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.