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Archive for October, 2011

National Authors’ Day November 1, 2011

Monday, October 31st, 2011

The U.S. Department of Commerce recognized the date of November 1st as National Author’s Day in 1949. We think it is a holiday to be celebrated!

And what better way to celebrate it than with a Guest Blog post from our Author Friend, Jeri Westerson!

Being a Writer

By Jeri Westerson

I’ve just heard the announcement for the winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature…and again, it wasn’t me. Well, I expected no less. I don’t write lyrical poetry or deep treatises on the state of humanity. I write what is sometimes sneeringly called “popular literature” by the illuminati. Genre. It’s not literary fiction and it’s not bestseller material. “I put the litter in literature!”  But that’s not a truly fair assessment either. I know that Raymond Chandler, one of my literary heroes for being one of the creators of the hardboiled detective and giving us the white knight Philip Marlowe, tried for most of his life to get his work recognized as great literature. He got that recognition in England, but not in America. Nowadays they teach college courses on Chandler’s work. You just have to be dead to get respect in America, I guess.

Not that I’m complaining. I happen to have it pretty good. I get to write the kind of stuff I wanted to read; a hardboiled detective in a medieval setting. I still get to do all the fun historical research, write about that as well as the real history happening in England in the fourteenth century, but I also get to throw in a murder with a very clever detective with a layered angsty backstory. And weapons. We get to do some stuff with weapons; daggers, swords. Fun stuff. More on that in a minute.

I’m lucky that I have several novels in the series on bookstore shelves with more on the way. Even luckier that the sales from those books allows me to write full time now. That’s not always the case with my fellow authors, some of whom have far more books on bookstore shelves. (I cheat. I have a husband who supports us. My earnings pay for my travel and promotional expenses. No, it’s not the industry to get into if you want to get rich quick, J.K. Rowling notwithstanding. She’s one of the one tenth of one percent of authors in that league.) No, ladies and gentlemen, you do this because you love to do this. Nay, have to do this. You have stories to tell and you want others to step into the worlds you create, even if those worlds really did exist some six hundred years ago.

Some people think that writing an historical has its disadvantages. That detectives didn’t have access to the forensic science we’ve all become accustomed to. Something as simple as fingerprinting would have no meaning to a society that wasn’t oriented to specific identities, where people had surnames based on their occupations or looks. That even something as simple as a telephone or public transportation was not available to them as sleuthing tools. I see it differently. The limitations make it more of an interesting chase to me. What could he use better than his own wits? And the history itself serves not as a hindrance, but as a skeleton to hang my fiction on. Those of us who write historicals know that the readers for this genre are sticklers for accuracy. They want the authentic feel of the era. They want the history, the facts to be right, else why read it? And why write it? Surely if you don’t enjoy research this is the wrong genre for you to write.

I happen to come from a background not of historians but of parents who appreciated history and wanted to surround themselves with it, whether by filling their bookshelves with the best historical fiction of its day or with non fiction books of history. I was lucky to grow up in that environment, and even though my original career aspirations didn’t lean toward writing, I was allowed all of my creative outlets at home which led, eventually as an adult, to writing novels.

Part of the fun of writing about a distant time is getting to know it on an intimate level. You can only get so much from research in books. There comes a time when one must get one’s hands dirty to see what life was like.

For instance, my protagonist, Crispin Guest, is a disgraced knight turned detective on the mean streets of fourteenth century London. He’s a dark and brooding fellow and besides doing his personal penance by bringing bad guys to justice, he often finds his solace in the bottom of a wine goblet. Sometimes he partakes of beer and I wanted to know what that medieval beer tasted like. From what I read, it was a little rawer, a little more herby than what we are used to today, so I elicited the help of my home brewer husband. Since we started with the whole grain we had to allow the grain to sprout, making the house smell like we had started a mildew farm. Then we dried it, throwing it into a pillowcase and tossing it into ye olde dryer (because we didn’t have the drying houses in which to do that). The beer we came up with was less than tantalizing. But the experiment caused a snowballing of personal investigation. What was the food like? How did it feel to wear medieval clothing? How did it feel to use medieval weapons?

I am fascinated by medieval weaponry. Consequently, I have become the proud owner of a broadsword and a few daggers, as well as a helm, battleaxe, and a flail (one of those nasty war weapons with a spiked ball on a chain attached to a stick. Sweet!)

