KIDLIT, FANTASY & SCI-FI – Feed Your Head!

By Henry, Josh & Harrison Herz


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Interview with J. Duddy Gill, author of THE SECRET OF FERRELL SAVAGE

J. Duddy Gill finds humor in weird places and under odd circumstances. She loves to make people laugh, especially kids. ‘The Secret of Ferrell Savage’ is her debut novel and she hopes it’s the first of many, many more to come.

GillDuddy

For what age audience do you write?

‘Ferrell Savage’ is a humorous story for ages 8 to 12. While it’s mostly realistic, I’d consider it a rather tall tale, as some of the events in the story are greatly exaggerated.

Henry: Ferrell → Feral. I see what you did there.

Tell us about your latest book.

‘The Secret of Ferrell Savage’ begins with Ferrell entering a sled race to impress a girl he likes and, for reasons that go beyond his control, he gets her attention and becomes a celebrity in his town. A jealous racing competitor threatens to reveal a secret about Ferrell that even he, Ferrell, didn’t know: he’s a descendent of the infamous Colorado cannibal, Alfred Packer. But it’s actually not a gruesome story at all. The main thing that Ferrell has in common with his great, great, great uncle is that they both became unexpected legends.

Henry: If I only had a dime for every time I tried to impress a girl by entering a sled race…

What do you hope readers will get from reading that book?

I hope they get a good laugh. I also hope they’ll be inspired by the way Ferrell follows his heart and doesn’t overthink things. He’s got a good perspective on life.

What aspect of writing do you find most challenging?

Sometimes, when the scenes aren’t coming to me and the story gets all jammed up in my head, it’s hard to sit down and sort it all out.

Henry: Yup, been there. That’s where belonging to a critique group is so helpful.

What is a powerful lesson you’ve learned from being a writer?

You have the write the story that’s there inside you. It may not be the story that everyone will like, but someone will like it. Write it for yourself and for that person.

Henry: I agree that you have to write from the heart. But in the end, if you want to be traditionally published, then an agent and an editor must agree that the story has wide appeal.

What has been a memorable experience that you never would have had if you had not been a writer?

I sent an advanced reading copy to my mom and I didn’t tell that I’d dedicated the book to her. She called me and left a message on my answering machine, crying, telling me how special she felt. I will keep that message on my machine forever.

Henry: Nice. My books are also dedicated to my parents (and others).

What advice would you give to aspiring authors?

Write the story you want to read.

Henry: But again, what if there’s no market for my dystopian board book, The Very Hunger Games Caterpillar?

Do you have any favorite quotes?

“It takes a heap of loafing to write a book.” – Gertrude Stein

Henry: Then there’s “All you do is sit staring at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead.” – Gene Fowler

Do you have any strange rituals that you observe when you write?

I have to have clean teeth and fresh breath while I write. I keep a roll of dental floss next to my desk.

Henry: I did NOT see that coming.

If you could have one superpower, what would it be?

I would like to sing so beautifully that it makes people feel happy and peaceful. As I am now, I don’t sing very well at all.

Henry: My bad singing has a side benefit. I can peel paint or disperse a pack of feral pigs.

If you could have three authors over for dinner, who would it be?

E. B. White because he had such a beautiful way at looking at the world. Plus, he was hilarious. Do you mind if I just have one? It’s so hard to choose just two more among all the others that I love so much.

Henry: That’s fine. I’ll use your spares to invite Maurice Sendak and J.R.R. Tolkien to my place.

What is your favorite creature that exists only in literature?

I’m going to have to say my favorite creatures are talking pigs and spiders. I learned a lot from Wilbur and Charlotte.

Henry: There’s a number of talking pigs in literature: Wilbur, Winnie the Pooh, Babe, Napoleon (Animal Farm), and Olivia. And let us not forget the Three Little Pigs or the five little piggies that correspond to a baby’s toes. Have you ever wondered why one little piggy eats roast beef?

What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

I love sharing stories with family and friends and just hanging out with them. I also like to spin wool, knit, and weave. When my kids were little I was obsessed with making all of their toys – dolls, animals, silk scarves, puppets – out of all natural materials. I don’t go as often as I’d like, but I enjoy bike riding or skiing in the mountains.

What would you like it to say on your tombstone?

I just hope they spell “Duddy” right and don’t make jokes about my being a “fuddy duddy”. I’ve heard them all.

Where can readers find your work?

Under my bed – I have three completed manuscripts collecting dust under there. Also, look for ‘The Secret of Ferrell Savage’ at your independent bookstore, that’s always best. When my next book sells I’ll surely announce it on my website: www.jduddygill.com .

This interview is also posted at the San Diego Children’s Books Examiner.

Click to Tweet: Interview with J. Duddy Gill, author of THE SECRET OF FERRELL SAVAGE at http://wp.me/p31Xf4-Cb via @Nimpentoad


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Interview with Aaron Becker, Caldecott Honor-winning author/illustrator of JOURNEY

“Like many American boys born in the wake of the Apollo missions, I decided early on I would be an astronaut. My mother was an astronomy teacher at a local college in my hometown of Baltimore. She would take us along on her nighttime field trips to the observatory; its musky smell relieved with the opening of its domed roof. The vastness of the starry sky was thrilling. Below, above, to the right and left – nothing but infinite space.

