TT Author Elizabeth Alsobrooks shares books for kids of all ages...fill those ereaders for holiday break!
Need a last minute stocking stuffer or need to help fill that ereader for your youngster to use over holiday break? Of course I recommend books, for any occasion. As an expert in the areas of emerging, struggling, and developing readers, I have tried to include those that will appeal to all levels of readers in every age group. You know best which of these great books is best for your reader.
Ages 3-5 (and younger, as you will be reading to them)
Beatrix Potter’s Peter Rabbit series, to introduce a child in your life to the misadventures of Peter Rabbit in Mr. McGreggor’s garden. Classics are classics for a reason.
Tom Fletcher’s There’s an Elf in Your Book, and it’s a bossy elf, who may be trying to trick you or get you into trouble, so you may have to outwit him. A fun addition to the whole Elf on a Shelf craze.
Plum: How the Sugar Plum Fairy Got Her Wings Will and Grace's Sean Hayes and composer Scott Icenogle fill in the oft-wondered-about backstory of how the Sugar Plum Fairy came to be.
National Geographic’s First Big Book of Why by Amy Shields, to help with all those why’s in that sometimes confusing (how do you explain things that are complex in simple terms) why stage.
Jessika von Innerebner’s Kevin the Unicorn: It’s Not All Rainbows, is especially good when your child may not be having a perfect day, or may be a bit cranky (not that the child in your life would ever be cranky).
All Aboard! The Christmas Train by Nichole Mara. Folding out car by car, this accordion-style board book takes readers on a tour of Santa’s Christmas train. Each car has lots to see—elves making toys, penguins playing, reindeer preparing for the big day—as Santa searches for his missing boot. With a running landscape dotted with objects for children to find and count on the back of the book, All Aboard! The Christmas Train is a fun, interactive ride from beginning to end.
Jan Britt’s The Tale of the Tiger Slippers, is based on an Indian folktale and reminding little ones to persevere, work hard for what they get and to remember where they came from.
Dragons Love Tacos 2 by Adam Rubin, comes in as box set with two plush dragons. A funny tale about how the dragons save their favorite food.
Paul McCartney has written a book called Hey Grandude! For adventure-loving kids, you can’t go wrong with this action-packed picture book from one of the most celebrated musicians in history. With help from his magic compass, Grandude takes his grandchildren on a globe-trotting expedition. Celebrate imagination and adventure with this delightful story.
Who doesn’t love the Bernstein Bears by Jan and Stan Berenstain? Everyone’s favorite bear family is celebrating Christmas in Bear Country, in The Bernstein Bears’ Merry Christmas. With two books in one, Berenstain Bears fans will get to enjoy both The Mad, Mad, Mad Toy Craze and Meet Santa Bear. Join the family as they experience the spirit of giving and learn what matters most during the holiday season.
Grumpy Monkey Party Time by Suzanne Lang. Everyone's favorite grumpy monkey is back in a new story! Jim Panzee is nervous about going to a party. He doesn’t know how to dance. In fact, he doesn’t even like to dance. Kids that get nervous in new situations will appreciate this funny picture book. Filled with laugh-out-loud moments and expressive illustrations, this book shows kids how to manage their anxiety.
How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Suess. Sure, there’s a movie, but why not read the original book first? Teach your youngster the skill or compare and contrast from word to screen (said the retired English teacher), and increase their literacy skills!
The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg is great for younger kids too. Again, book versus movie opportunity here! 1986 Caldecott Medal Winner A young boy, lying awake one Christmas Eve, is welcomed aboard a magical trip to the North Pole . . . Through dark forests, over tall mountains, and across a desert of ice, the Polar Express makes its way to the city atop the world, where the boy will make his Christmas wish.
The Wonderful Things You Will Be by Emily Winfield Martin The title illustrates the delightful and uplifting message in this beautifully illustrated book.
Runny Babbit Returns by Shel Silverstein Fun and quirky! The mixed-up language in this hilarious book will get your kids laughing and inspire their imaginations.
The Nightmare Before Christmas: 20th Anniversary Edition. I just love this and think it’s a fun keepsake for kids of all ages (including adults). In this beloved picture book that could only come from the visionary mind of author and illustrator TIM BURTON, we meet Jack Skellington-- a well-intentioned inhabitant of Halloweenland. Jack is bored of "the scaring, the terror, the fright....tired of being something that goes bump in the night". And so, in an effort to bring joy to his town, Jack kidnaps Santa and takes his place as the jolly old elf. But instead of bringing joy to the world Jack, who is a little more than a grinning skeleton, brings fear by delivering creepy toys and riding a sleigh carried by skeletal reindeer. Only through a number of things going horribly wrong does Jack learn the true meaning of Christmas.
Dog Man: A Tale of Two Kitties by Dave Pilkey For kids beginning to explore the world of chapter books, the Dog Man series is a favorite. A Tale of Two Kitties is the newest book in the series and is perfect for Captain Underpants groupies and kids that enjoy goofy humor.
Who doesn’t love a ninja princess? The Princess in Black: Three Smashing Adventures by Shannon Hale and Dean Hale Get the first three adventures in everyone's favorite ninja-princess series with this boxed set. Growing readers will devour these stories and enjoy the mask-wearing, pony-riding, monster-smashing fun.
Got an American Girl lover in your life? They need one of these! American Girl Character Encyclopedia by Carrie Anton and Erin Falligant They can learn more about their favorite dolls and the stories behind them, explore outfits, and discover facts every American Girl enthusiast should know.
Coding for 6-8 year old’s, really? My First Coding Book by Kiki Prottsman Coding is quickly becoming a life skill for the rising generation, and it's a high-interest topic for kids. With flaps to lift, puzzles to solve, and easy to digest information, this book makes coding accessible, interesting, and fun for young readers.
The Flower Fairy aficionado has developed a beautiful coloring book that’s perfect for this age all the way through adult! Color with your favorite youngster! The Flower Fairies Coloring Book by Cicely Mary Barker Young artists and Flower Fairies devotees will love coloring the stunning artwork on these pages. With beautiful illustrations of flowers and fairies, it's the perfect gift for the fanciful young artist.
Letters From Father Christmas J.R.R. Tolkien’s kids got a letter from Father Christmas every year, with detailed stories and illustrations to go with each. Here, his magical notes are remembered for all to enjoy.
This is a great age to get the youngster in your life started on journaling, and here’s a great first book to help them out. My Smile Diary by Raina Telgemeier Your youngster can document the details of their life, dreams, and big goals in this whimsical diary filled with blank pages and bordered with Telgemeier’s characteristic comic-style artwork, as well as handwritten prompts for deeper reflection.
Don’t think zombies are popular with this age group? Think again! The Last Kids on Earth and the Midnight Blade by Max Brallier, illustrated by Douglas Holgate. This fifth book in the action-packed Last Kids on Earth series takes place after Jack and his friends survive the Monster Apocalypse. In this story, Jack uses his Louisville Slicer blade’s incredible powers to fight zombies and Vine-Thingies. Meanwhile, Dirk’s acting suspicious and a new villain arrives in town.
Have a kid in your life that’s getting a fur baby from Santa? Dog Training for Kids: Fun and Easy Wats to Care for Your Furry Friend by Vanessa Estrada Marin For kids ready to become dog parents, this digestible guide book is a must-read. Easy-to-follow instructions allow kids to walk their pets through basic obedience training, essential commands, and clever tricks. Parents will also appreciate that kids are learning patience, compassion, and responsibility — all essential qualities in both dog training and life.
My Life as an Ice Cream Sandwich by Ibi Zoboi During the summer of 1984, science fiction enthusiast Ebony-Grace leaves the comfort of her grandfather’s home in Huntsville, Alabama to visit her father in Harlem. Initially, she’s overwhelmed and retreats to her imagination, but soon she embraces the parallels between Harlem and the world of science fiction adventures.
White Bird: A Wonder Story by R.J. Palacio Written by the author of Wonder, this meaningful graphic novel about Julian’s Jewish Grandmère shows that kindness takes bravery. Despite the fact that Sara’s friends bullied him, when the Nazis come for Jewish children, a boy and his family hide Sara from the soldiers — saving her life and showing her the power of forgiveness.
The Long Haul (Diary of a Wimpy Kid #9), by Jeff Kinney Everyone’s favorite wimpy kid, Greg Heffley, is heading off on a road trip with his family—and any reader who loves the Heffleys knows disaster can’t be far behind. Whether it’s a pack of rogue seagulls or a fender bender, this family trip will be full of exciting incidents…and it may well turn out to be an adventure they’ll never forget.
I recall that I had to fight to get this “witch” book into the hands of students when it was first released, some who had never read a chapter book before (but read and loved this one!). Harry Potter and the Sorceror’s Stone, by J.K. Rowling “Mr. and Mrs. Dursley of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much.” Read the first sentence of the book that kicked off worldwide Pottermania, and just try not to read on. If you know a young reader who hasn’t yet met Harry Potter, consider yourself lucky: you get to make the introduction. There are few stories so magical, few casts of characters so beloved, few fantasy worlds as soundly built and utterly compelling as Rowling’s.
The Web Paige Chronicles by Emilio Iasiello, a fellow Tell-Tale author! PRAISE FOR THE WEB PAIGE CHRONICLES: "Web Paige Chronicles offers a refreshing and empowering role model for young adults. By eschewing this iGeneration’s stereotypical malaise in favor of positive curiosity with technology, Iasiello folds practical cybersecurity guidance into a relatable story." -Scott Schober, author of Hacked Again
The Giver, by Lois Lowry This is a classic, winner of numerous awards. Another book to movie discussion opportunity. Perhaps a bit difficult for struggling readers, but used as curriculum in many middle schools, Lowry’s dystopian classic is the kind of timeless book that never gets outdated. Twelve-year-old Jonah is in training to take over as his community’s Receiver of Memory. Everyone else in his world is obsessed with “Sameness,” trading emotional depth for eternal calm. Released in 1993, this novel has been a staple of school reading lists for years, and belongs on the shelf of any child who loves The Hunger Games—and anyone who appreciates great storytelling that will stick with you for life.
Middle school can be brutal for kids. Help them see the humor with this Dork Diaries series. Tales from a Not-So-Happily Ever After (Dork Diaries #8), by Rachel Renée Russell
In the eighth installment of the wildly popular Dork Diaries series, bubbly heroine Nikki Maxwell gets a bump on the head in gym class after an April Fool’s Day prank goes awry. It knocks her right into a fairy-tale-inspired dreamland, in which she and her classmates each take the role of a classic character—but Dork Diaries fans will be glad to know Nikki is just as much her goofy self in her dreams as she is in everyday middle school.
Ages 13 Up
The Pros of Cons by Alison Cherry, Lindsay Ribar, and Michelle Schusterman is the story of three unlikely heroines, each with brilliant and diverse wishes, talents, and passions, who form an unlikely friendship despite their differences when they meet in unlikely circumstances.
The Fault in Our Stars by John Greene is a moving story about life, death, friendship, hope, and love, as a sixteen-year-old girl learns to deal with the fact that she will die and leave everyone she loves behind.
Another book and movie combo! Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald by J.K. Rowling is a must-read installment for fans of Harry Potter. This prequel to the original series sees Dumbledore on a mission to stop Grindelwald from raising pure-blood wizards to rule over all non-magical beings.
The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman IT TAKES A GRAVEYARD TO RAISE A CHILD. Nobody Owens, known as Bod, is a normal boy. He would be completely normal if he didn’t live in a graveyard, being raised by ghosts, with a guardian who belongs to neither the world of the living nor the dead. There are adventures in the graveyard for a boy—an ancient Indigo Man, a gateway to the abandoned city of ghouls, the strange and terrible Sleer. But if Bod leaves the graveyard, he will be in danger from the man Jack—who has already killed Bod’s family.The Graveyard Book, a modern classic, is the only work ever to win both the Newbery (US) and Carnegie (UK) medals.
