Stepping Out of the Zone – My Toastmasters Ice Breaker Speech!

So many changes are taking place in my life. One of those changes: I joined Toastmasters International.

I have a severe fear of speaking in public, but this is a fear I must overcome to reach my goals as a children’s author and as an independent consultant for a health and wellness company.


Just finished my Ice Breaker speech. The adrenaline had kicked in big time, and I still felt shaky!

Are you familiar with Toastmasters? If not, here’s a brief history I copied from the website of my local Toastmasters club:

“In October 1924, a group of men assembled by Dr. Ralph C. Smedley met in the basement of the YMCA in Santa Ana, California, U.S.A., forming a club ‘to afford practice and training in the art of public speaking and in presiding over meetings, and to promote sociability and good fellowship among its members.’ The group took the name ‘Toastmasters.'”

I signed up at the very first meeting I attended. The members were friendly and professional, I liked the way the meeting was conducted, and I knew this was what I needed.

A month later, I gave my very first prepared speech, the “Ice Breaker,” which is basically to tell who you are and what your goals are. My fellow Toastmasters were supportive and made me feel comfortable, so after doing some deep, slow breathing to calm myself as much as possible, I gave my speech. I must have practiced it a hundred times, mostly in front of my toddler grandkids I’m care giver for.

I messed up a lot, like saying words backwards when I was tired (for example, “wealth and hellness” instead of “health and wellness”), had some giggle attacks, drew a lot of blanks, stumbled over my words, and actually started shaking as my heart raced. So, I just kept on practicing until, finally, the big moment arrived.

My daughter recorded it for me:

If  you’re unable to access the video, here’s the speech and some photos just to spice up this post. The photos weren’t part of the speech!

Hello. I’m Lynn Kelley. I’m a recovering court reporter, care giver for two of my grandkids, an independent consultant for an amazing health and wellness company, and a children’s author.

Highlights Magazine awarded me Author of the Month for my short story, The Jobo Tree, and I’ve published five middle grade books, three as coauthor of the Monster Moon Mystery series under the pseudonym BBH McChiller.

My memory isn’t the best, especially when I’m scared stiff to step out of my comfort zone, so I brought my pet Brain for support.


Pet Brain – The original was the brain child of my coauthor, Maria Toth. Then my other coauthor, Kathy Sant, and I adopted our own Pet Brains!

Brain, stay!

A few years ago Brain and I got to take part in two Homework Hotline episodes on a local TV station. Brain was a big hit, along with my Monster Moon coauthors, Kathy and Maria. I had an important part too: Cue card girl.

That’s right, I was too chicken to be on camera. Just holding the cue cards gave me the jitters. As it turned out, the teleprompter messed up, so I saved the day! Go cue card girl!

How Do You Cook Up Suspense?

Cue card girl on the Homework Hotline set!


But I’m getting ahead of myself, so let’s go back, way back to the olden days when I was just a girl.

Abbracadabra Presto Picheelo!


I made a shadow box using a photo of Granddad, his magic wand, some of his silk handkerchiefs, and some playing cards.

With a magician grandfather, is it any wonder my childhood was magical? Granddad not only performed magic, but he was always working on creative projects, like the time he cut the legs off a coffee table and replaced them with women’s mannequin legs. Like, wow!

In those days, I was a skinny, freckle-faced kid. My dad was Mr. Funny Guy. In my eyes, Jerry Lewis had nothing on Dad. He made up a little song about me that always made me giggle:

Skinny Lynnie, there she goes Walkin’ down the street like a Bag’o’Bones!

It still makes me giggle! Being skinny didn’t bother me and neither did my freckles, but there was this mole on my neck that stuck out like a skin tag. I must have whined about it a lot because for my eighth birthday, my mom gave me a choice:

Do you want a birthday party? Or Do you want to have the mole cut off your neck?

I’d never had a birthday party before, so of course that’s what I chose. Imagine if I hadn’t and my friends asked, “So, what’d you get for your birthday?”

“Uh, I got a mole cut off my neck.”


Still, I was confident, athletic, and spunky, until junior high when I turned into a dorky dweeb and regretted not having that mole cut off.

I’ve always loved costumes and playing with makeup at Halloween, so when I grew up and attended court reporting school, I tried to bring in some extra money working as a clown. That was short lived because…everyone just laughed at me.


