A short bit of creative advice

f-it-meme

After a few years of being a professional writer/artist, I have come to a sad yet seemingly true conclusion – in order to be a success in any creative field, you have to adopt somewhat of a f***-it attitude. In other words, you have to stop caring so much what people think. Yes, some people will hate your work no matter how great it is…but on the up side, some people will love your work even when it sucks. Hopefully in the end it evens out.

If you dare to create work dealing with important subjects, you are bound to eventually come under attack from people who disagree with you. Many times it won’t be your work they dislike but your point of view…unfortunately most people are unable to be objective about anything relating to subjects they are passionate about. Learn to shrug your shoulders at the oddities of human nature and let it go.

Remember that in the end it is yourself you must please as an artist. There is nothing wrong with making money from your creations or even becoming popular, but always make sure to stay true to yourself. Make what you love. Make a contribution that only you could make.

Should book reviewers charge fees?

money-backgroundI know many indie authors and others in the literary world have vastly opposing opinions on the matter of whether book reviewers should charge fees for their services. I struggled with this issue a lot myself as a book reviewer. On the one hand, you want your reviews to be unbiased, honest and taken seriously. However, on the other hand, as a reviewer, I know that it does take a lot of time to read and review books. Each book, depending on the length can take anywhere from 30 minutes (short picture books) to a few hours to read through, especially when you are reading with a critical eye to be able to give a fair review. Add to that the time it takes to write up the review, post it online and promote the post and you can easily spend many hours creating a good book review.

For a long time I did offer free or donation-based reviews. The trouble was that I became so overwhelmed with all the time and effort of reviewing everyone else’s work that I started to slack off on my own writing and book promotional duties. For a while I tried to balance it all, but eventually realized that if I were to justify all the time I was using writing reviews, I should ask for at least a small compensation for the time and effort on my part. I never did approve of those reviewers that charge ridiculous reading fees up to several hundred dollars and think that many of them exist simply to take advantage of excited indie authors who are having a hard time finding reviews. I decided right away I WOULD NOT be one of those guys. So I decided to charge between $15 and $25 for reviews, depending on the length of the book. I still generally don’t even earn minimum wage per hour for actual time spent reading and reviewing, but I’m ok with that because I do love the work.

I know not everyone agrees with my decision and I’m ok with that. I definitely believe everyone should go with their gut when it comes to doing what feels right, but I hope they can at least understand my point of view as well. I should also mention that I do sometimes still do unpaid reviews. I occasionally trade reviews with other authors if their books are in a similar genre and I still do some reviews just because I love a book or an author and I want to share my thoughts.

Even with the reading fee, I am still careful to pick books to review that interest me too, after all, there are some genres I just don’t feel like I can do justice to in a review, because I don’t know enough about the genre. That is why I tend to stick to children’s, young adult, women’s, nonfiction and poetry genres.

Well, that is my view on things. Feel free to leave a comment below and express your opinion.

I am an award-winning author!!! Yay! Woo-hoo!

I got some very exciting but unexpected news recently! The first children’s ebook I ever published, “In Memory of Dad”, published a little over a year ago has been named a finalist for the Literary Classics International Book Awards! Although the award levels and categories won’t be announced until October 15th, I do know that my book placed in at least one of the categories!

What made this a real surprise is that I don’t remember entering my book in this competition, so I assume someone else did for me! Whoever did, I want to say I am most grateful and thrilled! For those of you who haven’t read “In Memory of Dad”, please consider doing so! This ebook is a short story about a girl dealing with the loss of her father. It is a positive story about grief, loss, friendship, healing and being able to move on after a tragedy. The suggested age range for this ebook is 8-12, but even adults have found it moving. You can read “In Memory of Dad” on the Kindle for only $0.99!

“Who Am I?” Picture Book Review

“Who Am I?” is an inspirational picture book produced by Panda Heart Publishing, a company that focuses all of their attention on making the world better for children and helping each person, no matter how small, find the truth of who they are inside.

Written by Suzanne Mulcahy and illustrated by Patty O’Rourke, “Who Am I?” is a unique picture book.  Its main character, Yin, is an adorable panda bear who is searching for his own identity.  By asking his mother a series of profound questions, Yin comes to see that there are many parts that make up who he is, but perhaps the most important part of all is his heart.

And why is the heart so important?  Because it contains your ability to love as well as some special gifts that only you can share with the world.  By the last page, Yin is proud of who he is and all that he has to offer, a feeling that would change the lives of children all over the world if they were only allowed to see the power that lies in their own humanity.

