Guest Blogger: Hank Quense, Author of Fiction Writing Workshop for Kids

Writing a story is a tough job, especially for a kid. There’s all that stuff about characters and setting they have to remember. And then there’s the plot. How is a kid supposed to figure that one out?

I’ve written a number of novels and I’ve had over forty short stories published in magazines, anthologies and web sites. So I know firsthand about these difficulties. Over time and after a lot of false starts, I developed a process that allows me to approach a new story in an organized manner. Once I had this process I found it eliminated many of the dead ends I had previously run into.

A few years ago the Valley Middle School in Oakland NJ asked if I would visit the school and talk to their seventh graders. On visits like this, authors usually talk about their books and read scenes from them. I hate reading scenes! I find it boring and I’m sure I bore the audience with my monotonous voice. Instead of torturing the kids this way, I decided to show them how I use my process to create a short story. The slide talk worked like this: I gave them the overall story idea, one that they would want to write. After that, I used a handout with a series of text boxes with questions to have the kids come up with ideas on characters, setting and plot. Finally, I broke the story up into six scenes and showed the kids how to use the text box ideas to write each scene. The talk was wildly successful.

4: New Project
Besides the Valley Middle School, I’ve given this talk in libraries and expanded the concept to include two more story ideas. While I love doing this, my talks are geographically limited. To remove this limitation, I used these three talks as the basis for the ebook called Fiction Writing Workshop for Kids. Using the advanced technical capabilities of ebooks, the book has graphics, audio and video clips embedded into it. The videos show the text boxes and coach the kids on how to develop ideas for the basic story elements: characters, setting and plot. Each story has a final video clip showing the kids which text boxes to use in each scene.

Finally, there is a set of blank worksheets the kids can use to develop stories on their own.

The suggested audience for the ebook is 4th to 7th graders.

This is not an ordinary ebook: it’s interactive and that presents some problems. Not all e-readers can open the epub and mobi versions of this book. Apple computers and IOS devices can open the epub version if they have the free iBook app installed. Some Nooks also can open it. You can open the epub on a PC computer if the computer has Adobe Digital Edition app installed. You can download this free app here: https://www.adobe.com/solutions/ebook/digital-editions.html

The mobi edition will only work on the more recent Kindle Fire tablets.

Other Kindle tablets will not be able to deal with the audio and video clips.

The ebook is available on iBooks at https://apple.co/2CJYDjN and Kindle at https://amzn.to/2RnU5Yo.

This website has more information and a demo story your child can try out: https://padlet.com/hanque/a7zx74mjcgrg

Getting a book published is always a great feeling, but this one felt not just great, but also fulfilling.

How a Historical Hero Can Inspire Young Readers by Fiona Ingram, Author of The Search for the Stone of Excalibur

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Continuing the adventure that began in Egypt a few months prior in The Secret of the Sacred Scarab, cousins Adam and Justin Sinclair are hot on the trail of the second Stone of Power, one of seven ancient stones lost centuries ago. This stone might be embedded in the hilt of a newly discovered sword that archaeologists believe belonged to King Arthur: Excalibur. However, their long-standing enemy, Dr. Khalid, is following them as they travel to Scotland to investigate an old castle. Little do they know there is another deadly force, the Eaters of Poison, who have their own mission to complete. Time is running out as the confluence of the planets draws closer. Can Justin and Adam find the second Stone of Power and survive? And why did Aunt Isabel send a girl with them?

Join Justin and Adam as they search not only for the second Stone of Power, but also for the Scroll of the Ancients, a mysterious document that holds important clues to the Seven Stones of Power. As their adventure unfolds, they learn many things and face dangers that make even their perils in Egypt look tame. And how annoying for them that their tag-along companion, Kim, seems to have such good ideas when they are stumped. Book extras include some historical background on King Arthur, the Dark Ages, warfare and weaponry during Arthur’s time, and details on Excalibur. A fascinating peek into the life and times of the real King Arthur, perfect for young time travelers and budding archaeologists.

For More Information

  • The Search for the Stone of Excalibur is available at Amazon.
  • Pick up your copy at Barnes & Noble.
  • Discuss this book at PUYB Virtual Book Club at Goodreads.
  • Find out the latest on the book at Facebook.

