Wednesday, May 30, 2012

What's Christian Reading? Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Flies Again

Christian is an avid 4th grade reader. These posts are all about what he's reading. These are by no means actual reviews, just his comments on whatever book he's reading at the time.

He does rate each book. He's decided to use what he calls flaming monkey heads as his unit of measure on a scale of 1 to 5. Why he chose that I'll never know. He's his father's son, I suppose.

Well here's something strange. Christian has been reading a book that I've never heard of. It's called Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Flies Again, and it's by Frank Cottrell Boyce, who wrote Millions and Cosmic. The whole premise of this book is rather bizarre, but it sounds like a lot of fun. Let's see what Christian thought of it.

Here's what Christian says the book is about.

"It is about a boy and his family. The dad gets fired from his job, and his company car is taken away. The mom goes and buys an old camper van that the rest of the family calls a pile of junk, except for the father who wants to fix it up. 

"He manages to get it running and drives it to a place where he might find spark plugs. They find a camper van in a tree with good spark plugs. They also find a large race car engine with a plaque on it with the name Zborowski. 

"They install the engine in the camper van. They had to lift up the floor boards to get it in. They find out that the engine has wings built in to it so it can fly. They fly to Paris, France and land on the observation deck of the Eiffel Tower.

"After a day of touring the city, they find a pair of headlights acting as spotlights on the top of the tower labeled with the name of Zborowski. They install them in the camper van. The van takes them on a trip to various other locations. Along the way they find other parts labeled Zborowski. Eventually, they discover where the parts are really from."

Here's what Christian liked best about the book.

"I liked how the parts were hidden in all different places around the world. I thought it was pretty crafty."

Was there anything he didn't like about the book?

"I liked it all."

So, how does Christian rate Chitty Chitty Bang Bank Flies Again by Frank Cottrell Boyce?

He gives it five out of five flaming monkey heads.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Did You Know? Johnny Tremain

This week, I decided to find out a little bit more about one of my favorite children's historical fiction novel, Johnny Tremain by Esther Forbes. I have not read this book in a number of years. I've decided that I've got to go back and read it again!

Did You Know...
  • According to Publisher's Weekly, Johnny Tremain is the 16th most popular children's paperback of all time? This was as of 2001.
  • Johnny Tremain won the 1944 Newbery Medal?
  • Esther Forbes began writing the book the day after Pearl Harbor was bombed? She finished it in 1943, two years later.
  • In addition to the Newbury Medal, Esther Forbes won the Pulitzer Prize? She won that her biography of Paul Revere.
  • Esther Forbes was an editor and journalist? She worked at Houghton Mifflin and wrote for the Boston Evening Transcript.
  • Forbes' mother helped her with the research for Johnny Tremain?
  • Esther Forbes wrote a number of historical novels set in New England before writing Johnny Tremain? 
  • Clark University awarded her an honorary Doctor of Letters degree?
  • She was the first woman member of the American Antiquities Society?
  • She willed all royalties from her books to the American Antiquities Society after her death?
All in all, a fascinating person. I would have loved to have met her and picked her brain on New England history during the Revolution. I think I'll have to see if I can get my hands on some of her other books, especially Paul Revere and the World He Lived In. 

This week, the clip I'm including is a promo from the Disney film version of Johnny Tremain. I recommend this film. Disney cuts some deaths out of the picture, but it's still reasonably true to the book, especially compared to some film adaptations of the mid 20th century.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Monday Interview Series: Johnny Tremain

Since today is Memorial Day, I thought it would be appropriate to interview a character who played a small role in our country's fight for independence, Johnny Tremain. I've always been fascinated by historical fiction, and Johnny Tremain was one of the books that I loved.

So, let's take a little trip back to Boston, circa 1773, to speak with a young man who learned what it meant to be a patriot.

Greg:  Hi Johnny, thanks for taking some time out to have a word with us.

Johnny:  It is my pleasure, sir.

Greg:  What was it like living during the time of our nation's birth?

Johnny:  It has been very confusing. There have been many changes. I had been engaged as an apprentice to a master silversmith, Mr. Lapham, but I was injured through the negligence of another apprentice.

Mr. Lapham said it all came to working on the Sabbath, but we had to finish Mr. Hancock's order on time. Instead, my hand was injured and I had to set out in search of new employment.

