Friday, May 31, 2013

A Writer's Week #71: Back in the Saddle Again

It's been a couple of weeks since I checked in with an update on my writing activities. The reason for this is twofold: first, Eric and Stig hosted the May meeting of the Character Book Club when they interviewed Millie from Millicent Marie is Not My Name, secondly, there just has not been a lot happening on the writing front of late.

Version 1 of the map
That changed this week. While I still did not get any writing done, I did receive an updated layout of Order of the Crystal Lion from layout artist Ana Vogel. This version of the layout included the map and the illustration for the chapters by illustrator Daniel Vogel. It was my first glimpse of these and I really loved them. I also received the first version of the cover. The artwork was great, but I did suggest some changes/tweaks. Now the ball is back in their court, but it should not be too long before I'm ready to send everything off to the publisher.

I also paid a visit to my son Christian's 5th grade class. A big thank you to Mrs. Mleczko and all the kids. They asked some fantastic questions and were really attentive in spite of the fact that it was right at the end of a really hot day. There were some aspiring authors in the class and they asked a lot of fantastic questions about the craft of writing. 
Whenever I visit a class I am always blown away by some of the questions they ask and their story ideas. Whenever I talk about The Deliverers, and ask them what they think will happen next, some of their answers have me wishing I had come up with those scenarios.

I have also confirmed that I will be at Preserve New Fairfield's annual Strawberry Festival at the New Fairfield Senior Center on Sunday, June 9th from 1 to 4. I'll be signing books and taking pre-orders for Order of the Crystal Lion. I hope to see you there!

 In the coming week, I'm hoping to receive version 2 of the cover and the final version of the interior of the book. I am also planning to resume work on book three in the Deliverers Series, The Golden Dragon of Ang. I'll let you know what happens next week!

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

What's Elizabeth Reading? Beware, Princess Elizabeth

Elizabeth has been reading like crazy (as usual)! This time around, she's going to be telling us about a book that's more fact than fiction. The book is called Beware, Princess Elizabeth, by Carolyn Meyer, and I'm sure Elizabeth did not read it just because she has the same name as the heroine. Let's see what she had to say about it.

Here's what Elizabeth says the book is about.

This is the true story of how Elizabeth Tudor came to be Queen of England. In 1547, her father died leaving her third in line for the throne. She is just a teenager, but while her younger half brother and older half sister suspect her of wanting to claim the throne for herself, she is faced with many dangers.

Many of the people who Elizabeth loves are beheaded in her relatives' ad scramble for power. One of them is the man she wanted to marry. She discovers that he is only using her to get himself onto the throne!

Here's what Elizabeth liked best about the book.

While reading the story in the first person, I felt like I was one of Elizabeth's ladies in waiting--or somebody close to her--and she was telling her story to me. I liked how I could really imagine and feel what she was thinking.

Was there anything Elizabeth did not like about it.

No, I really enjoyed this book.

So, how did Elizabeth rate Beware, Princess Elizabeth, by Carolyn Meyer?

She gave it five out of five blue dragons!

Monday, May 27, 2013

Between the Lines: Sybil Ludington

Happy Memorial Day everyone! Since this is a day for remembering those who served and gave their lives fighting for freedom, I thought I'd recognize one of them. Because this blog is all about writing for children and talking about children's books, it seemed appropriate to see if I could find someone under the age of 18 who played a part in our country's struggle for liberty and freedom.

There are plenty of well known characters in children's historical novels that I could have interviewed, but I decided it would be cool to interview a real child hero. She's not very well known, but she played a key role in the history of the area along the Connecticut/New York border where I grew up. I was very fortunate that she was able to take some time to chat with me. Her name is Sybil Ludington, and she's a real honest-to-goodness heroine of the American Revolution. So without further ado, let's find out more about her.

Greg:  Hi Sybil, thanks for taking time out of your Memorial Day to talk to us.

Sybil:  Not at all, it is a pleasure to be able to be here.

Greg:  I don't know how many people out there will be familiar with your story, but you're better known now than you were 20 years ago or so. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

Sybil:  Certainly. I was born in what was then called Fredericksburg, New York in 1761. During the revolution, my father, Henry Ludington, was colonel of the local militia. One night in April, 1777, a few days after I had turned 16, a messenger arrived at our house with news that the British had ransacked the town of Danbury, Connecticut, looted the stores of food and supplies hidden there and then set it ablaze.

