I love a good ghost story. As a child I was the one everyone looked to as we sat around the campfire. Blessed with a most active imagination, I would spin a scary tale sure to keep everyone up all night.
Hope you enjoy this little story as you venture out to ‘trick or treat.’ Enjoy! And Happy Halloween.
The Burberry Scare
By C.K. Volnek
Eugene eased his make-shift hoe next to the large round pumpkin, careful not to snag anything he shouldn’t. He clipped the stray weed invading his patch and leaned back, his chest puffed out with pride, thumb hitched in the frayed rope he used as a belt. Any time now, the Governor was bound to drive by.
He spat at his hand and smoothed the greasy black shock of hair down against his head. “I must remember to thank Maeva for the special pumpkin seeds,” he said to himself, swiping a dirty hand across a mouth full of discolored teeth. “Josiah will be one jealous lout this year after I win the prize for the most bountiful pumpkin patch.”
Eugene could almost feel the jingle in his pocket—accolades from the Governor for tending his field so well. It was a bumper crop, thanks to Maeva. Five times as large and four times as many as last year. Yup, the Governor would be most pleased. A scream cut through the still evening, followed by the crashing of tree limbs. Willow Harrison charged toward the patch like a scared rabbit, her eleven-year-old face white
as a ghost, her long skirt billowing about her legs.
“No! Stop!” Eugene yelled and threw up his arms. She was rushing right toward his pumpkins. No telling what kind of damage she’d do.
Willow continued running, staring back into the trees lining the patch. She shrieked again, but her voice cut short as she crashed to the ground, her black boots entangled in the prickly pumpkin vines.
“You darn, fool brat,” Eugene raged, running down the narrow trail he’d maintained in the center of his crop, stepping gingerly through the creepers. He gasped as he gazed down at Willow, her elbow pierced right through the thick rind of a pumpkin. A thick orange liquid puddled on the ground next to her leg. Eugene’s mouth gaped open and closed like a mud-loving catfish, his face turning beet red. “Lookee here what you done! You dang no-good monster.”
Willow jerked to stare at Eugene. “What?” She pushed herself up, staring back at the woods. “But something is...” With a sickening crack, she stepped on a thick pumpkin vine, breaking it in two.
Eugene shrieked and grabbed her arm. “You’re gonna pay for that,” he sneered, pushing his face in front of her so their noses almost touched. “I done told you dang
kids to stay outta my pumpkins. And now, you’re gonna pay. The Governor’s gonna
want his due.”
“I, I don’t have any money,” Willow croaked, trying to pull her arm free of Eugene’s vice-like grip, her eyes still flitting about the trees.
“Well, you’re gonna get it,” Eugene hissed. “You’ll get it or I’ll be takin’ in from your hide.”
A loud screech echoed in the dark trees and Willow’s eyes widened even more. “There’s a monster in there, Eugene.” She pointed a shaky finger the way she’d come. “It chased me clear from Nathanial’s”
Eugene stared up at the inky blackness within the heavy branches. He shook his head. Crazy fool kids. Just like their parents. What was it with the people of Burberry spinning all these crazy stories of some durn monster terrorizing the hills? They just wanted to make trouble for him, prevent him from providing the Governor with the best crop of pumpkins ever.
“You’re such a scaredy,” Eugene scoffed, waving a pointy finger at Willow. “It’s All Hallows Eve. Those fool boys are just playing a prank on you.” He rolled his eyes and pushed her to the edge of the patch. “Now, you git on home, and make sure you git me my money.”
Willow took one last look at the woods and dashed off, heaving through the tall grass and jumping over the small creek at the edge of the meadow.
Eugene watched her disappear around the bend in the dirt road, her long hair streaming behind her like a flag. “Stupid girl,” he spat and returned to his pumpkins, fussing over the crushed leaves, trying to splint the broken vines. It just wouldn’t do for the Governor to see this.
He raised a bushy eyebrow at the orange goop surrounding the broken pumpkin. At least she’d managed to destroy a spoiled pumpkin. He turned is so the Governor wouldn’t see.
Branches rustled from within the trees. Eugene looked up, expecting a gang of ruffian Burberry boys to come blaring out, a hooting and a cackling. No one appeared. Only the oak’s leaves quivered in the hush of the nearing dusk.
“Dang hoodlums.” He’d give them what-for. “Come out here, you durn kids,” he yelled at the trees, shaking his fist.
Still no one appeared.
The trees rustled again followed by heavy breathing. Eugene peered harder but the forest revealed nothing. Dread crept into his stomach. His heart pounded as a shiver
raced down his back.
“George? Lucas?” he called, the hard edge gone from his voice.
A growl drifted out from the trees.
“Come on out, boys.” Eugene cleared his throat, trying to hide the shaky vibrato.
The talk of the townsfolk skittered through his head. A demon. Flying monster. Dragon. Eugene swallowed. It couldn’t be. There was no such thing. Was there?
The growl came again. Louder. Closer.
Eugene stepped back, cringing as he snapped a pumpkin vine with his heavy work-boot. The shadow shifted in the trees, even darker as the sun waned beyond the horizon, bathing the patch in an orangey glow. Red eyes appeared from within the trees, staring harshly at Eugene. The shadow moved again, the ground trembling.
