Happy Book Birthday to The Earl’s Childe!

The Earl's Childe no eyesHappy Book Birthday to The Earl’s Childe!

This month’s realease is The Earl’s Childe  by T.J. Wooldridge, author of The Kelpie and Silent Starsong.

ISBN: 978-1939392435

T.J. Wooldridge

paperback, ebook
My chore after dinner is to feed my kelpie.  A kelpie, if you don’t know, is a carnivorous faerie horse. Until I accidentally gave him a piece of my soul, this particular kelpie had killed two kids near the hundreds-of-years-old castle my family and I live in. Heather MacArthur had a hard enough time dealing with the arrival of a kelpie into her life, but that was only the beginning. Summoned as liaison between humans and faerie, Heather is informed by the fey nobles that another danger has arrived in the area and is claiming rights to the MacArthur lands: a particularly mad daoine síth named Calbraith, that even the kelpie finds cruel and unusual. As luck would have it, twenty students have also just arrived at the MacArthur family castle for her mother’s riding camp. It will take Heather, her whole family, the royal family, and a few friends she didn’t realize she had, to keep Calbraith from enslaving–or killing–all of them.

Read the first book in the series, The Kelpie. Get to know the author on her author page.

Order the book on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, BAM

 

 

 

Happy Book Birthday to Niles Wormwart, Accidental Villain! Plus an interview with the author!

Happy Book Birthday to

Niles Wormwart, Accidental Villain!

This month’s release is Niles Wormwart, Accidental Villain by D.M. Cunningham.niles_final_t

 

In the science fair world of ketchup-spewing volcanoes and potato clocks, one boy, Niles Wormwart, plans to alter the history of science fairs with his time travel wristwatch based on Nicola Tesla’s work. Unfortunately, history has different plans for Niles.

After Niles blows up his school’s science wing with his project, his father, deciding his son needs to man up, make some friends, and take a break from his constant experiments, sends unsuspecting Niles off to the mysterious Camp Mayhem.

The only problem is that Niles’ father thinks it’s a role-playing camp. Well, it’s not.

Headed up by the ominous Red Czechmark, Camp Mayhem is ground zero for training the future villains of today. A place for real kids to realize the real villain inside them. Niles sharpens his focus on escaping the camp while everyone inside wants him to sharpen his focus on discovering his own dark powers. There’s a sinister plot brewing, and Niles is dead in the middle of it.
Thrust into a world he only thought existed in comic books. Niles discovers his true potential inside the walls of Camp Mayhem-the potential to become the darkest of evils or stay true to his good-hearted roots.

SHPMG:  What inspired you to write NILES WORMWART: ACCIDENTAL VILLAIN?

A culmination of so many things. I think staying out of jail was the first thing. Because if I didn’t right books I would have to be a villain and that’s no good for anyone. Especially me. I don’t do good in small spaces for long periods of times. Plus I heard the coffee in jail is no good.

SHPMG: In NILES WORMWART, our hero is sent to a camp for villains. Are you secretly (or not so secretly) a villain?

It’s NO secret, I am a villain. Which totally contradicts the first question you asked me. Which is what a great villain does. I said no, then WHAP, cold fish slap out of nowhere. Full mastery of distraction. Oh hey look over there it’s a turtle wearing a sweater! (That’s where turtle neck sweater came from – just in case you didn’t know that).

SHPMG:  What’s your writing process like? Do you plot everything ahead of time, or just let the words flow?

Hold on, let me process this question…. Okay. First thing I do is watch and read and listen to everything that inspires me toward the new story I am about to write. Then I totally rip it off (score one for the villain!). Ahem, I’m only kidding about that part. I sit for days and let it marinate. I only recently started really outlining in great detail. I was much looser early on. Like a 70s disco queen (can I say that?) I spend a lot of time on the outline, massaging it, looking for holes in the story and so on. Then I write like a mad cow and vomit out that first draft. THEN I realize that I completely abandoned my outline because the characters took me somewhere else.