At some point, I surmised that a career in actual space travel required military training, and this seemed like a lot of work. So I switched gears and started drawing pictures of outer space instead. There was palpable joy in this: creating civilizations and stories filled with a cast of characters of my own design. To be sure, these worlds were reflections of places inside of me. But more importantly, drawing was an immediate path for creating something I could manage on my own terms. These worlds were mine and mine alone. With a pad of paper and a set of markers, I could pretty much do whatever I wanted. For an eight year old confined by the limitations of his material existence, this seemed like a pretty good deal.

Years ago, after working as a designer in San Francisco’s dot-com craze, I quit my job and headed to Monterey, California for a children’s book conference. At the time, I had a vague idea of why I thought it’d be fun to write and illustrate books. After presenting some hazy ideas to a guest editor from Candlewick Press, I left the conference content to wander. I traveled. I returned to art school and earned my chops. I worked in the Bay Area with some of my heroes in film design for nearly a decade. But eventually, the children’s book bug returned. This time, I had some real drawing skills and a much greater understanding of why these books might matter. After all, I had my own child by this time, and it was becoming clear to me that there’s no purer form of story-telling for an illustrator than creating their own book full of pictures. Luckily, children seem to like this kind of stuff. And publishers will go along with it as well if the idea is up to snuff. When my agent gave me the good news that my first book had a solid offer, the name of the editor sounded eerily familiar. It was none other than the same editor I’d met in Monterey nearly fifteen years before.

I now live in Amherst, Massachusetts where every day, I return to that place of being a kid again, ready to fly into outer space with a ship of my own design. I’m fortunate to have a job that lets me keep doing this, and I would imagine that even in the darkest of my creative slumps, surely this must beat astronaut boot camp.”

BeckerAaron

Aaron recently (and deservedly) won a Caldecott Honor for his picture book, ‘Journey’. Whether you read it aloud or read it to yourself, you’ll be left speechless. In the former case, because Journey is a wordless picture book. In the latter case, because Journey’s story and artwork are breathtaking.

What do you hope readers will get from reading ‘Journey’?

My hope for readers, and this goes for both adults and children alike, is that it will connect them their sense of wonder.  It’s not hard to find the world an enchanting place, but sometimes we have to remember it’s there.

Henry: Well, it worked for me.

A little girl is bored. Sepia-toned images symbolize her ennui. Until she (and the reader) notice a little red marker lying on her bedroom floor. She uses that marker to draw a portal through which she enters a magical city of waterfalls and flies through the air on craft of her own creation.

Journey reminds me of ‘The Red Balloon’. But Aaron has elevated a simple concept into an emotionally moving ink and watercolor journey. Some of the art covers a two-page span, some a single page, and some pages sport three small illustrations. Aaron’s use of image size for pacing and emphasis is profound.

Incredibly, this is Aaron’s publishing debut! Kids and parents alike will read (and re-read) this book, just like I did as a young boy with ‘Where the Wild Things Are’. I give ‘Journey’ five out of five stars. I can’t wait to see what he comes up with next.

What aspect of writing/illustrating do you find most challenging?

Coming up with a story is always much harder than doing any illustrations.  While inventing places and costumes and characters comes relatively naturally to me, finding the reason for them to exist (and for the reader to care about them) is always the hardest part.

Henry: As a writer who cannot draw beyond stick figures, the story is much easier than the illustrations for me. It just proves the old saying, “the grass is always greener when someone else is drawing it.”

It’s hard enough to be a published author, but to be an author and an illustrator is amazing. Did you start with one skill and later add the other skill?

I used to help film directors with developing the look and feel for their animated movies; so story telling was always a part of what I did. But the visual side was certainly what I spent the most time on, and so when it came time to do my own book, I felt pretty confident I could make something *look* beautiful.  Though I did teach myself watercolor!  Everything I had done previously was either in oils, acrylics, or digital, but I wanted ‘Journey’ to have a precious, handmade feel that only watercolor can pull off.  It was a steep learning curve, but I think it was worth it!

Henry: So basically, writing and illustrating a New York Times bestselling debut book was not enough of a challenge, so you decided to work in a brand new media. Did you also grow berries from which you distilled your own organic watercolor paints? *slaps own forehead in disbelief*

Do you belong to a critique group?

I do.  Having a group to bounce ideas off and share work with is essential to me.  Sometimes my best ideas come from these conversations and discussions.  I feel amazingly indebted to these friends and colleagues.

Henry: I agree completely. There’s that expression, “You only get one chance for a first impression.” Critique groups are extremely helpful in that regard. We never have 100% clear self-perception. We already know our characters’ motivations, but have we conveyed them to the reader?

What is your illustration process? How much digital work, if any, is involved?

I always start with a sketchbook, to keep the ideas flowing quickly without getting hung up on details.  But eventually I scan these pencil drawings and play around with them a bit on the computer; this is what illustrators used to use xerox machines, and before that, light tables, and before that, cut and paste.  It’s just a tool to move images around and test out ideas that have been sketched on paper.  Sometimes things need to be shrunk, swamped, or cut all together.  Once the story is finished, I go back to the computer and build out all of the architectural elements of the story in a 3D program, which helps speed up perspective and helps me create more dynamic compositions than I might otherwise be able to accomplish on paper.  Once I’m happy with the shapes and designs, I print out a very light outline onto watercolor paper that helps speed things up for the final painting. It’s a laborious process, but it helps me create complex images that would be prohibitively time consuming. Now if I had ten years to write my next book…

Do you have any favorite quotes?

