Inside The Book Interview

Willie the Wheelchair by Remon M. Jourdan

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avatarAuthor Remon M. Jourdan

Remon M. Jourdan is the author of Willie the Wheelchair. He is an underground spoken-word poet from Massachusetts trying to return to his love of writing after a car accident left him paralyzed. He designs and maintains a personal website,, which explores creative ways of inspiring and motivating others through music, writing and poetry. When he’s not performing, volunteering or creating, he is absorbing the inspiration from his daughter, Nerissa Rae to keep moving forward.


Willie the WheelchairWILLIE_FRONT_2012_cs5 (2)
Author: Remon M. Jourdan
Page Count: 24
Genre: Picture Book
Price: $8.98
Available at: and


The story of Willie the Wheelchair is simply about finding your importance in the world.  At first Willie feels that his differences are holding him back.

“You see, Willie was born with wheels on the ends of his feet
And he wished he had legs like other chairs he would meet”

We are all different, with different gifts to share as long as we realize that differences should be celebrated.


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHow are you doing today Remon?  I’m happy to welcome you to Inside The Books.Please tell us a little bit about yourself and what inspired you to become a children’s book author?
Thanks for having me. Born and raised in Cambridge Massachusetts my journey began with music after entering the Boston Archdiocesan Choir School. I developed a love for songwriting and poetry during this time which has stayed with me ever since. In 2002 I was in the car accident that left me paralyzed. And it was in trying to communicate all my new challenges to my daughter who was very young at the time that the children’s book idea came about.

Some people know at an early age that they were born to be an author. When did you know that you were one of those people?
I grew up with a love for poetry and music, but really simply “words” and how they can be used and manipulated to communicate emotion. But it was my 5th grade English teacher, Ms. Yeoman, who introduced me to the world of becoming an author, as well as to one of my favorite poets, Edgar Allen Poe. After feeling what I felt from reading his works, I knew I wanted to be able to have a similar effect on others through my works.

How does poetry and music play a role in the creation of your children books?
Basically I use it as a foundation for communicating in my books. As an adult I can still remember all the nursery rhymes and songs that are sung to children. And that’s what I strive to reinvent in my stories: something fun to read aloud, melodic, flowing, and easy to remember.

One of my favorite things about writing is when I discover a new character. How did you discover your character Willie?
One of the favorite things my daughter loved to do when she was young was to sit in my wheelchair. Her fascination made me realize that the “adult” notions about what a wheelchair is and what it entails can take away from how amazing and empowering they truly are, and from there came Willie.

What is the one of your favorite things about Willie?
For me it’s that Willie realized for himself that he had something to offer with his differences. And that some of his challenges were self-inflicted, so when he finally became “aware” some of those barriers immediately disappeared.


WILLIE_CreateSpace-3-5-12_Page_04 (2)
If I was to interview your character Willie right now, what would he like to share with everyone?

He would simply remind all of us not to forget how special we are with all our differences and uniqueness.

I love the soft pastel colors of your cover illustration. How involved were you with the illustrations of your book? 
Me and my wonderful illustrator, Syanne Djaenal, worked hand-in-hand to create something that would be as fun to see as to read.

Is your book Willie the Wheelchair the first book in a series? If so, can you tell us about the next book in the series?
Hopefully so, my plan was to have Willie go to school next and possibly find a job in the future. I’m currently working on the funding for that and my other projects.

Can you share with us your goals for any future books?
Along with Willie sequels, I’m hoping to publish as children’s book describing my daughter’s experience with my spinal cord injury seen through her young imaginative eyes, Risa and Superdad.

Do you have any events coming up that you would like to share with us? 
I will be performing a short poem as well as having copies of Willie the Wheelchair available for sale at the 6th Annual Ms. Wheelchair Massachusetts on March 29, 2014 at the Mass Hospital School in Canton Massachusetts.

Which social sites do you like to use to connect with people?
You can always reach out to me from my website

Thank you for your time. It was a pleasure speaking with you.


Our Daddy By Rene Guity

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RenePhoto Author Rene Guity

I was born in Boston, MA before moving to the Hampton Roads area of Virginia where I attended high school.  I earned my B.S. from Christopher Newport University and my M.S. Ed  from Old Dominion University.  Spent a good portion of my younger years trying to break into the record industry, but after starting a family I realized that I had to reevaluate my life choices.

