Made to Play!

If you are one of the many parents enthralled by simple handmade toys but are intimidated at the prospect of making them yourself, never fear! Joel Henriques will help get you started with the ideas in his new book coming out next October, Made to Play!: Handmade Toys and Crafts for Growing Imaginations.

Contrary to what companies may have you believe, children don’t need, nor truly want, lots of flashy toys which play by themselves (where is the fun in that, anyway?). Instead, simple toys which require healthy doses of imagination from the child open up realms of opportunity, creativity, and learning.

Craft challenged parents who previously felt left out when it came to making toys for their own children will be bolstered in this book, as the ideas are simple and easy for anyone to do. Turn a few supplies, often ones you already have on hand, into miniature toys that will delight your children and give you confidence to tackle more difficult projects.

Disclaimer: A copy of this book provided by Shambala Publications.

Previously posted at Living Peacefully with Children.

Is a Worry Worrying You?

Everyone worries from time to time, and dealing with those worries often seems monumental, especially for children. Ferida Wolff and Herriet May Sevitz have addressed just this issue in their book, Is a Worry Worrying You? With beautiful full color illustrations by Marie LeTourneau, the book manages to discuss worries and introduce brainstorming possible solutions of how to deal with them in a light hearted manner, opening up further discussions. It’s a fantastic picture book and one that we have checked out from the library several times over the years due to the story alone.

Disclaimer: A complimentary copy was provided by the publisher.

Previously published at Living Peacefully with Children.

Hunting Human

Beth Williams is haunted by memories and running from a past that she neither understands nor which she can classify as rational or sane. Once a promising young architect with a position to begin graduate work, a celebratory trip to Europe and the resulting death of her best friend and foster sister, Beth now moves about from place to place. Finally, having found a place as a barista and staying in the same city for longer than usual, a charming man walks into her solitary life and her carefully and tentatively held world begins to implode.

Amanda Alvarez’s debut novel, Hunting Human, is a well written werewolf novel. Her shifting is descriptive and more realistic than many books in this genre. However, the romance side of the book seems forced and a bit out of sync. Overall, it was a quick, fun read and would appeal to most readers of paranormal romance.

Disclaimer: A complimentary copy of the book was provided by Carina Press.

Previously posted at Living Peacefully with Children.

Cinder and Ella

Cinder and Ella are two of four sisters. Both their older and younger sisters are selfish, their father quit doing anything to help the family before disappearing altogether, and their mother spins all day at her spinning wheel, effectively ignoring her daughters to the point that she has forgotten that Cinder and Ella are two individuals. Ella, tired of being forgotten and taken advantage of, sets out on her own, leaving Cinder to take care of the family.

Melissa Lemon’s telling of the Cinderella story, Cinder and Ella, is only marginally related to the original fairytale. With an evil prince on the horizon, and a story of living trees, the book’s closest tie with the original tale is the name of the book. While the book is a decent read, the characters, with few exceptions, just aren’t very likeable.

Disclaimer: A copy of the book was provided by the publisher.

Guest Post: Terri Rochenski, Author of Make Believe Anthology

Where did you come up with that?!

Know how many times I’ve been asked that question? Countless. I write fantasy and the occasional romance, so oftentimes my stories are ‘out there’. Some readers don’t get it.

Stories come to me in all kinds of shapes and forms.

The first flash fiction I had published, Infinite Snare, was inspired by Nick Jr’s Backyardigans. They had a cool story about some creature living in a tree. The witch’s hovel from IS came to life in my mind.

Another, Heart’s Wish, began with a celtic song I stumbled across and haven’t found since. The haunting melody brought to mind a little girl running from an unseen danger – lonely and afraid, through mud and rain.

The first short story I ever wrote, Sacrificial Oath, came about by a picture prompt. J. Taylor Publishing announced an anthology call with an illustration of a scarlet-clad woman in the midst of a frozen wasteland, an obscure tower on the horizon.

This story was vague in my mind for a few months but eventually filled out and took shape thanks to my mother who is the best idea-bouncer-offer EVER. Love my momma.

Sacrificial Oath was accepted by JTP and their Make Believe Anthology released December 3rd of this year. It’s a collection of six stories ranging from fantasy to paranormal romance.

My second short story, Beginning of Forever, an historical romance, was actually meant for Still Moments Publishing’s Halloween anthology call, but I missed the submission cutoff.

I tweaked the theme for their Christmas Magic Anthology. It was accepted for publication and is included with three other contemporary romance shorts. The release date was December 4th.

My sister-in-law’s real life experience inspired BoF. She lost her husband to cancer, but strove to live for her young son. Recently she began dating again and has blossomed – she’s one of the strongest women I know.

No matter where an idea comes from, I jot it down. I stew a bit. Take notes if necessary.

In the car. At the grocery store. Watching my oldest daughter in gymnastics class.

I keep a pen and pad of paper beside my bed in case a scene wakes me in the middle of the night. It’s happened a few times for my fantasy WiP.

