distancing rules, my in-person book launch became a virtual book launch.

    On May 1st, 2020, via Paper Bird’s live Instagram, from the comfort and safety of my own home, I launched my book BEDTIME, DADDY. I still wore my favourite dinosaur pyjamas.

    Interior of BEDTIME, DADDY! "Time to Brush Your Teeth."

     

    I still had an audience, my immediate family, as well as family and friends from around the world. There were still fun activities from BEDTIME, DADDY. Signed copies of BEDTIME, DADDY were still available through Paper Bird’s online store, and signed book plates were posted around the world. Cakes and cookies were still eaten at the end of the launch. So, despite the world-wide pandemic my book launch still happened, just in a different way. Actually, I may even have had more people at my virtual book launch as people from all over the world ‘attended’ through Instagram. Here is how I promoted my book launch on social media.

    Virtual Book Launch
    Virtual Book Launch Poster

    In-person book readings, signings and story times were also now out of the question. So, my publisher EK Books asked me to do a sneak peek read aloud of BEDTIME, DADDY on YouTube. I quickly upskilled myself in selfie-videos and found out that it is tricky to hold up a book and read naturally even though you can see yourself the whole time. But by the end of the fiftieth take, I finally got the hang of it.

    My publisher also asked me to do a radio interview on ABC – Radio National, but I couldn’t go into the studio. So, with the help of Voice Memos, a script I prepared, and my family, I was able to record the interview and email it to the radio station.

    My next challenge, with book shops now closed – How would readers discover BEDTIME, DADDY? The answer, online. Online book shops are now the main place to sell books so I stepped up my online presence through Twitter, Instagram and Facebook to let readers know that BEDTIME, DADDY existed.

    School visits are now on hold, but I have been sharing links to BEDTIME, DADDY’S teaching notes, for parents who are home-schooling and educators who are preparing online lessons. They can be found on EK Books and SCBWI – Australia West websites. I will also be recording and sharing short videos of some of these activities.

    Finally, as travelling is now out of the question, instead of going on an in-person book tour around Australia and possibly the world, I created a BEDTIME, DADDY blog tour,which can be found on my website. My book and I are now touring around virtual space.

    I hope that through this blog I have shown you that despite a world-wide pandemic, books can still be successfully released and that now more than ever they need to be released, purchased, read and shared.

    BEDTIME, DADDY! Interior Page: Your Daddy Will Ask, "One more story pleeeassse?"

    Sharon Giltrow grew up in South Australia, the youngest of eight children, surrounded by pet sheep and fields of barley. She now lives in Perth, WA with her husband, two children and a tiny dog. When not writing, Sharon works with children with Developmental Language Disorder. Sharon was awarded the Paper Bird Fellowship in 2019. Her debut PB BEDTIME, DADDY, released May 2020 through EK books.

  • Books,  Events,  Spring into Writing,  Writing

    Writer of Wonder Helena Ku Rhee

    It’s always fun finding new writers. While visiting Cythia Mackey’s website I read the most wonderful interview with Helena KuRhee. I fell in love with the idea behind the story of Helena’s new book: The Paper Kingdom! I had to find out more about this story about Helena herself. 

    To read more about Helena visit her website here: http://helenakrhee.com/

    —————

    Finding Magic and Wonder Around You

    by Helena Ku Rhee

     

    I have a rare gift: I’m never bored. Even as a child, I rarely complained of boredom. I wasn’t born with this gift. Instead, it was cultivated in me by two amazing people: my parents.

     

    When I was little, my parents worked as night janitors in a corporate building in L.A. And on nights they couldn’t find a babysitter for me, they took me with them to work, where they turned drudgery into magic. They told me funny stories about the people who worked in the offices by day, and helped me imagine a fantasyland in that empty office building. Thanks to them, I had early practice in the art of finding fun wherever I found myself. I wrote a children’s book about that time in my life, The Paper Kingdom, and it was released by Penguin Random House in early 2020. More info here: http://bit.ly/2IRw8Ti

    NPR interviewed me and illustrator Pascal Campion about our book, The Paper Kingdom. The interview is all about finding magic and inspiration. You can listen to the 6-minute interview here: https://www.npr.org/2020/03/14/815250760/behold-the-magic-of-take-your-child-to-work-night

    And I’ll let you in on a little secret: this gift of mine can be cultivated in all of us. How? Well, we hear phrases like “be in the now” or “live in the present.” But the key question is: how do you do this on a practical level, on a day-to-day basis?

