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My Little Red Jalopy – Entered in 2017 ATAI Book Award Contest

5 Stars

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Leanna Craig Lebato

My Little Red Jalopy, written by Leanna Craig Lebato and illustrated by Jose Ramos, is an absolute treasure. This is just the first in the author’s My Little Red Adventure series. The author takes readers, parents, children and teachers alike, on a playfully sweet journey alongside a young child, who appears to be on the cusp of being a tween, and Jammin’, their family dog. This young child and faithful sidekick learn what freedom, confidence and adventure feel like as they explore the area around and near their house in the little red car that the father surprised them with. Leanna Craigh Lebato opens doors for communication with young readers though when her young character faces the potential loss of the exciting, near-child-sized car in My Little Red Jalopy. Yet, the story ends on a note of happiness and gratitude.

Leanna Craig Lebato brings to life in the form of her characters stories from her own childhood. Incorporating the absolutely adorable illustrations from Jose Ramos really makes the story pop. The author’s words and the illustrations help children feel as though they are actually right there in the moment with My Little Red Jalopy’s driver with Jammin’ in the passenger seat. My Little Red Jalopy (My Little Red Adventure Books) (Volume 1) is a fun, colorful story that will delight young hearts and minds in both boys and girls. This artfully and skillfuy crafted story will make children dream of getting their very own little red jalopy and they’ll be asking their parents for more stories from My Little Red Adventure books. Well done!

Originally critiqued by a member of the Authors Talk About It team.

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[Author Interview] Jacqui Letran | 5 Simple Questions to Reclaim Your Happiness

Featured Authors Talk About It

Author Interview

Jacqui Letran

ATAI: Tell us a little about you.

Jacqui: My name is Jacqui Letran. I’m an author, speaker, and teen confidence expert.  I have 17 years of experience working with teens in both the medical setting as a Nurse Practitioner and the holistic setting as a Teen Confidence Expert and Success Coach.

My passion for working with teens started as a result of my own experiences as a teenager.  I struggled so much with trying to find my own identity and my place in the world, and I had moderate anxiety and depression. Along my journey I discovered something so simple, yet so profound, “change your thoughts, change your life!”  This little nugget of wisdom changed everything for me.  I knew I had to share it with others.

I love being able to connect with my readers and teach them how to take charge of their lives by taking control of their thoughts, feelings, and actions. I feel so fortunate to be able to do what I do, and spreading my message world-wide through my books and my online practice, Teen Confidence Academy.

ATAI: How long have you been writing?

Jacqui: I started writing professionally in 2014.

ATAI: What was your most recent release?

Jacqui: My most recent release was the 2nd edition of my first book, 5 Simple Questions to Reclaim Your Happiness! in June 2017. I had a lot of wonderful feedback from readers that I incorporated into the 2nd edition to make it even more relevant and impactful. Readers requested more case studies, so I added in several more.  Also, I’m making part of this edition a workbook so readers can follow along and use the questions and other tools I provide to quickly reclaim their happiness.  After the revision, this book was awarded a Gold Medal from Literary Classics in the category of Young Adult Self-Help.

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ATAI: What do you love most about writing?

Jacqui: I love being able to express myself and knowing that my work will reach so many teens, who often need some extra support and insight to understand how they can feel good about themselves and be confident in life.

ATAI: What do you find most challenging?

Jacqui: English is my second language so grammar is a challenge for me. In my native language, we do not pluralize nouns. So it’s one banana, two banana, twenty banana. In addition, we do not use tenses the same way. So for us, it’s, “I go today.” “I go tomorrow.” “I go yesterday.” You can imagine how confusing it might be for me to figure out where which words need an “s” at the end, and what the appropriate tense should be. Thank goodness there are editors for that work.

ATAI: Where do your ideas come from?

Jacqui: I never entertained the idea of being an author until my clients kept requesting that I share my work in writing.  I am blessed to have a private practice helping people improve their lives by taking control of their minds.  I really enjoy helping people overcome big problems and emotional challenges by giving them the tools to be their own source of strength and power. So with each client, I would teach them about their mind and how to take control of it.  There is a lot of information to digest so my clients would ask me for a written summary.  After repeatedly hearing this request, the most logical thing to do was write a book.  