Still, I enjoyed going down to Boston harbor and watching the ships sailing in and out. There are so many ships in Boston harbor, the masts look like a forest upon the water. There seemed to be a larger number of British regulars than usual about the city.

At that time, I had no idea of what that meant. You see,  I was blind to the larger events that were happening in the city and throughout the colonies.

Greg:  When did you first become aware of those events?

Sunday, May 27, 2012

A Book A Day Reviews The Deliverers

Yesterday, I received notice that Mary Reilly of A Book A Day had reviewed The Deliverers: Sharky and the Jewel. I was really excited to read the review. Here's the bulk of it:

"Slomba delivers an action-packed adventure that’s sure to thrill middle grade and younger readers. Even little ones (I’m thinking first and second graders) will enjoy this tale as a read-aloud because of its magical characters (a talking owl! a conniving pirate!) and wacky humor (like the name of the dwarf) in a fascinating and well-conceived setting. In addition to the quest to save Calendria, Eric struggles to regain his own confidence, making this a lovely story of self-discovery as well. Highly recommended for ages 6 to 12."

Thanks to Mary for such a great review. To read the entire book description and review, click here.

Word is spreading about the book. So far, feedback has been very positive. I've included some reviews below, from authors, blogs, and a few from

A world is in trouble, who can save it?

Certainly not Eric Scott, a 12 year old boy coming to grips with his own personal tragedy. But that’s exactly what Stig, an owl from another world, asks him to do. Together, they are sent to deliver Calendria, a small fishing village, from Sharky, an immortal pirate captain that has enslaved them. But defeating Sharky and his band of bloodthirsty pirates will be no easy task.

When they arrive, Eric and Stig meet Kate Endria, who is convinced that they are the Deliverers—heroes of an ancient prophecy who are destined to defeat Sharky and his crew. Eric devises a plan that he hopes will work. Eric’s confidence rises when they rescue Hallo Tosis, an outcast dwarf who gives them the key to a powerful weapon. But it’s only after things start to go horribly wrong that Eric and Stig discover the true object of their mission. 

Here's what people are saying about

The Deliverers: Sharky and the Jewel:

Louise Ladd, author of The Double Diamond Dude Ranch Series, and owner of The Book Doctor.

"Take one bewildered hero, add a slightly pompous talking owl to guide him, stir in a stubborn girl whose village is threatened by pirates, blend with a secret mountain full of dwarves, an eerie dead forest guarded by gigantic bats, and top it with a mysterious jewel rumored to be the size of a large pizza and you have an entrancing story literally out of this world.

“Slomba's imagination knows no bounds as one surprise after another keeps Eric, and the reader, busy fending off the next crisis."  

J. Haight & S. Robinson, authors of The Secret DMS Files of Fairday Morrow,  and blog book reviewers.

"I just finished reading The Deliverers: Sharky and the Jewel by Gregory Slomba and it was a wonderful story. I liked Eric because he was smart and braver than he knew. He also had to rely on friends to help him solve the problems that arise and this seemed very real to me. The action started right in the first chapter and continued to pick up from there. I think that kids in 4th grade through 8th grade would really like this book- older kids and adults would also find it to be an interesting read! A story that includes pirates, talking animals, dwarfs, and ancient magic will appeal to anyone that enjoys The Hobbit or Lord of the Rings. A great way to introduce kids to the fantasy genre!"

Adven SW, review, 5 stars
"This was a great book. My nine year old son could not stop reading it and was able to easily visualize what was happening. Although it's written for 8-12 year olds, I too found it to be very engaging. The characters are fun and likeable. The book is filled with adventure, with lots of twists and turns and kept "our" interest to the very end. If you're looking for an exciting adventure story, for boys and girls, you have found it!"

Denise Lawson, review, 5 stars
"Having recently finished student teaching in a fifth grade class, I have been reading a lot of books at this reading level. When I came across this book, The Delivers: Sharky and the Jewel, I was instantly sucked in. The book is amazing right from the first page and I often found it difficult to put down. This book is a true fantasy and one I greatly enjoyed."

kate55, review, 4 stars
"When I asked my 10 year old daughter to read this book she was a little hesitant to do so. When she finally got started on it, she couldn't put it down. The only time she did was to tell me about what happened in each chapter. The combination of fantasy, adventure and relatable situations makes this book one for the family to share. My daughter shared it with me and I loved it too."

music mom, review, 5 stars
"This is a great book for both boys and girls - good story with lots of adventure. The places that the characters travel to are vividly described and very interesting. The characters have their own adversities to overcome, but work together for the good of all. The story is age appropriate and I recommend it to anyone looking for a book for the 8-12 year old range. My 10 year old daughter highly recommends it, as well!"