    I’ll give you one concrete example. When I take my dog Sherwin on an early morning walk, I explore the neighborhood like a writer, hungry for sensory details that I can later use in my stories. I stop to observe the shape of shadows on the sidewalk from a neighbor’s tree. If my dog yanks on the leash to chase a squirrel, I take note of the burn of the leash in my hand, the strain of the muscles in my arm (these descriptions could be used in an action scene). And I try to listen for different layers of sound – the birds gossiping in the trees, an airplane flying overhead, music filtering out from a home. I smell lawns being mowed, the roses blooming near the sidewalk, the exhaust from a car zooming past. I’m hungry for these details because I know they’ll be useful when I sit down at my computer. In other words, my brain is engaged and I’m not bored.

    While I write this, our world is going through a very tough time due to Covid-19. We’re all so grateful for first responders and all those keeping our cities safe, clean, and livable. But people stuck at home may be bored and restless. Perhaps they’re stressed and filled with anxiety. So I get it. It’s not easy to fend off boredom when you’re trapped inside day in and day out. And it’s not so easy to take great interest in the shape of clouds, the sound of rain, the taste of dark chocolate when your mind is filled with worries.

    But I hope that no matter the circumstances, you manage to see magic and wonder in this amazing world. If you’re an aspiring author, that ability is a gift that’ll serve you well with your stories.

    Helena Ku Rhee is a writer based in Los Angeles. You can read more about her books and writing process here: http://helenakrhee.com/

    And if you want to keep posted about Helena’s events and news, subscribe here: http://eepurl.com/cPRrL5 All new subscribers will receive a free dreams-to-reality worksheet Helena put together to achieve her writing dreams. (You can use the worksheet for any goal you may have.)

    ————

    You can also follow Helena on Instagram (@helenakurhee), Twitter (@HelenaRhee) and Facebook (Helena Ku Rhee).  

    Each link has a list of places to buy Helena’s books!

     

    The Paper Kingdom: http://helenakrhee.com/books/the-paper-kingdom/

    The Turtle Ship: http://helenakrhee.com/books/the-turtle-ship/

  • Books,  Spring into Writing,  Writing

    Hippo Loves Larissa and Keith Marantz

    Larissa and Keith Marantz are the creators of the Clyde the Hippo series. They have worked together through four wonderful books. I realize now that I didn’t talk enough about Clyde the Hippo in this interview. It started with their child asking for a pet, and Keith saying that they didn’t need a pet, because they had a hippo in their back yard. Years later they worked together and came up a wonderful series with a hippo named Clyde! You can read more about their books here: http://clydethehippo.com

    Larissa Marantz
    Keith Marantz

    Recently Larissa and Keith launched their book series in a virtual book launch party! It was so much fun. In some ways it was better than a bookstore book launch because I (and many other people including their agent) got to see the launch even though I live so far away.  

    Dani: How do you both work through ideas?

    Larissa & Keith: Since we are a team, and we are married, ideas will happen at any time. Usually, Keith get his idea in the shower, and incidentally does a lot of his “writing” in the shower, too.

    He’s more of the “idea guy” and I’m more of the “refiner” of the ideas. Although I have had a few ideas for stories that we’ve worked on. Clyde Lied was based off of my idea that he ended up writing ( and will be released in June, 2020). Basically, we’ll talk about our ideas during our evening walks with the dog, or during the day. If I get a visual idea in my head, I’ll draw a really rough sketch of it in my sketchbook. I’ve got quite a few stories that haven’t been developed yet that are still in rough sketch form in my sketchbooks. When Keith gets an idea, he’ll write it down and spend some time with it. If he thinks it’s promising, he’ll develop it into something to pitch to our agent. She lets us know if it’s worth spending the time to pursue or not.

    Cover of Clyde Lied
    Cover of Clyde Goes to School

     

    Dani: What do you do when you aren’t working?

    Larissa & Keith: Well, right now in this pandemic, we are doing pretty much the same as we did before. We both work from home, but when we’re not working, we’d usually hang out at the house, taking walks, or go get dessert with our kids. Now, we’re baking desserts at home. Keith is a phenomenal chef so he enjoys making delicious meals every night to keep the feeling of normalcy as much as possible. Except, now his meals have interesting names. The other night he made Hawaiian food and named it Lockdown Luau featuring Kovid Kalua Pork, Quarantine Cabbage and Mac-Corona Salad.