SHPMG:  What sort of reader would enjoy NILES WORMWART?

Only people who love awesome books and pumpkin flavored anything. If you like Oxen you’ll like this book up to a certain point. I don’t think this book is for everyone, because if it was…  J.K. Rowling would be serving me soup. Nikola Tesla would love this book. I’m thinking of using that watch of his to jump through a wormhole and give him a copy and rewrite all the Harry Potter books to be Niles Wormwart.

SHPMG:  What’s next for you as a writer?

I was thinking of walking to the coffee shop and getting a latte. Want to join me? Oh, wait, that’s probably not what you meant. I’m working on a middle grade horror. I told my super amazing agent Bree Ogden the story line and her head exploded. Figuratively, not literally. Because if that did happen I would have to look for a new agent. And we know what a task that is!

Want to learn about the inspiration for Niles Wormwart? Click here!

Interested in purchasing ? Order the book on: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, BAM

Get to know the author by visiting his author page.

 

 

Happy Book Birthday to The Beast of Seabourne!

Happy Book Birthday to

The Beast of Seabourne!

This month’s release is The Beast of Seabourne,  by Rhys A Jones.

Oz Chambers has a wonderful secret; the obsidian pebble, gifted to him by his dead father, is an artefact of astonishing BeastofSeabournefinishapprovedCOVERpower.  The sort of power that makes the year eight science project a hands-down walkover thanks to the the pebble’s genius avatar, Soph. But, there are sinister forces abroad who will do just about anything to get their hands on the pebble, and when fellow pupils start being attacked,  Oz finds himself in very hot water.  Soon Oz and his friends, Ruff and Ellie, are caught up in a centuries old mystery involving a missing ring, lava toothpaste and a murderous monster known as the Beast of Seabourne.

Interested in purchasing The Book of Kindly Deaths? Order the book on: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, BAM

Get to know the author by visiting his author page.

 

 

Go Ahead Punk, Make My Day– The inspiration behind Little Miss Evil

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Go Ahead Punk, Make My Day

The girl with the flamethrower you’re looking at? That’s Fiona Ng, the protagonist of our debut adventure/thriller LITTLE MISS EVIL, coming out in March 2015. She hurls fire, she hurls insults, and is generally someone you don’t want to mess with. She was also a TON of fun to write.

I have to admit. We love villains. Every time we watch a movie or TV shows, it’s always the villains that mesmerize us. Whenever we go back and re-watch our favorite movie, we constantly find ourselves fast-forwarding over the scenes where the hero is doing good-guy stuff to get back to the scenes where the villain is stealing the show.

The thing is, most heroes share the same traits: bravery, selflessness, and always standing up for what they believe in. But what makes a good villain is completely different from character to character. There’s no pattern. And that’s what makes them so interesting.

For example, Prince Zuko, from Avatar starts off as a single-minded assassin with an inexplicable hatred of Ang. But as you learn more about him, you realize he’s just a broken, battered kid trying to earn his Father’s love. And then you find yourself almost rooting for him, something you totally weren’t expecting.

And then there’s Elsa from Frozen. The cool (pun intended) thing about her is that she becomes the film’s villain unintentionally. She imprisons herself in an ice castle because she’s afraid of hurting anyone, so her intentions were good. But then in the process she nearly kills the entire town.

And finally, there’s our personal favorite villain—Joker from The Dark Knight. He’s so unpredictable that the entire time you’re watching him you’re on the edge of your seat wondering what he’ll do next.

Betcha weren’t expecting THESE three to show up in one place, INTERNET.

Betcha weren’t expecting THESE three to show up in one place, INTERNET.

In short, we just love a good villain.

But the other half of Fiona comes from us. They say write what you know, and a big part of our character comes from our upbringing. We’re both Asians who grew up in stereotypical Asian households. You know, the whole “Get straight A’s or get disowned thing.”

