Interview: Diane Gronas, Author and Illustrator

Today I welcome Diane Gronas, author and illustrator of “Starseeker: the Flower of Tameroon.”

Screen Shot 2015-10-05 at 12.48.49 PMI am interviewing Diane today, so more readers can hear about her exciting book. I gave Diane a 5 star review on Amazon because I loved reading about the lives of Annie and her teenage friends living in a future world. There’s a lot of action and romance in this thriller! 

Synopsis: In a distant future, Annie lives alone with her aunt in a high-rise refugee tower as the world around her turns to ice. The Starfire that once warmed the regions of the twelve kingdoms is failing. There is little to do in her cramped quarters and she spends far more time with star charts and flight simulation than what is required for any shuttle pilot. Uncle Jordan has become her mentor and tutors her and the prince of Treya; soon to be crowned heir apparent at the royal ball. Annie dreams of dancing at the ball but her deepest desire is to join the desperate flights of Starseekers searching the universe for food and survival. Launching into space is her only hope of ever finding her parents, missing on the lost planet of Tamaroon. This is a triumphant Space Age Cinderella tale that blooms into romance and action.

Dayne: Why did you choose the genre of Science Fiction as your first book?

Diane: “I always wanted a flying car and Cinderella is my favorite theme, so the setting became a science fiction world in the future with castles.”

Dayne: I love that Annie is learning to pilot her own starship.

Dayne: Have any other writers inspired your writing style?

Diane: “Yes, I found Rick Riordan’s “Heroes of Olympus” style easily connects with young YA readers. I love his humor and easygoing characters. John Rocco’s cover illustration of the mechanical dragon is terrific. Rick’s books target the same age group as my books even though STARSEEKER has been re-read 3 times by adult readers working for NASA. The comment I hear most from readers is that it is a good story.”

Dayne: The mechanical dragon by John Rocco is one of my favorite illustrations. Your story is strong and stands on it’s own. All the great future space travel action just adds to the fun.

Dayne: As an illustrator, I am always interested in the work of other illustrators. I love your cover for Starseeker: The Flower of Tameroon. You did a beautiful job.

Diane: “Thank you Dayne, coming from you that means a lot. My major was Graphic design and I taught drawing in graduate school. My goal was to illustrate children’s books like you, but I got wrapped up in the Starseeker world of Treya and Tamaroon. Drew Struzan with his beautiful sketches showing through intense airbrushed hues in his Star War posters has always been at the top of my list of favorite illustrators along with Sheilah Beckett, Tomie de Paola, Mercer Mayer, Brothers Hildebrandt, and of course the Disney Company. www.drewstruzan.com,, ,”

Dayne: You are multi-talented to be the author AND illustrator of your own book.

Dayne: What was the hardest lesson that you learned while writing your novel.

Diane: “Re-writes and formatting take forever and plot changes not only increase the complexity of the story but also are hard to keep track of.”

Dayne: I loved reading about Annie, Garret, Tipper and E-Chip and want to read about them again. Is there a book two in the works?

Diane: “I’m really excited about Book 2, STARTRAIL TO TAMAROON. E-Chip and Tipper join Annie, Garret, Melody, Brandon and the crew to explore another world. New surprises in discoveries and technology will be found as they meet interesting characters along the way.”

Dayne: Can’t wait to read it.

Dayne: What is your favorite scene in your book?

Diane: “Truthfully it’s the one I haven’t written yet. But, if I have to choose one from the first book, it would probably be where Annie meets the prince. Although the shuttle race, sword fight, discovery of the Lastradanyan luminos dociles, palace escape, and explosive ending were all fun as well.”

Dayne: I have many favorite scenes, these are some of mine also.

Dayne: How do you feel now about the self-publishing process?