Currently, I am a high school Guidance Counselor and mentor to a lot of young people.  I am also a husband and father of two beautiful girls which my series of books (The Adventures of Tink & Fishes) will be inspired by.  The books will have a Hip Hop style of rhyme and very unique illustrations to match which should make them easy and fun to read for all ages.

When I am not writing or trying to lead young people down the right path I enjoy listening to good music, reading, playing golf with my girls, chess, lifting weights, and yoga.

If you’re interested in knowing a bit more feel free to email or “tweet” me @renguity.

OurDaddyOur Daddy
Author: Rene Guity
Page Count: 22
Genre: Picture Book
Price: $9.99
Available at: or Amazon

Essentially the book is basically a compilation of things that I tell my girls on a regular basis. I have two daughters who are now 12 and 8.  I found myself saying certain things over and over like any other parent out there and even started to take those messages to my kids at the school where I worked.  So I thought to myself “Why not just write them down?”

Hello Rene! How are you doing today? Welcome to Inside The Books. Please tell us a little bit about yourself and what inspired you to become a children’s book author?

Hello there!  I’m doing well today?  How are you?  Thank you for reaching out and offering me an opportunity to discuss my book. I really appreciate the interest and support.

Well, my parents are from Honduras, CA and my sister and I are products of two people overcoming many odds to give us a better opportunity.  I was born and raised in Boston, MA and I am a TRUE BOSTONIAN!  I love my city!  Growing up I was very blessed to have great parents, wonderful friends and a great sense of community.  We took care of each other and years later our community has gone from friends to family.

Growing up I was super involved in the Hip Hop culture. I started with Breakdancing and by the 9th grade I devoted my energy to rhyming and becoming an Emcee.  Throughout high school and college I spent a lot of time just trying to get signed and I was close until some life altering events occurred and I had to redirect my steps, but the love for the culture never dies.  It becomes part of you and ultimately who you are.  I consider myself a Hip Hop Guidance Counselor! 🙂

Honestly, with a love for rhyming writing a book wasn’t that far of a reach.  Working full time in a field where your students become your kids (if you care) and with my own performing and traveling wasn’t much of an option so writing a book served a couple of purposes for me.  1.  It gave me an opportunity to still rhyme and write which is what I love to do. 2.  It was a message of fatherhood that I noticed was so lacking in our society.  3.  It was something that was dedicated and inspired by my girls so it would be something they would hopefully appreciate forever.  4.  Both of my girls play golf which culturally is something we do not play but they showed an interest and a gift very early so we were hoping that the book could help fund their golfing experience.


You might not know that my daughter was one of my inspirations to start my publishing company, Worlds To Discover. Was it always your dream to become a published author or was it something that slowly evolved as your girls were growing up?

No my dream was never to become an author.  My original dream was to be on stage and be Boston’s KRS-ONE. LOL  It’s funny how life changes and you adapt to whatever is going on.  I knew when my first daughter was born that traveling and being a part time dad was not going to work for me so I really backed up from that.  I mentioned some major events playing a part in my decision.  My partner in rhyme Remon Jourdan (who also wrote a children’s book) was in a car accident that left him unable to walk.  The year after his accident my oldest was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes.  So the book was definitely an evolution of all of those events and in a way therapeutic for me.  Pick Up The Pace was me getting back into the swing of things after being down for a long time.

I’ve never published a picture book, but I can imagine writing a picture book has it challenges. What aspect did you find to be a challenge?

Great question! The writing was easy and I have a few books waiting in the wing but the process is a little crazy. First, I noticed that most books that show love or endearment to their children were by women and not many that I could find were from fathers of color. Soooo I’m thinking “something new” but that was not the case. In order for any major publisher to even look at your work you need a literary agent to present it. So I wrote to hundreds of agents and none were interested in picking up the book and moving forward with it. I think if I had written this book before ebooks became the norm that I would have had a better response. So that was very frustrating. I would go into stores and look at books that I KNOW mine could have stood by and you start to wonder if there is a reason books by men of color are not in Barnes and Noble. After 100 “no’s” you have to decide what to do so I decided to self publish. Even in that it’s expensive so I did what I could to promote the book and sold over 1000 copies the summer I released it. I was hoping that would show companies it had merit but the no’s didn’t change to yesses.

On your website Pick up the Pace, you mention that you work as a high school guidance counselor and mentor a lot of young people. Does that experience play a role in your stories?

