Sunday, 30 June 2013

Meet Annie Mouse

Where did the Annie Mouse character come from?

  I am an early childhood/ elementary education professor, a former remedial reading teacher, a gifted education specialist and an early childhood expert.  Those areas combined to form my passion for using literature for social-emotional growth and healing for children.   I was actually working on an academic research project on imaginary friends when a vivid dream changed my focus from an academic research article to the children’s book that became Annie Mouse Meets her Guardian Angel.

How long have you been writing? 

 Since I was a child and learned to write.   I have been a published author since 1994.  I have had several articles published in peer-reviewed academic journals and educational newsletters.  I began writing children’s books in 2002.

What was your first book?   

 Annie Mouse Meets her Guardian Angel was first published in 2004.

Annie is a shy, quiet little mouse who often is confused and misinterprets events in the world around her.  When Mommy Mouse yells, she believes Mommy doesn’t love her. A perfect opportunity to reassure your children at the end of the day that even though you might lose your temper or scold, you still love them. For ages 2-8.

Do the ideas come to you for Annie or do you purposely write them for a given situation? 

  After I felt guided into writing the first book, I realized that many of the stories that I used as examples in my workshops could also be “Annie Adventures.”    Each story is very personal; coming from a conglomeration of actual experiences I have had as a child, parent and teacher.  In Annie Mouse Meets a New Friend, my illustrator interpreted my text from a very personal place and I actually altered the text to blend my original story with her personal story.  Annie Mouse’s Route 66 Adventure: A Photo Journal evolved from my passion for traveling Route 66 and it just seemed like a natural thing to have the Mouse family take a road trip—putting their cares behind them, exploring the country and bonding as a family.

Annie Mouse’s Route 66 Adventure: A Photo Journal is the fifth in the series.  In this episode, The Mouse family puts their cares behind them and take a road trip along Route 66- The Mother Road.  Children learn about US History, Geography and so much more in this book.  But it’s not just for children! People of all ages enjoy this book as it is filled with actual photographs from Route 66.
Look for the print versions of Annie Mouse’s Route 66 Adventure at various Historic Route 66 independent establishments. A purchase from one of those businesses helps keep Route 66 alive.

What is your favourite thing about being an author? 

Finding out that one of my books made a genuine difference in someone’s life.  I have had many people in tears telling me how my first book, Annie Mouse Meets her Guardian Angel, helped them to understand their children’s feelings.  In the book, Annie thinks her mommy doesn’t love her because she yells a lot.  One mom said she bought the book so that she could tell her child, “Look at how good you have it- I’m not like this mommy.”  She was shocked when her daughter told her, “That’s how I feel.” She had no idea her angry, hostile child was behaving that way because she thought her mommy didn’t love her!  Another mom told me that she was able to forgive her own mother for yelling too much- she never stopped to think about the stress her mom must have been under raising a large family with a husband who worked long hours.  Another mom came to a book signing event and purchased Baby Brother Goes to the Hospital with tears in her eyes.  Her younger son was about to have open-heart surgery and she said the book was exactly what she needed to open up a discussion about what was happening with her other children. That’s what my books are all about- helping people to build family communication, and when I know one of my books has helped even one person, I know that I am on the right path.

Would you like to see your books adapted for TV? 

 I would LOVE to see Annie Mouse as an animated character.  There are so many situations she could get herself into, all of them things that young children would easily be able to identify with.  I do expect that to happen one day.
Where can people buy your books?
All of my print books are available on my website:
My books are available in print and e-book versions on Amazon.  My author page that lists all of my books is:
Author Bio – Anne Maro Slanina
As I stated earlier, I am a professor in a teacher education program at a university in Western Pennsylvania. I began my teaching career in a kindergarten classroom. I love working with young children. I never stopped going to school, since I believe educators should be committed to life-long learning, so I continued to take graduate courses and earned my masters degree in reading education and my Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction with an emphasis in gifted child education. I taught remedial reading for many years and was struck by how many of the students with reading difficulties were struggling with social and emotional difficulties. I began focusing on using children’s literature to not only guide reading development but also help children relate to characters in books for their own personal growth and development. Writing children’s books for this purpose was a natural progression in my career.  It also gives me an opportunity to continue interacting with young children in a classroom environment.

