Monday, August 18, 2014

A Writer's Week #114: Summer Perspective

Hi again everyone. I hope you've all be having a great summer--I know I have. In June, I decided to take a break from blogging and writing. I'd been going at it nonstop for almost three years and I needed to stop and take stock. Now that summer's coming to a close and my kids are getting ready to go back to school (did I just hear a loud groan form the living room?), I think it's time to get back on the horse and continue my writer's journey.

Before my little vacation, I'd been about 56 pages and 13,000 words into book four in the Deliverers Series, Sparkling Mist of Time. At the time I had some questions about the direction of the book, how short I was worried it was going to be, and whether or not I was going to have to combine my vision for books four and five into one larger series-ending book. Frankly, I was too wrapped up in things to look at those issues objectively, hence my main reason to step back and get a little perspective.

Last week, after not thinking much about writing at all for a couple of months, I printed out the 56 pages of book four and sat down to read it. I have to admit I did so with more than a little trepidation. I thought for sure I'd find the thing was full of holes. Turns out, it held up pretty well. Some of the issues I was worried about didn't seem to be issues at all with the distance of a couple of months.

I edited it pretty heavily, but the overall plot structure this far is sound. In fact, I came up with  a solution to a
situation that had been bugging the heck out of me without having to really think much about it. It resolved itself as I read. I've figured out who's behind all the sparkling mist that's been seeping into troubled worlds. The upshot is that I think I have a firm direction and I'm reenergized to bring the rest of the book to life.

So, I am setting myself a goal of 2,000 words a week. This is the same modest goal that I've had in the past and one that works well for me. Hopefully, I'll be able to write much more each week, but if time becomes an issue, no worries. As usual, I'll keep you up to date on my progress. Have a great week!

Monday, June 9, 2014

Between the Lines: Lorna Doone

On this raw and rainy June Monday, I woke up wondering who would be a good interview subject this week. As I gazed out my window at the rain coming down, I was reminded of England. That's when inspiration struck and, as Phineas so aptly put it, "Ferb, I know what we're going to do today."

Here then without any further delay is an interview--all the way from 17th century England--with Lorna Doone.

Greg:  Hello Ms. Doone. Thanks for having us here to meet you. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and where you're from?

Lorna:  Oh aye. M' name's Lorna Doone and I'm from Exmoor in Devon and Somerset. 'Tis a beautiful bit of God's own country is Exmoor, but it can be hard and cruel. The folk that live there are the same way.

Greg:  So I've been led to understand. From what I've heard, you've had quite a time lately. Please tell us a little bit about it if you can. 

Lorna:  Oh it's been the devil's own time, i can tell ye. I hardly know where t' begin. I grew up as part of the Doone clan. M' folk've run up on some hard times of late, but once we were quite well respected. My part in the Doone tale begins with the murder of a farmer by the name of Ridd. He were killed by members of m' clan. Now his son, John, vowed revenge upon all the Doones.

Now, I knew nothing of this. The good Lord saw fit that I should meet and fall in love with John Ridd and he with me, each knowing nothing of the other's past nor lineage. 

Greg:  Wow. I expect John would be mighty surprised when he found out who you were.

Lorna:  No doubt he would, but there was more. You see, not only was I a Doone, but I was the granddaughter of the lord of the Doone clan, Sir Ensor Doone.

Greg:  Oh boy. That definitely would not sit well with John.

Lorna:  Aye. And that's not all. I was pledged to wed his successor, Carver Doone. Of course this was against my will as I did not love the swine, but what choice does a girl in 17th century England have? None of course.

Greg:  So what happened?

Lorna:  Well sir, when Sir Ensor died, John helped me escape to his farm, which upset Carver no end. He attacked the farm. I cursed the fates that they had caused me to be born a Doone in the first place.

It was during my time in the Ridd household that someone noticed my necklace, which had been given to me by my mother, God rest her. That is very important as it comes into the story later. Anyhow, it turns out that the necklace belonged to Lady Dugal, owner of one of the biggest fortunes in England. She had been attacked and murdered by outlaws. Only her daughter escaped, but she was never found.

Greg:  Let me guess. You were the daughter, right?

Lorna:  My you are quick. Yes, i was the daughter. I was the heiress to a great fortune, but the law dictated that I must go to London as a ward off the King. John and I can never be married as he is just a lowly farmer. Then there was this revolution and everything was turned topsy-turvy. 

John has been taken prisoner, accused of a crime he did not commit. He is taken to London where we are reunited. He saves the life of the patriarch of the Dugals, Earl Brandir, and is pardoned. The King gives us his permission to marry.

Greg:  Well, there you are. What a happy ending.

Lorna:  Oh, but I'm not finished.

Greg:  Oh, aren't you?

Lorna:  No. John leads an attack on the Doones and almost all their men are killed. Carver escapes, vowing revenge. John and I wed, but during the ceremony Carver turns up and shoots me. John runs after him and they fight. Carver winds up at the bottom of a bog. Luckily, I survive, although it is rather dodgy for a time.

Greg:  Well I must say that is a heck of a story, thats for sharing it with us. It would make a smashing book. You might want to write it all down.

Lorna:  Do you really think so? John's mother has a ripping biscuit recipe, I thought maybe we could open a bakery and market them. He has such a sweet tooth, my John.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Did You Know...Robert Louis Stevenson

Today's Did You Know features some fun facts about Treasure Island and its author, Robert Louis Stevenson.

