Blog Archives

Rich in History

S Jackson & A Raymon Author Interview

S Jackson & A Raymond Author Interview

Shadow and Friends Celebrate Ellsworth, KS 150th Birthday is a lovely children’s story that gives the history of the town of Ellsworth Kansas. Why was this an important book for you to write?

When your town is having a 150th birthday, and your town is rich in history, then that history needs to be included your children’s picture book. The huge four day celebration also included re-enactments, 150 prime longhorns, a cattle drive, two day rodeo, and much more. An adult commemorative book was in the works, so we thought one for kids should be done as well, leaving out the blood, death, and salacious parts. The kids loved it. So did the tens of thousands of people who traveled to this town from across the USA and overseas.

What kind of research did you have to do to maintain the accuracy of the history?

I used extensive curate material from the historical society for the parts and dates I wasn’t sure of.

Do you think it’s important for children to learn the history of their city or town?

Of course it is. One’s heritage is important, and children need to know where they come from, their roots.

Author Links: Twitter | Facebook | Website

Shadow and Friends Celebrate Ellsworth, KS 150th Birthday“Shadow and Friends Celebrate Ellsworth, KS, 150th Birthday” is a wonderful and fun children’s book that both children and adults will enjoy. The story hits the targeted age range of 4-8. The painted illustrations provided are a delight, and my grandchildren loved them. Who would have thought to write a book using dogs and squirrels as friends, and the old west thrown in? This book is perfect for home, schools, and libraries. I highly recommend this book. Susan Vance, Author and Realtor In this children’s picture book and seventh book in our ‘Shadow and Friends Series’, Shadow and Friends Celebrate Ellsworth, KS, 150th Birthday, two dogs and a family of squirrels decide to help Ellsworth celebrate the 150th birthday of the town’s history. This book coincides with the actual 150th birthday of Ellsworth in the summer of 2017. Illustrations are found on each page, most of them painted. Big Whitey tells the history of Ellsworth, and Fort Harker, with historical buildings, notable landmarks, and scenes painted by the author. At the end of this story, Little Whitey asks his father if they can re-enact the old west, dress like cowboys, and do a pretend cattle drive just like Ellsworth, KS. The squirrels dress in cowboy and cowgirl gear, and they even have a chuck wagon cook. They herd longhorn cattle, sing the state song of Kansas, and have lots of fun during their re-enactment. At the end of the story, they enjoyed a barn dance, celebrated the 150th birthday of Ellsworth, and Uncle Stubby took pictures and ‘selfies’. Children will love seeing the old west come alive with two dogs and a family of squirrels dressed in western attire, and using a small amount of cowboy slang. This delightful and funny book for children, targeted at ages 4-8, is easy to read and perfect for home or classroom. The story illustrates how cattle drives worked, the long dusty trails, life in the old west, and illustrations that produce pure imagination in children. Note: Actual gunfights and ‘adult type’ history were left out in this wild western history of Ellsworth, KS. 

Buy Now From Amazon.com

Shadow and Friends Celebrate Ellsworth KS 150th Birthday

Shadow and Friends Celebrate Ellsworth, KS 150th Birthday

Shadow and Friends Celebrate Ellsworth KS 150th Birthday, written by S. Jackson and A. Raymond, is a tale of animal friends who are preparing for a very special birthday- the 150th celebration of their town. The animals gather round whilst Big Whitey takes a trip down history lane where he tells his friends about the importance of Ellsworth and how the town was first established. Prepare to be thrown into a wild world of cowboys, railroaders, and sheriffs as you learn the fortunes and misfortunes the town has endured to finally reach its 150th birthday. After the history lesson, the animals then begin the celebrations and re-enactments, songs, and poems will entertain them all.

Shadow and Friends Celebrate Ellsworth KS 150th Birthday is a very special children’s book that delves into the history of Fort Ellsworth in an exciting celebration with animals, cowboys, and Indians.

