Interview with Author Karl Steam

1) Tell us a little bit about yourself. How did you get into writing?’’

                Once upon a time, I wanted to be a park ranger and wildlife photographer. Camping, fishing, and canoeing were my favorite pastimes. I liked to learn about nature and often checked out national geographic documentaries from the city library. The things I learned inspired me to write a few nonfiction animal books as a kid. I would staple paper together, write interesting facts about a particular species, and illustrate my books with cut out magazine pictures. To this day, nature influences most of the things I write.

               During middle school a teacher told my class that kids can do anything. He once had a student who wrote a book and a different student of his could take apart a lawnmower, put it back together again, and it would still work. I wasn’t interested in lawnmowers, but I did like the idea of writing a book. I figured if some other kid could do it, I could too.

               I tried writing my first novel a few months later. It wasn’t very good. O.K., it was horrible. I gave up after a couple pages and decided to postpone my writing career until I had a few high school writing classes under my belt.

               I wrote off and on for many years, but never seriously. I told myself in high school that I would have more time to write once I was in college. In college I told myself I would write more once I graduated. After graduating, I married and had children. One day a story came to mind, but I told myself that I would have more time to write it once my kids were grown. That’s when I realized I was on the path to becoming an old man, who shakes his head and wonders why he never wrote a book.

               I write more often now. Don’t take my word for it though. Go check out the stories I’ve published.

2) What inspired you to write your book series?

The concept for the Kids vs. Nature series began after I read an article about someone who had been lost in a forest while cross country skiing. The article’s author considered this person’s experience to be an example of a great survival story. Yes, the person did survive a one-night ordeal in a forest, but I disagreed with the notion that it was a great example of surviving in the wilderness.

                The main concern of the lost person was that they would freeze to death during the night, so they continuously skied throughout the ordeal to generate body heat and stay warm while they spoke to their spouse on a cell phone. As the night wore on, the person still could not figure out what trail they were on and began to get tired of skiing. They were also thirsty and feared that without water they would become dehydrated and die, and this fear continued to be a concern until the person was eventually discovered by rescuers.

                Nowhere in the article did the writer point out that this person was skiing, which means there was snow on the ground which could have been eaten to hydrate the lost person. Nor did they point out to readers that it’s typically recommended to remain in one location if you’re lost in the wilderness, so that you don’t wander further way from your original location. This makes it easier for rescuers to find you, especially if you have a cell phone and are able to alert others of your predicament.

                Now, can I say for sure that I would have remained calm and thought clearly if encountered with a similar situation? No, and this person did survive so I applaud them for everything they did do right. However, I couldn’t help but think that I would have handed the situation differently, and the reason why is because I had read so many wilderness survival stories as a child.

Through stories such as Hatchet, My Side of the Mountain, Island of the Blue Dolphins, and Sign of the Beaver, I learned a considerable amount about surviving in the wilderness. Tactics to for staying warm, creating shelters, and how to obtain fresh water. Though I have never had to put this knowledge to practice, I do believe that if I were to find myself stranded in the wilderness my odds of survival would be much greater due everything I have learned.

This realization gave me a deeper appreciation for the literature I read as a child. I realized these stories had the power to help save people’s lives. This made me wonder what other survival stories were on the market today. What new stories are captivating young readers and providing them with similar information.

I was surprised and disappointed to discover that very few popular books have been published in this genre throughout the past twenty years. Most of the top sellers continue to be the same stories I read as a child. So, I decided to contribute to the genre and create some fresh stories for those that share my interest in action, adventure, and the great outdoors. That day I began to develop the plot of the Kids vs. Nature series, and I think they do a good job of accomplishing the goals I set out to achieve.

3) What theme or message do you hope readers will take away from your books?

Like any good book or series there are multiple themes and messages I hope readers take away from these books. The main one, as mentioned before, is that I hope readers learn things that will help them to survive similar situations, should they every become lost in the wilderness. A lot of factual information and strategies have been added to the back of each book in order to help accomplish this goal. I also tried not to sensationalize the stories too much. Most of the situations the characters encounter remain simple and realistic to things average people might experience in real life.

