Spotlight: Strxia: The Odds Are Against Us by Matt Michel and Maggie Daniels

Strxia cover.jpg

“Harper Williams” is a fictional 11-year-old sci-fi book fan who is the representation of readers

of STRXIA: THE ODDS ARE AGAINST US. Below, Harper interviews Maggie Daniels and

Matt Michel, the authors of the book, by posing questions they frequently get from readers.

Harper: I read tons of books, especially science fiction like your book STRXIA: THE ODDS

ARE AGAINST US. What do you think sets your book apart from all the others out there?

Matt Michel: Great question, Harper. Certainly, the primary goal of any science fiction book

for children ages 8 to 12 is to entertain, so action-packed entertainment was our first priority.

However, we go one crucial step further by incorporating a few STEM (that stands for Science,

Technology, Engineering, and Math) principles along the way. The best part is, as an 11-year-

old reader, you might not even realize you are learning something! One of the physics principles

explained in the book is how a rocket works.

Harper: Whoa! Are you telling me I’ll understand how a rocket gets off the ground and flies

into space after reading your book? I thought it was a book about baseball.

Matt Michel: That’s right. It is a book about baseball. But it’s also about a parallel world

called Strxia. The world of Strxia is governed by the same laws of physics as Earth. When the

main characters in the book realize that their actions on Earth impact Strxia and vice versa, they

begin to learn how to use physics to help them save Strxia and win a baseball game on Earth all

at the same time.

Harper: What about the characters? I mean, most characters in the books I read are big guys

full of muscle and athletic talent. That gets old sometimes.

Maggie Daniels: I feel the same way, Harper. That’s why our main character, Seth Cox, is just

the opposite. He would rather be at home, reading on the couch and snuggling with his dog, than

playing baseball games. Intellect is our hero’s main talent, and only his brainpower can help

Strxia survive.

Harper: Seth seems cool. Is he the only character in the book?

Maggie Daniels: Seth has plenty of help from an interesting group of teammates. Each of them

has their own special skills… and vices. Alex is the only girl in the boy’s baseball league. She

is fearless and the fastest runner on the team, but she never has been able to quite fit in. Jared is

all bravado with the county’s best baseball arm, but he is an egotistical mess of a hothead.

Finally, there is Chase. Chase is always kidding around but is a superb mechanic.

Harper: Is something wrong with Strxia. Why does it need saving?

Maggie Daniels: Oh yes, Strxia needs help. An elite group of scientists called the Odds have

found a way to control odd numbers on Strxia. The Strxians actually have to pay money to use

odd numbers, and not everyone can afford to do so. So their world is slowly falling apart

because without numbers, it is really hard to learn. Just imagine a world with no odd numbers!

Harper: The book seems to cover a whole bunch of different things. Wasn’t it hard to write?

Maggie Daniels: Well, besides being my co-author, Matt is also my husband. He and I have

worked together coaching baseball, basketball, and robotics. My job at George Mason

University is to teach, carry out research, and write, so writing is a natural process for me. Matt,

on the other hand, is a “rocket scientist” and has a firm grasp on all the physics in the book. In

fact, he calculates, with aerospace engineering accuracy, all the numbers in the book so that even

the most discerning teachers and librarians are satisfied. Together, we created a book we think is

quite unique.

Harper: This all sounds really great, but I have to ask, how on Earth do you pronounce Strxia?

Maggie Daniels: The name of the book is a fun story, because we went through many iterations

before we created one we really liked. Try saying “Strick-see-ah” – that will get you really

close!

Harper: If I have more questions, how can I contact you? Or if I want to buy the book, where

can I do that?

Matt Michel: We have set up a website for our book as well as author pages on Facebook:

View Matt’s page here and Maggie’s page here. Our book is available on Amazon.

Guest Post: Grief and Sleep: 4 Ways To Get Back To Sleep After A Painful Loss by Sara Bailey

Today I have the privilege of introducing you to Sara Bailey. She, like me, has recently gone through a painful loss. Her loss was her husband.She approached me about writing a piece for my blog and I gratefully agreed. As you may know, I just wrote a book about the loss of my precious daughter entitled Finding Hope In The Darkness Of Grief. Sara, too, is in the process of writing a book about her experience.

Loss is very difficult. And so is being able to relax and move on. So, without further adieu, here is Sara's article. I hope you enjoy it!

Recovering from the loss of a spouse or a partner is a long — and often lonely — journey. Regardless of how much support you have, there will be times you have to face the grief alone, and night time is one of them. Loss of sleep is one of the most natural — and also frustrating — symptoms of grief. While trouble sleeping in the first few days or even weeks is very common, you shouldn’t have to sacrifice your sleep to your grief. Here are a few tips to help you ease the ache of sleepless nights.