Two Can Keep a Secret by Karen M. McManus Echo Ridge is small-town America. Ellery's never been there, but she's heard all about it. Her aunt went missing there at age seventeen. And only five years ago, a homecoming queen put the town on the map when she was killed. Now Ellery has to move there to live with a grandmother she barely knows. The town is picture-perfect, but it's hiding secrets. And before school even begins for Ellery, someone's declared open season on homecoming, promising to make it as dangerous as it was five years ago. Then, almost as if to prove it, another girl goes missing. Ellery knows all about secrets. Her mother has them; her grandmother does too. And the longer she's in Echo Ridge, the clearer it becomes that everyone there is hiding something.
How to Make Friends With the Dark by Kathleen Glasgow Here is what happens when your mother dies. It’s the brightest day of summer and it’s dark outside. It’s dark in your house, dark in your room, and dark in your heart. You feel like the darkness is going to split you apart. That’s how it feels for Tiger. It’s always been Tiger and her mother against the world. Then, on a day like any other, Tiger’s mother dies. And now it’s Tiger, aloneHere is how you learn to make friends with the dark.
Enter the Grishaverse with the instant #1 New York Times-bestseller King of Scars by Leigh Bardugo. "[Bardugo] touches on religion, class, family, love ― all organically, all effortlessly, all cloaked in the weight of a post-war reckoning with the cost (literal and figurative) of surviving the events that shape both people and nations." ―NPR
"The story exists at an intersection of past and future selves, and in the dawning understanding that what you most fear may be what you most need." ―Washington Post
Happy Reading to you and yours!
Ahoy and Avast Ye Me Swabbies!
Through the chill of unforgiving seas and surrounded by damp and icy mists, our intrepid ship THE WHIMSICAL HERALD makes its way to rendezvous with our most distinguished Spotlight Author Stan Schatt! His intriguing and suspenseful release, ‘HELLO AGAIN’ is available on Amazon and already wowing readers who love high tech thrillers.
Dr. Schatt includes teaching at the University level, Consulting, and writing not only many of his own novels but also instructive guides and in depth works detailing the lives and novels of celebrity authors like Daniel Silva and Kurt Vonnegut.
We are hoping to get the inside scoop on his inspiration for ‘HELLO AGAIN’, as well as his take on writing in general!
EX BIG CITY ATTORNEY BILL EISNER IS ABOUT TO DISCOVER THAT DOWNSCALING TO A SO CALLED ‘SIMPLER LIFE’ CAN BE DOWNRIGHT DEADLY!
Detective Francis “Frankie”Ryan stared at the rubble. The explosion blew the car high in the air, and its parts rained down on the asphalt along with shards of glass and metal. She stared at the enormous hole the explosion created and sensed her partner Peter Specter behind her because he had a tendency to invade her space. She heard him chomping on a donut; that helped explain why everyone called him “Crumbs”when he wasn’t around. “Could you do me a favor and start knocking on doors? Maybe someone heard something. ”The chomping stopped and Frankie felt her partner step back. “Good idea. I saw one door labeled Manager. I’ll see if we can get a list of residents; maybe we’ll be able to identify who’s missing before the forensics folks come back with an ID.”Onewoman wearing a CSI jacket called her over. She held a small piece of metal colored a bright red. “We should be able to narrow down the make and model.”“Anything on the driver?”Frankie turned and she saw that the horrendous scene had affected someone as experienced and hardened as Patricia Warden. “One of the officers found part of a leg and foot with a woman’s shoe still attached on the other side of the parking lot.”“Any ideas yet on the explosive device?”Warden nodded. “Yeah, it definitely was a pipe bomb set to go off when the driver turned on the ignition. We don’t know the type of explosive used yet, but it doesn’t look that exotic.”“It did the trick.”“You could say that. We should have more in a day or two tops.”
Bill Eisner escaped the high-powered world of dog eat dog and opened a neighborhood coffee shop. His way too high-maintenance girlfriend stayed behind. Now all he wants is a second chance in life, a chance to do something he enjoys and meet someone who can love him for who he is, not what he can buy her. The community loves him, the press loves him, and even the homeless think he’s one of the nicest guys around.
Finally, he thinks he’s found true happiness with the woman of his dreams. Until she’s murdered. At her funeral, Bill discovers that the woman he loved had a lot of secrets and told him a lot of lies. But does it matter? She’s gone forever. Or is she? Her text messages say otherwise.
The police don't believe Eisner and suspect he might be responsible for his girlfriend's death. Meanwhile the text messages become more and more threatening. When a car bomb blows up his car he is forced to accept that someone or something clearly wants to kill him.
Hello Again combines the spine-tingling tension of a paranormal mystery and the descent into madness of a psychological thriller.
1.In your illustrious career you have taught at the University level as well as written books about celebrity authors like Daniel SIlva and Kurt Vonnegut. What impact did studying them have on your own career as an author?
You can add Michael Connelly to the list since I’ve also written a book about him. From Connelly and Silva I learned a good deal about plot and structure in composing a mystery or thriller. Vonnegut was a novelist who cared a good deal about ideas but realized that ideas had to be sugar coated with a story that would attract readers who don’t want to be hit over the head with big ideas but wanted to read for pleasure. Also, there is something to be said for books that are fun to read without the need to do what professors and grad students do —analyze the books until they drain any pleasure out of them. I corresponded with Vonnegut and he professed amazement at what critics found in his work.
2.You’ve written many fictional novels and have been quoted as saying, ”Occasionally a character will surprise me and take over a book”. Did any of the characters in “Hello Again’ surprise you in this manner?
Bill did in the sense that he’s an ex-lawyer, someone very much grounded in this rational world. I placed him in a situation where he reluctantly and slowly gave way to accepting the supernatural. To me his gradual slide into the irrational seemed to make sense. I
have to say that I grew to like Bill a good deal and wanted the novel to end on a positive note. I never would have killed off Bill.
3.Technology is a major factor in this novel-tell us a little about your background and research in this field.
I have had a number of very different careers. I was an English professor who even spent a year as a Fulbright professor at Tokyo U before transforming myself into an expert on various technologies including data communications and telecommunications.
Over the years I published several books, including college textbooks, on those subjects and spoke at trade shows on wireless security issues. I held senior management positions at several global technology research firms where we consulted and tried to predict which technologies would be successful for clients such as Microsoft, Cisco, and IBM. I became fascinated with the concept of local area networks and Wi-Fi long before they became popular. My Understanding Local Area Networks became an all-time seller (at least for that type of book). I know that sounds nerdy. Even more nerdy, I became known as “Stan the LAN man."
4. What inspired the humorous Speed Dating scene?
I know someone who participated in a speed dating session and described his frustration at the process. I researched speed dating and read articles written from both the female and male perspectives. It is fascinating to think that some psychologists say that people can determine within a few seconds whether or not they want to take the time to know someone. To me there are so many variables that speed dating becomes simply luck. What happens if that particular morning you see a large zit on your nose and it colors your personality because you feel people are staring at you? What if you have a near accident on the freeway going to the speed dating event and still feel shell shocked? What if, like Bill, you get obvious brush-offs from the first few women you meet when you already feel like you have little to offer? One day I went to teach at the university wearing a black shoe and a brown shoe. How would people matched to me for speed dating have reacted?
5.How would you describe the protagonist Bill Eisner? Which of his personality traits make him someone readers can relate to?
Bill is smart as evidenced by his ability to graduate from an ivy league law school. He also has a good heart and creates a welcome space for the homeless. People usually don’t think twice about someone like Bill who might greet them and take their order for coffee, yet he does have depth.
He is capable of earning the friendship and trust of those around him. He also is a responsible person ——he cares about the people who work for him and wants to do whatever he can to keep his place open for them.
6.What three things should aspiring writers keep in mind when attempting a first novel?
Let’s start with the plot. Unless you are Stephen King, you do need to plot your novels ahead of time and know how they will end, particularly if you are writing mysteries. A lot of publishers, particular in the areas of mysteries and science fiction, like books that become series, so a writer needs to pay a lot of attention to developing characters and making them appealing enough to warrant a sequel. So, plot is critical and more than one character should be three-dimensional. Finally, a new writer should read lots of books in the genres in which he or she plans to write in because each genre has its own requirements that its readers expect. So, for example, mystery readers expect to be able to re-read a mystery and find that there were subtle clues that logically should have led them to the criminal if only they had noticed. They hate having a newbie writer springing a completely new character in the last chapter who admits he’s the killer. Perry Mason type endings just don’t work. Point of view is critical as well. Nineteenth century readers liked having an all-knowing narrator who confided what was going to happen in the pages ahead. Today, readers would run for the hills.
7.There are plenty of cultural references in ‘Hello Again’-do you use them in all your fictional works?
I do use a lot of cultural references in my books but I don’t necessarily use the same ones in different books. I tend to write books with modern settings, so I try to “place” my characters in that world while steering clear of politics whenever possible. One thing that is interesting is that I included the theme of battered women with two different characters well before the “Me Too” movement.
8.Why do you think protagonist Bill fell so fast and hard for Amber from the get go? What was he thinking?
Bill hasn’t had a lot of recent dating experience. If you ever read Phillip Roth you might know that there is a common theme in Jewish-American fiction where a Jewish guy is attracted to “forbidden fruit” in the form of someone as different as she could be from the Jewish girls he has been dating. Amber is exotic, beautiful, and mysterious. She seems unobtainable and therefore very desirable.
9.What reader demographic would enjoy this novel?
I’m hoping it will appeal to a large segment of the public. I know female readers represent around 80% of the novel buying public, so I hope female readers will be fascinated with Amber and find Bill appealing. I hoping the book appeals to readers who like paranormal mysteries and thrillers. As for male readers, I hope the technology theme will appeal to them.
10.’Hello Again’ ends with a chilling twist-was this intentional?
Yes. I really do want people to read the book up to and including the last page.
11.Can you give us a teaser from a current work in progress?
Sure. I’m working on a mystery that takes place in a research facility where scientists are trying to enhance animal intelligence. BoBo is a gorilla that has an IQ higher than a lot of people. Like CoCo, a real gorilla who recently died, BoBo knows sign language and communicate complex feelings and ideas. Why have there been several attempt to kill BoBo as well as some of the other animals? Why did someone kill one of BoBo’s keepers? If BoBo didn’t kill the keeper, who did? Another question to ponder is why does BoBo confide that his real name isn’t BoBo but Jesus.
12. What is ahead for you in 2019 as far as publishing and appearances?
I alternate between writing mysteries/thrillers and science fiction. I recently published Alien Blood, a science fiction novel that incorporates many of the current conspiracy theories circulating on the web. When astronauts find a crashed saucer on the moon that has been there a million years, the question comes up as to why was it there. What happens when descendants of the same aliens who flew that saucer announce they are returning to Earth?
Aye and it’s a bittersweet parting as we wave farewell to our esteemed Author Guest Stan Schatt. We are left with much food for thought and a hunger to delve into his thrilling new work, ’HELLO AGAIN’. Be sure to one click it for a roller coaster ride of thrills and mystery!
Until next time, I remain your humble servant,
Patricia Mattern, Mistress of Madness, THE WHIMSICAL HERALD
Hale Me Hearties!
As we glide in on the first waves of the mighty holiday tide, we are thrilled to bring treasures of wisdom from not one but TWO award winning Young Adult authors. Fortunately for us, they have decided to spill their secrets for writing a top notch YA novel. These renowned and savvy ladies will provide valuable advice, tips and information to guide inspiring Young Adult authors in an increasingly competitive market.
THE TEENAGE YEARS CAN BE STORMIER THAN ANY RAGING TEMPEST AT SEA!
EXPERT ADVICE FROM AWARD WINNING AUTHORS THAT IS WORTH ITS WEIGHT IN GOLD DOUBLOONS!
“To create a real world for teens in our times, you really need to know them: what they do every day, what they like, what motivates them, the environment in high schools and many other details. Home life for kids is very different from twenty or even ten years ago…
The way teens react to situations is often repeated generationally. Some step up and become heroes and some melt down and need help from peers and mentors.”