Legendary historical characters of Ellsworth come together in lessons on cattle pens, dusty trails and important landmarks. Authors S. Jackson and A.Raymond are able to beautifully paint a picture of the wild west through incorporating animals and history in a playful and engaging story. The storytellers are dogs and squirrels which give the book an animal twist- something which will be sure to spark the imagination of all children. The animals towards the end of the story throw a fabulous re-enactment of history and will encourage children to consider their own town’s history and how they too could get involved with historical celebrations of their town.

Travel through time as Big Whitey takes you on a history lesson that begins in the 1800’s and finishes in the present day. The once wild cow town starts with Indians and Cowboys that made homes out of bluffs and built their town through supplying to the military. I loved reading the small excerpts of cowboy slang which gave the story more authenticity and character.

I enjoyed how the story had a taste of the old and the new twisted together for a fun-loving plot line. One moment you were in the wild wild west and the next you were taking selfies with animals which are sure to delight both children and adults alike. Even though it is a children’s story, the plot line contains depth and interesting information about life in the old west that will entertain both children and adults. It’s a fun and light-hearted way to explore history and has the perfect mix of education and entertainment.

The illustrations throughout the story were bright and colorful and will be sure to grab the attention of all children as they eagerly learn about the town’s history. I particularly enjoyed the animals dressed up in cowboy outfits and old saloon style dresses and how they rode the buggy. The illustrations will only serve to ignite the imagination of the children reading the story and compliment the history lesson perfectly.

I would recommend this for children who enjoy stories about cowboys and animals.

Pages: 39 | ASIN: B072TPMDRH

Buy Now From Amazon.com

Many Stories to Tell

Mary L Schmidt Author Interview

Mary L Schmidt Author Interview

When Angels Fly is a gripping retelling of one woman’s personal and painful experience with life. What was the inspiration that made you want to write down the experiences from your life?

I became sick and I felt the need to take my journals and digitize them. I knew I would write a book eventually back in 1990. That year was a rough one for me and my family personally and I’ve kept journals most of my life. I had many stories to tell but I wasn’t quite ready mentally or emotionally in going headlong into a 300 plus page book. When 2013 rolled around, I knew then that I was going to put words and stories from my journals into digital format.

You do a wonderful job of capturing your emotions in every retelling. What was the hardest thing for you to write about?

The hardest and most difficult part initially was actually going into and reading my journals from 1989 – 1990 as my first book is a memoir. I knew my book had to be written and I knew the many messages in my book needed to be published, so that hopefully I could help others through difficult times in their lives or the lives of others they knew. The timing was right as I had left nursing in December 2012. My first book was extremely difficult since the stories were real. Some days I could write one sentence and then I was done for the day. Other days I could write more.

On really tough days I wanted to just stop and sometimes I did for a week or so. Yet I knew in my mind that I needed to finish my book and get it out to the public. I knew all along what the beginning, middle and end would be and I wondered about publishing my book as well. Now that my book is published, I feel a deep sense of peace within myself.

You touch on topics like abuse, suicide and domestic violence. What do you hope readers take away from your story?

My book reaches a wide group from teenage on up to geriatrics and many facets of humanity itself. I know that my book will help others in dealing with such a wide variety of life’s issues, and that no one needs to feel alone in their own situation. My aim isn’t to convey only sadness and family dysfunction but to convey to others who have been in my situation (or similar) that strength and courage can be attained, and that there are options available. Women and men, too, can get out of abusive situations and the cycle of violence can stop. Losing two boys to Heaven changed my life forever. I want to encourage others who have suffered the King of Loss that anger at God is normal, and that faith in God will come back to them. I want those parents to know they are not alone. If a parent loses a child to a horrid illness, I want those parents not to feel misguided gilt. I want to encourage parents on how to be an advocate for their child and how to reach out for help when the pain overcomes them.

This book is a carefully crafted retelling of some of the most private moments of your past. But what about your future? What do you look forward to and how has your outlook on life changed?

I have made peace with the wrongs in my past. This doesn’t mean that those things never happened, the hurt is still there, but one must forgive others in order to move on in their life on this beautiful blue sphere called Earth. With my health so poor, I just take things day by day, and I try to spend as much quality time with immediate family as I can.

