Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Sneak Peek at a WIP

 I was looking at the blog and realized that I had not posted in quite a while. My apologies, but I've been working on putting together my current work in progress. As the Owl Flies is a collection of spiritual stories and poems for all ages. Currently, Emily Hurst Pritchett is hard at work on the cover and 12 illustrations, one for each story. My wife, Stephanie Shaughnessy is also working on the four illustrations for the poems will accompany the stories.

I have received the pencil sketch drafts of each of the twelve illustrations, and I will one here. I am also sharing a story from the book to give you a little taste of what the book will be like. This book will be a leap outside my usual genre, and I hope that some of my current readers will take that leap with me. I any case, I would appreciate any feedback in the comments section.


To Beaver or Not to Beaver

Once there was a large forest.  In this large forest there was a lake.  In this lake there lived a family of beavers.  They lived out in the middle of the lake, and it was their job to maintain the dam that kept the water of the lake from flooding the forest.

Every morning Father Beaver would go out and inspect the dam.  Then all the beavers would set to work; cutting down trees to replace rotten sections of the dam, preparing mortar to plug holes and seal cracks.  The beavers were also the forest's early warning system.  If there was danger, they would smack their large, flat tails in the water to alert everyone.

All the beavers loved their work.  All that is except the youngest, Jeffrey.  He hated the dam, and he hated his job.  Most of all, though, he hated being a beaver.  For one thing he could not stand his teeth.  He had two front teeth that were big and square and stuck out over his lower lip.  They were very useful for gnawing wood, but they made him feel awkward.  Then there was his tail.  It was long and wide and flat.  It was perfect for packing mortar into the cracks in the dam and for steering when swimming, but on land it dragged him down and made him feel clumsy.  Besides all that, beavers were also fat.  The fat was useful in keeping them warm during their extended time in the water, but he wished he could be slim and limber like his cousins the otters.  On the whole, Jeffrey decided that being a beaver was about the worst thing someone could be.

One morning, Jeffrey decided that he did not want to be a beaver any more.  He had been watching the birds near the lake and was fascinated by the way they soared through the air and skimmed over the water.

"I think that I shall be a bird," said Jeffrey.  "It must be wonderful to fly.  They don't have a care in the world.  They can fly anywhere, any time they want."

Looking around, he saw an outcrop of rock about three feet high.  Climbing to the top he spread his front paws and prepared to fly.

"I hope I'm doing this right," he muttered.  "Maybe I should get a bird to show me the proper way to take off."

He took a deep breath, closed his eyes, and jumped from the top of the rocks.  For a second, he had a free feeling as he floated through the air.  Then his stomach lurched, and he felt himself plummet down to the ground.  Dazed and confused, he lay senseless for a few minutes.

"Oohh," the young beaver groaned as he rolled over and looked at the birds flying in the sky above him.  "I guess flying is harder than it looks."

"Haw, haw!  Caw, caw!" cackled a voice.

Jeffrey propped himself up on his elbows and looked around.  There on the rocks above him a crow was laughing at him.

"What's so funny?" asked Jeffrey.

"Caw, caw!  Flying is the easiest thing in the world if you're a bird," laughed the crow.

"Well, I want to be a bird.  I want to fly."

"Where are your feathers and your wings?" asked the crow.

"Do you need those?" asked Jeffrey.

"Of course you do.  You can't fly if you're not a bird.  It's something birds do.  You're a beaver, you can't fly."

"But I don't want to be a beaver," said Jeffrey.

"Well, you can try, but if you do you'll wind up killing yourself," the crow warned and he flew away.

"I guess he's right about that," said Jeffrey as he stood up.  He winced and rotated his shoulder.  He was going to be in pain in the morning.  Jeffrey decided that, while he might not be cut out to be a bird, there were other animals he could be that were just as interesting and exciting.  He thought a lot about what animal he wanted to be for the rest of that day.  By the time he was ready for bed he had made up his mind.