Diane: “The whole idea of being able to upload your own edited manuscript along with a book cover you created in Photoshop and being able to order your own book was unheard not many years ago. It still is amazing to me. But simply having it available on-line is not enough. The huge job of letting people know what it is and where it is available is daunting. If you are able to find a publisher who will promote your book, do it. Self promotion will only get you so far and you want your book available to libraries and in stores. Not everyone shops on-line.”

Readers can read the beginning of this book at Amazon or learn more about Diane and her books on her website:

Regional SCBWI conference was inspiring.

The Missouri’s regional SCBWI conference was held just outside of St. Louis in St. Charles, Missouri last weekend. Our Regional Advisor Kim Piddington, Asst. Regional Advisor Shannon Moore and Regional Illustrator Coordinator, Katie Wools did a professional job organizing the event. The key-note speaker was Artistrator (fine artist and illustrator) E.B. Lewis, other presenters were: Author Peggy Archer, Author Jennifer Brown, Agent Melissa Edwards, Agent Kristen Hall, Editor Connie Hsu, Agent Brianne Johnson and Editor Kate Sullivan.

Scottie dog swimming

It was an exciting and stimulating experience for me. I am now full of enthusiasm to start new projects and spiff-up old ones. I will start by tightening my Penelope Picture books using suggestions I was given in my critiques. I have two written and have an idea for a third. I am also going to work on a story I wrote years ago about my Scottie puppy Ghillis learning to swim. That illustration garnered some interest about the story behind the illustration.

In October I will be posting an interview with Author Diane Gronas, author of Star Seeker: The Flower of Tameroon


My entry for the Missouri SCBWI 2015 conference poster Illustration

Soaring_Sislen_300This is my illustration for the SCBWI-MO conference Illustration competition. The theme is “Soaring to New Heights!” The conference is this weekend, September 15-16th at Lindenwood University in St. Charles Missouri, just outside of St. Louis.

If you have been following this blog, you might just recognize the mouse character from theMOYH 3d_BookCover last picture book I illustrated “There’s a Mouse on My Head!” by Donna Warwick. I enjoyed illustrating that book so much, I have just fallen in love with the little chubby mouse.

The first week of October, Donna Warwick and I will be doing a presentation at the Jewish Book Festival Book Club Tea. We have some fun surprises for the attendees.

Just in time for “Talk Like a Pirate Day”

Ahoy, me hearties! Blimey, I had to batten down me hatches to do this wee Sea Dog lad just for fun. Just a wee loose sketch, No time t’waste this fine day to color it in. I love Talk Like a Pirate Day! PIrate_Day

Middle grade author interview, Paul R. Hewlett

Today I have the honor of interviewing Paul R. Hewlett. Paul is the author of the Lionel’s Grand Adventure series. Lionel Goes to Camp is the third book in the series. In addition to writing the Lionel’s Grand Adventure books, Paul does freelance writing and co-authors a children’s/middle grade/young adult blog called Sher A. Hart: Written Art. You can learn more about Paul at

Screen Shot 2015-09-04 at 8.03.29 PMLionel is dying to go to summer camp to try to learn more about his dad. Lionel will have to endure Martha the kitchen lady, wander through the desert in the old west, find his way through the woods, escape bad guys, and collect all the scavenger hunt items before everyone else if he wants a chance to spend the day with Carrie at Lake Yellhorn, survive summer camp, and find out the mystery of his dad. Luckily, Lionel has his magical charm to help him out, or will it land Lionel in a mess-and-a-half he can’t get out of? The signed books are available on Paul’s website: and unsigned books on

1. How did you get started writing children’s books?

Most of the ideas I come up with seem to really fit into that category. I admit, I’ve tried to write novels, but as I write I seem to always veer towards more of a children’s/middle grade theme. I really enjoy writing stories that are somewhat straightforward on the surface but, perhaps, with a little more to them underneath the surface.