    Yeah.

    Dani: If there was a movie or song that describes your life, what would it be?

    Larissa & Keith: I have no idea how to answer this but when I asked Keith he paused briefly and said “Ain’t No Stopping Us Now” by McFadden and Whitehead, 1979.

    (Keith pulled that out of his head, him being a former DJ, knew exactly the song, the band and they year it was released.)

    Dani: Any advice for working on projects with your significant other?

    Larissa & Keith: Be open to criticism from your loved one and don’t take it personally when your partner makes suggestions for improvement. Remember that the project you’re working on is a team effort and the goal is to make it a success, and sometimes that means dropping your ego and not holding on to things that you want, but letting go and being open to possibilities. Know what your strengths are in the partnership and know what your weaknesses are so that you can each utilize your strengths and help each other out where the other needs help.

    Yes, those are the rules we’ve set. But I have to admit that I’m still learning those rules. It’s very challenging at times, but conversely, it’s also extremely rewarding to know that together we are using the best of our abilities to make something we hope will make a mark in the literary world.

    Dani: What projects do you have on the way?

    Larissa & Keith: We are both working on our first graphic novel, BLAKE LASER, about a 12 year old inventor who must stop aliens from stealing the sun’s energy which would lead to the total destruction of Earth within 48 hours. It’s set in the 24th century and the main character has a fun relationship with her annoying older brother that will make this epic tale really relatable to readers. That, and we are trying to get through life in a pandemic. We’re lucky we have our health, our family, and an exciting challenging project to engage us during this time.

    Cover of Clyde Likes to Slide
    Cover of Clyde Likes to Ride

    Follow Larissa and Keith:

    Buy Clyde the Hippo: BooksaMillion (More options on the webpage below)

    Clyde The Hippo’s Website: http://clydethehippo.com

    Larissa’s Website: http://larissamarantz.com/

    Larissa’s Online Art Classes http://larissamarantz.com/oc-art-studios.html

    Twitter

    Clyde the Hippo: https://twitter.com/clydethehippo

    Larissa Marantz: https://twitter.com/LarissaMarantz

    Keith Marantz: https://twitter.com/keith_marantz

  • Books,  Spring into Writing,  Writing

    Creative Champion Christina Myers

    Christina Myers was a journalist who is now a freelance writer and editor. She has written articles and stories for magazines, newspapers and anthologies. Recently Christina edited the Anthology BIG: Stories about Plus-Sized Bodies. She also written a story in this fantastic anthology. I have my book on order and can’t wait for it to come! You can scroll to the bottom of this post to get links to the book.

    I’m so lucky to have her living in the same city as myself. I have met her. I’ll tell you a secret, she’s fantastic! You can check out her website here: https://christinamyerswrites.wordpress.com/

    She’s here talking about creating while having kids. What a great time to have this discussion. Right now many parents are home with their kids and for many the situation is difficult. Christine has some lovely words that will help you feel better about your situation.

    ———————–

    Photo by TwinLens Photography

    Juggling Act: Kids and Creating

    It’s said that Grace Metalious – the author of one of the best-selling books of all time – routinely sent her kids out into the neighbourhood, locked the door, and let them fend for themselves so she could spend the day writing. Neighbours would give them snacks and they’d spend the day wandering; meanwhile, Metalious was holed up in her rundown cottage, furiously typing away.

    Ultimately, the approach worked: her book was picked up by a major publisher and then became such a phenomenon, it was eventually spun off into a tv show, an Academy Award-winning film, and then a sequel. It sold more than 12 million copies and made its author into a very wealthy woman. To this day, Peyton Place is considered one of the most widely read novels ever published.

    The concept of “carving out space for yourself” was not yet around in the 1950s but if it had been, Metalious would certainly have been an extreme version of it.

    In truth, for every Grace Metalious who ignores kids in favour of writing, there’s a million other parents (usually mothers) at the far opposite end of the spectrum – ignoring creative passions, because of the demands of parenting. The day fills up easily with a million small and big tasks, from feeding to diapering when they’re babies, to the juggle of activities and schoolwork later, and then on to the emotional upheaval of puberty and beyond.

    It’s well intentioned, of course, but fueled by a culture that expects mothers to be selfless and perpetually available in order to ensure their children are happy, healthy, thriving and successful (but that conversation could be a lengthy post all its own.) The result of this pressure on parents is countless people who want to write, draw, sing, design, paint, play, or otherwise create, but who set aside their passions entirely – and once abandoned, those passions are often impossible to return to later.