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Incidentally, we’re both engineers in real life. Yeah…

So we thought “how cool would it be to twist this Asian parent thing on its head?” What if the protagonist was Asian and already wants to be a doctor, but then the Dad wants them to be an evil super-villain instead?

From there, we created this girl who lives in a volcano, rides to school in a helicopter, and her Dad’s a cackling super-villain who wants her to take over the family business, so to speak, while she just desperately wants to be normal. This created a really wacky dynamic where the Dad is constantly trying to strap weapons onto her and she’s like “Dad! I have to go to school!!!”

But then when her Dad goes missing, she’s forced to take over her family’s evil empire, and she gets shoved into a world she’s been trying so hard to avoid. But what really shocks her is when she finds out that she’s terrifyingly good at it!

So that’s the story behind the creation of Fiona Ng, reluctant super-villain extraordinaire. Again, you can see her in LITTLE MISS EVIL, coming out in March 2015. She was so much fun to write, and we hope you love her as much as we do.

Just remember not to get on her bad side.

KBphoto(2)Bryce and Kristy are a tag-team writing duo with way too many voices in their heads. As engineers living in Toronto, they can’t be safely contained by mere cubicle walls, and therefore must spend every other waking moment writing to keep the crazy from leaking out at the office. When not writing or working, they spend their time parachuting into volcanoes and riding polar bears while tossing dynamite at rabid kangaroos. Yup, that’s right. Sometimes they can’t even believe how awesome their lives are.

You can pre-order Little Miss Evil from :Amazon, B&N, and any fine bookseller near you!

Happy Book Birthday to The Book of Kindly Deaths, and read a free short story!

Happy Book Birthday to

The Book of Kindly Deaths by Eldritch Black

The Book of Kindly Deaths by Eldritch Black

The Book of Kindly Deaths!

This month’s release is The Book of Kindly Deaths,  by Eldritch Black.

WHAT WOULD YOU DO IF THE MONSTERS IN A BOOK BECAME REAL?

When twelve-year-old Eliza Winter finds a secret room in her missing grandfather’s sprawling, Gothic house, her safe, sheltered life is blown apart. Inside, below a stained glass window where moonlight shines no matter the time of day, sits The Book of Kindly Deaths.

In defiance of her controlling mother, who has always forbidden her to read anything strange or imaginary, Eliza takes the book. As night sets in, Eliza reads one haunting story after another. And the further she journeys inside the book, the more the boundaries between our world and a shadowy land of monsters and forbidden places begin to blur.

When the strange, crooked man from the book arrives on the doorstep claiming to be a rare-book collector and demanding entry into the house, Eliza’s world is turned upside down. To escape him, she must dive all the way into the spine-tingling world of The Book of Kindly Deaths to save her grandfather–and write an end to the nightmare she’s caught inside.

To read a new short story from The Book of Kindly Deaths,  click here.

Interested in purchasing The Book of Kindly Deaths? Order the book on: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, BAM

Get to know the author by visiting his author page.

 

 

D.M. Cunningham, finding inspiration in a traffic jam

For writers, inspiration usually comes from a store in Los Angeles. You can buy it at a place called the Writer’s Store. They sell it in this nice tiny box…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ok, that’s not really where it comes from. But if you did believe me, I’ve got this car for sale that travels to the future and back. I’ll give you a good deal.

 

 

niles_final_tAll kidding aside. My first book, Niles Wormwart: Accidental Villain, came from everyday inspiration. It also happens to take place in the very city I live. Like several other millions of people in the city of angels I sit in traffic daily and poke along at the break-neck speed of 15mph (if I’m lucky). A lot of people do their makeup, eat their breakfast, and make phone calls. I have even seen a woman curl her hair and get dressed behind the wheel. Because I prefer to gets dressed before I leave the house, I use my time in the car to brainstorm.

But let’s back up a bit.