2. Tell us about Lionel Snodgrass.

Lionel is just your typical, everyday kid. He’s a little overweight, self-conscious, and looking to fit in. I think nearly every one of us has felt like he does. Many have moved to a new town, had an older sibling pick on them, had a crush on a girl, wanted to do well in our activities, etc. Nowadays, many children live in single parent households too. Many of us have had that awkward stage; it just happens as we grow up. Most of all, Lionel is a good-hearted kid that just wants to fit in and have fun. The situations Lionel finds himself in have a way of highlighting his strengths and all of the things that make him special. We all have strengths and are special in our own way. I think Lionel is a good representation of this.

3. The theme of bullying is evident in all Lionel books. I love how Lionel handles it so creatively. Were you ever bullied as a child?

Of course. It wasn’t a big deal, but there was this kid (a big kid) a few years older than me that just didn’t like me. I keep going back to the theme that many have experienced these things, but sometimes we come across people that just don’t like us. For whatever reason, we aren’t even given a chance. Luckily, in my case, I was faster than him so anytime he saw me I was able to peddle my bike or run away faster than him.

4. What do you believe is the best way to get kids (especially boys) to read?

This is a topic I’ve discussed a lot. I think there are many ways to accomplish this. It always helps to start reading to your child at an early age. I also encourage parents to expose children to reading in as many ways as possible. Take your child to the local library, get them a library card when they are old enough, have family story time, and most importantly encourage, ask questions, and praise children when it comes to reading.

5. What is your favorite children’s book or who is your favorite children’s author?

Encyclopedia Brown by Donald J. Sobol and The Three Investigators by Robert Arthur. I love the simplicity and genius of Donald J. Sobol’s writing. I still pick up Encyclopedia Brown books for inspiration and enjoyment. I really loved The Three Investigators too. They had the coolest club house. It was located deep in three investigator Jupiter Jones’ uncle’s junkyard (with secret entrances). Both authors seemed to write in such a simple, yet rich, way that really connected with me. If you look really close at the Three Investigators logo on the original covers (up in the right hand corner of the cover) you just might see a resemblance to the Lionel’s Grand Adventure logo.

6. Any question you wish someone would ask you, but they never do.

Ha! I’ve been asked a lot of questions but never this one. Not really, though. I would really just like to take a moment and salute all of those out there working so hard to promote reading to children all across the globe. I can’t think of anything more important than reading. It helps develop so many things in a child. Reading develops critical thinking, imagination, helps with spelling, comprehension, and the list goes on.

Hope you enjoyed this interview with Paul Hewlett. Please view his Lionel’s Grand Adventure series on Amazon.

“There’s a Mouse On my Head! is officially on sale today!

delivery of books

My puppy Ghillis is “helping.”

Today is P-Day or publishing day for us. Our book, There’s a Mouse on My Head! is finally able to ship. Amazon listed it earlier, but held up shipping until today. My front hall is filled with books for Donna Warwick and me to sign. My puppy Ghillis “helped” with the unwrapping.

Right now the only way to get a signed book is directly from one of us. Hard cover books are $14.99, Soft Cover books are $9.99.

MOYH 3d_BookCoverWe did a lot of running around like crazy people at the last minute. I have to admit the website site is not quite up. The author Donna Warwick has a few more things to write and finalize. I have posted activities pages and coloring sheets for parents and teachers to download for their kids. We will be setting up school visits and library visits for this Fall and Spring. Hopefully the website will be up and running by Wednesday, August 19, 2015. Contact us directly: DonnaWarwickAuthor(at) or Dayne.Design(at) 

 Here is the website link, be sure to wait until August 19th to visit:

The Amazon listing for our book & the B& listing. “There’s a Mouse on My Head” is also available by special order from your local independent store book.

I’m so excited! Self-published books have arrived.

MOYH_coversOur self-published picture books (sample run) have arrived!!! They look great and I’m so excited! IngramSpark prints a very quality book.

OK, I keep telling myself to act like the “cool girl.” You know the one who doesn’t show she is excited, who is cool and collected and blasé about something like this happening. The girl who doesn’t use exclamation points after every sentence when she does something like this!!! Well, I never was that girl (now woman) and I will never will be that sophisticated cool girl, because I’m really, really excited about this!!!!

