Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Answer to Fairday's Riddle: Cold Feathers...

Excellent guessing, Riddlers! This week, we're chilling with penguins. Tune in Friday for Margo's children's picture book choice and find out how the answer ties into the story. See you all around the book block. ~ F

I don't fly, but when I do, I slip down snowy slopes barefoot in a tuxedo. 

What am I? Answer: Penguin!

Make time to riddle and rhyme!
62 original riddles and illustrations

Monday, January 21, 2019

Fairday's Riddle: Frozen Fancy...

Hello, Riddlers! Can you guess our chilly willy theme this week? 😁~ F

I don't fly, but when I do, I slip down snowy slopes barefoot in a tuxedo. 

What am I? Stop by Wednesday for the answer.

I gave you a clue!

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Interview with Maggie Daniels and Matt Michael

The DMS was lucky enough to interview Maggie Daniels and Matt Michael. Lizzy recently reviewed STRYXA: The Odds Are Against Us and it was great to share our thoughts about it and hear yours. We are excited to learn a little bit more about the story behind their story. So, without further ado... take it away, Maggie and Matt!
Read our review of the book

* Notice to our readers! We're working on crafting the next case in the DMS files, Fairday Morrow and the Master's Emporium— starting in 2019 we'll be posting riddles and reviews twice a month. Tune in 1/21 for Fairday's riddle and a new book review. See you all around the book block. ~ Jess & Stephanie

What inspired you to write STRXIA

MATT: The short answer is a long car drive was the inspiration for our book. The longer answer is when Maggie was in her 40s, she made a life goal to write and publish a fiction novel by the age of 50.  

MAGGIE: I write for a living, but it has always been with an academic focus related to my collaborative projects conducted as a research faculty member at George Mason University. Reading is a significant part of my leisure, and I have always been fascinated by the potential for crossover between academic and fiction writing.

MATT: I wrote science fiction and fantasy as a young adult but was never published. In the years that followed, I accumulated 25 years of experience as a professional engineer in the aerospace industry. During a 6-hour car drive from Ohio to Virginia, we had a brainstorming session with our son, who was 8 at the time and became an integral part of the writing process. 

We realized we had the key facets to writing a STEM-based book. Maggie brought decades of professional writing to the table. I brought the knowledge of physics and sports. We had worked together to coach and manage a myriad of youth sports teams. The concept of a science fiction world using baseball to situate the story on Earth with parallel actions in Strxia soon followed.

How long did it take you to write STRXIA?  

MAGGIE: The writing, editing, and publishing process took us three years. Matt got the ball rolling with the backstory development for our four main characters (Seth, Jared, Alex, and Chase). I then brought them into the larger story, weaving them in and out of Strxia. It was important to us that each character was distinct and easy to relate to so that our young readers could readily identify with the unique personalities.     

MATT: I took the lead in presenting the ideas for the parallel game in the second part of the book. Maggie expertly (I was amazed at how well she did this) stitched this material into a fast-paced story designed to keep our readers turning the pages. Maggie then agonized over the complete draft by editing and rewriting for a year based on feedback we received from many generous reviewers and readers.

As co-authors what is your collaboration and writing process like? 

MAGGIE: The collaboration worked really well. I relied on Matt to get the math and physics correct and he trusted my fanatic attention to detail that ensured the product was cohesive and readable. Our son was instrumental to the humor in the book. He and his friends offered a wealth of material based on their daily interactions on and off the field. As our primary reader, he was the first to tell us if something was or was not funny!

MATT: While there were certainly some stressful moments along the way, the process of working with Maggie on this project has been extremely positive. Setting and reaching this goal definitely brought us closer together as a married couple.

Tell us about your writing environment. Do you listen to music? Write in a special place? Are there writing tools you need nearby?  

MATT: For me, I mostly write late at night after both Maggie and our son are asleep. I write in silence, sitting in a recliner with a laptop and our Italian Greyhound (Photon) curled up under my left arm.  