Author Links: GoodReadsTwitterFacebookWebsiteGalleryIMDbPRO

When Angels Fly by [Jackson, S, Raymond,A]

We often find ourselves daydreaming about what our futures will be like. This may be especially true if one lives in an environment most would consider less than desirable. Some are lucky to find their futures much like their childhood dreams. Others find the paths to their dreams strewn with hurdles.

Growing up, Sarah dodged her mother’s blows. She often hid in her room crying about her life. Still, she believes in her future and the happiness it can bring. In their book When Angels Fly, authors S. Stevens and A. Raymond tell Sarah’s story–their stories. The authors use their journals to describe Sarah’s experiences of family dysfunction, strength, courage, faith, abuse, grief, and so much more. You’ll read how, like many, she attempts to escape from her mother’s abuse through marriage. And like many, she learns it is not a viable alternative. Then Sarah experiences a parent’s ultimate tragedy twice, the deaths of her sons, Joshua and Eli.

When Angels Fly is about much more than the telling of a family’s tragedy. It is also the story of finding faith after it has wavered. Most of all, it’s a story of love lost and found.

Buy Now From Amazon.com

Shadow and Friends Celebrate Ellsworth, KS 150th Birthday

Shadow and Friends Celebrate Ellsworth, KS 150th Birthday (Book Seven of Shadow and Friends Series 7)“In this children’s picture book and seventh book in our ‘Shadow and Friends Series’, Shadow and Friends Celebrate Ellsworth, KS, 150th Birthday, two dogs and a family of squirrels decide to help Ellsworth celebrate the 150th birthday of the town’s history. This book coincides with the actual 150th birthday of Ellsworth in the summer of 2017. Illustrations are found on each page, most of them painted. Big Whitey tells the history of Ellsworth, and Fort Harker, with historical buildings, notable landmarks, and scenes painted by the author. At the end of this story, Little Whitey asks his father if they can re-enact the old west, dress like cowboys, and do a pretend cattle drive just like Ellsworth, KS. The squirrels dress in cowboy and cowgirl gear, and they even have a chuck wagon cook. They herd longhorn cattle, sing the state song of Kansas, and have lots of fun during their re-enactment. At the end of the story, they enjoyed a barn dance, celebrated the 150th birthday of Ellsworth, and Uncle Stubby took pictures and ‘selfies’. Children will love seeing the old west come alive with two dogs and a family of squirrels dressed in western attire, and using a small amount of cowboy slang. This delightful and funny book for children, targeted at ages 4-8, is easy to read and perfect for home or classroom. The story illustrates how cattle drives worked, the long dusty trails, life in the old west, and illustrations that produce pure imagination in children. Note: Actual gunfights and ‘adult type’ history were left out in this wild western history of Ellsworth, KS.”

Pages: 39 | ASIN: B072TPMDRH

Buy Now From Amazon.com

When Angels Fly

When Angels Fly by [Jackson, S, Raymond,A]

In a gripping retelling of one woman’s painful experience with life, readers will come to question their own outlook on the world. When Angels Fly by S. Jackson and A. Raymond is a deeply personal tale of the journey our author took throughout the course of her life. The agony she relates to her readers is real and you cannot help but sympathize with the suffering she has endured. The course of her life has not gone easily and Jackson details exactly what she had to survive with the help of her journal entries and her memory. Everything she had ever known was tested: her faith in humanity, her faith in family and her faith in the divine. After learning her story, the fact that she can keep her faith in God is inspiring.

This story is an autobiography that chronicles not just Jackson’s life, but her experience with the things many people take for granted. The author touches on topics like abuse, suicide and domestic violence. Social acceptance and the confidence to leave an abusive partner have come a long way since the early 1980’s, although they still have a long way to go. If you’re looking for an emotional journey, you are sure to find one within the pages of this book.

The addition of photographs at the end of the book is a nice touch. It reminds the reader that the people discussed in the book are real. The fact that they existed makes the painful moments that much more painful. Jackson expresses her pain with passion in every word and evocative imagery at every turn. Even when she puts in the information from her journals, it is obvious that she transcribed the information with care. That could not have been an easy task, especially since the information was undoubtedly painful to recall. It takes a certain amount of strength to live the sort of life Jackson has and not only overcome that life, but write it down in detail to share with the world. That may be inspirational to some, but to me it’s heroic.