I have illustrated many children’s books for other authors, but never been as closely involved in the whole process. Donna Warwick, the author of There’s a Mouse on My Head! is a good friend. She is also a member of my SCBWI picture book critique group here in St. Louis. When I first read her poem, which was very much shorter than this book, I was hooked. I loved the idea of the clever boy who doesn’t want to eat his veggies and comes up with a way to win over his grandmother. Donna listened when our critique group advised her to lengthen the story and bring more action and characters into the mix. I loved this story so much I suggested we work together to bring this book to the world.

The books, a 8 1/2 by 10 1/2″ hardcover version $14.99  and a soft cover version at the same size for $9.99 will be distributed through IngramSpark to independent bookstores and Barnes & Noble’s online store. They will be available for special order from Barnes & Noble brick and mortar stores. They will also be printed by CreateSpace for distribution on at a 8″ x 10″ size. There is a good reason for the two printers, I will go into later. I did quite a lot of research and had a lot to learn about this whole process.

Our publication date is set for August 17th. We are setting up a website right now, where we should soon be able to  take pre-orders and eventually sell the books.  We are planning free activity sheets and lesson plans available to teachers and homeschoolers.  We are scheduling school visits, library visits and even senior center visits for this Fall. We also are presenting our book at a Jewish Book Festival luncheon in St. Louis this October and the Jewish Book Festival Book Store in November. So much to do, so little time.

Yes, I’m having fun!!!

Pre-orders at, just search for “There’s a Mouse on My Head!” WordPress won’t let me put links to Amazon on this site. B& will have our book by August 17th.

Reviews are the  lifeblood of authors and illustrators, please leave honest reviews on Amazon, B&N and GoodReads.



7 Steps for Marketing a Children’s Picture Book


Back Cover, There’s a Mouse on My Head!

Everything I’ve read says it’s a lot of work to market any book, much less a self-published children’s picture book. Donna Warwick the author of “There’s a Mouse on My Head!” and I, as the illustrator, are starting down this long road to what we hope is success.

The first copies of the book have been printed and shipped. They haven’t arrived yet. We need to make sure everything is perfect before we release them to the public. Publication date is set for August 10. Our book will be available on Amazon, B&N, and other Internet bookstores. Brick and mortar book stores can special order it for you directly from Ingrams. “There’s a Mouse on My Head” will also be available at the Jewish Book Festival Book Store this November. We are making hardcover books as well as soft cover books. Later we plan an e-book.

1. We are working on an author’s website. I am setting it up and doing the graphics, Donna will write all the text.

2. A Facebook fan page is in the process of being set up.

3. A Twitter account needs to be started.

4. We are also working on teacher materials, and activity sheets for parents to download from the website for their kids.

5. Donna is working on a trailer to promote the book

6. She is also working on the presentation we will give at the Jewish Book Festival luncheon in October.

7. In the Fall, both Donna and I will be setting up grade school, pre school and library visits.

So much work and so little time. Wish us luck and abundant creativity.

Proofs today for “There’s a Mouse on My Head”

Theres a Mouse on My Head!_proofIt’s so exciting to finally see this long-awaited project coming together. I have been working on the illustrations for 5 months. Today we saw the proofs for the first time from IngramSpark our printer. Donna Warwick, the author of the book “There’s a Mouse on My Head!” and I, as the illustrator, have formed a Publishing Company called Glass Pen Press. I am still working on the logo for Glass Pen Press so I can’t let you see it yet.

Starting a business is a lot of work, but it is so exciting. This is the fun part, the setting up and the creation. The real work will come later when we must do the marketing and promote the book. We are planning a presentation for a luncheon sponsored by the Book Club for the Jewish Book Festival in St. Louis. This will be in October. Before that we are working on a video presentation for the luncheon, a trailer for YouTube and a song. We will be selling the book at the bookstore at the Jewish Book Festival in November in the Missouri’s Own section.