Greg:  Wow. That sounds a lot like what happened in Lexington and Concord. Why did your father wake you up?

Sybil:  He needed to rouse the militia and get them turned out to come to Danbury's aid. We had about 400 men located within a 40 mile area, and someone needed to alert them. The messenger was tired and did not know the area. I volunteered to ride out and spread the alarm.

Greg:  That was really brave of you, to go out riding in the dark and spread the word.

Sybil:  I don't know about that, but it had to be done, and Father could not spare any of the nearby militia to do it. I pulled on my father's riding breeches while he went out to the barn\and saddled our horse. 

Greg:  Gee, that must have been scary, to ride out on a mission like that in the dark.

Sybil:  The night was dark, but I knew the route. I was not much concerned with the ride itself, but there were other dangers.

Greg:  Like what?

Sybil:  Although there were many patriots in the area, there were also a number of Tories--those who remained loyal to England and the crown. It was possible that they would try and stop me. There was also the danger of running into a British military scouting party. But beyond that, there were also highwaymen that roamed the roads looking for travelers to rob. We called them "skinners".

Greg:  So, what happened? Were you  scared?

Sybil:  I rode through the night and alerted all of the militiamen. I have to admit that I was scared. It was dangerous enough riding in the dead of night through woods and fields. I expected to be waylaid at any moment. But I knew that if I did not raise the militia the British forces might cross over into New York in an attempt to outflank General Washington in nearby Peekskill. At the very least, they would pillage the Connecticut countryside on their way back to their ships in Westport. I had to alert them. They were all that stood in the redcoats' way.

Greg:  Did they make it in time?

Sybil:  Not in time to save Danbury. When I returned home at dawn, they were already mustering. My father led them off later that morning and they arrived in time to reinforce minutemen in Ridgefield, Connecticut, on the southern border of Danbury. They were led by Benedict Arnold and David Wooster.

The Battle of Ridgefield was small, but we managed to do some damage to the British. We built a barricade to bar their way, but they forced their way through. In the fighting, General Wooster was killed. He was a great patriot. The militia harassed the British all the way back to their ship. They paid dearly for those stores.

Greg:  I heard that you were hailed as a hero. General Washington and the French general, Rochambeau, personally thanked you for your service. I'd like to personally thank you, too. Thanks for stopping by and sharing your story with us.

Sybil:  Yes, and thank you for having me. I think anyone in my situation would have done the same. When something needs to be done, you just do it. It's not a case of being brave or anything.   The real heroes are those who fight to keep us free. I'd like to thank all of them, thank you.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

My Favorite Books: A Wizard of Earthsea

Last week, I wrote about The Hobbit, a book that cemented my love of fantasy. Shortly after reading about Bilbo Baggins and his adventures, my mom got me The Lord of the Rings and I was hooked.

After I finished that book, I started looking around for other fantasy novels. In my local Waldenbooks (anyone remember them?) I came across a set of books that looked promising. While not as long as The Lord of the Rings, the cover of the first book really appealed to me (I had a thing about dragons in those days). Besides that, the back of the book said that the Earthsea Trilogy had been compared to The Lord of the Rings and the Chronicles of Narnia.

Nowadays, I'm not so easily swayed by back cover blurbs, but as a boy of about 13 that was enough for me. I bought them and took them home. I dove right into them.

I had no idea who Ursula K. LeGuin was. She sure had a funny sounding name. The front of thee book told me that she'd won some awards--the Hugo and Nebula. I had no clue that she was an accomplished science fiction writer. If I had, I don't know if I would have bought the books.

The fact is she's just a great writer, period. I loved the entire trilogy, which chronicles the journey of an orphaned shepherd boy in a remote mountain village. The boy, Duny, learns he has some small talent for magic from his aunt, the village witch. After saving his village from invaders by calling down a fog, he is apprenticed to a mage named Ogion.

From there, Duny is given a new name, Ged, and he becomes a powerful wizard. However, he falls victim to his pride and makes a dreadful mistake and unleashes the dark side of himself. The rest of the book follows Ged as he is hunted by his darker self and his realization that he can't run from it forever. I found it to be gripping, thought-provoking stuff. The rest of the trilogy was just as good. As a matter of fact, I think I need to go back and reread them.

What books that you read when you were young made a lasting impression on you?

