Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Writing from the Inside Out. . . Author Michaela MacColl shares + Giveaway

Dear Friends,

It's been awhile since I had a guest author who writes for the Young Adult age group, and what could be more exciting for Jane Austen fans and mystery lovers, than a book featuring Jane herself in a mystery of espionage, intrigue, and romance? Besides Secrets in the Snow featuring Jane Austen, our guest author, Michaela MacColl, has written mysteries featuring our favorite heroines from the 19th-century literary world--Louisa May Alcott, Emily Dickinson, and the Bronte sisters! A complete set would be a perfect gift this season not just for teens, but for all of us!

But before Michaela takes the stage, we have TWO winners picked by random.org from last week's post. Winner #1: KATHY WEICHMAN. Kathy, you may choose from either A Christmas Spider's Miracle or Apple Tree Christmas by Trinka Hakes Noble. Winner #2: JANA ESCHNER, you will receive the remaining book--the books will be personalized for the winners.
***Congratulations, Kathy and Jana!***  
 (Kathy and Jana please e-mail me: claragillowclark(at)gmail(dot)com with your mailing address and how you'd like the book personalized.)

And NOW, please welcome historical fiction author and my friend, Michaela MacColl. Michaela is generously donating a copy of her newest mystery, Secrets in the Snow, featuring Jane Austen! All you have to do for a chance to win is leave a comment about the post or share your favorite Jane Austen title. Thank you!


Dare I imitate Jane? by Michaela MacColl

I’ve written four literary mysteries now featuring famous writers as young adults – and I do say so myself, I’ve dared a lot. I channeled Emily Dickinson’s unique take on the world and explored the sibling rivalry between the Bronte sisters. Louisa May Alcott fell prey to my pen too (actually I found her matter-of- fact problem-solving ethos very modern). But Jane Austen? The undisputed Mistress of Conversation? How dare I put words in her mouth?

When I begin these books I read biography and their body of work in tandem. I look for emotional links in their writing to my understanding of their lives. With Emily D. I found connections between her shyness and search for someone who understands her in her poetry. With Louisa it was easy – Jo March is for all intents and purposes, Louisa with all the rebellion and childhood mischief that implies. But Jane was a different story. Her life was practically event-less. She lived quietly with her family, a dependent spinster. There were no deaths or mysteries in her life – just tea, county dances and conversation. Lots of conversation. In fact, the more I looked in Jane’s work for physical descriptions of characters or places, the less I found. Unless Elizabeth’s “fine eyes” tell you more than me – we have no idea what she looks like. But we do know how she talked. That’s mostly what all the characters in Jane Austen do – they talk.

So I read the books out loud. I watched my favorite adaptations – BBC anyone? -- and of course the 1999 adaptation of Mansfield Park. By the time I started writing, I had the rhythm and the vocabulary. I put Jane in the scene with her mother and a romantic interest and let them talk! I think it worked – but would love to know what you think?

Check out Secrets in the Snow (Chronicle, October 2016) and let me know!


Review From School Library Journal --Secrets in the Snow. Gr 7–10—Nineteen-year-old Jane Austen—yes, that Jane Austen—finds herself entwined in some serious intrigue when the War Office suggests that her cousin, whose French aristocrat husband lost his head to the guillotine, might be engaged in traitorous activity against England. Jane is determined to get to the bottom of the situation, even if it means veering into unladylike territory. Adding to the drama, a gentleman studying the law has entered Jane's social circle—and all of her family members are eager to encourage a marriage match regardless of his condescending first impression. MacColl's fidelity to Austen's biography and family, with a bit of creative license woven in, results in a charming historical mystery. Her playfulness with Austen's voice is a delight, and she peppers the story with hints at characters and plot points from the author's oeuvre—nothing that distracts from the narrative, but tidbits that serve as inside jokes to readers who have already dived into her works. These elements more than make up for a somewhat rushed conclusion. Readers whose interest in Austen is piqued will enjoy the biographical back matter. VERDICT A solid addition for fans of cozy mysteries and literary reimaginings.—Amy Koester, Skokie Public Library, IL

New York Times bestselling author Michaela MacColl  attended Vassar College and Yale University earning degrees in multi-disciplinary history. Unfortunately, it took her 20 years before she realized she was learning how to write historical fiction. Her favorite stories are the ones she finds about the childhood experiences of famous people. She has written about a teenaged Queen Victoria (Prisoners in the Palace, Chronicle 2010) and Beryl Markham’s childhood (Promise the Night, Chronicle 2011). She is writing a literary mystery series for teens featuring famous writers such as Emily Dickinson, the Bronte sisters, Louisa May Alcott and Jane Austen.  She has recently begun a new middle-grade series with Boyd’s Mills/Highlights called Hidden Histories about odd events in America’s past, including orphan trains, Dred Scott’s daughter and the Carlisle Indian Boarding School.  