Did You Know...
  • There have been a total of 25 Treasure Island movies released since 1912 in a wide range of languages?
  • Stevenson's stepson, writer Samuel Lloyd Osbourne (1868–1947), painted a map of an imaginary island which inspired Treasure Island?
  • The book originally was attributed to Captain George North? It wasn't until five years later, when The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde was published that he began usinng his real name.
  • There is a real Treasure Island? It's in San Francisco Bay – not far from Alcatraz – and used to be a military base.
  • It was serialized in Young Folks magazine from 1881-1882, before being released as a book in 1883?
  • Captain Flint's ship was called the Walrus?
  • Treasure Island was the starting point for many of our notions of pirating? For instance, pirates using treasure maps--with X marking the spot, seamen with parrots on their shoulders, the idea of the black spot, pirates and tropical islands, etc.
  • Stevenson fell in love with a married American from San Francisco called Fanny Vandegrift Osbourne, when they met in France in 1876? They were married in 1880 after she divorced.
  • At birth, he was registered as Robert Lewis Balfour Stevenson, but he never used the name Balfour? He also changed Lewis to Louis.
  • His father and grandfather, Thomas and Robert Stevenson, were both engineers and were called the Lighthouse Stevensons? Between them they built most of the lighthouses in Scotland.
  • The Samoans of Upolu called Stevenson Tusitala, which in the local language means Storyteller?
What little known facts do you know about Robert Louis Stevenson or Treasure Island?

Monday, June 2, 2014

Between the Lines: Puss in Boots

As someone who shares his house with four cats, I can tell you from personal experience that they can be quite lazy. The majority of their time is spent lazing around trying to get as much sleep as possible. I can also tell you that they can be quite devoted to their human family. They share the beds at night with my son and daughter. This is especially true if either Christian or Abby are sick.

This week, I have the pleasure of speaking to a cat that showed his love and devotion to his "master" in unprecedented fashion. Here is an interview with Puss in Boots.

Greg:  Hello there Puss, or should I call you Boots?

Boots:  Well, there's a question I haven't been asked before. Do you know, I rather like Boots. Yes, you may call me Boots.

Greg:  Sounds like a plan. So Boots, tell us a little about how you met your master, the Marquis of Carabas.

Boots:  To be perfectly candid, he's not really a marquis--at least not until he met me. Actually he was just the third son of an ordinary miller.

Greg:  But if that's true, then how did he rise to his present station--a marquis engaged to the king's daughter?

Boots:  Ah yes, I do understand your confusion. You see, when the miller died he left various portions of his estate (such as it was) to his three sons. His first born received the mill, his second son received some mules. The youngest was gifted with--me.

Greg:  You? That's it, only a cat?

Boots:  Only a cat? You sound just like the third son. That was his reaction precisely. He, like you and just about everyone else did not realize the value of his inheritance. 

Greg:  I'm sorry, I didn't mean to be rude. But after all, what good is a cat compared to a mill, or even donkeys.

Boots:  Well for one thing, I can talk and if that is not remarkable in and of itself, then I don't know what is. Beyond that, though, I have a certain degree of cunning and brilliance if I dare say. I had a plan to help raise my master's standing in the world and, by association, my own.

Greg:  Hmmm, and what was that?

Boots:  I took a sack, trapped a rabbit and brought it to the king as a gift from my master who I called the Marquis of Carabas. He was most appreciative as you can imagine. I told him my master would supply him with game regularly. This got out paw in the door, figuratively speaking of course.

Greg:  Of course. So, you supplied game for the king's table regularly after that, eh? I can see how that would make your master very popular with the king. What was the marquis doing all that time.

Boots:  Who?

Greg:  Your master.

Boots:  Oh, him. Playing with bits of string or something I expect. I've nothing against him, mind you. He's a nice lad and all, but terribly ambitious you see. If I had left it to him to improve our lot, I'd be waiting still.

Greg:  I understand. You were just trying to take the bull by the horns and run with it.

Boots:  In a manner of speaking. Anyway, it worked. The king was so pleased with the gifts of food that he decided his daughter should wed my master. That was good new. However, when he said he wanted to pay a call on the marquis I thought all was lost. I mean, where could we entertain the king and his daughter--our hut?

Greg:  I could see that it might be a bit awkward.

Boots:  You see correctly. I had to devised a plan quickly. It was a warm day, so I suggested to my master that he might want to go swimming. There was a pond near the highway that the king's carriage was sure to pass by. 

While my master was swimming, I hid his raggedy clothes and flagged down the carriage as it approached. I told the king that my master had been robbed while he was swimming and had no clothes. The king provided some of his own royal raiment and asked him to ride in the carriage with himself and his daughter.

In the meantime, I went ahead and told all the farmers along the route to tell the king if he should ask that their land belonged to the Marquis of Carabas.

Greg:  How did you get them to agree to that?

Boots:  What else? I threatened them. The farmers did not worry me. I was more concerned that my master would inadvertently say something to give the game away. I needn't have worried. My master and the princess were so besotted with each other that they did nothing but gaze into each other's eyes. It was love at first sight.

My second problem was much more real. For several months I had had my eye on a certain castle that was the home of a fearsome ogre. I now decided it would make the perfect estate for the Marquis of Carabas. The problem was what to do about the ogre.

Greg:  Yes, that would be a problem, wouldn't it?

Boots:  Well, cats are nothing if not resourceful. This ogre had a certain amount of magic about himself. He could turn himself into any animal he wanted. To top it off, he was a bit of a show-off. I asked him if he could turn himself into a cat. He took it upon himself to turn into a lion--nearly frightened me out of my skin.

I admitted that it was impressive to be able to turn oneself into something so large, but that I doubted he could turn into something so small as a mouse. Well, the old fool was determined to prove he could do it. Without thinking, he turned himself into a rather foul tasting rodent. I held my breath, gobbled him up, and my master had a wonderful castle.

Greg:  And I suppose everyone lived happily ever after.