“A man’s work is nothing more than to rediscover, through the detours of art, those one or two images in the presence of which his heart first opened.” Albert Camus

If you could have one superpower, what would it be?

I would love to be able to stop time.  For one, I’d get a lot more done every day and could take a nap in the afternoon.  And two, the world would be so quiet.  I’d pick the perfect sunny spring day and just take a long walk in absolute stillness.

Henry: You’d be surprised how many authors choose that power. It sounds like you want to live inside a story.

Where can readers find your work?

In fine bookstores everywhere, and at http://www.storybreathing.com

Click to Tweet: Interview with @StoryBreathing Aaron Becker, Caldecott Honor-winning author/illustrator of JOURNEY http://wp.me/p31Xf4-C4 via @Nimpentoad

This interview is also posted at the San Diego Children’s Books Examiner.


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Interview with Bridget Heos, author of ‘Mustache Baby’

Bridget Heos is the author of Mustache Baby, illustrated by Joy Ang, (Houghton Mifflin, 2013) and more than 60 nonfiction books for children. She lives in Kansas City with her husband and four children.

HeosBridget

For what age audience do you write?  

I write for babies up through high school, mainly picture books and nonfiction.   Tell us about your latest book.  It’s a picture book about Baby Billy, who is born with a mustache, and his family, who must wait to see whether it is a good guy or bad guy mustache.

Henry: That is a hilarious image. But, of course, all babies start off pure and good!

What do you hope readers will get from reading that book?  

I think it’s a story the whole family will enjoy. Babies will like the pictures, toddlers will be able to retell the story based on the pictures, and big kids and parents will think it’s funny, too. If it’s one of those books that gets the whole family together to read, that would be a dream come true.

What aspect of writing do you find most challenging?  

It’s that point where you’re in the thick of things. You can’t see the layout of the story, and everything looks like a big mess. You’re trying to keep track of too many things at once in hopes of organizing things. I used to waitress and this was called being “in the weeds.” You just have to work your way out of it. The truth is, I kind of like this situation. It’s only hard because I tend to get obsessed with working my way out of it. As a mom, I can’t do that. I have an hour here, a half day there, a full day sometimes. But that’s good. It puts things in perspective.

Henry: Sounds like someone enjoys the drama of being “in the weeds”. Are you an adrenaline junkie?

What is a powerful lesson you’ve learned from being a writer?  

I’ve learned to see real life in terms of stories. Instead of thinking, “Oh no, this is a disaster!” I can now think, “this must be the middle of the story. We have to work our way through to the happy ending.” That’s been a wonderful shift in perspective.

Henry: How handy to be able to switch to third-person omniscient in real life! That is a useful way of looking at a situation. And if someone is a jerk, you can think about them being a literary antagonist. Who gets their just desserts in the end.

What has been a memorable experience that you never would have had if you had not been a writer?

I’ve gotten to hold a baby spider goat, see the beautiful mountains of Utah, and hike through a prairie in Kansas. But the best thing has been finding a job that is more like a way of life. My kids and I read a lot together and talk about what we read, and my youngest son helps me come up with story ideas. Children’s books are as big a part of my home as my work. I can’t think of a more fulfilling career.

Henry: Spider goats! I had no idea that Spiderman had a vacation farm. You never want to let spider goats in your house, because it’s hard to get them off the ceiling. In all seriousness, spider goats are fascinating. Spider silk is much stronger than steel per unit weight. But a spider can’t produce that much silk. So, scientists naturally inserted spider DNA into goats. The transgenic goat milk can be processed to yield a much higher volume of spider silk. “Spidergoat, spidergoat, makes a really strong overcoat…”

Do you have any favorite quotes?

“Spread your arms, hold your breath, and always trust your cape.” – Guy Clark

Henry: And then there’s “That wasn’t flying, it was falling with style” – Toy Story

Do you have any strange rituals that you observe when you write?

Sometimes I read my work in progress aloud with a cowboy accent. I’m trying to hear it as if it’s being read by someone else. A cowboy, I guess.

Henry: I’m reminded of the scene in When Harry Met Sally… “Waiter, there is too much pepper in my paprikash.” Cowboy voices. Spider goats. You are fun!

What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

I just like hanging out with my husband and kids. We have a new baby and the big kids get such a kick out of her. For instance, while my big boys are watching a zombie movie, she turns around and watches them watching the movie. They think that’s so funny.

Henry: The baby is teaching everyone an important lesson – that people are far more interesting than a movie. Hey, I just realized you’re letting a baby watch a zombie movie…

Where can readers find your work?

Mustache Baby is available wherever books are sold, and, of course, at the library! For the full list of books I’ve written, you can visit my Web site, http://www.authorbridgetheos.com. I also share news about my books and recommend lots of other kids’ books on my Facebook page, Author Bridget Heos.

This interview is also posted to the San Diego Children’s Books Examiner.

