Category Archives: Reviews & Interviews

Exciting book publishing news, a Q & A, and a limited-time introductory offer!

This is a different review and interview – very exciting game-changing news!

Did you hear Amazon’s big news September 3’14?: Amazon today announced KDP Kids, designed to help children’s book authors prepare, publish and promote both illustrated and chapter books in Kindle Stores worldwide. Children’s book authors can use Amazon’s new Kindle Kids’ Book Creator tool to easily create illustrated children’s books that take advantage of Kindle features like text pop-ups. Once the book is ready, authors can upload it to KDP in just a few simple steps, and use KDP’s category, age and grade range filters to help millions of Amazon customers choose the right books for their kids. Authors can earn royalties of up to 70%, while keeping their rights and maintaining control of their content. Authors can also choose to enroll their books in KDP Select for additional royalty opportunities like Kindle Unlimited and the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library, and access to marketing tools like Kindle Countdown Deals and Free Book Promotions. Get started today at kdp.amazon.com/kids.”   But first READ ON! 

KDP is Kindle Direct Publishing, and if you would love to attempt it but feel you aren’t tech savvy enough to manage it, or if you just want a good tutorial to help you, there is help I am excited to tell you about! The editors of Children’s Book Insider, the industry’s largest publication for children’s writers, immediately set about creating a course that would explain the software and demystify the entire process, from finding illustrations through publishing and marketing illustrated Kindle children’s books. They’ve called it Kindle Kids Mastery. With no further delay, here’s the information you need, thanks to Jon of Children’s Book Insider. (applause) And please forgive my formatting of this Q & A which may not work out the way I want it to.

What is Kindle Kids Mastery?

A comprehensive online course that teaches authors how to create an illustrated children’s book in Amazon’s new Kids Book Creator software, format, convert it and publish it to Amazon’s Kindle store. The course also covers, in detail, how to find illustrations and offers expert advice for marketing a Kindle eBook.

How is it delivered?
The course is entirely online and includes videos and downloadable PDF transcripts. Buyers get lifetime access, and access to Updates which are being added regularly to the site.
 
 
How much does it cost?

After October 15, 2014, the price will be $197. Until then, the introductory price of $127 is in effect. There are no additional costs – everything is included.

 

What does the course include?

There are nine modules that cover:
* 5 Things You MUST Do Before Creating Your Kindle eBook
* Finding Illustrations and Creating Your eBook Cover (videos cover everything from finding a professional illustrator through using low-cost design services and adapting stock images)
* Creating Your eBook Using Kindle Kids Book Creator Software (a series of videos that allow you to watch over Laura’s shoulder as she creates eBooks in the software. Everything is broken down in the simplest terms, and we explain every major aspect of the software.)
* Uploading to Amazon and Creating Your Author’s Page (Videos that include some very important things, such as how to create a strong description and how to maximize your author page.)
* ONE-ON-ONE SESSIONS: Kindle Marketing Advice From the Pros (three in-depth interviews – on video with full transcripts – with authors who are masters at Kindle marketing. You’ll learn how to get reviews, how to draw readers to you and how to start building a fan base today. Experts include Amy Harrop, Deb Drum, Katie Davis and Beau Blackwell)
* A full eBook on how to adapt your own photographs or stock images and turn them into unique illustrations. We’re on record as saying that hiring a professional illustrator is always the first and best choice, but if your budget doesn’t allow that right now, we’ll show you how to create really cool pieces of art from existing images.
Plus there are cheat sheets, a checklist and more.

 

Who created Kindle Kids Mastery?

The course was personally created by Laura Backes and Jon Bard, editors of Children’s Book Insider for the past 25 years.
 
 
 

QUESTIONS ABOUT KINDLE KIDS’ BOOK CREATOR SOFTWARE:

What, exactly, does this new software allow me to do?
Kindle Kids Book creator is a standalone piece of software that you download on to your computer. It takes you step by step through the creation of an illustrated children’s eBook. You can create in landscape mode (to mimic traditional picture book layouts) or portrait mode (for easy readers, middle grade and YA novels).
Authors can create text pop-ups, so even readers using small screens can easily view text. The software outputs your eBook in .mobi file format, ready to be uploaded to Amazon.
What’s the big deal?
The real breakthrough here is the ability to create heavily illustrated children’s books. And the ability to do it landscape mode, which is traditional for picture books. If you’re creating a young adult novel or other book that doesn’t require much in the way of illustrations, you’re probably better off not using the software and uploading your formatted novel directly to Amazon. But, if you’re creating picture books, illustrated easy readers or illustrated chapter books, this is a major step forward.
What does it cost?
The software is free, and uploading to Amazon is free. Amazon makes money on each sale of your eBook, not on the eBook creation process.
Is it truly something an author with no technical ability can use?
From our testing, we’d say yes. It’s intuitive and nicely designed. There are a few things that true tech newbies may find a bit confusing at first, but they’re easily overcome.
Does this software work on a Mac? (Also: Does this software work on Windows XP?)
According to the official download page, the Windows version works on Windows 7 and 8,so it won’t run on XP. The Mac version runs on OSX version 10.7 and above.
Is anyone making money selling Kindle children’s books on Amazon?
One of the folks we interviewed for Kindle Kids Mastery is a children’s author who is exclusively creating Kindle eBooks. He told us that — just from being part of the Kindle Unlimited plan (Amazon’s Netflix-like subscription service) he’s getting between $1.80-$2.00every time someone downloads and reads one of his books. And that’s on top of his direct sales. So clearly authors — particularly those who have built a promotional platform (blog,social media, mailing list, etc.) and aren’t shy about advocating for their books — are seeing real benefits.
Illustrations are so important. “Any cheap thing will do” probably won’t in the long run, as you’re going to be competing with the very best in illustration.
This is certainly true, but I’ll hearken back to the answer to the question just above this one. The ability to self-publish creates the opportunity for authors to create different types of books with different purposes. If you’re creating a lyrical picture book with text that you’ve slaved over for months, you should absolutely do everything you can to employ the services of a world-class illustrator. But, if you’re putting together something less “meaty” that’s designed to sell as an eBook for $2.99 and provide a child a bit of fun, sharing royalties or paying a big work-for-hire bill may not fit into your budget. In that case, looking for inexpensive alternatives is perfectly reasonable.
The bottom line? If your dreams of self-publishing are being held back by a lack of artistic talent and/or lack of budget to hire a top artist, you shouldn’t just throw in the towel. There are ways to get good quality artwork that can fit your needs. But I’ll certainly agree with your main point — illustrations are extremely important and a talented illustrator can work real magic on a book. In an ideal situation, I would certainly advocate for hiring a professional.

 

The ability to self-publish easily is flooding the market with amateurish books. Without gatekeepers (editors) to sift the bad from the good, how can any of us get the attention of readers?
You’re certainly right about the amount of truly bad books being published. But that’s a natural outgrowth of the democratization of the publishing process. The same thing happened to music a decade ago — when anyone with a computer and microphone could record a song and release it online, music fans suddenly found themselves engulfed in a sea of bad music. But they adapted — review blogs, curated lists and recommendation-based services like Pandora helped separate the wheat from the chaff.
We’re still in the very early stages of publishing’s digital revolution. I have no doubt at all that similar outlets will arise in our world to help make sense of the chaos.
But here’s the key — and its a big one: In order to rise above the masses, your work must be excellent. Craft is more important than ever. The path to success right now is by getting word of mouth: parent to parent, teen to teen. Bad books don’t get talked about. Good books do.
Don’t publish crap just because Amazon is making it easy. Work your craft.

 

Doesn’t that sound exciting?! (Thank you Laura and Jon!) Because this is the first and only course specifically about this, Kindle Kids Mastery is
the immediate answer for all writers to take advantage of this
opportunity.
I’ve been in communication with Jon of Children’s Book Insider (who supplied me with the above info) after I learned of their exciting course,
read all the info, listened to an interview with Laura of CBI, became fully convinced and purchased the course! I’d been inspired to consider preparing one of my children’s book manuscripts for converting to an eBook. I know, shocking, since I was one who was so slow and hesitant in even reading eBooks. I love real paper books, but it seems that sometimes the better way to go is electronically, although once a book is an eBook it doesn’t mean it can’t later become a paper book as well. Many do.

Now is your chance to do something about this great price cut before it’s gone. To learn more and get Laura’s “Kindle Kids Mastery” course at the $70 off introductory price, go HERE to Kindle Kids Mastery now! There you’ll find a full table of contents and a video tour.

The $70 discount expires midnight, October 15, 2014! Please don’t put it off and miss this great deal like I tend to do. (But not this time!) And remember: all buyers get lifetime access with free updates!

When you get a book ready to publish with the help of this course, let me know how you liked it.

You can find Kindle Kids’ Book Creator and Kindle Kids Mastery course listed on my Writers Helps page.

Thanks for reading, and … Creative Musings!  :)
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What have YOU read lately?

Hi All!

I’m sorry to say it’s another day – or maybe week – of no book review as I am having to take a little break. I really thought I would have one ready for today, but … have you ever found yourself in a place of being hardly able to even read a book? I don’t want reading and reviewing to become something I don’t enjoy anymore, so that’s a bit worrisome for me.

Since this is my week at home it’s my chance to try to get caught up in my own house a bit – if possible. My naturopath gave me capsules to help me sleep better so I will be more rested my next week with Dad, and to help me de-stress.  I’m hoping to get back to devouring books again very soon. :)

I do have some exciting news to share with you depending on how quickly I can get a post together about it. Of course, it is to do with BOOKS!  :)

In the meantime, what I would love is for YOU to share a sentence or two about the books YOU are reading this month, or this season, or tell us about your favourite book of all time. I am really interested in knowing what you are enjoying and if it’s something I would like for my own reading pleasure. Even if you have never left a comment it would be so nice to hear from you with your book thoughts. 

Would you do me the favour of sharing in the comments about your reading and help me out a little here, please?

Thank you for faithfully following my blog; I appreciate you so much.

Thanks for reading, and … Creative Musings!  :)

 

Book Review: Amanda in Alberta: The Writing on the Stone – by Darlene Foster

Amanda in Alberta, The Writing on the StoneBook: Amanda in Alberta: The Writing on the Stone
Author: Darlene Foster
Publisher: Central Avenue Publishing
Date: July 6, 2014
Genre: middle grade fiction
Pages: 98
Price: paper $9.35; Kindle $3.88
My Rating: an adventure young readers will love
 

I received a copy of Amanda in Alberta: The Writing on the Stone from the author in exchange for my honest review.

If you haven’t met Amanda before, you’ll need to know she is a twelve-year-old, adventurous, travel-loving girl who seems to find mysteries wherever she goes. This time, in Amanda in Alberta: The Writing on the Stone, not even the one leaving home she still gets involved in a situation.

Amanda invited Leah, her friend from England, to vacation in Alberta, Canada. For Leah – as it was for Amanda when she visited Leah in England – so much seemed strange to what she was accustomed to at home.

Amanda’s parents are busy people but make time to take the girls to various interesting places, such as dinosaur museums, a cattle drive, and unique stores for shopping for “cowboy” attire. While they were at a rodeo, Amanda noticed a little stone drop out of a clown’s pocket, but she couldn’t get the man’s attention to tell him. When she picked up the stone she noticed unusual markings on it, so she slipped it into her own pocket. Things happen from then on to make Leah’s vacation one to remember! Cowboys argue over something, a surly bothersome man keeps following her, she is suspicious of ‘questionable’ people – and Amanda and Leah are involved in another sometimes dangerous adventure.

Darlene Foster‘s writing is suited to young readers. The Amanda series is fast-paced, action-filled, and written so that the young main characters are the real problem solvers but with adult involvement.

You can read my reviews of two books in Darlene Foster‘s Amanda series: Amanda in Arabia: The Perfume Flask, and Amanda in England: The Missing Novel.

You can find Amanda in Alberta: The Writing on the Stone listed on my BUY THE BOOK! page.

Thanks for reading, and … Creative Musings!  :)

 

Book Review: Amanda in England: The Missing Novel – by Darlene Foster

Amanda in England, The Missing NovelBook: Amanda in England: The Missing Novel
Author: Darlene Foster
Publisher: Central Avenue Publishing
Date: August 9, 2012
Genre: juvenile fiction; adventure (age level 7-13, grade level 3-6)
Pages: 73
Price: paper $8.80; Kindle $3.65
My Rating: a fun read that educates while taking children on an adventure
 

I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for my honest review.

Amanda in England: The Missing Novel is book three of the Amanda series by Darlene Foster. Written for middle grade readers it is a quick-paced easy read. 

Amanda is a curious adventurous twelve-year-old whose friend in England invited her to come for a visit. Having a love of travel she happily accepted Leah’s invitation.

From the time Amanda arrives things begin happening. One thing leads to another, and she finds herself involved in the mystery of a missing valuable book. Young readers will enjoy the antics and escapades of Amanda, Leah and two local kids they meet as they encounter a strange acting lady, run into trouble when two men chase them, and try to keep all the trouble they’re in from Leah’s parents. While following Amanda readers will also be learning a little about some of the sites and sights of England.

Darlene Foster has written four books in the Amanda series so far. If you want to read my review of her first book in the series, go to Amanda in Arabia: The Perfume Flask.

You can find Amanda in England: The Missing Novel listed on my BUY THE BOOK! page.

Thanks for reading, and … Creative Musings!  :)

Book Review: The Dragondain: a Moon Realm Novel – by Richard Due

Dragondain.2Book: The Dragondain: a Moon Realm Novel, book 2
Author: Richard Due
Illustrator: Carolyn Arcabascio
Publisher: Gibbering Gnome Press
Date: December 7, 2012
Genre: middle grade fantasy
Pages: 287
Price: $11.35 paper; $2.95 Kindle
My Rating: an exciting part two of a captivating, dramatic, exciting fantasy that keeps the reader enthralled to the end
 
 

I received a copy of The Dragondain from the author in exchange for my honest review.

Having read book one of the Moon Realm series, I was eager to read book two. This volume, The Dragondain, continues from where the first one left off.

You can read my review of The Moon Coin, which is book one of the Moon Realm, to get an idea of the thrill of this series. The Dragondain takes the reader on another burst of adventures, and fills one’s head with images and scenes that are amazing and wondrous. It’s as if the author, Richard Due (pronounced Dewy) stored in his mind every fantasy story he ever read, picked out the most exciting inspiring parts, tweaked them, added the Dewy imagination, and out came this exciting fantastical world … or, I should say, worlds. Wonderful! Note: The illustrations by Carolyn Arcabascio at the beginning of each chapter add a creative extra to the story.

In The Dragondain: a Moon Realm Novel we are reunited with fifteen-year-0ld Jasper and his fourteen-year-old sister, Lily, as they continue in their search for their missing mysterious uncle Ebb. Using a special necklace, they take turns travelling to other worlds where they meet with all sorts of dangers and strange characters, enter into serious battles, and discover their own unique powers. This time more dramatic events happen at their uncle’s mansion and their own house to add to the suspense.

The Dragondain is very well crafted and cleverly executed, with the final scene set for continuation in another book. It isn’t done in a mean way, either, but as an invitation to continue on the journey with Jasper and Lily. I look forward to it! There is a fourth book already in line for after book three is released.

If The Dragondain interests you, then it is best that you start with book one – The Moon Coin (at the time of this writing The Moon Coin is free on Kindle for anyone with Amazon Prime) – so you will get to know the characters and background. If you enjoy fantasy you won’t be disappointed.

You can find The Dragondain: a Moon Realm Novel, book 2 listed on my BUY THE BOOK page.

Thanks for reading, and … Creative Musings!  :)

Book Review: Emma Bean – by Jean Van Leeuwen

Emma Bean1Book: Emma Bean
Author: Jean Van Leeuwen
Illustrator: Juan Wijngaard
Publisher: Dial Books for Young Readers
Date: September 6, 1993
Genre: picture book for ages 3 and up
Pages: 40
Price: can be found at a wide range of prices, from a few cents for used to phenomenal prices for new
My Rating: a book to love for its wonderful story and fabulous illustrations
 
 

The back story: I was studying, taking a course called Writing Children’s Literature. I had a long reading list of children’s books, so I began buying some from the bookstore and borrowing many from the library to read from that list. One day I made a trip to the bookstore and just wandered around lovingly looking at and touching the many, many books, when I came upon this particular one. Emma Bean by Jean Van Leeuwen was the most gorgeous hard cover book I had seen that day … and maybe ever up to then. I stood in a quiet aisle of that bookstore and read the story. Oh my goodness! It so touched my heart it was all I could do to keep from crying right there. In fact, I think I did sniffle a little. Not prepared to buy anything that day I reluctantly put the book back, but a few days later I went to the little shop with a specific purchase in mind and left with my own copy of Emma Bean.

Look at the words of the opening page:  Once there was a rabbit and she had a    girl. The girl’s name was Molly. The rabbit was Emma Bean.

How sweet and inviting is that beginning? This is the most adorable story. Emma Bean was made to be a cuddly toy bunny for a baby, and as the little girl grew Emma Bean got to have lots of experiences – from taste-testing to ‘flying’ (not always the best fun) to going to school.

The illustrations by Juan Wijngaard are fabulous. Rich, colourful, realistic, they help to make the story delightful and memorable.

Emma Bean2

 

 

 

This is the back cover.

If Emma Bean by Jean Van Leeuwen had been available for me to read as a little girl, for sure it would have been one of my most cherished. Even though it was published two decades ago, I highly recommend this book for a child you care about, or for your own bookshelf – like I did. :)

You can find Emma Bean listed on my BUY THE BOOK! page.

Thanks for reading, and … Creative Musings! :)

Book Review: The Michael Letters: Heaven’s Answer to Screwtape – by Jim Peschke

The Michael Letters, Heaven's Answer to ScrewtapeBook: The Michael Letters: Heaven’s answer to Screwtape
Author: Jim Peschke
Publisher:  Jim Peschke
Date: 2010
Genre: religious fiction
Pages: 142
Price: Kindle under $5; paper under $10
My rating: good attempt at a follow-up to C.S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters

 

In order for you to make sense of the intent of this book – The Michael Letters: Heaven’s answer to Screwtape – you may first have to read C.S.Lewis’ famous classic The Screwtape Letters. Even having read Lewis’ book I found this one a little hard to ‘get’.

Jim Peschke‘s writing is good – the archangel is writing to a guardian angel whose main focus is on a man who is struggling with his faith. All through the book other people in this man’s life are mentioned, sometimes pulling the focus off the main character, but making connections to his life.

The angels address his conflicts with his mother, his interest in a lady friend – even talking about her being overweight, his problems at work, and his worries about being a charitable person.

There were a few places in what the angels were believing where the author did not line up with Scripture. This may be a matter of interpretation, but if I may give an example: “The Son came to wonder if he could die for mankind’s sin.” This is not quite accurate; Jesus never doubted His mission and godship, although as man he was not welcoming the suffering He knew was coming.

The Michael Letters is an entertaining read, not C.S.Lewis standard but the author claimed to not pretend to write the same as Lewis. He does give a modern reply by angels to what the devil and helper were saying in The Screwtape Letters.

You can find The Michael Letters: Heaven’s answer to Screwtape listed on my BUY THE BOOK! page.

Thanks for reading, and … Creative Musings!  :)