Boots:  Oh my  yes. My master and the princess are due to wed this weekend and I have anything I could possibly want to eat. I have to admit it's not all peaches and cream though. Ever since eating the ogre, I simply cannot abide mice. Pity.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Did You Know ... Roald Dahl

I have always loved books by Roald Dahl, from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory to James and the Giant Peach. He wrote so many interesting books in his lifetime, it's amazing to me that he came up with so many great ideas. I thought it would be fun to see it I could come up with some little known facts about his life and his books. Turns out, he led a fascinating life. Here's what I discovered.

Did you know...

  • He was born in Wales in 1916? His parents were Norwegian.
  • Dahl grew to be six and a half feet tall?
  • The Cadbury chocolate company sent boxes of new chocolates to his school to be tested? Dahl dreamed of devising a new flavor that would impress Mr. Cadbury. The idea inspired Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
  • He was a fighter pilot in World War II and shot down five enemy aircraft, making him a flying ace?
  • He was attache to the British ambassador to the U.S.? 
  • During this time Dahl provided intelligence to an organization called the British Security Coordination? This was a group that was working to combat the American isolationist movement. It's members included Ian Fleming and David Ogilvy.
  • In 1953 he married actress Patricia Neal?
  • In addition to his children's books, Dahl also wrote short stories for adults? These were usually darker stories of the macabre.
  • Tales of the Unexpected, a collection of his adult stories, was made into a TV series? 
  • Dahl wrote the screenplays for the film version of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and You Only Live Twice?  Both were rewritten and finished by other screen writers. The Child Catcher in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang was his creation.
  • He died in 1990 at the age of 74?

Monday, May 26, 2014

Between the Lines: Buck From Call of the Wild

Hello, hello. Happy Memorial Day! I hope you are all enjoying your day. Please remember to take a moment to remember all those who served our country, especially those who made the ultimate sacrifice so that we can be free.

It's Monday, so that means Between the Lines. This time around, I'm in the frozen north--Alaska to be exact. I've traveled here to talk to Buck, the dog gone wild from The Call of the Wild. 

Greg:  Hi Buck. Thanks for letting us visit with you. You've had quite a wild life. How did you wind up with a pack of wolves?

Buck:  Well, it's kind of a long story. My life was uneventful enough to start. I had a very happy early life with my first master, Judge Miller, in California. He treated me real well, and I had no problem with humans. As a matter of fact, I kind of liked them.

Then, the Judge's gardener, Manuel, stole me. That's when everything changed.

Greg:  What happened?

Buck:  I was shipped up north in a crate. Wound up in Seattle. They treated me bad. Didn't give me any food or water. There was this guy in this red sweater, he was the worst. When I got out of that crate, I was on him quick. I'd turned mean. But he taught me a lesson. He beat the tar out of me with his club. Taught me that a man with a club was someone to be careful of.

Greg:  Did you stay long in Seattle?

Buck:  No, thank goodness. A couple of nice people named Francois and Perrault bought me and took me up to Alaska. They trained me to be a sled dog. It was tough going at first. Alaska was cold--a lot colder than anything I was used to. Plus, I had a hard time fitting in.

Spitz, the lead sled dog, saw me as some kind of a threat or something. Finally, he challenged me to a fight. Luckily, I won, and the rest of the sled team accepted me as the lead dog. After that, things were easier, but it didn't last.

Greg:  Oh my, why not?

Buck:  Because people can be cruel and greedy. When they get the gold frenzy, they don't care how they treat anyone, man or beast. It doesn't matter, they treat everyone like dogs. The sled team was sold to some guy who delivered the mail. The load we had to pull was terribly heavy. It was brutal, I can tell you.

Finally, it got to the point where we were just exhausted. We weren't any good for anything, so we all got sold.

Greg:  I hope they were decent. Who were they?

Buck:  Three of the tenderest greenhorns you ever want to see. They had gold fever, but didn't know the first thing about living out in the wild. It was awful. First they fed us too much. Then, the food starts getting short, so they don't feed us anything at all. I mean, make up your mind already. 

Well, we meet this guy, John Thornton, who tells the greenhorns not to cross the river. It's thawing out, and they're bound to fall through. I had to agree with him, but the greenhorns didn't want to hear it. So I decided that heck, I wasn't going to cross any thawing river. I lay down and didn't move.

Greg:  What happened then?

Buck:  This guy Thornton cuts me loose and takes me with him. The rest of the team and the three greenhorns die in the river, of course. Thornton--he was good to me. He takes care of me. I hadn't been so happy since I left the Judge. I saved his neck a couple of times.

Round about this time. I met a wolf. He gave me a strange feeling, one of a wild freedom that I wished I could share. Eventually, I found myself without a master again, and decided that I'd had enough of human society and would answer the call of the wild.

Greg:  Well, thanks for your time, Buck. It was interesting to hear your story.

Buck:  No problem, the woods are cold, and it was nice to sit by a fire again, if only for a little while. But I think I prefer my pack mates to you humans. Later.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

A Writer's Week #113: On Tour (Sort Of)

The weather is warm and that means the Deliverers Summer Tour is heating up! Last Saturday, I participated in the Shoreline Spring Festival in Madison, CT. This week, I confirmed an appearance at the Summer Fun Fest on June 21st in Fairfield, CT.

I really had a fun time in Madison. Everyone was great, from the organizers to my fellow vendors and the attendees. The day before the weather forecast was dodgy, but thankfully the rain cleared out and the day of the show dawned bright and sunny. It wound up being a beautiful day.

I really enjoyed sitting under my canopy, feeling the cool breeze and chatting with whoever stopped by. I met some great folks, sold a few books and was just happy that it was spring! I used my new credit card reader for the first time and I have to say that I was very impressed with its speed. My phone is a clunky 3G smartphone and there was absolutely no lag time, even though my reception on my phone was a little spotty. Best of all, the funds landed in my account on the first business day rather than the two business days Square disclosed. If any of you are thinking about taking credit cards for your business, I heartily recommend Square.