Monday, May 20, 2013

Between the Lines: Doctor Dolittle

This week I'm on location in the charming little fictitious English town of Puddleby-on-the-Marsh. I'm here to speak with its most famous resident and the world's most famous animal lover, Doctor Dolittle. He can talk to animals, and was kind enough to invite me here to talk with him about his remarkable story.

Greg:  Thanks for inviting me, doctor. This is really a very pretty village. Did you always have a love of animals?

Dr. Dolittle:  Oh yes. I've always been a bit of an animal lover. I never missed the opportunity to take in a sick or abandoned animal. My cottage became so crowded with animals that I lost all my human patients. My income was drying up and I would have been destitute if it weren't for Polynesia. 

Greg:  Polynesia?

Dr. Dolittle: My parrot. At first, he was just a pet and i taught him all sorts of words. Then one day, the most extraordinary thing happened.

Greg:  What was that?

Dr. Dolittle:  He began speaking on his own. By that I mean he did not just repeat the words I had taught him, he actually spoke for himself. 

Greg:  What did you do?

Dr. Dolittle:  I was taken aback, I can tell you. I could scarce believe what I was hearing. However, after Polynesia assured me that he could in fact talk, he made a very intriguing proposition. He offered to teach me how to talk with animals.

Greg:  Hey, that's pretty cool.

Dr. Dolittle:  Quite. My thought exactly. It was an opportunity not to be missed. Think of it, a chance to know what animals were thinking! It would also aid me in discovering what was making them sick and would help me cure them.

Greg:  So what happened?

Dr. Dolittle:  Polynesia opened a whole new world to me. I became a veterinarian. Animals came from all over the world so that I could cure them. Sometimes, if they could not come to me, I went to them. That set the stage for a host of adventures.

Greg:  Like what?

Dr. Dolittle:  I enlisted some of my animal friends to sail to Africa to cure an epidemic that was sweeping the Monkey Kingdom. Naturally, the trip was not without its problems. Animals make clumsy sailors at best, and we were shipwrecked. 

Greg:  Shipwrecked? What did you do?

Dr. Dolittle:  We managed to extricate ourselves and made our way to the Monkey Kingdom. With the help of my friends, I was able to snuff out the epidemic. The Monkey king was so grateful he presented me with the rarest of creatures. Something than no man had ever laid eyes on before.

Greg:  What was it?

Dr. Dolittle:  A pushmi-pullyu. I believe it was a cross between an antelope and a zebra or something of the like. It had two heads and four legs. There was one head in front and one behind. It was a priceless gift. The pushmi-pullyu was a little hesitant at first, but when we finally got back to England (we had a bit of bother with pirates), they were pleasantly surprised. I think everything turned out most satisfactorily for everyone involved.

Greg:  That's wonderful. Thank you so much for having us over to visit with you.

Dr. Dolittle:  No bother at all, my pleasure entirely. We are getting ready to take the pushmi-pullyu on tour to raise awareness for animal welfare. He should really impress the customers coming and going! Cheers!

Friday, May 17, 2013

The Character Book Club Welcomes Millicent, Millie

Hey everybody! Today's a real special day, because Greg has handed over control of the Deliverers Blog to me--Eric--and my owl friend, Stig. Why has Mr. S. given us power over his blog? We've been asked to host this month's meeting of the Character Book Club! The CBC is this cool club where characters from great middle grade novels hang out and get to know each other better! I'm really excited that Stig and I have been asked to join. I mean, who doesn't like to be part of an awesome club?

Right now the club is made up of Stig and me, the Detective Mystery Squad from The Secret DMS Files of Fairday Morrow, Nate Rocks from the excellent series of the same name, and Millie from Millicent Marie is Not My Name by Karen Pokras Toz. This month, Stig and I will be interviewing Millie. Let's see what she has to say.

Eric:  Hi Millie. Welcome to the Deliverers Blog. I think this Character Book Club is a really cool idea and I’m thrilled that we’re all a part of it. Have you ever been part of a club before?

I know! I love it too! Last week I got to interview the gang from the DMS (Detective Mystery Squad) on my blog – they were so cool!! And now here I am on your blog! I can’t wait to see who will be next.

Stig:  I must say that while clubs can be a lot of fun and they allow you to meet a lot of people, I find that I prefer the company of a few good friends. Who are your closest friends?

Well, my best friend is Natalie. We have a lot in common, but we are also a lot different. I think that’s important in a friend, because then you can learn about new things. For example, she travels every summer with her family, and then when she comes home, she tells me all about it. It sort of makes me feel like I went there too. So far Paris is my favorite.