As soon as I was in possession of the sword I naturally wanted to try it out. It was October and there were plenty of pumpkins around. I set up a few on posts in my backyard.

Now a broadsword is one of those weapons that speaks to me of the Middle Ages. This was the weapon that played a role in deciding national borders. Shaped like a cross, it was the weapon of choice to impose Christianity into regions of the Middle East. It was the ultimate if not Freudian of masculine symbols.

A broadsword is sharpened on both edges of its blade (unlike a knife that has one sharpened side). It is used one-handed, for the most part, the other hand being occupied with a long dagger called a main-gauche or a small shield known as a buckler. When you swung your blade you made the swash while you knocked your opponent with the buckler, hence swash-buckling. A broadsword is not elegant like a rapier or quick like a foil. It isn’t used in the same way. It is primarily a chopping weapon. It’s a sort of whack, whack, rest. Whack, whack, rest. Not what you see in the movies. It is 44 inches long and weighs about three pounds. Very handy as weapons go.

And so, when I came to attack my pumpkins, I swung at them. Even though the sword is not sharpened, an easy swing handily scalped them but good.

But a pumpkin, for all its head-like appearance, is not a head, so I needed bone to get the true feel of warfare. And then it occurred to me that I would also like to try out my daggers to see how it would feel to stab someone. Strangely, I could get no volunteers for this.

So I went to Costco.

Now it’s not easy picking out your victim, although it’s a little easier when you look for him in the meat department. I got myself the biggest slab of beef I could find.

When I brought it home, my victim’s body was already prone, lying there innocently on the butcher block. How to attack it properly? There was no help for it. I needed the fellow to be upright. I glanced toward my backyard window and spied my son’s wooden swing set.

First, I must explain that my son wasn’t home. No one was home but me and my meat victim. I only hoped that the neighbors weren’t peering out of their windows into my yard when I decided to get all CSI out there. Although, if they had witnessed the pumpkin beheading, they were already used to closing their shutters and waiting for it all to be over.

First thing I did was nail it up there and attack it with the dagger. My daggers are sharp and the blades went in cleanly. Of course, Sir Loin of Beef was not struggling, but that was okay. I could extrapolate the rest. Next I wanted to feel the blade against the bone. I lunged. Very hard. Lots of spine chilling scraping there. Yes, very tough if you had a small blade like this and managed to catch a rib.

After stabbing it a few more times at a few more angles, it was time for the sword!

I cocked back the sword one-handed and gave it a good whack. Right through the bone on the first go and into the wooden post. Wow. That was fun. Another! Yup. This guy was dead. Really dead. Really most sincerely dead.

It was a good day.

But now I was left with this slab of hacked up meat, hanging limply from one little nail and swinging in the breeze. How was I going to get rid of the body?

Simple. We ate him.

Yes, some think that writing is about sitting alone in one’s home office hour after hour, and for the most part I would have to agree. But there are moments…great moments…

Jeri Westerson takes time out of her busy day of swinging a sword to write her critically acclaimed Medieval Noir series with protagonist Crispin Guest. Her newest, TROUBLED BONES, was released October 11. You can read excerpts and discussion guides on her website at www.JeriWesterson.com or read what Crispin has to say on his own blog at www.CrispinGuest.com.

 

Winners!

Monday, October 31st, 2011

Thank you for sharing the many, many touching posts on our Remembrance Page.  It was a moving tribute to those we have loved and lost, as well as those we are supporting in their fight right now against this far reaching disease.  If you have not read through it yet, be sure to have a tissue handy when you do. The words quite clearly evince the strong emotions underneath.

Congratuations to Shonda H. (Shondah), Lori L.(loralei),  Janine T. (jting), Tricia A. (tricia316) and DiAnn H. (packer), winners of our Breast Cancer Awareness Book Giveaway.  They will each receive a copy of Barbara Delinksy’s Uplift, Secrets from the Sisterhood of Breast Cancer SurvivorsThis 10th anniversary updated edition offers an inspiring collection of stories, advice and survival secrets.

 

 

 

 

 

Author Interview – Dane Batty

Sunday, October 30th, 2011

Author Interview with Dane Batty

by Cheryl G. (Poncer)

 

 

Cheryl: Thank you, Dane Batty, for agreeing to do this interview for PaperBackSwap!