Friday, May 25, 2012

A Writer's Week: Making a Breakthrough

After last week's challenges, I was worried that this week would be more of the same. Happily, that wasn't the case. I had a great week. On Saturday, I came up with a solution to the sticking point that I'd run into on the new book. I was able to map out a solution, which led to an improvement in another area. That gave me a great outlook for the rest of the week.

I was concerned that I would not have enough time to put my solution down on paper. I had an evening meeting on Monday, and a school visit after work on Wednesday, so my time was at a premium. I had to scramble just to get some blog posts written. In spite of this, I was able to carve out a little bit of time to make a start. I was able to rewrite and edit one thread in the story. The really big change remains to be made, but I've got the road map, so that shouldn't be a problem as long as I have the time. Stay tuned.

The other great writing-related event that I was able to participate in this week happened on Wednesday night. Yes, you guessed it--another school visit. However, this visit was a little different from the others that I've made. Before I go any further, I'd like to thank Mrs. Pote, Mrs. Russell, Mrs. Magliaro, and everyone at Morris Street School for allowing me to come and be a part of such a great event.

I was able to participate in an after school event for students and parents where I was able to share what inspired me as a writer. I also got a chance to ask the kids what kind of writing they did, and what inspired them.

This was a new experience for me because the grades ranged from kindergarten to fifth grade. In addition, their parents were there, too. The kids were one thing, but would I be able to interest the parents? Well, I have to say that it was a challenge to engage such a wide age range, but I have to say that I think I managed to pull it off.

Most of the children were pretty excited, and they asked great questions, and had some great insights. The parents seemed to enjoy it, too. I even managed to give them a chuckle a time or two. I spoke to two groups for a little over 20 minutes each. Afterwards, I was able to sell a few books, which was the icing on the cake.

The school year is starting to wind down, but I have one more visit scheduled in June, and I'm looking forward to it. As I've said before, school visits are the best part of writing a book. I still remember the affect that having Christopher Collier visit our class when I was young to talk about writing My Brother Son is Dead and autographing my copy. It is humbling to think that I might be able to have the same affect, I some small way at least, to have the same sort of affect on the classes that I visit. Who knows, maybe I've already spoken with the next Rick Riordan. 

This young man had a couple of very interesting questions. He's definitely one of the youngest readers I've spoken with. It was pajama day, by the way. Wish I'd worn mine!

Anyway, I feel like I'm back on the right road with my writing, and getting some good feedback on The Deliverers: Sharky and the Jewel, so I'm expecting to make some good progress next week. Check back on Friday to learn how I made out.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

What's Abigail Reading? The Puppy Place: Princess

This week, we're giving Christian a week off, because Abigail really wanted to share a book that she's been reading. This year, Abby's been reading a lot more on her own this school year, and has really developed a liking for some books.

Last month, Alyssa Satin Capucilli, author of the Biscuit series, among others, came to speak at her school. She was one of twelve students who were invited to a special lunch with her based on essays that they wrote. Since then, she's enjoyed reading--ans writing--a lot more.

This week, she's been reading The Puppy Place: Princess, by Ellen Miles.

Here's what Abigail says the book is about.

"It's about a person named Charles who comes to a hairdresser. After he gets his hair cut, he saw a puppy come in whose name was Princess. Everyone was crowding around Princess and her owner, Alice. Alice said that she was going to get a job far away, and she needed someone to adopt Princess. 

"Charles' family asked to be Princess' foster family until they could find someone to adopt her. Alice said okay. Then she had a list of what Princess wanted. One was that in the morning  she wanted her matching flower bowl and mat. She was trained very well."

Here's what Abigail liked best about the book.

"I liked when Princess ate nicely, because I can never do that. I liked when they offered to find a home for Princess, because that's nice."

Was there anything she didn't like about it?

"I didn't like when Charlie got a haircut. I don't like to get my hair cut."