Meditate to Let Go of Ruminative Thoughts

Studies show that some of our most powerfully negative and painful thoughts creep in at night. We don’t have the business of work, family, school, or other responsibilities to distract our minds like we do during the day. The grief, anxiety, anger, and sadness — plus bittersweet memories — often hit us the hardest at night. Meditation is one way you can practice letting go of those thoughts. Plus, the work you do focusing on your breath and muscles can also help ease your body into sleep. There are several different kinds of meditation you can try. In guided meditation, a narrator guides your mind through a journey to a state of mind you’d like to achieve or a goal you want to accomplish. You could also try a progressive muscle relaxation meditation where you tense and then relax each muscle in your body, slowly and methodically, from your head to your toes to help bring you comfort.

Renovate Your Bedroom for New Memories

Your bedroom may hold memories of your partner that keep you up at night. Memories are powerful ways to keep our lost loved ones alive, but they can also keep us stuck, blocking us from moving through the pain. Consider a bedroom remake to help you feel like you are in a new space. Start with your bed, especially if your mattress is older and needs replacing anyway. You can save time and money by purchasing a mattress online instead of in a store, which usually comes with a generous trial period so you can make sure you’ve made the right choice. Once you’ve chosen a new mattress and bedframe, you can paint the walls a new color — soothing blues and greens work wonders for sleep — and hang a few blackout curtains, which will keep excess light out, signaling to your body it’s time to rest.

Start a Regular Exercise Schedule

Getting at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise every day will make a major impact in the quality of your sleep. Physiologically, your body needs sleep to recover and rebuild, and exercise further encourages that process. Your mind and body will need to spend more time sleeping and will require better quality sleep. On top of that, research has shown that exercise is a positive coping mechanism for managing stress, anxiety, and depression — three emotions you are likely to feel as you move through the stages of grief. The endorphin surge and physical exhaustion you feel when you exercise is an unmatched mind-body boost.

Get Gadgets (Not Gimmicks!)

In a world that emphasizes immediate gratification, there are a lot of gimmicks out there that will try to “guarantee” you better sleep. Trust your intuition and approach these get-sleep-quick gadgets with caution. Be sure to look for sleep-aiding technology that is reviewed and approved by sleep professionals and organizations with solid reputations. For example, the Aura is a sleep tracker that offers light therapy, sleep programs, and wake-up programs. If you purchase sleep tech, be sure it comes with a trial period or a money-back guarantee so you don’t waste your hard-earned cash on a product that’s not right for you.

There is no set timeline for mourning; taking it slowly might seem frustrating, but it could also be a better long-term solution. You can build back a regular sleeping pattern over time if you take it slow, plan for sleep with intention, and focus on mind and body.

If you enjoyed Sara's post, you can find her at http://thewidow.net/

Thanks for taking a moment to stop on my blog.  Have a blessed day!

Everything I Needed To Know I Learned In Hell by Dan Balestrero

 

Everything I Needed to Know I Learned in Hell is a compilation of things I've learned about succeeding and failing - in life and business - while teaching. Teaching leads to a lot of revelations, laughter, tears, disbelief, theater of the absurd, the occasional miracle, and, more often than not, exciting progress.

It's important to point out that I'm an observer of behavior, not a therapist. Having said that, the reason I wrote this book is I felt a need to put down some thoughts from my personal point of view about how to work through limitations and move on to full success. Anthony Robbins is right, "Success leaves clues."

And just as importantly, failure also leaves clues. Or, more directly, it leaves a trail - usually an icky trail- of bad choices executed with no plan and way too much false hope.

We all have our own self-doubts and small hell that we have to escape from in order to succeed. Over the years, I've seen different people succeed and fail, and I've made notes about the causes and traits that seem to create those two outcomes. I've tried to offer encouragement to the people I've worked with, and I've laughed and cried with many in an effort to discover how to escape personal demons and model the success of others. Other people's success can be inspiring, and sometimes totally annoying, as we try to figure out, "Why not me?"

Everything I Needed to Know I Learned in Hell is about the things that have helped me and others escape our private hells. I offer this information in the hope that it might be of some help to you. Even given the difficulty of life, everyone- I mean everyone- can escape. This book contains my personal view of how the mountains of shit can be used to fertilize your orchard of success.