Absolutely! I really didn’t set out to change the world or save anyone but my love for my own kids and coming from familiar territory as my students I was their go to person. Those kids literally became my kids. My office was always crowded and I spent a lot of weekends with my students taking them to the movies, bowling, or just over to watch sports. After seeing how many of my kids didn’t have fathers or envied mine I felt it necessary to send the message of love to everyone and the book was a way to do that.

As a published children’s book author myself I have always found it very interesting to have readers of my books come up to share with me their thoughts about my characters. What is the most memorable experience you have had with readers of your book?

I think the consistent theme that I am very proud of is when people say to me “This should be in Barnes and Noble and not just in the children’s section!” That tells me that it was a positive endeavor even if I didn’t make a million dollars or sat on Oprah’s sofa. I know the people that read it were blessed because God used me as a messenger. You can’t feel bad about that.

I love the vibrant colors of your cover illustration. How involved were you with the illustrations of your book?

VERY! My best friend and another good friend of mine did the illustrations. Before families and real life we would all sit around watching them draw pictures of the crew. They would draw me with a microphone and the rest of the gang doing different things and we all used to tell them they needed to really do something with their talent but life happens I suppose and they never did. So when I told them I was going to start a series of books and no one knew my family like they did and would they be interested. They jumped at the chance to finally put their gifts to work and those illustrations really make the book shine in my opinion. Not because they are so bright and vibrant but because those guys captured the life of my family into fun pictures.  There were some bumps in the road working with your friends and a project that you feel passionate about. Sometimes our clocks weren’t in sync and that was frustrating but I wouldn’t want anyone else illustrating my books so you just have to love your folks I guess. 🙂

Can you give us a hint about what your next book will be about?

I’ll give you more than a hint.  I will give you the title of the next book.  It will be called “Today” which is already written and it speaks about the blessings we have EVERYDAY if we just take the time to notice.

I know I have a lot of goals for my publishing company. Some I talk about and others I keep close. What are your goals for your publishing career that you would like to share?

Writing is my peace so I have a few projects that I would like to attack in the near future.  With my girls establishing themselves as pretty good little golfers my goals are always to put them in a position to follow their path and if the books get them there then I’ll be a happy man.  They want to play on LPGA one day so their goals are now my goals and purpose for anything that I do going forward.  I am in the process of writing a book about our road to the LPGA and I really want to sit down and put all of my notes in order because that book will not only address fatherhood but the social issues involved in the game of golf.

Do you have any events coming up that you would like to share?

Aside from my girl’s tournaments I don’t have anything lined up.  Every now and then I am asked to speak at an event for fathers or young men so I’m always open to those when they are presented.

Which social sites are you on?

Not many.  I still have  a Twitter account which I originally set up to promote the book and although I connected with a lot of good people I stopped using it.  I do monitor my girls Twitter @guitygirlsgolf and Facebook pages.  Their website is  So needless to say my girls are my priority.  Thanks again for the opportunity to share!  Blessings!


Interview with Paul Edward Davis author of The Adventures of Old School Brown Hip Hop Halloween

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Paul Edward Davis sometimes known as Eddie Davis is a professional artist and illustrator. As far back as he can remember he has always enjoyed drawing and painting. Sometimes jokingly he refers to his gift as a compulsive disorder. He has enhanced his skills by picking up various books on painting, taking graphic design classes at Milwaukee Area Technical College, and through many years of doing portraits and caricatures at local festivals and block parties. His love of painting has always made him look forward to his next piece of art. He is influenced by an early envy of comic book artists such as John Bryn and Jack Kirby, as well as painters such as Ernie Barnes, Boris Vallejo and Norman Rockwell. His writing style and subject matter reflects all the life experiences of the books he has read and the shows he has watched. He loves science fiction and fantasy. He can work with just about any medium and enjoys exploring what he can do with the digital world.

product_thumbnail.phpCan you tells us about The Adventures of Old School Brown Hip Hop Halloween and what we can expect to find?

Back in the day before the hip-hop sound, there was an old school rapper named Old School Brown. He was cool as can be, but got older in time; here he is now still busting a rhyme. He loves his job as our school bus driver, taking us to school to be smarter and wiser. Thus starts the story featuring Carver Academy’s favorite school bus driver with a talent for telling fantastic stories done in rhyme. In this tale told for Halloween he takes the kids back to the 80’s were he was confronted by non other than Dracula. Can a young Old School Brown defeat the vampire in a battle of rap and rhyme? You will find out in this fun and beautifully illustrated story.