Praise: The trouble with “how to” books on creativity is that they usurp creativity. Not so with this very insightful guide for YA writing. If it doesn’t become a standard or even a classic among reference books, it will be an oversight. Janet Schrader-Post and Elizabeth Fortin-Hinds have all the marinated smarts and credentialed experience to pull this off, and they do! No dictated wisdom from on high here, no grafted creativity, THE YOUNG ADULT WRITER’S JOURNEY is accessible, motivational and a clear map that leaves plenty of room to discover for anyone wanting to explore their creative side.-Thomas Sullivan, Pulitzer-nominated author of THE PHASES OF HARRY MOON
Finally, an all-inclusive book on young adult fiction must-do, don’t do and how-to. If you want to write a young adult novel, you need to read this book first. Coauthored by an award-winning YA author and an acquisitions editor, both experts on kids and what they like to read, this encyclopedia contains all you need to start or improve a career as a YA fiction author.
From an examination of the market, genre and its sub-genres, to mechanics and the business, everything is at your fingertips. This amazing writer’s resource is written in a relaxed and interesting style, with plenty of contemporary references and examples for clear understanding and easier application.
1.What is it about the Young Adult genre that insures its popularity with both readers and movie audiences?
I think people want the simpler stories, the fast pacing and the young characters to read about. There’s something about the struggle of a teenager approaching life and so many experiences for the first time that captivates audiences. They can cheer their success and mourn their failures easier than with a more complicated adult character. Everyone can relate because everyone either is going through it right now (teens) or they went through it (adults.) For adults there’s even a hint of nostalgia. A kind of, I remember doing that, or, I’ve been there mentality.
Interestingly enough, I feel people like the complexity of the plots, the limitless possibilities and the grand scale world building of most YA stories. Like Janet said, kids don’t have preconceived boundaries and limits to possibilities that often result from the weightier responsibilities and obligations of many adults. They’re risk-takers and feel they’re immortal. They are experiencing the world and its wonders for the first time and frequently want to learn from their own mistakes rather than taking the advice of the more experienced older generation.
2. Do you recommend making outlines? What advice would you give to writers who are strictly pantsers?
I always make some kind of outline. Even if your characters make their own decisions and take you off course, it’s important to know the basic plan for your story before you write. You write a more satisfying story one readers are sure to enjoy if you follow the steps of the young adult writers journey.
I love to brainstorm the plot with a critique or writing buddy, especially because I love complicated plot twists. This is an ongoing process, since the characters like to change their minds and new obstacles are always popping up. I think that’s the pantser thing. I usually have a synopsis before I begin which outlines the main plot points—and is helpful for writing the cover blurb and tag lines. I think it’s especially important if you are writing a series, and that decision is best made, at least for me, before the first book is written. It’s a huge hassle to go back in and weave story elements that need to be foreshadowed in previous books.
3. Which YA novels, classics or contemporary, are among your personal favorites?
There wouldn’t even be such fervor in the YA market right now if there had never been Harry Potter. He will always be a favorite. When I was a girl, I was horse crazy so Walter Farley’s Black Stallion series was a favorite. Andre Norton is another YA author who wrote in the sixties. I loved her Science Fiction. For modern YA, I enjoyed Hunger Games and Divergent.
Growing up I read Nancy Drew, The Bobbsey Twins, Black Beauty, Little House on the Prairie, Little Women (had all the dolls), all the old favorites. I love International fairy tales and mythology and have collected them for years. It’s no wonder that I love the Court of Thorns and Roses series by Sarah J. Maas, and The Red Queen series by Victoria Aveyard. Urban Fantasy and Paranormal are my favorite YA genres.
4. What is your favorite YA novel that you’ve written and why?
The first book in my series the Vagrant Chronicles, Vagrant, has garnered four prestigious awards. I got the idea from Leon Uris’s depiction of the Warsaw Ghetto. The Jews in the ghetto used kids to run through the sewers for medicine and food. They were small and could hide easier inside the city and people would help them. This affected me when I read the book as a kid and it’s why I created the Mole People and the Vagrants living underground in the big cities of a dystopian future. Vagrant is an awesome book, but my favorite has to be Voodoo Child. I love the characters, especially the homeless boy whose mom left him at Wal-Mart, and who lives in the store waiting for her to come get him.
It’s the one I’m currently coauthoring with Janet, the first of a series, as it’s nearly done and will be the first one I’ve finished though I also have a spinoff to my Illuminati series that is YA. Getting books done is a huge problem for me as I spend so much of my time editing the work of others. Their deadlines always take priority.
5.Why do you think having bullies as characters is essential to YA plotlines?
Everyone has been bullied at some point in their lives. It’s an essential part of growing up. How you dealt with it and how your characters deal with it makes for an interesting conflict. Conflict of any kind spices your book. It’s also a terrible problem in modern-day schools. My fifteen-year old gets bullied and she’s been in trouble for handling it herself. My middle son was bullied in the ninth grade and ended up suspended for fighting, but he was never bullied again. Overcoming adversity creates a bond between characters and readers who had similar experiences or who are having them.
Sometimes, if you watch the news, it feels like we’re living in a culture of bullies. Everyone judges every word that’s said and bullies anyone they don’t agree with. So I think it’s important in realistic fiction, especially for kids, that the issue is addressed and not ignored. They need to see both sides of the issue, whichever side they relate to and the other side as well. Why kids bully, and what it feels like to be bullied, and ways in which it can be dealt with and the possible consequences.
6. Do you think the reading audience for Young Adult novels has changed over the past decade?
One of the awards Vagrant recently won is a Best Book of the Year pick for New Adult. New Adult is the reader group from ages 18-30. Harry Potter began the trend of adults reading YA. It’s easy to read and a great way to escape into fun worlds where the problems are kid problems, not job, money, rent, car-payment, adult problems. More and more adults are seeking the escape of a great Young Adult read. And, of course, teens are reading it too.
Simply put, it’s grown. The audience has grown and the number of really interesting YA books available has expanded as well as the market tries to supply the increased demand.
7.Why do you think so many screen adaptations of New York Times bestselling YA novels have flopped at the box office, e.g., ‘Beautiful Creatures’, ‘City of Bones’,and ‘Fallen,’ to name a few?
Because Young Adult novels are usually written in a way that’s easy to translate into a movie, and also because of their universal appeal to both young and adult viewers, I believe they make a great choice for movies. They appeal to a broader audience. Many are set in dystopian futures or fantasy landscapes which make for great escape viewing. I also think YA books are in many ways similar to comic books, built to be easily read and understood with amazing characters, and Marvel comics opened up the eyes of movie-makers to the potential in young adult material. It doesn’t hurt that the Harry Potter franchise made movie-makers billions of dollars.
I loved Beautiful Creatures. The Harry Potter series certainly didn’t bomb. Shadow Hunters (From the movie in 2013, from the book series) will conclude it’s 3rd TV series season in 2019. It didn’t bomb, the founder, Ed Decter, exited the series over "creative differences". I’ve not seen Fallen. I actually think a lot of YA books do well on the big screen.
8.Do you believe a YA novelist needs an agent or a Top Five publisher to get the word out? Is having a presence on social media essential?
There is so much material out there, it’s hard to say whether getting a Top Five publisher will even make a difference. The Top Five are now offering digital-only contracts. They know the market is changing. Social Media is important because if someone does read your book, they may want to look you up on say Facebook or Twitter and see who you really are. Your face and how you present yourself on Social Media is critical, but whether it sells books or not is doubtful. Reviews on amazon, word of mouth, conferences, contests, are all better ways to get the word of your work out to the public.
Good question. Here’s a few facts a lot of people aren’t aware of. If you have a book with the Big Five NY Publishers, in both ebook and paperback, the average book sells 3000 copies over its entire lifetime. The first year, you can expect it to sell around 250-300 copies. Only outliers, like 1% of the million books published each year will sell impressive numbers, like 100,000 copies plus. The other 99% will sell the former. If you are paying 15% of your royalties to an agent, your income just drops. Your biggest possibility for sales is to try to get into bookstores and libraries. Even independent publishers make their books available to these outlets, and if you are thinking to go solo and just publish on Amazon, your retail opportunities can drop even further. Any author who is in it to get rich or who doesn’t think their personal online interactions, book club participation, virtual book tours, book signings or other ways of getting their work in front of the masses matters is out of touch with today’s book business, and they are in that business even if they feel all they need to do is write.
9. Many of the new crop of contemporary YA novels explore sensitive and controversial topics like drug addiction, self-harm, and gender identity issues. What’s your take on why this is happening?
The modern world of teens is dangerous and crazy. With school shootings being addressed in every high school, teen suicide rates high, gay kids, while finding a better acceptance, are still suffering discrimination and bullying, single-parent kids, and kids of divorce and kids of drug addicts, navigating the world of high school is hard. There are many sensitive topics, but the controversy and the conflict make great stories as do the trials, successes and failures of the teens in those stories.
With the way social media is delivered today, and the fact that almost all kids have some kind of access to it, there’s nothing they don’t see or hear. They are living in the real world, and like it or not these issues exist in their lives. They like to read about kids having some of the same problems they or someone they know is dealing with and see how the character deals with it. They like to see someone with real problems overcome obstacles, and though they might not always win, they always come away with hope.
10. Tell us about a character in your own novels that you fell in love with.
I loved Oscar in Voodoo Child. He was overweight and carried a hamster named Jerry around in his backpack. Kids bullied him for numerous reasons. His mother was an alcoholic. She dropped him off at Wal-Mart and said he should wait for her. So he moved into Wal-Mart and with the help of his friends kept going to school. He was sure she would come back for him. She always did. He was so complex and so simple at the same time. Brave and scared all in one. He never gave up on his mom. You had to love him.
I love Gran. She’s a foul-mouthed, blunt, straight-talking old woman in Annabelle and the Jackal, the YA fantasy I’m currently writing with Janet. She’s unexpected comic relief and also a stalwart part of team Jackal.
11. Is it difficult as a mature writer to relate to the angst of the teenage years?
My teen years were very tough so that would be a no. It’s easy to remember what it was like and easy to relate. I also covered high school sports and events as a reporter. I saw so much to admire in teens. Their struggles to succeed, often in the face of great adversity was touching. Every child who successfully navigates high school and makes it into college deserves an award. Teens are funny, they’re tougher than they think. They can be mean and they can be generous. I think if you write about them, you have to care about them.
I suffered a lot of loss and hardship as a kid. I wrote the book on angst. It might be why I worked with troubled and disadvantaged kids for most of my career. There is very little I didn’t see or hear about, first-hand.
12. Is Young Adult fiction the wave of the future?
I certainly hope so. I can’t predict. Books are teetering on the brink of extinction. Fewer and fewer people read. But the ones who do are avid readers and many of them are reaching for YA novels.
They’ve been around for as long as there have been kids and I don’t see them going away any time soon. Their popularity just seems to keep growing.
13.What YA projects and/or appearances loom in the future for you both?
Elizabeth and I are writing a book together right now with the working title Annabelle and the Jackal. It’s YA/New Adult fantasy and a play on the old fairy tale Beauty and the Beast. I have a book coming out November 30. The second book in the Vagrant Chronicles, Mutant, written with my son Gabe Thompson, that follows Logan and Shayna into space and then back to Earth to rescue the vagrants left on Earth being pushed out of existence by a new and terrible character called Drayvon, a mutant. I have another book written with my son Gabe Thompson, Valley of the Golden Mummies, not YA but adventure fiction, coming out in December.
As Janet said, we’re almost down with book one in our series. I also have a YA spinoff I mentioned earlier.
Alas, it would appear that our esteemed guests have a bounty of grand advice for the aspiring YA author! We thank them for joining us at the Captain’s table and sharing both their time and wisdom .Be sure to grab your copy of this epic guide to launch your own Young Adult novel now!
I remain your humble servant,
Patricia Mattern, Mistress OF Madness, THE WHIMSICAL HERALD
Ahoy me hearties and shiver me timbers!