Eugene’s knees quaked and he leaned against his hoe to keep from falling.
Eugene jumped as a terrifying screech filled the evening air, like a thousand cats being skinned alive. The smell of sulfur and smoke stung his senses, singeing his nose and burning his eyes. He glanced about, but there was no place to hide. His shed stood a good quarter of a mile away. The only thing between him and safety was his pumpkins.
In a flash, he jumped behind the closest pumpkin. It hid him easily. As big as a cow, it was. Eugene peered over the top as the beast broke into the golden glow of twilight. It was horrid. Black and deformed. Shoulders like an elephant, claws like razors,
wings like a giant bat, the tail of a lion, and its head…a grotesque square with red eyes, fangs and horns. As gross as it was, it was strangely familiar.
Eugene’s heart quickened. The monster was coming…straight toward him. He’d be sliced to ribbons and chewed up like a lamb chop. He rested a hand against the pumpkin to try and stop his trembling. Was he not to see his award for his pumpkins?
His pumpkins! He glanced back to the beast. It would easily crush his crop. And the Governor would pass him by again for Josiah. Eugene’s blood boiled at the thought. Gripping his hoe, he burst out from behind his pumpkin and charged toward the creature.
The beast screamed and reared up, raking at the air with sharp claws and flapping its massive wings. It gnashed its teeth, its red eyes glaring with hatred. For a second,
fear clawed at Eugene’s belly again…until the beast slashed at the closest pumpkin, ripping it open, from top to bottom. That was all Eugene could take. He raised his hoe, and rushed the monster, swinging the sharp edge at the beast’s throat. The monster screamed as the blade connected with its neck, slicing the black skin, spattering dark purple blood across the pumpkins and vines. The creature staggered backward, swinging its grotesque head from side to side, its cry echoing into the growing night. With the sound of a tree falling, it collapsed at the edge of the pumpkin patch, the red glow fading from its eyes, frame stiffening to a hard gray.
Eugene watched the beast with disbelief. Inching toward it, he tapped its horrible head with the hoe, muscles poised to jerk back if it moved. The beast was dead. Turned to stone. He’d killed it. A warped grin spread across his face. The whole town was sure
to profess him a hero! The Governor too. Smiling, he examined the monster’s head, searching his memory for where he knew it from. As if struck by lightning, it hit him. He’d seen this creature on top of the Magistrate’s. It was the stone gargoyle.
“But how could that be?” Eugene muttered to himself. How could the gargoyle come to life? And what was it doing in his pumpkin patch? He gazed at his prize pumpkins and made his way to the one the gargoyle had sliced open, wondering how he was going to hide this split from the Governor. A cracking sound filled the night and the pumpkin burst open. Eugene jumped back. More cracking erupted from all corners of the patch as more and more pumpkins shattered, opening to the full moon just cresting over the
trees. In the soft silver glow, baby gargoyle heads rose up out of the pumpkins, red eyes staring at Eugene, fangs gnashing, screaming out their hunger...
Happy Halloween All!
Fear. Terror. Panic. Do you have things you’re afraid of? Today I have a guest post from Chris Henderson and she has some great tips for writers with fears (especially since Halloween is right around the corner). I definitely enjoyed this and needed this post to face my own fears…I hope you enjoy Chris Henderson’s… Fear of Writing This past weekend my friends needed my husband and I to watch their child for the night. I don’t like using the word “babysit” as the young boy who was in our care would detest the term since he is ten years old. My kids are grown so it’s been awhile since we dealt with the nuances of childhood. Since it’s near Halloween I thought it would be fun to watch “Nightmare Before Christmas.” It’s one of my favorites and I even have several of the toy characters from the movie. If you’re not familiar with the movie, it’s an animated puppet/claymation style movie with a wonderful soundtrack by Danny Elfman. As our young charge is a budding musician I thought he would enjoy it. He seemed to enjoy it and didn’t cringe or hide anytime while watching it. When it was done, he even said he liked it. Soon after the movie he washed up for the night and got ready for bed with all going well. Then it was lights out. Not less than five minutes after I turned out the light he was there at my office door telling me that he couldn’t sleep because the movie scared him. When I questioned him about what it was that scared him, he told me it was Oogie Boogie. He didn’t like the fact that this character was trying to kill two of the characters and when he was defeated his stuffing of zillions of bugs fell out. Now I’ve got to admit I don’t like that part of the movie either with all the wiggly stuff; however this same child wanted to read his picture book on the world’s deadliest poisons as a final nightcap which I would not allow. He also likes talking about deadly insects and playing video games where he trounces stuff. This confounded me that an animated movie would then cause him a problem. I tried my best to reason with him and give logical ideas of how he could overcome his fears of the creature. Each time I gave him a new suggestion or idea he just kept telling me it wouldn’t work, he’d just keep thinking about the scary character. He wouldn’t even try to work it through but just kept saying nothing would work. This reminds me of how as writers we might also keep saying nothing will work when we get those ghastly rejection letters. Why even try if no publisher will like them? Or why go through the work to self-publish if no one will buy except a few loyal friends? Why let anyone critique your writing when you know they probably won’t like it anyway? Why not just pretend that you really only want to write for yourself? Well it’s time to buck up and take the rejection. Life and writing isn’t meant to be easy. Here’s a short list of once unknown but now famous authors whose books didn’t get accepted at first. It shows how many rejection letters they received either for one work or their collective works. 7,000 William Saroyan (before he sold his first story) 140 Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach 38 Gone With The Wind by Margaret Mitchell 30 Carrie by Stephen King 26 Watership Down by Richard Adams 22 Dubliners by James Joyce 16 The Peter Principle by Laurence J. Peter .(Source http://www.lulu.com/static/pr/9_26_05.php) When you get that rejection letter, just think that this wasn’t the publisher for you. It’s like dating there are lots of people out there but only a few are really right for you. It will take time to find the right match. And maybe waiting for that right match will mean going solo for awhile as in self-publishing. Just don’t stop writing – stop making excuses for not writing. There’s something in you that wants to tell stories, let them come. Write and rewrite until it really flows for you. Be open and objective to critiques. Analyze stories in the genre that you write to see what makes them work. Not everything you write will be great, but the more you write you’ll see yourself improving. So pick up that pen or put those fingers to a computer keyboard and write! For more on Chris and her writing go to http://TheWriteChris.blogspot.com. There you will find weekly interviews with other authors and her experiences with writing.