For my son’s fourth birthday, I provided the entertainment as Buffy the Clown.


George and I two years ago at his 60th birthday party (hippy theme). Groovy, man! He’s wearing a wig.

I moved on and life’s been good. I worked as a court reporter for 25 years. My husband, George, and I will celebrate 38 years of marriage next month. We raised four rascals and now have four grandchildren, ages four and under.


Our four rascals!


Me (Grammy) with my son, my oldest daughter, and my four grand-darlings: Sweet Pea, Twinkle Eyes, Grasshopper, and Ninja Doll.

I’m caregiver for two of them. I can be the biggest goofball ever. And they love it. I wonder if I’ll have an influence on them the way Granddad’s creativity inspired me.

A few weeks ago I came across a Facebook post that said, “If you ever want to know what a creative person’s mind feels like, just imagine a browser with 2,850 tabs open. All. The. Time.” What a great analogy!

What tabs might you find lurking in this quirky mind?

A pirate ditty for my next book,

A new chocolate smoothie concoction,

A time travel adventure,

Or maybe a new Funny Bones video for YouTube.


Bag’O’Bones – Each bone has a joke written on it.



My Funny Bones character is a numbskull skeleton who carries a bag of bones. Each bone has a joke on it.

Hmm, seems Dad’s little song about me proved to be prophetic.


Funny Bones – Clown Skeleton

And one day it dawned on me, Funny Bones is actually a clown skeleton. Go figure!


Ninja Doll, me, and Grasshopper. I had just lost 14 pounds! Since this pic was taken, I’ve lost two more! Woo hoo!


The future is wide open, and I have lots of stories itching to be told. I hope to leave a legacy for my grandchildren, my great-grandchildren, and all children.

All my goals are within reach now that I’m feeling better, thanks to the pea protein shakes I drink every day.

For the record, that’s pea spelled p-e-a, folks!

The pea protein shakes have taken away my sugar cravings. My sweet tooth is so big, it’s more like a fang. Since it’s been tamed, I’ve lost 15 pounds in four months!

Not only that, my energy level has increased so much, I’m able to do some extra things, like join Toastmasters.

Fellow Toastmasters, thank you for the warm welcome into your club. I look forward to being on this adventure with you. I have a little gift for each of you when I’m finished, a bookmark for one of my books, but first…

…I must click my heels three times and wait for the flying monkeys to carry Brain and me back to our seats. There’s no place like my comfort zone…

Do you have  a fear of public speaking? Are you familiar with Toastmasters? It’s perfect for learning to speak off-the-cuff and give prepared speeches. Here’s the link for Toastmasters International. Chances are you have a Toastmasters club nearby that you can visit as a guest to see if you’d like to join.

Posted in Toastmasters, YouTube Video | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 19 Comments

The Science of Creativity!

I knew my Monster Moon Mystery series coauthor, Kathryn Sant, would be an awesome blogger because she’s a retired OB-Gyn, loves all things science and history related, loves writing and reading, is brilliant, creative, and extremely humble. She never toots her own horn. So, honk! Honk! Honk! I’m tooting it for her!

Kathy just wrote her second blog post, and it’s jam-packed with fascinating info about creativity. This is a must-read post for all parents, teachers, and creative folks who want to boost their creativity.

Kathy took the below photos of graffiti on a wall in Tijuana during her most recent trip with a group of other medical professionals who volunteer their time and talents to provide health services for people who live in extreme poverty. The creativity she witnessed amongst their community is what inspired her to write the post.


Tijuana graffiti – Jellyfish, Shark, and Turtle – Photo by Kathryn Sant

In Kathy’s blog post (on the Emblazon site), you’ll find answers to these questions:

Is creativity something one is born with?

Is creativity in a specific spot in the right side of the brain?

Can creativity be enhanced?

You’ll not only learn the answers to these questions, but you’ll learn lots of other facts that might surprise you.



Go to Emblazon to read Kathy’s post.


Thanks for stopping by!


Posted in Uncategorized | 9 Comments

Through the Shimmer of Time

Whoop! Whoop!  You’re just in time to help us celebrate the release of Jennifer Jensen’s debut novel Through the Shimmer of Time for kids ages 9 to 12.

Take it away, Jennifer!

Thanks for hosting me, Lynn. It’s fun to share some blogging with another middle grade booklover.