The next day dawned bright and sunny.  Jeffrey awoke stiff and sore.  He stretched and dove into the water.  He swam out from under his house, and by the time he had reached shore he felt more like his old self.

Jeffrey had decided that he would be a great hunter and stalk his prey.  He wanted to be a wolf.  He also decided that he would go right to the source and learn firsthand the ways of the wolf.  He would ask the advice of Old Gray.  Old Gray was the oldest wolf in the forest.  He kept to himself because of his age and was ignored by the rest of the wolf pack.  Jeffrey was a little intimidated by the wolves, but he thought he would be all right with Old Gray.  Jeffrey waddled deep into the forest until he came to Old Gray's cave.  Gulping nervously, he peered into the cave mouth.

"Hhello?  Old Gray are you home?" asked Jeffrey.

"Who wants to know?" a deep voice growled.

"It's me, Jeffrey Beaver."

There was movement inside the cave and a large gray wolf came into view.  He moved slowly, as if his joints ached.  He was very thin.  He looked Jeffrey over with piercing blue eyes.

"Well, so it is.  And what may I ask is such a young beaver doing so far away from the lake?"

"I don't want to be a beaver.  I want to be a wolf."

"Ha, ha!'  Old Gray chuckled as he took a step closer to Jeffrey.  "And why would a beaver want to be a wolf?"

"Wwell," Jeffrey gulped.  Old Gray was making him more nervous than he anticipated.  "I want to be a great hunter, you see.  It would be much more exciting than gnawing trees."

"I suppose it would," Old Gray's eyes narrowed, "But why would a vegetarian want to hunt?"

"Oh, you know, for the sport of it, the thrill of the hunt."  It seemed to Jeffrey that the wolf's eyes had a hungry gleam.

"It is very exciting," the wolf took two more steps toward the little beaver, "I love a good chase."

Jeffrey was now having serious doubts about consulting Old Gray.  Maybe it would have been better to try to be a wolf on his own, after all.

The wolf sighed and shook his head sadly, "But beavers are too fat and slow to be good sport, even for one as old as I.  Besides, there is not enough meat on you to make more than a mouthful.  I am too old, and my time is almost done.  Go home, Jeffrey.  Go back to your lake.  You are not a wolf, you are a beaver.  Go before I change my mind and eat you after all, fat or no fat."

Jeffrey turned and waddled away as fast as he could.  From behind he heard Old Gray give a long howl that made him run all the faster.  He had been silly to want to be a wolf.  He would have to think some more.  There must be something that he could be, something other than a beaver.  By the time he got back to the lake, he had another idea.  He went to bed that night thinking that he had the perfect solution.

The next day Jeffrey made his way to the edge of the forest.  At the edge of the forest was a tall mountain that was called, oddly enough, Tall Mountain.  At the foot of Tall Mountain was a blacksmith's shop that was the home of Hallo the dwarf.  Hallo had dug a mine into the side of the mountain that provided him with all sorts of ores and precious metals for his work.  He forged many useful tools and implements.  He also crafted many beautiful things of gold and silver.  That was what Jeffrey wanted to do, be a smith and make all sorts of beautiful and useful things.

Jeffrey entered the smithy.  The air was hot and had a heavy metallic smell.  The only light came from the fire of the forge at the far end of the room.  At the forge was Hallo.  He was about three and a half feet tall and had a long red beard.  He wore no shirt, and his heavily muscled arms wielded a hammer and tongs as he fashioned what looked like a knife blade.  The clangs of hammer hitting metal rang throughout the smithy.  Jeffrey walked up to Hallo and tapped him on the shoulder.

 "Aaihh, what the...?" exclaimed the startled dwarf.  "Oh, hello Jeffrey, my lad.  Don't sneak up on me like that.  I could have smashed my hand."

"I'm sorry, I didn't know how else to get your attention."