Where can people find out more about you?
My web site is:

My fan facebook page is:

The link to my blog is found on the homepage of my website and it is where I list the most current information.

Follow me on twitter @anniemousebooks

I want to thank Annie Mouse and her creator Anne for stopping by today. There are lots more Annie Mouse books in the series so be sure to look for them.

Thanks for reading,



Sunday, 9 June 2013

The Sea Inside

Today, children's author Vickie Johnstone has stopped by for a chat about her new book, The Sea Inside.

Hi, I live in London and have a thing about fluffy cats. I work as a freelance layout sub-editor on business magazines and editor/proofreader on books. I love reading, writing, films, the sea, art, animals, nature, rock music, Milky Bar and travelling.
Where did the inspiration come from for The Sea Inside?

I started writing it in December 2009, so it’s hard to remember exactly everything. I started with the image of a girl with red hair, called Lily, running along a beach with her red hair blowing all around. I wrote this as a short story in 2008. Here is the opening of the short story. This part was rewritten in The Sea Inside:

Her name is Lily. When she breaks she dances in the colours of a sea of broken glass. When she laughs, cascades of red rain. When she cries the seas submerge the light in blue. Her heels sink deep into the glistening, wet sand that tries to root her feet into the ground. But she flies weightless, a shimmering sight, glowing in the sun. Her long red hair flicks in cascades of volcanic streaks and her laughter breaks the silence against the roar of the waiting sea. She giggles, twists and turns, spinning as the grey dog laps across the sand at her feet, bouncing and mirroring her turns. And overhead the clouds crash, awaiting the darkening that must always follow the sun.

For The Sea Inside, I had the idea that the girl would be in an accident that changed her life, but she would find a portal that led her to another world where her body was whole. In the end she would have to choose which life she wanted, and the decision would not be an easy one. I referenced Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid in the book. I love that story. In it, the mermaid can walk on land, but has to endure pain to do it. It’s a theme that inspired my book. I don’t want to give the plot away, but if you read it, you would see the connection. He was a brilliant writer with such an amazing imagination. Awesome.
The city of Entyre is all, bar one grey floor, blue – is that purely to represent the fact that the city is under the sea or is that how it presented itself to you?
LOL, I can’t remember the grey floor!! Yeah, yeah, it’s because it’s under the sea. I imagined everything within a globe, so there would have to be some kind of artificial light and the colours of the sea outside would bounce off everything. Then I was thinking that everything would be made of frozen water and look like glass, but materials would be different. There are even clothes made of algae. Plus my favourite colour is blue and it’s the colour of dreams, at least to me, like the sky as well – a mystical colour. It’s funny because Cat City in my Kiwi books (adventures of a magical cat) is also blue! I guess I couldn’t get away from it!

It was very easy to visualise the world from your writing and the frozen water as material made sense. And what about the inhabitants?

I just imagined them as being similar to us, but different. If they lived under the sea, they’d probably have evolved differently. I don’t want to give too much away... But I had great fun with the insects (I won’t name them as it’s a surprise). My favourite character to write was the insect.


I loved the insect too.The latter half of the book has the feel of Narnia about it – Did you read the Chronicles of Narnia as a child? If so did you think that influenced your book at all?