We see book fairs in schools all the time. Well, there's no reason we can't have a Major Book Fair on-line -- Virtually! Join us as we present bunches of books for your liking.
Shop to your heart's desire!
Kathy Sattem Rygg is a children’s book author, corporate freelance writer/editor and active member of SCBWI. She earned a degree in magazine journalism from Iowa State University and has worked for the McGraw-Hill Business Publications division in New York City and was the editor of Women’s Edition magazine in Denver, CO.
She is also the author of the children’s iPad app “Magic Story Factory,” which helps young children create an interactive ebook. She currently lives in Omaha, NE with her husband and two young boys where she loves shopping, wining, dining and cheering for the Huskers! Her children's young middle grade book "Tall Tales with Mr. K" is available both in print and as an ebook in all formats.
Kathy will also give away a FREE ebook copy of “Tall Tales with Mr. K” to one lucky person who leaves a comment!
Welcome Kathy. I’m so glad to have you here. Can you tell your readers something interesting about your favorite character?
I loved school as a child and admired all of my teachers. One of my favorites was my fourth-grade teacher, and the character Mr. K is loosely based on him. He was a former major-league baseball player for the New York Yankees and was incredibly tall! Some of the methods Mr. K uses in the book were derived from him. For example,
Mr. K’s “sticky seat” was taken from my teacher who actually used tape to prevent one student from standing up all the time. My teacher was rather mysterious like Mr. K, as well as kind and funny and students loved him. Not to mention he could hit a baseball clear out of the school playground and across the street!
How absolutely fun to have a Major League Baseball player as a teacher! And so wonderful you carried this into your story. Love it. So, what was your favorite book as a child? Tell us about it and how it influenced you as a writer.
One of my favorite book series was “The Borrowers” by Mary Norton. I loved the creativity behind the idea that little people lived in the walls and actually borrowed everyday objects. To this day, if I misplace something I say “the Borrowers” took it!
I also loved the “Mrs. Piggle Wiggle” books by Betty MacDonald. Again, it was such a creative, humorous premise. Mrs. Piggle Wiggle was a lovable woman who helped “cure” children of their bad habits using very unconventional
These types of books grew my love for reading and became my points of inspiration as a writer of children’s books.
I too loved the Borrowers. What a great storyline. Tell us about the genre you have chosen to write for. Why do write specifically for them?
I love writing for young middle grade (ages 7-10) because they have made the transition from early readers and beginning chapter books to shorter novels. They are excited about reading and devour books. I also incorporate an element of magic into my stories because this age is when suspension of disbelief is at its
Middle grade is such a fun age. I love their appetite for good stories. What type of writing process do you follow?
I’m an incredibly organized person. I’m an avid list maker and like to keep my house tidy and picked up. However, don’t ever look in my closets! That’s where the chaos is
kept until things are literally falling out and then I have to organize them out of necessity. My writing process is very similar. I have lots of ideas that I keep tucked away in my head until one day something comes spilling out and I know it’s time to sit down and write about it. From there, I try to create a rough outline, but it always ends up changing. And I never know the end of a story until I get to it. I also love the revision process. It’s so satisfying to take something you think is written well and make it even better!
Right now I’m completing another young middle grade fantasy and I plan to write a middle grade fantasy series for boys—a market that I think has a lot of room for growth and one close to my heart since I’m raising two boys!
LOL. I almost hid my head in shame when I read you were so organized. I think I’m chaos in the making. Glad to see you have a closet similar to mine.
Regarding publication and marketing, what advice can you offer aspiring writers?
Keep writing, attend conferences, join critique groups, network online, and don’t be afraid to self-publish on sites like Smashwords.com and Amazon. It's a great way to stay motivated and build a presence. Most of all, don’t stop what you love doing!
Malcolm Gladwell says it takes 10,000 hours of work to become successful, so it
won’t happen overnight!