"That's all right," said Hallo with a chuckle, "It's good to see you.  What's so important that's made you come out all this way to see me, eh?"

"Well, I was wondering if you would take me on as an apprentice.  I'd love to be able to work metal into beautiful things."

"That's a fine aspiration Jeffrey," conceded Hallo, "If you're a dwarf.  But I don't know if it's a good idea for a beaver."

"Couldn't you let me try?  I know I'll be good at it if you give me a chance."

Hallo laughed, "You're a game little chap, I'll give you that.  Okay lad we'll give it a try."

So, Hallo demonstrated to the little beaver the proper way to hold the hammer and tongs.  He showed him how to heat the metal until it reached the proper temperature for hammering.  Hallo showed Jeffrey how to hammer iron and beat gold.

After the lesson, it was Jeffrey's turn to try.  The little beaver tried to pick up the tools, but his paws could not grip them properly.  Even if he could have gripped them, he was not strong enough and his arms were not long enough to use them.

"I'm sorry lad, but it's my opinion that you'll never make a smith," said Hallo.

"Then what will I be?" asked Jeffrey.

"What's so wrong with being what you are?  Why don't you want to be a beaver?"

"Because beavers are so ordinary.  We can't fly, we can't hunt, and we can't make beautiful things.  We don't do anything special or useful," said Jeffrey dejectedly.

"What do you mean beavers are not useful?" asked Hallo incredulously.  "Are you daft or something?  If it weren't for you beavers my house would be flooded.  Without your dam half of the forest would be under water.  By cutting down trees you create open meadows in the forest where animals can come to graze.  When there is danger, like the fire we had last year, you warn everyone in the forest by beating your tails in the water.  So you see you do serve a purpose and what you do is special.  No other animal in the forest can do what the beavers do."

"Gee, I hadn't thought of it like that before.  I guess what we do really is important.  Thanks, Hallo."

"Don't mention it, lad.  Now run on home before your parents start to worry."

Jeffrey said good-bye to the kindhearted dwarf and returned to the lake.  He found new pleasure and satisfaction in his work.  All in all, he decided, being a beaver was a good thing.  It had taken him a while to realize it, but although the things he did seemed mundane and boring to him, they were important to everyone else in the forest.  And that was something that he would never forget.

Saturday, April 20, 2024

A Writer's Week #130: Spring Fever

Well, spring has definitely sprung here in Candlewood Corners, Connecticut. Grass is growing, flowers are blooming, trees are budding. Activity has also been rising on the writing front---from scheduling new appearances to working on production of my recently completed manuscript to the launch of a new Deliverers Series video trailer to the writing of yet another new book, things are rising to a fever pitch around here. Good stuff indeed. Here are some tidbits about each project:

Appearances

I've booked several already beginning in May, and I have more in the planning stages. I'll be posting updates on the Deliverers Series Facebook page as well as my Appearances page on this site.

Deliverers Series

I recently completed a video trailer for the overall series. Here it is if you haven't seen it:


You can view all of my Deliverers-related videos on a new video page on this site. There you will find a book trailer for each book, a couple interviews I conducted with myself long ago, samples from the audio book version of Sharky and the Jewel, and some other tidbits.

Book 4, Sparkling Mist of Time, has been receiving some great reviews, particularly from Fairday's Blog, as well as a 5-Star review from Readers' Favorite.

As the Owl Flies

The entire manuscript has been formatted, and Emily Hurst Pritchett is working on the cover and illustrations for each story. This is a really exciting project, as it will bring together short stories and poems I wrote pre-Deliverers. While geared for middle grade and teen readers, it is a departure from the fantasy adventure genre that I'm know for. I'm kind of taking a leap of faith with this little book, so to speak. In any event, I hope you all give it a shot and check it out.

When determining what formats to present the book in, I decided to publish it as an e-book and a paperback right away. After giving it more thought, I also decided to release it as an audio book. SO, once it's all put together, I will be posting it on ACX for auditions. I've already had one narrator indicate that they would be interested in auditioning, so I'm hoping I'll have some interest.