Whenever – however – let your muse runaway. You never know what it might evolve into.

Where does your inspiration come from? Where’s the most unique / funny place or way one of your stories came to life?

About the Author

Terri started writing stories in the 8th grade, when a little gnome whispered in her brain. Gundi’s Great Adventure never hit the best seller list, but it started a long love affair with the fantasy genre.

Today she enjoys an escape to Middle Earth during the rare ‘me’ moments her two young daughters allow. When not potty training or kissing boo-boos, she can be found on her back patio in the boondocks of New Hampshire, book or pencil in hand.

My First Blog Post

Be yourself; Everyone else is already taken.

— Oscar Wilde.

This is the first post on my new blog. I’m just getting this new blog going, so stay tuned for more. Subscribe below to get notified when I post new updates.

Introduce Yourself (Example Post)

This is an example post, originally published as part of Blogging University. Enroll in one of our ten programs, and start your blog right.

You’re going to publish a post today. Don’t worry about how your blog looks. Don’t worry if you haven’t given it a name yet, or you’re feeling overwhelmed. Just click the “New Post” button, and tell us why you’re here.

Why do this?

  • Because it gives new readers context. What are you about? Why should they read your blog?
  • Because it will help you focus you own ideas about your blog and what you’d like to do with it.

The post can be short or long, a personal intro to your life or a bloggy mission statement, a manifesto for the future or a simple outline of your the types of things you hope to publish.

To help you get started, here are a few questions:

  • Why are you blogging publicly, rather than keeping a personal journal?
  • What topics do you think you’ll write about?
  • Who would you love to connect with via your blog?
  • If you blog successfully throughout the next year, what would you hope to have accomplished?

You’re not locked into any of this; one of the wonderful things about blogs is how they constantly evolve as we learn, grow, and interact with one another — but it’s good to know where and why you started, and articulating your goals may just give you a few other post ideas.

Can’t think how to get started? Just write the first thing that pops into your head. Anne Lamott, author of a book on writing we love, says that you need to give yourself permission to write a “crappy first draft”. Anne makes a great point — just start writing, and worry about editing it later.

When you’re ready to publish, give your post three to five tags that describe your blog’s focus — writing, photography, fiction, parenting, food, cars, movies, sports, whatever. These tags will help others who care about your topics find you in the Reader. Make sure one of the tags is “zerotohero,” so other new bloggers can find you, too.

Strong Female Characters – Not Just for Girls

Children’s  literature abounds with books full of strong males, so much so that I actually get excited when a new book comes out showcasing a strong female just for the fact that there s a strong female in the book. It shouldn’t be that way. Our species has a general 1:1 gender ratio, changing a bit through various ages. In the old adage that art imitates life (or life imitates art), we should see a much larger number of female characters in books. We don’t. Of those female characters we do meet, most are secondary at best or portrayed as a weak character.

The idea of reading books with our daughters that showcase some of the stronger female characters isn’t new. I’m happy to say that most of the parents I know seek out books with strong female leads to share with their daughters. It’s an exciting thing to share good literature with someone you love, and while I would love to cheer this fact on, I’m left with an incomplete feeling: Why are they only sharing these books with their daughters?

Reality shows me that those parents of daughters looking for strong female leads for their daughters aren’t looking for those same books for their sons. The parents of only sons or of children whose daughters aren’t old enough for the more involved chapter books aren’t even looking (generalization, yes, but you see my point). There is a giant disparity here.

Books with strong female characters are not just for our daughters; they are also for our sons. Good books are good books, and given the opportunity, our sons enjoy books with strong female leads just as much as our daughters. Some of my ten year old son’s favorite books have strong female characters and female leads. A good book is a good book.

So why do parents search out to equalize the characters in books for their daughters but not their sons?  Those books with strong female characters show strength for our daughters but seem to be lacking for our sons. In other words, it is fine for girls to identify with male characters, but female characters are lacking when it comes to boys. It’s sexism in literature, and the majority of parents are unintentionally  perpetuating this concept with their children.

What can be done about it? Share good books, including those with strong female leads with your children, regardless of gender. Discuss books with your kids. Point out disparities, listen to their ideas, share your thoughts, and make a difference.

This was originally posted at Living Peacefully with Children.

The Chicken Encyclopedia

The Chicken Encyclopedia: An Illustrated Reference by Gail Damerow comes out in a couple of weeks. As the title implies, it’s written in encyclopedia/dictionary format with topics alphabetized. It may seem strange to sit down to read an encyclopedia for entertainment puposes (unless you share genes with me), but I found the book to be quite informative and enjoyable to read. As someone interested in raising our own chickens for both eggs and meat, to live more sustainably and to have healthier food, this was a great place for me to start. I knew quite a bit about chickens to begin with, but I quickly realized there were many fascinating things I hadn’t known. With beautiful full color pictures and an easy to read format, the book is a must read to the new chicken fancier.

Disclaimer: A copy of this book was provided by the publisher.

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