Learn more about Michaela MacColl and her books: www.michaelamaccoll.com
Follow her on twitter: @MichaelaMacColl
FaceBook: AuthorMichaelaMacColl

Currently, Michaela is working on a new entry for the Calkins Creek Hidden History Series. This one is about an ancestor of hers who came to America from Shanghai in the 1870’s. 

Thanks, Michaela, for sharing your exciting new Jane Austen mystery--Secrets in the Snow--here at Writing from the Inside Out. . . I especially loved that line--I've dared a lot. That's a great challenge and good advice for all of us who write.


I'll be back on Monday, December 12th, to announce the winner of Secrets in the Snow! Thanks, dear readers, for continuing to support authors and books! You're the best!

Happy Holidays to all!

~Clara

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

"Christmas Stories from the Heart" with Author Trinka Hakes Noble

Dear Friends,

Thank you so much for sharing what you were thankful for this Thanksgiving time. Your thankful hearts warmed my heart! I know you've been waiting for this announcement, so without further fanfare, the winner of Pat Brisson's book, Before We Eat: from farm to table chosen by random.org is:   
Donna Volkenannt. ** Congratulations, Donna! **  
(Donna, please e-mail me: claragillowclark(at)gmail(dot)com with your mailing address and how you'd like the book personalized.)

This week's featured guest, Author Trinka Hakes Noble, is generously donating one copy each of her two beautiful Christmas Books for the comment contest that she will autograph and personalize for the winners. All you have to do for a chance to win is leave a comment about the post or share a Christmas memory of your own. The winners will be announced on December 6th.

And now, please welcome my dear sweet friend, Trinka!

Christmas Stories from the Heart by Trinka Hakes Noble


Every Holiday Season, bookstores cram their shelves and displays with Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa books for children. These books run the gamut from crassly commercial to deeply heart felt. Many holiday books are given to children as gifts each year, and many adults collect Christmas books. For many families, Christmas books are keepsakes they cherish year after year. So, children’s book publishers make sure they offer new holiday titles on their lists each year. 

Having published two Christmas books and one Thanksgiving Day story, forthcoming in 2017, I feel writing these holiday books comes with a certain responsibility, not only to your young readers and the adults who purchase them as gifts, but to the holiday itself. 

You can’t just hang a story, any old story, on a holiday like an ornament on a Christmas tree. To my way of thinking, the story must be interwoven in an organic way with the holiday, and yet, not totally dependent on it either. I feel that the story must be strong enough that it might be able to stand on its own without the holiday. At least almost. In other words, the story is so captivating and transporting that you might forget that you are reading a Christmas story.

And yet, the magic and wonder of Christmas must somehow be sprinkled into the story like soft snowflakes landing on your tongue.

Trinka's drawing board made by her dad
I like to think that Apple Tree Christmas, which I wrote and Illustrated, is that kind of Christmas story. Not only is it written from my heart, but from my real life as well. I loved to draw as a kid, and one Christmas my father made me the most beautiful, real, professional drawing board I’d ever seen. Right then I knew nothing was going to stop me and I would grow up to be an artist.  

But that Christmas long ago, there were two little words I never said. I never said “thank you” to my Dad for the best gift I’ve ever received.  So, when I did grow up to be an artist and a writer, I decided to say thank you to my Dad in a very special way. I wrote and illustrated Apple Tree Christmas just for him. If you read the dedication, you’ll understand. 

Every illustration in Apple Tree Christmas I drew on that same drawing board my father made for me. It is sitting in my studio today. I probably wouldn’t be writing these words to you right now if my father hadn’t made me that beautiful drawing board so long ago.

Illustration from Apple Tree Christmas
 Ever since its first publication in 1984, Apple Tree Christmas has touched thousands of readers young and old with its simple heartfelt message. Now in a handsome, classic edition, published by Sleeping Bear Press, Trinka Hakes Noble’s holiday remembrance reminds us once again of the strength of family ties and the boundless roots of love. 