Guest post: 

How a Historical Hero Can Inspire Young Readers by Fiona Ingram

I’ve always been fascinated with the figure of King Arthur, so much so that when the idea popped into my head to use Excalibur, and thus King Arthur, in Book 2: The Search for the Stone of Excalibur, I couldn’t have been more pleased. Before I began my serious research, I had always thought of King Arthur as a kind of hazy figure who was mostly legend. To my surprise, I found enough information to pinpoint Arthur as a historical figure, a Dark Ages king, a Briton who lived and fought around AD 500. Arthur’s biggest achievement in history was turning the tide of the Anglo-Saxon advance at the Battle of Badon in AD 516, keeping Britain safe for the next fifty years. Starting around AD 700, references to Arthur and his brave exploits on the battlefield began to emerge and have continued to the present day.

Even in his own time, Arthur’s name became synonymous with heroic deeds, bravery, and victory on the field of battle. The half-mythical, half-historic nature of the original Arthurian legends developed with the retelling of the tales. With Arthur’s name becoming increasingly more mythologised, it was perhaps inevitable that with the advent of the first ‘fiction’ writing (around the twelfth century) that Arthur would appear in an even more heroic light than before. Following Arthur’s death at the Battle of Camlann (AD 535), his fame spread all over Europe. The Arthurian stories journeyed with merchants and other travelers from country to country, from city to city, from monastery to monastery, and from one royal court to another. The idea of chivalry emerged. This new code emphasized that one should live and conduct oneself with honor, courtesy, and bravery.

Why, centuries later, is the figure of Arthur still so important? Arthur is important to us because he appears as the ideal of kingship during both peace and war. He stands for all that is true and good in a leader. He became a conquering hero, a champion of peace and justice, a king of kings. This is the kind of hero that will appeal to young readers, and perhaps inspire them to emulate King Arthur, to be someone who ‘does the right thing,’ and stands head and shoulders above the rest just because he knows what makes a hero. Being a hero can encompass many things; it’s about standing up for what you believe in; defending someone who is weaker or who may be being bullied at school; making sure you treat people and animals with respect, love, compassion, and that you show the qualities of a young knight of the Round Table. A young reader can easily become a hero to his family, friends, and community by following the ideals that make a good, caring and responsible person.FionaIngram-794310

Fiona Ingram was born and educated in South Africa, and has worked as a full-time journalist and editor. Her interest in ancient history, mystery, and legends, and her enjoyment of travel has resulted in the multi award winning The Secret of the Sacred Scarab, the first in her exciting children’s adventure series—Chronicles of the Stone. Fiona has just published the second book entitled The Search for the Stone of Excalibur, a treat for young King Arthur fans. She is busy with Book 3 entitled The Temple of the Crystal Timekeeper.

For More Information

Read my review of The Search for the Stone of Excalibur here.

Read my review of the first book in the series, The Secret of the Sacred Scarab here.

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Guest Blogger Glenn Wood, Author of The Brain Sucker

The Brain Sucker by Glenn WoodThe Brain Sucker by Glenn Wood is a book written for middle schoolers (ages 9-12) featuring a Callum McCullock, a unique hero, and his two friends. Callum is confined to a wheelchair – but that certainly doesn’t stop them from moving to stop “The Brain Sucker“. We’re searching for websites, blogs, and other online locations where we can share information, interviews, reviews and much more about The Brain Sucker. The Brain Sucker was originally released by Walker Books Ltd in New Zealand, Australia and the UK and was a Sakura Medal nominee. It is now being released in the US and Canada by the author.

For much more about Glenn Wood and The Brain Sucker, you can visit his website –http://www.glennwoodauthor.com/

The Brain Sucker has been previously released in New Zealand, Australia and the UK. But this is the US and Canadian launch. Callum, his grandmother Rose, his friends Sophie and Jinx and the evil demented scientist Lester Smythe are heading to the US – and are ready to meet you!

The Brain Sucker is a critically acclaimed children’s book that has been published in Australasia and the UK by Walker Books. It follows the story of a disabled boy and his two friends who band together to defeat the evil plans of a demented scientist who has invented a brain sucking machine to rid the world of goodness.