This book is a carefully crafted retelling of some of the most private and painful moments that a human being will ever have to experience. When Angels Fly by S. Jackson is an autobiographical tale that touches on very personal experiences of abuse, domestic violence and loss. This profound journey shook our author to her core and pushed her to question everything she had ever known. She has experienced more heartbreak in such a short time than most people experience in their entire lives. Yet she rises above the pain and misfortune to find her way in the world. This is a must-read for those who enjoy following a personal, passionate and ultimately uplifting journey.

Pages: 333 | ASIN: B017UNVWDI

Buy Now From Amazon.com

A Magical Theme

S. Jackson Author Interview

S. Jackson Author Interview

Uncle Stubby Gets Married takes the idea of simple squirrels and marriage and melds them together into a fantastic story of kindness and cheer. What was the inspiration that made you want to write a kids book about this subject?

First – wild squirrels. We have them in our backyard and the neighbors do as well. They are truly wild but they also come up to eat nuts and seeds my husband puts out for them, as well as the water. We watch their funny antics and many have names such Stubby due to his short tail, Sparkles because she is a juvie squirrel with a radiant white tummy, Foxy – well she is a mama squirrel and has had litters in two years. Cutter has a tear in his ear, Nibbler has a small tear and a hole in his ear, and so on. Shadow is our daughter’s small dog and one day we thought the squirrels and Shadow would make for a good children’s book. Shadow and the squirrels had just spent Christmas in New York City and Central Park when the idea of Uncle Stubby Gets Married hit us. We love to teach kindness with all the animals in our books, and to have them be friends no matter what the animals were like in the real world. We also figured it was high time Uncle Stubby got married.

What were some themes that you felt were important to highlight in this story?

Friendship and kindness are very important and those elements are always added in our children’s book. We teach safety and learning about animals in our books, and we like to have everything colorful and eye catching. Having the animals work together in the wedding illustrates how children can work together in the real world, also.

I felt that the art in the book was well conceived. How did you decide on which images and themes to use?

Theme wise we knew if the wedding was held in a magical fairy forest, that no animal could even remotely get hurt, or preyed upon by hawks and other predators. In keeping with a magical theme it was only proper to use magical animal characters and a magical forest as the setting.

Uncle Stubby Gets Married is book 5 in the Shadow and Friends Series. What is the next book in the series and when will it be available?

Book 6 is a work in progress, and the title is Shadow and Friends Circus Adventures. Not only will the squirrels, Shadow, and her boyfriend, Max, be a part of the circus; plans include many different animals and the the acts will also be done in a magical theme. We are planning on releasing in early May, 2017. We also have book 7 as a work in progress and Shadow and her friends will help the town of Ellsworth, Kansas, celebrate it’s 150th birthday August 2017. This will be a fun book, too, with all the old west built in, and it should be available early to mid July, 2017.

Author Links: Twitter | Facebook | Website

Uncle Stubby Gets Married (Shadow and Friends Series Book Five 5) by [Jackson, S., Raymond, A., Schmidt, M.]“In this children’s picture book, and sixth book in our ‘Shadow and Friends Series’, Uncle Stubby Gets Married, a fox squirrel named Uncle Stubby has fallen in love with a girl squirrel named Sparkles. Squirrel family and friends, including a small dog named Shadow, and her boyfriend, Max, are invited to attend the wedding in a special Valentine Fairy Forest. Uncle Stubby thinks Sparkles is the most beautiful girl squirrel in the land. Uncle Stubby’s twin, Shorty, flies in from New York City with his family, and Shorty is best man for his brother. Foxy is matron of honor for Sparkles. The Valentine Fairy Forest is truly a magical land, the illustrations show how this dream forest looks, and all the animals are safe in this forest both day and night. Along the way, we meet mouse fairies, and Minister Mouse conducts the wedding. Sparkles’ wears a crown, and Uncle Stubby is dressed in a cummerbund. Various other animals are present, including one unicorn, and the bride and groom spend their wedding night in Walnut Forest, a special part of the Valentine Fairy Forest. Children will love seeing how magical the forest is, with abundant sparkles thrown in for good measure. This delightful and funny book for children, targeted at ages 4-11, is easy to read and perfect for home or classroom. This story illustrates how beautiful the Valentine Fairy Forest looks, produces pure imagination in children, and the illustrations will fascinate children and adults.”