Dane: Thank you!

Cheryl: Your book, Wanted: Gentleman Bank Robber is an account of your uncle, Leslie Ibsen Rogge’s history. Tell us a bit about gathering all the information needed to turn his story into a book.

Dane: This book was based on letters Les was writing my mother after he surrendered to the FBI, and I convinced him that we could convert his story into a nice biography. Ten years later, after several interviews and visits with Les in prison we were able to turn his letters into a life story told from his perspective.

Cheryl: Was it difficult at times to share such personal family history with the world?

Dane: It was. I was sensitive to the family members involved though. Although Les and my mother were still friendly there were parts of the family that felt abandoned by his life decisions and were still very hurt. Judy was very sensitive to exposing her life, but she was willing because Les wanted the book to happen.

Cheryl: What is your relationship today with your uncle? And with his wife Judy?

Dane: Even though Les is in federal prison today he has email, and we email a couple times a week and have a great relationship. The book was something for Les to look forward to while he is in prison and something he wanted to do for a long time, so it was a healthy process for him. Les met Judy while he was wanted by the FBI, so I didn’t get to meet her until after his surrender in 1996. So through the book process I got to meet and have a relationship with my aunt.

Cheryl: Though he was named on the FBI’s Most Wanted List, Leslie Rogge seemed very well liked by folks who knew him, even some of those who were victims of his crimes; did that play into your decision to write his story?

Dane: Absolutely. I tried hard not to glorify his crimes, but since he never intended to hurt anybody this was the reason I could tell his story proudly. It seems most true crime books are about murderers, so this was a unique story since you almost want to root for the perp in the end. He was a great friend to a lot of people, but some of those same people got caught in his wake and paid dearly for it through interrogation and legal fees.

Cheryl: The book has garnered a much praise; Pinnacle Book Achievement Award Winner for Summer 2011, Finalist in Reader Views Book of the Year Awards Finalist in Next Generation Indie Book Awards 2011, Finalist in True Crime Book Reviews Book of the Year. Could you tell us a bit about how this has made you feel as a writer, and your general reactions to such acclaim?

Dane: It made me proud to win or be a finalist in the awards, and I was excited for the publicity the awards gave the book. I wanted to win though, so I didn’t get too excited about a bunch of second place awards. I am grateful for the general great feedback to my art that I dedicated so many years to.

Cheryl: I have to admit, the idea of sailing around the Caribbean with a loved one and a dog, taking each day as it comes seems like a dream come true; is there a bit of Leslie Ibsen Rogge in you?

Dane: Oh yeah, although I’m not a boat guy I would love the opportunity to jump in my little motor home with my wife and two kids and hit the highway for months at a time visiting new towns and big cities we haven’t seen. But, I’m part of the working class with a conscience, so until the book becomes a blockbuster movie we will have to settle for the weekend trips to the coast!

Cheryl: You have been a member of PaperBackSwap for a while now. What are your thoughts on PBS from your perspective as a member? And your thoughts on PBS as an author?

Dane: I love PBS. I think it’s a terrific idea, but I don’t think it’s caught on enough to be very effective. I can imagine PBS with a bigger membership with a lot more books passing back and forth. It’s like a library online where the books just show up in my mail. As an author with a supply of books I like the opportunity to get my book into reader’s hands that will pass the word with the ability to get reviewed by these real readers.

Cheryl: Who was is your favorite author?

Dane: Although I’m a sucker for Dan Brown and Michael Crichton books my favorite author is no doubt Jon Krakauer. I love true stories, and he somehow finds some great subjects to write about.

Cheryl: What was your favorite book as a child?

Dane: Although my parents were diligent about education I didn’t enjoy reading until college, but I remember Where the Sidewalk Ends very well.

Cheryl: Which genre is your favorite now? Do you read books in the same vein as yours?

Dane: I read non-fiction or history-based fiction. I like to learn something even if it’s twisted a bit with a little Hollywood. I read biographies like mine mostly, but I don’t read bloody true crime. Since coming out with a true crime book I do get my share of crime stories that come my way with people wanting me to write their books. I have passed on them all so far.

Cheryl: What’s next for you? Will there be another book?