Once again it is the time of year when THE WHIMSICAL HERALD and crew are transformed into a phantom clipper ship, sailing over the literary seas in celebration of the macabre:
On this night of nights peer through a spyglass
To see a ghost ship sailing under the moon
Its rigging spider web festooned
…Captivated, you watch it pass
Hearing the strains of the dance of the doomed
And the shrieks and cries of a skeleton crew
Damned to sail, never reaching a port
And hoisting up mugs of ale to you!
Among our special guests will be sea witches, Blackbeard the pirate, Black Bart and Calico Jack, a Siren chorus and Conjurors of spooky tales that are sure to shiver your timbers! Check out our interview with TELL-TALE’S Vincent Price Award winner author Feind Gottes, who won the award with his frightening tale, ’VACUITY’.
Dare to journey through the bloody mind of a madwoman, or escape, if you can, from an underground military compound, where secret experiments may land you on the menu.
Perhaps you’d like to see what the witches in Salem are doing this Halloween, or what really happened to Hansel and Gretel. Scared of clowns, vampires or puppets? Sit down and curl up with this unique collection of horror stories. You’ll sleep with the lights on for weeks.
Vacuity by Feind Gottes & Other Tales
So how does it feel to be the winner appearing in TT's 3rd annual horror anthology, landing you the coveted cover position?
Honestly, it feels great! I know everyone says this but I really didn’t expect to win or even be a finalist. A week to two prior to submitting I had received a somewhat harsh critique telling me that basically my writing wasn’t mainstream enough to ever see any real success so I wasn’t feeling the greatest. Shock is the only way to describe how I felt when I was announced as the winner! It was more than a win, for me, it was validation that what I was doing was worth doing.
How has your environment & upbringing colored your writing?
I didn’t begin writing until I was nearly 40 so I have forty years of life coloring my writing. I’ve read a ton of books in a variety of genres. I’ve seen more horror movies than you can shake a stick at, from the big names to micro-budget B movies seen by no more than a handful of people. I’ve been up and I’ve been down but I’d say the open-mindedness my parents unwittingly instilled in me has colored my writing the most. I don’t think they necessarily sat down and thought about it yet from early on they encouraged me to make up my own mind on everything from religion to politics. People tend to cling to beliefs even in the face of new information, I try not to do that.
Tell us about your writing process and the way you brainstorm story ideas.
My writing process is really very simple – First, I always start with a simple idea perhaps a sentence worth or sometimes just a few words. Then I do the hard thing, nothing at all. If my mind returns to a particular idea over and over then I have to write it. At that point I sit down with a notebook (yes, real paper and a real pen!) expanding the idea with a few plot points which I don’t always stick to and coming up with names for the main characters. Then I slide on my headphones, open a new Word document, crank the volume and start to write.
As for brainstorming, occasionally I’ll sit with a notebook and pen and jot down as many ideas that come to mind. Depending on how lost I’m able to get in thought, that can be just a few ideas or dozens. The process is always the same though – headphones, heavy metal cranked up with my trusty pen and paper.
If you had a superpower, what would it be?
It would definitely be fun to have the power of hypnosis, just snap my fingers and people would do whatever I tell them. However, if I could have a superpower right now, at this moment, it would be for super fast editing skills. I don’t dislike editing my own work but I am too dang slow! Currently I’m mired in the quicksand of editing my first novel slowly sinking to my doom!
What is your biggest fear?
Being buried alive. I have written some terrible ways for someone to die but nothing gives me the heebie jeebies like the thought of being sealed in a coffin underground. Yikes!
How did you break into publishing?
When I began writing I did it simply to see if I could with no real aspirations or delusions of grandeur. Once I completed my first story, I immediately started another. It took me some time to even let a friend read what I had done but they liked it. Only then did the thought of maybe being published some day strike me. I knew absolutely nothing about how to even go about it so I just kept writing. My original idea was to write a collection of short stories so once I had that done I began to blindly send out the manuscript getting rejected left and right if I got any response at all. Then I happened upon Dark Chapter Press completely at random. Thankfully, Jack Rollins was kind enough to explain to me that no one was likely to publish a collection from an unknown author but as it happened he was putting together an anthology and thought one of my stories would fit. That story was Hell Awaits which closes out the anthology Kill For A Copy – my first published tale and it was used to send the reader off with a bang! Since then I’ve tried to grow my community of horror writers and fans allowing me to network which is eventually how I found out about the contest from Tell-Tale Publishing!
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
I remember it well! It’s now called Essence Asunder (not the original title I had for it) and was just published in June as a novella. It was my first solo published work!
What motivated you to become an indie author?
My motivation was simple. I had read several books in a row that disappointed me, usually in the way they ended. I kept reading endings that were boring, stupid, predictable or relied on some big “deus ex machina” for some big, shocking twist. It was making me angry so I bitched and complained until I finally told myself that I needed to either put up or shut up. I sat down and began writing. I haven’t stopped since.
If you could ask one author one question, what would the question be and who would you ask?
Wanna grab a beer and chat about horror? – I’d ask my hero, Clive Barker.
What are your current projects?
As I stated earlier, right now I am deep into the edits on my first novel called Piece It All Back Together which is a horror/mystery about a serial killing Private Investigator hired to find a missing person. The case will rock her world! I’m hoping for an early 2019 release on that but the story itself has been complete since about March (2018). I am so flipping excited to get started on what I plan to do next! My next project is planned as a novel trilogy based around the biblical Cain and Abel mythos. The first novel is plotted out in detail which is something I have never done before and the second and third are partially plotted out. I also have over a dozen pages of notes with full character details, again, something I’ve never down before. I have several short stories slated to appear in some very cool anthologies over the next couple months also. Yes, I am always busy working on something and plan to do so until I can’t any more.
Feind Gottes [Fee-nd Gotz] is a horror writing, metal loving award winning horror author. Feind currently resides near Omaha, NE with his girlfriend and one crazy cat.
In 2017 Feind placed in the Top Ten in The Next Great Horror Writer Contest, then later won the 2017 Vincent Price Scariest Writer Award from Tell-Tale Publishing with his story Vacuity, now published in Vacuity and Other Tales.
2018 marked a milestone for Feind with the publication of his first solo published work with the unleashing of his novella, Essence Asunder.
Lastly, Feind won the Dark Chapter Press Prize 2016 novel writing contest with the first draft of his first novel, Piece It All Back Together, which is currently being edited for an early 2019 release.
Feind on the Web
Amazon Feind Gottes
Alas it is time to say farewell to our guests. Many of the sea ghosts will be returning to Davy Jones locker, and our sister ship, the Flying Dutchman will pass by and fire off a tribute to commemorate the occasion.
The night is young, and with a fair wind at our back we will lift our cups, sing sea chanteys and continue toward the horizon until the dawn.
I am, as always, your humble servant,
Patricia Mattern, Mistress of Madness, THE WHIMSICAL HERALD
Yo Ho Ho Me Hearties!
It was smooth sailing with the wind at our backs as The Whimsical Herald sailed into port to pick up our latest literary guest, the popular and prolific YA author Ellen Fritz. Ellen is the author of several well beloved books that continue to engage and amaze her readers, young and old.
A former teacher and counselor,author Ellen Fritz will be joining us at the Captain’s table in the seat of honor, swilling down Grog, and will regale us with an insider look at her latest release, ‘HUNTED’, BOOK 4 of her “In the Night” Vampire Series!
A COMMON ENEMY, A BRAVE AND DETERMINED HUMAN GIRL WHO BARELY ESCAPED A VAMPIRE’S BLOODLUST…
AND AN UNLIKELY, IRRESISTIBLE AND FORBIDDEN ATTRACTION
The Vampire at Cara’s feet was dazed, but there was only one way to kill him. At least only one Cara knew of. She took a homemade wooden stake out of her backpack, positioned it over his heart and hit the end as hard as she could with the wide head of the mallet she’d picked up at the hardware. It took three blows before the stake slid between his ribs into the Vampire’s heart. Cara sat back on her heals and watched as his skin took on a gray pallor and his eyes lost their glow and turned a chalky white. She grinned slightly in satisfaction, knowing she’d saved future would-be victims and avenged those already dead. Cara dragged his body to the back of the alley and pushed him against the wall. She pulled a canvas drop cloth out of her backpack and covered him completely to shield him from even unlikely visitors to the scene. Right before dawn, she’d come back to uncover him and let the sun disintegrate him. That would be the end of yet another Vampire stalking the streets.
Rule the Night has been destroyed. They find a place to hide at Gina’s sanctuary, La Sang Rouge, in Indianapolis. An ancient Vampire club is found and must be investigated, its members and leaders eliminated before they themselves are destroyed. Luke discovers a human, Cara, who escaped from a Vampire in bloodthirst. She is taking her revenge, seeking and killing the same evil Vampires that Luke and his friends seek. The two are drawn to each other and find it impossible to resist their growing attraction, despite their differences and Cara’s hatred for all Vampires.
They get help from an unexpected source, a secretive group of shifters even Vampires thought were a myth. Without help from these creatures, they may all be destroyed.
1.Congratulations on Book 4 of your ‘In the Night’ series Author Ellen Fritz! This seems like the darkest installment of the urban fantasy series to date-would you agree?
Yes, it is a little darker. The characters are out in the world a little more, no longer as protected as they were in Rule the Night.
2. Tell us about the undeniable attraction between Luke and Cara in ‘Hunted’.
Luke and Cara are “love at first sight” characters. They can’t deny their attraction to each other even though Cara, especially, fights against it.
3. What is it about Cara that makes her so relatable to readers of all ages?
Cara is relatable because she is an innocent victim who decides to fight back. With no family or friends for support, she does what she has to and protects herself and other women. She’s determined to never let anyone take advantage of her again, but finally learns to trust Luke.
4. In book 4 of the ‘In the Night’ urban fantasy series the characters are all grown up and you switch from YA urban fantasy to New Adult. What, if any, difficulties did you encounter in this transition?
Characters have to grow and change or they stagnate. After what they’ve faced in the first three books, I couldn’t see them as the teenagers. I think it would have been harder to write if I’d tried to keep them younger.
5. With readers waiting for the next book, what kind of feedback are you getting on the first three novels?
Everyone that contacts me about the In the Night series loves the story and characters. Some have even said it’s better than Twilight!
6.’In the Night’ is not your only series. Which do you enjoy writing more, urban fantasy or Scifi fantasy?
That’s a hard question because I love them both. Generally, though, I think Science Fiction is harder.
7. What authors do you read, or do you have time to read now that you are writing?
The last few years, my favorite has been Diana Gabaldon and her Outlander series. Her plot and characters are unbelievably real and complex. Besides, it helps to get my mind away from the vampires and aliens and plunge into her historical fiction.
8. What is the most encouraging response you have gotten from a reader or readers of your work?
At a really big bookfair in Bowling Green Kentucky, a girl ran up to me and said, “You’re here! I read you would be and couldn’t wait to meet you!” She had read Abandoned and wanted to get all three books of the series and have me sign them. We hugged and she stayed to talk for quite a while. It was fun to meet someone that loves my books.
9. There are many elements of mystery and intrigue in your stories-can a character ever have too many secrets?
My muses are some of the old classical writers that I studied in college. They wrote about people who were caught in a situation and that’s what I like to do.
10. Who are your writing muses?
My muses are some of the old classical writers that I studied in college. They wrote about people who were caught in a situation and that’s what I like to do.
11. When you aren’t writing what are you doing to unwind?
I have to admit I’m a TV fanatic and love it when stories like Midnight, Texas by Charlaine Harris are produced. They were great books and it was a great show. I will admit, though, that I often read while watching TV.
12.What genres have you not explored yet in your novels that are beckoning to you?
That’s an easy one. Time travel. I have a couple ideas percolating through my head, but haven’t pulled them all together, yet.
13. Luke is a well drawn and unique character. How does he compare to Parker in your previous novels in this series.
Although both vampires, Parker is more serious in some ways than Luke. Luke likes to laugh and flirt with the human customers even though he used that to fool Charles into thinking they were on the same side. Parker is more like Byron, a serious businessman.