Here is the back cover blurb to give you an idea of what the book will be like:



As the Owl Flies is a collection of stories that warm the heart, and make you smile.
Originally written to be read aloud to friends gathered comfortably together, these stories convey simple, universal truths in a lighthearted, fun way. The whimsical illustrations help bring the characters to life, capturing their foibles and quirks. In between are sprinkled four poems of hope, optimism, and thankfulness that will make you (perhaps) think. Some of the friends you’ll meet within these pages include:
  • A squirrel who must decide how to use the gift that is given to him'
  • An old man forced to reevaluate his life.
  • A disappointing Christmas present, that becomes the greatest gift of all.
  • A beaver who yearns to soar.
  • A girl whose dreams signal disaster.
A fun, thought-provoking read for all ages, these stories are a breath of fresh air that will revive your spirit and restore your faith in human nature.

Tales From the Dragon Islands

I'll be getting back to middle grade fantasy adventure with my latest work in progress, Tales From the Dragon Islands. I'm not sure if that will be the title of the book, or the name of a series--we'll have to wait and see. I've been working slowly on this and so far, I'm up to about 2,300 words, so just getting started, really. It's about an event that happens on the Dragon Islands about 3,000 years before the Deliverers pay a visit. 

I've been a little nervous about where this manuscript is headed, because I have an idea of the protagonists and where they will end up, but almost no idea of how they are going to get there. This will be very much a case of letting the characters show me what will happen. When this happens to me, it's always very exciting, but also terrifying. Thankfully, after really wondering where this was headed for the first 1,300 words or so, the last 1,000 have given me hope that my characters might know what they're doing. I'll let you know if that continues as things move along.

Peace

Wednesday, April 3, 2024

ISWG: Blogging--Jogging or Slogging?

 


This month's Insecure Writer's Support Group question is:

How long have you been blogging? (Or on Facebook/Twitter/Instagram?) What do you like about it and how has it changed?

I started this blog in 2011, but I pretty much stopped in 2015 and did not resume until late 2022. I like that I can share news, writing tips, and insights into one writer's creative process. I used to also do interviews with classic children's book characters and share trivia tidbits related to authors' lives and works. Nowadays, though, I just don't have enough time and energy to do that. I am trying to figure out something fun to write every so often. If you have any suggestions, p?ease leave them in the comments.

So, I guess that's one way it's changed for me. I think that now, any followers I have get news of me from the series' Facebook page rather than the blog. In years past, it was the other way around. No matter how it's done, I always enjoy making connections with anyone who is interested. It always gives me a thrill whenever I receive feedback, and it inspires me to keep going.

So, that being said, here's a post from bygone days-- an interview with an interesting character.

Between the Lines:  Tom Sawyer

It's a new year, so it's the perfect time to introduce a new series of interviews with famous characters in classic children's literature and fairy tales. The interviews with the characters from my book proved to be so popular, that I thought, hey, why not interview characters from other children's books?

Today, we're kicking the series off with one of my favorite characters, Tom Sawyer. Let me know how you like it.


Greg:  Welcome Tom, it’s great to have you here!

Tom: Thanks, Mr. Greg, sir. It were nice of ya t’ have me.

Greg:  Tell us a little bit about yourself, Tom.

Tom: Shucks, taint much t’ tell, really. I started m’ life very young, but I growed up. Now, I live free an’ easy, ‘cept when I got t’ go t’ that ol’ school. Aunt Pol’s always tryin’ t’ git me t’ go, but I outfox her more often than not. Got a nice place up in the piney woods. It’s a whole fort where I fight off injuns an’ hide treasure an’ such.