I would definitely recommend this book for younger children, particularly those who are starting to recognize their individuality.  Books like this are great for helping children attain a healthy self-image and become more self-aware.  It should also be mentioned that the author, Suzanne Mulcahy, has been a licensed school psychologist for over 25 years, so she has a great deal of experience in helping children find their place in the world.

If you would like to find out more about this book, the author or the other products offered by Panda Heart Publishing, please visit www.pandaheartpublishing.com.

‘The Magical Horses’ – an inspirational tale for children of all ages

At first glance, “The Magical Horses”, written by Beate Epp, seems to simply be a tale of adventure, but if you look closer and actually read this incredible story, you will find both wisdom and inspiration within its pages.

Although this book is mainly marketed as a children’s book, its message is one that is needed by all age groups, especially those who have lost the magic of hope and faith.

The story of “The Magical Horses” begins with a young boy named Kiran who finds himself thrown into an entirely new environment.  Already upset by the sudden changes in his life, Kiran is even more devastated when tragedy strikes the family.  It is at this point that Kiran’s grandfather gives him a special gift that introduces Kiran to a magical world where mice talk and horses hold the answers to peace and happiness.  Although Kiran is the main human character, there are also two very important mice named Poldy and Leo.  These two mice embark on a journey to learn the truth about the magical horses and why they disappeared, in the hopes of bringing these amazing beings back.

Through their journeys, Poldy and Leo learn many useful lessons, but most importantly, they learn that magic still resides in each of us.  With every choice we make, we choose to make the world peaceful and loving, or we choose to make the world a dark place where magic can no longer exist.  Through these two mice, Kiran learns to change his own reality.  Many people have heard the saying, “seeing is believing”, but this book reminds us that sometimes it is the other way around and our beliefs become what we see in the world around us.

This book truly is a great read, not only because of its exciting story and meaningful message, but also because the narrative is truly passionate.  This book is a celebration of all things natural and supernatural.  In fact, it makes you believe that maybe the natural world really isn’t too far removed from the magical world…if only we could see it.

‘Quirky Kids’ Zoo’ – The World’s Most Unusual Zoo?

The new picture book, ‘Quirky Kids’ Zoo’, which was written by Pat Brannon and illustrated by Jimena Pinto-Kroujiline, is a fun foray into an imaginary zoo.  At this zoo, animals don’t just sit behind the cages and stare at visitors, they put on a show!  From skating gorillas to water-skiing buffaloes, these animals are sure to appeal to your child’s sense of humor.

The illustrations that accompany the rhyming text are colorful and cute.  Each animal was drawn with quite a bit of personality, so your child will never get bored while flipping through the pictures.  As for the rhymes, they flow well and tell the story without seeming contrived.  The rhythm is good, so parents who read this aloud will find the experience pleasant.  I know some parents are weary of rhyming stories because they have read too many that feel forced, but this book is truly a pleasure to read.

For those parents who want reading time to not only be entertaining, but educational as well, ‘Quirky Kids’ Zoo’ will meet both of those demands.  Each page teaches a number, starting with the number one and progressing up to number twenty-five.  The numbers refer to each group of animals, so your child will have fun counting the animals on each page.  They probably won’t even realize that they are learning their numbers, but you will!  This is a great book to read together with your child, so that you can reinforce the number concepts and make reading time an interactive experience.

If you would like to order ‘Quirky Kids’ Zoo’ for your little one, you can order a copy from Amazon, Books-A-Million or Barnes and Noble.  To see more books written by Pat Brannon, please visit her author website, PatBrannon.com.

‘The Traz’ – a heartbreaking story about youth and consequences

I must admit when I first started reading ‘The Traz’ (the first book of the BackTracker series), by Eileen Schuh, I wasn’t sure if I would really be able to relate to it or not.  After all, I am a pretty straight-laced person.  I’ve never done drugs, never really took up smoking or drinking, never joined a gang or ran with a rough crowd and wouldn’t be caught dead on a dark city street at night.  However, I did grow up around people who did all of those things.  Some of those people were able to give up the street life and settle down, but some of them ended up homeless, in prison or dead.

The main character in ‘The Traz’ is a 13-year-old girl named Katrina.  Katrina has a lot going for her.  She is highly intelligent, in fact, she ranks as a genius according to the Mensa scale, and she is also wealthy and beautiful, even if she does still look like a child.  Katrina has also endured more than her share of heartache.  Everyone who ever cared about her has passed away, including her beloved grandparents and her father.  Katrina’s mother is also dead, but since Katrina and her mother never got along this doesn’t seem to affect Katrina as much as the loss of her other relatives.