With a MG time travel book that goes back and forth to 1838, you’d think I’d be a history fanatic. I thought I was a history lover . . . until college. American History 101 cured me of that – History with a capital H is names and dates and battles and economics. B-O-R-I-N-G, even if I was half-decent in memorizing them.

What I love about history is what I used to call The Olden Days – any and every time period far enough in the past that it’s fun to imagine living there. I love reading about how the pilgrims survived winter, how families buried their silver during times of war, and how kitchens were in separate buildings, not only to keep the house cooler in the summer, but for fire safety!

summer_kitchen Wikim

Summer Kitchen: By Andrei Stroe via Wikimedia Commons

I love imagining farmers mending harnesses by the fire and ladies dancing intricate steps in sumptuous long gowns. I still remember being fascinated with an old high school movie that showed how coopers made barrels in colonial America. Since I can’t actually travel to those times (although I did make a plea for a time travel agent this week), I love reading books and watching movies that draw me in, as far as my imagination and someone’s research will take me.

A few “Olden Days” moments that have grabbed me through books:

• Being about 12, reading about the Whitman massacre in Walla Walla, Washington. Although that may be partly because Walla Walla is fun to say!

• Living alongside (in a book, anyway) an impoverished mining family in Newcastle-on-Tyne.


“Edinburgh Castle DSC05056” via Wikimedia Commons

• Visiting Edinburgh Castle and finally understanding that a castle was a whole town unto itself!

• Finding out exactly what being “hanged, drawn and quartered” really meant. *shudder*

• Imagining how ancient families scratched a living in the ice age or early Mesopotamia. • The idea of cooking dinner over a fire made with buffalo chips (manure). Hmm . . . would that add any special flavor?

• The incredible perseverance of pioneers as they lowered wagons into the Columbia River Gorge or carved a road into a mountain of solid rock.

• Crying when I discovered that my Scottish sea captain ancestor lost his 3-year-old daughter and his wife in the same year, and then lost his ship to rocks in the fog a month later!

I could go on and on, but the gist of it is that I like learning how people lived in any sort of Olden Days, and living it along with them. To me, the best historical fiction (including history-based time travel) is accurate in its facts and how it portrays life, AND has a great story line.

Final cover

Title:  Through the Shimmer of Time
By Jennifer Jensen
Readership:  Ages 9-12


A mysterious pottery shard . . .

            A haunted cabin . . .

                        A shadowy stranger . . .

                                   And no way home

Present Day: Jim has a talent for getting into trouble. Grounded from his model rockets, he goes exploring where he shouldn’t and gets zapped back in time. Can he find the way back home or is he marooned in the past?

1838: Hannah’s life in her frontier village is filled with a little play and a lot of hard work. A seemingly harmless trick lures a strange, dazed boy from the old haunted cabin. Now Hannah must make a choice – and face the dangers.

Together, Jim and Hannah struggle to unmask a thief and solve a murder while they search for the key to unlock time.  It will take all their courage and wits, plus the rocket motors in Jim’s pocket, just to stay alive.

Jennifer Jensen photo

Jennifer Jensen is an award-winning writer who wouldn’t be without her computer or smart phone, but still dreams of living in the olden days. Until someone invents a working time machine, she lives in Indiana and makes do with plenty of imagination, loads of books and as much Dr. Who as the BBC will produce. She’s a longtime member of SCBWI and has received two Indiana Arts Commission grants for her fiction. Through the Shimmer of Time is her first novel. Connect with her at her blog, through Facebook or on Twitter (@jenjensen2).

Jennifer’s Blog:  Surrounded by Story
Follow her on Facebook
Follow her on Twitter

What do you love about the Olden Days? Do you have a favorite time period? And if you’re into time travel and frontier America, check out Jennifer’s new release, Through the Shimmer of Time.

Posted in Books, Writing | Tagged , , , , | 16 Comments

Cover Reveal of The Swift by Alex Banks

 The Swift

Comes out June 2nd
The Swift Final Cover Front in RGB

How far would you go to save the ones you love?

“The night twelve-year-old Pete planned to shoot the winning goal in the championship hockey game was the same night his dad was lost at sea. Now, eight months later, his mom still cries all the time, his beloved grandfather, stricken with Alzheimer’s, can’t even remember him, and they’re about to lose their crappy old house to the bank. To make matters worse, his twin brother Henry blames Pete for all of it. After all, they were a family of fishermen—if Pete had gone to help on the boat instead of to the game, their dad might still be alive.