I was searching for a kid lit writer’s group to join. I needed that shot of inspiration and other like-minded folk to read and share material with. I eventually found them at an agent writer meet up at a local bookstore. We shared a laugh that the agent had no idea who Nikola Tesla was and why I was talking about him in my book for children. I was horrified that the agent didn’t know who Telsa was, but that’s how us nerdy types react when others don’t know all the cool things we do. All you nerds are shaking your heads right now because you know exactly what I’m talking about.

All that driving and thinking and meeting with a writer’s group spawned a story of a kid who was sent to a villain camp on accident. It started as a short chapter. Not a very good one, I might add. It had some funny moments, but that was it. How was I going to turn this chapter into a full book? Of course, many times in my life I have gravitated toward stories that everyone else in the Universe seems to be thinking about as well. The only comfort we have as writers is that we might have the same ideas – but none of us are going to tell that story the same way. The writer’s group challenged me, I kept working on the chapter and they kept giving me notes. Eventually I had to set out like Skywalker and face the challenge on my own. I could have written that chapter a million times over. You just have to know when to move on in your writing and that’s what I set out to do.

My love for 80s movies and comic books started to blend and ignite a larger kernel of story. I could actually hear Niles talking and see him doing things that I thought were funny. He wasn’t just a person but a personality. He had quirks that were coming to life each time I sat at the computer to write. I rarely outline (sometimes this is a huge detriment as I have learned in my writing career) and I let the story go. For me, I almost channel the story spirit and it just goes through my fingers. Yeah, okay, that sounds a bit corny. But that’s kinda how it works for me. I’m one of those writers that vomits out the first draft and then I go back and clean it up. Sometimes I go back and throw out gobs of writing. The whole point is to let inspiration awaken. Don’t put a governor on it, no brakes, hit the gas, downhill on roller skates… I think you get the point.

So there I was. Niles erupted.

Part Ferris Bueller,

part Bruce Wayne,

and part me. A half a dozen messy drafts later I had something. And the rest they say, is history… let’s save the road to publishing for another day.

Right now. I’m still sitting in traffic. Niles is just months away from his book birthday and I’m wondering if he will find his way into the world.

Will he be able to pull in some of those reluctant readers?

Will he inspire?

I hope so.

Pre-order the book on Amazon, B&N, BAM or any local retailer near you!

D.M. Cunningham is a film and television writer, director and producer who has worked with several of Hollywood’s top production companies such as Disney, MTV, NBC, History Channel, Cartoon Network, and Lionsgate. His short stories can be found in STORIES FOR CHILDREN, UNDERNEATH THE JUNIPER TREE, AND CROW TOES QUARTERLY. He is a writer and columnist for FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND magazine where he interviews the top talent in the horror and science fiction industries.

D.M. Cunningham’s Spencer Hill Middle Grade Books: Niles Wormwort, Accidental Villain

Visit The author online : Website,Facebook, Instagram, follow on Twitter: @LiteraryAsylum

 

 

Author Ray Ballantyne spotlighted in the Statesman Journal

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Ray doing what he does best, telling stories.

The Last Child of Hamelin by Ray Ballantyne

The Last Child of Hamelin by Ray Ballantyne

 

Our author, Ray Ballantyne, recently launched his book The Last Child of Hamelin to a fabulous crowd at A.C. Gilbert’s Discovery Village. Not only did he read a chapter from his newly published book, but he also told a story that inspired him to write it. You can hear him tell this story and read about Ray’s journey to publication online.

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Ray signs a book for a local fan.

 

 

 

 

 

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The woman in the green shirt was a school secretary at Campus Elementary in Monmouth, a school my Ray taught at 40 years ago. The reason she remembered him was that he was so kind and appreciative of the office staff. She recognized his picture in The Statesman article last week and wanted to be there!

 

 

Congratulations to Darby Karchut!

Gideon'sSPearfinalcoverflat (2)Congratulations to our author Darby Karchut!

Her novel, Gideon’s Spear, sequel to Finn Finnegan, just took home a 2014 International Readers’ Favorite Bronze Medal Award  in the Children-Preteen category. We are so proud of you!

