Thursday, January 26, 2023

Guest Post: The Impact on Children Through Author Visits to Schools/Libraries by Raven Howell

“In her butterfly net of beguiling rhythm and rhyme, Raven Howell captures the sweet, fleeting moments of childhood. Both you and the little gnome on your lap will love it!”

—Irene O’Garden, poet, author, Off-Broadway playwright

Discover the magic in simple moments when a child peers in the mirror to unintentionally come upon his smile, where kittens nap in boots, fairy hugs feel good, mice delight in reading books, and January snowflakes taste yummy. Twenty whimsical poems warm the heart and inspire cheer; a collection enticing both the young and seasoned reader to explore the enchantment of the wonderful world of poetry.

The Impact on Children Through Author Visits to Schools/Libraries

 “Good morning, everyone! It’s wonderful to be here - thanks for inviting me. My name is Raven Howell and I write children’s stories and poetry....” and off we go. I’ve always enjoyed visiting students and children in classrooms, bookstores, and libraries to share my love of books, and reading and writing.

Involved in the children’s literary community for several decades now, I don’t recall my very first visit to meet with students, but I do know that I’ve never had a visit I didn’t enjoy. I could be presenting in a big school assembly or teaching poetry with four students in attendance in a small enrichment workshop, and still, I always gain new insight, am inspired by the kids themselves, and go home smiling.

What I gain from author visits is important to note because inspiration runs both ways. As you give, you get. That may not be apparent in the moment, and on several author visits, a child may seem completely bored, looking out the window, or maybe is disagreeable on some level. Yet, inevitably, the teacher will contact me afterwards and say something like, “Caleb always has a hard time focusing, but after you left, he wrote a poem about baseball and even drew a picture to go along with it! We have a hard time getting him to write anything, so thank you!”

Poetry tends to strike a chord or ring a bell inside one’s heart. Because of poetic rhythm, rhyming, wording, and expression, it can communicate a message like no other art form. And for children, who are full of questions (“Mom, why is the sky blue?”), poetry can address questions and make the questioner see things a different way. It’s an incredibly powerful medium for anyone of any age. Teaching even the youngest students how to read, listen to, be inspired by, and then attempt to write their own poetry or story may lead to anything from self-expression, processing emotions, to improving literacy and even epiphany.

Children want to explore. Children want to explore what’s beautiful in their world, and a good story or poem is the perfect pathway. This aesthetic is the inspiration behind my new picture poetry book, The 20 Little Poems for 20 Little Gnomes. If you’re a children’s author and have any doubts or self-consciousness about a school visit, please know the kids would love to hear “your story”, you’ll both be linking together in some form of enlightenment AND, you’ll have fun doing it!

Here With You

 Hop the rocks

Across the stream

Where tall trees whisper

Forest dream.


Skip the path

Where our hearts sing,

Let bright sun shine

On Robin’s wing.


Glad to be

Out here with you

Where grass is green

And sky is blue.

From The 20 Little Poems from 20 Little Gnomes written by Raven Howell © 2022 Handersen Publishing. Available on Amazon.


Raven Howell is an award-winning author and poet of several children's picture books. Her poems appear in children's magazines such as Cricket, Highlights for Children, HighFive, Ladybug, Jack and Jill, and Fun for Kids. She enjoys presenting children’s writing workshops, visiting libraries and schools, and serves as Creative and Publishing Advisor for RedClover Reader. Raven writes a column for Story Monsters Ink magazine, The Book Bug.

Tuesday, January 24, 2023

Book Spotlight: Whispering Through Water by Rebecca Wenrich Wheeler

This coming-of-age story follows Gwyn Madison, the summer after her high school graduation, as she grapples with her fast-approaching future. She’ll have to face more than she bargained for with her Aunt Delia, the family matriarch, who holds the purse strings and the final word.  In the meantime, Gwyn stumbles upon a tightly held family secret. Could a mysterious letter provide Gwyn the leverage she desires? Will it only bring more family division? Or, maybe, the past was never meant to stay buried after all. Whispering Through Water navigates family dynamics, young love, and female autonomy with a little 1990s nostalgia. Purchase a copy of Whispering Through Water on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and You can also add this to your GoodReads reading list.