Vine swing in the old apple tree



          “So much of Apple Tree Christmas – the vine swing, the old apple tree, Mrs. Wooly, the drawing board, and the little girl who dreams of becoming an artist – is from my cherished Michigan childhood.”

Junior Literary Guild Selection
CBC Book of the Year
Featured in Cricket Magazine
Included in The Golden Books Treasury of Christmas






 
Christmas Spider’s Miracle was inspired by an old Ukrainian tale that touched my heart. My publisher at Sleeping Bear Press handed me a very short blurb describing this Old World tale and asked, “Are you interested?” Well, I was more than interested! My storyteller’s heart was captivated.  

From this short blurb I wrote an original story of two mothers on a bitterly cold Christmas Eve. One was a poor peasant woman who struggled to provide for her children, and the other was a mother spider that also worked hard to care for her little spiderlings. Although different as night and day, these two poor mothers had much in common. 


Mother Spider caring for her Spiderlings

On Christmas Eve, that magical night of nights, they came together in a most heartwarming way with the kindness, compassion and grace that embodies the true spirit of Christmas.
Illustration from A Christmas Spider's Miracle
The illustrator of A Christmas Spider’s Miracle, Stephen Costanza, captured the long ago Old World charm with his beautifully lush artwork.      
Ukrainian Village from A Christmas Spider's Miracle

Reviews for A Christmas Spider's Miracle: 
“The story unfolds smoothly...with lyrical, dramatic text. An appealing story with a magical aura spun by the shimmering illustrations and memorable story.” – Kirkus Review, 2011

“Enchantingly told, the story is enriched by the visual magic of textured compositions.  An excellent choice for lap-sit reading or group sharing.” – School Library Journal, 2011



 A new book coming in 2017, titled Rettie and the Ragamuffin Parade, is a Thanksgiving Day story about an immigrant girl who lives in the tenements on New York’s Lower East Side in 1918. Her name is Loretta, but everyone calls her Rettie. In 1918, American was in the grip of The Great Influenza Epidemic and World War I, colossal events way beyond a young girl’s control. In these hard times, Rettie struggles to keep her family together. The only thing that keeps her going is the hope that the Ragamuffin Parade won’t be canceled on Thanksgiving morning. 

Sketch for Rettie and the Ragmuffin Parade
Long ago, the children of New York would dress up like hobos and beggars and parade though the streets of New York with their hands out asking “Have you anythin’ for Thanksgiving?” Then people would give them a penny. Rettie, along with all the tenement children, loved the Ragamuffin Parade because they badly needed those pennies.

History tells us that when Halloween became popular with children dressing up, parading and trick-or-treating for candy, the Ragamuffin Parade fell out of favor. Many of the immigrant children who loved the Ragamuffin Parade grew up to be employed at a large department store called Macy’s in Midtown Manhattan. Some historians believe that these employees asked Mr. Macy if he would put on a parade for the children of New York on Thanksgiving morning. And so, in 1924, the first Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade took place, and has continued to this day.

Rettie and the Ragamuffin Parade, coming in 2017, will be part of The Tales of Young Americans Series, published by Sleeping Bear Press. It is presently under illustration by David Gardner. 

In closing, my wish this Holiday Season is that a Christmas story touches the hearts of the children in your life, and the child within you. 

A Blessed Christmas to you all,
Trinka Hakes Noble

Trinka Hakes Noble is the award-winning author of over thirty picture books including: The Scarlet Stockings Spy (IRA Teachers’ Choice 2005), The Last Brother, The Legend of the Cape May Diamond, The Legend of the Jersey Devil and Apple Tree Christmas, which she wrote and illustrated. Other titles include: The Orange Shoes (IRA Teachers’ Choice 2008), The New Jersey Reader, Little New Jersey, The People of Twelve Thousand Winters and The Christmas Spider’s Miracle. Ms. Noble also wrote the ever-popular Jimmy’s Boa series, illustrated by Steven Kellogg, and Meanwhile Back at the Ranch, both featured on PBS’s Reading Rainbow. Her many awards include ALA Notable Children’s Book, Booklist Children’s Editors’ Choice, IRA-CBC Children’s Choice, Learning: The Year’s Ten Best, plus several state reading awards and Junior Literary Guild selections. Her latest titles are Lizzie and the Last Day of School (March 2015), and The Legend of Sea Glass (February 2016).
Coming in the fall of 2017 will be a story set on the Lower East Side in 1918, about a young immigrant girl named Loretta, whom everyone called Rettie. The title is Rettie and the Ragamuffin Parade: A Thanksgiving Story, and will be part of the Tales of Young Americans series by Sleeping Bear Press.