While searching the attic for stuff they can sell, Pete finds a battle-torn ship-in-a-bottle. When he and Henry show the bottle to their grandpa, the three of them are transported back in time—on board the very ship that’s going down.

Battling pirates and the raging sea, the boys must learn to work together to help their grandpa save his past. If they don’t, they won’t have a future to return to.”

Amazon – Paperback

Do you like time travel tales? If you could travel back in time and change something in your past, what would it be?

Posted in Books, Giveaways, Kids, Pirates | Tagged , , , , , , | 26 Comments

Bathroom Bling For The Mother Who Has Everything!

Are you stumped as far as what to get your mom for Mother’s Day? Last March I found the perfect gift for the mom who has everything. It was at the Spring Boutique in Brea, California.


Can you guess what these are? Aren’t they gorgeous?


Look at this photo. Now can you guess?






If you guessed toilet bolt toppers, you get a cookie!






Aren’t those the neatest? What fancy bathroom would be complete without a set of these?


Who is so ingenious and creative that they thought of this?

Donna Hoover and Lindy Stanton, two Southern California women, that’s who. Their business is called Bathroom Bling, For The Girl Who Has Everything.



Their bathroom bling displayed at the Spring Boutique caught my eye. I had to show my sisters.

Ooh-la-la, they thought these were impressive, too. We pitched in and bought a pair for Mom for Mother’s Day. $25.00 a set, which includes tax. And every pair is unique.


We couldn’t wait until Mother’s Day to give them to Mom, so we had her open her gift right there at the boutique. She loved them. So much so that she had to go buy another set for her other bathroom!



Then my sister gave in to temptation and bought a set for her own guest bathroom.


If you want to buy a set for your mother (so she can be the coolest mom on the block), or to buy them for yourself, you can email Donna Hoover at donnajohoover at roadrunner dot com, or contact her by leaving a message on her Facebook page here.

The Bathroom Bling comes in a wide variety of colors, so have at it picking yours out! Easy to install – They fit right on top of the bolt toppers. Easy to clean – Just lift them off and rinse under the faucet.


Pam, Cindy, me, and Mom

Here I am at the boutique with my sisters, Pam and Cindy, and our mom.

Mother’s Day is right around the corner and I already gave Mom the fancy toilet bolt toppers. Now I need to get her something else.

Hmm. Any ideas?

If you enjoyed this post, I hope you’ll sign up to subscribe to my blog. Fill in your email address in the window in the sidebar.

Posted in Arts and Crafts, family, Holidays | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 35 Comments

The Dance – It’s National Poetry Month!

April is National Poetry Month. It’s been many moons since I last wrote a poem, but I found one I wrote years ago. It’s one of my favorites, so I thought I’d share it with you.

Dreamstime Photo (All rights reserved)

Dreamstime Photo
(All rights reserved)

The Dance

I danced as a babe
in lullaby dreams

Danced with lightning bugs
in the stars’ bright beams

I danced in the cold
with a man of snow

Danced in the splendor
of my first rainbow

I danced in my skates
through the crispy breeze

Danced like a mermaid
in the salty seas

I danced with desire
watching birds in flight

And danced and romanced
as he held me tight

Danced to the music
of the moonsong’s spell

Danced to the chimes
of the wedding bell

I danced with my hips
where all life begins

Danced as my babies
grew and danced within

Danced with my children
filled with giggling glee

Danced in the sunset
as I set them free

Danced in the fragrance
of the garden rose

Danced in dewdrop grass
on my tippy-toes

The dance lamented
through voids of despair

Till the dance of hope
wiped away each tear

Danced in the moment
of epiphany

Won’t you join
in the dance with me?

~Lynn Kelley

Do you write poetry? Do you have a favorite poem?

Posted in Poetry | Tagged , , , | 37 Comments

The Stone of Valhalla Blog Tour

Welcome to The
Stone of Valhalla
Blog Tour!
A middle-grade fantasy-adventure by Mikey Brooks.

Don’t forget to check out the GIVEAWAY at the bottom this post

for a chance to WIN a $25 Amazon Gift card and other great prizes!