Buy Now From Amazon.com

As Wild As All the Squirrels

S. Jackson Author Interview

S. Jackson Author Interview

In The Big Cheese Festival, we meet Stubby Mouse who is being bullied by because his tail is short. Why was bullying an issue you wanted to tackle in this kids book?

I see bullying all the time and it just makes no sense to bully another child, or adult for that matter. This is a serious problem that needs to be addressed in childhood. Cyber bullies come into play and one reads about another child taking their own life due to being bullied. If I can help children be a little kinder to one another then this book was worth writing. Kindness breeds kindness. Bullying must stop. Children need to take a stand against bullying and their families must do the same, as do the educators in our system. It is bad when ones parent actually cyber bullies another child and that child ends up taking their own life. Parents need to be held accountable.

Do you think children struggle with confirmation of their self worth? How do you think kids seek that out?

Of course they struggle. Self worth and self esteem are huge issues as a child grows up and I, for one, still have self esteem issues at my age (56). Not all children grown up in a loving or supporting home. As a mother, and as a registered nurse, I have seen the dark side of life and it is ugly. Many things are preventable, and if parents aren’t willing to step in and assist in a positive manner then educators need to step in. Kids seek confirmation in many ways and most are a sacrifice, that is, some seek out sex to feel worthy, or eating disorders to help with body image issues they perceive as having or have at that moment/time span in time. Others over medicate and some over dose, others try their hardest to please their parent/parents/adult care provider, etc. and many don’t measure up or they simply give up. They lose hope, and we all need to have hope. Society in general needs top help foster self worth in troubled kids and teens.

There are lots of wonderful images in this story. What was your favorite image to use and write for?

Stubby Mouse is my favorite. The idea for him came about from one of our backyard squirrels who only has half a tail, and partly crippled due to meeting up with a vehicle and living afterward. We named him Stubby (his tail) and he has a different scamper than the other squirrels but he is determined. Stubby is just as wild as all the squirrels are and he loves to play chase. From one little stubby tailed crippled squirrel a book was born. I purposely presented all of the characters to dress the same, and for the girls to have different hairstyles. Stubby is the only one who is different and I knew that his short tail would be noticed by keeping the other characters similar. This worked quite well. Stubby is favorite for the preschoolers and kindergarten kids as well as first graders. The kids latched onto Stubby and they all defended him. Once the kids settle back down after a reading and discussion, then I will point out various differences in the kids in front of me such as hair color, etc. and I explain our uniqueness to all, and how that makes us special.

What are some themes of future books that you would like to write about?

I have many yet my time is limited due to health. I will say that we put out a book last year that speaks about molestation/sex abuse. It’s titled “Suzy Has A Secret” and it includes an adult/educators part in the back of the story. I used characters that do wear different colored clothes but facial expressions are the same. My mantra here is good touch/bad touch and children are innocent/predators are not.

Author Links: Twitter | Facebook | Website

The Big Cheese Festival“In The Big Cheese Festival, we meet Stubby Mouse and his family and friends. We learn that Stubby Mouse has a secret, that he is being bullied by another mouse, simply because his tail is short. Read how Stubby Mouse stood up for himself, and how he ended the bullying, in this delightful story for children. Targeted at ages 4-8, the book is easy to read and perfect for home or classroom. Children learn how bad bullying is, and what they can do to help stop bullies! Stubby Mouse encourages children to take a stand against bullies, and always be kind to each other. This story illustrates how everyone is different and unique, and it is a delightful read with cute illustrations for both children and adults. Take a stand against bullying today!”