A graduate of Michigan State University, Ms. Noble went on to study children’s book writing and illustrating in New York City at Parsons School of Design, the New School University, Caldecott medalist Uri Shulevitz’s Greenwich Village Workshop, and at New York University. She is on the board of The New Jersey Center for the Book and a member of the Rutgers University Council on Children’s Literature. In 2002 she was awarded Outstanding Woman in Arts and Letters in the state of New Jersey for her lifetime work in children’s books, along with letters of commendation from the US Senate, the US House of Representatives and the US Congress. She is also the recipient of the Author and Illustrator of the Year Award, 2016, from the New Jersey Association of School Librarians. Ms. Noble currently lives in northern New Jersey. Learn more at her Web site www.trinkahakesnoble.com.

Thank you so much, Trinka, for sharing "Christmas Stories from the Heart" and your beautiful books, Apple Tree Christmas and A Christmas Spider's Miracle. I know we all hope you'll come back next year to share about your Thanksgiving book, Rettie and the Ragamuffin Parade. 

On December 6th, my final guest for the year, Author Michaela MacColl, will share about the writing of Secrets in the Snow, a YA novel of intrigue and romance featuring Jane Austen!

Merry Christmas!  ~Clara












Monday, November 14, 2016

Giving Thanks with Author Pat Brisson + Book Giveaway

Dear Friends,

Please welcome my dear friend Pat Brisson, whose short post reminds us all to be thankful for the Food We Eat! Pat is always an inspiration for me. Just seeing her smiling face makes me want to be kinder and more mindful of others.

Pat has generously donated an autographed copy of her book, The Food We Eat: from farm to table for the comment contest. For a chance to win, simply leave a comment about giving thanks.

Author Pat Brisson shares about the writing of her picture book: Before We Eat: from farm to table

I have long felt that Thanksgiving was the most spiritual of all American holidays because it’s not cluttered up with stuff but is all about getting together with family to share a meal. And give thanks for all our blessings. And although Before We Eat: from farm to table is not specifically about Thanksgiving, it’s an appropriate book to talk about in the Thanksgiving season because it’s about being mindful, when we sit down to share a meal with family, that a lot of people worked very hard to help us get food to our tables.

I grew up with the tradition of saying grace before meals and this book started out as a grace with the words Bless the one who did this and Bless the one who did that. My editor at Tilbury House, Audrey Maynard, asked if I would consider changing Bless to Thank. She thought it would give the book broader appeal. So I did, and it became a sort of secular grace – a moment of thankful awareness of, not only the workers in the fields, but also the ones packing the crates and checking weights and driving the produce to the stores and all the clerks who sell the food to us.

When Audrey said they were thinking of an illustrator who did woodblock prints to do the illustration. I said, “Oh, like Mary Azarian?” “That’s who we’ve sent it to," she told me. I was stunned. I LOVED Mary Azarian’s art and – be still my heart – she agreed to do it! Came out of retirement to do it! I was thrilled. Mary’s striking art takes my words to another level. Her prints are both strong and tender and offer so much for the youngest readers to explore on the page. If I never do another book (a strong possibility in this current difficult market) I will feel like I’m going out on a high note.

* MOONBEAM GOLD AWARD *
* GROWING GOOD KIDS AWARD FOR EXCELLENCE IN CHILDREN'S LITERATURE, AMERICAN HORTICULTURAL SOCIETY AND NATIONAL MASTER JUNIOR GARDENER PROGRAM *
(Milk doesn't just appear in your refrigerator, nor do apples grow in the bowl on the kitchen counter.)

“A simple poem thanking the people who grow, transport, sell and prepare our food is transformed by Azarian’s bright woodcuts... A warm celebration of both small farms and the idea that it takes a village to feed a child. (Picture book. 2-6)” (Kirkus)

Illustration from Before We Eat
 “The  book is a thoughtful examination of where food comes from― that is before is gets to the grocery store.  …Pages show people engaged in every manner of food production: plowing, planting, harvesting, milking, egg gathering, packing and weighing crates, driving delivery trucks and cashiering at the grocery store.  It is a wonderfully inclusive and honest way to view food acquisition.” (Jennifer Prince - Children’s Book Review, Citizen-Times, Ashville NC)


Pat Brisson is the author of 20 books for young readers, including The Summer My Father Was Ten and Sometimes We Were Brave (both from Boyds Mills Press). A graduate of Rutgers University, she is a former elementary school teacher, school librarian, and public-library reference librarian. Pat lives in New Jersey with her husband. 