                Because the characters in the series encounter many different ecosystems, I also designed the books be informative. Readers will be able to learn about different animals, plants, and environments.

                Lastly, there are various social issues involved in the stories. Friendships, social group dynamics, and bullying are matters frequently encountered throughout the series. Characters have to work through prior perceptions of one another in order to grow and develop from one book to another. Hopefully readers can relate to some of these issues and find the lessons that the characters learn to be applicable in their own lives.

4) If you could sit down with any character in your book series, what would you ask them and why?

I would like to sit with Tyler. He’s an odd, quirky guy but has a lot of admirable traits. I wouldn’t have anything particular to ask him. I’d rather sit and listen to him talk.

5) What social media site has been the most helpful in developing your readership?

I’m not active on social media. Perhaps I should be. Writing time is precious. To get writing done you have to chose not to do other things. Limiting social media and television are two main ways that I carve out time during the week to make progress on my stories.

I have a website where readers message me. They also send letters in the mail. As far as developing readership goes, most authors will say that the best way to gain readers is to publish more books. I’m still beginning my writing career, but hopefully when people read stories like the Kids vs. Nature series they will want to go back and read others I have written, like Purple Pup. If they really enjoy these stories, perhaps they’ll tell others about them too. Theoretically, the more stories I complete the more opportunities new readers will have to find my works.

6) What advice would you give to aspiring or just starting authors out there?

If you want to be a writer, you need to write. Do what you can to dedicate some time to this. Don’t expect your first writings to be very good either. It usually takes many years to develop your skills. Expect your first book or two to be unworthy of publishing. This is normal. Keep trying until you finish one that is.

7) What does the future hold in store for you? Any new books/projects on the horizon?

I’m currently writing a young adult historical fiction novel. It takes place during the most recent ice age and will feature Paleo-Indian characters. Beyond that, it’s difficult to say what the future holds. I will continue to write and focus on projects that inspire me the most.

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Leading In The First Person by Shawn Abrams Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.

Ray Croc once said, “The quality of a leader is reflected in the standards they set for themselves.” Often a leader is unable to lead until they learn to lead themselves in the right direction first. A sense of self will help a leader get a sense of others. That’s the goal author Shawn Abrams hopes to give future leaders in his novel, Leading in the First Person. Here’s the synopsis:

Leading in the First Person is a must read for those in leadership positions and those who would embrace it. The cover of this book holds the 5 Lead statements that leaders must concern themselves with on the way to success. Reading this book will allow you to: 

• Recognize critical leadership mistakes and how to recover from them quickly 

• Successfully lead your life instead of following it 

• Build rather than just maintain relationships 

• Shape your vision and influence others to follow it 

• Review effective mentoring and coaching techniques 

Leading is an act but leadership is a discipline! It’s hard work and sometimes unforgiving but very necessary. 

What really stuck with me reading this book was the core concept of a leader isn’t telling someone what to do, but inspiring them and motivating them to do something. As a writer that’s the goal I set out every day with my stories, to inspire and motivate people to pick up a book, get lost in a story and see the overlying theme and message the novel implies. Shawn Abrams does an amazing job relaying this concept to his audience.

Using personal stories to relate to the subject, the author delves into everything from the power of secrets, overselling and respect vs courtesy. It shows future leaders and aspiring leaders how to not only separate themselves from the pack, but to lead others to be the best possible version of themselves. It’s written in a relatable way, while relaying key information that is crucial for future leaders everywhere.

Overall this was a brilliant, well written novel filled with critical details and great techniques leaders everywhere should have. It’s a novel of trust, honesty and the best way to motivate others and instill a sense of self in your leadership skills. If you haven’t yet be sure to pick up your copy Leading In The First Person by Shawn Abrams today!

Rating: 10/10

ABOUT THE BOOK AND THE AUTHOR

Leading In The First Person by Shawn Abrams

This book represents a movement of leaders who are not afraid to lead themselves first and others well!