My goal is to attend one show a month over the summer. It's not very ambitious, but I can really only spare one weekend a month. If anyone knows of good shows in the Connecticut area in July and August, please let me know.

On the writing front, I have to admit that I have not written anything for a while. I am going to try and rectify that by doing some writing this weekend. I'll let you know how that went next week!

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Did You Know...J.R.R. Tolkien

I was thinking of something to post last night and I realized that it's been a while since I wrote a Did You So, guess what I'm posting today? You've got it--Did You Know!

I'm surprised that I haven't done this one yet. J.R.R. Tolkien is my all-time favorite author. I know all sorts of things about him and his two most popular books--The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. Do you? Let's find out!

Did You Know...

  • That Tolkien was born in 1892 in South Africa? His father had accepted a job there as a bank manager.
  • That Tolkien's father died when he was three and his mother died when he was 12?
  • By the end of World War I all but one of his closest friends was dead? The war had a profound affect upon Tolkien that would surface in his writing (such as in his description of the Dead Marshes).
  • His father was Catholic and his mother converted to Catholicism? Tolkien was a staunch Catholic all his life, somewhat of a trial in England, and this affected his writing as well.
  • Tolkien distrusted machines in general and cars in particular? Whenever possible, he rode his bicycle. He thought the world was being overwhelmed by machines and loved the green, peaceful English countryside.
  • He fell in love with his future wife, Edith Bratt, when he was 16, but was forbidden by his guardian to communicate with her until he was  because Edith was Protestant? He kept his promise. On his 21st birthday, he wrote to Edith asking her to marry him. She was engaged to be married to someone else, but cancelled that engagement, converted to Catholicism, and married Tolkien. They were married over 50 years.
  • He did the illustrations for The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings himself? Although he downplayed his artistic skills, he was better than most and his publisher, much to his surprise, agreed to use his illustrations.
  • Tolkien's devout faith was a major reason than his friend and fellow author C.S. Lewis converted from atheism to Christianity? Lewis chose the Church of England over Catholicism, which dismayed Tolkien to some extent, but I believe he got over it.
  • The Lord of the Rings was intended to be a children's story, like The Hobbit before it, but became darker as the writing progressed? It touched more on the myths and legends of Middle Earth that Tolkien had been working on for years. This was Tolkien's true love and would be published posthumously by his son Christopher as The Silmarillion. 
  • The Silmarillion was Tolkien's attempt to write a distinctly British mythology? The lack of a truly British mythology was a gap that Tolkien tried to fill through the history of The Silmarillion and his poetry.
  • The Lord of the Rings took more than ten years to write? As Tolkien so aptly said in the forward, "The tale grew in the telling."
  • Tolkien was a professor of languages and knew 13 languages including Latin, French, German, Middle English, Old English, Greek, Italian and Welsh? He had a working knowledge of eight others? He also developed his own Elvish languages; Quenya and Sindarin.
  • Tolkien died on September 2, 1973 at the age of 81? He was buried in the same grave with his wife Edith who had passed away 21 months earlier.
  • Tolkien's translation of Beowulf and a transcript of a paper he delivered on the ancient poem was published this week (no, I am not receiving money from the Tolkien estate!)?

Monday, May 19, 2014

Between the Lines: Oliver Twist

Hi all! I hope you had a nice weekend. Mine was excellent. I had a beautiful day in Madison, CT on Saturday at the Shoreline Spring Festival where I met some great people and got to talk with a lot of kids about writing and the Deliverers Series. Then yesterday, my son Christian and I went to see a great movie--Million Dollar Arm. Really great stuff.

Anyway, today I've got the pleasure of talking with an interesting lad. He has no father or mother of his own and he's known some really tough times, but he's managed to rise above all that and make something of himself. I'm speaking of Oliver Twist. Let's hear what he has to say.

Greg:  Hello Oliver, what's the good word?

Oliver:  'Ello guv. Good word, why I ain't sure what ya rightly mean. I've found there's precious little good in the world.

Greg:  That's really too bad. I know you've been through some tough times, but surely there's more good in the world than you say.

Oliver:  Could be you're right, things did work out al right for me in the end. But not ev'ryone can say that. Take Nancy, for instance.

Greg:  Nancy? Oh yes, the girl who tried to help you.

Oliver:  Aye, one o' the few what ever did me a kind turn in me youth. What did she get for it, eh? Beat t' death by that bugger Bill Sikes. I've knowed a mess o' folk in me life, but precious few good 'uns I can tell ya. How about them Bumbles in the workhouse? Worked us all 'alf t' death they did, and fed us next t' nothin'. All skin and bones we was. It got so bad I had t' take me life in me 'ands and ask for more.

Greg:  Well, there's bad people, I'll admit, but there are also good ones. 

Oliver:  Then there was Fagin and the Artful Dodger. They was no saints. Fagin put us t' work in the streets, pickin' pockets. I was never no good at it, and I got pinched.

Greg:  True, but didn't that lead to a change in your fortunes? You met Mr. Brownlow that day.

Oliver:  Aye, that may well 'ave been true, but it weren't all peaches and cream from there on out. For one thing, Nancy were done for and Fagin and Sikes were still a thorn in, um, side it ya take m' meanin' and all.

Greg:  Still, you can't say that things did not start looking soon after that.

Oliver:  No, I don't s'pose I can. I 'ave t' admit, things are a lot better now. Especially since I met Aunt Rose. I'm livin' with Mr. Brownlow now and things 're lookin' up, all in all. I thank you for remindin' me that things is much better now.

Greg:  No trouble at all. I'm glad to help. By the way, whatever happened to the Artful Dodger?

Oliver:  Oh 'im? He was shipped off t' Australia. Funny, but I here tell he's back. Still somewhat of a criminal I hear.

Greg:  Oh dear. Is he still picking pockets?