So, how does Abigail rate The Puppy Place: Princess by Ellen Miles?

She gives it four and a half puppies and kittens out of five.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Did You Know? The Wind in the Willows

It's been a couple of weeks since the last Did You Know. This time around, we'll be taking a look at The Wind in the Willows and its author, Kenneth Grahame. Here are some interesting things I bet you didn't know.

Did You Know...
  • A stage adaptation, Toad of Toad Hall, was written by A.A. Milne in 1929?
  • English novelist William Horwood write a series of sequels in the 1990's? In spite of the huge popularity of The Wind in the Willows, Grahame never wrote a sequel.
  • Grahame was originally a banker, and was the Secretary of the Bank of England? It gives this banker/writer some hope!
  • The character of Mr. Toad was inspired by Grahame's infant son, Alastair? He was headstrong and independent, much like Mr. Toad.
  • Grahame originally told the stories contained within the book to his son at bedtime?
  • Grahame's son, Alistair, was blind in one eye, and had impaired vision in the other? Always troubled, he committed suicide days before his 20th birthday.
  • Winnie the Pooh creator A.A. Milne was such a big fan that he would read it to guests at parties?
  • The Wind in the Willows was the last major work that Grahame wrote? 
Hmmmm, not so many interesting facts this time. Oh well, here's a fun clip that is not from the Disney version.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Monday Interview Series: Mr. Toad

This time around, we find ourselves in the sumptuous, but slightly damp splendor of Toad Hall. That's right, Mr. Toad, famous playboy and toad about town, has agreed to sit and talk with us for a bit.

Greg:  Thank you for inviting us. I hear that your schedule is very busy, so I won't keep you long. What kinds of things do you do?

Mr. Toad:  Oh, well, where to start? The life of an aristocrat is not all peaches and cream, certainly. I have a busy social schedule. The whole of the district looks to me to provide leadership. It's not an easy burden, but one I take on willingly as a mark of my birth.

Greg:  And I'm sure the entire county is grateful for that. Still, I've heard rumors of a number of  disturbing incidents. For example, there was something about a motor car...

Mr. Toad:  Ah yes. A regrettable incident, that. I'll admit that things got a trifle out of hand. You see, I've always had a fascination for anything new--and expensive. I had been on an outing with two associates--Rat and Mole. We were riding cross country in a horse drawn caravan.

Suddenly, we were run off the road by a superb vehicle. It was one of those newfangled motor cars. Rat and Mole were quite put out, but I was spellbound. I had never seen such a combination of speed and power. It was then that I determined to pilot one of them as soon as could be. Riding in a caravan seemed rather dull after that.

Greg:  So you went out and bought one?

Mr. Toad:  Er, umm, well I'm afraid I am rather impetuous when a craze strikes. Yes, I purchased the first one. I had rather a lot of nasty accidents--totally beyond my control you understand--that wound up costing me quite a bit in repairs and fines. 

Friday, May 18, 2012

A Writer's Week: Nothing to Shout About

This week was probably my toughest, writing-wise, since I started this column at the beginning of the year. For one thing, I did not do much promotion at all. After making the Kindle edition of my book free for three days last week, I'm just sitting back now to give folks a chance to read it. I'm hoping I'll get a few reviews out of that over the next month or so.

For the first time in a few weeks, I didn't have any school visits scheduled. I was kind of bummed about that, because they're a lot of fun. I love to see the kids, and hear about what they're writing. Last week, a lot of the class had uploaded my book on their Kindles (during the free promotion), and they all seemed excited to finish reading it.

About the only productive thing I managed to do was jot down a couple of alternate ideas for Stig to help out Eric, Kate & Hallo. I've got Stig doing something that's a little out of character, so I have to come up with something else. My ideas on the subject were okay, but I wasn't thrilled with them.

It's not a huge thing, but it's become a real sticking point, and it's kind of demotivated me a bit. Now, I know this won't last forever, but it's really aggravating me. I may be overthinking things just a bit. It doesn't help that my free time has been limited lately. Oh well, this too shall pass--eventually.