Please tell us about your new book. How did it come about and will you share your favorite excerpt/scene?
“Tall Tales with Mr. K” is about a group of third-graders who think the teacher’s lounge is where teachers eat candy out of vending machines, watch TV and get to play video games. They don’t expect it to be a tropical island where they are kidnapped by pirates, a circus where they learn the flying trapeze or a crime scene where they solve a jewelry heist!
I mentioned the Mrs. Piggle Wiggle books before, and I wanted to write a children’s book using a similar premise and style. I wanted to use a familiar setting for kids—school—but I wanted to add an element of mystery, and there’s plenty mystery surrounding the teacher’s lounge! I also tried to come up with unique ways of helping kids solve common issues they face in school at this age, such as struggling with reading, math, etc. but doing it in a fun, creative way. I incorporated the style of making each chapter of the book its own story but connecting them all at the end.
“I noticed you weren’t too happy during reading group,” Mr. K said. “What was wrong?”
“I don’t know. It was just hard,” Max said, looking at the floor.
“That particular book was hard?”
“Yes. No. All of it’s hard. I just don’t like to read.” Max felt a lump in his throat. He swallowed it back to keep tears from forming in his eyes.
“I know reading can be really tough,” Mr. K said. “Sometimes it helps if you don’t think of it as just reading words on a page.”
“What do you mean?” Max said. He looked up, all the way up, at Mr. K.
“I like to think of reading as though you’re decoding a map—a treasure map. The page of the book is the map, and the words are the symbols on the map. Once you’ve figured out what all the symbols mean, then you know--”
“Where the buried treasure is!” Max said.
“Exactly! And in the case of books, the treasure is the story.”
“It sounds cool, but I don’t know if I can do it,” Max said.
“Why don’t we find out?” said Mr. K, turning toward the door of the teacher’s lounge.
“We can’t go in there. Students aren’t allowed,” Max said.
“You are if a teacher is with you. This is where we’re going to unlock the secret behind reading a treasure map.” Max stared at the door with the big “Teacher’s Lounge” sign beside it. He wasn’t sure what to expect. Mr. K turned the handle, and Max followed him through the forbidden door.
Max stumbled through the doorway. He thought he’d be faced with startled teachers eating their lunches. Instead, he found himself—outside. And not just outside the school but outside on a beach. Soft sand surrounded his feet. He looked around and saw blue ocean water as far as he could see. Mr. K stood beside him wearing a tan, wide-brimmed hat. A pair of binoculars hung around his neck.
“Where are we?” Max whispered, scrunching his nose to keep his glasses up. “How did we get here?” He turned around to look for the door to the teacher’s lounge. Nothing was there but a thick jungle with mountains behind it.
“We’re on an island known for its buried treasure,” Mr. K said. “And I happen to have the treasure map.” He held up a plain, brown hardback book. He handed it to Max. Max opened the book. Each page was filled with a different picture of a treasure map.
“You mean we’re going to hunt for real treasure?” Max asked, stunned.
“As long as you can decode the map,”Mr. K said. “And as long as we can stay away from them.” Mr. K nodded toward the water. Max turned and saw the dark outline of a giant ship sailing toward them. At the top a black flag with white skull and crossbones waved in the wind.
“Is that a pirate ship?” Max said.
“We better get started before it comes to shore.”
I have your book and can’t wait to read and review it. Watch for it sometime soon on my blog. The excerpt sounds wonderful! Now, how can your fans find, follow or friend you?
You can go to my blog at http://ksrwriter.blogspot.com. I provide tips, information and interviews for authors. You can also find me on Facebook (KSR Writer), Linkedin
(Kathy Rygg) Twitter (kathyrygg) and Goodreads.
My book is available both in print and for kindleon Amazon.com, for Nook on Barnes and Noble.com, and for iPad, iPhone and iPod on iTunes and for Sony, Kobo and to download to your computer on Smashwords.com.
Thank you so much for hosting me today, C.K.! I had a fantastic time!
Thanks again for joining me. It was my pleasure to have you here and find out so much more about you.
Remember everyone; Kathy will give away a FREE ebook copy of “Tall Tales with Mr. K” to one lucky person who leaves a comment! So, increase your odds and say hi! Good
SB Knight has seen his poetry and short stories published in both books and magazines. Now, with the publishing of his first novel, Born of Blood, he has achieved a goal and dream set many years ago. Currently he is working on the second novel for the Blood Chronicles series.
SB Knight is the creator of ‘The New Author;’ a blog that starter as a learning tool but has since grown into a community of friends and peers. He is also co-owner of Premium Promotional Services where authors can find the help they need to promote their book on the Internet.
Hello, SB, why don’t you tell your readers something interesting about yourself AND/OR your favorite character.
You know, I could say I have six toes on my right foot but I’m not sure that would be interesting. Yes, I’m just kidding. Something interesting about me…I truly enjoy spicy food. I grow my own peppers and hope to make my own hot sauce one day.
It is hard to pick just one character in a debut novel. I’m connected to all of them in one way or another. I will say the character that intrigued me the most was Reba. Why is that? Reba is a product of the story. I had an idea and picture of all the other characters and what role they would play but Reba developed out of a simple scene. She then grew into a main character but what really interested me was the role she would play and the impact she would have on the story because there wasn’t a plan or idea for her.