Oliver:  In a manner of speakin'. He's got 'imself inta politics.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Show Time!

Spring has finally sprung. As a matter of fact, I think we've just about jumped straight from winter to summer. Temperatures have been in the 70s and 80s of late--straight from the 40s a couple weeks back. With the warm weather comes the chance to attend some outdoor craft fairs.

The first one of the season for me is this Saturday. I'll be appearing at the Shoreline Spring Festival in Madison, CT. The show runs from 10 to 5 on the 17th. I'll be there signing all three books in the Deliverers Series and handing out bookmarks and pencils. If you're in the area, I hope to see you there.

I'm really looking forward to this event. Madison is a great book town and it's National Children's Book Week, so how can I go wrong? I'll let you know how it went on Sunday!

Monday, May 12, 2014

Between the Lines: Long John Silver

This week's interview is with one of my all time favorite villains, Long John Silver from Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island. Long John is an interesting study for a bad guy, because throughout Treasure Island we see more of the nice Long John than we do of the evil Long John. Oh sure, he shows flashes of brutality, but most of that is only hinted at. For me, this makes him much more interesting.

Okay, enough with the character analysis. On with the interview!

Greg:   Welcome, Long John. Thanks for coming ashore.

Long John Silver:  Aye, you’re welcome, matey. I don’t often come ashore, ground’s too firm beneath m’ foot. Not enough give. ‘Sides it reminds me too much of m’ time on that cursed island lookin’ for Flint’s treasure.

Greg:  Were you always a seafaring man?

LJS:  Aye, almost since I can remember. I run away from home as a lad, and stowed away aboard His Majesty’s frigate Unrepentant. It were there I came into His Majesty’s service. I served under a number o’ fine naval gentlemen, squire.

I started off as cabin boy, then midshipman, an’ finally seaman. It were a good enough existence, I suppose, but it wore on me to have to take orders from them as claimed to be m’ betters, but weren’t..

Greg:  How did you lose your leg?

LJS:  I lost it in service to Baron Hawke, one o’ the toughest sailors to ever trim a sail. None better at it, ‘ceptin’ maybe Captain Flint, but it’d be a close call there.

We were fightin’ pirates, strangely enough. Cannonball took it clean off. Guess I should of gone below decks and steered clear in m’ berth, but that aint ol’ Long John’s way. General quarters was soundin’ anyhow, so I was stuck an’ had to meet m’ fate, so to speak.

After I lost m’ leg, I weren’t fit for the service of His Majesty, so I had to shove off. We were in the Indies. I couldn’t even work my passage home. Well, says I to m’self, what other sea work can a mostly able bodied sailor get in these here waters?

That’s when fate smiled on me, squire. I met up with an ol’ shipmate I used to know what had jumped ship and turned pirate sometime back. He got me to sign on with Cap’n Flint.

Greg:  What was your role on Captain Flint’s ship?

Now Flint were hard, but I were never scared of him. Ol’ Long John had put in too many years and seen too many things on the high seas that would make a lesser hearted man’s blood run cold. I weren’t afraid of his rantin’ an’ he knew it.

Before any time at all had passed, he had made me quartermaster, second in command only to him. So I knew all about Flint’s treasure and the map. Flint gave the map to Billy Bones, his mate, an’ died of the effects o’ rum. Bad business, that. Rum also done for Billy. I never touched it, an’ I’m still here, so that should speak for somethin’.

Greg:  Describe your relationship with Jim Hawkins.

LJS:  I aint sure what he thinks o’ me, but young Master ‘Arkins is foursquare, he is. Reminds me more’n a bit o’ m’self he does. There’s no truer lad, nor braver. ‘Course ol’ Long John didn’t get away with all the treasure, but it all worked out for the best in the end, I’d have to say. It’s good enough I got away with m’ skin and some gold to boot, enough to retire by in the colonies.

Greg:  What do you like most about the sea?

LJS:  The freedom of it. Give me a sturdy craft an’ a star to sail her by, an’ I wouldn’t have to ask for much more, squire. I’d be right capped with that. ‘Course, a nice pile o’ gold would warm the cockles of m’ heart, too, heh, heh!

Greg:  How do you want literary history to remember you?

LJS:  I don’t rightly reckon that it would. But if anyone did happen t’ trouble to think o’ ol’ Long John, I’d want ‘em to say “Long John were a stout sailor an’ true shipmate. He’d twist a dagger in your gut if ya crossed him, but he were as good as gold to those as stood by him.”

Aye, that’s how I’d like to be remembered. It’s how anyone’d want it—wouldn’t you, squire?

Sunday, May 11, 2014

A Writer's Week #112: Nothing to Do With Writing

Hi all! Sorry it's been a while since I last posted. I spent a large part of this last week away on business in Washington, DC. I had a very  interesting and enlightening time attending different sessions on training. I found the ones focusing on e-learning techniques and performance support to be particularly interesting.

Of course, it was not all business. There was a great networking evening that was held at the Smithsonian Air && Space Museum. That was really cool. We had the museum all to ourselves. I had an interesting time in the flight simulator spinning around trying to shoot down planes while upside down (got 7 of them--the world is safe for democracy!). I've sprinkled some pictures from the night throughout this post.

Needless to say, this did not leave any chance for writing. I wasn't totally idle, however. I let my wife, Stephanie read the 59 pages of The Deliverers 4: Sparkling Mist of Time. I have been having a rough time focusing on writing lately. Although there have been a lot of distractions, I had been wondering if the main reason I've been dragging my feet might be that deep down I wasn't happy with the story itself.

Stephanie's reaction indicated that my hunch was correct. She thought it was okay, but that it was moving very quickly. She couldn't see how it would be a full length book. That was my worry as well. I've written about this a couple of times. I think there will be a couple of surprises coming that will flesh out the story, but it's still a valid concern. She also said there were a couple of things that she couldn't pinpoint that didn't feel right. She's going to read it again to get a better sense of what.