This is Shawn’s first book. He has served his country, his community and now he wants to serve leaders the world over with this message: Lead In The First Person. He is passionate about leadership, relationships, business development and customer service.

Summary about book

Don’t live your day, lead your day! 

Don’t follow your problems, lead them to resolution!

Don’t just parent your children, lead them!

Don’t find someone else to lead you, lead yourself!

Make your next goal to read and implement the findings of  this book!

Leadership is a skill that not everyone has. But it is a skill that can be taught and learned and constantly improved upon, given the right direction. Good leadership can save companies and relationships.

Learn the difference between managers and leaders.

In his book, Leading in the First Person, Shawn Abrams uses the experiences he has gathered through several years of army service, working in corporate America and through non-profit work as well, to show you what it means to lead!

Get a copy today. 

SHAWN ABRAMS

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This book will explore why leaders fail. Develop and improve your team’s performance by

improving your relationships with them. Identify ways leaders sabotage their success.

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Surviving Horse Island (Kids vs. Nature, #3) by Karl Steam Review

A refreshing change in scenery promises a day of fun for four middle school kids, but the reality of survival hits home in unexpected ways in author Karl Steam’s novel Surviving Horse Island, the third book in the Kids vs Nature series. Here’s the synopsis:

Josh and three of his classmates have proven they can survive a forest and a desert, but what about an island? Can they finish a third mission and make it home alive?

This third book takes an interesting turn, as for the first time the protagonist and the other kids caught in this endless web of survival missions the app brings them on find an environment that promises fun and adventure. The author does a great job of highlighting the beauty of the world, and also showing that beauty has to be respected and cared for, as untold dangers and survival skills are needed in the most beautiful of locations.

The growing character growth and blooming relationships between characters in the book promise a deeper and engaging story than ever before. The visuals do a great job once again of creating an even and free flowing story that both educates the reader and hooks them with relatable characters.

Overall this was a wonderful read that only makes readers crave more and more of the story. With the power of the app growing and the mystery of it’s development only becoming more shadowed, the third book in this series does a wonderful job of educating readers on survival on an island and how to fend for yourself in the wild, all while drawing the reader into a fast paced read that you won’t be able to put down. If you haven’t yet be sure to pick up your copy of Surviving Horse Island by Karl Steam today!

Check out my review of book one here and book two here.

Rating: 10/10

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Surviving Desert View (Kids vs. Nature, #2) by Karl Steam Review

The four kids who stumbled into a mysterious app that transported them into the wilderness find themselves stuck in the app’s web in author Karl Steam’s latest novel, Surviving Desert View, book 2 of the middle school book series Kids vs. Nature. Here’s the synopsis:

Josh and three of his sixth-grade classmates find themselves stranded in the wilderness, again. Surviving in a forest was one thing. Can they survive a desert too?

Their situation takes a turn for the worse when they realize that their previous wilderness adventure was not an isolated experience. Not only do they need to complete another mission to get back home, but they need to find a way to prevent any more missions from happening. 

The mystery of the app and it’s ability to transport these children into harrowing situations grows in this second novel. The character development ramps up in this second outing, with the protagonist finding his specific knowledge coming into play throughout this novel.

The novel does a great job of bringing the visuals together with the story in a natural way. The story flows smoothly and makes the book a quick yet engaging read. The magic or power of this app and it’s mysterious origins bring this story to life in new and exciting ways, and by book’s end you will be eager to jump into the next book.

Overall this was a wonderful read. Full of adventure, knowledge and an amazing hook that brings middle school readers into the study of survival in a new and inventive way. If you haven’t yet be sure to pick up your copies of book two in the series, Surviving Desert View by Karl Steam today!

Check out our review of book one in the series here!

Rating: 10/10

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Surviving Moose Lake (Kids vs. Nature, #1) by Karl Steam Review

Four middle school students who couldn’t be more different find themselves stuck together and forced to learn how to survive in the wild in author Karl Steam’s Surviving Moose Lake, the first in the seven book Kids vs. Nature series. Here’s the synopsis:

Getting placed in a lousy group for a class assignment is bad enough, but it’s a thousand times worse when you get stranded in the wilderness with that group. Will Josh and three of his sixth-grade classmates have the skills they need to survive the wilderness? Will they all make it home alive?