As the book evolved, I became more excited. I realized how important books were to me when I was a teen in need of help, and here was my chance to pay it forward!  Although the content in my book applies to anyone, whether young or old, I wrote the book specifically to help teens.  I hope that my work can reach teens who need some extra support. I want the book to help them feel less alone, give them some insights, as well as practical tools, so they can go after what they want to get out of life.

ATAI: What is your writing process?

Jacqui: I remember sitting down at my computer to type out my book.  The first several attempts were horrible! I would type, delete, type, delete, type and delete some more.  I had to make every single sentence perfect.  After hours of hard work, I only had a few paragraphs to show for it.  

It was so frustrating.  I knew my topic very well and I can teach it in my sleep, yet, I couldn’t articulate it on the word processor.  I knew that if I continued this way, it would take years to complete my book, and I did not want to wait that long.  That was when I decided to write everything out by hand.  I would go to a local coffee shop or to the beach and write as if I were teaching a client.  I wrote freely; no re-reading, and no editing.  I spent two to three hours writing each day, and within seven weeks, I completed the first book. It took several days for me to type up everything and then the first round of editing started. I learned it takes many rounds of editing, but the core messages of the book flowed from the tip of my pen without the distraction of real-time editing of each sentence!

ATAI: Do your characters (or message) ever seem to have a life of their own or an agenda of their own?

Jacqui: I’m sure this has happened through the development process, but I’m not aware of a specific example. When readers connect with me, they often share stories with me about how my books helped them to understand themselves and others better. They also tell me that it is easier to have a positive attitude when they use try some of the tools I’ve given them.

ATAI: What’s your favorite part of your book (or one of your books)?

Jacqui: My favorite of I would, but my DAMN MIND won’t let me! is the 60-Second Reader, which is a brief summary of each chapter. I have heard from many readers that they enjoy the concise recap of the chapters and often use that as a quick reference to take control of their emotions.

ATAI: What are you working on next?

Jacqui: I’m currently working on the third book in my Words of Wisdom for Teens series. It is called, How to Unleash Your Inner Super Powers and Destroy Anxiety and Self-Doubt.  This is the third book in my Words of Wisdom for Teen Series and the most fun to write so far.  I’m working toward a late November release, just in time to help teens start the next year with increased confidence, having learned about their own Inner Super Powers.

ATAI: Where can people find you online?

Jacqui: I love connecting with readers and reading their feedback on my books. Readers can find me at:

https://JacquiLetran.com

https://Instagram.com/WOW4Teens

https://Instagram.com/Msletran

https://Twitter.com/MsLetran

https://www.linkedin.com/in/jacquiletran

ATAI: Thank you for sharing with us and our audience.

Jacqui: Thank you so much for this wonderful interview. I have one more thing I would like to share with your readers. One of the most powerful lessons I have learned is, “change your thoughts, change your life.”  It sounds simple, but it is very powerful because whatever you focus on grows bigger.  Your thoughts are like color-tinted goggles. Whatever color your lenses are, you will experience the entire world around you through that “filter”. Whatever your thoughts are about your situation become the experiences you have in life. Your thoughts are also like a giant magnet, pulling to you more of the same.  If you have negative thoughts, you’ll attract more negativity into your life.  Conversely, if you have positive thoughts, you’ll attract more positivity into your life. So, if you are having an experience you don’t like, challenge yourself to change your thoughts into more empowering ones and get prepared to be amazed at how your world changes!


*NOTE: ATAI does not edit the responses of the authors.

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Everything She Needed – Entered in 2017 ATAI Book Award Contest

5 Stars

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Christina Butrum

Christina Butrum’s Everything She Needed (A Cedar Valley Novel) is charming love story that will warm the hearts of romance readers everywhere. The wholesome story of love and everyday life between Rachel, Adam, Ava (Rachel’s daughter) and Tyler (Adam’s son) flows beautifully from the first page to the last. Butrum brings in a bit of controversy and worry when Ava’s biological father suddenly wants to see her after never spending time with her previously, and Adam must deal with his brother, Conner’s, semi-estrangement from the family. Yet, Everything She Ever Needed almost always has a soft-hearted feeling of love about it. It’s a beautiful, sweet story that readers can relate to.