Anyway, I'll have to do an assessment of my own to figure out why I'm not 100% happy with the way this project is going. I'll let you know what I find next week. By the way, a very happy Mother's Day to all mothers out there. I hope you all have an excellent day!

Saturday, May 3, 2014

A Writer's Week #111: School Visit!

This week I was able to do one of my favorite things as an author--make a school visit. Because life has been so hectic this year, these trips have been all too few. On Friday, though, the stars aligned and I was able to pay a call on Mrs. Robinson's 5th grade class at Middlebury Elementary.

It was a whole lot of fun (as usual). The class had really great questions and provided fantastic input. We talked about ideas and where they come from. The students were influenced by many things--personal experience, books, music, movies, their imagination, games. The list went on and on. I shared some of my inspirations for The Deliverers Series. This year, I'm incorporating a view visuals, such as my stone owl, Stig, a stone lion, and my Chinese dragon that was the inspiration for The Golden Dragon of Ang. I handed them around. Then I showed them my journal and we all chatted  about where we record our ideas.

Next, it was time to take a look at my blog where they got a chance to see some of Christian and Abigail's posts. We took a little tour of Calendria, the Did You Know and the Here Be Pirates pages, too. It seemed like they enjoyed that and I hope some of them will visit from time to time.
Reading Crew

Then it was time to listen to a reading from The Golden Dragon of Ang,  the third book in the series. It was fun to read to the kids. I've only read my own stuff to classes a few times. Every time I do, I marvel at the ease with which narrators like Jimm
Singer do all the character voices. Even though I've got them in my head, it's difficult for me to get them out properly.

At the end, it was time for bookmarks and pencils. It was really great getting to spend time with the kids and answering all their questions. A big thank you to Mrs. Robinson for having me for the third year in a row. By the way, she and her co-author Jessica Haight have a book coming out in a little over a year. It's called the Secret Files of Fairday Morrow. Stay tuned for more info on that as the publication date draws nearer.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

What's Christian Reading? The Final Harry Potter

Editor's note: Things have been a bit hectic around here this week, so I am presenting this blast from the past (almost 2 years ago now). I hope you enjoy it. 

Well, he did it. Last week Christian finished the Harry Potter series. He enjoyed it immensely, but will never admit that his dear old dad was right. I badgered him to read the books, but he took his sweet time about getting around to doing it. Christian really enjoyed the last book of the series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling.

The last books of series are always happy/sad events. Happy because  finally discover how everything turns out. Sad because that's it, there isn't any more. For me the final Harry Potter installment was sad because it's pretty evident that there won't be a follow up to the series any time soon, if ever.

Anyhow, here's what Christian had to say about the book.

Here's what Christian says the book is about.

"In this book, Harry Potter has to track down Valdemort's Horcruxes so that he can destroy them. Ron and Hermoine go with him. They go to the Ministry to retrieve the first one, a locket. The Ministry has been overthrown by Deatheaters. They manage to get the locket, but then Ron gets jealous and leaves.

"Harry and Hermoine search for the rest. Their search takes them to Godric's Hollow, the town where Harry's parents were killed. Harry finds their graves and his old burned down house. This lady they assume to be Bathilda Bagshott is watching them. She takes them to her house. When she and Harry are alone, she talks. When Hermoine comes in Voldemort's pet snake erupts from Bathilda's neck. Harry and Hermoine escape through a broken window. When they look back they see Voldemort and the snake looking through the same window.

"Back in the forest, Harry sees a silver doe that he assumes to be a petronis. He follows it to a lake and at the bottom of it, he sees a silver glint. It's the sword of Godrick Griffindor. Ron returns and they use the sword to destroy the locket. Then they go off in search of the other Horcruxes.

"That's all I'm going to say. The rest of the book gets really exciting."

What did Christian like most about the book?

"My favorite part was the way the book ended."

Was there anything he didn't like?

"No, I loved everything about it!"

So, how does Christian rate Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling?

Christian gives it five out of five flaming monkey heads.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

A Writer's Week #110: Great Press

Hi all. It's been a couple weeks since my last writing post, but that does not mean things haven't been happening. I've been blessed to have received some fantastic press and some nice reviews for The Golden Dragon of Ang. 

First, Books, Ink interviewed me about my writing and the Deliverers Series. The interview was picked up and run on several local Hamlethub pages.

Next, author Karen Pokras reviewed The Golden Dragon of Ang on her website. It was a fantastic review that she also posted on Amazon. Thank you Karen, I'm glad you enjoyed the book. It seems that the consensus among folks who have read the book so far is that it is the best Deliverers book yet. That's really cool because to me that means the series is getting more engrossing and that hopefully I'm growing as an author.

Earlier this week, Books, Ink ran a follow up interview featuring what they call "7 Bookish Questions". It was fun to talk a little about books that influenced me and some other bookish thoughts. It was a really fun interview to do. Thanks for the opportunity, Sally Allen.

Finally, in addition to Karen's review, I received two other five star reviews from young readers on Amazon.
Things are starting to move and I'm really looking forward to my upcoming appearances later this spring and summer. As I confirm dates, I'll be posting them on my Appearances page. I should have two more confirmed in the next couple of weeks.

On the writing front, not much has been accomplished in the last couple of weeks. I've written only about 500 words on book number four. The word total now stands at 13,000 over about 60 pages and 12 chapters. This book has been a little puzzling. On the whole, I'm very happy with the way it's progressing, but I'm at a point right now where life is getting in the way of writing. There are lots of changes happening, especially at work, making it hard for me to focus. Still, I have had an important development in that I've come up with a working title for book four. How does The Deliverers 4: Sparkling Mist of Time sound? Let me know what you think. Have a great week!

