Monday, October 27, 2014

Featuring Odie & Bandit

I have been busy recently with writing guest articles and creating blog posts for other blogs instead of my own. Odie and Bandit and their stories have recently been featured on several different blogs. Some blogs were focused more on cats and their stories, some were focused on inspirational stories, and others were geared more towards aspiring writers. Odie the Stray Kitten was also named 2014 Best Early Reader Picture Book by Children's Literary Classics and was featured as the Indie Book of the Day. I wanted to share the links to these different features in a post of my own so that you can keep up with the adventures of Odie and Bandit as they share their stories all over the world!

Carrie Cross Blog: Why Children Appreciate Animal Stories (September 17, 2014)

Kindle Book Reviewer Valerie Harmon Review and Interview (September 22, 2014)

The Finch's Nest: A True Friend to Animals (September 29, 2014)

Odie the Stray Kitten named 2014 Best Early Reader Picture Book by Children's Literary Classics (October 15, 2014)

Cat Chat with Caren and Cody: Children's Cat Books (October 17, 2014)

Cat's Stories: Children's Cat Picture Books (October 27, 2014)

Odie the Stray Kitten named the Indie Book of the Day (October 27, 2014)

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Author Carrie Cross's Advice for Aspiring Writers

Today I have a post from a guest blogger and fellow author. Carrie Cross is the author of the Skylar Robbins teen mystery series. Her first book Skylar Robbins: The Mystery of Shadow Hills is available on Amazon, and the second book Skylar Robbins: The Mystery of the Hidden Jewels will be available in November 2014. She has been kind enough to provide some advice for aspiring authors and some of her inspiration for her books. Enjoy!

Carrie Cross's Advice for Aspiring Writers 

In a recent interview I was asked what advice I would give to aspiring writers, and what I use for inspiration, and here are my replies:

Enjoy the writing process and revise, revise, revise. Get as many people as possible to read your manuscript and give you constructive criticism. Don’t just rely on family and friends for feedback. They love you and will tell you your book is great, even if it isn’t.

Find beta readers in your target age group who you don’t know personally. For instance, I asked my account base at work if they had children who would be willing to read my book, Skylar Robbins: The Mystery of Shadow Hills, before publication, and emailed the manuscript to those kids. Their feedback was invaluable.

Finally, don’t let rejections from agents deter you from getting published. Self-publish if you don’t get a contract; you’re going to do most of your own marketing anyway. Calvin Coolidge said it best: Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent!

I was asked what I use for inspiration when I wrote Skylar Robbins: The Mystery of the Hidden Jewels (Teen Mystery Press, November 2014), my answer was this: I use a game I call, “What if?”. What if my main character, Skylar Robbins, explored a creepy old house and found it had a hidden floor? What would she find when she got there? What if she used an ultraviolet light in the attic and found a secret message written on the wall in invisible ink? What would it say? I like to put my hero in that type of situation and let my imagination go wild.

So my advice to aspiring writers is to interview your protagonist in your mind. Throw him or her into a sticky situation and ask how they would react. What if your main character discovered a tunnel hiding under some leaves in his backyard? Where would it lead? What if someone scary was hiding at the other end of the tunnel? How would he react? What if an unusual classmate begged your hero for a huge favor that was impossible to deny? How would she reply?

Put your characters into a challenging scenario and watch the scene unfold. The outcome may surprise you.

Carrie Coss's Amazon Author Page

Skylar Robbins Blog

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Review: Little Bird Lost

Little Bird Lost
By Kate Larkinson
Photos by Steve Larkinson

Page count: 24
Age: Infant through beginning reader

Colorful and Poetic 

The photographs of this book match the text perfectly as readers follow the story of a baby bird hidden in the nest behind its rivalling siblings. The lost baby is out of sight of Mom and Dad when mealtime arrives. Readers follow the journey of finding the baby bird in beautifully captured, crisp photographs with perfectly matching, rhyming text. The photographs and poetry will captivate a child while bringing a smile to the adult reader. It’s a colorful, poetic journey for infants through beginning readers.   