Click to Tweet: Interview with @BridgetHeos, author of MUSTACHE BABY http://wp.me/p31Xf4-BR via @Nimpentoad


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Interview with ‘Earth Girl’ scifi author Janet Edwards

Janet Edwards lives in England and is the author of the Earth Girl trilogy. As a child, she read everything she could get her hands on, including a huge amount of science fiction and fantasy. She studied Math at Oxford, and went on to suffer years of writing unbearably complicated technical documents before deciding to write something that was fun for a change. She has a husband, a son, a lot of books, and an aversion to housework.

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For what age audience do you write?

My current books are science fiction aimed at both young adult and adult readers, but it’s possible I may stray across the border into the lands of fantasy in future. I’ve read a lot in both genres, and it’s a very thin dividing line between them.

Henry: Indeed. Clarke’s Third Law states “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”

Tell us about your latest US book release.

My debut novel, Earth Girl, was released in the US in March 2013. It’s set in the year 2788 when only the handicapped live on Earth. Eighteen-year-old Jarra is among the one in a thousand people born with an immune system that cannot survive on other planets.

Sent to Earth at birth to save her life, Jarra has been abandoned by her parents. She can’t travel to other worlds, but she can watch their vids, and she knows all the jokes they make. She’s an “ape,” a “throwback,” but this is one ape girl who won’t give in. Jarra makes up a fake military background for herself and joins a class of norms who are on Earth for a year of practical history studies excavating the dangerous ruins of the old cities. She wants to see their faces when they find out they’ve been fooled into thinking an ape girl was a norm. She isn’t expecting to make friends with the enemy, to risk her life to save norms, or to fall in love.

The sequel, Earth Star, is already out in the UK and I’m currently looking forward to its US release date of 15th April 2014.

Henry: The reference “ape girl” reminds me of that hilarious line in The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai: “It’s not my God damned planet, Monkey Boy.” When coming from an alien, that line is the ultimate racial slur.

What do you hope readers will get from reading that book?

Primarily Earth Girl is meant to be a fun read, but hopefully readers will also do some thinking about disability and prejudice and the assumptions we make about other people.

What aspect of writing do you find most challenging?

That varies from one day to the next, but letting go is hard. That’s the moment you send a book off after the final proof check, and it’s scary. You’ve spent so much time working desperately hard to make it perfect, but now it’s heading off to be published and you can’t change anything any longer. Whatever error you failed to spot, whatever bright idea you wish you’d included, whatever sentence you meant to take out and forgot, whatever scene you still weren’t sure about, it’s too late to fix it now.

Henry: Kind of like when your child moves out. You tried your best and now you hope for the best.

What is a powerful lesson you’ve learned from being a writer?

No two people ever read the same book. Each reader brings their own personality, experiences and emotions with them, and combines them with the words they are reading. Something can be hugely significant to one person, because it relates to something important in their own life, while meaning nothing to someone else. Which is exactly the way it should be. A book isn’t just a one-sided lecture from the author, it’s a meeting of minds.

Henry: You are my first interviewee to bring up that point, and it is an excellent one. One man’s meat is another man’s poison.

What has been a memorable experience that you never would have had if you had not been a writer?

In the last couple of years, I’ve had a huge number of fantastic new experiences because of my writing. Talking to an audience, attending conventions, and meeting fellow authors. But the most memorable moments have been when total strangers came up to me at a convention, or contacted me through my website, to tell me they’d read my book and loved it. I had a huge amount of enjoyment from books as a child. I started writing myself because I wanted to pass on some of that enjoyment to others. Having people tell me I’d achieved that goal was amazing.

What advice would you give to aspiring authors?

To become a good writer, you have to write a lot. That sounds simplistic, but it’s true. There’s an awful lot of pure hard work involved.

Henry: Hmmm. Hard work… Is there not an easy way for me to become a good writer? No. No there is not.

Do you have any favorite quotes?

There are several Snoopy cartoons featuring Snoopy as an aspiring author. I particularly love the one where Snoopy is writing to a publisher and he says this: “Regarding the recent rejection slip you sent me. I think there might have been a misunderstanding. What I really wanted was for you to publish my story and send me fifty thousand dollars. Didn’t you understand that?”

Henry: Nice. Then there’s Gene Fowler’s “Writing is easy: All you do is sit staring at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead.”

Do you have any strange rituals that you observe when you write?

It’s not exactly a ritual, but I’m sure it seems strange to other people. When I’m writing, my mind is in a totally different space and time. Anyone needing to talk to me has to say something, and then wait thirty seconds while I disengage from the world of Earth centuries in the future. Once I’ve refocused on the present day, they can repeat whatever they said, and may get a sane answer. Or possibly not.

Henry: That is exactly what happens when I speak to either of my sons while they’re playing a video game.

If you could have one superpower, what would it be?

Flying. Definitely flying. Doesn’t everyone envy birds?

Henry: Flying is a nice choice, but I don’t envy birds their lack of hands or their diet of worms.

If you could have three authors over for dinner, who would it be?

Anne McCaffrey. I loved Dragonflight and the world of Pern as a child. It’s the flying thing again. If you can’t fly yourself, then flying on the back of a dragon has to be the next best thing.

Terry Pratchett. I admire the brilliant way he can mix humour, fantasy, social comment, and even detective fiction in his Discworld books.