Eric:  I was reading your blog the other day, and I thought it was really cool. What’s your favorite thing that you like to write about on your blog?

Oh I don’t know – I guess it depends on what is happening in my life at that moment in time, you know? One thing is for sure; I try really hard not to gossip, because that got me in real big trouble before.

Stig:  Are your parents supportive of your after school activities?

Sort of. I used to always just play soccer, and then I wanted to join the drama club. My mom wasn’t really happy I was dropping soccer, but eventually she came around. I just had to quit soccer though because this girl who was a bully was on the team, and this boy who is super cute was in drama club, so it was sort of a no-brainer for me. In the end, my parents were cool with it.

Eric:  I don’t have any brothers or sisters and sometimes I kinda wish I had one or two. Stig’s got, like, 50 or so, but he’s not really close with any of them. What’s it like having a little brother?

Doogle? Ugh. You heard what he did right? He took my PRIVATE diary and he published it all over the Internet for EVERYONE to see. He got in really REALLY big trouble. He’s been better since then, but he’s still a royal pain. (and no – that’s not gossip – everyone KNOWS he’s a royal pain!)

Stig:  I have to say that Eric may be overestimating the amount of siblings I have, but I have to admit I do have quite a few. He’s correct in his statement that none of us are close, owls tend to go their own way, you see. We like to travel and see the world, or in my case see many worlds. If you could travel anywhere to any time, where would you go, and who would you bring with you?

Oh my gosh – that is a super cool question! Wow – okay, so I would definitely take Natalie because she’s an expert traveller. I think I’d like to go to Europe in the 1920s. See, I was named after this old relative named Millicent  - she kind of did all this stuff that got her in trouble that no one ever talks about. If you ask me, I think she sounds kind of cool and fun, so I’d like to travel to Europe when she was alive to see exactly what it was she was up to!

Eric:  That's really cool. I know you’re into some awesome stuff yourself, like soccer and set design. I saw a video on YouTube from your school play that was pretty sweet. Do you think you’ll try out for a part in the next one?

Seriously? We were on You Tube? Wow oh wow oh wow!!! I definitely want to be in the next one. It was super fun.

Stig:  We owls spend a great deal of time studying. I myself love to read, and I know Eric and the rest of the Deliverers do as well. What types of books do you like to read?

Well don’t tell that Toz lady (she’s the one who wrote my book), but my favorite author is Judy Blume. I love reading books about other kids. Oh and it’s no secret that I LOVE “The Secret DMS File of Fairday Morrow” and your book looks awesome too! I can’t wait to read it.

Eric:  I noticed on your blog that you give advice. I’ve been picked on a little bit in the past—I kinda think everyone has to some degree. What advice would you give to someone who’s getting teased at school?

Getting teased stinks. First of all, remember that it’s not you who has the problem, but the other person. Second, don’t be afraid to speak up. Tell an adult – tell a bunch of adults. It may be hard to talk about, but they will help!

Stig:  Now that “Amanda’s” blog has ended, what are your future plans? Are you ready for middle school?

Well, as you know, I have my blog “Millie Says.” It’s good to be able to write as Millie instead of Amanda. Trying to be two people at once is hard work! Middle School? Oh yeah – totally! It’s going to be so cool. I can’t wait!!

Eric:  I guess that’s it for now. Thanks for stopping by, Millie. I had a great time. It’s been really interesting and cool talking with you.

Hey well thanks for having me! This has been super fun!

Stig:  Thank you my dear for taking some time to chat with us a bit. You are quite a charming young lady. I can’t tell you how much fun it’s been, a real pleasure. You know, if you’re ever in the mood for an adventure, I’m sure the Gatekeeper would love to send you on an Assignment with the Deliverers.

Oooh – I would love that! When do we get started?

Eric:  Yeah, that’d be awesome. There are a lot of worlds out there that need help. I think Kate and Hallo would love to have you join us some time.

Count me in – you know where to find me!  Thanks again for having me on your blog today. It was so nice to meet you both. I have to admit, I was kind of nervous, well mostly because I’ve never spoken to an owl before (or even seen a talking owl to be honest), but I have to say, you both are tops on my list!

Now ... guess what? Here's something really exciting. We're holding a Fan Art Contest for the rest of this month! Draw a picture of Millie doing something she loves like writing on her blog or playing soccer or acting to win a signed copy of Millicent Marie is Not My Name!
Send your illustration to:

Snail Mail:
6 Butternut Lane
New Fairfield, CT 068112

The winning illustration will be chosen by a panel of judges and displayed at the next Character Book Club meeting, which will be announced in Fairday's June newsletter! 