MAGGIE: My style is quite different. I write best in the mornings, with a large cup of coffee while at a desk in my home office. On days when I’m in for the long haul, I take sanity breaks by swimming or taking a run with Photon. Having said that, I primarily stick to what I think of as the “Roald Dahl” method.  I recall reading once that he would only write for a few hours a day during his most creative time zones.  I operate similarly, as I think most clearly in the morning. I can put in a longer writing day only if it involves more routine matters, such as copy editing, after 12:00 noon.

What are some of your favorite books from childhood? Were there any specific authors who inspired you?  

MATT: The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis was a standout for me. My interest in fantasy stemmed from his work.

MAGGIE: As a child, I read anything I could get my hands on and absolutely loved going to the library. I am the youngest of five, so I also read whatever my siblings were reading and was therefore introduced to dystopian fiction at a young age, which is still of interest to me. Perhaps most influential to me, however, was the daily newspaper. I have always been a huge fan of humor columnists, with favorites being Erma Bombeck and Art Buchwald. I simply adored their ability to pinpoint the absurdities in daily life, and I’d like to think that we accomplish a tiny bit of that in Strxia. 

If you could travel into the future or to a parallel world- where/when would you pick? Why?

MATT: Since I am involved in the aerospace industry, I’d like to travel 200 years forward to see what we have accomplished in terms of space travel.

MAGGIE: My parallel world is one where exceptional educational opportunities are ubiquitous. 

If you could befriend a character from your book, who would you befriend? Why?  

MATT: In my many years of coaching, I have been amazed at how incredibly different every single child is. Their personalities, drives, and athletic talents are all incredibly unique. Many of my players have been projects where I vowed to “fix” their baseball swing or bad attitude after striking out. As a coach, I would attempt to befriend Jared. I am convinced I could “fix” his ego and attitude and turn him into a great player.  

MAGGIE: What a hard question! I want to befriend all of them! I identify best with Alex and her desire to feel that she is making a contribution to the goals on Earth and in Strxia. However, in terms of personality, my favorite is Chase because his silliness reminds me of my son and his friends.

Is there anything you’ve learned along your path to publication that you would like to share with new writers?  

MATT: I think most new writers greatly underestimate the book promotion endeavor that occurs after publishing. The process of gaining customer reviews, editorial reviews, and verified customer reviews, and then promoting the book through various services, sites, and social media turns out to be an almost overwhelming task. I would estimate my promotion labor to currently be around (100) hours. I estimate it will end near (150) hours before we begin writing the second book in the series in earnest.

MAGGIE: Like anything else worthwhile, you have to be internally motivated. Matt and I are lucky that we have day jobs we love, so writing fiction can be an entertaining hobby. While some writers are superstars from the onset, most realize that you write simply because you love to write and you have ideas you would like to share. If fame and fortune follow, well that is nice, but at the end of the day you have to look in the mirror and simply be proud of what you have written and hope that somehow you can impact someone’s life in a positive way.

How do you pronounce, “Strxia”?  

MAGGIE: The name of the book is a fun story, because we went through many iterations before we created one we really liked. Try saying “Strick-see-ah” – that will get you really close!

Where can we purchase your book?  

MATT:  Our website, has lots of great information about our book.

To find out where to buy the book any place in the world, check out the page .

We are currently running a free Amazon Kindle ebook promotion on our website promotion page .

One of the great things about our book title is that it is unique to our project. You can search the word, “Strxia” on any book selling site like Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple Books, Google Play, etc., and our book will immediately come to the top of the search.

About the Authors
Maggie Daniels is a professor for George Mason University within the College of Education and Human Development. Maggie has conducted extensive applied research in Washington, D.C. and has a combination of over 100 publications and presentations to her credit. Maggie's hobbies include swimming, mountain biking, and reading.  

Matt Michel is a Professional Engineer in the aerospace industry. He was responsible for the Thrust Vector Control system on the Antares Launch Vehicle used to resupply the International Space Station and is currently designing the first attempt at geosynchronous rendezvous and capture of satellites located 25,000 miles from Earth. Matt enjoys writing projects with his wife, mountain biking, and coaching youth sport teams.

*Maggie and Matt are generously giving away three paperback copies of Strxia: The Odds Are Against Us All you have to do is comment on our review or this interview to be entered for a chance to win. Winners will be randomly selected. Good luck!