Writing characters with a disability by Glenn Wood

I have an admission to make. I didn’t set out to include a disabled character in my story. While I have a reasonable knowledge of mental disability – my parents worked with intellectually handicapped people for some years – physical disabilities were new to me. I had never used a wheelchair myself or knew of anyone who was confined to one. This is how it came about.

When I first came up with the concept of The Brain Sucker I was confident the idea of an evil genius who had invented a machine that could suck the goodness out of kids was strong enough to explore further. I also knew that having a great central premise was not enough to carry the story. The book also had to be populated with strong and interesting characters.

Lester, my antagonist, came to me fairly quickly. His purpose and personality sprang directly from the book’s premise. But once his character was formed I needed an equally compelling hero. I wanted a character that had the guts to handle whatever was thrown at him, a boy who had already faced adversity and risen above it with strength and humour. The resulting protagonist was Callum, a thirteen-year-old boy who had been born with a spinal injury and was confined to a wheelchair.

This presented me with several challenges. As previously stated, I knew very little about children with disabilities or the restrictions faced by people in wheelchairs. It was vital I handled writing a disabled character with sensitivity and I was acutely aware that my character could never feel like a victim. I also wasn’t interested in writing a story where disability was the central theme. It became increasingly important that my readers saw Callum as a teenage boy first and foremost and the fact he was in a wheelchair became almost irrelevant.

Experts I spoke to confirmed this was the right approach and I quickly discovered that having a hero that was confined to a wheelchair was liberating rather than limiting. The way Callum copes with his disability opened up two very strong character traits. He became fiercely independent but also incredibly stubborn and this developed into one of the main themes of my story – the importance of being able to ask for help when you need it.

Writing a character like Callum has been a rewarding experience for me. The response to the book has been extremely positive with many reviewers commenting on how refreshing it is to see a disabled character in the main role in an action adventure.Glenn-Wood-Author-Brain-Sucker

Glenn Wood
Author of The Brain Sucker and The Bully Chip

 

Glenn Wood is an award winning copywriter and author who has four published books to his credit. These include his popular autobiographical novels – The Laughing Policeman and Cop Out – and two middle school books The Brain Sucker and The Bully Chip.

For more information about The Brain Sucker by Glenn Wood, visit his website http://www.glennwoodauthor.com You can get a copy of the book at http://www.amazon.com/Brain-Sucker-Thunderkit-Chronicles/dp/1512161624/

 

Guest Blogger: Mark J. Grant, Author of Lila: The Sign of the Elven Queen

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Mark J. Grant, a graduate of Occidental College, has been on Wall Street for thirty-seven years in various senior management positions. He has run capital markets for four investment banks and been on the boards of directors of four investment banks. Grant also writes “Out of the Box,” a commentary on the financial markets that is distributed daily to approximately 5,000 large money management institutions in forty-eight countries. He is the author of Out of the Box and onto Wall Street: Unorthodox Insights on Investments and the Economy (Wiley, 2011). LILA: THE SIGN OF THE ELVEN QUEEN is his first novel.

Visit his website at www.princesslila.com. Follow Mark on Twitter at https://twitter.com/lilaandfluffy.

7 Things About Lila: The Sign of the Elven Queen You Might Not Know

by Mark J. Grant

 

1. It all began at a dinner party at my house. I had some friends over and they were complaining that there were no nice books, no fairy tales, no Alice in Wonderland’s available in the world any longer. They said every book had he who could not be named or giant spiders or monsters or vampires or skulls and crossbones. There was nothing out there to read to their kids or have their older children read. This was quite a topic of conversation. I said that they had to be kidding, but if that was the case then I would write such a book. It would be a lovely fantasy that would not scare any child. They all looked at me with some disbelief but I did exactly what I promised. Lila—the Sign of the Elven Queen is my answer to their distress.

2.   The novel is the world seen through the eyes of a six-year-old girl. Each day is a new adventure as she confronts the wonder of daily life that is experienced by a child. She not only becomes older day by day, but mama is constantly teaching her to be a young lady as part of her growing up.Lila-233x300

3.   Lila lives in New York City and her building will not allow her to have a dog. Lila thinks and thinks about this, and finally concludes that she wants an invisible dog, to which her parents agree. On a cold and snowy day Lila and Papa go to the pet store to buy the invisible supplies for her new dog. As they reach the entrance, around the corner comes a black and white Australian Shepard who sits down in front of Lila, extends his paw and says, “Hello Lila, I am Fluffy.”