Things are not all black. Next week, I'll be making another school visit. I'll be giving three 20 minute talks about what inspires me as a writer after hours to students and their parents. Now, I've also got some meetings after work this week, so time will still be at a premium, but I hope that I'll get off the snide this week. Anyway, I'll tell you all about what happens--or doesn't--next week.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

What's Christian Reading? The Secrets of Droon: The Final Quest

Christian has always been a big fan of the Secrets of Droon series, by Tony Abbott. Tony Abbott visited his school earlier this year. This week, he read The Final Quest, which sounds like it's the final installment of the series. Let's see if that's the case.

Here's what Christian says the book is about.

:It's about a boy named Eric Hinkle who is in disguise as his evil twin Prince Ungast. Gethwing still believes that he is Prince Ungast. Eric has to collect the magics, which are the Moon Medallion, the Wand of Urik, and Galen Urik and Queen Zara.

"Once Eric has everyone and everything, it's time to head up to Gethwing's secret lair in Queen Zara's chariot. I won't tell you where his lair is, I'll leave that for you to find out by yourself.

"To defeat Gethwing they have to put seven pairs of hands on Gethwing's wheel of life. That is the only way to defeat him."

Here's what Christian liked best about the book.

"I liked how even though Eric was cured, he continued to trick Gethwing the dragon. It was really brave."

Was there anything he didn't like?

"I didn't like that they didn't show the Seven Cities of Gold. I wanted more of a description of that."

So, how did Christian rate The Secrets of Droon: The Final Quest?

Christian gave it four out of five flaming monkey heads.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Tuesday Interview Series: Ichabod Crane

Hello. First off, I need to apologize for not posting yesterday. A busy weekend and a meeting last night combined to sink me. Unfortunately, it looks like it's going to be a repeat next Monday. With that being said, I'm pleased to announce that I've got a very special guest for us to talk to.

We've managed to track down an elusive literary figure. I am in an undisclosed location with an erstwhile schoolteacher who almost lost his head over a girl, Mr. Ichabod Crane.

Greg:  Thank you for joining us, Mr. Crane. It's very exciting to have you here.

Ichabod:  Er, um, thank you. It's very flattering of you to say. I have to admit that I am a trifle nervous to have you here. You weren't followed, were you?

Greg:  No, definitely not. I followed your instructions to the letter, even the part about not passing the pumpkin patch in the light of a full moon.

Ichabod:'ll forgive me if I remain skeptical. I've spent many years ensuring that my whereabouts remain secret. I only agreed to this interview because I thought it was time for my side of my story to be told, and because you said you were a famous, well respected author who could publicize is.

Greg:  Um, yeah, well I hope to be one day. Anyway, if I were a famous, well respected author, I couldn't have come here without being followed.  But that's not important. I think the world wants to know what happened to you that night when the Headless Horseman.

Ichabod:  Yes, as well you might. It was a dark moonlit night, and my thoughts were full of the lovely Katrina Van Tassel and the prospect of being wed to her. I was not particularly worried as I passed through the hollow on my way back to the schoolhouse. 

However, the night was dark and the moon had moved behind the clouds when I heard the sound of galloping hooves behind me. At first, I was not unduly alarmed, as I assumed it was someone else making their way home from Squire Van Tassel's party. 

Friday, May 11, 2012

A Writer's Week: Giving It All Away

First things first. I made another school visit this week. A big thank you to Ms. Gaipa's 4th grade class! I loved your questions and hearing all about your different writing projects! The kids had some great observations about the book and writing in general. Thank you very much, I had a great time. Unfortunately, I forgot to bring my camera, so I didn't get any pictures of the visit.

It's always great to visit classes and connect with the kids. They also come up with some interesting questions. I always seem to meet at least one that's writing a book. They all have great ideas.School visits are a great way to get the word out about The Deliverers: Sharky and the Jewel. Lately, though, I've been trying to figure out a good way to drum up some interest beyond my rather limited sphere of influence.

Then, I hit upon an idea. Actually, the opportunity had been staring me in the face, I just hadn't been alert enough to see it. Amazon has a program where you can offer the Kindle version of your book for free for up to five days within a 90 day period. So, that's what I decided to do. I figured everybody likes free stuff, right? It might be a good opportunity to get the book into the hands of people I don't know. The more people that read it, the more chance they'll like it and spread the word, right?

I made the book available for free for three days this week. I have to say that it was a success. Overall, I gave away 1,343 copies of the book in the U.S., 16 in England, seven in Germany, and one in Spain. For a couple of hours, I was giving away a book a minute! In Kindle's ranking of bestselling free books, I made it as high as #204. I was #5 in children's action & adventure, and #5 in children's science fiction & fantasy.