How did you come up with the idea for this book?

How did I come up with this story. Well I am a child of the 80’s and back then one of the popular styles of music for me and my friends was this new style called rap and hip hop. Back then Rap was more fun and stories then bling and gangsters. So my friends and myself with our little garage talent show band would create songs and one of which I wrote was a story of me meeting Dracula in a park. Fast forward to the present and I always loved that rhyme so I decided to up-date it to the present and created the character of Old School Brown.

Old School Brown seems like a wonderful character. Can you tell us a little about him and why he likes telling stories in rhyme?One special thing about The Adventures of O.S. B. is that the lyrical nature of the stories lends itself very well to live readings. I think it is best with an Old school beat playing in the background.

OSBHH-1Is this your first book?

This is my first book for sale to a wide audience on Amazon. I had written story before that I self printed and sold to some local schools, I have been a columnist for a local news paper and of course I have illustrated stories for other people.

Can you tell us a little about the illustrations for this book?

The illustrations for Old School Brown are pen and Ink with Digital coloring. I especially had fun drawing young Old School Brown in his purple “Members Only” Jacket “Kango” hat and lee jeans. Something I probably would have worn back in the day.

How did you become interested in illustrating books for children?

I have always been into illustrations, picture books, comic books and stories. As an artist I feel I am a much stronger illustrator and visual storyteller then fine artist even though I can work oil paints and canvas too. So doing children’s books is a natural extension.

As an illustrator / author what inspires you first… the words or the images?

Being both an illustrator and author is interesting when it comes to creating stories. Because what I visualize in my brain I can create on paper I often create characters and art that already has a story to it. Because that is the way I approach art. Or if I am simply writing a cool story the images are already cascading through my head so I can simply create them on paper. I have many stories that consist of just a drawing or painting until I get ready to type the story out.

OSBHH-2Do you have any new characters that you are working on that you would like to share?

For example I have a character named Rosemary. She is a middle aged single mom who is very self-conscious about her self-image and lacks confidence. In the story for Rosemary she goes on a little story arch where in the end she learns just how beautiful she truly is. There is also “My Little Angel” She is a child that was never born and the spiritual guardian of Infant babies welcoming them into the world and telling them about all the cool things to come for them. It is a fantasy version of an explanation of how babies know who and what a mommy is and how they learn to take their first step and say their first word. The little angel tells them!

Can you tell us a little about and why you started your own publishing company?

My start up company is And as an illustrator I would here stories from authors about the things they didn’t like bout the self-publishing companies they worked with. Often I would do the illustrations and they would then send them off to whatever self-publishing house. Or on freelancers sites I would see job post that I would have this sneaking suspicion that the illustration job was being outsourced from a third party. I won’t put down those businesses because they serve a great purpose but I feel there is something to be said about small and intimate relationships with Illustrators.

Having studied desktop publishing and possessing the necessary software it seems like a much natural progression to illustrate and format books at the same time. Once I realized how simple it is to go through POD sites and publish to Amazon.

I am now transforming my Illustration web site into a publishing web site.

Can you tell us about any of your upcoming projects??

An upcoming project is a story written by Author Mary Wroten. Having read the first two chapters I must say it is a very entertaining book. There is a second book by Author Eddie Rutledge “Amani And Friends Go To New York” And then there is a few more stories from myself as well as “The Adventures of Old School Brown Funky Christmas story.”

Inside the Book Interview with Naomi Robinson, Artist of Greeting Card Series: Sister to Sister

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Article first published as Interview: Naomi Robinson, Mixed Media Artist of Sister to Sister Greeting Cards on Blogcritics.

Hello Everyone,

How are you doing?

Welcome to Inside The Books. This is JMcManus with another post for you. Today’s post will introduce you to mixed media artist Naomi Robinson.

Born in Notting Hill, West London, United Kingdom, Naomi Robinson always loved drawing. Her mother said she started drawing as soon as she could pick up a crayon. Around the age of six she remembers getting a box of 36 oil crayons and an oversized sketchbook and nearly finishing the entire sketchbook in one day. She loved to draw clowns and was fascinated with the colors, clothing, and face painting.