Purchase on Amazon
Little Bird Lost on Facebook 

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Review: Piggy

By Karen Malena

Page count: 103
Age: Middle Grade (also appropriate for younger children)

An Animal Story with True Heart 

Within the first few pages of Piggy, readers are introduced to the world of Piggy the cat and her best friend Melvin the mouse. Narrated by a mother cat named Goober, telling the tale to her rescue kitten Peanut, the story moves from Piggy and Melvin's budding friendship because of an incident in a claw-machine to the exploration of their backyard and the interesting characters they meet. These characters include Bolivar, an angry bully of a tomcat, Rolf, an old German Shepher and retired K-9, and a fleet of rescue birds led by a robin known only as Corporal. Piggy and Melvin survive a move into a new house together and the adventures that soon follow.  

The world of the cat and mouse is clearly described with use of great detail that appeals to all of the senses, and some bigger words are used to help expand a young child’s vocabulary. It is a middle grade book, but it is appropriate to read to younger children as well.

Much happens in this story. There are the adventures of Piggy and Melvin, discovering what it means to be true friends, and the curiousity of Peanut, who has dealt with rejection and  tough times as a rescued runt. A familiar moral is explained subtly but in a new light by Goober--that it’s not the outward appearance that matters most, it’s the heart.  

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Review: The Perpetual Papers of the Pack of Pets

The Perpetual Papers of the Pack of Pets
By Stanley & Katrina

Page count: 106
Age: K-4

An overbearing but polite housecat and a contented dog share a house and owners. After three years of living in the same home, they begin exchanging letters instead of talking to each other. Katrina von Cat, the Master of Wisdom and Knowledge, is a gray tabby cat and self-appointed character judge. Stanley, a rottweiler/lab mix is simply happy being a dog and eating Katrina’s food. The exchanged letters cover a slew of topics, from Katrina taking Stanley to Kitty Court, to the duo’s first experience in a pet show.  

The book is very creatively written in its format and style, as the letters are written from the perspective of the animals and interspersed with narrator text. The salutations and closings of the letters are clever and funny. They left me laughing several times. 

Overall it was a quick and entertaining read. I recommend it for a parent to read aloud or for a beginning reader to try on their own. It is truly an original for animal lovers. 

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Reviews of Other Animal Stories for Children

Since the creation of this blog, I have posted solely about my animal stories for children. I've written about the animals, the inspirations and my current journey through indie publishing. But there's only so much readers want to read about my books. I am going to expand this blog to include other animal stories for children. I am writing reviews of other indie children's books that feature animals and their stories. I will not post any negative reviews here. If I don't recommend it, I won't post it.

Besides giving insight into my books and writing, I also want this blog to be a means to encourage parents to read to their children by helping them navigate the many books available now for children. Please stay tuned, the first review is almost ready! In the meantime, here is the most recent review of my second book, Odie's Best Friend, courtesy of Lisa Hayes of Kabuki Reads and Kabuki Helps.    

Review of Odie's Best Friend, by Lisa Hayes of Kabuki Helps

Monday, June 16, 2014

The Animal Shelter Story

Odie's Best Friend is the follow-up book to last year's Odie the Stray Kitten, and it went live on May 1.

Let me give you a little back story on this book. I wrote Odie the Stray Kitten exactly as I remember it happening that cold winter day. I wanted to write Bandit's story and share it as well. The only problem was that I didn't know all of Bandit's story. Bandit came with the farm when we purchased it two years ago. He was listed in our purchase agreement simply as "cat." We were getting him with the house per my request and the acceptance of that request from the owners. The owners were moving into an apartment and didn't want to take an outdoor cat with them. The wife was a very sweet lady who cried at the closing when she thought about leaving Bandit behind. She asked that I take good care of him and I promised that I would.