Dane: I have yet to start another book of my own. I self published my book Wanted, so my next book will be publishing someone else’s book. I have one or two good crime stories I am considering, but I’m waiting for the right time to dedicate myself fully to another story.

Cheryl: What else would you like our members to know?

Dane: We got approached by a Hollywood movie producer who has optioned the film rights to my story, and this is very exciting. The producer has a big history in crime films and has produced Oscar winning films in his past, so there is a chance that Wanted will be a theatrical movie in the next few years. Established screenwriter Peter Himmelstein is currently writing the script. I’m excited by this because this is my chance to show the world the book, and what better way to market a book that a Hollywood movie?

Thanks to all the members who have Wish Listed my book, and I hope it helps to promote PBS since the idea of the website is genius.

 

 

 

Dane has generously shared an autographed copy of his book, Wanted: Gentleman Bank Robber as a give-away to a lucky member who comments on this blog.

A winner will be chosen at random. Good Luck!

 

 

 

 

 

Sci-Fi Saturday – Souls in the Great Machine

Saturday, October 29th, 2011

Souls in the Great Machine by Sean McMullen

Review by Bowden P. (Trey)

 

I can’t remember how this book was suggested to me, but its a good, if strange, fit. Its interesting post-apocalyptic fiction set in Australia over 2000 years in the future.

Souls in The Great Machine has a large cast of characters, most of them female (Lemorel, Zarvora, Theresela, Darien and Lorien) that get more ‘screen time’ than the men (Function 9/Denkar, Ilyire and John Glasken). As a whole, they’re interesting educated, intelligent and sympathetic, if sometimes flawed. What’s more, they change. No, they don’t change shape, but they grow. Lemorel changes roles from the sympathetic view point character to something I didn’t expect (but was logical when I looked back). The same for Zarvora, who is introduced as a ruthless, driven and not that likable  tyrant to someone more understandable, sympathetic and likable. Glasken’s transformation is possibly the largest, but he never strays too far from his character traits.

The Australia of  Souls in The Great Machine is another character in is own right. It has fractious city states grouped in loose alliances, duelling as a legitimate way of settling disputes, lost civilizations (that are still alive) and the Call threatens all of this. The Call lures all land mammals above a certain size to the oceans and their doom.

The apocalypse that shaped all of this is kind of unique too. The Call is part of it, but it stacked with a nuclear exchange, a man made ice age and orbital battle stations that target electronics with EMP cannons, making the use of electronics a moot point.

I know this is not the hardest of science fiction (with the unexplained Call), but my suspension of disbelief got tweaked with the rather lush Australia, especially given the continent’s fragile ecology. Same for the orbital battle stations that lasted 2000 plus years in the face of orbits cluttered with debris, hard radiation, temperature extremes and the need to shift orbit periodically with fuel. I’ll forgive these though for the interesting story well told.

And its an epic story as well. It has loves lost and found, betrayal, redemption, political maneuvering, wars won and lost, scientific rediscovery. Combine it with the interesting characters and their growth and its a winner for me.

Souls in The Great Machine has interesting ideas also. Sean McMullen gives the idea of the galley train – a pedal powered train, wind driven trains, the Calculor – an intellectual ‘galley’ where the skills of thousands are combined for mathematical tasks. The changes to the Calculor good as well, moving from a prison factory to a social institution in its own right. Then there are the religious responses to the call as well.

Did I like it? Four-and-a-half stars worth. Its an interesting post-apocalyptic fantasy well told.

Likes: Characters; Setting; Scope and ambition of the story; Female characters that passed the Bechdel test; Ideas.

Dislikes: Unlikely future Australia and functioning future battle stations.

Suggested for: Fans of Saberhagen’s Empire of the East, S.M. Stirling’s Dies the Fire.

Fantasy Friday – Erotica Review – Undercover

Friday, October 28th, 2011

 

Undercover by Lauren Dane

Review by Cynthia F. (frazerc)

 

Futuristic/SFR with a relationship driven plot.  I’m not saying there isn’t action but much of it is sexual.  Since this is a ménage book, a great deal of time is spent on scenes exploring combinations of one, two and three partners.   [Despite the heroine assuring them she is okay with ‘boy touching’ – her words, not mine – the two guys are into her and not each other.  They are emotionally intimate, and there is an occasional kiss or caress – but it’s on the way to what they really want, her.]  Light BDSM elements – bedroom submission, a few toys, spanking…

The book opens with the heroine, Sera, storming into her superior’s office demanding to be sent back to her unit.  He refuses and introduces her to her new unit, Brandt Pela and Ash Walker.  She decks Ash, puts Brandt on the ground when he tries to block the door, and storms back out.  Eventually she is forced to listen – she has been assigned to work with these two in a covert intelligence unit – for reasons having to do with her skills, not her past with Ash.