14. What modern day actors and actresses would you cast in the main roles in ‘HUNTED’?This is always the hardest question because there are so many good young actors around. I personally love Jennifer Lawrence and Eddie Redmayne, but I think they might both be too old for my main characters. Although wouldn’t Jennifer Lawrence be amazing as Constance?
15. What projects are you working on for 2018-2019? Can you give us a teaser quote from a work in progress?
I’m presently working on three different books -- a time travel, a dystopia, and a second Bigfoot. I can’t settle on the one that I can’t resist and have to finish, so don’t want to give you a quote, yet. Right now, I suspect that it will be the dystopia that wins the battle.
Aye it is with many misgivings that we wave farewell to our distinguished guest Ellen Fritz. She is such a vibrant and sparkling creative soul and we will miss her company, but she has many more bestselling books to pen and we must sail on across the literary seas to our next port while the weather is temperate.
Thank you for joining us, well met as always, and fair winds and following seas to you all!
I remain your humble servant,
Patricia Mattern, Mistress of Madness on THE WHIMSICAL HERALD
Welcome aboard me hearties!
Avast ye and listen well! Today we are on course to shanghai Renowned author Darren Simon and capture him as our guest at the Captain’s table on The Whimsical Herald. He writes middle grade and YA novels about seafaring pirates, danger and adventure, combining both science fiction and fantasy for a tantalizing brew sure to delight our literary palates!
(Not to mention, Pirate tales are our favorites!)
DEADLY WATERS, A YA PIRATE ADVENTURE by Darren Simon,
A Pirate’s Calling Book 2
EVEN LOSING BOTH HIS HANDS IN A DANGEROUS CONFRONTATION WITH DASTARDLY MASTER OF THE DARK ARTS JEM SLAYER WON’T STOP 13 YEAR OLD SAM EVERLY FROM SEEKING REVENGE!
The ship’s quartermaster, dressed like a British naval officer in a long blue waistcoat with two flintlock pistols tucked into his belt, signaled commands like a third-base coach waving a runner to home plate. Ranger’s crew scurried over the deck, grasping lines—lowering some of the yards—anything to keep the ship from tearing apart against the violent tug of nature.
Gazing at them all, Sam cursed himself. He yearned to help. But without real hands what could he do? He glowered at his wooden appendages. Damn Slayer for taking my hands. He lifted his wooden hands, then slammed them against the gunwale. Damn me for losing the fight. For now, all he could do is maintain his mind link with the crew, the only way they could all see their way out of this magical realm.
The captain crossed the deck with confident steps despite the ship’s pitch. His massive hands wrapped around Sam’s noodle-like arms. “Why do you strike my ship, lad? Is that fear or rage I see in your eyes? Do not fear. I’ll get you to Slayer. We’ll be having our revenge. ” Sam tried to speak but his words were not much more than a whisper drowned out by crying wind. “Sucks…I can’t help…your crew.”
Hornigold raised a bushy eyebrow. “I not be knowing this word—sucks—unless you refer to a fine drink, a rumsuck, but I think not. Take heart lad. The only reason we be able to see our way back home be because of you. That makes you the most important man on this here boat. You should get below deck where it be safer”
Thirteen-year-old Sam Every has traveled back in time to the Golden Age of Piracy to face Captain Jem Slayer, master of the dark arts. Deceived into handing Slayer the ultimate weapon, the Sword of Zel-Kar, Sam has lost his hands, sliced off in his first clash with the evil pirate.
But all is not lost.
Sam’s friends have found their way back in time, and with the help of the pirate hunter, Benjamin Hornigold, have rescued him from the island where Slayer marooned him. Now, aided by a new band of rogues and a mystery friend, Sam must rise above his injuries and find the strength to again face Slayer before it is too late—before the future is forever shattered.
1.How did your background as a Journalist benefit you in writing middle grade and Young Adult novels?
My work as newspaper journalist had two major effects on me that helped me become a middle grade and young adult writer. First, it taught me the craft of writing. I firmly believe that everyone can write, but it is a skill that must be learned. Journalism fine-tuned my skills, forcing me to learn to use words in ways that could connect with readers. I especially liked writing human interest stories where part of the story involved using words to create word pictures for readers. That is what I try to do as an author—build a connection with readers and allow them to see in their minds what I have written on the page. Second, and perhaps even more importantly, journalism showed me how much I love writing, and that love expanded into writing novels. That I chose to write middle grade and young adult novels is simply a result of my love for the books I read as a youth—which ultimately led me to a career in writing.
2.Was there anything close to the Deadly Waters series available to read when you were a kid?
While Deadly Waters is a pirate novel, more than that it is an action-adventure story and a story of good versus evil. So there were certainly pirate books and books about the sea, like Treasure Island. But to be honest, I was inspired by the Lord of the Rings series and Choose Your own Adventure books. I loved high fantasy and science fiction novels.
3.Which of the many well drawn colorful characters in Book 2 did you have the most fun with?
Without giving too much away, there is a historical pirate in the novel whom I really enjoyed writing about—especially reimagining that pirate based on the fantasy elements in my novel. It actually took quite a bit of research to understand that pirate and to place that pirate into my book in a way that made sense and fit into the right timeframe of that rogue’s life. Again, I’m trying to hold back information because I don’t want to give away some of the mystery of the novel. But, in the first novel, The Dangerous Legacy, and in this one, Deadly Waters, I have incorporated real life pirates and pirate hunters. In every case, it has been fun to write about those pirates.
4.In your opinion is world building in a novel that blends both science fiction and fantasy trickier to pull off than writing in either genre individually?
Honestly, I’m not sure because every book I’ve written has combined both elements. However, I have written a short-story that is pure science fiction—not yet published—and it was pretty difficult to do. And I have another pure science fiction in mind, and I am looking forward to tackling that book and the challenges that will come in writing it.
5.What were you top 5 favorite reads as a youngster?
My love for reading started with comic books, both Marvel and DC. They led me into the Choose Your Own Adventure series, specifically the Dungeons & Dragons Choose Your Own Adventure stories. From there, I started reading Star Trek novels. Ultimately, I fell in love with JRR Tolkien’s The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings series. I also loved Tolkien’s Silmarillion.
6.Do you love the ocean as much as your main character Sam Everly?
Yes! In fact, it was my love of the ocean that led me to write the first pirate novel. I now live in the desert Southwest of California, and one summer I just didn’t have much chance to get to the beach. Missing the ocean, I just started writing about an experience as a youth in my hometown of Torrance, Ca. at the Redondo Beach pier. I had no idea writing about a day at the pier would turn into a pirate novel, but it did. But, yes, the ocean is where I find the most peace.
7. What feedback from young readers do you get concerning Sam’s dismemberment? What prompted you to include it in the storyline?
I haven’t really gotten any feedback from young readers as most of my school and library visits are a way of introducing the books, so at that point they don’t know what happens to Sam. I chose the dismemberment of his hands because I felt every true hero must face not only hardship, but face loss and overcome it. Since so much of Sam’s powers have to do with his hands (which control his ability to wield his fire blade), I felt losing that power would be a true test of his ability to become a real hero. Plus, it was a fun scene to write, which goes back to trying to create a great visual for the reader. I wanted them to experience that loss not only with Sam, but as if they were Sam. What would they feel? How would they react? Hopefully, it drew them closer to the storyline.
8.Do your own kids read your novels? What advice would you give youngsters who want to follow in your footsteps?
No, my sons do not read my writing. The thing is they already know so much about the stories because I consult with them, but also, I guess it would be a little weird to read Dad’s book. As far as becoming a writer, there is so much to say, but for now I’ll just simply say if you have any desire at all to write, start by actually writing—whether it be a journal or diary, short fiction, poetry… anything. The more you write, the more you learn about yourself as a writer and discovering that you do, in fact, love writing opens the door to so many different career paths that allow you to be a writer. I would also say—and every writer says this—don’t be your own worst critic. Go easy on yourself. You certainly do have to learn the craft of writing, and that takes time and practice, but try to enjoy the journey of just creating something. If you are too hard on yourself, it becomes way too difficult to move forward. In the end, writing should be fun.
9. What in your opinion are protagonist Sam Every’s greatest strengths and weaknesses?
His greatest strength is his determination to do what is right—to stand up against impossible odds, and rise above his own pain, to protect those he cares about and those he loves. For such a young man, he also shows great courage in that he is constantly in danger. He is less concerned about losing his own life and more focused on stopping the evil Jem Slayer to protect the future. His greatest weakness also revolves around his age. Though he is brave for a young teen, he also has no real idea what he is doing and must depend on the knowledge of others to survive and even have a chance to defeat Slayer.
10. Do you include places you have visited or lived in your novels?
I wish I could say yes, but the truth is—no. I would love to visit the Caribbean and see the places I am writing about, and in this new book, a part of it—an important part—takes place in the London of the early 1700s. I would love to someday visit England, which is clearly a very beautiful place. However, the London I am describing is something very different—dark, foreboding… a cesspool of violence and struggle while still a center for wealth, shipping and commerce. Having never been to England, it took a great deal of research from studying historical books to contacting London historical societies to gather as much information as I could. I really enjoy doing that kind of research, and I think it helps add some authenticity to my descriptions.
11.What can readers look forward to in the future? Can you share a teaser from a work in progress?
Well, I have a new manuscript I’ve written that again mixes fantasy and science fiction, but it is more of an urban fantasy. I can’t say too much more about that right now, but I hope to see the manuscript become a book that young adult readers will enjoy. Beyond that, I am working on a follow-up to Deadly Waters and developing a science fiction story about pen pals across the universe.
Alas, the sun is sinking into the sea, and it is time to bid farewell to our intriguing Author guest. We look forward to many other exciting and magical tales of bravery, torture and perseverance on the high seas from Author Darren Simon.
Until then, fortune be with you and yours as we heave ahead over the mysterious and beckoning literary seas in search of fair breezes and the finest in entertaining reads.
All my duty to you,
Patricia Mattern, Mistress of Madness, The Whimsical Herald
OH HOW THE WINDS DOTH BLOW!
Hale and well met me hearties! The seasons are changing as THE WHIMSICAL HERALD sets a course into the uncharted waters of paranormal YA and Voodoo magic-the infamous city of New Orleans is our destination! We will be seated at the captain’s table with our guest of honor the original and inspiring Author Janet Post to discuss her latest release from Tell-Tale Publishing, ”VOODOO CHILD’, written with her award-winning author son, Gabe Thompson. ’Voodoo Child’ is a coming of age novel that tells the tale of three misfit friends, Jean, Oscar aka “Walmart”, and Bella, that band together and discover that they have more in common than they would have ever believed!
SECRETS NEVER KEEP, AND MAGIC CAN GET YOU KILLED!
Jean felt the possibility of things going wrong was huge. He had no idea what he was doing and from recent experiences, magic was a crap shoot. “Ha-ha,” he said with no humor. “You’re just a bundle of laughs.” He stiffened his spine, grabbed everything he needed, marched into the bathroom, ripped off his clothes and left the amulet dangling around his neck. He stared at the water. Misgivings circled through his gut giving him a stomach ache. He finally sighed and gingerly stepped in.
After a little hopping around, he sank into the water. The heat felt nourishing. As he poured all the ingredients into the tub, the scent of the herbs swirled around him. He inhaled deeply as they infused him with inner happiness.
With the smell of the herbs surrounding him in clouds of steam, Jean proceeded to the next step. He lit the white candle, held it in his right hand and chanted the incantation. “Hold me, shield me and defend me, so mote it be.”
He repeated the chant in his head. Hold me, shield me, and defend me. Then Jean dunked the candle into the tub and a blue flame spread across the top of the water. The fire was frightening, but it didn’t burn. The stone in the amulet glowed bright blue and warmed his skin. When he dunked his head through the flames and under the water, the fire went out. “Wow that was scary.” After drying off, he squeezed back into the borrowed clothes and left the bathroom running his fingers through his wiry hair. The water made the curls tighten so he worked at loosening them.
Bella looked like she’d been waiting impatiently for him to get done. “Well, did it work?”