That’s cool because I loved The Lion, The Witch ∧ The Wardrobe as a kid. I think CS Lewis was a genius. I haven’t read the other books, although I have seen some films. I think the swashbuckling mouse with an attitude has inspired a lot of characters (I don’t mean mine!). I cried when Aslan died in the book and loved the idea that the girl finds a magic world at the back of a wardrobe. When I was a kid I kept looking in my cupboards trying to find it, and even under the bed. Alas, only dust! I loved The Folk of the Faraway Tree and Fantastic Mr Fox, too; anything with talking animals and magic worlds that somehow you could stumble across if you were really lucky.
I read the Faraway Tree too - we must have similar reading habits - needless to say my daughter owns a copy of that now. I know you said that you had to put the book to one side for a while – what got you working on it again?
I wrote the initial part of the book of just over 6000 words, up until the point where Jayne reaches the undersea world of Entyre, in December 2009. I used to have a bad habit of not finishing anything. I’d get inspired and start writing something, but not continue it. I never planned outlines or anything like that. Novels just seemed too big for me. I just wrote poetry and small stories, so to me, this was a short story.
In 2011, I found Amazon Kindle self-publishing and Smashwords, and I published the only book I ever finished, Kiwi in Cat City, written in 2002. I mention this because the fact that my book was out there, with a chance of getting read, inspired me. I’ve always needed there to be ‘a point’ to doing things. You know, you have something to aim for. Self-publishing gave me a reason to finish things – they had to be finished to get published! I’ve written a lot of books since 2011 because of that.
In 2012, I picked up The Sea Inside and just had a go at adding some more to it. I felt that, having completed some novel, that maybe it wasn’t so scary anymore. I decided to try harder. This year I was really determined to finish it. It became a mission! I just can’t do outlines, so I started working on the red realm and the part with the insect (still not giving it away), and I really enjoyed writing that section. It was pure escapism. Still, it was difficult to bring the whole book together, as I don’t plan, and it took a while for me to get my head around making it coherent. But gradually, it came together.
I’m just so happy to have finished it, because I never thought I would. The ending was a surprise to me. At the last minute after re-editing the book, I altered the end after a brainwave. I’d like to say more, but best not as I’d give the plot away. I have to thank my beta readers, Greta, Nickie and Jennifer, because I didn’t feel very confident about this book. But their feedback was really positive and that helped me to publish it.
What is your favourite fantasy creature?
It has to be the unicorn because I was gutted when I found out they didn’t exist. The idea of them is wonderful because they are so mystical. I imagine them being strong, white, silvery and majestic. And wise. Wow, and if they could fly, well that would just be the icing on the cake. I also like dragons, but who doesn’t?!!  And mermaids. That comes from reading Hans Christian Andersen’s stories as a youngster. I preferred his stories to those of The Brothers Grimm, but many of them made me cry, like The Little Match Girl. The Princess and the Pea is another one that I loved.
I love dragons, possibly my favourite fantasy creatures, but there's so many to choose from. Okay, now I've grilled Vickie about her book, let's give you some more details.
Thanks to Maja Dražić for the beautiful cover photograph.
The Sea Inside
Book 1 in the Cerulean Songs series

Time is all we have; it flows – it cannot stop.

Jayne wakes up in hospital following a terrible accident, which changes her life as she knew it. While struggling to recover, she is visited by a mysterious woman who offers her a gift. To the girl’s astonishment, she finds herself on a journey, on both the physical and mental plane. It brings her to the mystical realm of Entyre, where life is very different and power lies with the creatures of the deep. While the threads of time keep flowing, Jayne must decide what is real, who to trust, and regain her inner strength in order to find herself and her true destiny.

Jayne concentrated on getting better. The dark mood that she had found herself in grew steadily lighter and she pushed her memories of the blue city to the back of her mind, dismissing them as dreams, which would gradually fade with time. That was her hope, for while she slept her mind wove images of the sea, accompanied by the echo of the whales and a tall man whose hair was the colour of the darkest waves. He was always there, not far away it seemed, thus was the lucidity of her sleeping life.

 You can get your own copy of The Sea Inside or any of Vickie's other books by visiting her author page:

You can read more about Vickie on her blog:

Or follow her on Facebook:

and Twitter:

A huge thanks to Vickie for stopping by and chatting with me and thanks to you all for reading.



Monday, 3 June 2013

Spotlight on... Indigo

Today the colourful Kate has let me put her book Indigo under my beam of light.

From the makings of her fabulous tennis hits, from the inspiration of her waggish pets, from the riotous air of Minnesota, comes Kate Marie Robbins...

She lives in a VERY small town in southeastern Minnesota with her family and her three pets.  She is currently working in a nursing home but has for long dreamed of being a published author- which since you are reading this, has come true.  She likes to read, sing, paint and is very proud of her music & book collections. She also wants to travel the world. When she travels the world of Indigo, she would like to learn sword fighting from Bradan, or be a tailor.

Kate once waited to get into a concert for ten hours, in a snow storm. She dyes her hair a different color every few months, and once went to Walmart wearing a black cape and cat ears. She never got into trouble at school, and has not yet achieved her ambition of drinking her way through all twelve pubs pictured on her Irish calendar.
Find out more about Kate on Twitter
Indigo synopsis:

Ava is your typical teenage girl, hoping to spend her summer doing the usual: shopping, concerts, skateboarding, and hanging out with her friends. Her best friend Sera has other plans for them, learning how fly her uncle Mat’s hot air balloon. Their first solo flight turns out to be the adventure of a lifetime.