Sounds like Reba had a plan for you! Ha. What was your favorite book as a teen? Tell us about it and how it affected you as a person.
Believe it or not I did not read a great deal of novels during my teenage years. I focused more on comic books unless you want to count the reading assignments from school. I have to be honest I actually enjoyed Hamlet, Macbeth, and Romeo and Juliet. Edgar Allen Poe captured my attention as well. How they affected me as a person is a little harder to pinpoint. The comics speak for themselves…I mean you have good and evil fighting it out. Shakespeare and Poe showed me the power of words. They demonstrated their ability to form pictures in the readers mind like a movie.
Reading truly captured me in my late twenties. I read The Fellowship of the Ring and my love for fantasy novels began. Soon I was reading more and more from that genre. Now I read anything that lands in my hands but fantasy remains my favorite.
Interesting. From comic books to Shakespeare. Tell us about the genre you have chosen to write for. Why do write specifically for them?
I would say that the genre chose me. When I began writing I had no intention of writing dark fantasy novels. That genre did not appeal to me at the time. I was more leaning toward action/adventure. It is strange really because as I was brainstorming a story idea another story sprang to life and pushed the original out of the way. Now don’t get me wrong, I am a fan of monsters and things like that but didn’t plan to write about them. I guess you could say that the monsters, ghouls and things that go bump in the night had other plans and here I am writing dark fantasy.
I’m a lover of ghosts and monsters and things that go bump in the night. My muse is drooling as she listens to you talk of your story. Tell us about your new book. How did it come about and share your favorite excerpt/scene.
My new book just happens to be my debut novel. Born of Blood came about as I tried to answer the question ‘what if’. What if a historical event influenced the history of the apex monster? What if the myth and lore surrounding that apex monster, the embodiment of our fears, only told half the story? What if there was a darker; more tragic side to this age old evil? A trilogy was born from the answers to those questions. Born of Blood is book one of the Blood Chronicles.
There are many scenes which make it difficult to pick one but I do have one in mind. The scene with Drake, Walt and Charles in the basement of Drake’s house was a fun one to write. It displays multiple sides of Drake’s personality. We see his charming, friendly side but at the same time we see his dark, evil, twisted side. It is a compelling scene.
‘What if…’ That’s how my book Ghost Dog of Roanoke Island was formed as well. A monster from Native American folklore born to revenge a hateful crime from true events following the Lost Colony of Roanoke Island. Love monsters, redefined. Now, my muse is marking your book a MUST be read!
How has writing affected your life? And what’s your favorite part of being a writer?
Writing has allowed a number of doors to open. Doors I didn’t even know existed. From writing I have met new peers and friends; learned a great deal and found another form of creative outlet. To be blessed with the gift and ability to write stories is a great thing.
My favorite part of being a writer is telling the story; seeing it unfold before my eyes. The opportunity to shift gears and allow my imagination to pull me into the story with the characters is a thrill that never ends. Let us not forget the emotion and response we get from those who read our stories. That is something special.
It’s great to be a writer, isn’t it? What advice can you give regarding the writing process?
Allow yourself to write. What I mean by that is don’t think about writing to much while you are writing. Think about your writing while you are doing other things like taking a shower or cutting grass. Writing is an expression of your imagination and should flow from you. This is why writing is a craft, skill and passion; it takes all three to form your idea into a polished story.
I would also offer to you to be patient. When you are done with your story put it away for a few weeks or months before you start editing and polishing it. Your fresh eyes will reward you for it.
Interesting suggestions. Regarding publication and marketing, what advice can you offer aspiring writers?
When it comes to publication authors need to be resilient and patient. After you find a publisher the author needs to be patient and understand the process of publishing. Marketing is an entirely different animal. Authors need to be patient (see the pattern?), driven, passionate, real and honest. Start early and be yourself; never stop marketing and promoting your name. Again, start early and don’t stop even after your book has been released.
How can your fans find, follow or friend you, SB?
Oh I have multiple avenues and ways to find me on the Internet. I hope that you will visit and join me on this journey called writing.
Website: http://www.sb-knight.com/Blog: http://the-new-author.blogspot.com/Facebook Page: http://www.facebook.com/FansofSBKTwitter: @thenewauthor
Google +: https://plus.google.com/113529126534348607451/about
MuseItUp Publishing Page: http://museituppublishing.com/musepub/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=202:author&catid=35:authorsThanks for joining us today, SB. It’s been great to get to know you and Born of Blood better! Can’t wait for your debut novel’s book birthday!
You Can Still WIN a FREE e-copy of Ghost Dog of Roanoke Island!
Winners will be selected 10/18.
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I’ve always loved picture books. I spent many a night reading these lovely tales to my children, enjoying the beautiful illustrations and relishing th. Today, it’s my honor to bring to you Ellen Jackson. Ellen is the award-winning children’s author of more than 55 fiction and nonfiction books for children. She was a Psychology/History/Philosophy major who graduated with a B.A. in English (UCLA), Teaching Accreditation (UCLA), and later acquired an M.A. in Counseling (California Family Study Center) with a specialty in early childhood development. She’s worked as an elementary school teacher, curriculum specialist, curriculum author, editor, and award-winning author of children's books.