And speaking of the next meeting...

Be sure to join us for next month's Character Book Club meeting! It's going to be awesome and you'll never guess who is getting interviewed .... me & Stig!! Yup, We're getting interviewed by Pete from Alligators Overhead by C. Lee McKenzie! I can't wait!!

See you next month!!!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

My Favorite Books: The Hobbit

As I was thinking back over some of the books that I really enjoyed when I was young, I realized that I’ve never written about one of my favorite books of all time. While Narnia got me into the fantasy genre, and reading The Lord of the Rings sealed my fantasy addiction and became my favorite book, there was one other book that told me I was on to something.

I’m talking about The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien. After racing through the Chronicles of Narnia as an 11 or 12 year old, I was looking around for another book “like Narnia”. Once again, my mother came to the rescue with a suggestion—The Hobbit. I got hold of a copy from the library and devoured it.

Not only was it a good adventure, but it was really funny in places and scary in others. I think it has the perfect combination. This was my first “quest” book, and it really does feature a classic. There are 13 dwarves trying to recover their stolen gold. Their advisor is a wizard named Gandalf who recruits a simple, stay at home hobbit to go off and have an adventure. What’s funny is that he was selected as a burglar to steal the treasure (the idea of one small person trying to steal the wealth of an entire dwarf kingdom!) and to change the number of people in the party from an unlucky 13 to 14!

Bilbo is very put out at the thought of going on an adventure. When the dwarves tell him the golden horde was stolen and is guarded by a dragon named Smaug, he’s even more reluctant. Still, he screws up his courage and decides to go, although he is almost left behind. That sets him on a path that will change his life, and the course of history.

This book fueled my hunger for books of this type and led me to its sequel, The Lord of the Rings. From there I was off. I started reading a lot of fantasy, good and otherwise. I’ll tell you about the next step on that journey next time!

Here's a look at the animated classic version from Rankin Bass:

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Between the Lines: Mother Goose

I hope all you mothers out there had a happy Mother’s Day! We had a great day here at the Deliverers Publishing Headquarters. Since the day before yesterday was Mother’s Day, I thought it would be fun to chat a little with Mother Goose. I’m sure she has some interesting anecdotes about writing fairy tales and nursery rhymes. Let’s see what she had to say.

Greg:  It’s great having you here. Thanks for taking some time to talk with us!

Mother Goose:  It’s my pleasure entirely, I can assure you! I just love to sit and chat. Give me a nice cup of tea and a comfy chair and I’m yours for the evening!

Greg:  Fantastic. I guess the first thing I’d like to ask you is where did you get the ideas for all your wonderful stories?

Mother Goose: Ideas? Whatever do you mean?

Greg:  You know—ideas for all those wonderful tales and rhymes you wrote. Over the years it’s been said that you wrote fairy tales including Little Red Riding Hood, Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella. You’ve also been credited with writing a whole bunch of nursery rhymes including Old King Cole, the Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe and Little Boy Blue.

Mother Goose:  Yes, yes, I am familiar with them of course, but I did not ‘make them up’, they are based on actual events that I witnessed and people that I know.

Greg:  You’re kidding, right?

Mother Goose:  I most certainly am not! What an impertinent thing to say. What cheek!

Greg:  But surely that can’t be true. I mean, an old woman who lives in a shoe, an
egg that falls off a wall. You’re pulling my leg!

Mother Goose:  Why did you have me here to talk if you insist on calling my credibility into question, young man? Poor old Humpty was not an egg. It was no joke when he fell off that wall I can tell you. Try it once yourself and see. The poor dear! He was never quite right after that whole incident. The king’s horses and king’s men never did get him good as new again. What he needed was a neurosurgeon, not a lot of knights and livestock! I suppose that’s what comes from not having proper medical insurance. I warned him numerous times, but he simply refused to listen!

Greg:  You’re serious, aren’t you? Wow, I never thought you stories were true. Tell me some more about the people you wrote about.

Mother Goose:  Well, let me see. Oh well, the old lady who lived in a shoe, Doris is her name. She is quite an interesting person. Do you know that she had the opportunity to marry a duke? Yes, it’s true. Unfortunately, she became smitten with a cobbler by the name of Sheldon. She gave up a future of ease and comfort for him. Now she lives in this huge shoe he cobbled together for her and she’s got so many children she doesn’t know what to do.