Both Brandt and Ash are Ranked [think English aristocracy, especially before the introduction of the House of Commons.]  Ranked men are not supposed to do more than play around with unranked women.  Sera is unranked.  Ten years ago Sera and Ash were together and, she thought, deeply in love.  The shock when she found out he was engaged to be married and he asked her to be his official Mistress was devastating.  She left him, and any thought of love, behind.

The mission necessitates her being a ‘mistress’ to one of the men since the society they will be entering requires it and they need someone to spy at that level.  She refuses to have anything to do with Ash but agrees to do it with Brandt.  Circumstances [of the extremely obvious plot device variety] occur that require her to be the mistress of both of them…

The threesome work well together in the bedroom and on the mission.  They succeed in tracking down the traitors and bringing the proof back to their superiors, proof that rocks the comfortable world of the Ranked…

Ash wants her back – desperately.  The wife he was forced to marry divorced him seven years ago so he is now free, but as a second son he still cannot marry without his father’s permission – permission that he could not get ten years ago and cannot get now.

Brandt had heard a great deal about Sera from his best friend and he falls deeply in love with her.  And his father is much more liberal than Ash’s..

Sera learns about the realities of being Ranked and finally understands why Ash did what he did ten years ago.  She slowly begins to trust again, both Ash AND Brandt…

 

 

Federation Chronicles

1. Undercover

2. Relentless

 

Phantom Corps

3. Insatiable

4. Mesmerized

5. Captivated

 

The Places Where We Live – California

Thursday, October 27th, 2011

by Alisa F. (Greycat133)

 

Welcome to California, the third largest state in the US (and the largest if you count population).  There’s no doubt we Californians are a mixed bunch.  We’re environmentalists, computer experts, farmers, miners, scientists…not to mention we’ve elected not one, but two movie stars to be our governor.  And we’ve got the geography to match such a diverse population.  You can travel the deserts of Death Valley in the south, over to the Pacific Coast in the west, up to the Redwood Forests in the north, and the Sierra Nevada mountains in the east, and still be in the same state.  And nestled in-between is the region we call the Central Valley.

 

I’m kind of partial to the northern valley myself, since it’s where I call my home.  A couple hours’ drive east or west and you can be crashing through waves at the beach, or skiing in the mountains.  Summers get hot (but not too hot) and it almost always cools down at night.  Winters bring rain instead of snow, and for a girl who spent a few years living in Idaho, it’s nice to live somewhere where the temperature rarely drops below freezing.

 

We’re farmers here in the Central Valley, with California produce being a huge share of the American food market.  Wine grapes, grain, tomatoes, and avocados are just a few of the things we’re known for. And we’re very proud of our dairy industry too.  After all, great cheese comes from happy cows, and happy cows are from California.  But we don’t just do agriculture around here.  You’ll find plenty of cities here too, including our state’s capitol in Sacramento.  Even if most of the county thinks the capitol is Los Angeles or San Francisco.

 

 

Fun places you never thought of to visit:

Everyone wants to go to the beach, Hollywood, San Francisco, Yosemite, and San Diego.  But did you ever think of visiting:

Sacramento – Not only the capitol, but home to some great historic sites and the Sacramento Jazz festival.
Coloma – In January of 1848, James Marshall discovered gold here, starting the famous California Gold Rush.  You’ll still find plenty of gold-themed activities around, including the chance to pan for your own gold.

 

 

Jelly Belly factory – Yep, you read that right.  One of Jelly Belly’s two factories is in Fairfield, California.  The tour is not to be missed, and you get free candy at the end!

 

Winchester Mystery House – A sprawling historic mansion built by Sarah Winchester from the day she moved there in 1884 to her death on September 5, 1922.  Rumor has it that she built the house to rid herself of vindictive ghosts, and even today the house is supposedly haunted.