“I’m not too sure. The bathwater caught on fire like the diary said it would, so I think I should be safe from being attacked by animals. But, it was just some herbs and a spell. How could that work?”
Bella looked relieved. “It sounds like it worked.” She pointed to his amulet. “Look, the stone is blue. Wasn’t it like gray a few minutes ago?”
Explore the mysteries of New Orleans’ French Quarter during Mardi Gras, through the eyes of three seventh graders as they search to reconnect with their parents and avoid a nasty set of bad guys. Left alone and homeless in Haiti, Jean Benoit is sent state-side by an orphanage to live with foster parents and attend Catholic school as a social outcast.
His new-found friend Oscar, known as Walmart, is mocked by fellow students as an overweight under-achiever whose mother abandoned him in Wal-Mart. The boys are befriended by Bella, an American Indian, who lives with her adoptive parents. Her birth parents are dead, but they left her a legacy she soon discovers as she begins to shape-shift. Jean receives a gift from his dead father, too. It’s a magic amulet pursued by a voodoo witch named Odette, her brother Bocor, and her son, Natas. Jean has no idea how to use it. He must learn on the fly, on a wild race around New Orleans, on a train to Little Haiti, Miami and back, to the cemetery in the swamp, as the three friends try to find his mother before the black magic users get to her, or them.Explore the mysteries of New Orleans’ French Quarter during Mardi Gras, through the eyes of three seventh graders as they search to reconnect with their parents and avoid a nasty set of bad guys. Left alone and homeless in Haiti, Jean Benoit is sent state-side by an orphanage to live with foster parents and attend Catholic school as a social outcast.
His new-found friend Oscar, known as Walmart, is mocked by fellow students as an overweight under-achiever whose mother abandoned him in Wal-Mart. The boys are befriended by Bella, an American Indian, who lives with her adoptive parents. Her birth parents are dead, but they left her a legacy she soon discovers as she begins to shape-shift. Jean receives a gift from his dead father, too. It’s a magic amulet pursued by a voodoo witch named Odette, her brother Bocor, and her son, Natas. Jean has no idea how to use it. He must learn on the fly, on a wild race around New Orleans, on a train to Little Haiti, Miami and back, to the cemetery in the swamp, as the three friends try to find his mother before the black magic users get to her, or them.
award-winning author interview!
1.This urban fantasy read is laced with lots of humor throughout-are you and your cowriter funny people?
My son and coauthor, Gabe, has a wicked sense of humor we share, but middle school kids are just naturally funny. They might not think so, but hormones, growth spurts, and the ups and downs of life provide endless possibilities for humor.
2.What is your target audience for this entertaining novel?
It’s a middle grade book, middle school age kids and up, because I think anyone could enjoy it.
3.New Orleans was a fascinating setting for this tale. Have you ever visited or lived there and how did you decide on it for ‘Voodoo Child’?
I love to visit New Orleans. My co-author and I took several trips there together to get background and to enjoy the Quarter.
4.Your main characters are from diverse ethnic and cultural backgrounds. Was this intentional?
I think kids come in all shapes and colors and so should your characters. Ethnicity, cultures, and backgrounds make for an interesting blend and add flavor to your writing.
5. More than one main character has abandonment issues. How does this shared experience in your opinion shape their behavior and choices during the course of the story?
My chosen theme in Voodoo Child was abandonment, especially the loss of a mother. It’s amazing to see how different children deal with it, and also how kids survive and succeed no matter what.
6.How would you sum up the underlying theme of this novel?
Kids need their moms and their families. They know it and will search for a place to belong and a family.
7. In many ways this is a dark story with multiple villains. Which are your favorites?
I like the bumbling fool apprentice voodoo priest, Natas. He was goofy and fun to write.
8.Did you draw from any of your own childhood memories or experiences when creating these well drawn characters?
I had six kids. I worked with children when I was a reporter. I know them. It’s important to know kids if you’re going to write about them. I came from a military family. We weren’t close. Maybe I’ve always wanted a close family and maybe that’s why I made such a big one. You never know.
9.Tell us about cowriting with your children Gabe and Melanie, pros and cons.
I like writing with a partner whether Gabe or Mel. When you have a partner, you never get writer’s block. They always had ideas. Mel met interesting people working in big restaurants and as a bar tender. Gabe is just a very creative person and teaches school. He knows teenagers. But they both have careers and families so sometimes, they were busy when I needed help. I did most of the writing, but I have the time to do it. Both were great beta readers as well, so when editing, I always had their input.
10.Will there be a sequel to “Voodoo Child’?
We never thought about it so I don’t know.
11.What projects are you currently working on that fans can look forward to in the future?
I just finished a Young Adult Science Fiction called Starhaven. It contains a menagerie of animals, aliens, strange planets and a terrific heroine with a secret embedded in a tattoo on her neck. Tell-Tale Publishing also has the next two books in the series Vagrant Chronicles; Mutant and Descendent. I haven’t thought too much about the next one after that, but rest assured, there will be one.
We bid a fond farewell to our amazing author guest Janet Post and look forward to her next exciting novel!
THE WHISICAL HERALD is casting off! Be sure to come aboard again where the rum is top notch, the winds are fair and the journey into astounding and intriguing literary seas always brings new adventure!
I remain your humble servant,
Patricia Mattern, Mistress of THE WHIMSICAL HERALD
Well blow me down, me hearties!
Aye and well met! It’s your Mistress of Madness on the Whimsical Herald! All hand hoy for our most intriguing and informative author interview to date. Our fascinating guest is sought after cyber security expert Emilio Iasiello, and he will be climbing Jacob’s ladder to join our company and regale us with his latest release, ’THE WEB PAIGE CHRONICLES’. This renowned guru of Cyberspace has been instrumental in protecting companies, institutions and individuals from Cyber Pirates for decades. He brings his insider knowledge to the younger set in his original, humorous, thought provoking and immensely entertaining new release!
“A STRANGE NICKNAME, A THIRST FOR TECHNOLOGY, AND A WILL TO PAY HER GIFTS FORWARD BY HELPING OTHERS WILL PROPEL THIS YOUNG WILLY INTO A LEARNING CURVE SHE COULD NEVER HAVE IMAGINED!”
WILHELMINA EVANGELINE BEATRIZ PAIGE, KNOWN AS ‘WEB’ has been fascinated with computers from an early age. Not only is she tech proficient, but she has become increasingly aware that there is danger lurking in the cyber universe, and that she and her friends are particularly vulnerable. This coming of age story is packed with valuable insights and information for readers in middle grade on up as Web helps them troubleshoot their problems.
Confused, Mr. Ransom looks at my father who smiles and laughs.
“Clients? Is that what I am?”
“Cyber Oracle. At your service,” I say, handing him a business card.
“Well how about that,” Mr. Ransom says.
“Crazy isn’t it? My daughter’s changing the world, one internet user at a time.”
PRAISE FOR THE WEB PAIGE CHRONICLES: "Web Paige Chronicles offers a refreshing and empowering role model for young adults. By eschewing this iGeneration’s stereotypical malaise in favor of positive curiosity with technology, Iasiello folds practical cybersecurity guidance into a relatable story." -Scott Schober, author of Hacked Again
Emilio Iasiello is a cyber-security expert who has written a modern and realistic coming-of-age book that either boys or girls will enjoy. It helps them learn to deal with such modern problems as cyber bullying, hacking, sexting, online predators and more. Though the main characters are junior high aged, older readers will enjoy this quick read, and learn a great deal about safely negotiating modern technology. Highly recommended for schools and parents to share with their tweens and teens--or their cyber-leery friends.
Wilhelmina Evangeline Beatriz Paige is better known as “Web” to her friends because of her seemingly endless knowledge of computers. Always eager to lend a hand, she takes pride in helping the “technically-challenged” in her neighborhood as part of her “pay-it-forward” philosophy. But when her closest friends become the targets of cyber bullying and online predators, Web realizes that safely navigating the Internet is more than just using strong passwords and antivirus protection. By helping those who can’t help themselves, Web embarks on a journey through which she learns things from not only her friends, but also strangers, adults, and most importantly, herself.
1. Why did you decide to target a Midgrade audience for this informative and entertaining read?
I’ve been wanting to write a kid’s book since my daughter was born (she was my first child). The challenge has always been to decide what I wanted to write about. By the time I figured that out, she was already three years old. So my goal was to get a book published in time for her to be able to read it.
For the last twenty years, my two passions have been writing and cyber security. Watching the news about online predators and cyber bullying and the challenges kids are faced with technology, I knew I had found the perfect fusion of my two passions. Kids, especially at the midgrade level, are becoming increasingly more capable with technology than some of their parents. Once that was decided, it was all about creating a main character who was accessible and familiar.
2. Your charming character Willy, or “Web” has many admirable character qualities-which ones are the most important in your opinion?
I find empathy to be an extremely important attribute and is something that I try to instill in my children. It’s a powerful connector because emotions are shared by everyone at all ages. I also find Web’s curiosity to be completely engaging. Following your intellectual curiosity develops creativity, exposes a person to new ideas, facilitates open discourse about topics, and improves self-awareness. Finally, the fact that she’s family-oriented and loyal to her friends are important traits to me.
3. Cyber bullying and online predators are a dark element in the Web universe. What can concerned parents and other adults do to keep kids protected?
A few years ago, a former colleague of mine showed me a site where middle school and high school kids in her school district congregated and used the online forum to spread rumor, gossip, and say unkind things to one another. I was appalled by this. Factor in the numerous “unknowns” of the Internet and the people that prowl there, and I knew that safety education had to start on the family level. The book details precautions that all kids and adults should follow based on incidents that actually happen in real life. Some of these precautions include choosing gender-neutral screen names, never revealing personal information to anyone online, don’t post photos whose locations can be easily identified, and never ever agree to meet someone you met online.
4. What did you teach your own children about surfing the Web?
I am now just starting that process. But first and foremost is communicating to my children about what the Internet is, how it works, highlighting its advantages and threats. It’s very important to help them develop a strong situational awareness and understanding of the online environment. Coupled with this is treating the technology with respect. Due to the complicated nature of the Internet, teaching children about acting responsibly online is about creating educational and security-related building blocks to enable them to be more confident when they surf the web.
5. You are a cyber security expert, inventor, and CEO of a top notch security firm. If you could sum up your personal mission in one sentence, what would it be?
Let me first say that I’m not the CEO but work for as a senior intelligence analyst for a private computer security company, although I have independently consulted on the side. I’m still working my way up the corporate ladder. My personal mission statement can best be summed up as: “To promote responsible online behavior with today’s youth through education, encouragement, and guidance.”
6. How does it feel to get hacked?
You feel violated and helpless. A complete stranger has just invaded your personal space and looked through and/or taken the most personal and sensitive information that you have. Worse, in most of these cases, as a victim, there is little you can do about it. And now you have to invest considerable time, effort, and money reaching out to credit bureaus, financial institutions, social media, friends, family, to let them know what happened and to begin remediation efforts. Every day in the news, there is a new story about an organization being breached exposing millions of users’ data to hostile actors. In these instances where the individual has no culpability in hack, free credit monitoring for a year is poor consolation for such a breach of trust.
7. Willy, aka ‘Web’ stresses precautions and personal awareness for her computer using friends. Why aren’t companies and sites taking more responsibility on themselves to protect users in your opinion?
It’s happening but not nearly at the level it needs to be and not from a standpoint of a formal and constant coordinated effort. Part of the reason is that breaches have become the norm that such crimes are almost becoming white noise to the public ear. Worse, since organizations are rarely held accountable for breaches providing one-year free credit monitoring service post-breach to affected individuals is hardly a fair trade-off. October is national cybersecurity month, but 31 days of security tips and reminders is not adequate to make a dent in improving user security education. This approach has to change, and while the government through agencies like DHS has improved outreach, the private sector needs to meet it half-way and do more. All organizations likely have some cyber security training in place, but this needs to be more than a once-a-year practice. Cyber security must be 24x7x365. The bad guys don’t take a break. What makes security awareness think that it can?