Now she’s a mixed media artist who mainly illustrates greeting cards, book covers, and merchandise such as t-shirts as she builds up her clientele in the children’s sector. She has two main styles that she works in. The first style includes mixing dip pen, ink, tea-stained/textured papers, watercolor, and scanned images that are finished in Photoshop, and the second style includes computer-based scanned sketches which are re-drawn in Illustrator and finished in Photoshop.

First let me thank you for taking time to do this interview. You have a very vibrant and fun illustration style that really lends itself to greeting cards. Where did that style come from?

My style is a work in progress and developing with each project. I think my style comes from my love for drawing. All my ideas come from constantly sketching. I like to focus on a strong line, pattern, complementary colors and playful compositions.

What was the first greeting card series you worked on?

I have worked on a few greetings card series some of which I self-publish. The most popular was my cupcake range, a series of 11 card designs. It’s still growing and a US card publisher has now licensed them.

Can you describe for us your start-to-finish process when working on a greeting card series?

Once commissioned by a publisher, you will receive your text or concepts. I’ll do some image research for theme or topic, then brainstorm and sketch out ideas. I may at this point send the publisher some roughs before I start final artwork. I create artwork and finally send the final artwork to the publisher or directly to their printer.

One of my favorite cards is part of the Sista to Sista collection: “Keep your head up, Never let them see it hanging low…” A beautiful card with a beautiful woman smiling. Can you tell us about the Sista to Sista project and the process you went through for creating each card?

Sister to Sister was such a special collaboration between Hudson & Brown and myself. The project was perfect for my style and the work I love to create. A brand focused on empowering women – written by women, designed by women and for women. I received the text and it instantly spoke to me visually. Hudson & Brown gave me free range to create whatever I liked because they loved what they had seen from my portfolio and truly believed in me as an artist and card maker.

I wanted the cards to be beautiful, bold, colorful and contemporary. I also aimed to keep them coherent as a series by keeping my palette limited with a neutral undertone.

Do you ever get to write the verbiage for the greeting cards or is it always given to you?

With Sister to Sister I was given most of my text, and I was lucky enough to write some of their cancer support cards such as the card entitled My Hand.

Is there any project you would like to illustrate in the future?

This year I’m eager to work on more children’s book commissions so that is my focus. I love pattern and surface design so will be doing some projects towards that also. And I’m sure I’ll create some more illustrations for Sister to Sister/Woman to Woman Greetings.

What has been your favorite project to work on?

My favorite projects are the ones that help me develop my thinking as a creative and push me to be a better illustrator. I like a challenge and when reviewing my work it is important to me to see growth and improvement.

You’ve been working as an illustrator for years; has the new technology affected how you work on new projects?

I’ve been lucky because I was growing up in the age of the computer. I first created art on a computer when I was 10 years old and as I have developed as an artist in turn computers and packages have improved, making everything easier. I think my day job as a graphics designer really helps because it always ensures I am up to speed with the latest creative applications. Although working “traditional” is great because you can’t beat the feeling and ease of drawing in a sketchpad or painting on canvas; everything ends up digital so it is very important to be versatile.

Are you currently working on any projects that we can look forward to?

I’m working on a few, a secret little book for little girls, an alphabet book project and a new online card and t-shirt shop.

Is there anything else you would like to share with us?

I’d just like to take this opportunity to thank you for asking me to do this interview.

Thank your for sharing some insight on your talent. Where can people find out more information about you and your work?

My website is a good starting point as it has links to everything.

If you want to see how I work or ideas come, where I’m exhibiting or my latest achievements, my blog is very good.

I have a little Etsy shop where you can buy a few limited edition cards and products.

And finally you can all pop by and say hi via Facebook.


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Inside The Book of Ellen's Broom w/ Kelly Starling Lyons by JMcManus

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Hello Everyone,

I hope you’re all doing well in this New Year!

Welcome to Inside The Books. This is JMcManus with another post for you. Today’s post is part of Kelly Starling Lyons blog tour for the release of her new book Ellen’s Broom, a wonderful book about a young girl’s experience of freedom.

Ellen always knew that the broom resting above the hearth was special. Before it was legal for her mother and father to officially be married, the broom was what made them a family. But now all former slaves who had already been married in their hearts could register as lawful husband and wife.