And finally, Jane Austen. Nearly two centuries after her death, despite changes in the English language itself, her sentences still shine like polished gems. It would be fascinating to find out what she was really like.

With those three dinner guests, I naturally wouldn’t be talking much myself, just listening to them!

Henry: Please videotape the dinner for the rest of us!

What is your favorite creature that exists only in literature?

The selkie, who can change between human and seal, because they have the freedom of both dry land and water.

Henry: I’ve only recently been introduced to Celtic mythology, but both “Hounded” by Kevin Hearne and “Firebrand” by Gillian Philip, were excellent fantasy reads.

What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

I like walking in the countryside. It’s not just that I enjoy being among nature and watching the birds. Walking helps me think through what I’m going to write next.

What would you like it to say on your tombstone?

Janet Edwards died on Mars in the fifth year of the first Martian colony. (It would be totally fantastic if that was accurate!)

Henry: Not that I’m suggesting you leave Earth, but isn’t Mars One planning to send crews of four people to Mars each year, starting in 2024?

Where can readers find your work?

In physical bookshops (if they don’t already have the books in stock, then they should be able to order them for you), and from all the usual online sources. If you prefer ebooks, then the books are available in several different formats.

Author website:- http://www.janetedwards.com
Facebook:- http://www.facebook.com/JanetEdwardsSF
Twitter:- http://www.twitter.com/JanetEdwardsSF

This interview is also posted at the San Diego Children’s Books Examiner.

Click to Tweet: Interview with EARTH GIRL #scifi author Janet Edwards http://wp.me/p31Xf4-BD via @Nimpentoad


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Illustrated Quotes from The Lord of the Rings

Like most card-carrying fantasy geeks, I am a big Lord of the Rings (and Hobbit) fan. Below are some choice book quotes, illustrated by frames from the film versions. Enjoy.

quote01
“If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.”

quote02
“It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.”

quote03
“Three Rings for the Elven-kings under the sky, Seven for the Dwarf-lords in halls of stone, Nine for Mortal Men, doomed to die, One for the Dark Lord on his dark throne In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie. One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them, One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them. In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie.”

quote04
“It’s the job that’s never started as takes longest to finish.”

quote05
“I am old, Gandalf. I don’t look it, but I am beginning to feel it in my heart of hearts. Well-preserved indeed! Why, I feel all thin, sort of stretched, if you know what I mean: like butter that has been scraped over too much bread. That can’t be right. I need a change, or something.”

quote06
“I don’t like anything here at all.” said Frodo, “step or stone, breath or bone. Earth, air and water all seem accursed. But so our path is laid.”   “Yes, that’s so,” said Sam, “And we shouldn’t be here at all, if we’d known more about it before we started. But I suppose it’s often that way. The brave things in the old tales and songs, Mr. Frodo, adventures, as I used to call them. I used to think that they were things the wonderful folk of the stories went out and looked for, because they wanted them, because they were exciting and life was a bit dull, a kind of a sport, as you might say. But that’s not the way of it with the tales that really mattered, or the ones that stay in the mind. Folk seem to have been just landed in them, usually their paths were laid that way, as you put it. But I expect they had lots of chances, like us, of turning back, only they didn’t. And if they had, we shouldn’t know, because they’d have been forgotten. We hear about those as just went on, and not all to a good end, mind you; at least not to what folk inside a story and not outside it call a good end. You know, coming home, and finding things all right, though not quite the same; like old Mr Bilbo. But those aren’t always the best tales to hear, though they may be the best tales to get landed in! I wonder what sort of a tale we’ve fallen into?”   “I wonder,” said Frodo, “But I don’t know. And that’s the way of a real tale. Take any one that you’re fond of. You may know, or guess, what kind of a tale it is, happy-ending or sad-ending, but the people in it don’t know. And you don’t want them to.”

quote07
“Not all those who wander are lost.”

quote08
“I don’t know half of you half as well as I should like; and I like less than half of you half as well as you deserve.”

quote09
‘I wish it need not have happened in my time,’ said Frodo. ‘So do I,’ said Gandalf, ‘and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.’

quote10
‘What a pity that Bilbo did not stab that vile creature, when he had a chance!’ ‘Pity? It was Pity that stayed his hand. Pity, and Mercy: not to strike without need. And he has been well rewarded, Frodo. Be sure that he took so little hurt from the evil, and escaped in the end, because he began his ownership of the Ring so. With Pity.’

quote11
‘Do not meddle in the affairs of wizards, for they are subtle and quick to anger.’

quote12
‘They seem a bit above my likes and dislikes, so to speak,’ answered Sam slowly. ‘It don’t seem to matter what I think about them. They are quite different from what I expected — so old and young, and so gay and sad, as it were.’

quote13
‘He that breaks a thing to find out what it is has left the path of wisdom.’

quote14
We must take a hard road, a road unforeseen. There lies our hope, if hope it be. To walk into peril — to Mordor. We must send the Ring to the Fire.’

quote15
‘I will take the Ring,’ he said, ‘though I do not know the way.’

quote16
‘You cannot pass,’ he said. The orcs stood still, and a dead silence fell. ‘I am servant of the Secret Fire, wielder of the flame of Anor. You cannot pass. The dark fire will not avail you, flame of Udûn. Go back to the Shadow! You cannot pass.’