To check out Darby’s story behind the story of Finn and his adventures click here.

And don’t forget to check out the third book in the series, The Hound at the Gate.houndatthegate-web

 

The Story behind the Story: Our author Darby Karchut and the inspiration behind the Adventures of Finn MacCullen

Authors are thieves. We pinch ideas from whatever source we can, and certainly, without remorse. Except we call it inspiration. Influenced by. A variation on a theme. Sure. Okay. I’ll go with that. For, in truth, there really is nothing new under the sun. (I totally pilfered that.)

 

While it is quite obvious that the Adventures of Finn MacCullen series is based on Celtic mythology, some readers may also notice how much of the hero’s journey is reflected in the books as well. Like so many writers, especially writers of fantasy, I have been influenced by Joseph Campbell’s pivotal work, The Hero’s Journey. It was the part where the hero meets up with his mentor, and who travels alongside, teaching and instructing his young protégé, that has always fired my imagination. Obi-Wan Kenobi and young Luke Skywalker; Professor Dumbledore and Harry Potter; Ranger Halt and Will; Gandalf and just about everyone in the Fellowship are all great examples.

 

 

I decided in my Adventures of Finn MacCullen series to focus on young Finn’s apprenticeship under the tutelage of the Knight, Gideon Lir. You see, I have often thought that this was such an important phase in the hero’s journey; the relationship that will shape so much of the protagonist’s personality. Which was a blast to write, as I could explore not only Finn’s coming-of-age, but also the developing “father/son” relationship between the two.

 

Taking the basic concept of the hero’s journey, I overlaid some of the characters and stories from Celtic mythology, a culture I have long been fascinated with. That fascination was fueled by a trip to Ireland in 2011. What follows is a brief listing that I have included in the Author’s Notes in the back of each book:

 

Finnegan MacCullen: My protagonist is based loosely on the Irish legend of Finn McCool or Fionn mac Cumhail. This story cycle, called The Boyhood Deeds of Fionn mac Cumhail, follows the adventures of Finn as he grows from boy to legendary warrior.

 

Lir: The warrior-father from The Children of Lir story cycle. All I really took from that cycle was the name Lir. However, Gideon’s name is a nod to the legendary Welsh figure Gwydion. That character was a warrior, but also a bit of a trickster. I took that trait and gave Gideon a sarcastic bent.

 

Mac Roth: A friend and strong right arm to one of the early kings of Ireland. A fitting name for Gideon’s old friend and avuncular figure to Finn.

 

Scáthach: A formidable warrior and instructor of the young heroes. She trained many a famous figure from Celtic mythology, including the legendary warrior, Cúchulainne. “Cu-Chulainne,” by the way, means “The Hound of Culain.” He is often referred to as the Achilles of Celtic mythology.

 

Rath: A fortified ringfort. Ruins of raths can still be found scattered throughout Ireland. And, yes, is another word for Ruler or King.

 

warp spasm: This, too is a part of Celtic lore. This battle frenzy gave warriors extra strength and speed and helped them ignore injuries until after the conflict.

 

torc: A neck ring made from strands of metal twisted together. Most are open-ended at the front and were worn as a sign of nobility and high social status. Many examples of these have been found in European Bronze Age graves and burial sites.

 

deadnettle: A plant used as a curative tea amongst various peoples in northern Europe and the British isles.

 

Amandán: Mythical Irish and Scottish figures which are said to reside in fairy mounds. They are feared because it is believed their touch (called the fairy stroke or poc sidhe) is said to cause paralysis or death.

 

The Song of the Tuatha De Danaan: The words that open all the books, and that are recited throughout, are a portion of the famous early Irish “Song of Amergin.” This translation is from the article “Echoes of Antiquity in the Early Irish ‘Song of Amergin’” by Lloyd D. Graham, 2010.

Learn more about Darby by visiting her author page.