Exceptionally well-written, Everything She Needed (A Cedar Valley Novel), is different from so many of the novels in the romance genre today. Christina Butrum doesn’t succumb to the Fifty Shades of Grey mentality that so many have. Instead, she stays true to writing clean and wholesome romance, with sexy hints of desire and passion mixed in. With only subtle hints to being a Christian romance, this is an endearing story that will appeal to those who wish for love stories that create a spark while not actually setting the pages aflame. Butrum gives readers insight into her characters skillfully without be overly descriptive. With a small town feel, readers will fall in love with Rachel, Adam and their family and friends. At the same time, Butrum skillfully sets readers up to keep an eye out for future books that will involve other characters within Everything She Needed. A warm and cozy romance, Christina Butrum’s Everything She Needed is a story readers will enjoy curling up with in their favorite reading spot to melt away their troubles as they are embraced by Adam and Rachel’s love.

Originally critiqued by a member of the Authors Talk About It team.

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Rosemary for Remembrance – Entered in 2017 ATAI Book Award Contest

5 Stars

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Nikki Broadwell

A very unique story that reflects back upon a different time, Rosemary for Remembrance, by Nikki Broadwell, keeps readers curious from the very beginning. Rosemary Hughes and her husband, Dylan, experience unusual challenges in their relationship. Set in the 1940s and 1950s, the story takes readers into the lives of a well-to-do young woman, who marries an officer in the Army and is forced to change her attitude as an Army wife. Yet, Rosemary’s time immersed in her husband’s world is cut short when she and other civilians are sent back to the states due to the war. Sadly, Dylan disappears for many years when he become a prisoner of war. But, Rosemary for Remembrance has a deeper story than that of just a war-torn couple. Rosemary experiences odd visions and dreams throughout the story. Perhaps, they are even past life experiences. They’re far from enjoyable, but eventually they may help her recognize a unique bond with Dylan as they struggle with their marriage and their future.

Nikki Broadwell pulls readers into Rosemary and Dylan’s experiences in a couple of ways. Rosemary’s dreams or visions transport readers into a different world alongside her while Dylan’s journal entries take readers into his world. Through the character’s behavior and experiences the reader can easily envision the character’s lives decades ago. Rosemary for Remembrance started off in the 1950s, but quickly jumped backward to the couple’s early relationship and then progressed back to their current day. That felt a bit odd at first and may leave readers in limbo as there was a bit of a cliffhanger just before doing that. On the other hand, that choice by Broadwell may very well be a piece that keeps readers turning pages until they can discover just what will become of Rosemary and Dylan. Rosemary for Remembrance is a different and interesting war-time story with the unique twist of past lives. Nikki Broadwell has brought a different style of story to the romance genre. Nice job!

Originally critiqued by a member of the Authors Talk About It team.

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[Author Interview] R. M. Villoria – Tales from the Mind Field

Featured Authors Talk About It

Author Interview

RM Villoria

RM Villoria

ATAI: Tell us a little about you.

Bob: Well, I’m finally retired and doing what I love…writing.

I’m extremely lucky to have truly wonderful support in my endeavor which allows me to chase the dream.

ATAI: How long have you been writing?

Bob: If you count the many song lyrics I’ve written, I guess I’ve been writing since I was about 15. I didn’t get into serious writing though until 1992

ATAI: What was your most recent release?

Bob: In 2015, I published my first book of short stories which I began writing in 92’

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ATAI: What do you love most about writing?

Bob: Seeing my ideas come to fruition on paper. I love the thrill of a good story as it unfolds before me.

ATAI: What do you find most challenging?

Bob: Discipline. I really have a hard time setting a writing schedule like so many others do. I just do it as the mood hits me which can be frustrating a times. That and the fact that I can sometimes have two, even three stories working at once.

ATAI: Where do your ideas come from?

Bob: Again, I wish I had a pat answer for that as well, but the truth is, I haven’t got the slightest idea. They just pop into my head. Sometimes it may be a song on the radio, or a person walking by. No rhyme or reason really.

ATAI: What is your writing process?

Bob: Generally, I scribble down notes, ideas on paper, a restaurant napkin, put something down in the notepad on my phone and then transfer them to an opening page on my laptop from which I can embellish upon them.

ATAI: Do your characters (or message) ever seem to have a life of their own or an agenda of their own?

Bob: My characters general do what I tell them to do, but sometimes…

ATAI: What’s your favorite part of your book (or one of your books)?

Bob: When I write a scene that sends goosebumps up my arm and I have to actually get up and walk away for a few minutes. I LOVE THAT!