Sometimes I got t’ go t’ church, too. Go t’ Sunday school an’ larn Bible passages ‘n’ things. I won me a Bible oncet. Yep, I sure did. I got enough o’ them there tickets the Rev’rand give out for learnin’ Bible verses. I traded a whole pile of treasure with the boys in school t’ get them tickets. It was worth it, too. Preacher called me up, an’ I got me that Bible in front o’ the whole class, includin’ Becky Thatcher. I was slicker ‘n’ a greased pig, I can tell you.

I’m also good at fightin’. I just about licked every boy in school, an’ some o’ the girls, too. “Course that comes from m’ piratin’. Ya got t’ be able to lick anyone that crosses your path, iffin you’re a pirate. I recall the time me ‘n’ Joe Harper ‘n’ol’  Huck Finn run away t’ be pirates. Boy did we have a time!

Greg:  Where do you live, when you’re not terrorizing the seven seas, I mean?

Tom:  I live in the town of St. Petersburg, Missouri with m’ Aunt Polly, m' half brother Sid. I live next door t’ Becky Thatcher. We’re engaged, but don’t tell no one. It’s supposed t’ be secret. Keep it mum. Wouldn’t do no good if Becky was t’ get wind I told ya.

Greg:  In all of your adventures, what’s the worst thing you ever saw?

Tom:  I don’t rightly know. I seen a lot o’ worst things. I saw Injun Joe all laid out an’ starved t’ death after bein’ trapped in McDougal’s Cave. Me ‘n’ Becky was trapped in the cave with Injun Joe.

I s’pose the worst thing I ever saw had t’ be Doc Robi’son getting’ killed by Injun Joe. See, the way it happened was me ‘n’ Huck was in the graveyard with a dead cat tryin’ t’ catch some devils. All of a sudden, along come Doc Robi’son, Ol’ Muff Potter, an’ Injun Joe. Me ‘n’ Huck hid an’ watched as Muff ‘n’ Joe started to dig up a grave.

Well, when they got the body up, they all starts agruin’ over how much the doc was gonna pay ‘em. Before ya know it, the doc had whacked ol’ Muff Potter over the head with a gravestone, which was just a painted board. Then Injun Joe took up Muff’s knife an’ jammed it inta Doc Robi’son’s chest.  It chilled m’ blood an’ curled m’ toes. Me ‘n’ Huck lit out o’ there like the Devil himself was chasin’ us.

From that night on, I had t’ sleep with one eye open, on account of I was s’ skeered.

Greg:  What’s given you the most pleasure?

Tom:  I’d have ta say coming back in the middle of m’ funeral. Ev’rybody was so surprised. Me ‘n’ Joe ‘n’ ol’ Huck got so much attention. We was top citizens, I reckon. I was in m’ glory. Ev’ryone was fussin’ an’ carryin’ on. I aint never seen such a big t’ do.

I s’pose I should also say getting’ engaged t’ Becky Thatcher an’ findin’ all that gold were high points, too. But nothin’ can compare with the attention the town give me when I come back from the dead!

Greg:  Are you afraid of spirits?

Tom:   Shoot, spirits aint nothin’ iffin ya know how t’ handle ‘em. First, ya take a stinkbug an’ make him a leash out of a shoelace. Put the stinkbug on the ground, holdin’ the leash. Then, ya draw a circle around the bug in the dirt. Next, ya gets a pin an’ pricks your finger. Then, ya squeezes two drops of blood out of yore finger onta the stinkbug. Then ya says an incantation, an’ that’ll keep the spirits away the whole night. Simple as that, but I shore wouldn’t want t’ tangle with ‘em without the right gear.

Greg:  After all your adventures, are you ready to become civilized?

Tom: Oh law, I aint never gonna get civilized. Aunt Polly’s done tried, but she aint been able t’ do it. Aint no one gonna do it, not as long as I draw breath!

I tell ya the one I feel sorry for. It’s ol’ Huck Finn. The widder Douglas done took him in t’ live with her. I anyone’s gonna civilize a body, it’d be the widder Douglas. Ol’ Huck don’t stand a chance with that one, I kin tell ya.