4.   Fluffy then introduces Lila to the invisible people of Iceland who live in the cornerstones of downtown buildings and in the boulders of Central Park. There is quite a stir in their community, as they rarely allow people to see them. It is apparent that Fluffy has something in mind.

5.   Lila has a birthmark on her left forearm and it is discovered that Lila has “The Sign of the Elven Queen.” This is something that has not been seen on a human in almost two thousand years. This causes a lot of fuss for the invisible people, and Lila and her parents are invited to “Boulder I, Parliament House” in Central Park to have lunch with the current Queen and Princess of the invisible people.

6.   The Council of Elders of both the invisible people in Iceland and New York then decide that Lila is to become a princess. Her coronation will also take place in Central Park at “Boulder II, Castlerock.” In the middle of this boulder is a large dome where two trees have grown thrones for the current Queen and Princess, and next to them is a sapling that is hurriedly growing a throne for Lila.

7. At the coronation it turns out that Fluffy is much more than he seems and he reveals his secret just as Lila become a Princess. Lila is crowned, turns seven and learns just who Fluffy really is as the invisible people can barely contain their joy. Now how good is that?

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Guest Blogger: Alyssa McCarthy of From Frights to Flaws by Sunayna Prasad

From Frights to Flaws

Twelve-year-old Alyssa McCarthy can no longer stand the toughness of her uncle and wants a better life. But one day she discovers not only the existence of magic, but also a villain hunting her down. The villain uses magic and magical technology to kidnap Alyssa to the Fiji Islands. As much as she wants to go home, she has to face some dangerous challenges first. Not only that, the villain himself must also be defeated. Can Alyssa succeed, even with the help of her mentors?

The Times with My Parents by Alyssa McCarthy

My name is Alyssa McCarthy. I am twelve years old and am currently living a tough life with my uncle and my cousin, Hailey. My aunt died when I was nine. When I was seven, though, I lost my parents.

The days before they died, though, were pretty cool. They used to take me to all kinds of cool places, like the park, county fair, and zoo. My dad was a high school math teacher and my mom was a bookkeeper. I grew up as the average middle-class child.

My mom wasn’t nearly as strict as my uncle, but like him, she was quite a health freak. I used to look at all the sugary cereals at the grocery store and even knew the names of the characters on them. But my mom wouldn’t let me buy them. She bought only whole grain products when it came to carbs. However, she would occasionally buy desserts and other junk foods when it came to special occasions.

She was also crazy about getting my hair to grow long and thick, like some Indian women have. I’ve had long hair ever since I was three, although it wasn’t down to my butt until I was in first grade. I remember on my first day of kindergarten, my mom massaged coconut oil into my hair. Kids said I smelled really good, and so I told them what it was. My mom would massage so many kinds of things into my hair from when she bathed me to when she brushed my hair. Being a health freak was also one of the reasons for making my hair grow long and thick.

My dad was more laid back then my mom. He would sometimes take me out for pizza and ice cream after my dance classes. He would also play outside with me on my playground and in the sandbox. Sometimes I preferred him than my mom.

Sadly, those days are over. I hate to say that I have and will continue to grow up without my parents. However, I have a godfather in Ohio, whom I am dying to live with. He was actually supposed to be my legal guardian if something happened to my parents. I hope everything gets better.Sunayna Prasad

Purchase your copy at AMAZON

Sunayna Prasad has been writing stories for over thirteen years, starting at the age of six. Now nineteen, she will start her junior year of college this fall, and will study accessory design as well as continue to write for children. Aside from that, Sunayna also likes to cook, watch movies, and draw. She lives on Long Island, New York, with her family.

Her latest book is the middle grade fantasy novel, Alyssa McCarthy’s Magical Missions: From Frights to Flaws.

Visit her website at www.SunaynaPrasadBooks.com.