 

Redwood forests – Home of the tallest and oldest trees, these natural wonders are a beauty.  Where else can you drive your car through a tree?

 

Famous people from California:

Sure, we’ve got lots of famous movie stars, directors, and musicians.  But let’s not overlook:

  • John Steinbeck, Nobel prize winning author
  • William Randolph Hearst, publisher and famous newspaper man
  • Julia Child, famous television chef
  • Jeff Gordon, NASCAR champion
  • Sally Ride, first American woman in space
  • Robert Ripley creator of Ripley’s Believe It or Not!
  • Ansel Adams, photographer of the American West

 

California is a bit of patchwork.  We hail from all over, and our culture is as diverse as our geography.  But no matter what issues make the state seemed screwed up, it’s still a great place to live.  And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

 

 

Letters from the Corrugated Castle A Novel of Gold Rush California 1850-1852 by Joan W. Blos

 

Cannery Row by John Steinbeck

 

Citizen Hearst A Biography of William Randolph Hearst  by W. A. Swanberg

 

Mastering the Art of French Cooking (Vol 1) by Julia Child

 

Racing Back to the Front: My Memoir by Jeff Gordon

 

Mission Planet Earth by  Sally Ride, Tam O’Shaughnessy

 

Ripley’s Believe It or Not Encyclopedia of the Bizarre Amazing Strange Inexplicable Weird and All True

 

Autor Interview with David Anthony & Charles David Clasman

Wednesday, October 26th, 2011

Charlie Clasman

 

 

 

 

 

 

David Anthony

Interview with David Anthony and Charles David Clasman by Jerelyn H. (I-F-Letty)

 

One of my PBS friends set up this interview for me, I have to say it has been years since I read children books and didn’t know what to expect.  My husband read to the girls at bed time, and by the time they were in 3rd grade they wanted to read for themselves.  I should have made it a priority past that time but I bet I was like many other busy parents, and figured they had enough on their plates with school work, and after school activities.  By the time they were teens reading was something they had to do for school.  Only now as adults do I see them reading for pleasure.  My youngest has e-books she is a techie, my eldest must have “real books”.  Perhaps when the time comes I can try again with my Grandchildren.   The Knightscares and Heroes A2Z will be on the Will be Read Shelf.  I would like to thank Elizabeth for recommending and setting up this interview.

 

Jerelyn: Welcome David Anthony and Charles David Clasman to PaperBackSwap blog.

Thanks very much! We enjoyed being a part of PBS Cooks! We hope for as much fun with PaperBackSwap in this second adventure.

 

Jerelyn: First off what age group do you recommend your books to?

Because we currently write two series, we have to give two answers.

Heroes A2Z is written at a third grade reading level, but the books have a picture on every page. This makes them accessible and appealing to younger kids too. We find that children of all elementary school ages enjoy the books. In them, readers meet a family of superhero kids who Fight Crime Before Bedtime.

Our Knightscares books are written for tweeners and beyond, strong 3rd grader readers through middle school. Think three words: Monsters. Magic.Mystery. Don’t be afraid, be terrified.

 

Jerelyn: How did your collaboration came about?

Charlie and I have been friends for (*ahem*) over twenty-five years now. Wow, twenty-five years! Is that all? It certainly feels longer!

Seriously, though, we met as teens and soon started playing music together. We both had long hair and dreamed of attaining guitar sainthood. After we cut our hair, however, we lost the power to sing. Let this be a lesson to all aspiring musicians. Rock stars must have long hair or they’re just pretenders.

After giving up on the dream of heavy metal glory, we kept collaborating. Instead of composing song lyrics, we started writing stories.

 

Jerelyn: What is the most important thing you take into consideration when writing for kids?

The fun factor. Our kids’ books must be fun, fast, and fantastic. Got a flying baby? Check. Meet a hungry dragon? Check, check. Kittens performing kung fu? Triple check, etc. If readers haven’t seen it, we want to write it. If readers have seen it, we try to make it better.

 

Jerelyn: It must be a great deal of fun to go and meet your audience.  Are you both educators as well as writers?

Of course we love meeting our audience and fans. That is the real reward in writing. We certainly aren’t doing it for the money! Money. Wait. There’s money involved in being a writer?

Charlie and I are invited to speak at dozens, if not scores, of schools and libraries every year. We present an engaging book talk to students/readers called “Real Heroes Read!” We blend humor, storytelling, juggling, and a knighting ceremony to convey one simple message: Read whatever you want.