Standing Alone

A guest post by: Mikey Brooks

I get asked a lot if my personal childhood affected my writing in any way. In order for me to answer this question I need to tell you a little about my childhood. I grew up on a farm in rural Missouri. Our nearest neighbor was about a mile down the dirt road. It took about 30 minutes to get into town where they had one stop light, a grocery store, a bank, an elementary school, and high school (which consisted of grades 7-12). Because we lived so far outside of town, I didn’t have many friends. We had a very dense forest surrounding our farm and those woods became my Wonderland. I’d go into them and make believe I had found doorways to hidden worlds where new friends awaited there for me. I find it funny that so many years after leaving those woods and growing up I write a story about a boy who goes to another world where new friends await him. So, yes, my writing is very heavily affected by my childhood.

I find a lot of similarities with my main character, Aaron, and myself. Not only does he suffer from asthma (as I did when I was a kid), but he is incredibly good looking. Aaron also shares my sense of humor. He also has a hard time making friends. In fact, he tries to pretend to be something he’s not in order to make them. Looking back at some of the friends I had when I was a kid, I see that I did the same thing. My supposed “friends” teased me and made me do things like steal just so I could belong to their group. Aaron
learns a similar lesson that he doesn’t have to change himself for others to like him. He learns if friendship comes with prerequisites, then it’s not really friendship at all. My favorite line Aaron says to these supposed “friends” is that he’d rather be a loner than a loser. Although it’s easier to stand with a crowd, it’s better to stand alone when it is right.

I am thrilled to announce the release of my newest middle-grade fantasy-adventure: The Stone of Valhalla. I hope you love Aaron as much as I do. Yes, he has a lot to learn in the beginning but the excitement comes as we see him grow throughout his journey.


Aaron was chosen to save their world, but it might come at the cost of
losing his own.

Breaking into an old lady’s basement was supposed to reward 13-year-old Aaron with new friends. Instead he finds an enchanted amulet that transports him to another world—one at war with magic. Before he knows it, he is accused of witchcraft and invited to a bonfire—where he’s the main attraction. If that’s not bad enough, a goblin army shows up and toasts the town…literally. The good news: Aaron escapes being charbroiled. The bad news: the goblins are after him. They want his amulet and will stop at nothing to get it. Battling to find his way home, Aaron teams up with a not-so-magical-wizard and learns it’s his fate to destroy the amulet and save this new world. But is he willing to sacrifice his own?

Check out what these talented authors
are saying about it:

The Stone of Valhalla is one of those books that only comes along once in a great while. Brooks doesn’t just create a world, he puts you inside of it, allowing you to experience the wonder in a way that only he can. His characters are likable and fun. His twists leave you
asking ‘Why?’ Treat yourself to an exciting adventure through a beautiful new land. Make new friends and be a part of the magic. This is a book that you will not be able to put down!”

—J.R. Simmons,
author of Ragesong: Awakening.

 The Stone of Valhalla drew me in from the get-go. Aaron’s journey is
reminiscent of Dorothy’s trek in The Wizard of Oz. Magic, sword fights, danger, and more danger, sprinkled with humor and unexpected twists. This is one of the ‘best’ fantasy adventures I’ve ever experienced!”

—BBH McChiller,
author of The Monster Moon Series

The Stone of Valhalla is a riveting mystery revealing true friendship, loyalty and sacrifice. Brooks engages the curiosity of middle graders and older sleuths alike, until the very end. Fantastic!”

—L.R.W. Lee,
author of The Andy Smithson series.

Where to Find The Stone of Valhalla:

Exclusive price for the eBook
release is just $2.99! (List Price: $4.99)

And only $9.99 for the paperback!(List Price: $12.99)

On April 12th
2014 the price will return to the List Price

Another special offer:

During The Stone of Valhalla
Blog Tour

Mikey’s other great middle-grade eBooks will also be set to the low
price of just $0.99!

The Dream Keeper:

Kindle | Nook | Kobo

The Dreamstone:

Kindle | Nook | Kobo


You’re Invited to PARTY!!

The online launch party will take place on Thursday, April 10th at 4pm (MST). The party will run for 2 hours and you’re invited to drop by anytime. The longer you stay the more chances you have of winning prizes! We have slew of eBooks to giveaway, as well as a Stone of Valhalla necklace AND a $25 Amazon gift card! It is hosted by LovingtheBookLaunchParty on Facebook. Just follow this link to join the event:

What’s that? Another Party!