 

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Guest Blogger: Katherine L. Holmes, Author of The Swan Bonnet

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Unknown to Dawn, her grandfather has shot an old swan out of mercy. In their coastal Alaskan town, her father buys the swan pelt, preventing her Uncle Alex, a fur trader, from selling it for export. Dawn’s father surprises her part-Aleut mother with a hat she helped to make and also with an idea to catch poachers. Shooting swans has become illegal but Alaska is a territory and Prohibition occupies the Sheriff. Dawn and her mother become involved with suspicious responses to the swan bonnet besides its haunting effect. Because Dawn’s grandparents see the swans first, Dawn agrees to secretly watch the migration with the Deputy Sheriff’s son. But after she and her mother encounter women from a ship and find out about a hunting party, they ride to the inlet. There are also townspeople roving the shore but who is the vigilante and who is the poacher?

The Swan Bonnet Herstory by Katherine L. Holmes

We tend to absorb the history of our environment. As it was for many, Alaska was romantic to me as a frontier, romantic while living in the city. All of a sudden someone would leave Minneapolis for Alaska. My brother went there to do legal work after he had worked with Indian Legal Aid in Duluth. While he was on the south coast, I thought of moving. I read up on the state and became caught up in its history. The near extinction of swans in the United States had me thinking about settings, and soon I was planning a story.

Learning about Alaska was like learning grammar through a foreign language. I’ve never read a history book about Minnesota, though I have Midwestern ancestry going back to the mid-1800s. Mining hopes in Alaska were very similar to those on Minnesota’s Iron Range in the early 20th century. The influx of people in Northern Minnesota had similarities to Alaska’s new population. Sometimes they were the same people. Like Alaska, the fur trade began Minnesota history. I’d heard much about the 1920s on the Iron Range from my mother. Boomtowns and sudden wealth mapped the region.

After being fascinated with two books of Alaskan history, I researched swans. I read how warehouses with thousands of swan pelts were discovered, more than 10,000 at a time. Eventually hunting laws were enforced and a successful environmental chronicle was documented. I began my Alaska story as a shorter fiction about an Irish immigrant couple who bought shore property where swans migrated. But soon the story led to a coastal town and characters emerged.

When I thought of the swans being killed in masses, I knew that few women were part of such a money-making venture. How much did women help such an environmental campaign in a lone setting when a particular species were illegal to hunt? It is known how women responded to Prohibition then.

I posted the book at Authonomy.com in 2009, while I began to re-work the historical detail. I was afraid the swan hat would seem far-fetched. But it wasn’t historically. The West established its own dress. I actually hadn’t seen Chaplin’s The Gold Rush and later, when I watched the VHS, the women’s fur hats were part of the entertainment.

Not until I was rewriting the book did I realize the inspiration for the swan hat. Of course, it was meant to be the white hat of the western. But I remembered from my grade

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school years the pheasant pelts one of my brothers brought home after hunting. He hung the pheasant pelts on the wall of his room and then in the basement. These pelts fit neatly on the head so that, with my friends, I wore a pheasant hat – until my mother found out and scared us about lice. There is some kind of method to storytelling after all.

Published by Enigma Press

ISBN:  978-0615794570

172 pages

Amazon link:  http://www.amazon.com/The-Swan-Bonnet-Katherine-Holmes/dp/0615794572/

Katherine L. Holmes’s first published novel, The House in Windward Leaves, was an E-book Fiction Finalist in the 2013 Next Generation Book Awards and also a Juvenile Fiction Finalist in the 2013 National Indie Excellence Book Awards. Her short story collection, Curiosity Killed the Sphinx and Other Stories, was published by Hollywood Books International. In 2013, The Wide Awake Loons was published by Silver Knight Publishing and The Swan Bonnet was published by Enigma Press. Katherine lives in Duluth, Minnesota, where besides writing, she works with used books.

Visit the author online at  https://sites.google.com/site/katherinelholmesauthorprofile/

Guest Blogger: Maria Andreu, Author of The Secret Side of Empty

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COMING NEXT SPRING… The Secret Side of Empty

**Read about the book and scroll below for details on how to enter to WIN a $250 Amazon gift card just by liking the author’s Facebook page!**

You’ve heard the news stories. Now hear the real story.

M.T. is starting her senior year with a lot going for her. She gets great grades, has a best friend she met in kindergarten and a boyfriend who is sweet and into her. But life – at least as she knows it – is about to end.