8. What future threats do you see for internet users?
The one major disadvantage facing Internet users is that the bad guys are always one step ahead of the good guys. They continually demonstrate ingenuity and innovation when it comes to taking advantage of software, hardware, applications, programs, and computer users’ writ large. That puts the public behind the eight-ball from the start. The more users adopt Internet of Things devices (this refers to any item that has an IP address and is Internet accessible like refrigerators, baby monitors, autonomous cars, home thermostats, etc.), the more susceptible they will be to online attacks. How organizations (such as Equifax or healthcare organizations) responsibly store and protect the personal and sensitive of data of people is something that users should be concerned about as well. Two others worthy of note are Cloud storage services and ransomware. As more people rely on cloud services to store data, these enclaves will be increasingly targeted. Although usually better secured, once breached, an attacker will have access to everything stored in that cloud. Ransomware doesn’t seem to be going away. Ransomware is malware that encrypts your files and demands a ransom to be paid to the attacker before its decrypted. This first started targeting organizations and sectors like healthcare and education but has shifted toward targeting individuals.
9. What would you want the ultimate takeaway to be for anyone reading, ’The Web Paige Chronicles’?
Computers and computer technology have given us enormous benefits. But like all things, there are drawbacks and dangers. Being aware of the dangers and acting responsibly on the Internet starts with the individual but must include the ongoing support and participation of friends, family, parents, and responsible adults.
10. Where do you see your character Wilhelmina ten years from now?
Excellent question! Web is very much influenced by her father’s work in law enforcement and her mother’s work in a hospital. In college, I see her computer science-focused but using that as a stepping stone toward a career where that enables her to help people. So, I don’t see her exclusively in a reverse engineering or computer programming role. The computer side will definitely be a complementary aspect to her future career. What exactly that will be remains to be seen. Like any person, these goals are subject to change. It’s hard to believe I started off with an English major and headed toward teaching and found myself in cyber security. They don’t call it a journey for nothing!
11. You touch on some sensitive issues in the novel. What prompted you to include cyber bullying and sexting?
I think it was important to approach the issues being confronted by this age group in the real world. Leaving out some of the more provocative incidents that are transpiring daily would have made the book incomplete, and risked it being accused of trying to avoid disturbing realities. More importantly, kids are smart. They know when things are sugar-coated. For this book to resonate with the readers, it needed to be honest about what this age group sees and talks about and struggles with. It needed to be on their level from perspectives that they could identify with, and in the end, show them how to manage through them in a positive and helpful manner.
13. What projects are you currently working on? Will there be a sequel to ‘The Web Paige Chronicles’? It seems like I have a million things going on, it’s difficult to get organized. I have completed my first fiction novel The Girl Behind the Glass that was accepted for publication by a Canadian press and should be out in 2019, and a full-length book of poetry entitled Smoke in the Afterlife that should be out late 2018/early 2019. As for Web, I have been jotting down notes for a sequel to The Web Paige Chronicles. She is a character that I love and want to see more of in the future. Hopefully readers will as well!
Well me hearties, it’s time to bid our esteemed guest, Emilio Iasiello a fond farewell! We look forward to hearing more from our Cyber Security expert in the future.
All my duty to you, fair winds and following seas for your journey, and may you have Good Fortune for your companion!
As always, I remain your humble servant,
Patricia Mattern, Mistress of Madness
Ahoy me hearties!
We’ve just sailed back from the doldrums to catch up with prolific and celebrated author Stone Wallace. Seems his newest crime noir novel just hit the marketplace and we are anxious to interview him about this exciting new crime noir release that is sure to shiver our collective timbers!
We’ll all be wettin’ our pipes with some tasty grog as he joins us at the Captain’s table to regale us of his exploits and tells us about his newest novel ,’REQUIEM FOR A GANGSTER’!
WHEN GOING STRAIGHT GOES SIDEWAYS, EX-CON JOHNNY DARROW FINDS HIMSELF IN A HIGH STAKES FIGHT FOR HIS LIFE!
Johnny Darrow is in a race against time as he finds himself at odds with a boyhood friend turned powerful enemy in a gambit in which his feckless gangster wannabe kid brother becomes a pawn.
“Four chances were all that he’d be given. He would have to make good on each one, and even so the odds were that he was a dead man. He snapped the clip back into the grip and hefted the gun, at the same time feeling a wave of sickness not attributable to the alcohol he’d consumed course through his body. He slid the automatic into his hip pocket, eager to be rid of its cold, unyielding feel – if only for a few minutes. He pulled his jacket right around himself but saw no need to button it. They knew he would be armed.”
Ex-con Johnny Darrow is released from prison intending to go straight. But when he returns to the mean streets of his old neighborhood he quickly discovers that circumstances are against him. Unable to find honest employment and saddled with a reckless younger brother determined to pursue a criminal career as a means to escape his environment, Johnny soon finds himself drawn into a scheme with his gangster pal, Frank Lisanti, which, if successful, will provide him with the cash to solve his problems. However, returning to crime proves a dangerous maneuver as Johnny quickly becomes enmeshed in a web of murder and treachery with his brother becoming the pawn in a deadly game between two boyhood friends turned adversaries. Now on the run, Johnny must somehow extricate his brother from the clutches of Lisanti and his murderous mob while keeping himself free from police capture.
1. What attracted you to the 1940s as the setting for ‘REQUIEM FOR A GANGSTER’?
Actually the 1940s was the prime era of noir. Most of the best films of the genre were produced during that decade and those were movies I fell in love with: Out of the Past, The Killers, Born to Kill, Criss Cross. The character of the movie gangster also underwent a sort of metamorphosis during that time. The 1930 sharp-suited criminal characters of Bogart, Raft and Cagney evolved into a new breed of tough guy, personified by Robert Mitchum, Burt Lancaster and Kirk Douglas. They were of raw material, replete with neuroses and psychoses, often possessed of a violence that was explicit and sadistic. Consider Richard Widmark in Kiss of Death, Lawrence Tierney in Born to Kill, Robert Ryan in Crossfire, Raymond Burr in Raw Deal and Neville Brand in D.O.A. Five nasty specimens. And we must not overlook the classic and often lethal femme fatale, best exemplified by Barbara Stanwyck in Double Indemnity, Joan Bennett in Scarlet Street, Yvonne DeCarlo in The Killers and Lizabeth Scott in Too Late for Tears.
2. ‘REQUIEM FOR A GANGSTER’ starts out atmospheric, nightmarish and engaging-was that intentional?
Absolutely. As with the best of noir, there seems to be a general feeling of desolation, often desperation, and even hopelessness – I think I make that clear in the opening chapter of the book with Johnny in that hotel room. A happy ending is not always in the cards for the hero of noir. The good guy doesn’t always win out, and if he does, at times it comes at a cost. Noir doesn’t just refer to the dark and shadow-laden cinematography so prevalent in these films but also to the theme of the story and overall mood. I hope I captured that in my novel.
3. Johnny Darrow is a complex protagonist. Which of his qualities make him relatable to readers in your view?
Thank you for saying that. I wanted to construct him in that fashion. Johnny is a guy who can best be defined as a victim of circumstances. His slum upbringing, an alcoholic and brutal father who deserted his family. He was possessed of a restless, resentful and rebellious spirit that led him down the wrong path. His time in prison for a relatively small offense was really the best thing that could have happened to him. He knew upon his release that he wouldn’t necessarily have an easy time on the outside, but he also realized that it was either “make or break” it; he could never do another prison stretch. Unfortunately, circumstances (or the “Fates” as he refers to them) lead him, reluctantly, into an unholy alliance with his old partner – who has become a hardcore criminal with no chance at redemption. Like the Henry Hill character in Goodfellas, his one ambition was to be a gangster.
4. You have written in many genres. How does writing a crime thriller differ from writing a western? Which is your favorite go to genre to read?
Only in terms of the setting and the era. When my Western Montana Dawn came out, a reviewer referred to the title character as a “kind of Western Bonnie Parker”, which she is. I could easily have modified several of my Westerns into modern times and they would have worked as well, I think. Ditto Requiem, which I could re-write into a Western just by adjusting the setting. Outlaws instead of gangsters; sheriffs instead of detectives. In fact, three fine film examples of this are Kiss of Death, remade as an oater as The Fiend Who Walked the West, High Sierra remade as a Joel McCrea Western called Colorado Territory and The Asphalt Jungle which was turned into an Alan Ladd picture called The Badlanders. Replace Winchester rifles and getaway horses with tommy guns and fast-moving automobiles, Stetsons with fedoras, and the story would still be there. As to my favorite genre to read, I enjoy a good Western (Larry McMurtry’s Lonesome Dove is my absolute favorite), but my preference has always been for crime stories. My favorite authors are W.R. Burnett and Mario Puzo. The Godfather is a masterpiece and still my number one favorite read.
5. In your illustrious career you have been an author, interviewer, copywriter, broadcaster and even a boxer! What was your takeaway from your experience as a boxer?
Well, I never went into boxing as a sport per se. My dad passed away when I was 14 and I got into a difficult stage where I was unleashing a lot of aggression – and not in a good way. Certainly not proud of those days. Fortunately, my mom started dating a man – a great guy – who had been a boxer in the navy during World War 2. He noticed my behavioral problems and suggested that boxing might be a more constructive way of letting out my hostilities. Again, it wasn’t an outlet I was actively seeking. But I did get into a club at the YMCA where we trained every Saturday and I found that, yes, it was an effective way for me to release my negative energies. I kept at it in an amateur status for several years and later had the chance to go semi-pro. I didn’t, but some years later I coached boxing for inner-city youth and that proved very rewarding. As you know, I feature a boxing sequence in Requiem for a Gangster. Still love the sport though it’s not how it used to be, sadly. As for what I took away from boxing, as it pertains to writing, definitely discipline – which is very important for the writer. You have to condition yourself to write something each day, just as you would train daily in preparation for a match.
6. Do you feel the heroes and villains are clearly defined in ‘REQUIEM FOR A GANGSTER’?
Definitely. I believe readers will relate to Johnny Darrow in a sympathetic way since his problems, I hope, are identifiable. The antagonist, Frank Lisanti, I believe possesses all the right qualities to make him a very unlikable, even hateful character, a guy of twisted ambition who has an evil, treacherous soul, despite his attempts at an outward shallow charm. Needless to say, because he was so nasty he was fun to write. My main female character, Audrey Crawford, was an interesting character to fashion: Her somewhat unorthodox attraction to Johnny and how a jaded Johnny initially regards her interest with suspicion, and how the relationship develops from there. And Johnny’s kid brother Ray just has an angry and resentful attitude similar to what Johnny had, but the defining of his character is a bit more ambiguous, which is how I intended. I guess to summarize: The white (Johnny). The black (Frank Lisanti) - and the gray (Ray). And of course there’s the cop Lieutenant Tierney who also has a shading of gray to his character, and perhaps with good reason.
7. If this novel was optioned for film, who would you like to see cast in the various roles? In particular, what actor could you see playing Johnny Darrow?
Boy, the actors best suited for the principal roles are no longer with us. But . . . for fans of noir, see if you can recognize the in-jokes I have within the story, pertaining to the names of some of the characters, one of which I already revealed. That will give you an idea of my ideal casting had the book been written back in the day. I sorta figure that with a few years shaved off, Mark Wahlberg would make a good Johnny; Sean Penn as Frank Lisanti (he always has that underlying violence in his characters) . . . and maybe George Clooney as the detective, Tierney.
8. You have interviewed many other celebrities in your career. Tell us about a favorite.
I’ve been so fortunate in that regard. And really, everyone I interviewed was a real gem: kind, polite and accommodating. My first interview was with another tough guy actor, Lloyd Nolan. We began a correspondence that resulted in my visiting him at his home in Brentwood when I was on a trip traveling through California. Actually it never really was intended as an interview per se, but some years later I transcribed the tapes and submitted the print copy to Filmfax, who published it. I conducted Robert Stack’s final interview. He was one of my first heroes: the original Eliot Ness. And he really was a funny guy, which most people might not associate with him. Two noir actors became good friends of mine, both now sadly deceased: Mickey Knox and the lovely Coleen Gray. John Agar was another early movie hero who became a good friend, as did veteran movie heavy Marc Lawrence, with whom I was planning to write a book focusing on his long movie career that began in 1932. Again, not bad for a kid from Winnipeg, Canada.