Where you can find Everything I Needed To Know I Learned In Hell:

https://www.amazon.com/Everything-needed-Know-learned-Hell-ebook/dp/B06XB4M2MY/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1490647315&sr=8-1&keywords=everything+i+needed+to+know+i+learned+in+hell

https://www.amazon.com/dp/154409809X/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1490647315&sr=8-2&keywords=everything+i+needed+to+know+i+learned+in+hell

Where you can find Dan:

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/34507930-everything-i-needed-to-know-i-learned-in-hell?ac=1&from_search=true

The Worst Thanksgiving Ever by Kara Reynolds

People have strong, emotion-filled memories associated with the holidays, especially with the food we eat at those special times. It’s why I make sweet potato casserole every Thanksgiving—it’s my mom’s recipe, and making it reminds me of her. Every time I add a full cup of sugar instead of three-quarters of a cup I laugh inwardly as I imagine her cringing at how much delicious sugar goes into the dish. I am sure (I hope, anyway) that you have similar fond memories of holiday food.

For the first Thanksgiving that my husband and I spent together (before we got married), we went to visit my family on the East Coast. For weeks leading up to our trip, I regaled him with stories of my family and different holidays we’d spent together. I think my nostalgia started to make him miss his own family, because a few days before we left he suggested we eat dinner at a Country Buffet, like his family used to do when he was a kid. As buffets go, it wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t good either. I couldn’t wait to get home and eat my grandma’s food. Later that night, my husband starting having stomach cramps. He spent the night on the couch in my living room. When I came back upstairs in the morning to check on him, he was in the bathroom. He had full-blown food poisoning, and it was kicking his butt. I helped clean up the mess (from both ends, people. It was BAD). He recovered enough by the time we had to fly out, so we went on our trip. My dad’s family picked us up in Baltimore and took us to my aunt’s house in Pennsylvania. By the time we got there, my stomach was starting to gurgle… I spent the next two days on the toilet at my aunt’s house, while my sister laughed her head off at me every time she walked down the hall and heard me spewing into the commode. My poor husband spent those days making small talk with my family, who he’d just met, and force-feeding me Gatorade. It was a terrible trip, but I have fond memories of it because that was the week I realized I wanted to marry my husband. Because I could clean up his bodily fluids (and he mine) without being repulsed, it was clear to me that we truly cared about each other. We’ve had nine Thanksgivings since then, and every time we sit down to eat we share a grin and remind each other how thankful we are that we can actually eat the meal that year—and that we’re thankful that we’re eating it together.

**********

Kara Reynolds is a stay-at-home mom of three who likes to spend her nearly-non-existent free time writing novels. Her weaknesses include James T. Kirk, lightsabers, and anything TARDIS-blue. She writes contemporary and light speculative YA novels. She is clearly a gigantic nerd, and if she could go back in time, she would tell her teenage self to embrace her inner geekiness. While Kara lives in Wyoming, she is not of Wyoming. But it's growing on her.

Kara blogs about writing every week at Operation Awesome (http://operationawesome6.blogspot.com). You can follow her on Twitter @reynoldstribe.

Donate this year to the Edmonton Food Bank:

https://www.canadahelps.org/en/pages/giftmas-blog-tour-supports-the-edmonton-food-bank/

Finding My Way Books by Jo Meserve Mach

I was at a turning point in my life. It was my last day working as an Occupational Therapist in Infant-Toddler services. I'd been in the job for the previous 17 years. I was heading back to adult care work, but my heart was very attached to all the families I had met over the years. I had shared so many experiences around what it felt like to be a parent of a child with special needs or disabilities.

That day I had lunch with my friend, Vera, who had been working as a special education teacher with me. I told her I'd love to write children's books to give hope to these families we'd been working with together. She was totally into the idea. From there we started getting together monthly and that's how we started writing children's books together. We gradually became Finding My way Books.

perf8.500x8.500.indd

case8.500x8.500.indd

Because we had shared so much work experience, we easily agreed on the message we wanted to share in the books we wrote. They needed to share true stories with real kids so both the child and parent could see themselves in the story. They needed to have photographs, not illustrations, so they were easy to understand. They needed to show successful inclusion and promote skills needed for self-determination.

We wanted the adult, reading the book with a child, to come away from the story with the belief that their child could 'do that activity' shared in the book. And to realize that during ordinary, everyday activities that all children can participate and learn.

Soon we added an incredible photographer to our team. Mary also designs our books. She has a wonderful background in teaching theatre, that she brings to our stories. So Vera and I write the manuscript and Mary captures the pictures to tell the story. Then she adds background colors to the book to highlight the child and their strengths.

We're on our tenth book and we're in our sixth year of working together. It continues to be amazing how we go from an initial meeting with a family, sharing their story, to a beautiful book. We never know until the very end how the story will evolve. Vera and I meet and communicate a lot with the families to get the story. But then when Mary takes the photos something new always seems to come to light and that always makes the story better.

We work hard, like all authors do, but we have such joy in bringing to light true stories of children with special needs or disabilities. We are working to honor these children and families by sharing their stories. It's a wonderful, creative, task.