As part of the blog tour Kelly Starling Lyons will be giving away a grand prize to anyone who leaves a comment on any of the tour stops. So please read the interview and review below and leave a comment for your chance to win a decorated wedding broom courtesy of Stuart’s Creations ( and a poster of the Ellen’s Broom cover. The winner will be drawn on January 16.


1. As a writer myself, I’m always interested in the creation of characters. Can you tell us about Ellen and how she became the character of your book?

While researching family history, I saw a Virginia cohabitation register that listed formerly enslaved couples, the dates of their marriages and the names and ages of their children. Though their marriages – sometimes celebrated by jumping a broom – weren’t legal during slavery, they were finally in 1866 protected by law. Freedmen’s Bureau officers registered the couples and even issued some marriage certificates. Ellen was the result of my imagining what it would be like for a girl whose parents finally have their marriage made legal.

It took an editor’s encouragement to see my research had potential for a story. Once I started working on it, I envisioned Ellen and her family and tried to imagine how they would feel to go from slavery to freedom. I could see her mama wanting to make sure the story of what they survived was not forgotten. The broom was a symbol that Ellen came to see as a special part of their history. It’s something she vowed to pass on.

2. During a time of change, from slavery to freedom, one constant in Ellen’s life was the broom her parents jumped during slavery. Can you tell us why it is so important for children of today to understand the history of brooms in marriage during that time period?

Today, it’s not unusual to attend an African-American wedding where the couple jumps the broom. But many children have no idea why they’re doing it. Ellen’s Broom helps give them a sense of the history. It shares what the broom ritual meant to enslaved families who could be torn apart at any time. Through the story, they see that even as Ellen’s family celebrated new freedoms – like finally having marriages of former slaves legalized — it was important to remember that past. I hope it helps children understand why jumping the broom is done by some couples in memory of that history now.

3. I was delighted to receive a small broom with my copy of Ellen’s Broom. Is that something that will ship out with every copy?

There’s a fun craft kids can do to make their own miniature broom out of a pencil. Directions are in the Ellen’s Broom craft and discussion guide created by author/educator Debbie Gonzales. Here’s the link: EllensBroomDiscussionActivityGuide.pdf.

4. Can you share with us an unknown fact about the book? Like something that appeared in the first draft that was edited out by the final draft.

One fact few people know is that I chose the name Ellen for the main character in honor of my maternal grandfather’s mother, Ellen Hairston Starling.  It was through researching her side of the family that I stumbled across the cohabitation register that inspired this story. I also learned that Ellen is a family name. Her grandmother, who likely was once enslaved, was named Ellen too.

Something that was edited out of the story were the names of the songs Ellen, her family and the rest of the congregation sang in the church. I mentioned Follow the Drinking Gourd, Wade in the Water and Go Down, Moses. Those songs gave enslaved people hope and in some cases instructions for escape. Once free, the songs were a testament to what they survived and a reminder to cherish their freedom. You can still hear those spirituals in some churches today.

5. As an author, what inspires you to write?

I’m inspired to write children’s books by the memory of being a child who rarely saw herself and her history reflected in stories for young people. I write to help create a different reality for kids today. I write to give back.

I still remember the story that inspired me to write for kids, Something Beautiful by Sharon Dennis Wyeth. It was the first time I saw an African-American girl featured on the cover of a picture book. Right then, I decided to add my voice.

6. Is there anything else you would like to share with us?

I’m so grateful for the chance to share this story. I wrote Ellen’s Broom as a celebration of family, love and freedom. I was amazed by how illustrator Daniel Minter reflected those themes in his art. People can learn more about Ellen’s Broom and find printables for kids at my site, If you want a peek inside the book, you can watch the trailer for Ellen’s Broomhere. Thanks again for all of your support.


Thank you Kelly for a wonderful interview and some insight in the making of Ellen’s Broom.

Ellen’s Broom is a delightful book about how a broom that was once used during the time of slavery for marriage becomes a tradition. Readers will journey with Ellen as she carries the broom her parents once jumped over during slavery to bind the family, to a courthouse where her parents will be officially married.

Kelly has a wonderful and delightful way of creating characters that connects with young readers. And that connection takes you on a journey through a moment in time. It’s like the characters hold your hand as they tell you about history…what a way to learn.

And let me just say, from someone who is big on illustrations, Daniel Minter did a wonderful job with his block print illustrations. When my eight-year-old daughter saw this book lying on my table she asked if she could have a poster.

Ellen’s Broom is a great book about family traditions and I can’t wait to read more books from Kelly Starling Lyons.