Still, I believe she’s happy. The shoe is no castle—the stitching is not tight enough so it leaks in the rain and the sole is rather thin, but she’s confided to me that she would not trade it for the finest mansion, so there you all. It takes all kinds I suppose.

Then there is Jack and Jill. I don’t know if I’ll ever quite figure them out. I believe they care about each other deeply, but they won’t commit. They seem perfectly happy trudging up that hill day after day to fetch that water. Poor Jack is so clumsy and Jill is not much better. Once he fell and nearly split his head open! I thought that would put an end to it, but do you know what? As soon as he was out of the hospital he was right back at it, going up that hill to fetch some water. I can’t work it out. And him with running water at home and everything!

Greg:  That certainly is remarkable. How does everyone feel about you chronicling their lives like that?

Mother Goose:  Most were tickled pink, but I will admit there were a few who were rather put out about it. Little Boy Blue was quite upset. He was not at all pleased that I spilled the beans about his habit of sleeping on the job. In fact, he was sacked because of it. But things happen for the best. He’s been hired as the latest member of the Blue Man Group—you know those interesting musical performers—and is now on a worldwide tour!

Greg:  Well, that is certainly good news. I’m glad things worked out for him! Thank you so much for stopping by to share the stories behind your stories with us!

Mother Goose:  Not at all young man. It really has been a lot of fun. Oh the memories! Now I really must fly. I’m headed over to Mary’s house. I’m going to be lambsitting. Do you know that little lamb still insists on following poor Mary to school, even though it’s against the rules? Disgraceful. Still, lambs will be lambs, as they say! I’ll get it to stay with me by hook or by crook, you see if I don’t! Ta-ta!

Saturday, May 11, 2013

A Writer's Week #70: Editing

I think the title of this week's post says it all. There was not a whole lot of writing going on this The Golden Dragon of Ang a couple of weeks ago, I thought it would be a good idea to do a little editing work on the manuscript. That's what I did this week.
week. Instead, editing was at the fore. First of all, since I decided to slacken the pace on writing

I have to say that as I reviewed the 158 pages I've written so far that I am pretty pleased with the way the story is unfolding. I even think there might be a girl who's interested in Eric. That just kind of came up out of nowhere. What was even more surprising was that there is someone who
doesn't seem to be very happy about it. Eric's almost 14 now. These things happen. As I was reading the story, I found a lot of things that I could improve, writing-wise. So all in all it was a productive week. I can't wait to start moving the story forward again.

On Thursday I got a little closer to doing that. My friend Ana sent me the layout for Order of the Crystal Lion. While the artwork is still undergoing finishing touches, I took some time to review the preliminary layout. It's looking pretty good. Now all that remains (hopefully) is to slip in the artwork and map and get the cover ready and we'll be all set to publish. Exciting stuff!

I'm including some more pictures of last week's visit to Mrs. Robinson's class. I was supposed to visit my son Christian's class this week, but I had to postpone it for a few weeks. I'll let you know what transpires on the writing front next week.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

What's Abigail Reading? Katie Kazoo Switcheroo, Going Overboard

Abigail's been reading up a storm these days. She's really fallen in love with a girl called Katie Kazoo. Abby just finished reading Katie Kazoo Switcheroo: Going Overboard, by Nancy Krulik. Let's see what she thought about it.

Here's what Abby says the book is about:

This story is about a girl named Katie. Katie and Suzanne’s family are going to go on a cruise together. They were going to be in the Cruising Kids Club together. First a shy girl came up to Suzanne .and told Suzanne that her name was Lizzie. The first thing they did was rock climbing. Katie was the first one to go. They had to climb up the wall and ring the bell. The last one to go was Suzanne because she felt nervous because she thought that the wall was really high.

The next day they went to a magician show. Katie got picked to be the helper and then Suzanne got mad that the magician picked Katie instead of her. Then Suzanne stormed out and Lizzie followed her and went to the promenade deck and brought coral reef earrings. At dinner that night Katie told that she was the helper at the show. Then Suzanne didn’t like what she was saying because it was not about her so she asked everyone at the dinner table if they liked her earrings that she bought on the ship. Then Lizzie came over and asked if she wanted to come and play miniature golf with them and she said okay!  When they were done she came back and said that it was the worst miniature golf ever.