So, I got the book into the hands of a lot of people that would not have even known it existed. That's great. Now I'll have to wait and see if this results in increased sales and some more reviews on my Amazon page. My hope is that at least half the people who got the book will actually read it, and some of those will like it and spread the word.  If it works out, I might try it again for a day or two every few months.

That was my big marketing push this week. On the writing side, I've got to rewrite part of the new book. Stig does something that works the first couple of times he does it. I mean that he does it for two valid reasons. The third time he does it, it's not convincing, so I'm trying to think of something he can do instead that would work. I'll come up with a good alternative. Hopefully I can fill you in on some progress next week!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

My Favorite Books: Where the Wild Things Are

Unless you haven't watched the news or picked up a paper or been online this week, you know that we lost a groundbreaking children's writer/illustrator. I grew up not too far from where Maurice Sendak lived. The girl who was his caretaker in the last years of his life grew up two houses down the street from me.

Because of that and the fact that I loved Where the Wild Things Are as a wee lad (and as a large lad for that matter), I think it's only fitting that I feature this classic book in this week's column. A while back, I wrote about  my brush with Mr. Sendak. His living so close made being a children's book writer not just some nebulous concept, but something real.

Why this is one of my favorite books.

Aside from the fact that Maurice Sendak lived in the same town that I grew up in, the book has a special meaning for me. It's the first book that I remember being read to me. It was published the year I was born, so it was still new

I identified with the main character, Max. He was a wild thing, as was I. I liked to run around. I also liked the idea of going to another world, which is probably the one theme that really resonates with me. Besides that, the wild things were cool.

What I didn't know when I first read it.

I didn't know much of anything when this book was first read to me. That's probably why it's stuck with me, because it's just about the first book I remember. I didn't know that I would one day write a children's book of my own. 

I also didn't know how long and winding a journey I would be taking in becoming an author, albeit a part time one. Where the Wild Things Are was the first step that I took on that journey. Thanks Mr. Sendak.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

What's Christian Reading? The Son of Neptune

Christian has been tackling a very long book this week, Rick Riordan's The Son of Neptune. I'm anxious to hear what he thinks about it. So, without further ado, here's Christian's take on it.

Here's what Christian says the book is about.

"It's about Percy Jackson. He's lost his memory and is trying to regain it. At first, he only remembers Annabeth. But, as time goes on he remembers more stuff. He finds out that Tyson is looking for him. Tyson  was sent by Camp Half -Blood to find Percy, because he's missing.

"Percy got switched with a boy named Jayson from the Roman Camp Jupiter by Hera to try to make peace between the two camps. Percy has two friends in Camp Jupiter, Hazel and Frank. They go on a quest up to Alaska to beat Alcyoneus, who is a son of Gea. 

"In order to beat him, they have to take him out of Alaska. They also have to free Thantos, the god of death, and assistant of Hades."

Here's what Christian liked best.

"The best part was when Frank was claimed by Ares the god of war. He thought he was going to be claimed by Apollo, and wasn't really that happy when he wasn't. I thought it was pretty interesting."

Was there anything he didn't like?

"Nah, I liked it all."

So, how did Christian rate The Son of Neptune by Rick Riordan?

He gives it five out of five flaming monkey heads.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Monday Interview Series: Merlin's Rebuttal

Well, things have certainly been exciting here at The Deliverers Publishing Headquarters. First of all, I am offering the Kindle version of The Deliverers: Sharky and the Jewel for free for the next three days (5/8, 9 & 10), and they've been going like hotcakes. At one point today, I was giving away a book a minute! Heady stuff. Now I know how J.K. Rowling must feel (numb). Would that folks were paying for them! Oh well, hopefully this will generate some word of mouth and some reviews!

The other thing that's been occupying my time has been the controversy generated by yesterday's interview with King Arthur. In case you missed it, he had some rather unpleasant things to say about his onetime friend and mentor, Merlin. I have to admit that I was shocked.

So, I suppose it wasn't a surprise when I received a phone call from the venerable wizard. He was upset that Arthur painted him in such an unflattering light, and that I had acted in his words, "like a most hard hearted and shameful accomplice." Well, what could I say? I offered him equal time to tell his side of the story, if he was willing.