Surviving Moose Lake is the first book of the Kids vs. Nature series. It provides an entertaining mixture of danger, adventure, factual information, and life lessons that are best learned in the great outdoors—far away from adults and school classrooms.

The book reminded me of a middle grade version of Jumanji, with an educational, learn survival skills element to it. Middle school kids will find themselves able to relate to these characters with ease. Each student brings a specific part of the school social hierarchy to life, and the book does a great job of breaking down the barriers that separate these students in an effort to survive together.

The mix of realistic and animated photos with the developing plot made the story flow smoothly, creating an engaging yet fast read that middle school children will enjoy. The author also did a great job of including educational facts about survival and the animals they encounter in the story at the end of the book, providing an interesting way to get reader’s attention and educate at the same time.

Overall the first book in this series began strong. It drew the reader in quickly, and by books end the promise of a growing series of stories makes this a truly marvelous series that parents will want to get their children. If you haven’t yet be sure to pick up your copy of Surviving Moose Lake by Karl Steam today!

Rating: 10/10

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The Woman In The Window By A.J. Finn Review

Gone Girl Meets The Girl On The Train in one of 2018’s most engaging thrillers and the world’s next big read, author A.J. Finn’s novel “The Woman In The Window”. Here’s a synopsis:

Synopsis:

Anna Fox lives alone—a recluse in her New York City home, unable to venture outside. She spends her day drinking wine (maybe too much), watching old movies, recalling happier times . . . and spying on her neighbors.

Then the Russells move into the house across the way: a father, a mother, their teenage son. The perfect family. But when Anna, gazing out her window one night, sees something she shouldn’t, her world begins to crumble—and its shocking secrets are laid bare.

What is real? What is imagined? Who is in danger? Who is in control? In this diabolically gripping thriller, no one—and nothing—is what it seems. 

This book had me hooked early on. The heartbreaking story that unfolds is evenly matched with the heart pounding thrills and mystery that begins to reveal itself nearly halfway through the book. The story does a great job of showing the flaws and struggles everyone goes through in life, and sadly how the outside world looks down on those who are struggling. Yet in all her struggles, Anna Fox does an amazing job connecting with the readers and keeping you on the edge of your seat as you question everything and suspect everyone.

While this book definitely has the same engaging elements of other books like Gone Girl and The Girl On The Train, it also does a remarkable job standing out on it’s own and creating a unique narrative that has so many twists and turns that you are bound to get whiplash. Often I found myself gripping the book tightly in my hands as new clues and shocking revelations would appear. By the book’s end, the final revelation will have you talking for years to come.

If Stephen King is the master of horror, then A.J. Finn is steadily making a name for himself as the master of thrillers. This novel was one of the more powerful reads of 2018, keeping me on the edge of my seat as I dove deeper into the inner workings of this small neighborhood and the various relationships we intentionally and unintentionally make in our lifetime. It also takes a very real look at the struggle those suffering from one ailment or another go through on a daily basis, and the hardship that comes with trusting oneself and what they see in this world. Who can you trust? Find out in author A.J. Finn’s novel The Woman In The Window today!

Rating: 10/10

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Author Bio:

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#1 New York Times-bestselling author of THE WOMAN IN THE WINDOW, available in 41 languages and soon to be a major film from Fox starring Amy Adams.

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Heartsong by Annie Douglass Lima Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.

What would you do if you found yourself on a new world filled with intelligent alien life, but you were now the alien? In a world of half truths and no answers, Liz must discover who she can trust and who she is when faced with the life or death circumstances that come with space travel in author Annie Douglass Lima’s YA novel, Heartsong. Here is the synopsis:

Synopsis

Two alien worlds.

One teen emissary.

No reality she can trust.

Thirteen-year-old Liz Smith has been ripped away from one foster family after another for years, so the idea of a permanent home is tantalizing. Who cares if that home is a colony sixty-five thousand light-years from Earth? The friends in her trusty e-reader will keep her company just fine on her interstellar relocation. 