About the Author: Rebecca Wenrich Wheeler was raised in West Point, a small town in the Tidewater region of Virginia. From the moment she submitted her first short story to a young author’s contest in second grade, Rebecca knew she wanted to be a writer. Her love of writing led her to earn a BA in English and an MEd in English education. She spent several years as a high school teacher, during which she also developed a passion for mental health advocacy. Rebecca completed an MA in professional counseling and now works in the school-based mental health field and as a college adjunct psychology instructor. Rebecca also teaches yoga for the young and the young at heart, and she likes to infuse yoga and breathwork in her counseling practice wherever she can. She believes the most valuable use of her time is teaching youth how to love and care for each other and the world around them. Her stories share her focus on positive relationships and a love of nature. Rebecca now lives in Durham, North Carolina, with her husband, two children, and two spoiled Siamese cats. Whispering Through Water is her first YA novel and second book. Her picture book When Daddy Shows Me the Sky was released November 2021. You can follow Rebecca on Instagram @rebeccawwheeler_author and 

Monday, January 23, 2023

The Top 10 things you may not know about Sean Keefer, author of The Code

It should have been an otherwise uneventful Sunday morning for Charleston attorney Noah Parks. Perhaps a trip to the beach or a run with his new Australian Shepherd, Austin. But with a cryptic voicemail, everything changes. A client has vanished, leaving nothing behind as a clue to where he may be. Neither his family, friends, nor neighbors are able to provide help.” Turning to his friend Emmett Gabriel, Charleston’s newest police detective, Parks can only watch as what started with a simple voicemail takes on a sinister life of its own. Parks soon finds himself entangled in an affair that spans centuries, going back to the time of Charleston’s birth. With a focus on learning his client’s fate, Parks will soon find himself facing a mystery that will not only be a test of his wits but leaves him challenged in ways he never imagined. Facing down twists, turns, betrayals, and traditions of honor, will he break The Code? 

The Top 10 things you may not know about Sean Keefer

Being a writer is about a lot more than just writing. Much goes into the process, but not all ends up on the page, though many different factors influence the final product. I wanted to talk about the top 10 things that not everyone knows about me, many of which have a decided impact on my writing. Other? Not so much, but I thought I would share, nevertheless.

1 - Though I ended up practicing law as a profession, that was not my initial plan. In high school, I was very involved in student media. When I started college, my first major was computer science, but, well, because of math, that just didn’t work out. I bounced around for a bit and ended up studying journalism with a concentration in photojournalism. While I ended up in law school, even today, I spend a great deal of time behind the camera.

2 - I have found I have a great love of writing and intend to keep writing Noah Parks books (and maybe delving into some other non-Noah storylines), but folks who have known me for a while, were surprised when my first book was released. They thought it would be an album. While I had dabbled in writing on and off in a sporadic fashion, I had been a musician since high school. So, while everyone had been waiting on an album, a book appeared. Then another. But not to worry, while The Code was delayed a bit as a result, during the delay, I recorded my first two EPs of original music.

3 - Much like writing, there are a few things that I never planned to do. Cooking is one of these things. I’ve been lucky to have made several friends in the restaurant business, among them some incredible chefs. The more I learned, the more I realized I was fascinated by the art and science of cooking. As a result, I love to spend time in the kitchen. Through my writing, I try to convey some of that love with details about meals or various kinds of food, and, well, drink. Who knows, maybe there will be a Noah Parks cookbook in the future. 

4 - Growing up on the coast of South Carolina, water sports are just a way of life. While I love the water, I’ve never gotten into boating. Not that I don’t enjoy every opportunity I get to be on a boat, I’ve just never owned my own boat. That is partly because as much as I realized how much I loved being on the water, my true love was being under the water scuba diving. 

5 - Never being one to rest with just one, multiple dogs have been a reality for the majority of my adult life. Presently, there are four dogs (Australian Shepherds) in the picture ranging from the age of, at the time of this writing, four months to 14 years. Oh, and there is also a horse that is, after all, just a pasture puppy. 

6 - Not being content to write fiction, I decided to try my hand at non-fiction. The result was a book published by the South Carolina Bar Association titled Mediation in the Family Courts of South Carolina. This, of course, begs the question: How many readers have all three of the Noah Parks books and the mediation book?  

7 - While this point is related to cooking, I decided to delve into hot sauce making based on a conversation I had with a friend a little over two years ago. From planting pepper plants to fermenting to even putting the finished product in woozy bottles (yes, that’s what those little bottles are called), it’s been a fun diversion, and the final product has been rather enjoyable. To date, there are 9 versions.

8 - Years ago, Apple had a slogan for their app store when the first iPhone came out. “Yeah, there’s an app for that.” One day, I went to the app store to get an app I needed. Much to my surprise, I found out when Apple said there was an app for that; well, that was a somewhat fluid term - meaning there was no app for what I needed. So, I designed and marketed my own app.