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

What's Abigail Reading? Dork Diaries

Okay, Abigail's back to tell us about her latest read. This time it's Dork Diaries by Rachel Renee Russell. Let's see what she thought of it.

Here's what Abigail says the book is about.

In the book Dork Diaries the characters are Nikki and her BFF’s Chloe and Zoey.  Nikki’s BFF’s and Nikki were playing truth or dare and Nikki picked dare and then Zoey dared Nikki to toilet paper Mackenzie’s house. When they were doing that they didn’t notice that Mackenzie herself was watching them toilet paper her own house.  First, Nikki joins the newspaper to see what Mackenzie her enemy is writing and doing. Her newspaper job turns out to be good because Nikki gets her own column in the newspaper. Now Nikki’s advice column is a big hit and she also gets a new fake name. Nikki’s new fake name is Miss-know-it-all. 

Next, Nikki and her BFF’s think they are in trouble because Mackenzie knew that they toilet papered her house.  Then, Nikki gets invited to Brandon’s birthday party and now Mackenzie is jealous that she didn’t get and invitation.  If Nikki didn’t get an invitation for Mackenzie and her BFF Jessica for Brandon’s birthday party Mackenzie would tell that Nikki and her friends egged her house and made Nikki and her friends get kicked out of school. 

When Nikki and her friends got called down to the principal’s office they thought they were in trouble but when Marcy, Nikki’s other friend was interviewing Mackenzie for TV. Just then the principal came out and Mackenzie got all desperate for something to say because she didn’t want to tell what happened to her house on TV. Mackenzie didn’t get an invitation to Brandon’s party and Nikki and her friends didn’t get in trouble either. 

Finally, Nikki had fun at Brandon’s party and so Nikki didn’t want to be seen in her dad’s roach car in front of Brandon but then Nikki got a text from Brandon that says he really wanted to ride in Nikki’s dad’s roach car.  Now Nikki doesn’t have to hide the car from Brandon. 

So, how did Abigail rate Dork Diaries by Rachel Renee Russell?

She gave it five out of five dolphins.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Between the Lines: Lemuel Gulliver

For those of you who celebrate, I hope you had a fantastic Easter. We had a great day--church then hiking. It was great to get out in the beautiful weather and move around. This week's guest has done quite a bit of traveling in his own right. He has visited all sorts of strange and wonderful places and met some very interesting creatures. Please join me in welcoming none other than Lemuel Gulliver himself.

Greg:  Hello there. It's great to have a chance to sit down with such a well traveled person. What is the most fascinating place that you've visited?

Gulliver:  On the whole I would have to say the race of intelligent horse called the Houyhnhnms. My crew had mutinied and left me on the shores of a strange country. I was taken in by a family of Houyhnhnms who treated me much more civilly than humans ever did.

Greg:  That may be, but they were still horses. Surely you would feel more at home with people.

Gulliver:  Sadly, no. The people, Yahoos they were called, were cruel and vicious. When I was forced to return to my homeland I no longer had any love for humanity. Horses, to me, are much more humane.

Greg:  What was your most unpleasant adventure?

Gulliver:  My time amongst the giants of Brobdingnag was most unpleasant. 

Greg:  How so?

Gulliver:  Living amongst humans that were the size of tall buildings was most challenging. For one thing, they looked upon me as at best a child and at worst a mere plaything. To be up close to those huge unwashed bodies was not something that I would ever want to repeat. The odor was overpowering.

Greg:  Yes, that would be very unpleasant, I would think. What would you say was your most dangerous journey?

Gulliver:  Well, there were a number. The Brobdingnags kept me in a box for their amusement, and one day it was carried off by a giant eagle with me inside. I was lifted high off the ground and then finally dropped into the sea. On my first journey, I fell asleep on the beach and awoke to find myself tied down and under the power of a race of tiny people called the Lilliputians. This being my first adventure, I was unaccustomed to such strange folk, and it rather took me off-stride, but I was able to negotiate my freedom and assist them in their war with a neighboring country, Blefuscu. Sadly, things did not work out and I was forced to  flee and make my way back to Europe.

Greg:  Well, I must say that your travels are very interesting. Is there any chance that you will be venturing abroad again?

Gulliver:  Not that I can foresee. I intend to stay here at home in peace for the rest of my days. Of course it is entirely possible that the flying island of Laputa may come to take me back. They are very, some might say overly, fascinated with science. They try all sorts of outlandish experiments. Come to think of it, I believe I should be going. No knowing when they might decide to show up. I'll have to go to the stables and ask my horses if they've seen anything unusual in the sky. Good day.

Greg:  Good day, Mr. Gulliver. I hope for your sake that the horses have not seen anything. Thanks for stopping by!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

What's Christian Reading? Freefall

Christian's reading a series that I am not familiar with. It called the Tunnels series, by Roderick Gordon & Brian Williams. He really likes it, so I think I'll be checking it out. He's going to tell us a little about the third book in the series, Freefall. Let's see what Christian has to say about it.

Here's what Christian says the book is about.

In Freefall, Will, Chester, and Elliot are falling down the Pore. When they reach the bottom they are scattered, knocked out, and spread out. Chester is first awakened when Will’s hunter/cat abomination thing starts licking him. Chester then has to go off and find his friends with Bartleby, Will’s hunter. He finds Will first, thanks to Bartleby, in a cave behind a waterfall. Will is convinced that his father, who he came down into the Deeps to find in the first place is dead.

They find Elliot buried deep in the fungus floor. When they pull her out she is unconscious. They venture deeper into the fungus filled land and get attacked by giant spiders. Thankfully a woman with frizzy red hair named Martha saves them. She takes them back to her shack and takes care of them. They find out that her son, Nathaniel, died due to an illness.  

What I liked: I liked how action packed the book was.

What I didn’t like: I didn’t like how creepy some of the characters were. I felt that they were overly creepified (is that even a word?).