He jumped at the chance. So, straight from Merlin's Cave, here is Merlin's rebuttal.

Greg:  Well, Merlin, it certainly is nice to meet you, although I wish the circumstances might be a little more cheery.

Merlin:  Thank you for the opportunity my boy. It really is good of you to allow me some time to defend myself.

Greg:  Not at all. We don't usually do two interviews in one week, but I thought the situation warranted it. Now, why don't you tell us where Arthur went astray in his recollection of events.

Merlin:  Gladly. Unfortunately, most everything he said was sheer fabrication. I was the guiding force behind the throne. I've known Arthur since he was a mere boy. I was his teacher, and schooled him in the ways of the natural world, government, morals and ethics. I suppose I did not do a very good job on that last item.

But to address your question, Arthur might think he accomplished what he did on his own, but it was I who laid the groundwork. As for my magic not amounting to much, I'll have you know that I have performed many extraordinary feats. I am a master shape changer, and used that power to great effect in Arthur's education.

Greg:  Yes, but what about the time traveler from Connecticut who blotted out the sun?

Merlin:  Argh! It was that Twain person. He had it in for me from the very start. Always painted me as a villain, a fool. What he did was not magic, mere looking back to the past. Hindsight is always 20/20. I look into the future. My specialty is seeing what shall be.

Greg:  Then why didn't you see what was coming?

Monday, May 7, 2012

Monday Interview Series: King Arthur

Today, we're taking a journey through the mists of Avalon to talk to a giant of myth, literature, and history--none other than King Arthur himself. We met with Arthur in his court at Camelot. Will he let us sit at the Round Table? We shall see...

Greg:  So, this is the wondrous Camelot, is it?

Arthur:  Yes, magnificent, is it not? It is the wonder of all Britain. Travelers come from far and wide just to gaze upon its beauty.

Greg:  Well, I can certainly see why. This hall is huge. There are magnificent tapestries hanging on the wall, a roaring fire, a table laid for a feast, and of course, the legendary Round Table.

Arthur:  Ah, yes, humility prevents me from boasting, but I must admit that it is all rather splendid. Of course, all this has been hard-won. It did not just fall into my lap. Britain was a mess. The cursed Saxons had the run of the place.

Greg:  Oh yes, that's right. You and Merlin united the whole country and rose up against the Saxons. Your success ushered in a Golden Age. That's how it went, right?

Arthur:  Well, yes, if you believe everything you read. To be brutally frank, Merlin did not have much to do with it. He wasn't as big a deal as he's made out to be. His magic was not really that spectacular. We once had a visitor from the far off land of Conn Ect Icut who could blot out the sun. Merlin could not perform such wondrous works.

No, it was due to myself and Excalibur, my magic sword, to which most of the praise and honor is due. After all, it was I who won the heart of Guinevere, the comeliest maid throughout the whole of Britain. Merlin could not get so much as a date.

Greg:  I see. There are some who say your origins are rooted in history, while others say you're completely legendary. What do you have to say about that?

Saturday, May 5, 2012

A Writer's Week: School Days

This week, I was fortunate to visit another school. Thank you very much to Mrs. Woodard and her 2nd grade class! I really enjoyed myself. The kids were great, and asked a lot of fantastic questions.

This was the youngest class that I've visited so far. I was a little worried about how to approach them. Their teacher had not started reading the book to them yet. She's waiting until June to start it, since they're just a hair young for it. I decided that I'd just talk to them in general about writing.

So that's what I did. I gave them a little information about The Deliverers and then asked if any of them liked to write. About 80% of the class raised their hands. So I asked them to tell me what types of things they liked to write. From there, it was off into how they get ideas for their stories and what kinds of characters they wrote about.

I explained how I wrote the book and how I got my ideas and where my characters came from. They were asking questions all the time, and were really engaged. Then, I pulled out a little stone owl. I passed it around to the class, and told them that when I went to China, I found "Stig" sitting on a shelf. I decided to bring him home, and he sat nearby as I wrote the rest of The Deliverers. 

Then, they asked me to read some of the book. At that point, we were pressed for time, so I read the first five or six pages, which touched off another round of questions. All in all, a great session. I've got another school visit scheduled for next week, and I'll fill you in on how that goes.