Please check out our website to learn more about Finding My Way Books: https://www.findingmywaybooks.net/ https://twitter.com/fmwbooks https://www.facebook.com/fmwbooks/

Designing Your Own Book Cover by Kari Anders

Designing Your Own Book Cover: How to Select The Right Image

In Elements of a Book Cover that Sells, I talk about creating a cover that speaks directly to your audience by using the idea of a Single Story. In the following post, I expand on this idea by giving helpful tips on finding the base layer for your cover: the image.

Your image should convey the mood of your story. If you’ve written a fun-loving, silly, woman’s novel, your cover might be an illustration of a lady in heels with a pink background. If your book explores the story of a missing woman, it might have a dark background with a woman running away. If it’s a love story, readers will expect a couple holding hands or kissing on the cover. All these components convey the mood of the book and attract your audience.

If the mood is not evident, you will miss potential readers. When readers go searching for a new book, they usually know what type of book they want to read. If nothing else, they know what types of book they have enjoyed in the past. They will be attracted to images that remind them of another book they’ve read. This relationship connects the reader to an emotion they felt while reading that book. For instance, I had recently finished Where’d You Go Bernadette and was looking for a new read. I saw the novel How to Write a Novel, with its blue cover and illustrations and bought it. Why? It reminded me of Bernadette. That’s it. I wasn’t even looking for a book like Bernadette;I just subconscious equated the cover of Bernadette with a book I like.

Often authors spend energy on trying to get their cover image to be unique, and to stand out from the crowd. While really, they should have been doing the opposite.

You may have noticed that in all of the examples at the beginning of this article, I suggest having images of people on the cover (the woman in pink heels, the couple kissing, etc.). As an author, you may be tempted to steer away from covers that give away too much detail that you’d rather let the reader imagine. One of the reasons I believe readers like books over their film adaptations, is because they get to bring the scene to life using their own imagination. The same applies to the characters in a book. Giving too much detail away can take away this experience from the readers. So why do I suggest books with images of people? Simply, they sell better.

You many see that some covers don’t have the full person or even just avoid their faces on the cover.  You might see only a woman's legs or feet, or you might see her face below the nose.  This allows your readers to still create the characters using their own imagination while still creating a book cover that sells.

The other advantage of showing only a part of a character is that it allows you to simplify your cover.  If you are trying to convey too much information to your readers, it will be busy and overwhelming and distract them from absorbing the story's mood.  Remember, you want to sell them a single story.  Don't try to input double meanings or symbols that the reader will only understand once they've read the book.  Symbolism is for your writing.  You aren't trying to sell them on your cleverness with a book cover.

To convey the mood, keep it simple and focus on a single story.  You want to be obvious with your images but not necessarily literal.  You don't want readers to have to guess or search for what your cover is about.  But at the same time, it doesn't need to be a specific scene from your story to convey the mood, and being too literal can destroy the intrigue you want to create.

Here’s a test: Once you have selected an image, forget your story. Can you create a powerful title on the picture alone?  Does that title do your book justice?  If not, keep looking.

The most common place authors and designers find images for book covers is stock images sites.  There are hundreds of thousands of images to choose from, and they are usually between $10 and $25 per image.   With a stock image from Shutterstock.com or iStock.com, you can sell between 250,000 and 500,000 books before you have to worry about purchasing additional licensing.  There are also sites you can find free stock images, but make sure you read and fully understand the terms of copyright before using an image from one of these sites. DO NOT use an unlicensed image from a Google images search, even if you don't think you are going to sell very many books, as this will most certainly earn you a letter from an attorney asking you to remove it at the least and a lawsuit at the worst.

The advantages of using stock images are selection, price, and availability.  To find an image for a previous post, I used the search terms "girl in front of a ship" and found 42 pages of results.  That's a pretty specific request.  Also, stock image sites are also regularly updating their inventory, and they tag images by a number of categories, including model.  So if you find a model that you like, but the image isn't quite right, you can find other photos with the same model.  This is very useful for a book series.

A drawback to using stock imaging is uniqueness. Stock sites will sell an image in finite number of times, meaning that even though your typography and location of the photo might be unique, another author might end up with the same image on their cover.  Professional publishing houses will spend thousands hiring a photographer and models to get unique images for their covers.  However, this isn't a possibility for most self-published authors.  On freeebookcovers.com, I am building a collection of non-stock images from local photographers I've worked with over the years.   Check back soon for the launch of Original Images, and happy writing!

BlogGraphic

Kari Anders is a book cover designer who works mostly with self-published authors and small publishing houses. She worked in freelance design for six years before attending graduate school, and now teaches design and runs freeebookcovers.com. All of Kari's covers are designed as CreateSpace Wraps for only $75, with the eBook version included for free. Her site specializes in Pre-Made Book Covers, but she also does interior design and custom covers.