The reactions we receive overwhelm us. Kids are so welcoming, so enthusiastic, and so genuine. Act silly and they laugh. Startle them and they cringe. Tell them they are heroes and they believe. What could be more rewarding?

 

Jerelyn: What made you want to become writers?

Books, easy. Both of us loved to read as kids though we started at different ages. I was always surrounded by books, the first being superhero comics—Spiderman, Batman, the usual cast of caped crusaders. As an only child, the expression, “some of my best friends are books” proved true for me. Of course I had human friends, but I was never bored if they weren’t available. I also had books to keep me company.

Charlie became a fan of reading later in elementary school when a teacher read James and the Giant Peach to the class. Afterward, he started reading many of Mr. Dahl’s books. Not long after that, his uncles caught him reading and decided to play a prank on him. They shut off all the lights in the house, broke out flashlights, and read spooky stories to him in the dark. He was hooked immediately.

 

Jerelyn: Did you always want to write for children?

No. Growing up, we both wanted to be writers, but it wasn’t until we had families of our own that we considered writing for kids. We believe that gives us an advantage. Experience is the best instructor, and we’re around kids every day. So now we are parents first and authors second.

 

Jerelyn: What do you think the most important thing parents can do to encourage their children to read?

Read to them. As author Emilie Buchwald said, “Children are made readers on the laps of their parents.” Charlie and I couldn’t agree more. We are always saddened when we meet parents who do not read to their children. Inevitably, such parents express incredulity at the fact: “My daughter/son hates to read!”—shrug of shoulder, helpless face. We wish such parents would place less blame on their kids and consider the example they’ve set.

 

Jerelyn: What did you read as kids?

As I mentioned, I was a huge fan of superhero comic books. Pretty manly, I know. Surely you can guess, then, that my second favorite read was Judy Blume. Ironman and Fudge—symbiotic perfection.

Charlie read little until 4th grade, and his report cards suffered because of it. Once he discovered Roald Dahl, however, he started to devour books like a child gobbling treats in a chocolate factory.

 

Jerelyn: I read the first book in both of your series, will you tell us about them?

In Heroes A2Z #1: Alien Ice Cream, a mysterious alien named Burt—Sure-Burt—arrives on Earth, posing as an ice cream truck driver. He shares his alien ice cream with the crowd who soon develop brain freezes that turn them into ice cream zombies. Saving the world will require our three heroes—Abigail, Andrew, and Baby Zoë—to travel into outer space.

 

Knightscares #1: Cauldron Cooker’s Night is the first book Charlie and I wrote together. It is set in a magical land where a witch’s spell has turned everyone but Josh and his sister Jozlyn into frogs. To break the spell, the pair will climb a mountain to meet a wizard, cross a spooky swamp, and meet griffons, ogres, and mud creatures—oh, my!

 

 

 

Jerelyn: Are your characters based on children you know?

Yes, some of them. Many of the characters in Knightscares are people in our families. My three sons make appearances as main characters, as does Charlie’s daughter and a variety of his relatives. We started writing for our kids and decided to make the experience more personal for them by including them in the books. Honestly, how many kids really get to save the world? Ours do. Feel free to send Dads of the Year donations day or night.

 

Jerelyn: Do you have a favorite character?

Well, our children’s characters must be excluded. I have three sons. How could I choose? How would the other two let me sleep safely at night?

That leaves an easy consensus: Baby Zoë from Heroes A2Z. She flies, shoots lasers from her eyes, and is stronger than any bodybuilder. Imagine Superman in a diaper. Just watch out for Kryptonite!

 

Jerelyn: What are you future project going to be?

More, more, more. As the name Heroes A2Z suggests, Charlie and I will write 26 books in the series, one for every letter of the alphabet. The twelfth book in the series (Lost Puppy Love) comes out in early September 2011, and we’re already writing #13, Monkey Monster Truck.

Of course we won’t disappoint our older readers. We have something spooky in the works. Please stay tuned to our website (www.realheroesread.com) and facebook fan page for details (www.facebook.com/realheroesread.com).

 

Jerelyn: Thank you so much for doing this.  To read More about Heroes A2Z and Knightscares, visit  http://realheroesread.com/