The next day they went to Dolphin Reef. There were shops and Katie said the best part of all was swimming with dolphins. When Katie went to go get the camera she felt the magic wind and she knew that she was going to turn into somebody or something but who? The magic wind turns Katie into all kinds of things like an adult or an animal. I won’t tell you what she turns into, but it’s really cool. Read the book to find out.

Here's what Abby liked best about the book:

My favorite part of the book is when Katie goes swimming with dolphins, because I think it would be cool to do that.

Was there anything that Abby did not like about the book?

My least favorite part is when Katie gets chosen to be the magician's assistant and Suzanne doesn't and storms out, because that isn't very nice to do to somebody.

So, how did Abby rate Katie Kazoo Switcheroo: Going Overboard by Nancy Krulik?

She gave it five out of five dolphins.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Between the Lines: Little Red Riding Hood

This week we’re taking a look between the lines at another great fairy tale, Little Red Riding Hood. I’m very happy to have the heroine of this enchanting story here with me today. I’m talking of course about Red Riding Hood. Let’s see if she has any interesting information to share about her remarkable adventures.

Greg:  First of all, I want to thank you for taking some time out to talk with us for a little bit. As you look back upon your adventure, what’s the biggest thing that jumps out in your memory?

Red Riding Hood:  Thank you for inviting me. Why, what a big house you have! But I’m sorry. You asked me what stood out about my adventure. Why, the wolf of course. He was such a big, nasty, awful brute. I don’t ever want to meet someone like him ever again.

Greg:  I should say not! How did you first meet this wolf? I would think that could not have been a pleasant experience.

Red Riding Hood:  It started when I decided to bring my poor little old grandmother something nice for her midafternoon snack. Granny wasn’t feeling at all well and I wanted to do something to cheer her up, the poor dear. So, I packed a basket filled with some goodies—banana bread, grape juice and a small bottle of wine. Granny takes wine of an evening—strictly for medicinal purposes of course.

Greg:  Of course. Well, that’s a very nice thing for a grand-daughter to do. How does the wolf enter into this?

Red Riding Hood:  You see, my gran lives in the prettiest little cottage nestled in the center of Rootrot Forest. It’s very pretty, but unfortunately the neighborhood’s gone downhill. My daddy has been trying to get her out of there for ages, but she simply does not want to budge—stubborn old thing.

I was walking along the path. My mama told me to stay on the path, you see—better safe than sorry. As I was walking, I could swear I heard noises coming from the forest, almost as if someone were following me. I thought it was just my mind playing tricks on me, so I kept following the path. Suddenly, what should I see up ahead but a large wolf standing right in the middle of the path, blocking my way.

Greg:  Oh dear. What did you do?

Red Riding Hood:  Well, my mama didn’t raise any shrinking violet, but she also didn’t raise a fool. I approached the wolf cautiously wondering how I could get around him when all of a sudden, he up and spoke.

“Where are you going little girl?” he asked.

“Oh nowhere of any importance,” I said. “I’m just going to visit my grandmother and give her a basket of goodies.”

Well, his big eyes got all sparkly when I mentioned the goodies. He seemed to be quite hungry. I suppose I could have offered him something, but I was told never to feed the animals in the zoo, and I thought this might be like that. His manner became very brisk and he took his leave hurriedly, but not before suggesting a spot where I might pick some flowers to bring to granny.

Greg:  Hmmmm, that’s strange. What did you do?

Red Riding Hood:  I went to the spot and picked some flowers. Gran loves flowers. They were quite lovely, too. I thought it was worth the delay. I hurried on my way and arrived at granny’s cottage before dark.

The front door was ajar, which I thought was kind of strange. But when I went inside, nothing seemed to be out of place. Granny was in the bed, and I have to say that she did not look at all well. Her nose was swollen and hairy and her big eyes bulged with a hungry look. She was drooling all over her huge false teeth and she licked her lips with a giant pink tongue. She was in a bad way, I can tell you.

I told her she did not look at all well and outlined each of the areas I just mentioned. She replied in a voice that did not sound like granny’s but was vaguely familiar. It was deeper, for one thing and kind of snarly. Then, almost before I could think, do you know what happened?

Greg:  No, but I could guess.

Red Riding Hood:  Granny jumped out of bed and out of her nightgown. But it wasn’t granny at all, it was the wolf! Yes, a wolf in grandmother’s clothing! I was terrified out of my mind, and I let out a big scream. The wolf rushed at me and I knew he meant to eat me.