Inside The Book of Mama, When Will I Be Popular w/ Thomasina F. Johnson by JMcManus

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Article first published as Thomasina F. Johnson, Author of Mama, When Will I Be Popular on Blogcritics.

(Don’t miss out on the book giveaway of Mama, When Will I Be Popular! Ends Oct. 28th 2011)

Welcome back everyone!

This is JMcManus with another Inside The Book interview. Today I’m going inside the book of Mama, When Will I Be Popular with author Thomasina F. Johnson.

Born in Washington, DC, Thomasina F. Johnson now lives in Maryland with her husband and 7 wonderful home schooled children and has found writing as a calling and a great way to give to others.

But it all didn’t start off that way. As a way to escape the mean words that were being said about her when she was younger she attempted suicide. Fortunately she failed in her attempt and in 2000 started writing whimsical and rhythmic books that help children build character.  From that experience she started writing her first book The Bully, which she is currently working on illustrations for.

Thomasina, can you give us a summary of Mama, When Will I Be Popular?

A mother and daughter talk. That provides insight into how today’s struggles will teach her daughter to triumph in her future endeavors. It’s the concept of, what people mean for evil now will eventually work out for the good in you! Don’t give up!

On the first page we find out that the character wants to be popular. What does she think popularity will bring her?

Acceptance, sadly that is all most kids want. Most just want to be liked and not judged for who they are.

I noticed right away that you didn’t give your character a name. Was this intentional?

Yes, and that’s really neat that you noticed that! When you are bullied you don’t “feel” like you have a name. However, that was why I intentionally put the “titles” of roles you will be called upon to fulfill later in life.

Through out the story we found out different things that character building can prepare someone for. My favorite was being an astronaut. What do you think the character would choose?

She chose to be a teacher. Her experience gave her a heart for children just like herself. And being an educator gave her that opportunity to help shape and mold those who were in her classroom.

“Or maybe you’ll have character like an astronaut who has to spend a lot of time alone, out in space, for months, just communicating by phone.”

What is your favorite part of Mama, When Will I be Popular?

The crying scene, when she is in her bed. It is a tender picture of what I have seen at times in my own life/home.

Is Mama, When Will I be Popular the first in a series?

Yes, I have several more coming that talk about bullying, true friendship, geography and dance, a princess story and a crying little brother. I have many stories that I have written over the years that I can’t wait to share!

That’s great! Can you tell us about some of your upcoming projects?

I touched on “The Bully” project so I will talk about my project after that which is Amber & Emily! This is a book dear to my heart that talks about interracial friendship. It’s the true story of my daughter and her best friend Emily!

“These two friends are special what could they possibly not share? Amber is as dark as chocolate and Emily has blonde hair.”

Is there anything else you would like to share with us?

Well, being a mom I just think it’s important to have children build strong character morals’ and a huge secured sense of their value! My hope is that we can end child suicide by building up our young people up. And stop bullying by getting to the heart and anatomy of the bullies in our grade schools before they end up in our colleges.

Where can people find more information about you and your books?
Our website is at  Please don’t forget to join our Google Friend Connect and to “like” us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter (@booksbytj)

I also have a blog spot that focuses primarily on the personal side of me being a wife and mommy of 7 children called Mommy Writes it on my web page under the tag label blog.

Thank you Thomasina for taking time for the interview. I wish you much success with your books.


Inside The Book of Nalia and the Potion Maker w/ Queenbe Monyei by JMcManus

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Article first published as Interview: Queenbe Monyei, Author of Nalia and the Potion Maker on Blogcritics.

Welcome back Everyone. This is JMcManus bring you another Inside The Books inteview. Today I have an interview with Queenbe Monyei author of Nalia and the Potion Maker.

Los Angeles born author Queenbe started writing as a child, but the idea for her debut novel, Nalia and the Potion Maker, didn’t spring to mind until she started blogging to promote a book she and another writer was working. It happened one night in November 2010 while she was sitting in her room thinking about what she would love to be reading if she were reading about a young girl who was special and powerful but thought she was anything but, and the girl turned out to be Nalia.

Now let’s found out some things about Nalia’s adventure.

Nalia very early on notices strange things happening around her although she can’t pinpoint what is going on. Then she finds out she is an Amemora. Can you tell us what an Amemora is and how you came up with the concept?