quote17
‘I thought that Elves were all for moon and stars: but this is more elvish than anything I ever heard tell of. I feel as if I was inside a song, if you take my meaning.’

quote18
‘I pass the test,’ Galadriel said. ‘I will diminish, and go into the West and remain Galadriel.’

quote19
‘Tell me, Legolas, why did I come on this Quest? Little did I know where the chief peril lay! Truly Elrond spoke, saying that we could not foresee what we might meet upon our road. Torment in the dark was the danger that I feared, and it did not hold me back. But I would have never come, had I known the danger of light and joy.’

quote20
‘Do not be hasty, that is my motto.’

quote21
‘War must be, while we defend our lives against a destroyer who would devour all; but I do not love the bright sword for its sharpness, northe arrow for its swiftness, nor the warrior for his glory. I love only that which they defend.’

quote22
‘The rule of no realm is mine, neither of Gondor nor any other, great or small. But all worthy things that are in peril as the world now stands, those are my care. And for my part, I shall not wholly fail of my task, though Gondor should perish, if anything passes through this night that can still grow fair or bear fruit and flower again in days to come. For I also am a steward. Did you not know?’

quote23
“Where there’s life there’s hope, and need of vittles.”

quote24
“Old fool!” he said. “Old fool! This is my hour. Do you not know Death when you see it? Die now and curse in vain!” And with that he lifted high his sword and flames ran down the blade.’

quote25
“My body is broken. I go to my fathers. And even in their mighty company I shall not now be ashamed.”

quote26
“Begone, foul dwimmerlaik, lord of carrion! Leave the dead in peace!”   A cold voice answered: ‘Come not between the Nazgûl and his prey! Or he will not slay thee in thy turn. He will bear thee away to the houses of lamentation, beyond all darkness, where thy flesh shall be devoured, and thy shrivelled mind be left naked to the Lidless Eye.”   A sword rang as it was drawn. “Do what you will; but I will hinder it, if I may.”   “Hinder me? Thou fool. No living man may hinder me!”   Then Merry heard of all sounds in that hour the strangest. It seemed that Dernhelm laughed, and the clear voice was like the ring of steel. “But no living man am I!”

quote27
“It is not our part to master all the tides of the world, but to do what is in us for the succour of those years wherein we are set, uprooting the evil in the fields that we know, so that those who live after may have clean earth to till. What weather they shall have is not ours to rule.”

quote28
‘Come, Mr. Frodo!’ he cried. ‘I can’t carry it for you, but I can carry you and it as well. So up you get! Come on, Mr. Frodo dear! Sam will give you a ride. Just tell him where to go, and he’ll go.’

quote29
‘But do you remember Gandalf’s words: Even Gollum may have something yet to do? But for him, Sam, I could not have destroyed the Ring. The Quest would have been in vain, even at the bitter end. So let us forgive him! For the Quest is achieved and now all is over. I am glad you are here with me. Here at the end of all things, Sam.’

quote30
‘I am the daughter of Elrond. I shall not go with him now when he departs to the Havens; for mine is the choice of Lúthien, and as she so have I chosen, both the sweet and the bitter.’

quote31
‘Well, here at last, dear friends, on the shores of the Sea comes the end of our fellowship in Middle-earth. Go in peace! I will not say: do not weep; for not all tears are an evil.’

quote32
‘But Sam turned to Bywater, and so came back up the Hill, as day was ending once more. And he went on, and there was yellow light, and fire within; and the evening meal was ready, and he was expected. And Rose drew him in, and set him in his chair, and put little Elanor upon his lap. He drew a deep breath. “Well, I’m back,” he said.’

Click to Tweet: Illustrated quotes from The Lord of the Rings http://wp.me/p31Xf4-AN via @Nimpentoad


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Interview with NY Times bestselling THE DARWIN ELEVATOR author Jason Hough

Jason Hough is a former 3D artist and game designer. Writing fiction became a hobby for him in 2007, and quickly turned into an obsession. He started writing THE DARWIN ELEVATOR in 2008 as a NaNoWriMo project, and kept refining the manuscript until 2011, when it sold to Del Rey along with a contract for two sequels. The book released on July 30th in the US, and reached the New York Times Bestseller list the following week.

Henry: A three-book deal with Del Rey from a previously unpublished author? Damn! How did I meet Jason, you ask? Standing in line next to him waiting to meet Orson Scott Card.

HoughJason

How did you get your start as an author?

In the beginning, 2003 or so, writing was a way to fill the creative void in my life that had resulted from leaving the game industry. Years passed without much progress, though, until I discovered NaNoWriMo and decided to give it a try. The approach of writing for quantity over quality at the outset really worked well for me, and pretty soon I found myself with a complete first draft of THE DARWIN ELEVATOR. I knew it wasn’t ready, though, so I sought the help of a freelance editor, worked on it based on his feedback for another year, and then finally submitted to an agent. After a revised first chapter she agreed to take me on as a client, and about ten months later (after another round of revisions) we submitted it to publishers, and I had the great fortune to receive multiple offers.

Henry: In addition to being a skillful writer and nice guy, Jason was apparently born lucky. His agent, Sara Megibow, is a delightful lady and a very good agent.