Artist Mary Azarian is the Caldecott-Medal winning illustrator of Snowflake Bentley, written by Jacqueline Briggs Martin (1999, Houghton Mifflin). She created the pictures for Before We Eat by first carving the pictures in wood (in reverse!) and then printing them with ink onto paper before adding the color with watercolor paints. She lives and creates her art on a hilltop farm in Vermont.

Author Pat Brisson and Artist Mary Azarian
To learn more about Pat and her books, check out her website: www.patbrisson.com  
To learn more about the  publisher of Before We Eat, click on the link: tilburyhouse.com


Thank you, dear Pat, for this thoughtful reminder to give thanks. Thank you, dear reader for leaving a comment about what you are thankful for. The winner will be announced on November 29. ~Clara

Friday, November 4, 2016

Happy Book Birthday to Author Kim Briggs -- BOOK ONE OF THE STARR FALL SERIES


Announcing an exciting new series by my friend, Author Kim Briggs! 

Happy Book Birthday to you, Kim!






 
Author of STARR FALL, BOOK ONE OF THE STARR FALL SERIES, November 4, 2016
“On the run from the Organization, Starr never planned on falling in love.”

STARR LOST, BOOK TWO OF THE STARR FALL SERIES, January 2017
STARR GONE, BOOK THREE OF THE STARR FALL SERIES, June 2017
AND THEN HE, A NEW ADULT PSYCHOLOGICAL THRILLER, available now at major retailers
Co-Regional Advisor Eastern PA SCBWI

Friday, October 28, 2016

Whooooo is the LUCKY WINNER of THE HAUNTING HALLOWEEN GIVEAWAY?

Dear Friends,

Thanks so much for your enthusiastic response to Kenneth Kit Lamug's Interview and his atmospheric illustrations in his haunting Halloween tale, The Stumps of Flattop Hill. I hope you took the time to watch his delightfully eerie book trailer. If not, you'll find the link below.

Thank you, Ken, for sharing your special talent with us! Visit the author here:

https://www.rabbleboy.com

And now, announcing The LUCKY WINNER of THE STUMPS OF FLATTOP HILL chosen by random.org: 
**Congratulations, MARTIN SEGAL**

(Martin, you have one week to claim your prize. Please e-mail me with your mailing address: (at)gmail(dot)com>)

The Stumps of Flattop Hill is a macabre tale of a little girl who enters the town’s legendary haunted house in the face of fear. A dark tale for children in the tradition of the Brother’s Grimm, it calls to mind the provocative illustration style of Edward Gorey. Scary and entertaining, this book challenges the idea of what children’s books can be.
 
The Stumps of Flattop Hill received the Literary Classics Seal of Approval 2016

Here's the link to the book trailer:

Spooky Halloween Fairytale Picture Book Children's 

https://www.youtube.com/user/koolkit/videos


 My next guest is a dear friend of many years, Author Pat Brisson, who will share with us for the Thanksgiving season. For now, HAPPY HALLOWEEN! ~Clara

Monday, October 24, 2016

Writing from the Inside Out. . . Interview with Author/Illustrator Ken Lamug + Spooky Halloween giveaway

Dear friends,

There's a deliciously spooky Halloween treat waiting for you, but first the winner of last week's giveaway for The Stone and the Bowl by Bish Denham is: Rosemary Basham!! Congratulations, Rosemary! Last week's winner didn't claim her prize, so I pulled a new winner for Pamela Jane's Halloween or Christmas book using random.org. Congratulations to: Heather Sebastian! Thank you for including your e-mail address. I'll be in touch shortly.

NOW. . .Please join me in welcoming the mutli-talented, Author/Illustrator Ken Lamug. Learn about Ken, read his insightful interview about his writing journey and influences, and click on his links for a real spooky preview of his picture book and for lessons in illustration! Thank you, Ken, for your generosity in donating an autographed copy of your book, The Stumps of Flattop Hill. Ken hinted that he might have some extra treats for the winner! So please be sure to leave a comment for Ken for a chance to win!


Kenneth Kit Lamug is an author/illustrator based in Las Vegas, Nevada. He self-published his first children’s book which won a bunch of awards and fulfilled one of his lifelong dream. His most recent books include the macabre children’s fairytale, The Stumps of Flattop Hill (One Peace Books) and the parenting parody book, HURTS LIKE A MOTHER (Doubleday). He has contributed to Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s “Tiny Books of Tiny Stories” and many other publications. Ken has also worked in movies, comics and his photography has been showcased internationally. When he’s not making monsters in the basement, he enjoys other hobbies like working.

