Friday, October 28, 2016


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:

And now, announcing The LUCKY WINNER of THE STUMPS OF FLATTOP HILL chosen by 
**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

 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 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


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 

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

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

One more time lapse lesson in drawing:

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 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

Learn more about Bish: Random Thoughts:
Follow Bish on Facebook:
Twitter: @BishDenham

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
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:

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. . .

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Halloween and Christmas??? with Author Pamela Jane + Giveaway

Dear friends,

The air is crisp, the leaves golden, the sky a deep October blue. Cider is mulling, pumpkins are morphing into Jack-O'lanterns, and some, so I hear, are dusting off their brooms for wild rides! But WAIT, what's this? Author Pamela Jane is sharing wisdom from her writing desk and giving you a chance to get a head start on your Christmas gifts (if you wish!) or Halloween treats in a special Comment Contest Book Giveaway! (Details at end of post!)

Please give Pamela Jane a warm welcome!  
Author Pamela Jane

Pamela Jane is the author of more than thirty children’s books from board books to memoir.  Her recent children’s books include the much-loved Halloween book, Little Goblins Ten, a spinoff of the classic rhyme “Over in the Meadow.” The Christmas sequel is Little Elfie One. Both books are published by Harper and illustrated by NY Times best-selling illustrator, Jane Manning. Pamela is also the author of a new memoir, An Incredible Talent for Existing: A Writers Odyssey and Pride and Prejudice and Kitties: A Cat-Lovers Romp Through Jane Austen’s Classic. In addition, Pamela is an essayist, writing coach, and columnist for Visit her here:

It’s Not About the Words!  By Pamela Jane

Years ago I took a weekend seminar with renowned screenwriting teacher, Bob McKee. The auditorium was packed. Not only screenwriters, but novelists, children’s authors, and editors of all genres had come to hear McKee talk about the art of writing and storytelling. I could hardly wait for the seminar to start.
            McKee walked out on stage and stood for a moment, looking out at the audience. Everyone was silent, waiting for him to begin.
          “Writing,” he said finally, his intense gaze scanning the audience, “is not about the words.”
Yes! I thought, someone finally said it! I had always felt that words were merely messengers of a deeper truth concealed behind or beneath them.
 Writing, McKee went on to say, is about characters, meaning, and emotional impact.  (Although he was mainly talking about screenplays, the same is true of other genres, including memoirs.)
 Recently I rediscovered the truth of McKee’s statement when I sat down to write Little Elfie One, a Christmas sequel to my rhyming Halloween book Little Goblins Ten, which had been published the year before.  I love writing in rhyme, and although the new manuscript wasn’t due for several months, I couldn’t wait to get started.
 It was easy to slip into the holiday spirit on a raw November morning as I sat down with pen and paper by the glowing wood stove.  This was going to be so much fun!  But after several hours of scribbling random rhymes, I started to panic. The story was obviously not working.  The idea of a Christmas sequel (which was suggested by a fan of the Halloween book) was a huge mistake! Why had I thought I could pull it off?
  My husband maintains that panic is part of my writing process. I always panic, he says, and then I figure out a way to make it work.  But if he’s right, I have to really truly panic. I can’t say, “Oh, great, I’m panicking – this is just part of my writing process!” Instead, I have to honestly believe that what I’m attempting is impossible. Which is exactly how I felt as I sat staring down at the jumble of disconnected rhymes.
  This was not part of my writing process! I really could not do this. My editor had mistakenly placed trust in me, I realized with dismay. There would be no Christmas sequel, no story for the artist to illustrate, no holiday book signings.
  Having a book contract in hand is a great feeling ­ – unless you can’t deliver. What was I going to do? The words were tripping me up, tying me (and themselves) in knots, obstructing and protesting at every turn. I could see them marching along carrying signs: “Sentences on Strike!” “Equal Pay for Adverbs,” “No Storyline, No Work.”
    Storyline! That’s what was missing. In my eagerness to start writing, I’d forgotten all about the story. My Halloween book had a natural storyline in the building excitement of all the monsters getting ready to go trick-or-treating. But the Christmas story required an entirely different narrative.
   At that point I crumpled up everything I’d written so far and threw the whole mess into the fire. Then I started working out a plot.
Bob McKee was right – writing is about characters, story, and meaning. For me, it’s also about panic, and tossing out dismal first drafts that serve as crude roadmaps indicating where not to go. (Literally thousands for my forthcoming memoir.) But the truth is, writing is also about the words, just not initially.Once I tossed out the aimless rhymes and got the story going, the words stopped pro-testing and hopped on for the ride.                                            
LITTLE GOBLINS TEN by Pamela Jane/Illustrated by Jane Mannin HarperCollins Children's Books  978-0-06-176798-2, hardcover  Ages 3-7
From monsters to ghosties to goblins, everyone's favorite beasties haunt and howl and rattle their way through their forest home in this silly, spooky twist on the beloved nursery rhyme "Over in the Meadow." New York Times best-selling illustrator, Jane Manning, adds vibrant color and humor with her imaginative illustrations.
"Numerous titles interpreting "Over in the Meadow" have been published, but trust the team of Jane and Manning to conjure up an impressive new vision in time for Halloween...Even though this is essentially a counting rhyme, the author elevates the reading and listening experience with interactive rhyming text that is rich with alliteration and strong action words."Kirkus starred  
LITTLE ELFIE ONE by Pamela Jane/Illustrated by Jane Manning HarperCollins Children's Books 978-0-06-220673-2 hardcover Ages 3-7 available as a NOOK Book
Way up in the North
    Where the reindeer run
A Big mommy elf
    Called her little elfie one.
"Santa comes tomorrow!"
    "Hooray!" cried the one.
And he leaped and he laughed
    Where the reindeer run.
 From carolers to snowmen to stars, everyone's favorite Christmas characters sing, shiver, and shine their way through the North Pole in this festive holiday twist on the beloved nursery rhyme, "Over in the Meadow." Author Pamela Jane and New York Times bestselling illustrator Jane Manning have created a delightful new Christmas classic for readers young and old.
In recent years, many picture books have used the structure, rhythm, and cadence of the old counting rhyme beginning “Over in the meadow,” but few writers have come up with a version that works as well as this cheerful text, or one that ties up so well in the end. Capturing the upbeat tone of Jane’s verse, Manning’s lovely watercolor illustrations are brimming with warmth, spontaneity, and joy. A magical visit to Santa’s home base on Christmas Eve."Booklist

Aren't these books tempting treats? I love the sense of whimsy and wonder shown in the illustrations that would make your little ones eyes light up! All you have to do for a chance to win is leave a comment for Pamela Jane. We'd love to hear your favorite Halloween or Christmas memory, but just telling us you'd like to win will make us happy!  
Visit her here:
Thanks for sharing about your writing process, Pamela, and thanks for your generosity, too. I'll be back next week to announce the winner of the comment contest and to share a NEW author and giveaway for another 'spirited' book. ~Clara