9 - Somewhere in my DNA, there is a gene; I’ve come to call it the collector’s gene. I’m pretty sure it is not far from a hoarding gene if that is a thing, but I curate several collections. Most notable, besides guitars, would be signed baseballs. 

10 - I just love the X Files.


Sean Keefer is the award-winning author of three legal thrillers, The Trust, The Solicitor, and The Code, all set in and around coastal South Carolina. He is also the author of Mediation in the Family Courts of South Carolina, a legal treatise on family law mediation. He lives and writes in Charleston, South Carolina. In addition to his writing, Sean is a recording and performing guitarist/singer/songwriter of Americana and Alt-Country music. Watch him sing Carolina Sunset which was inspired by his latest book, The Code. Listen here! For more information about his writing and music, visit and Follow him on Facebook @theNoahParksMysterySeries and @SeanKeeferMusic. Follow him on Instagram @NoahParksMysteries and @1ADogNamedBear1

Website | Instagram | Facebook | Goodreads

Sunday, January 22, 2023

Book Spotlight: Witching Moon by K.E. Bonner


Every once in an eon, when the Earth eclipses the moon on a winter solstice, an immortal is born under a witching moon. Anne has always had the strangest feelings—memories she couldn’t place; strangers she inexplicably yearned for. After she rescues the enigmatic Phillip from a shipwreck, her comfortable life on the island of Cusabo is shattered, and the mystery of her destiny starts to fall into place. Anne leaves behind the life she’s always known and sets out with Phillip on an arduous journey to Amaranth, where her ancient family awaits her. But the path is dark and daunting, and Anne’s powers have only just begun to manifest. You can purchase a copy of Witching Moon on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and You can also add Witching Moon to your Goodreads reading list.


About the Author: K. E. Bonner, author of Witching Moon, was always the first kid to sit down during a spelling bee. It wasn’t until she was an adult that she was diagnosed with dyslexia, which explained why she always had to study three times harder than her peers. Being dyslexic taught her perseverance and kindness, her two favorite attributes. She lives in Georgia with her husband, two sons, and two dogs. When not writing, she loves to read, swim, explore new places, and meet fascinating people. If you have a dog, she would love to scratch behind its ears and tell it what a good pup it is. Learn more about K.E. Bonner on her website or follow her on Instagram @kebonnerwrites. 

Saturday, January 7, 2023

Movie review: Mrs Harris Goes to Paris


In Mrs Harris Goes to Paris, a movie based on the 1958 novel by Paul Gallico, Ada Harris, a British cleaning lady, manages to scrape together enough money to travel to Paris to buy a dream Dior gown. Despite the initial rebuffs by some at the French fashion house, Ada wins over her detractors and since she has ready cash (something not often seen with their top clients) no one can really deny her the gown of her dreams. Ada’s down to earth logic and sense of humour, as well as her charm and good nature, soon endear her to everyone and she manages to change lives and the future of the House of Dior. The ending of this film is rather a feel-good, happy one, unlike the original book. However, based on what we see in the nasty old world around us, I was more than pleased with this HEA ending. Plus, I wouldn’t mind wearing a Dior gown and dancing with Jason Isaacs…

The cast is superb. The ever-watchable Lesley Manville plays Ada Harris with grace, charm, and flair. She is perfect in the part. You will laugh with her and weep for her. Jason Isaacs plays her friend at the dog races and maybe there’s a spark in the future for them both, especially after he sees her in the Dior dress, “Temptation.” Ellen Thomas plays her best friend and stalwart supporter, Vi Butterfield. Other familiar faces include the beautiful Isabelle Huppert as Claudine Colbert, the Dior manager, who resents Ada. Young lovers who discover each other, the “face of Dior” gorgeous Alba Baptista (as Natasha) and Lucas Bravo, the handsome accountant (Andre), add the romance element one must always find in the city of love. Andre has a penchant for Sartre and discussing existentialism, but he is so good looking that I’m sure any young woman would be pleased to while away a few hours being intellectual in his arms. Rounding out the players are Lambert Wilson (every mature woman’s dream man) as the Marquis de Chassagne, three hilarious tramps that Ada meets at the station, and a bevy of workers at the House of Dior who embody the worker bees behind the scenes that create the glorious dresses. Let’s not forget the inimitable Anna Chancellor as the truly selfish Lady Dant, a comical cameo. 