Well, I won’t give it away, because that’s part of the fun of the book trying to find out what she is exactly, but I will say that Amemoras are very powerful and have a unique gift.

During Nalia’s journey, she meets the potion maker Poto who is one of the key people in her story. Can you tell us a little bit about Poto and his role in helping Nalia on her journey to face Agithara?

Poto is a genius potion maker who also has a story of his own. He is a key person in helping Nalia discover all the different lands in Aetheria, and takes her on an adventure that will shape who he is. He becomes an important person in her life and will be for the books to come.

One thing I enjoyed was the riddles. As a writer, do you like creating riddles are did riddles just become part of Nalia and the Potion Maker?

Well, riddles are very important to Aetherian culture. Aetherians believe that life’s lessons shouldn’t just be handed to you. You should take the time to figure them out or else they will have no meaning in your life. Also, I love playing with language, so I wanted this to be a part of the book.

For those who like riddles, see if you can figure out one of the riddles Nalia faces during her journey. Please give your answer in the comment section. In a few weeks I will post the answer.

It comes easily enough in times of distress,
Giving the beholder no chance of any good rest.
It knows no distinction between evil and good.
And leaves not when the bearer wishes it would.
It is a thief of all things good, for sure.
But, alas, for this curse there is no quick cure.
All great and small will eventually find.
It is not easily lost whether mean or kind.

Lyris is another great character in your novel and is a great friend to have around if you’re going on a dangerous adventure. His ability to heal is extraordinary. He also lives in a very welcoming place, the land of Amoen. Can you tell us a little bit about the land of Amoen and Lyris’s ability to heal?

Amoen is a guarded city. They don’t really experience pain or sadness and it’s very different from the world that Nalia is familiar with. It is probably one of the most beautiful lands in Aetheria.

During Nalia’s adventure she travels to many different lands in the other world like the River of Caedes, the Forest of Dark Deeds and Gubland to name a few. If I could visit any of the locations I would visit the Land of the North so that I could stop by Poto’s Potions. Which location would you visit and why?

I would love to visit Amoen because it is the most beautiful and it is virtually impossible to feel pain or discomfort there.

If I could have Nalia make something for me I think I would have her make an Amoen star. What would have Nalia make you?

A Toyota Prius. No question.

What is your favorite part of the story?

Well, I love when Nalia discovers Poto’s secret and when we see Agithara’s childhood.

This book definitely leaves you wondering what other journeys Nalia will go on. Are you working on any other books?

At the moment I am only working on the Nalia series.

Since we know you are working on another book, can you tell us if Nalia’s father will be making an appearance in book 2 and if we will be seeing more of Lyris?

Nalia’s father will remain out of the picture for now; this may change in the future. Lyris will definitely be a big part of all the books. And there is a possible love triangle in Book 2, Nalia and the Rise of the Marés.

Where can people find more information about you and your books?

For all of you who are looking to get a sneak peak of Nalia and the Potion Maker please read the excerpt below.

From chapter 10 Sarp the Grogin, after Nalia learns about Poto’s Secret:

Nalia quickly took her hands away from Poto, as she didn’t want to see anything he didn’t want her to. She still wasn’t used to seeing other’s memories, and she felt sorry for what she had done. She sat there motionless for a few minutes, staring straight at him, still transfixed on what she had just learned.

How could Poto have done such a thing? He didn’t seem evil in any shape or form. Quite the contrary, Poto was gentle and kind, and his eyes gave him away easily enough. This, coupled with what she had just seen, made her all the more confused.

Sensing that he was being judged, Poto finally spoke.

“You cannot understand what she did, what it took. No,” Poto was trembling as he said this. His eyes were filled with tears, but he was fighting back the urge to let them loose. “Only one who lost all that is good inside him could truly understand how she became what she is today.”

Then, he did something that took Nalia by surprise; he held his hand out to show Nalia the memories that had been hidden for so long, memories that he was thankful Agithara had stolen and those that he was not eager to have so soon returned.

“Please…don’t see me for what I was then,” he said softly.

Nalia agreed and took his hand.


I want to thank Queenbe for taking the time to tell us more about Nalia and the Potion Maker. And I hope you enjoyed finding out about Nalia and the Potion Maker. If you have any suggestion please don’t hesitate to email me at Info (at) InsideTheBooks (dot) com.  To keep up with interviews please follow me on twitter @InsideTheBook.