That’s right! If you’re local to Utah you don’t want to miss this kickin’ party. We
are having a launch party to celebrate the release of this awesome new book. Of
course there will be plenty of giveaways there too, but what’s even better are
the guest authors! Just check out these fabulous names: J. Scott Savage, Chad
Morris, Lisa Mangum, Jenni James, Ali Cross, and many more. The Launch Party
is: Friday, April 11th from 6-9pm at the Viridian Center in West Jordan, Utah.

Follow this link for a map:

About Mikey Brooks:

Mikey is a small child masquerading as an adult. On occasion you’ll catch him dancing the funky chicken, singing like a banshee, and pretending to have never grown up. He is the author/illustrator of several books including the best-selling ABC Adventures: Magical Creatures and Bean’s Dragons as well as the middle-grade fantasy-adventure series The Dream Keeper Chronicles. His art can be seen in many forms from picture books to full room murals. He loves to
daydream with his three daughters and explore the worlds that only the imagination of children can create. Mikey has a BS degree in English from Utah State University and works full-time as a freelance illustrator, cover designer, and author. As a member of the Emblazoners, he is one of many authors devoted to ‘writing stories on the hearts of
children’. He is also one of the hosts of the Authors’ Think Tank Podcast. You can find more about him and his books at:

The Giveaways!

Click here to enter a Rafflecopter giveaway

Posted in Uncategorized | 12 Comments

Easy Prank For April Fool’s Day

Okay, April Fools pranksters, this one’s for you.

Warning: Please don’t pull this on anyone with heart problems.


Dreamstime Photo – All Rights Reserved

We don’t want anyone to get hurt, just a little startle, a scream, and lots of giggles.

I need to find my plastic spiders. I’ll report back if I’m successful. Hee-hee!

If you try this, too, let me know how it goes!

Tip: Don’t forget you set this up. You might end up pranking yourself! Yes, that has happened to a few pranksters. If you’re going to dish it out, you’ve got to be ready to take it, too!

Are you a prankster? Would you do this? Are you usually the brunt of April Fools jokes, or are you the joker? What’s your best April Fools joke so far? 

P.S. I have a quirky writing prompt post today over at the Emblazon website – Ugly Foot Finds Its Doppleganger. It’s a good one for kids. They just might run with it!

Hop on over and check it out.

Posted in Creepy, Holidays, Jokes and Pranks, YouTube Video | Tagged , , , , | 28 Comments

Middle Shelf – Cool Reads For Kids

This post is reblogged with permission from Susan Kaye Quinn’s March 7, 2014 post. I, too, planned to write a post about Middle Shelf, a wonderful new digital magazine featuring cool reads for kids, but Susan’s post is so well done, I couldn’t have covered as much as she has, so here you go:

I am pumped that both Faery Swap and the Emblazoners are in the March issue of Middle Shelf!

“Middle Shelf is a digital-only magazine featuring the best books for middle grade readers. Each bi-monthly issue includes author interviews, reviews, excerpts, and photo essays. Subscriptions are free.

Look at this gorgeous ad they ran for Emblazoners! 


Ad designed by Emblazon member, Dale Robert Pease.

And a full-page excerpt for Faery Swap!

 The Emblazoner Ad

The folks at Middle Shelf offered us a great discount for our ad (Middle Shelf is new and they’re just getting started, but they’re an off-shoot of the larger Shelf Unbound company). This is where having an indie group of authors is a great advantage – the ad was more than any one of us would spend individually (even at the discount) but together, it was a no brainer. Plus we’re (hopefully) building some brand-recognition for our group, as authors who strive to emblazon our stories on the hearts of children. Check out our group and subscribe to receive our catalog to see what other great things we’re doing! Check out Middle Shelf’s Facebook page to see how to advertise with them.

The Faery Swap Excerpt

I was surprised when Laurisa, Editor-in-Chief at Middle Shelf, reached out to me, saying she had read the sample chapter of Faery Swap and thoroughly enjoyed it! And wanted to feature an excerpt in their March edition! Of course, I was happy to do that, and I couldn’t be more pleased with how it came out. It’s possible I may be in a future issue as well with an interview about being an indie MG author.