The Stumps of Flattop Hill is a macabre tale of a little girl who enters the town’s legendary haunted house in the face of fear. A dark tale for children in the tradition of the Brother’s Grimm, it calls to mind the provocative illustration style of Edward Gorey. Scary and entertaining, this book challenges the idea of what children’s books can be.

The Stumps of Flattop Hill received the Literary Classics Seal of Approval 2016


INTERVIEW WITH AUTHOR/ILLUSTRATOR, KENNETH KIT LAMUG

How did you come up with the storyline?

The Stumps of Flattop Hill was a small idea that started with a rhyme. I didn’t really have a firm idea, so I stowed it away. Then one day, while on a family vacation, we drove past a town called Flat Top (California) and for some reason that name sparked the idea for the story. I was rhyming and thinking of the possibilities all the way to San Francisco.

When I returned, I started writing down the idea and was even inspired by Edgar Allan Poe’s The Raven. The haunted house idea came from my childhood experience, where kids daring each other to enter a creepy house was not an unusual event.

I got to work and it all came together a few months later.

Did you like fairytales as a kid?

I grew up in the Philippines which was a melting-pot for many cultures (from Spanish, Chinese, Japanese, Middle-Eastern, Western and others). Hearing stories about urban legends, & folktales was just part of growing up.

Grimm fairy tale stories that I read as a child were already westernized versions which were kid-friendly. I enjoyed reading them and watching them on television. The fantastical worlds and mysterious creatures fascinated me.

What really scared me though were the stories that kids would share around the neighborhood. We had monsters that stole babies from pregnant women, dark elves that would cast illness, or ghost that haunted our school hallways.

Those were real to me and has influenced my stories in many ways.

What was your artistic influence for The Stumps of Flattop Hill?

When I first saw some of Gorey’s books I was mesmerized by his technical precision. The detailed line work required a lot of discipline and patience, which was something I lacked at the time. But as I studied more of his books, I also fell in love with his dark humor. I felt that his stories were never straightforward, that something was hidden for the reader to interpret. His work ethic is also a great inspiration, producing over a hundred books is quite an accomplishment. A few of my favorites include, The Epipleptic Bicycle, The Willowdale Handcar and his most popular book The Gashlycrumb Tinies. These books are perfect examples containing the right amount of humor, macabre and mystery.

Another influence that I should mention is Tim Burton. His short film, Vincent, created quite an impression, along with his loose and dynamic drawing style. I was hoping to achieve that balance between Gorey and Burton in The Stumps of Flattop Hill.

How long does it take you to draw an image? How long to finish the book?

I found that planning a scene will often times take longer than the drawing process itself. Since I also have a regular job and a family, I can only dedicate so many hours in a day to drawing or writing. A typical drawing can sometimes be completed in a single evening or sometimes it can take more than a week. But planning it and thinking about the right image can take a long time and many trial and errors. The entire book took about six months to complete and a few revisions that occurred over a year's time. It’s always healthy to step back from a project and look at it at a later date with a fresh perspective.

What about the parents who do not want their kids to read spooky stories?

I can understand how some parents wouldn’t want their kids to read a spooky story. Maybe they don’t think their kids can handle it, but I also think we don’t give the kids enough credit in this regard. Of course, as parents we have to gauge what our kids can and cannot handle. But we should also take this opportunity to explain things and teach them.

The Stumps of Flattop Hill is not just a spooky story; there’s humor and there’s also a character who shows strength. But the ending of the book is open to interpretation.Even though an entire town feared the haunted house, Florence maintained a peaceful and happy expression in the end. Maybe it wasn’t all that bad after all.

What has been your experience with the publication of The Stumps of Flattop Hill?