We also plan to do School and library visits this Fall. I am working on a website for the author, where you can buy the book and find games and study guides for classrooms. I will be posting my progress on all these projects.

Are we having FUN yet? YES!!!

There’s a Mouse on My Head!

As I sit here illustrating, There is a Mouse on My Head!.. there actually is a mouse on my head. It’s an illustrated one because I’m designing a promotional bookmark we will be giving away for the release of the book. The bookmark will feature a large cartoon mouse suitable to place on your head. The book in hardcover and soft cover will be printed by August 3, 2015. We will later have an e-book available.

MOYH 3d_BookCover

The author Donna Warwick and I will be presenting our book at a Tea in October, sponsored by the Book Club for the Jewish Book Festival in St. Louis . We will also have the books available for sale at the “Missouri’s Own” section of the Jewish Book Festival bookstore in November. I have my good friend Ray Wenneker to thank for this wonderful opportunity.

The book is a fun, bedtime picture book for 2-8 year olds, featuring a grandmother as caregiver who builds a bond with her grandchildren. This charming book explores how a resourceful and creative boy uses his incredible imagination to convince Grandma that his toy mouse wants to eat his peas. Little sister, not wanting to be left out of his dinnertime game, gleefully jumps in. As their fun fantasy runs wild, their understanding grandmother is delighted to play along with the children as they brush the mouse’s teeth and put him to bed.

This joint project between author and illustrator has been an adventure. We are striking out into new territory. Ingram Spark will be publishing and distributing the books. We will be doing all of our own marketing and publicity. We have planned school and library visits as well as senior center visits where we hope to appeal to the grandmothers in the crowd. Being a part of the Jewish Book Festival is an important event for us. We have a wonderful program planned with music and a video along with our talk. Both of us can hardly wait to start visiting schools. Donna Warwick, the author works with children all the time and is very entertaining. I’ll let everyone know when the books are available. We can start taking preorders by late July.

My Entry for #PBPitch on Twitter

Today is my chance to pitch one of my picture books to a large group of picture book agents at once. All pitching authors use the #PBPitch hashtag on their 140 word pitch on Twitter. As an author/illustrator, I may post one image from my book with my pitch. What I didn’t realize was adding this image would cut down on the number of characters I had to work with by 10. Coming up short by ten characters is huge, when you only have 140 characters to start with.


I enjoy reading picture books written and illustrated by the same talented person, so I want to join their ranks.  I want to become a children’s book author and illustrator. I continue to work diligently on my writing skills when I can find the time between illustration assignments for other authors.  I take SCBWI workshops and writing classes, read books and listen to all the podcasts I can find on the subject. I also belong to a great children’s book critique group. The picture book I am pitching has been through dozens of rewrites. My critique group has seen so many revisions, they probably know the story word for word by now. Thanks to my critique group for being nurturing and honest to help me grow.


My entry for the SCBWI illustrator challenge for June “Bounce”

Bounce_Dayne_SislenThe theme is Bounce–
This my entry in the SCBWI’s illustrator challenge for June . The prompt is the word BOUNCE. I am so lucky that I was already working on this illustration for the new picture book I am illustrating for Donna Warwick, called “There’s a Mouse on My Head!” I guess I could say, “There’s a Mouse on my Bread!” ‪#‎scbwidrawthis‬






Illustrating a Rhyming Picture Book

There's a Mouse on my Head! illus. by Dayne Sislen


There's a Mouse on My Head! illustration by Dayne Sislen

I’m having a great time illustrating this funny rhyming picture book. The story is so cute, it’s about a little boy who doesn’t want to eat his peas and cheese. But does want to eat his cherry pie. It’s called, “There’s a Mouse on my Head!” written by Donna Warwick. This book soon to be as a picture book and an e-book. To see more of Dayne Sislen’s illustrations visit this website, or this portfolio site.