Greg:  What happened?

Red Riding Hood:  Luckily, I was prepared. Like I said before, my mama didn’t raise a fool. I reached into the basket of goodies and pulled out the spray bottle of mace that I kept there for emergencies. Granny does live in a bad neighborhood, after all.

That big, bad wolf did not appreciate being sprayed in the face with mace, and he took of out of granny’s cottage so fast, his tail hardly had time to catch up with him.

Greg:  What a relief! I’m glad you were okay. However, there’s one point that I’m hoping you can clear up. I’ve heard accounts that say the wolf ate your grandmother, and others that say he only locked her in a closet. Which are true?

Red Riding Hood:  To be totally honest, neither. It’s all a little bit embarrassing, but you see granny was away that week at her timeshare in Aruba. I had totally forgotten that she spends the first week of every March there. So you see, this whole nasty business was really all for nothing.

I felt a little bad for the wolf. I sent him a basket of goodies to try and make it up to him, but for some reason her returned it unopened. I suppose he’d lost his appetite! 

Friday, May 3, 2013

A Writer's Week #69: On the Road

This was an awesome week. I got a chance to do one of the things I love best, a school visit. I just want to give a big thank you to Mrs. Robinson's 5th grade class. You guys asked some awesome questions! It was great getting to meet you all.

Dan draws
This visit was doubly awesome because for the first time I was accompanied by illustrator Daniel Vogel. Dan added another dimension to my presentation, because he was able to answer all the students' questions about the "art" of illustration. I was fascinated by his description of his creative process. I think we were all impressed when he drew something for the class on the spot. The kids asked him to draw a James Bond-type character. Dan went right to work, asking the kids for details such as what type of tie he would wear as he drew.

I know they were impressed. I loved to see him in action. The class was also inspired by the fact that Dan is just 15 years old and had already illustrated one book with a second due out shortly. He showed them the original artwork for the cover of The Deliverers: Sharky and the Jewel as well as the original drawing of the map.

After our talk, Dan and I were treated to an art show of our own as the class showed us the pictures they had drawn of the opening scenes of The Deliverers: Sharky and the Jewel. They all did a fantastic job, and I'll be featuring them in another post in the near future. It was a lot of fun to see the different interpretations of the book. Eric and Stig's first meeting and meeting the Gatekeeper in the Hallway of Worlds were two of the most popular choices for subject matter. I had intended to have Dan and I judge the drawings and award some prizes, but I loved them all so much that I couldn't decide which I liked the best, so I kind of scratched that idea. It didn't seem right to pick just one or two. I did take the pictures and will display them on a page of the blog soon.

I really have to credit Mrs. Robinson for instilling such a love of reading in her students. This is the second year I've visited her class and both times it was obvious that the kids were excited by reading, and writing their own stories. By the way, she is one half of the talented writing team (along with Jessica Haight) behind the fantastic middle grade mystery The Secret DMS Files of Fairday Morrow.

Next week I have another school visit scheduled. I can't wait to talk to another class about their writing and to answer all their questions. I'll let you know how it went next week!

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Inklings: Questions Answered

For the next few Inklings installments, I'll be answering writing questions that I've been asked by students on my school visits. Today, illustrator Daniel Vogel and I visited Mrs. Robinson's fifth grade class. We had a great time and the students asked some fantastic questions. I'll tell you all about it in a couple of days. One of the questions they asked was How long does it take to write a book?

That's a difficult question. It really depends upon the book--each one is different. For example, The Deliverers: Sharky and the Jewel took six years of off and on writing and rewriting for me to finish it, while The Deliverers 2: Order of the Crystal Lion took a little over a year.

The best answer I can give is  this--until it's done. When you start out on the journey of writing a book, you may have an idea of when you want to finish it, but the truth is until you get it written, and rewritten you never know for sure exactly how long  it will take to complete it.

The worst thing you can do is try to rush it so that it fits into some predetermined time frame. You have to give a book the time it needs to unfold and the time you need to help it do so in a way that makes for a readable story. In short, don't worry about what time you'll arrive at your destination, concentrate on the journey! If you do, you'll find the trip is a lot of fun.

It's May and the next meeting of the Character Book Club (CBC) is coming!!

The exciting thing is, it will be hosted right here! Eric and Stig will be interviewing Millie from Millicent Marie is Not My Name!!

Check back here on May 17th for the scoop from Millie!!