One of her picture books, SCATTERBRAIN SAM, received many accolades, including a starred review from Kirkus. The review said, in part: “Belly laughs and bravos will punctuate every reading of this fresh, funny recasting.” This book was also a Parents’ Choice Fall 2001 Gold Award Winner and received a storytelling award from Storytelling World Magazine (out of 3000 entries).
Her picture book CINDER EDNA has now sold more than 100,000 hardcover copies and was featured in GREAT BOOKS FOR GIRLS and LET’S HEAR IT FOR THE GIRLS. It was also nominated for a Young Reader’s award in Nevada, South Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Colorado, and has received other awards as well.
Her nonfiction picture book, TURN OF THE CENTURY, received a starred review in Kirkus, a pointered review in Booklist, was named a Booklist Editor’s Choice and was short-listed for the Texas Bluebonnet, Charlotte, and Children’s Crown awards.
Ellen currently lives in Santa Barbara, California, with her family and enjoys hiking, beach combing, reading, playing Renaissance music with a local music group, and doing volunteer work in the community. To learn more, visit Ellen’s webpage at: www.ellenjackson.net.
Welcome Ellen. Can you tell your readers something interesting about yourself and/or your favorite character from your new book, THE BALLAD OF BOOSTER BOGG?
I’ll start with myself–and I’ll tell you a ghost story because you’ve written a book about a ghost (and because it’s October). Neither my husband nor I really believe in ghosts, but we’ve had some strange experiences in our current house. For about ten years, I’d hear strange noises, footsteps on the roof, and once there was an explosion in the kitchen. Also, the rocking chair in the living room would sometimes rock by itself. Another time, our shed was mysteriously locked–and I was the only person who had the key. My very skeptical husband, at first, thought I had an overactive imagination when I’d report these things–until he heard and saw them too. Even our stepdaughter heard the noises, so I know it wasn’t my imagination. A few years ago, all the strange occurrences stopped. Nothing unusual has happened since. Was it a ghost? Was it something else? I guess we’ll never know.
That’s both creepy and intriguing! (smile) Now tell us about the main character in your newest book, THE BALLAD OF BOOSTER BOGG.
The story of Booster is based on the life of a real dog who lived in a small town on the east coast. The real Booster was a beagle and his name was Boozer (can you guess why I changed it?). My wonderful illustrator, Christine Mannone Carolan, chose to depict BOOSTER as a big, goofy white mutt. I think it was a brilliant choice, and Booster, the character, is quite lovable.
He sounds delightful. Did you have a favorite book as a child? Tell us about it and how it affected you as a person.
I’m not sure I can name just one book. I read everything I could get my hands on when I was a child. My mother was a children’s librarian who worked for Walt Disney Studios, and she’d bring home all kinds of children’s books–from the Mary Poppins series to the Freddy the Pig stories to Dr. Doolittle and all kinds of others.
That’s exciting. I bet you always had tons of great children’s books available then. So, how did you start writing for children?
I loved to write when I was a child, but my mother discouraged me from becoming a writer. She wanted me to train for something practical–so I became a teacher. I read books to my class every day, and I kept thinking, "I could do that." Eventually I moved to a town where jobs were scarce. No problem–I decided (sorry Mom!) I’d just make my living as a writer. I wrote a picture book that I thought was a work of genius (it wasn’t). I worked and worked on the manuscript and probably rewrote it fifty times. While working on book number one, another idea occurred to me. I wrote book number two in about fifteen minutes, and sent the first draft off to five different publishers. I also submitted it to a writing class, where the teacher tore it apart in front of everyone. I totally lost interest after that, but one of the publishers actually bought it. That manuscript, THE GRUMPUS UNDER THE RUG, was in print until this year and has done very well.
Love the Title. What’s the best part about being a writer?
My books have won many awards, but the most satisfying part of being a writer is to get a heartfelt letter from a child. Sometimes I get letters that were "assigned" by a teacher, and these are not the letters I most enjoy–although I try to answer every letter I get. But when I get a letter from a child who honestly enjoyed one of my books–there’s no better feeling. To me, that’s the best part and it’s worth more than all the awards and recognition from adults. I have to add, though, it’s also been personally satisfying that I’ve managed to make a living as a writer.
What’s the most difficult aspect of being a writer for you?
Writers need to keep coming up with new ideas, new stories, and new angles on old topics. For example, there are currently more than 300 books for sale on Amazon.com about elephants. If I wanted to write a book about elephants, I’d have to think of something new to say about them, something no other writer had said before. That’s not always easy. Or if an author is going to write a detective story, she has to think of a new way for the detective to solve the crime. Coming up with new ideas for every book or story can be hard work.
That is a very interesting thought and it’s very true. What advice can you give our readers regarding the writing process?