It took Bandit several months to warm up to us. I would see him hanging around the porch, but he always hid whenever my husband or I tried to get too close. He was aware that we were the ones filling up his food bowl each day, but he did not acknowledge it. Until we tried to move said food bowl, and he had a fit. Then he began acknowledging our existence, but we weren't allowed near him. Finally, as described in the book, I spent one afternoon on the porch with him. I was able to pet him and I fed him from the palm of my hand. Now he and Odie wait for me each morning to walk to the barn and feed them breakfast, and he waits each evening on the porch, just hoping I'll come out and rub his belly. He even lets our 6-month-old baby pet him. It's less like a pet and more like a slight smack between the eyes. But he allows it and has never once tried to bite or scratch. He is always talking to us, waiting for a treat or ready to roll over for a good belly rub.

His demeanor and personality have always made me think that at some point, he was somebody else's pet. Possibly a docile indoor house cat. But I really have no idea where he came from. Sometimes I would make up stories in my mind about how he got to this farm. But I never wrote anything down. Then one day last year, a friend of mine on Facebook shared this horrific picture (posted below) with a short article describing how and why most animals in shelters are killed. It is a graphic image, and it stuck with me. So much that I wanted to write a book about this issue to help educate children on the problems we cause in the lives of animals. Of course, the book has been edited for children and there are only a few paragraphs describing Bandit's tame journey through a shelter. There is no discussion of animals being euthanized. And it has a happy ending. I feel that it is a good way for parents to talk to their children about shelters, the reasons they exist, and what they do. It is not my job as an author to talk about this with your children, it is my job to provide a springboard for questions and discussions.

I began writing a story in response to this graphic image and shelter article. It took me writing and editing everyday for a week to spin it down from a charged and emotional response piece into something suitable for educating children. From there it took another six months to perfect the manuscript.

The first half of Odie's Best Friend is a work of fiction, simply because I am completely unaware of how Bandit got here. And the second half of the book, after he meets the older woman on the farm, is true. But I am passionate about keeping animals out of shelters, supporting Trap Neuter Return (TNR) programs and supporting no kill shelters (Humane Society for Hamilton County) and rescue groups such as Alley Cat Allies and the ASPCA.

I am hosting a launch party for the release of Odie's Best Friend on Saturday, June 21 from 1-3pm. It will be at The Wild Bookstore in historic downtown Noblesville. If you are in the area, you are welcome to attend. It will be a kid-oriented party with food, activities, a raffle and a reading. Both books will also be available at discounted prices. If for nothing else, use this story to educate yourself and others on the problems we are causing for animals.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

From Tiny Inspiration to Tiny Success

I have been living in a whirlwind of dirty diapers, laundry and baby snuggles. Despite my busy days full of caring for baby, I have managed to publish the second book in the Odie the Stray Kitten Series, and much has happened to the first book Odie the Stray Kitten.

While the real Odie's days are filled with lounging in the sunshine with Bandit, waiting for me to feed him breakfast, and occasionally chasing the fleeting mouse or bird, his story has been busy.

In the beginning, I simply wanted to write a children's story that was close to my heart. It has slowly transitioned from the inspiration of a tiny animal into a tiny success. It is by no means nationally recognized and is still buried in the millions on Amazon's Top Sellers Lists. But it has received some recognition that I am so very grateful for and also proud of.

My author website ( is now up and running, so check back often as I will frequently be posting updates on the books, reviews and events.  Stay tuned for updates on the newest addition to the Odie the Stray Kitten Series, Odie's Best Friend.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Odie's Backstory: Difficulties of Adopting Stray Animals

There is a deeper backstory to the day I found Odie, more than what I described in Odie the Stray Kitten. Some information was just not relevant to the children's story but it could be significant for someone taking in a stray animal.

I first heard Odie in the barn that morning, behind the pile of hay. But it sounded more like a scream than a cry. It sounded like he was in pain and I thought for sure he was diseased, infested, or dying of something. He was screaming so loudly that it spooked the horses. My first thought was "I can't keep a cat that scares my horses."

He came out from behind the hay pile and was in fact very friendly. But he still continued to scream. He let me pet him, my other cat Bandit was curious and friendly with him. Just like in the book, I brought Odie some food and left the cat carrier open on the ground. He walked right in without any pushing.