ATAI: What are you working on next?

Bob: I just finished Vol Two in my series of short stories and am going about getting it published right now. Shortly, however, I will be starting Vol Three. I believe this will be a four part series, but who knows.

ATAI: Where can people find you online?

Bob: Well, of course, they can go to my website at www.rmvilloria.com or they can follow me on Twitter and Facebook as well. Those links are on the website.

ATAI: Thank you for sharing with us and our audience.

Bob: Well, first I’d like to thank you for this opportunity to talk about my work and offer this tidbit to anyone who’s thought about becoming a writer…perseverance pays off.


*NOTE: ATAI does not edit the responses of the authors.

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The Rite of Wands – Entered in 2017 ATAI Book Award Contest

5 Stars

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Mackenzie Flohr

In Mackenzie Flohr’s The Rite of Wands, twelve-year-old Mierta McKinnon is looking forward to his Rite of Wands ceremony, which will cement his role as a warlock. However, during the ritual, he experiences a haunting vision of the future – and of his own terrible demise. Meanwhile, sixteen-year-old Orlynd is another warlock, the soothsayer to the king, capable of seeing visions of the future. He’s not always taken seriously, though, to the detriment of those around him. Around them, a terrible plague is looming over the land, one that could devastate them all if it is not stopped.

In the beginning, it is a bit difficult to get the hang of The Rite of Wands, as in most fantasy novels as complex as this one. It takes a few chapters to get used to the dialects, pacing, and shifting perspectives, but the inclusion of language and dialect guides in the beginning of the book will help with that. Once readers get acclimated to the unique style of this book, they’re in for a treat. The Rite of Wands is much like the Harry Potter series in that it prominently features magic and is written for all ages; however, this book is also much different than Harry Potter in that it is more traditional and ethnic, though still unique.

The Rite of Wands is such an enchanting fantasy novel partly because of its complex, relatable, and believable characters. Mackenzie Flohr avoids the clichés of the genre, instead crafting a story that is so detailed, honest, and immersive that it’s hard to put the book down. Also, the descriptive language used is wonderful; although not extravagant, the words used paint a clear and vivid portrait for readers, and a very enjoyable one at that. The Rite of Wands is a great read for beginners or seasoned fans of the fantasy genre alike, and a promising start to what will inevitably be a phenomenal fantasy series.

Originally critiqued by a member of the Authors Talk About It team.

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Gone North – Entered in 2017 ATAI Book Award Contest

4 Stars

Gone North

John McIlveen

Not yet available on Amazon.

John McIlveen’s Gone North follows two African American sisters from New Orleans, Emma and Thalia Holden, as they recount their youth in the 1960s. Emma, the older of the two, receives a great opportunity to work for a well-to-do family in Boston, with the added bonus of a college education while she’s there. However, once there, a blooming romance with a white man breeds uncertainty and passion. Thalia, epileptic and shy, remains in New Orleans with her parents – until tragedy strikes and rips the family apart. Even miles apart from one another, the sisters have an unshakable bond until the last of their days, when they sit down to finally tell their stories.

For a good portion of Gone North, it’s a bit unclear as to what the plot of the book actually is. Though entertaining, the Holden sisters’ narratives didn’t seem to have much rhyme or reason to them. This could be detrimental, as some readers may grow tired of this book long before the main storyline ever presents itself. However, it does prove to be interesting and captivating, largely because of the colorful, complex characters and their so-very-human stories.

What makes Gone North so fascinating, though, is the unique style in which it is written. John McIlveen wrote the sisters’ narratives as if they were reminiscing to their family members; Gone North is casual enough that it could pass for dialogue as they’re telling their family about their lives, but it is also formal enough to undoubtedly be a straightforward memoir-style book. This ambiguity is especially interesting, and certainly an effective approach. Gone North also tackles issues like race, disability, and culture, but does so in a subtle, tasteful manner that doesn’t overshadow the sister’s energetic tales. Gone North is a heartwarming, relatable story about love, sisterhood, and life’s treasures that readers of all walks of life are sure to enjoy.

Originally critiqued by a member of the Authors Talk About It team.