I think that children’s writers need to remember what it was like to be a child–the smells, the tastes, as well as the fears and the misunderstandings that kids have about the adult world. Some of my best ideas come from my memories of how children think. For example, I recently sold a manuscript based on my childhood take of geographical names. As a child, I thought that Death Valley was full of skeletons and that Orange County was inhabited by lots of orange people. I took the core of this idea and expanded it into a picture book, THE SEVEN SEAS, in which I imagine seven seas, each a different color. This may seem outlandish, but there really is a Red Sea, a Black Sea, and a Yellow Sea.
That’s an interesting way to take the book. Regarding publication and marketing, what advice can you offer aspiring writers?
Read lots of books in whatever genre you’d like to pursue. See what other authors have done. Then try to come up with an idea or theme that hasn’t already been covered. It should be a plot, story, or idea that would interest your targeted age group. Then write the story, rewrite it again and again, and get lots of feedback from others. You may have to submit your manuscript over and over before you can break in. It’s not easy to get published these days. Persistence is key.
Excellent advice. Now, how can your fans find, follow or friend you?
You can visit my website at: www.ellenjackson.netThanks so much for joining us today, Ellen. I appreciate your taking the time to be with us today!
I posted my review and now I would like to introduce the author with a most delightful writing voice…Janet Lee Carey. She is an award-winning fantasy author and author of The Beast of Noor and The Dragons of Noor. School Library Journal's starred review says of her work, “Verdict: This is quite simply fantasy at its best–original, beautiful, amazing, and deeply moving.” Janet links each new book with a charitable organization empowering readers to make a difference in the world. She tours in US and abroad presenting at schools, children’s book festivals, and conferences.
http://www.janetleecarey.comLeave A Comment to WIN a FREE copy of The Beast of Noor, or The Dragons of Noor! TWO winners will be selected on 10/10. Good Luck!
Do not wander in the deeps
Where the Shriker’s shadow creeps
When he rises from beneath
Beware the sharpness of his teeth.
Teens Read Too Gold Star for
C.K. Thank you for visiting today, Janet. It is a treat to have such a wonderful writer of fantasy to my blog. Today we’re celebrating the paperback release of The Beast of Noor, and the anniversary release of The Dragons of Noor. Let’s start by looking at the The Beast of Noor paperback since it’s the first tale of the two. I truly enjoyed The Beast of Noor. Your gift of magical language and sense of the fantastical world is truly
JLC Thanks, Charlie. I’m so glad you enjoyed it.
C.K. Will you tell your readers something interesting about yourself AND/OR your favorite character?
JLC Writing The Beast of Noor, I was keenly aware of how similar I am to Hanna. Though I don’t have one blue eye and one green, I do go on Dreamwalks. My Dreamwalks take me into the story world I’m discovering. I see glimpses of where the story is going and I follow the trail.
~As I walk, As I walk. The universe is walking with me~ (from a Navajo rain dance
Miles’s character was more difficult. Like Hanna he’s an outcast, but he’s angry about
it. He has the intense desire to prove himself, and to get even with the villagers who shun him. I had to learn how to relate to his anger and his drive. The way I got around it was to remember how it felt before I was a published writer – to tap into the years I spent working on novels and getting only rejection. I was on fire to get my stories out there. I only had to get in touch with that feeling of intense drive to prove I was a writer to write Miles’s part of the story.
C.K. What is it that compels you to write the fantastic fantasy worlds you so vividly put your readers in?
JLC I love writing fantasy. The genre gives me liberty to challenge my teen characters in unexpected ways. I sink in deep to make the worlds and creatures both beautiful and beastly; to make the setting very real and pithy, to let my characters (and the readers) feel the chill of every storm.
C.K. After reading The Beast of Noor, it was interesting to compare the Bear Hound in your story, and the Old English Mastiff in Ghost Dog of Roanoke Island. I found both dogs are used as an instrument to control and contain the wickedness of revenge…the retribution within the dog itself in the Beast or Noor, and the vengeance within another legendary creature, the Witiku, in Ghost Dog of Roanoke Island. What message would you like your readers to take away from The Beast of Noor regarding the power and
sin of revenge?
JLC I think it’s interesting that we both chose hounds as messengers of a sort, Charlie. Humans and hounds have been closely knit for eons. To answer your question about revenge, I’ll start with a quote. Friedrich Nietzschesaid, “Be careful when you fight the monsters, lest you become one.” This quote nails the essential battle Miles faces when he fights the Shriker in The Beast of Noor. Miles wants revenge. He is very much like the creature he’s fighting.
Revenge is a twisted response to the need for justice. But when revenge breeds more violence; it’s a never ending cycle. Someone has to step in and break the cycle. It’s never easy but it can be done. Miles and Hanna find a way through the dark and out the other side in this tale, though I won’t give the end away.
C.K. Research plays a great part in a novel based on legend and/or history. I found researching the history of the Lost Colony of Roanoke Island both interesting and mystifying as well as appalling when I discovered the cruelty committed against the Native Americans over the loss of a single silver cup. The Beast of Noor is based on a
fantastical legend, delightful in the sense of sight and perception. Please tell us how you
researched this legend and came up with such an enchanting world?