I had to call off work. And I never took personal days. I didn't make up an excuse, I told my boss exactly why I wouldn't be in that day. He allowed it, and if he hadn't, too bad. I was taking this poor kitten to the vet either way. I called around to local animal hospitals and found one with an opening that morning. I loaded Odie up and off we went in the big blue truck.

He truly did purr the whole time he was at the vet's office. He purred so much that the vet had trouble hearing his heart. The vet guessed him to be about 16 weeks old. He was tested for feline leukemia (among other diseases) and I was told that if he was positive, he had to be an indoor cat because he could easily transfer the disease to other outdoor cats. That would have been a problem because my husband is very allergic to cats and we absolutely cannot have any furry indoor animals.

Odie turned out to be FeLV negative, and his diagnosis was "just cold and hungry." I knew I had to keep him. We stopped at a pet store on the way home so that I could pick up a few things for him: dry kitten food, wet food to help him gain some weight, a few extra bowls and a small litter box.

For this kitten I did several things that day that I typically do not do: I took a personal day from work and I spent a lot of money. But it had to be done and I don't regret it. Odie has grown up into a loyal, sweet, energetic barn cat and is always getting into trouble. He is now the main character of my first published indie children's book Odie the Stray Kitten and all of the future Odie Series books.

Each stray animal's story is different and adopting some strays can be more difficult than others. The ASPCA provides good information on how to go about adopting these animals into your family.

ASPCA: Stray and Feral Cats

This is the more complete version of Odie's story. As I have said before, the animals write the stories, I just edit them for children.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Odie in the Classroom

This past week I had my first experience reading Odie the Stray Kitten to an elementary school classroom, and I hope to make this a regular occurrence. I began by introducing myself and telling the students that I had been writing stories for a very long time. I started writing stories about animals when I was their age, as soon as I could write. And it has continued for over 20 years. I spoke about the real Odie and how his life inspired me to write this particular story and that I felt it was one of the best I had written. It was the first story I had turned into a book.

The students had recently been working on their writing, especially editing and revising. So I talked about how many times I had to edit and revise the story and about how the biggest revision was the perspective of the story. Before I began reading the book, I asked them to think about who was telling the story. Of course I was the one reading it, but I wanted them to understand whose words were on the pages. Changing the perspective from third to first person (Odie is the one telling the story) was by far the biggest revision of the book.

I read the book to the class and it seemed to almost take on a whole new life as I read it to a room of seven and eight year-olds. The students were genuinely interested in what happened to Odie and they were captivated by the illustrations.

I gave them time to ask me questions, some of which were obscure, but still relevant. Then I showed them a poster board I had created with pictures of the real Odie and the other characters from the book. I felt like the students enjoyed this part of my presentation the most. This was the next best thing to having the real Odie in the classroom (Odie would not be a fan of that). This way the children could see the real animals and hopefully it helped them to realize how animals do have stories to tell. For me, the animals write the stories, I just edit them for children.

This was a very positive first experience taking the book to the classroom. Later that evening I received a message from the teacher telling me that she already had a parent comment on how much her child enjoyed the book and my presentation in the classroom. This meant more to me than anything. If my writing can inspire one child to begin writing his or her own stories or to become more aware of animal welfare, then I have done my job with this book.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Looking Forward

The year 2013 has come and gone and I am looking ahead to what is in store for 2014. Last year was a big year. In January, the real Odie showed up in our horse barn as just a small kitten, well you know the story. I wrote his story in the spring and began the process of publishing the book over the summer. The process was completed and Odie the Stray Kitten was first published on Halloween.

Again we are now in the dead of winter with record arctic temperatures and snowfall. But we are also in a new year, one to be filled with more writing and creating for The Odie Series. As I posted in my last blog entry, production has started on the second installment of the series, a book that will focus on the life of Bandit, Odie's best friend.

As I continue on with this endeavor I just want to again thank everyone for their support for the book and my continued pursuit of writing animal stories for children.