Tell us about your latest book.

Most recently published was THE PLAGUE FORGE, the third book in the Dire Earth Cycle. It concludes the story told in that trilogy, while also opening the door for a whole new adventure in that universe.

Henry: And by “opening the door for a whole new adventure”, can we expect more from Jason? Yes. Yes we can.

What do you hope readers will get from reading that book?

I hope they’ll find a satisfactory conclusion to the main storyline, but still feel eager to read more. As for the series itself, I hope people enjoy the books the way I intended: as fun, accessible science fiction.

Henry: Mission accomplished. I gave THE DARWIN ELEVATOR five stars.

What aspect of writing do you find most challenging?

For me it’s simply putting in the work, day after day. That’s the only way I know to get to the end, but it can be incredibly rough to write on days when you’re not feeling good about yourself or the story. The only option is to power through it, because skipping days just leads to a giant, stress-inducing backlog.

Henry: This is known as the “eating the elephant one bite at a time” approach.

What is a powerful lesson you’ve learned from being a writer?

That the basic concepts you need to master to tell a compelling story are valuable in all sorts of ways. I think a lot of people could improve in their careers if they understood story structure. Having worked in a corporate setting, I can tell you most PowerPoint presentations that bore their audience do so because they present information in a way completely counter to how a story should be told, and that is of course what you’re trying to do with such a thing.

What has been a memorable experience that you never would have had if you had not been a writer?

Early on I was at a conference and at one point found myself watching a World Series baseball game in the bar with Guy Gavriel Kay, my favorite author. It was great to just simply hangout with someone I admire so much.

Henry: So having me take a photo of you with Orson Scott Card comes in a distant second?

What advice would you give to aspiring authors?

Most of the typical advice I’ll assume aspiring authors have heard already. So I’ll share my best original bit of advice: listen to audiobooks. Seriously, it’s such a great way to gain a new appreciation for language and pace. Print books are great of course, but it is too easy to skim (we do it subconsciously).

Henry: That is indeed an original and helpful bit of advice. Plus, it means you can read while you drive. Well played, sir.

Do you have any favorite quotes?

If you’re having trouble writing a scene, do what a friend of mine suggested: “Close your eyes and watch the movie.” It’s a simple trick, but so powerful. Paint the scene in your mind first, then immediately write it. Or, at least, jot down the details. As a side benefit your writing will become much more visual.

Henry: Plus, if your wife catches you napping, you can claim you were “watching the movie.” * writes note to self *

Do you have any strange rituals that you observe when you write?

Not really. NaNoWriMo taught me to write everyday, no matter what the situation. I think the only thing for me is that I can’t listen to music with lyrics when I write; the words are too distracting.

If you could have one superpower, what would it be?

The writer in me wants the power to experience life as other people, to truly be inside their head and see the world through their lens, as it were.

Henry: But the kid in you… wants to FLY! A unique and sensible request for an author. Hopefully viewing the world through a villain’s eyes wouldn’t rub off in any way.

If you could have three authors over for dinner, who would it be?

Richard Feynman, Guy Gavriel Kay, and Ian Fleming. A varied bunch that I’d love to simply chat with, no agenda, and hope some of their brilliance can be absorbed in the process.

Henry: Or course, Ian Fleming created James Bond (does Ian drink martinis too?) and worked for British Naval Intelligence during World War II. Guy Gavriel Kay not only wrote the award-winning The Fionavar Tapestry, but helped Christopher Tolkien edit The Silmarillion (that’s as close to fantasy author divinity as it gets). Richard Feynman is best known for his role as a theoretical physicist on the Manhattan Project, but he also wrote books to popularize physics and two semi-autobiographical books.

What is your favorite creature that exists only in literature?

The sentient spaceships of the Culture in Iain M. Banks’s novels. I just love their varied personalities and interactions. He writes them so amazingly well.

Henry: Sadly, Mr. Banks is no longer with us, but his writing has been nominated for the Arthur C. Clarke Award, Locus Poll Award, British Fantasy Award, the John Campbell Award, and the Hugo Award. His writing has won the British Science Fiction Association Award and the Kurd-Laßwitz-Preis Award.

What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

These days I pretty much just spend time with my kids. They’re at that age (4 and 2) where they crave constant attention. Writing was my hobby until it became a full-time career early in 2013, and I’ve yet to find the time to replace it with something else. Video games are still a passion, but at the moment I don’t have the time to invest in them. Looking forward to when my eldest son is old enough to get into some co-op games with me, though!

Henry: I involve my two sons in my writing projects. Maybe you’ll involve yours as they get older.

What would you like it to say on your tombstone?

I’ve no desire for a tombstone. Scatter my ashes in the River Dochart, throw an epic party, and move on.

Where can readers find your work?

All the usual places, though of course the best option is their local independent bookstore!

Henry: Where I first met Jason – at Mysterious Galaxy Bookstore in San Diego.

jasonhough

Jason with my co-author sons Harrison and Josh, at ConDor 2013.

This interview is also posted on the San Diego Children’s Books Examiner.