So, how did Christian rate Freefall, by Roderick Gordon & Brian Williams?

He gave it five out of five flaming monkey heads.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Between the Lines: Tarzan of the Apes

This week's interview is with everybody's favorite swinger, Tarzan the Ape Man. Due to his aversion to "civilization," we had to journey to darkest Africa to get some face time with the Lord of the Jungle.

Greg:  Hello, thanks for inviting us, Tarzan. Nice jungle you've got here.

Tarzan:  Thank you. Sorry, we didn't have time to clean up much. We didn't expect you so soon. The vines need trimming and we haven't emptied Cheetah's litter box in a week. I'm so embarrassed.

Greg:  No worries. We came by jet, much better than those long ocean voyages. Anyway, tell us a little bit about your childhood.

Tarzan:  Not much to tell. Can't remember very much. I was only a baby when my parents and I were marooned here. Mother died soon after. My father was killed by Kerchak, leader of the Mangani ape tribe. The tribe adopted me, or rather Kala, my ape mother did.

Greg:  Fascinating. How did you, a human, manage to survive among the apes?

Tarzan:  They took care of me. Kala raised me. I learned much; ape ways and ape speech. I learned to climb, swing from vines like an ape. I grew strong, fought many in the jungle. I learned to speak with apes, monkeys, elephants, lions, tigers, cheetahs, many animals in the jungle.

Greg:  You're remarkably well spoken for someone raised by apes.

Tarzan:  I learn man speech from humans who come to the jungle, and I've been to big man cities, to civilization. Many strange things I saw there, and many languages I learned. I did not like it. Smelly, dirty places. Crowded, polluted. All animals slaves there, and many people, too.

I wanted to leave, but Jane wanted me to stay. It was her home. I wanted her to be happy, but I was not happy, and that made Jane unhappy. In civilization, no one is happy. Tarzan left, and Jane agreed to go, too.

Greg:  How did you meet Jane?

Tarzan:  A group of humans was marooned on same spot as I was. What are the odds? Jane and her father were in that group. I met Jane, showed her the jungle. She liked the jungle, liked me, too, but her father wanted to go back, so she went.

I decided to leave, too, to find her. I loved Jane, did not want to let her go. I traveled up through Africa, into India. Met Mowgli--nice boy. There is a book about him and his life in the jungle--I forget the name. He got me on an English ship. Sailed to England. Good thing Jane did not go back to America, but went to England. Swim to America is long, they say.

I found Jane--looked her up in the phone book. Ha, ha, that's a joke. I made friends with the crew. They said to go to the Explorers Society, they probably went there. Guess what? They did! Lots of coincidences in my life!

After I found Jane, she and I lived in London, got married. I tried to live civilized to make Jane happy, but it didn't work out. Finally, Jane said that she wanted to go back to Africa, to my home. That made me happy, which made Jane happy. Everybody was happy.

Greg:  So, you didn't like civilization. Can't say that I blame you. How did Jane adjust to living in the wild?

Tarzan:  Jane did well. She's strong. She likes living in the trees and swinging on vines. I built a tree house for her. She keeps it clean, makes it a good home. I bring her things to cook, wildebeests, gazelle, and Jane's favorite--warthog.

Jane also likes to ride elephants, swim, climb, everything that I like to do. She's good fun. Our son likes to do these things, too.

Greg:  Is it true that you call him Boy?

Tarzan:  Ha, ha, that's funny. You're telling me a joke, right?

Greg:  Uh, no, in the films I've seen, you call your son Boy.

Tarzan:  That's not true! It's the silliest thing I've heard. My son is not named Boy, his name is Jack. He makes me proud. He's a good boy.

Greg:  Sorry, I guess you can't believe everything you hear. Well, thank you for taking the time to sit and talk with us a bit. Give my best to Jane and Boy, er, Jack.

Tarzan:  Sure thing. Come again soon. Next time, take a boat, and I'll be sure to kill you a water buffalo. We'll have a big party. Maybe Jack will come instead of staying out all night swinging with his ape buddies. Kids these days, everyone is getting so civilized.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

What's Abigail Reading? Jouanah A Hmong Cinderella

This week Abigail is reading a book based in her home country of China. It's Jouanah A Hmong Cinderella, by Jewell Reinhart Coburn and Tzexa Cherta Lee. It's a story about a Chinese Cinderella. Let's see what she has to say about it.

Here's what Abigail says the book is about.

 Jouanah a Hmong Cinderella is a book about Jouanah, a beautiful girl who wants to go to the festival but her stepmother does not want her to go.  The characters are Jouanah, the stepmother, and her stepsister. In the beginning Jouanah’s mother got turned into a cow for food and drink. Her father foolishly married another women and Jouanah’s real mom died of a broken heart.  

Next, her stepmother made Jouanah do all of the chores.  When the New Year festival came around her stepmother made her do a long list of chores and told her she could not go to the festival.   Jouanah got to the festival but with a piece of cowhide and found a basket filled with clothes. When she went to the festival no one knew who she was and after all the play at the festival she met a boy named Shee-Nang. When Jouanah went running home so that her stepmother won’t notice that she had been gone, one of the slippers that she was wearing fell off.  

Finally Shee-Nang found the slipper and went to every house to find his love.  Shee-Nang found Jouanah, the love that he wanted, and married Jouanah and lived HAPPILY EVER AFTER!!

So, Abigail, what's the theme of the story?

Theme: Always be wise and not foolish because when Jouanah’s father married another woman, that is when the trouble started happening and if he didn’t marry the women the whole problem wouldn’t happen.

Hmmm, interesting. So, how did Abigail rate Jouanah A Hmong Cinderella, by Jewell Reinhart Coburn and Tzexa Cherta LeeI?

She gave it five out of five dolphins!