Two things impress me about Middle Shelf – that they’re actively reaching out to indie authors and that they have the super-glossy, top-shelf look a professional magazine should.

From their premiere issue last fall:

“Good books have the power to entertain, to spark imaginations, and to transform lives, which is precisely why Middle Shelf came into being. We want to connect middle grade readers to the very best books, whether they’re on the bestseller lists, published by small or indie presses, or self-published.”


I wish Middle Shelf all the success possible in their mission – they’re off to a great start!

* * *

Thanks so much, Susan, for permission to share your post on my blog. Well said! Cheers to many more fabulous issues from Middle Shelf!



Posted in Books, Kids, Libraries, Schools, Writing | Tagged , , , , | 24 Comments

Bish Denham’s Spider Hair and New Book!

You’re in for a treat today. Meet Bish Denham, author of Anansi and Company. 

Bish Denham with spider hair!

Bish Denham with spider hair!

Don’t you love that do? She did it herself. It goes with her new book about Anansi, the trickster spider.


About Anansi and Company

How do you escape a hungry tiger? Why do ram-goats smell? What happens if you get too greedy? In this collection of ten retold Jamaican stories, Anansi the spider tricks, sings, and dances his way into and out of trouble.

But who is Anansi? It was the Ashanti of West Africa who brought the spider into the Caribbean. He clung tight to the web he wove in the minds of those who had been captured, surviving not only the harrowing passage across the Atlantic Ocean, but hundreds of years of slavery.

As a trickster, Anansi has both good and bad traits, which makes him very human. Sometimes he wins, sometimes he loses. When he wins he dances and sings for joy. When he loses, he shakes it off and keeps on living, a lesson for us all.

Isn’t that book cover cool? I love it!

You can get the eBook on Amazon.

Here’s the book trailer:

Lynn:  I just have one question for you. About how long on the average did it take you to retell each tale? I’m thinking this was a pretty time consuming project for you, huh?

Bish:  A few years BEFORE Hurricane Marilyn tore through the Virgin Islands in 1995, my sister gave me for safe keeping, our old book of Jamaican Anansi Stories. It was compiled by Martha Warren Beckwith who went to Jamaica in the early 1920s and recorded people telling Anansi stories. She then faithfully transcribed the stories in their original Jamaican dialect and published them in 1924. Hurricane Marilyn tore the roof off the family home and most of my sister’s books were destroyed.

It seemed serendipitous to me that the old book survived because I had it. So I began to try to read the stories, with the idea of translating and/or retelling them. They proved difficult to read; almost like reading a foreign language. But I persisted.

First I had to decipher them, then pick a few, and rework them. Most of them are more like fragments of a few hundred words or less, rather than real stories with a true beginning, middle and end.

From my first attempts to read the stories to this published edition, I’d say it took at least 12 years. That’s almost a year for each story, which seems ridiculous. But the thing is I wasn’t working on them all that time. I worked on them on and off while I was writing other things.

Lynn:  Wow! All that hard work sure paid off. I love Anansi and Company, and I gave it 5 Stars on Amazon.

The following Author’s Notes at the end of the book are quite interesting:

“In translating and retelling these stories, I have tried to retain the flavor and flow by using words and sentence structure natural to the way people in the Caribbean speak.

“Most of the original tales are quite violent. Because they were told by slaves who, more often than not, suffered from hunger and deprivation, the majority of the stories have to do with acquiring and eating food. Characters are often being caught, killed, cooked, and eaten. One of the ways I have changed the stories is to eliminate most of the violence.

“There are also many riddles included in Jamaica Anansi Stories. I have chosen a few of my favorites. They are all traditional, though some hint at being European in origin.”

Coral Shower Mustache

About the Author

Bish Denham, whose mother’s side of the family has been in the Caribbean for over a hundred years, was raised in the U. S. Virgin Islands. She still has lots of family living there and visits them regularly.

She says, “Growing up in the islands was like living inside a history book. Columbus named them, Sir Francis Drake sailed through the area, and Alexander Hamilton was raised on St. Croix. Pirates plied the waters and hundred of years of slavery left its indelible mark. It was within this atmosphere of magic and wonder that I grew up. My hope is pass some of that magic and wonder on to my readers.”

You can learn more about Bish by visiting her blog: Random Thoughts.

She can also be found on: FacebookTwitter (@BishDenham), and Goodreads.



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