My process has always been about finishing a book and then pitching it to a publisher. When I finished The Stumps, it made its rounds to the publishers through my agent (it took a little over a year).  But once it was picked up by One Peace Books, it has been quite smooth and most of the art and text were kept as is. They were easy to work with and very supportive.
Here are a few videos of Ken creating illustrations. The first link is the trailer for The Stumps of Flattop Hill. I came across it on Twitter and immediately invited Ken to be a guest on my blog. Thanks, Ken, for sharing your talent here. If you're drawn to spooky books and fairytales, you're going to love this eerie tale! Click on the link below:

Spooky Halloween Fairytale Picture Book Children's 

https://www.youtube.com/user/koolkit/videos 

Click on the link below for a lesson in illustrating Edward Gorey style:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AN0UOM5QOUU

Click on the link below for a Pen and Ink drawing lesson:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s6uS1zrNZME

One more time lapse lesson in drawing:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_pPNW17j2bE

Illustrations from inside The Stumps of Flattop Hill:
 
REVIEWS of The Stumps of Flattop Hill:
 This is a book my kids would have dragged out of the box time after time, the one held together by sellotape and a shared love of things that go bump in the night. If there’s a small person in your life who likes delightfully creepy tales, give both of you a treat and buy them this. - Vulpes Libris


This book isn’t the type of children’s book such as The little Engine That Could or Green Eggs and Ham, all bright colors and a simple moral. It’s creepier and darker — both literally and figuratively — and ends more ambiguously than most children’s books. For the right kind of child — or an adult who remains young at heart — it may be just the right sort of book.
Las Vegas Review Journal (F. Andrew Taylor)

"Ken Lamug’s THE STUMPS OF FLATTOP HILL brings a long-overdue disturbance to the picture book arena. The cover alone promised me things that I was desperate for the story to keep.”
The Midnight Society



What are you working on now?
I’m always in the middle of a book project or doing research. I’ve just finished a 150 page wordless graphic novel. “Pedro and the Flea King” is about a boy who goes on an adventure as he tries to save the town from the king and his minions. It’s making its rounds looking for a publisher at this time. I’m also about to wrap-up an all-ages comic (titled Random Quest) which will debut in the fall for the Vegas Valley Comic Book Festival. With my down-time, I’m focusing on my children’s picture book projects, taking workshops and participating in critiques. Just trying to get better at the craft.
Learn more about Ken Lamug and his books:

Follow him on Facebook and Twitter:


Thanks, dear readers, for stopping by to leave a comment for this talented young man! As always, simply leave a comment for a chance to win! The WINNER will be announced on FRIDAY, OCTOBER 28th. ~Clara

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Writing from the Inside Out. . . Author Bish Denham shares about Ghosts + Giveaway


Dear Readers,

A big thank you to everyone who stopped by to leave a comment last week. As always, I'm thankful to random.org for picking the winner. Congratulations to our winner, *KIM CHEZ!* Kim, please send your mailing address to: claragillowclark(at)gmail(dot)com. If I don't hear from you by a week from today, a new winner will be picked.

And now, please give the talented Bish Denham a warm welcome. Today you'll get a Ghostly look at a haunting tale from the past and a preview of Bish's own! Bish is generously donating a copy of her Middle Grade novel, The Bowl and the Stone: A Haunting Tale from the Virgin Islands, for this week's comment contest. Simply leave a comment for a chance to win!


  Bish Denham, whose mother’s side of the family has been in the Caribbean for over one hundred years, was raised in the U. S. Virgin Islands. She still has lots of family living there whom she visits regularly. She says, “Growing up in the islands was like living inside a history book. Columbus named the islands, Sir Francis Drake sailed through the area, and Alexander Hamilton was raised on St. Croix. The ruins of hundreds of sugar plantations, built with the sweat and blood of slave labor, litter the islands. Then there were the pirates who plied the waters. It is within this atmosphere of wonder and mystery, that I grew up. Life for me was magical, and through my writing I hope to pass on some of that magic.” The Bowl and the Stone: A Haunting Tale from the Virgin Islands, is her third book and second novel. You can find Anansi and Company: Retold Jamaican Tales and A Lizard’s Tail, at Amazon.com.

Learn more about Bish: Random Thoughts: http://bish-randomthoughts.blogspot.com.
Follow Bish on Facebook: www.facebook.com/BishDenham/Author
Twitter: @BishDenham
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6439315.Bish_Denham

The History of Ghosts, an ancient Ghost Story, and an Excerpt from The Bowl and the Stone  
by Bish Denham

Thanks for letting me *haunt* your blog, Clara! Today, I’d like to share a little something about the history of ghosts and an early ghost story.

The belief in ghosts can be found in cultures all over the world. Though, there’s no way to determine when the idea of ghosts first came into existence, wraith-like humans returning from the dead can be found in Mesopotamian stories, a culture that dates back to the 3rd millennia BC. Other ancient cultures that believed in ghosts were Egypt, Greece, Rome, India, and China. For the most part, the return of the departed was never a good thing, and was considered to be a sign that something had gone awry.