JLC I have to admit I work backward. What I mean is, I have the central story idea that hits me in the gut. For The Beast of Noor it was the image of a boy lost in the dark. One who becomes a monster by fighting a monster. Once I had the idea I turned to old
myths and legends trying to find the right setting, and the right monster to allow the story to come out. One of my books Spirits, Fairies, Leprechauns, and Goblins:
An Encyclopedia, by Carol Rose, tells of a phantom dog known by various names – Black Dog, Mauthe Doog, Padfoot, Barguest, Shriker, Gytrash, and so on. Charlotte Bronte describes the Gytrash in Jane Eyre, and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle seeks to hunt him down in The Hound of the Baskervilles. The phantom hound has existed long in legend and haunted many a tale. I knew I’d found the right creature for my story, and like all writers, I made the beast my own. So the legend of the Shriker, of Rory Sheen’s betrayal, and the Darro’s curse as told on Enness Isle is singular to the world of Noor.
C.K. Your main characters, Miles and Hannah, must right the grievous wrong their ancestor, Rory Sheen, has done. In doing so, they also learn to accept who they are and discover the power and wisdom forgiveness can bring about. My main character, Jack, must also confront the terror cause by his ancestor’s heinous deed against the Native Americans. He too learns one must forgive, and be forgiven, to stop the persistent hatred passed from generation to generation. Do you feel this message of forgiveness pertains to our youth of today?
JLC Yes I think it’s essential. Forgiveness does not mean forgetting or that crimes should go unpunished. Forgiveness has everything to do with shaking off the chains of the past so we can live full lives. Again, it’s not easy. It’s never easy. But it’s liberating to learn how to forgive ourselves and others. Good stories that explore violence, grief, and resolution can show us the way as can true to life heroes like Nelson Mandela.
“For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.” ~ Nelson Mandela
C.K Tell us about The Dragons of Noor now you’re celebrating its one year anniversary.
JLC Book anniversaries are fun. I can’t exactly celebrate by taking my book to dinner, but I do giveaways like the one we’re doing here, and book signings at Children’s Literature Conferences and so on. I had to write The Dragons of Noor because I knew Miles and Hanna were ready for another challenge. I wanted to find out what Miles would do if he was called to use his dangerous shape-shifting power again. How Hanna’s prophetic dreams and her growing romance with Taunier would challenge her in a new story. Hanna comes into her power much more in this second book.
The Dragons of Noor is about mans’ misuse of nature and nature going awry. Trees
fall, worlds split, a Wild Wind blows in and steals young children.
After Miles’s and Hanna’s little brother is stolen by a Wild Wind, they sail east to find him. Their search brings them to the frontlines of the dragons’ battle to save the endangered Waytree forest –the ancient trees that bind the broken worlds. If they fail to save the old forest, the worlds will split in two. All magic will go out of Noor, and their little brother who was blown across the divide into the otherworld will be forever
C.K. Nature seems to play a big role in this story.
JLC. The power and majesty of nature is key to this story. I’m concerned about the state of our planet, and that comes into play very much in this fantasy. Growing up near the Pacific Ocean in the shadows of the giant redwood trees, I felt there were older living beings around me, that I was a small person in their world. As I studied forests to write the book, I began to see how trees are rooted in humankind’s childhood. When we cut them down we sever ourselves from our wild past and chop down our most ancient
C.K. In your bio it says, “Janet links each new book with a charitable organization empowering readers to make a difference in the world.” What kind of outreach did you do with the NOOR books?
JLC Thanks for asking, Charlie. For The Beast of Noor I hooked up with Search Dog Foundation http://www.searchdogfoundation.org/98/html/index.html I encourage readers put up a paw and help me contribute to training search dogs who rescue people after earthquakes and hurricanes. It’s a great organization. (see more about Search Dogs it in the “Janet’s Fantasies”section of my website http://www.janetleecarey.com )
Researching endangered forests for The Dragons of Noor, I was led to The Nature
Conservancy’s Plant a Billion Trees campaign which was a perfect fit for the book with its focus on endangered ancient forests. Plant a Billion Trees goal is to restore one billion native trees to Brazil's highly endangered Atlantic Forest over the next 7 years.
You can see more about Plant a Billion Trees and reader outreach on the “Giving Back” button of my website.
C.K. What advice can you give regarding the writing process?
~Keep dreaming. You never know when an unusual thought, image, or a word from someone else will spark an amazing story idea.
~Write for yourself. Revise for your reader.
~Keep reading other fabulous writers and absorbing stories. Keep writing. Keep sending it out and collecting rejection slips.
~Don’t give up on your stories. They deserve to live.
C.K. How can your fans find, follow or friend you?
JLC They can contact me through my website http://www.janetleecarey.comFacebook fan page http://www.facebook.com/pages/Janet-Lee-Carey-Author/113029975405630My blogs: http://Dreamwalks.blogspot.gomhttp://LibraryLionsRoar.blogspot.com
Book Party Photos: http://litart-photography.smugmug.com/Twitter http://twitter.com/#!/janetleecareyOn Goodreads http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/165105.Janet_Lee_Carey
Thanks so much for joining me today, Janet. I thoroughly enjoy reading The Beast of
Noor and am chomping at the big to read The Dragons of Noor. Wonderful voice!
Remember to Leave A Comment to WIN a FREE copy of The Beast of
Noor, or The Dragons of Noor! TWO winners will be selected on
10/10. Good Luck!