By magical forces, they are pulled into a world that is unlike their own: the world of Indigo, steeped in myths, legends, and prophecy. Where nothing is what it seems. Where good and evil are not easily distinguished. Will the two teens be able to figure out whose side they are really on before it’s too late and find their way home?
For fan pages for the book follow on Facebook:
The book is available on Amazon US both kindle and paperback - the links are below:
Thank you to Kate for letting me feature Indigo here on my blog and I wish you the best of luck with Indigo.
Thank you to my readers for once again stopping by,

Sunday, 2 June 2013

The Everafter Chronicles: Reign of the Night Creatures

Today on my blog I'm delighted to welcome Casey Sean Harmon.

About the author:
Casey Sean Harmon is a bestselling author and a Soldier in the U.S. Army. He has studied with the Jerry B. Jenkins Christian Writer's Guild, and holds a degree through American Military University. He lives with his wife and son wherever the military sends them. Please visit his website for the latest:

How long have you been writing?
I wrote my first story when I was in second grade, and I just turned twenty-five; so I have been writing for almost nineteen years. Apart from writing novels, I have written hundreds of short stories, articles and poems—many of which remain hidden in notebooks and on my computer.

What genres have you written in? Do you have a favourite?
I have written everything from hard sci-fi to children’s fiction. Many of my poems and short stories deal with the human emotion, as I am on a continual struggle to understand exactly why we do what we do. As for my favourite genre to write in, I would have to say children’s fiction. Why? Because I like being able to explore topics and themes that would never work in an adult’s book; namely, mystical “moon switches” and talking griffins.

Is there any genre you’d like to try and why?
One day I would like to write an autobiography about my life. This will be a real challenge for me, since many aspects of my life have not been easy.

How do you fit in writing with your Army life?
I simply prioritize my time. If I am in a garrison environment, I try to put aside time in the evenings and on the weekends. If I am deployed or in the field, I just write whenever I have time and am in the mood. (Sometimes this means writing at odd hours in the night, during chapel services or during staff meetings.)

Where does the inspiration come from for your stories?
Usually I draw from my own life experiences. Sometimes I write about things that I wish I could do, or places that I wish I could go.

Tell us about your new book.
As a Soldier in the Army, I am all-so-familiar with the negative effects that family separation plays on children. The children in my book [The Everafter Chronicles: Reign of the Night Creatures] are stripped away from the world as they know it when they are mysteriously taken to the mystical world of Everafter. They have to learn ways to cope with their unfortunate situation, which requires them to reach deep within themselves to discover strengths they never knew they had.

It is my goal to instil good, positive morals to young readers in such a way that they are having too much fun to realize that they are actually learning valuable life lessons. The writing style and overall spirit of The Everafter Chronicles has been compared by a number of reviewers to The Chronicles of Narnia. It is my goal for my book to appeal to a large and diverse audience. Some may compare the book to The Adventures in Odyssey series, while others believe that it more resembles a young adult version of The Lord of the Rings. I believe my book to be an epic tale of excitement and adventure. Nonetheless, I have taken great caution to support good morals and to teach valuable lessons without promoting one certain faith group. It is good, clean fun!
If you could be a character from your book, who would you be?
In The Everafter Chronicles, I actually based the oldest child, James, after myself.
When is launch day for The Everafter Chronicles: Reign of the Night Creatures?
Tuesday, June 4th 2013. WOOHOO!
Book blurb:
Amazing things are about to happen...

The lives of James, Charlotte, young Susan and their dog Clovensport are about to change forever. After investigating a mysterious sun dog that appears in their living room, they are inexplicably transported to the mystical land of Everafter. A host of mythological creatures makes their days long and their nights dangerous as they are enlisted to discover why the moon has stopped shining. Little do they know that their purpose in Everafter is much grander than they realize.
Where can people buy a copy of your book?
Purchase paper/e-book copy directly from the publisher:
Thanks for taking the time to stop by Casey and good luck with your book. I'm going to leave you with a link for The Everafter Chronicles book trailer:
 If you want any more information on Casey then go to one of his author pages.
Thanks for stopping by, make sure you visit Casey during his book launch.