As for my writing...The new book hasn't progressed, word-wise, since last week. However, I have reread the 112 pages of the manuscript that I've written so far, and have identified a few inconsistencies. I'm also trying to figure out what, if anything, about the plot has to be reworked. I don't know that anything does right now, but that just may be due to a lack of objectivity on my part--it's hard to say.

I was looking to instill a greater sense of urgency into the book. Right now there's no deadline they have to meet. I am running dual story lines, and they cut over every couple of chapters or so, so that keeps the plot moving along, in my opinion. I think that I'll be able to start moving the story forward again in the coming week. I'll check in with an update again next week!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

My Favorite Books: My Brother Sam is Dead

It's been a while since I wrote an installment of this column. In the last one, I wrote about The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Today, I want to talk about another book I loved as a child, and one that I still enjoy, My Brother Sam is Dead by Christopher and James Lincoln Collier.

Why this is one of my favorite books.

I've got a few reasons:
1. First of all, the events depicted in the book take place in the same area in which I grew up. One of the places they travel through, Ridgebury, is the section of Ridgefield, CT in which I grew up. It sparked my imagination to think of them traveling right by my house. It didn't matter that our property was a farmer's field back then.

I knew all the landmarks that were mentioned and had been to Putnam Park in Redding, which was the site of General Putnam's winter encampment. It made history come alive. Check out this link to see what some of the book's locations look like today.

2. It's a historical novel about the American Revolution. I love historical novels, especially those relating to the revolution. In addition to this book, I love Johnny Tremain, April Morning, and Silver for General Washington.

One day, I'm going to write a novel for kids set during the American Revolution. I just need to hit on the right idea. Eric & Stig travel back in time to assist? Hmmm.....

3. The final reason that I really love this book is that one of the authors, Christopher Collier, spoke to my class when I was in the second grade. I had received a copy of the book for Christmas, and I brought it to school that day, and he autographed it. Still have it. Cool.

What I didn't know when I first read it.

I didn't know much about the historical events depicted in this book. I knew about the Battle of Ridgefield (small battle, but still cool), and the burning of Danbury, but nothing about what life was like in that area during the revolution. I also didn't know anything about the winter encampment of General Wooster's army, or that the area was a Tory hotbed.

In some ways, this book influenced me when I was writing my book, The Deliverers: Sharky and the Jewel. The village of Calendria in my book is based on a colonial village. My first taste of that in literature was My Brother Sam is Dead.

What are some book that you read when you were young, or are reading today, that have had a big influence on you?

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

What's Christian Reading? The Genius Files: Never Say Genius

Christian is still deep into the Hardy Boys mysteries, but he also managed to read another book. I swear, he reads books like there's no tomorrow (don't get me wrong, it's a good thing). This week, he's going to fill us in on The Genius Files: Never Say Genius by Dan Gutman.

This is what Christian says the book is about.

"It's about two kids, one boy and one gir, who are geniusesl. Their names are Coke and Pepsi. They were part of a secret society called The Genius Files. The head of the society is Dr. Herman Warsaw. He turned out to be a crazy, maniacal freak. He supposedly died in a fall from the Infinity Room.

"Coke and Pepsi get tracked down by their psycho health teacher, Mrs. Higgins, who turned out to be Dr. Warsaw's fiance. The kids have some help from Mya and Bone, two grownups involved in The Genius Files. They pop up every once in a while in the most unexpected places.

"They meet another Genius Files kid called Archie Clone who happens to know that the million dollar reward given to The Genius Files kids once they reach the age of 21 isn't really a million dollars for each of them, but $1 million split between everyone. Archie wants the prize all for himself, so he is killing off all the other Genius Files kids.

"First, he tries to dip Coke and Pepsi in a vat of boiling oil while he pretends to be a McDonald's french fry exhibitor. Then, he tries to freeze them in a Mr. Softee truck by being covered entirely in ice cream. They manage to escape from both predicaments."

Here's what Christian liked best about the book.

"I liked how they escaped from every predicament dreamed up by either Mrs. Higgins or Archie Clone. They use their noggins to escape. They're geniuses--literally."

Was there anything Christian didn't like about the book?

"I didn't really like the surprise at the end--I'll let you find that our for yourselves."

So, how did Christian rate The Genius Files: Never Say Genius by Dan Gutman?

He gives it five out of five flaming monkey heads.