 

 

Follow the Piper: Fiction in the Classroom

FOLLOW THE PIPER:FICTION IN THE CLASSROOM

 

by Ray Ballantyne

 

 

 

I have walked on Mars.

 

I have paddled an outrigger canoe over the Pacific Ocean.

 

Al Capone has done my shirts.

 

And all without stirring from my chair.

 

For, you see, I read fiction.

 

Not only have I experienced all this through books, I have lived it. And I remember them.

 

Storytelling is a part of our nature. We are built to tell and remember stories. What we experience in fiction becomes a part of us. That is the “Piper” we must follow. Not the Pied Piper who took the children away, but one who satisfies the deep need for story we all share.

 

That alone is enough reason for fiction to a part of every language program at every level. However, you as a teacher may feel bound to justify that fiction should be included. Then know this—: all the language skills you are responsible for can be learned through fiction.

 

Vocabulary? In any good work of children’s literature, the child reader will find words they don’t know, but they will encounter them in context. Many times that is all the child will need to understand the word. Other times it will snap into place later in the story. In the hands of a good author, the story will continue to flow, and the meaning of individual words will take shape.

 

Children don’t learn vocabulary with worksheets and drills.  They learn by being immersed in quality writing. That is what I mean by following the Piper.

 

Grammar and usage? Keep them reading fiction. It provides a sure model of the very best of the English language.

 

And read this from the Common Core: “Recount stories, including fables, folktales, and myths from diverse cultures; determine the central message, lesson, or moral and explain how it is conveyed through key details in the text.”

 

So there you have it. Fiction is in. It can be justified with many different learning objectives in your curriculum.

 

But the most important reasons for including fiction are the hardest to measure. Nonetheless, most are immeasurably more important. We educators have a frightening tendency to include in our curriculum those things that can be most easily measured.

 

But to quote Einstein, “Everything that can be counted does not necessarily count; everything that counts cannot necessarily be counted.

 

So what counts?

 

Wonder. Wisdom. Empathy.

 

There is a quality of rehearsal, of practice inherent in fiction. We can experience problems and dilemmas through someone else—a character in a story— before we experience it ourselves. We watch fictional characters struggle, err and work through difficulties.  We feel what they feel. We end up just a little more prepared for life.

 

How did Harriet extract herself from the social mess she finds herself in? How did Anna and Caleb cope with having this tall stranger named Sarah enter their lives as their stepmother?  How did Juan de Pareja deal with being an art apprentice in a hostile place?

 

Every well-wrought protagonist has character flaws. Fiction demonstrates how a person survives these flaws and grows in the process. We live it with the character.

 

It is no magic bullet, no easy fix. It comes from years of immersion in the best fiction we can offer children.

 

Then there is imagination. Oh, how fiction stirs our imagination. Every fiction writer depends on that. With a few deft details, an author sketches a world and leaves the reader to fill in the rest of the details with our imaginations. And we do, and imagination blossoms.

 

To quote our dear Einstein one more time, “Imagination is more important than knowledge.

 

Finally, fiction allows us to see the world through another pair of eyes, to know life as someone different from us knows it.  We can live another culture. The other gender. A different time in history. As it says at the beginning of Sharon Creech’s  Newberry-winning book, Walk Two Moons, “Don’t judge a man until you’ve walked two moons in his moccasins.”

 

Fiction helps us not view the rest of the world as “others,” people to be avoided or even feared. When we “walk two moons,” it is very difficult to do that.

 

Finally, there’s the wisdom inherent in fiction, perhaps in children’s fiction most of all. I’m not talking about the “sermons” of those pedantic stories children must all-too-often endure. Wisdom is deeper, older; it is shared by of a great character in a great story.  Wisdom, passed down through multiple folktales, through stories that have stood the test of time.  Wisdom that is endemic in the best of children’s literature. And fiction gives children an opportunity to not just hear this wisdom, but see it lived out. To live it themselves. Following the Piper.

 

With fiction.

 

With story.