After she is left alone, Katrina starts to rebel and act out, like almost any child would in those circumstances.  It gets to the point that her new guardians can’t handle her, so they plan to hand her over to social services.  At this point, Katrina meets a member of a local biker gang and takes off with him.  I’m not sure that she really wanted to be a part of this gang, but she was desperate to belong somewhere and didn’t want to end up being forced to live with strangers in a foster home.

Intrigued by the danger and excitement of street life, Katrina finds herself falling farther into the gang lifestyle.  Of course, there is a part of her that still wants to play on the safe side too, particularly since Katrina’s father was a police officer when he was alive.  Soon Katrina is playing both sides, which can be the most dangerous place to be, especially when there are secrets and betrayals going on all around.

I don’t want to give away the entire plot, but I will say that the story is gritty and realistic from what I have seen of street life.  As a foster parent, I have seen many children like Katrina who are confused, alone and looking for anywhere to belong, regardless of how dangerous that place may be.  This book is very engaging since readers want to see Katrina make good choices and go on to live a good life even though there are so many obstacles blocking her path.  Hopefully this series won’t end in tragedy, although it seems that danger is lurking around every corner.

Although this book has been recommended by some readers for preteens, teens and adults, I personally think this book is more appropriate for teens and adults than it is for preteens.  Of course, each child matures at their own rate and some children are wise beyond their years, so it’s really up to the parent to decide what is appropriate and helpful to their child.  I will say that I really love the section that the author added to the back of the book where she looks closely at the choices that were made in the story and encourages readers to think critically about the consequences each choice entails.

‘The Traz’ is an engaging read that is both entertaining and thought-provoking.  If you would like to read this story for yourself, you can order the Kindle edition from Amazon.com for only $2.99, or you can order the story in various electronic formats from Smashwords.com.

Book signing lessons for new authors and why Willy Wonka would make a great bookseller

Since I will soon have my own published book that I will need to travel around and promote, I’ve decided to check out a few local author talks and book signing sessions to see what I can learn about what works and what doesn’t work.  The first author signing I attended was today.  At a Barnes & Noble store near Dayton, I stopped by to listen to an elderly man read his picture book during storytime.  Here are a few of the lessons I learned from the little old man today:

1.  If a little kid decides that your book is less than enthralling and decides to throw it on the ground and stomp on it repeatedly, YOU MUST NOT PUNCH HIM.  I know it’s tempting, but you just can’t do it.

2.  Dressing up like Willy Wonka does seem to draw in the kids.  Maybe it would work even better if I give away candy…if not, I can always eat the candy myself.

3.  If the kid throwing a tantrum is louder than you, you will likely lose your audience.  Scream at the top of your lungs if need be.

4.  If the only people who show up for your book signing are relatives, pretend that you don’t know them.  That way, people will think that you are more popular than you really are.  Of course, it is possible that the old man was simply senile, in which case, I feel terrible for making fun of his condition.

5.  No matter what your story is actually about, just throw in a few words about world peace and watch your profit margin grow!!!

Well, that’s the end of the lessons for today.  If any of you have advice to share about author readings or book signings, please feel free to share!

‘Girls Rule’ a very special book…

‘Girls Rule…a very special book created especially for girls’ is a truly  unique book.  Written by Ashley Rice and published by Blue Mountain Arts,  this book is one that every preteen and teenage girl should read.   Why?  Because almost all girls who are going through the confusion of  adolescence struggle with self-confidence and finding their personal  identity.

Hollywood, magazines, tv shows, books and peers can confuse young girls and  have them looking in the wrong places for self-esteem, but this book  points young adults in the right direction…

Continue reading on Examiner.com ‘Girls Rule…a very special book created especially for girls’ – Dayton Books | Examiner.com http://www.examiner.com/books-in-dayton/girls-rule-a-very-special-book-created-especially-for-girls#ixzz1NK2L8MhJ

Help for teens with weight issues

‘Weighing In’ written by Sylvie Boutaudou and illustrated by Laetitia Aynie, is a great read for any teen or pre-teen who struggles with their weight or other appearance issues.  The book is written in a down-to-earth style that appeals to young readers and includes many colorful and sometimes funny illustrations to keep the boredom factor at bay. 

The book is split into three sections (called phases in the book), including Phase 1: Overweight, Under Happy, Phase 2: How I Got to be so Heavy and Phase 3: How to Lose Weight.

Overweight and Under Happy addresses the emotional and social problems that go along with being overweight…

To read the rest of this article, please visit Examiner.com: http://www.examiner.com/books-in-dayton/weighing-help-for-teens-with-weight-issues