    The best path, as is so often the case, is the one that exists somewhere between these two polar opposite approaches – but finding that path can be tricky. To have interests and hobbies and pursuits beyond our own children, even when we logically know they’re good to have, can spark intense bouts of mom-guilt (or simply increase the ever-present level of mom-guilt). Somehow, setting aside time for ourselves feels wrong, even if most of our time is devoted to others. (This is the same flawed thinking that leads so many of us to easily indulge in new clothing for our children, while we carry on in the same 10-year-old jacket with holes in the pockets.)

    On top of the emotional side of this equation is the practical aspects. Even if you want to pursue your own goals, you might simply not have the time, depending on the dynamic of your own family, how many kids you have, how much energy goes into your work either at home or the office, and even financial limitations (most writers can afford a notebook but things get trickier when you’re looking at art supplies or instruments.)

    For most of us, “carving out space” is both a mental and physical task, in equal measure. I’ve spent years trying to figure out the balance between feelings of guilt and limited time, sometimes successfully, and sometimes not – and here’s a little bit of what I’ve found helpful:

    Letting go of the guilt is easier said than done, I know. But every single time that feeling crops up, look at it objectively and critically: what’s making me feel like this right now? Is it valid? What’s another way I could approach this? Are my children clothed, fed, happy and healthy and if so, what is it exactly that I feel guilty about? Imagine what you would tell a friend feeling the same way? How much more gentle and kind would you be to a friend than you are to yourself? Better yet, imagine what you would say to your own child if they felt “guilty” for enjoying an activity that was special to them. Speak to yourself the way you would a best friend, your spouse, or your children. Find a phrase or quotation that helps you re-focus, something as simple as saying “I’m allowed to have my own interests” to start re-shaping your internal dialogue.

    Ironically, most research shows that parents who have their own interests and hobbies tend to have happier, more balanced households. Their children grow up in a family dynamic that models what it looks like to allow room and time for everyone to pursue what makes them happy. Imagine if pursuing your own passions also makes you a better mom in the process? Instead of feeling bad, think of the benefits: we know intuitively that most of us feel more relaxed, calm, and content when we have time doing something we love, whether it’s a creative pursuit or gardening or working out.

    Finding actual time and physical space is an equally challenging task. To find time, think about what you’re willing to trade: don’t drop your favourite TV show but if you watch things that you’re not adoring, maybe consider swapping one of them for a bit of time working on your projects. Do you usually spend the time at your child’s karate class alternately watching them and surfing on your phone? Bring along a notebook and jot down ideas, images, or other inspirations. Even those small allotments towards your craft may feel challenging when your brain needs downtime (which every parent needs especially as the end of the day approaches) but you may find the creative activity gives you more energy in the long run and the satisfaction provides a different kind of relaxation. Creating room for yourself as a parent rarely means an actual room – if you’re lucky enough to have a spare space, it’s probably full of toys, games, and crafts. Maybe you can’t set up a desk for your writing or a room to paint, but you can start with a corner somewhere – or use a common space at a quiet time during the day.

    Find support for these things in community – search out online groups for artists and writers, or get involved in a local organization. Joining events like Spring into Writing create both a network and a sense of guidance and deadlines to help stay focused. Talk to other writers with kids the same as age as yours, to commiserate – and talk to writers with kids who are older, so you know what’s coming (for example, I can tell you that my kids almost always sleep in on Saturday mornings now, even though they were 6 a.m. risers for years – guess what I use the extra time for – at least when I’m not feeling guilty about the laundry!)

    Finally, forget about perfection – in your parenting or in your art. Perfection kills possibility. Write imperfect drafts and learn from them. Make imperfect plans and try again if it doesn’t work. Be patient with yourself – and your kids (if they don’t sleep in now, I promise they will someday.)

    None of us needs to be Grace Metalious to create – but if we don’t create at all, we’ll lose ourselves along the way, and maybe lose our own versions of Peyton Place, too.

    ————————

    Follow Christine:

    Website: https://christinamyerswrites.wordpress.com/

    Twitter: https://twitter.com/ChristinaMyersA

    BIG Anthology (Canada Only): https://caitlin-press.com/our-books/big/

    BIG Anthology (Everywhere Else): https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/big-christina-myers/1132740881

    Cover image for BIG: Stories about Life in Plus-Sized Bodies
    Cover for BIG: Stories about Life in Plus-Sized Bodies
  • Books

    How About A Night Out?