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Always Darkest – Entered in 2017 ATAI Book Award Contest

4 Stars

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Jess & Keith Flaherty

In Jess and Keith Flaherty’s Always Darkest, angels and demons alike are consumed with the Emerald Hill prophecy, which foretells the birth of a girl with amazing abilities. The demon Ronoven is hiding on Earth, investigating the prophecy, disguised as a drifter named Ben. There, he meets Chris, who is also hiding secrets of his own. Then, “Ben” finds Malin, the subject of the prophecy and both the daughter of an angel and the last living descendant of Jesus and Mary Magdalene. There’s a lot in store for Mal, but she wants to be in control of her own destiny – which is easier said than done.

There are some aspects of Always Darkest that seem a bit too cliché, such as the prophecy in general, the angels vs. demons conflict, and the improbable, against-all-odds love story. Also, some parts of the story tend to be confusing, as the pacing is often jumpy and uneven. Other portions of this book seem to focus far too much on tedious exposition and foreshadowing and not nearly enough on moving the plot forward (it takes nineteen chapters for the three main characters to even be in the same room together, let alone get anything actually started).

Nevertheless, Always Darkest is quite an entertaining read. There’s a ton of great descriptive language and lighthearted humor in its pages, which serves to hold the reader’s attention even in the slower-paced portions of the book. Jess and Keith Flaherty have inserted a lot of fantastic creativity, religious imagery, suspense, and mystery into their work, making Always Darkest an interesting literary concoction in itself. Always Darkest is a unique combination of epic fantasy and contemporary romance, which is an intriguing recipe guaranteed to delight its unsuspecting readers.

Originally critiqued by a member of the Authors Talk About It team.

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Recognizing the Real Me – Entered in 2017 ATAI Book Award Contest

4 Stars

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T. Lynn Tate

An African American novel with romance at the core, Recognizing the Real Me, focuses on two main characters throughout. Confidence (or Fi) Fuller and Nina, her sister, go through a number of ups and downs with their romantic relationships. In the midst of the love stories, author T. Lynn Tate, weaves in a touch of mystery as Fi’s boss seems to have a deep, dark secret. The two sisters always have each other’s backs whether dealing with their mother, their romantic relationships or difficult curve balls that life has a habit of throwing at them. In the end, they come out on top and stand strong in making decisions that are best for them. They ultimately do come to recognize their real selves.

T. Lynn Tate offers a refreshing perspective on the edge of being a romance. Recognizing the Real Me’s characters come across as real and relatable, which will likely help readers feel a bond with Fi and Nina. Unfortunately, there are numerous plot holes and large jumps in the timeline. This is a big drawback for the story. If Tate would tighten the story up and share less unimportant details, she would have room to paint a more colorful picture, so that readers become absorbed into the story. Tate has excellent potential with the core storyline, but it could use some work. Better pacing and more depth within the scenes as well as within the characters would add a lot to the story. T. Lynn Tate’s Recognizing the Real Me has a strong realism to it that, if tweaked a bit and fleshed out more, could cause readers to sing its praises to all of their girlfriends while anxiously awaiting the another book of Tate’s to be released.

Originally critiqued by a member of the Authors Talk About It team.

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Who’s That in the Cat Pajamas – Entered in 2017 ATAI Book Award Contest

5 Stars

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Sojourner McConnell

An adorable chapter book for young children, Who’s That in the Cat Pajamas? (The Dolcey Series) gives young girls a powerful life lesson while allowing them to step into a fantasy. Sojourner McConnell brings to life a young fairy who has powerful magic that she’s only just begun to start using to help others. When Dolcey here’s a child in need, she has been taught by her mother how to implement her powers to offer guidance and assistance. Who’s That in the Cat Pajamas? is her first experience in actually getting to help. She hears a young girl named Emily and rushes off to not only find her but help her get through the challenging time she is facing.

The colorful imagery within Who’s That in the Cat Pajamas?, illustrated by Ellie Barrett, add an additional element of fun and fantasy to Sojoruner McConnell’s story. These occasional images help bridge a gap between young students who are ready to read more difficult books and embrace more complex concepts with readers who aren’t quite ready to give up the picture book feel. Who’s That in the Pajamas? is a very well-written story and has a fun story line all while sharing a message of hope and a lesson on how to cope with big life changes that are out of one’s control. Sojourner McConnell’s Who’s That in the Cat Pajamas?, the first in her The Dolcey Series, would make for a wonderful tool for parents who are looking for something to help their children deal with a big move away from family and friends. It’s simply a must read!

Originally critiqued by a member of the Authors Talk About It team.

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