She won’t let him go piratin’ or nothin’. Me, I done give Aunt Polly the slip agin, an’ if Sid don’t blab on me, I’ll be off down the Missisip’ on a raft an’ no one’ll be the wiser. Come t’ think on it, I still owe Sid a lickin’ for squealin’ on me the last time!

Mr. Greg, I sure have enjoyed settin’ here an’ talkin’ with ya a spell, but I got t’ get movin’. There’s ships t’ plunder an’ wayfarers t’ rob, an’ the night’s getting’ on!

Greg:  Sure thing, Tom. Thanks for taking some time to chat with us. Good luck with your adventure!



Sunday, March 24, 2024

Somebody Else's Interview

For a long time now, I've been planning to interview illustrator Emily Hurst Pritchett. However, being the procrastinator I am, I haven't quite got around to it. Now, I suppose the point is kind of moot as Annie's Book Stop of Worcester conducted a great video interview with her.

It's up on YouTube, but I've posted it below. The interview is really great. In it, Emily gives great insight into her creative process, her own personal taste in books and pastimes, as well as what it's like illustrating for independent authors, publishers, and what she's up to with her personal art. As you watch, you might even see a couple familiar books being flashed. 



Emily is working on illustrations and the cover for As the Owl Flies and I have started the Tales of the Dragon Islands book. I'll share more of that shortly.

Peace

 

Monday, March 18, 2024

A Writer's Week #129: What Next?

 As I noted in my last post, the Deliverers series is now complete. That brings to an end a huge writing chapter in my life. Leaving Eric, Kate, Stig and Hallo behind has been a very difficult thing. The question is, what to do next?

Re-opening the writing side of my life at the end of 2022 was a big decision. The main focus was to refresh the existing three books and complete the fourth. I accomplished that in 2023, and book four was released in February, completing the series. So, mission accomplished.

Greg & Abby writing at Hampton Beach, NH c. 2013

I guess that could be the end. I could stop knowing that there were no loose ends, no hanging threads. Actually, though, there is one thread still dangling. Years ago, when I was fresh out of college, before color was invented and everything was still in black and white, I was a youth advisor to my church's high school community group. It was there that I first started writing with the purpose of sharing what I wrote with others. I wrote a story for the group's Christmas retreat at the request of my deacon. I wound up writing a story every year for 15 years. I would read the story at the retreat and the teens seemed to enjoy them. Each one was tied to the theme of that year's retreat. I would also give copies out to friends and family as Christmas presents.

In a number of those stories, a white owl would appear to guide the main character. A couple years after I left the group and got married, I decided to write a book. As I was casting about for some sort of story idea, my mind strayed back to that white owl and I began to wonder just who he was and where he came from. That's when I discovered that his name was Stig and that he would be sent to help a boy named Eric.

So, there's the loose thread. I've decided to publish 12 of those stories, and I've made the decision to present them with minimal editing, keeping them the same as they were when I first read them all those years ago. This will be going out on a limb somewhat, as these are more spiritual/religious stories rather than straight middle grade fantasy. They are geared toward middle grade/teen readers. The best way to describe them are modern day fables or fairy tales with a religious or spiritual theme. 

Definitely a new market for me, and I hope readers of the Deliverers won't be put off and will give them a look-see. I have reached an agreement with Emily Hurst-Pritchett to design the cover and to do 12 half-page illustrations, one for each story. I'm hoping to release the book in early summer.

I am kind of at a loss as to how to market the book. I might start another blog, but that seems a bit much. For now, I will post updates on this blog and on the Deliverers Facebook page. The book also includes four of the poems I wrote in college. I've asked my wife to do some sketches for those. 

I'm kind of excited about the new project, but also a little nervous. I'll post an excerpt from a story and the artwork, once that's set to give you all a taste. What are your thoughts? Have you ever taken a chance and done something different? What were the results? I'll share what happens for me as this moves along.

Peace.