9. Crime novels are an extremely popular genre. What do you think readers look for in a great crime novel?
I hope they are because I’d love to continue writing them. As for what makes a successful crime novel, one that appeals to readers, definitely you must have characters you can identify with, relate to, be he or she tough or vulnerable – or preferably both. A compelling story line is necessary. Keep the reader turning pages. In that regard I prefer a sparse narrative to a weighty, description-laden one. You know, more the Hemingway style than some other writers whom I won’t name. But again, that’s my personal preference. There are so many variations on the genre which have been mined by the greats like Chandler, Hammett, Cain, Burnett and Mickey Spillane. Robert Parker was another, and he’s a personal favorite since he successfully tackled both crime fiction and Westerns. And the late Elmore Leonard did, as well.
10. What is your best advice for aspiring authors based on your experiences?
Read. Learn. Research. Digest. Inevitably whenever I meet someone who knows I’m a published writer I’m told “I have a terrific story” (I hate it when they add: “For you.” I have enough of my own ideas, thank you). Well, maybe they do have an interesting tale to tell. But my reply is always: “So write it.” “But I don’t know how,” he or she responds. Neither did I in the beginning. I’ve been at this racket for over 30 years, published 20 books among a score of other stuff. But I knew that writing was what I wanted to do so I just began to research. Back in those days we didn’t have the luxury of the internet for quick results so I haunted libraries, reading works by my favorite authors, learning the mechanics of good writing, imitating styles I admired until I found my own voice, and discovering the pros and cons of publishing as a business: the submission process; what’s the best market for your specific story. And also, maybe most importantly, what I discovered early on: You must develop a tough skin and learn to accept rejection, which is always difficult. I had my share of “no’s” when I started out, but I was also lucky to receive some encouragement from publishers who did not merely respond with the dreaded form rejection letter but rather included a personal note telling me that they saw promise in my writing and to keep at it. Persistence is the key. If the talent is there, eventually you’ll find success. Originality is important, too. Look at contemporary Hollywood, so devoid of ideas that it keeps regurgitating the same stuff: remakes, sequels, stupid summer comedies, endless superhero movies. Just keep a realistic expectation. Lightning does strike but it can be a tough business at which to earn a living. If you do make a book sale, hold off on pricing that yacht. One more note: Don’t wait for the muse to provide you with inspiration. Create your own inspiration. My longest and one of my most successful novels came about by my writing just one opening sentence. Didn’t know where that sentence would take me, but gradually it expanded until I completed a nearly 400-page book which became a national bestseller. So again – Just write: something, anything. You never know where it might lead you.
11. What current projects are you working on? What can fans look forward to in 2018-2019?
I’ve completed another horror novel that I’m in the process of polishing. And I’m about three-quarters through another gangster book: The Chicago Boys, a fact/fictional story detailing the power struggle that existed within the Outfit after Capone was sent away to prison for income tax evasion and how the mob tried to muscle into early Hollywood in an attempt to expand its rackets following the repeal of Prohibition. I didn’t want to write a straight history but rather have some fun with it, re-introducing Eliot Ness into the narrative and creating some fictional characters based on real people. And there are the true-life mobsters in the story, such as Frank “The Enforcer” Nitti, “Machine Gun” Jack McGurn, “Greasy Thumb” Jake Guzik, and of course “Scarface” himself. From an early age I’ve always been fascinated by this time in history, and especially the workings of the Chicago underworld during the era. My interest remains so pronounced since boyhood that I sometimes think that I must have lived as a hood during that period.
We bid fair winds and following seas to our intrepid guest Stone Wallace as he parts our company. He certainly is a well-traveled fellow with many tales to tell! If you pick up a copy of his newest release, me hearties, you will get a taste of intrigue and high adventure without having to leave your armchair!
We wish fortune to you and yours as THE WHIMSICAL HERALD heaves ahead!
Until next time,
Patricia Mattern, Mistress of Madness on THE Whimsical Herald
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Avast ye maties and look sharp!
As we sail into port for another amazing author encounter, we call for all hands hoay as we enjoy the summer breezes on our faces and look forward to meeting our distinguished guest, author Amy Thornton. With humor, keen insight, and more than a little panache Amy has written a guide to help workers navigate the concrete jungles of the workplace with gusto and confidence, all while generating joy and good will to boot! Amy has an extensive professional background as a columnist and award-winning good will enthusiast, bringing with her over a decade of experience as a Human Relations Instructor for the Dale Carnegie Institute.
Sound impossible? No worries! Amy Thornton will be joysplaining how. Whatever your work situation, she’s got you covered.
WORK IS NEARLY HALF YOUR LIFE-MAKING IT JOYFUL IS WORTH THE CHALLENGE!
“No matter what your level is on the job, you can be a powerful force for change. Being a positive example at work is like the start of a ripple in a body of water-your bit of joy may be just a drop in the pond, but it can make circles to all of its edges and reach so many.”
Are you one of the 48% of employees worldwide who don’t like their jobs? Do you feel constantly stressed at the office? Or maybe you’re just feeling “blah” about your job and want to bring some life back into your workplace.
If you talk to anyone about their careers or jobs these days, most of the time you won't hear positive stories or excitement. You'll probably hear words like "busy,” “stressed,” “exhausting,” and “mind-numbing." And with the good old 40 hour workweek becoming a distant memory for many of us, this reality is just plain sad.
Joy to You and Me (At Work!) helps turn these situations around by giving the reader easy tips they can implement quickly to start making a positive difference in the workplace. Being joyful isn't just a “fluffy-cutesy-nice” thing to do each day - it actually increases productivity and is good for any company or organization. The book helps anyone learn how to:
This fun, easy-to-read guide shows people of all ages and personalities how to make a difference immediately to make not only themselves happier, but to spread that happiness throughout the workplace – and beyond!
By sharing stories from the author’s 25+ years of making a joyful difference in the workplace and examples from truly kick-ass companies, Joy to You and Me (At Work!) is a life changing, fun read for anyone who wants to improve their work life.
1. You have an extensive professional background that you bring to your writing, including instructing a Dale Carnegie Human Relations Course for over a decade. Which of your professional endeavors influenced your writing the most?
In addition to teaching the course, I also worked at a fantastic biotechnology company on the northwest side of Indianapolis in my early 20s that encouraged us to improve their work atmosphere through a program called "I Power." Individuals with the best I Power suggestions were awarded Employee of the Month at company-wide meetings. This motivated me to always look for ways to bring joy to my co-workers and their customers and set me on my path of bringing enthusiasm to the workplace.
2. In ‘JOY TO YOU AND ME (AT WORK!) you emphasize “showing’ appreciation rather than “telling”-can you recall a special moment in which a coworker or boss wowed you?
As I mention in my book, when I left the Town of Field's Corner, my co-workers hosted a goodbye breakfast for me. My jaw dropped when I saw numerous pictures posted on one wall of me at various events and programs throughout the years. It was so touching to see how everyone had worked together to create this collage of wonderful memories.
3. In an age when so many workers are on ‘remote’, so you feel the suggestions and principles in your book are just as applicable as they would be to those in more traditional work settings?
Absolutely. Even workplaces that seem to be doing well on the surface can always find ways to improve their level of joy!
4. What are some of the common questions you get from younger workers you have instructed? Have you noticed a change in the questions and attitudes of younger workforce members in your years of experience in the field of human relations?
The funniest question I’ve ever gotten from a younger worker is “Kathy asked me to Xerox this – what does that mean?” Haha! Seriously, one person did ask me “How are you always so positive?” I let her know that no one can be positive 100% of the time, but having enthusiasm can really make a difference in what you do.
Some of my younger co-workers have trouble letting go of work when they need to and I feel for them. It’s important to take breaks throughout the day and to put the phone aside on evenings and weekends. I admire their dedication, but having a balance is crucial.
5. How important is camaraderie in the work place?
Camaraderie makes a huge difference in the workplace! When you feel a connection to your co-workers, it makes each day much easier and helps you accomplish so much more.
My 17-year-old son is fairly new to the workforce and is approaching his one-year anniversary with his company. In his first few months, he wasn’t connecting with anyone and his work suffered. Now he’s made many friends and is being trained to advance into other tasks. I can tell he enjoys his work more now!
6. As an innately enthusiastic person by your own admission have you ever been accused of being a ‘Pollyanna’ ?
Yes, I get teased (affectionately!) by friends and family about this. But they’ve told me they wouldn’t want me any other way.
As readers will discover in my book, some people just don’t like a joyful personality. I don’t want ANYONE to squelch their enthusiasm when they encounter these individuals. The world desperately needs more joy and kindness. When I’m around these folks now, I just give them kindness and move on.
7. Is there a joyful way to deliver bad news in the workplace? Have you ever had to discipline someone or let them go?
I’m not sure there’s a joyful way to deliver bad news in the workplace, but there are gentle and kind ways to do so. So often I hear people at work say, “Well, it’s not personal.” People are breathing, feeling creatures of emotion. No matter what, bad news will affect them personally. Talking to someone face-to-face, in private, with compassion, is the best way to deliver bad news.
I’ve never had to let someone go in the workplace, but I have had to discipline people. My first step whenever I’ve had to do this is to put myself in their shoes. My second step is to always begin with some praise. Most people are doing the best they can. I’m kind, yet firm, in these situations.
8. What practices help to de-stress workers? How do you yourself unwind from a taxing work day?
Healthy ways to de-stress include deep-breathing, gentle neck rolls, a quick break to walk around the building, “safely” venting to someone outside the company, and treating ourselves to something soothing such as a cup of tea or soft music.
My favorite ways to unwind from a taxing workday include walking, hoop dancing (dancing with a hula hoop) and lying on some soft carpet putting my lower legs up onto a card table chair! That last one makes people laugh, but it’s a great tip I learned from a friend. By lying down and resting your legs on the seat, you relax your back.
9. Dealing with difficult bosses or coworkers is endemic in the work place and you devote a chapter to it. Can you share the takeaways from your experience working with the very difficult coworker you named ‘Vanessa’ in your book?
I’ve discovered that dealing with difficult bosses or coworkers in a calm, productive manner is the best way to go and something I’ve never regretted. I’m so grateful I handled things the way I did with her because I literally see Vanessa every month or so out in our community. Instead of awkwardness or avoidance, we share smiles, understanding, and brief conversation.
10. Are you working on your next book in the series yet? Can you share a snippet or teaser from it?
I’m actually more of a fiction writer! This was my first “real” non-fiction book. I’m not planning on making this a series, however, I have many fiction books ideas brewing. Nothing is written down as of yet.
11. What’s on your schedule for the rest of 2018? Where can fans of your work catch up with you?
I’m reaching out to start speaking to different Central Indiana professional organizations, businesses, and non-profits on how they can bring more joy to their workplaces. I will have book signings and sales at various libraries and bookstores in Central Indiana and beyond.
Virtually, I’d love to hear from people through my web site www.authoramythornton.wordpress.com; email email@example.com; or on Twitter or Facebook.
ttps://www.amazon.com/dp/B07CZRJ6CL Here's a one-minute preview of what you'll learn: Joy to You and Me (at Work!) Trailer
As we wave to our wonderful guest author Amy Thornton and prepare to shove off, we do so with a renewed sense of vigor and optimism! Amy Thornton’s enthusiasm is truly contagious! Even the grumpiest members of the crew seem to have more cheer, and we look forward to having her as our honored guest again soon!
Until then, I remain your faithful servant,
Patricia Mattern, Mistress of Madness, The Whimsical Herald
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Mistress of Madness
Well, do you have any idea why a raven is like a writing desk?
Lewis Carroll, in 1897, proposed this answer, "Because it can produce a few notes, though they are very flat; and it is 'never' put with the wrong end in front!" (raven, spelled backward, is nevar aka never...or as we like to say here at TT...never more!)