Perhaps one of the earliest accounts of an actual sighting of a ghost was related by Pliny the Younger, a Roman lawyer, magistrate, and author in a letter to a friend, written sometime between 50-100 AD. (As a side note, he and his uncle, Pliny the Elder, witnessed the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in which the latter died.)

In the letter, Pliny describes a house in Athens that was rented by the stoic philosopher, Athenodorus. (There are three listed in Wikipedia so I don’t know which Athenodorus this one is, but all lived between the 3rd and 1st century BC.) The house had a reputation for making noises at night that sounded like rattling chains or fetters. A phantom had also been seen. Athenodorus was not put off by the stories and, on his first night in the house, set about writing in his room. It wasn’t long before he heard the clanging of chains, but he ignored the noise. Soon the noise grew louder until it seemed to come from outside the door and then right in his room. At this point he looked around and saw the phantom, an old man, “extremely meager and squalid, with a long beard and bristling hair; rattling the gyves (fetters) on his feet and hands.”

Athenodorus confronts the spectre.
(public domain from Wikimedia.com)
The ghost beckoned Athenodorus to follow him, which he did. The old man took him out into the garden, rattling his chains all the way and, at a certain point, vanished. The philosopher marked the spot and in the morning had the spot dug up. There they found a moldering skeleton intertwined with chains. At public expense, the bones were properly reburied and the house was haunted no more.

In my story, The Bowl and the Stone: A Haunting Tale from the Virgin Islands, Sam and her best friend, Nick are being haunted by ghost. In this excerpt, they encounter the specter for the first time.


Excerpt from THE BOWL AND THE STONE by Bish Denham

The air is different. There’s a strange moistness to it. It smells of damp earth after a light rain. And there’s another odor, faint, as though someone has walked past who hasn’t bathed in a while. A weight settles on my chest, making it hard to breathe.

“Do you get the feeling we’re being watched?” Nick asks.

I wrap my arms tightly around myself and hunch my shoulders. I want it to be a game, but it isn’t. This is real.

“Yes.” My throat starts to close, and the word comes out in a hoarse whisper.

We turn at the same moment, staring down the porch which is shrouded in the deepening gloom of dusk. A huge black man is there in the blocked doorway. His body fills the space. In the darkness I can barely make out the tattered pants that are tied at his waist with a rope. His face is in shadow. As one, without a word, Nick and I slowly walk towards him. As we approach, he backs up into the thorny tangle of lime trees and disappears. We race to the blocked entrance, but we can’t get through the trees, so how could a person of his size manage it?

“Did you see that?” Nick runs back to the main entrance and the front steps, red cape flapping.

I follow, almost stepping on his heels. “None of the branches were moving!”

We race outside and around the front of the house to the lime trees, searching for whoever disappeared into them, but no one’s there.

We go back to the front steps and sit.

“How weird….” My heart is pounding. “But we both saw it, didn’t we? So it has to be real, right? This isn’t a game, is it?”

“No, it’s not a game. Maybe it was a jumbie. OOoooooOOooooo.”

I slap Nick’s arm. “Stop it, that’s not funny.”

Book Summary:
Pirates. Explorers. And spooky ghost hunters. It’s 1962. Sam and her best friend, Nick, have the whole island of St. John, in the U. S. Virgin Islands, as their playground. They’ve got 240 year-old sugar plantation ruins to explore, beaches to swim, and trails to hike.But when a man disappears like a vapor right in front of them, they must confront a scary new reality. They’re being haunted. By whom? And why? He’s even creeping into Nick’s dreams. They need help, but the one who might be able to give it is Trumps, a reclusive hunchback who doesn’t like people, especially kids. Are Sam and Nick brave enough to face him? And if they do, will he listen to them? As carefree summer games turn into eerie hauntings, Sam and Nick learn more about themselves and life than they could ever have imagined.
Purchase the book here:
Amazon: http://amzn.to/2cEYRIz
 Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/650290


Thanks for sharing a bit of history about ancient ghosts, Bish, and for the eerie excerpt from your book, The Bowl and The Stone. I'm hooked! 

Dear Readers, Please leave a comment for a chance to win a copy of Bish's haunting tale. The winner will be announced on MONDAY, October 24th. 

The final HALLOWEEN post is an interview with author/illustrator Ken Lamug about his book, The Stumps of Flattop Hill. Yes, Ken is donating a copy of his haunting picture book! Stay tuned. . .