It is just a lovely romantic movie that one can sit back and enjoy. There are social elements such as the class distinctions in both France and England and worker issues, but these are woven in as part of the story and the character interaction, not bashed into the audience in woke haranguing. The plot is quite detailed in the lead-up to Ada actually jetting off to Paris but there’s nothing slow about the story overall. The movie and the characters draw the audience into the plot, and you actually believe in them and want things to go right for the good people and hope the (mildly) bad people get their come-uppance. Fashion makes a big hit in the movie since Oscar-winning costume designer Jenny Beavan worked with the famous fashion house to make couture gowns from scratch. Talking of costumes and sets, no detail was left undone, and the ambiance and period dress were perfect. Sit back and enjoy a relaxing, sweet, and gentle look at yesteryear with great acting and gorgeous costumes and settings. Like me, you will not want it to end!


Thursday, January 5, 2023

Book Review: From Promising to Published by Melanie Faith



You’ve been writing and honing your craft for months or years and are curious about seeking publication for your latest project. Perhaps you wonder about the next steps in the process. Look no further! This book has a little something for every writer interested in expanding their audience and sharing their writing with readers, from pre-writing and writing your drafts to choosing your market and the writing life before, during, and after publication.

Topics covered include:

       The Lovely Littles: Breaking into Literary Magazines

       The Spinning Spider: Keeping Track of your Brainchildren

       Options, You’ve Got ’em: Traditional, Indie/Small, University Press, or Self-Publishing

       Two Streams with One Stone: To Simultaneously Submit or Not

       Monetize it! Part One: All about the Benjamins; Monetize it! Part Two: Risk and a Swimming Metaphor

       The Myth of the Fancy-Pants Tools

       The Art of Writing the Author Bio

       Paradox Meets Passion: Writer vs. Author

       The Slam-Bam Reply: Now in Two Painful Varieties; Creative Noodling

       F.U.N. and so much more!

Purchase a copy of From Promising to Published on, Barnes and Noble, and You can also add this to your GoodReads reading list.


My review: From Promising to Published by Melanie Faith is a good starter guide for the author who has yet to dip a toe in the publishing pool filled with crocodiles, piranhas, and all manner of nasty creatures with big sharp teeth. For the novice author, still wide-eyed and dazed by the whole creative process, coming down to earth and addressing the practicalities of getting one’s act together and impressing the people who can make one’s book happen may fill one with trepidation. What is an author bio and what should you put in it? How much personal detail should you include or leave out? What is a target audience and how do you find them? How do you go about getting published, writing the fateful cover letter that might make someone important sit up or bin it? Melanie starts at the beginning of her own journey, using samples and examples of her own experiences to outline for the beginner author which paving stones in the path to avoid.

Melanie’s goal is to demystify the mystifying process of publishing and she succeeds in this by giving a step by step, logical sequence of milestones and how to accomplish each goal. The chapters are coherently arranged for easy navigation. The author also advises that not every tip will apply to every reader, and they should feel free to pick up on the ones that most suit their situation. One piece of advice I liked was this: say you are a writer/author right from the start, not an imposter, and cling to that knowledge. From the author bio to the query letter to the author website (what NOT to include), target audience, publishing options, and beyond, Melanie encourages her readers to have fun on the writing journey. At the end of each section are easy exercises that get readers into the swing of things, showing and not just telling you what and how to do something.

Melanie’s style is chatty, friendly, and down to earth, much like a friend having a coffee with you and giving you some valuable tips on how to proceed. She also tackles the highs and the lows of the writing/publishing process, such as dealing with rejection. She outlines and enhances the positives, always mindful that there are negatives and many would-be authors fall at the first hurdle. Dip into this book and make up your mind that you will sail over the first hurdle and every single one that comes after.



About the Author: Melanie Faith is a night-owl writer and editor who moves through the daytime world with her camera. She’s an introvert who likes to wear many hats, too, including as a poet, photographer, professor, and tutor. She’s been a doodler for years but just recently started to share her perfectly imperfect doodles. She loves to write about historical settings in poetry and prose, and this fall she taught both a Leaping Worlds class for historical fiction and time-travel writers as well as a university class about publishing. She especially enjoys creating nonfiction craft books that assist fellow authors on their writing paths, including books packed with tips about writing flash fiction and poetry. Her latest published craft books are: Photography for Writers, guides for teaching online and writing a research book respectively, and From Promising to Published: A Multi-Genre, Insider's Guide to the Publication Process (all from Vine Leaves Press). Read more about her books, classes, and arts projects at