M.T. is what the news calls “illegal” – she came to the U.S. with her parents as a baby and never got the right papers that allowed her to stay. She lives in fear of her family getting deported, in even more fear that she’ll have to go to the home country she doesn’t even remember, of people finding out her ugly secret and of the increasingly volatile situation at home. When senior year is over, the protected world she’s found in her small parochial school will disappear. Without a social security number, she won’t be able to go to college, get a job or, maybe worst of all, get a driver’s license.

But she’ll worry about all that later. First, she’s got a senior year to take on.

The Inspiration Behind The Secret Side of Empty by Maria Andreu

The Secret Side of Empty, in bookstores Spring, 2014, is the story of a high school senior, M.T., who is hiding a big secret: she’s “illegal.” Her parents brought her over as a baby and overstayed their visas. She’s American in every way except one: on paper. No one knows, not even her best friend Chelsea and her sweet boyfriend, Nate. With senior year coming to a close, she has to figure out how she’ll build a life with no social security number, no college, no driver’s license and no way to get a real job. But first she’s got to make it through senior year.

The inspiration for this story came from my own experience. I, too, came over to the U.S. as a baby and was undocumented as a teenager. Being a teen is hard enough, but when you mix in the fear of getting deported from the only country you’ve ever called home due to a decision you had no hand in making, it’s really stressful and it makes you wonder why you don’t belong when everyone else does.

Looking back now, I realize I was almost magically lucky. When I was 18 there was an amnesty and I was able to become a citizen. Suddenly, everything I thought was hopelessly out of reach – a college degree, a house, trips abroad, a job – became possible. My first reaction was to put it all behind and forget it. I look just like everybody else, so I figured I’d just pretend I was.

I tried to forget my experiences for 20 years. It wasn’t until after 9/11, when the rhetoric about immigrants got so ugly, that I began to feel that it was irresponsible not to share my story. The news was filled with all kinds of negative news about immigrants, trying to play on people’s fears. I realized that I could help shed light on the human side of the experience, and that’s what I set out to do in The Secret Side of Empty.

First and foremost I set out to write a book people would want to read. It’s not a political book at all. M.T. doesn’t care about the issue and isn’t up on the news about it. She just wants her life to work out, she wants to stop being so afraid that her boyfriend is going to dump her, and she tries to cope with the fact that the people around her have so much more than she has but don’t appreciate it. She wants to figure out what to wear to the dance, what to write in her latest English paper. That’s it. But of course she’s caught up in these forces that are so much bigger than she is.

Writing this book was tremendously therapeutic. For the longest time, my own background as an undocumented immigrant was my deepest, ugliest secret. Revealing it while talking about the book opened me up to a lot of compassion and warmth from people. And, most of all, it helped me understand that the truth has a great healing power.

I would love for you to take this book-publishing journey with me, from cover reveal, to first galleys, to an inside peek of what it’s like to do a book signing (There will lots of fun giveaways along the way). When I was growing up poor and undocumented, I never believed I could make this dream come true. But here it is! Like my Facebook page for news on the book and also to enter to win a $250 gift card. https://www.facebook.com/maria.andreu.booksmaria

Maria Andreu is an author and immigration rights activist. She lives in beautiful Bergen County, New Jersey with her two wonderful middle schoolers. At the age of 12, she wrote in her diary, “Most of all, I want to be a writer.” Growing up undocumented and poor, she never imagined that dream might come true one day. Her work has been published in Newsweek, The Washington Post and The Star Ledger and her first novel, The Secret Side of Empty, will be published by Running Press in Spring, 2014.

A Note from the Author, Maria Andreu:

The fulfillment of great dreams feels best when shared, which is why I’m inviting people to Like my Facebook page and come along with me on the fabulous and improbable journey of publishing my first novel.  As my thanks, when you like the page by July 31st, you’ll be able to enter to win a fan-only sweeps for a $250 Amazon gift card!

Be the first to get updates on the cover, new tour stops, and fan-only content (plus enter a sweeps for a $250 Amazon gift card) by liking the author’s Facebook page here:  https://www.facebook.com/maria.andreu.books

The book is already getting industry buzz and news coverage, so Like the FB page to get updates on that as well.