Buy Now From Amazon.com

The Big Cheese Festival

The Big Cheese Festival4 Stars

There are issues that plague all children as they grow up. Each child struggles with identifying who they are as a person, how they relate to other people and how to find out what they believe in. Children can be cruel to each other while they learn how to navigate the messy world of emotions. This can come out in the form of bullying. In The Big Cheese Festival the authors explore the concept of bullying and how it can impact the life of another. What may seem like funny and harmless words to one can truly hurt another. We’ve got a fantastical world of anthropomorphic mice, one of whom only has half a tail. He is named Stubby and due to the unkind bullying from his brother’s friend worries about whether or not he’ll find any worth in himself.

Bullying is a big issue to tackle. Some children’s books try to address this and drop the ball completely. Jackson and Raymond have bundled up the idea of bullying in their book. They take an obvious difference, like having half of a tail, and use it to illustrate how others might react to something so clearly different from the norm. It’s a cute book with the little mice getting ready for a festival. Cutter Mouse, who is friends with Stubby’s brother, is the perpetuator of the bullying. It is often someone close to the bullied who begins the abuse, which Jackson and Raymond have captured here.

While the story is simple and easy to either read or read to a child, there are a few areas in which it lacks. The mice all look exactly the same, in the same outfits. The girl mice have different hairstyles but the boy mice don’t have anything to separate who they are from each other. Different coloured outfits may have helped with this issue. The mice also don’t seem to express emotion. For a story about bullying and overcoming that, showing joy or sorrow would be necessary.

Stubby does stand up to the person who is making him feel poorly which is an important message to children. He doesn’t do it with violence or by calling Cutter names back. He uses his words. S. Jackson and A. Raymond know that children need to learn these skills to survive in this modern world. The Big Cheese Festival helps to make it less frightening and more relatable by creating a fun and entertaining world.

Pages: 37 | ASIN: B01H3S381O

Buy Now From Amazon.com

Uncle Stubby Gets Married

Uncle Stubby Gets Married4 Stars

You need to be able to tap into a certain flavour of whimsy in order to write a good children’s book. Let’s not forget that the illustrations need to be catchy and colourful to hold the attention of the little ones either reading or being read to. A children’s book is most entertaining when it spins a different point of view on something that children have already been exposed to. Uncle Stubby Gets Married by S. Jackson and A. Raymond takes the idea of simple squirrels and marriage and melds them together. This book is part of a series with other animals and their lives. Perfect for children, this book draws out the marriage between Uncle Stubby and his betrothed Sparkles as their friends and family travel to help them celebrate it. The story is full of kindness, cheer and all the good feelings weddings are supposed to elicit.

The language in this book is very simple. It may be difficult for a child who is learning to read but it is perfect to read to a child. The pictures are bright and interesting, which should help keep the attention of the audience. At the beginning of the book there is a comprehensive breakdown of the entire story so parents or teachers can determine if the book will suit their needs or themes. As it takes place in the Valentine Forest, this is a good book to read around Valentine’s Day, if you are looking for theme-specific books.

The images are, for the most part, real photographs of various animals manipulated to be posed or displayed in a certain way. There are little additions like a crown or the plethora of sparkles and these add to the story. It is interesting for children to see ‘realistic’ pictures of animals they are familiar with engaging in very human activities. It allows them to have a sense of imagination and wonder just what exactly squirrels get up to when humans aren’t looking. The one downside to using manipulated photographs is that when a character appears that is either created by hand or through computer graphics they stand out a fair bit. This occurs with the Mouse Fairies in the Valentine Forest. Their appearance is a stark contrast to the other characters in that they are fully clothed with added hair. They are more anthropomorphic than a photo-enhanced squirrel with a sash around its waist.

Nitpicking aside, Jackson and Raymond know how to craft an interesting children’s tale. The story is cute and even though it is part of a series, it can stand alone quite well. Readers do not need previous knowledge of the characters to understand the story in Uncle Stubby Gets Married. For children, and maybe even adults, who have a fantastical view of the world this is a lovely tale of romance, happiness and friendship.

Pages: 40 | ASIN: B01MY5NJF0

Buy Now From Amazon.com

%d bloggers like this: