Guest author Kai Strand

Greetings to All,

You will remember the name Kai Strand because I reviewed her book, THE WEAVER, some time ago.


Kai has written another middle grade book, but this one is not of a fantasy nature. It’s about youngsters who could be students in any school in this country.  And actually, it’s all too true as to what can happen when a person becomes a nationally recongnized figure. The name of the book is SAVE THE LEMMINGS.

Kai, will you give us an overview of SAVE THE LEMMINGS? I think we’re all interested in how this typical American Girl’s life intersects with the legend we’re all familiar with. This brings up the question of legends and old wives tales that we would also like to hear more about.

Thanks, Barbara. I would love to tell you about my young inventor, Natalie, and how the lemmings help her get a grasp on the important things in life.

Eighth  grade inventor, Natalie Isabelle Cailean Edwards is the N.I.C.E. girl who finishes last with the kids in school. Sappy inspirational phrases and monochromatic outfits have all but her best friends wrinkling their nose at her. When Natalie’s invention, the Texty-Talky, goes nationwide, she becomes an overnight sensation. Suddenly her days consist of photo shoots and interviews with little time left for her friends. A local reporter shatters her good-girl image by reporting a graffiti incident and the media launches into a smear campaign. It is so bad, even her friends start to believe the stories. Will Natalie be able to overcome the lies being printed about her?

Well, Natalie uses the media to turn everyone’s attention away from herself to her pet project: saving the lemmings. As her arch enemy, Trudy, sarcastically said (even though it was true): “When life gives you lemmings, you make lemmingade….”

I think we’re now ready to hear what you have to tell us about LEMMING TRIVIA AND OTHER OLD WIVES TALES.  

First, about lemmings blindly committing mass suicide.

Lemmings are solitary creatures except during migration. They bunch up along cliffs and dive into the water to swim long distances. Unfortunately some lemmings die of exhaustion or hunger. But they are not committing mass suicide.

(Cute little critters, aren’t they?)

Some wives tales are ridiculously false:

Don’t cross your eyes, they’ll stay that way. How many of you tempted fate as a child and kept your eyes crossed until the optic nerves grew tender? Sure enough, you’re not staring at your nose today.

Others are thankfully false:

Knuckle cracking does not cause arthritis I’m happy (and relieved) to report. My hips crack loudly when I reach toward my toes. When I was a kid I got such a kick out of scaring people with the loud crack and then making a face as if it hurt. Their horrified expressions were so entertaining. Blessedly I’m not hobbling around on arthritic hips today.

Some wives tales are regrettably false:

Were you ever told that swallowing your gum was bad for you because it takes seven years to digest? If that were the case that would make for a great weight loss program! Just swallow enough gum to suppress your appetite.

It’s a shame that shaving your hair doesn’t really make it grow back thicker, darker and coarser. It would put Rogaine out of business!

But some are true:

Drinking a warm glass of milk really can help you sleep. Milk contains tryptophan and will indeed aid your trip to slumber land.

If you hold an aspirin between your legs, you won’t get pregnant. It’s true. Think about it.

A few wives tales have a kernel of truth to them:

Chicken soup is good for a cold. The veggies and chicken can mitigate the inflammation associated with a common cold. It won’t cure you, but it may offer some relief.

Thanks, Kai. Now lets hear a little about yourself.

I write fiction for middle grade and young adult readers. My debut novel, The Weaver, was a finalist in the 2012 EPIC eBook Awards. The Wishing Well: Another Weaver Tale is set in the same storytelling village as The Weaver. I am a (very lucky) wife and the mother of four amazing kids. The most common sound in our household is laughter. The second most common is, “Do your dishes!” My family and I  hike, geocache, and canoe in beautiful Central Oregon, where we call home.

 Kai, it sounds as if you lead an exciting life.

Thanks for inviting me to be on Stories a la Mode, Barbara. It’s been a pleasure.

To find out more about Kai’s books, download companion documents, find links to her published short stories and discover all the places to find Kai both virtually and in person, visit her website: She loves to hear from readers, so feel free to send her an email or visit her facebook page, Kai Strand, Author.

Pick up your copy of Save the Lemmings here:


Monday Metaphors: Aptronyms, Names that Fit


These are real people:

Russell Brain, a neurologist

Reggie Corner, cornerback for the Buffalo Bills

Margaret Court, a tennis player

Jules Angst, a German professor of psychiatry; published works about anxiety

Sara Blizzard, a meteorologist for the BBC

William Wordsworth, a poet

When I started reading Marilyn vos Savant, the Parade columnist who has the world’s highest recorded IQ, I thought it was a pseudonym. But no, that’s her well-suited name.

And if you are an avid listener of Car Talk on NPR, you remember the ridiculous aptronyms Click and Clack attribute to their staff:

Marianna Trench is the Director of Deep Sea Research.

Stan Beyerman is the Director of Country Music.

Anita Hammer is the Director of Delicate Electronics Repair.

Juan Demerritt is the Staff Disciplinarian.

Vera Similitude is the Staff Forger.

Dr. Jean Poole is the Staff Geneticist.

Luke A. Boyd is an Ornithology Intern.

An aptronym is a name aptly suited to whatever it is applied, whether a person (real or not), place, or thing. In fiction, it has been used to define a character’s personality, profession, or other quality associated with that character. Probably the book that most easily comes to mind for containing aptronyms is John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress (1678), with names such as Mr. Talkative and Mr. Worldly Wiseman.

In Medieval Morality Plays, which were the church’s way of teaching virtues, the stories left no question as to the qualities being portrayed. The characters were allegorical figures named precisely for the virtue or vice they represented. Some of the characters in Everyman, the best known Morality play, are Everyman, Death, Good-Deeds, Angel, Knowledge, Beauty, Discretion, and Strength.

Some of my favorite are in Dickens: the horrible brother and sister in David Copperfield, the Murdstones; Wilkins Micawber, whose financial difficulties land him in debtor’s prison; and the affectionate but slightly deranged Richard Babley, “Mr. Dick.”

The writer can be blatant with his use of aptronyms or subtle. Perhaps F. Scott Fitzgerald meant to be both descriptive and ironic when he named his heroine “Daisy” in The Great Gatsby.

In looking over the list of Guardian Angel Publishing’s books, I noticed these aptronyms:

The Jumbo Shrimp of Dire Straits by Kristen and Kevin Collier. An ominous sounding place.

Kai Strand’s The Weaver  begins: “Tucked in a lush valley between two snow-capped mountains was the village of The Tales. Those who lived in the village were known as Weavers. Each person in The Tales could tell stories about anything at any time, and they often did. Prose, poetry, limericks or yarns; they told stories of all types and styles.” Mary Wordsmith is the main character.

Stilts the Stork by Dixie Philips. Stilts has stilt-like long skinny legs and she makes a funny mistake. She gathers golf balls thinking they are eggs.

Susan Batson gave apt names to two of her characters, the protagonists of Gilly the Seasick Fish and Sparkie: a Star Afraid of the Dark.


In my “Bear in Mind” (Characters Magazine) my main character, who is a type of Goldilocks character is named Tressa. Her adventure parallels that of Goldilocks but more or less in reverse.

Also, in my “How Rank Snodgrass Got My Apple Pie” (Long Story Short), the villain is a loathsome fella.

You might say the writer is using Nominative determinism when he assigns meaningful names to his characters. This is the theory that a person’s name influences his life—profession, personality, choices, and not just in literature, but in real life, as well. Carl Jung asked the question: “Are these whimsicalities of chance, or the suggestive effects of the name . . . or are they ‘meaningful coincidences’?” but he never answered it.

Philosophy aside, it is a useful and succinct way for a writer to add color, humor, irony, or information by hinting that the name has deeper meaning.

Do you have any favorite aptronyms?

Contact Info:

If you have any questions, please feel free to email me.


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