    How About A Night Out?

    Have you ever wondered what cats do when the sun goes down? Sam Williams “How About A Night Out?” gives a glimpse into the life of a city cat. Illustrator Matt Hunt beautifully illuminates the night life of a city cat. The characters are cute and fluffy and I want to take them all home!

    Story

    The lights go out and the cats go out to prowl. Sam Williams story is both realistic and magical. He takes you through a the journey of cats throughout the night. My favorite page in the book says, “How about a night out? A walk about? A prowl about?” There are a lot of phrases in this book that are just a joy to read out loud.

    The story is in rhyme. In most stories this type of rhyme wouldn’t work, but the focus is more on the repetition of the words than the actual rhymes themselves. It’s a very fun story to read out loud. My 3 year old loves this book, but it’s fun enough that I’d read it to myself.

    Art

    These cats look like they are having a lot of fun throughout this book! Though the story is at night, and Matt Hunt uses a lot of black in the backgrounds, the pictures are bright and cheery. There are no drab pages. Matt uses bold, bright, colors in his art.

     Matt uses several angles to tell his story. Most of the story is close up to the cats or an overview of the city rooftops (but always with the cats in view). My favorite image is in the center of the book where silhouettes of cats travel over a bridge. The perspective he uses for the different planes of the top and bottom of the bridge aren’t accurate, but put together they make a strikingly beautiful scene. 

    Get The Book

    Pick up How About A Night Out: https://www.amazon.com/How-About-Night-Out-Williams/dp/1912757141/

    Sam Williams’s Website: Sam Williams doesn’t appear to have an official website or use social media at all. Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/36802.Sam_Williams 

    More about How About A Night Out?: http://ww.boxerbooksltd.co.uk/uk/book/210/how-about-a-night-out

    Illustrator Matt Hunt: https://www.matthuntillustration.com/

    Remember to ask your library to pick up a copy of this book. Also leave a good review for this book on Goodreads and Amazon!

  • Book Review,  Books

    I Wish You All The Best

    I Wish You All the Best by Mason Deaver

    “I Wish You All the Best” by Mason Deaver is a beautifully written story. This book was extra emotional for me so it was hard to write about. I can’t even imagine how Mason felt writing this story. This book is amazing. I need more stories like this in my life

    I am bisexual and I really felt for Ben in this story. Their parents are much like my parents were when I was a teenager. I don’t know what would have happened if I had come out as (or even known that I was) bisexual in high school.

     I want to send a bunch of hug and love to everyone who comes out to their parents. If anyone lost their parents because they came out I will give you an extra special mom hug if you ask.

    Story

    This story starts with eighteen year old Ben coming out to their parents as nonbianary. Ben’s parents, who are very conservative in their values, kick Ben from the house. Ben leaves the house with just their socks and flimsy clothes in the freezing cold. Ben calls their sister who they haven’t seen in years. At a new school Ben meets Nathan. Nathan is nice to Ben despite the fact that Ben is withdrawn.

    “I Wish You All the Best” is an absolutely beautiful journey from start to finish. Ben is devastated with losing their family and the life they’ve known since birth. Ben becomes depressed and needs the support of the the people around them.

    The characters in this story feel real. Ben is such a strong character! Ben’s parents remind me of my own. Every character has a reason and a purpose in the story. There aren’t characters that fall flat. The story is realistic and can be sad at times. Even though there is a lot of sadness it’s overwhelmingly hopeful. This book is absolutely one of the best novels I’ve read.  

    I hate to give spoilers, but so many stories like this end in tragedy. If you are looking or needing a coming out or queer story that has a happy ending this is a great book to read! Just don’t forget to bring the tissues.

     

    Buy The Book

    Pick up I Wish You All the Best here: https://www.masondeaverwrites.com/buyiwyatb

    Mason Deaver’s Website: https://www.masondeaverwrites.com/

    More about I Wish You All the Best: https://www.masondeaverwrites.com/i-wish-you-all-the-best

    Jacket Art by Sarah Maxwell: https://www.sarahmaxwellart.com/i-wish-you-all-the-best

    Remember to ask your library to pick up a copy of this book. Also leave a good review for this book on Goodreads and Amazon!