But when the adventure of a lifetime turns into the disaster of the cosmos, Liz can only retreat so far into the books that have always sheltered her from loneliness and loss. Trapped in half-truths and secrets that leave her questioning reality, can one orphaned bookworm find a way to stop two races from destroying each other … and somehow write a happy ending to her own story?

If you like books about space travel, aliens, or cross-cultural transitions, you’ll love this poignant science fiction adventure. Get your copy of Heartsong now to start the journey today! 

This novel was really unique, as it explored what would happen if the human was the alien from another world, and the “aliens” had to decide whether or not the human was hostile or a friend. The author did an amazing job exploring a universal truth, which is the distrust and fear that comes from the unknown, and how sometimes opening ourselves up to new possibilities and finding common ground is the only way to avoid unnecessary violence and come together as one people. The unique differences highlighted between Liz and the alien people she comes into contact with made this an engaging, thought provoking YA adventure like no other.

The exploration of these new worlds highlights the different environments that would allow life to thrive and grow on other worlds, and puts our own history on Earth of conquering and taking what’s not ours, as well as the distrust we have for anyone or anything different than us, into a whole new light. The imagery used was breathtaking to imagine, and the emotional struggle of Liz and the people she meets is something a lot of people will be able to relate to.

Overall this was a fantastic story. Filled with heart, emotion and amazing sci-fi goodness that was kind of reminiscent of Lost in Space, this was a one of a kind novel that deserves to be read. If you haven’t yet be sure to pick up your copy of Annie Douglass Lima’s novel Heartsong today!

Rating: 10/10

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Author Bio:

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I was born in the United States of America but raised mostly in Kenya, which was my home for 14 years.  Upon returning to the US, I attended Biola University in Southern California, where I majored in elementary education with an emphasis on Intercultural Studies.  Shortly after graduating, I accepted a position as a teacher in a one-room schoolhouse in Papua, Indonesia (a country where I had long dreamed of living).  The job lasted for a year, and not long after my return, I married my wonderful husband Floyd, who I’d met at college.  The two of us lived and worked in California for nearly five years, but when we felt the time was right, it was a joy to move overseas and start a new life in Taiwan.  We return to America every summer, but otherwise, we’ve lived in Taiwan for six wonderful years (and counting).  I love my job teaching fifth grade at Morrison Academy in the city of Taichung.

A few of my blog posts about interesting aspects of life in Taiwan:

Touchdown in Taiwan

Linguistic Misadventures at the Prawn Palace Restaurant 

Typhooning with Krosa

Christmas Dinner… Sort Of

Swine Flu!

Shui Nan Market (a Poem)

What About my Writing?

I’ve always loved writing.  Reading and writing were my favorite subjects in school, and I was seven years old when I decided I was going to be an author.  My first novel (an untitled piece of Christian science fiction) was as ridiculous as you’d expect from a seven-year-old, and it’s probably a good thing I never finished it.  But it got me excited about the idea of writing a book, and I can’t remember a time after that when I wasn’t working on some novel or other.

I was a college student when I woke up one morning after having an interesting dream and thought, That would make a great story.  I should write it down!  I did, and it turned into the first draft of what is now Prince of Alasia.  I set the manuscript aside and forgot about it for a few years, but later I brought it out again, revised it, added details, and turned the short story into a novel.  It was a dream come true when it was finally (after eleven and a half years and a lot of hard work) published as an eBook and later a paperback.

The more I worked on improving the story, the more I pictured other adventures the characters could have and other events that could happen in that setting.  In the Enemy’s Service grew out of those ideas and was published nine months after I started it.  Next came Prince of Malorn, which tells about the same events (and others) from the perspective of the neighboring kingdom. I have lots more ideas, and am currently working on two more books in the same series.  Stay tuned for excited announcements as soon as they’re done!

Besides writing, my favorite hobby is traveling.  Click here to see pictures and a brief description of my adventures in the nineteen countries I’ve had the joy of visiting so far.

Click here to read 25 random facts that most people don’t know about me.

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