Click to Tweet: Interview with NY Times bestselling THE DARWIN ELEVATOR author Jason Hough http://wp.me/p31Xf4-AE via @Nimpentoad


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Interview with legendary children’s book author Jane Yolen

Jane Yolen, often called “the Hans Christian Andersen of America” (Newsweek) is the author of well over 335 books (she has lost count), including OWL MOON, THE DEVIL’S ARITHMETIC, and HOW DO DINOSAURS SAY GOODNIGHT. Her work has won an assortment of awards–two Nebulas, a World Fantasy Award, a Caldecott, the Golden Kite Award, three Mythopoeic awards, two Christopher Medals, a nomination for the National Book Award, and the Jewish Book Award, among many others. She has been nominated three times for the Pushcart Prize. She is also the winner (for body of work) of the World Fantasy Assn. Lifetime Achievement Award, Science Fiction Poetry Association Grand Master Award, the Catholic Library’s Regina Medal, the Kerlan Medal from the University of Minnesota, the 2012 du Grummond Medal, the Smith College Alumnae Medal. Six colleges and universities have given her honorary doctorates.

Henry: I’d call you the Leonardo da Vinci of American literature. Damn! Just, damn.

YolenJane

For what age audience do you write?

All ages, all genres except hard science. (Though I have written a lot of Natural Science.)

Tell us about your latest book.

These three books are my latest: ‘How Do Dinosaurs Say I’m Mad’ (Scholastic), ‘The Hostage Prince’ (middle grade fantasy, first book in the Seelie Wars Trilogy, Viking), and ‘Sister Fox’s Field Guide to Writing’ (adult poetry collection for Unsettling Wonder).

Henry: Indeed, Apatosaurus anger management was a literary niche waiting to be filled. Well played.

What do you hope readers will get from reading those books?

Enlightenment, entertainment, and an appreciation for poetry.

Henry: My poor poetry-writing ability is limited to limericks involving the word “Nantucket.”

What aspect of writing do you find most challenging?

Getting editors to get back to me!

Henry: Hah! Well, editors are notoriously overworked. And with over 300 books under your belt, something tells me anyone would have trouble keeping up with you.

What is a powerful lesson you’ve learned from being a writer?

Never give up, revise, and keep my BIC (butt in chair).

Henry: For those not familiar with the term, BIC refers to focusing on doing the writing. Technically, if you prefer to write while standing or bathing, that is also acceptable.

What has been a memorable experience that you never would have had if you had not been a writer?

Getting letters from children and grownups saying that my stories and poems and essays had changed their lives.

Henry: If only we could have gotten Vladimir Putin to read ‘How Do Dinosaurs Say I’m Mad?’

What advice would you give to aspiring authors?

If you give up at the first rejection or the first bad review, you will never make it in publishing.

Henry: A writer must be thick-skinned. Like the Ankylosaurus!

Do you have any favorite quotes?

“Touch magic, pass it on.”

Henry: “See how she leans her cheek upon her hand. O, that I were a glove upon that hand. That I might touch that cheek!” ― William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet

Do you have any strange rituals that you observe when you write?

No.

Henry: No hard rock music blasting in the background? No dinosaur models on a nearby shelf?

If you could have one superpower, what would it be? 

To bring world peace and the perfect story to the world.

Henry: Nothing like aiming high! And that is the most altruistic superpower anyone has mentioned on this blog.

If you could have three authors over for dinner, who would you choose?

Emily Dickinson, James Thurber, and Isak Dinesen. Because they would make great conversation, tell amazing stories about their lives, and might possibly drop wisdom into my ear.

Henry: That’s a lovely trio. For the younger readers of this blog, Wikipedia helpfully elaborates:

“Emily Elizabeth Dickinson (1830 –1886) was an American poet. While Dickinson was a prolific private poet, fewer than a dozen of her nearly eighteen hundred poems were published during her lifetime. Dickinson’s poems are unique for the era in which she wrote; they contain short lines, typically lack titles, and often use slant rhyme as well as unconventional capitalization and punctuation. Many of her poems deal with themes of death and immortality.”

“James Grover Thurber (1894 –1961) was an American cartoonist, author, journalist, and celebrated wit. Thurber was best known for his cartoons and short stories, published mainly in The New Yorker magazine and collected in his numerous books. One of the most popular humorists of his time, Thurber celebrated the comic frustrations and eccentricities of ordinary people.”

“Karen von Blixen-Finecke (1885 – 1962), née Karen Christenze Dinesen, was a Danish author also known by her pen name Isak Dinesen. Blixen is best known for ‘Out of Africa’, her account of living in Kenya, and one of her stories, ‘Babette’s Feast’, both of which have been adapted into highly acclaimed, Academy Award-winning motion pictures.”

What do you like to do when you’re not writing? 

Read, go for a walk, watch a movie, go to live music or live theater, wander a museum or castle, or play with a grandchild.

Henry: The only castles nearby in which I can wander are in my imagination.

What would you like it to say on your tombstone?

She wrote many good books and one great one

Henry: I think it’s safe to say you’ve created a powerful legacy already.

Where can readers find your work?

Wherever books are sold or can be ordered, and in any school or public library. Also there are some on kindle and other ebook readers.

This interview is also posted on the San Diego Children’s Books Examiner.

Click to Tweet: Interview with legendary children’s book author Jane Yolen http://wp.me/p31Xf4-Av via @Nimpentoad

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