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By Henry, Josh & Harrison Herz

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Interview with Thief’s Covenant young adult fantasy author Ari Marmell

Ari Marmell is an author and game designer, published with Del Rey, Titan Books, Pyr Books, Wizards of the Coast, and others. He finds talking about himself in the third person to be very weird. He’s no Bob Dole.


For what age audience do you write?

Well, not all of my books are age-specific, but those that are fall distinctly in the YA range. I’d say, oh, 13 and up. Depending on the individual, of course. I don’t include sexual imagery in my YA books, but things do get awfully bloody, and there’s some swearing, though not usually in large amounts.

Tell us about your latest YA book.

Covenant’s End is the fourth and final(?) book in the Widdershins series, following Thief’s Covenant, False Covenant, and Lost Covenant. These are fantasy stories in a setting somewhat like Renaissance-era France. Widdershins is an orphaned street thief who, in essence, has a god living in her head. Not a powerful god–she’s his only worshiper–but a god nonetheless.

Henry: Does the question mark mean we can hope for another book in the series?

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

First and foremost, enjoyment. I try to make my books exciting, engrossing, amusing. Definitely adventurous. If someone values the time they put into reading one of my books, I consider it a win.

Beyond that? I’d like my readers to share in some of the feelings that Widdershins has–or that I myself had, when writing. I’ve included stuff in Covenant’s End that made me smile, made me laugh, and, yes, made me cry. I very much hope my audience can feel some of that.

Henry: Does someone else we know have voices in their head?

What aspect of writing do you find most challenging?

Casual description. It’s easy for me to write about an environment or what someone’s doing when it’s exciting or unusual or dramatic. Keeping the narrative flowing when people are simply talking, or when the scene is set in a relatively normal area? That’s much harder to keep interesting.

Henry: I always add more cowbell to spice up a scene.

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

Just how deeply a book can make readers feel. How important it is to keep in mind that you’re writing for actual people. Some who don’t understand call it “political correctness” if you make a point of including characters of various genders, races, orientations, and the like, but I’ve seen too many people left out in the cold, and I’ve seen the genuine, real-world pain it can cause.

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

Not too long ago, a reader wrote to me. He told me that he was somewhat ADD and had never enjoyed reading–until he read through one of my novels over a single weekend. He’d learned that it wasn’t that he hated reading; it was just that he’d never found the right book before. I’m not sure I can explain how touched I was by that.

Henry: That’s why we write.

What advice would you give to aspiring authors?

Well, everyone says “Don’t give up,” so I’ll skip that one. Instead, I’ll say this. Don’t let anyone tell you how to write. Some people outline; some don’t. Some people work for the same amount of time every day, some go by word count. Some people right a few hundred words a day, some write a few thousand. There’s no right or wrong. Figure out what works for you, and stick with it.

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

Tough choice, but I think I’d have to go with telepathy/mind control, a la Charles Xavier.

Henry: Particularly if it worked on editors.

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

Steven Brust, Joss Whedon, and Joe Michael Straczynski. In part because they all helped shape my writing style (along with others, such as David Eddings), and in part because it would be the single most memorable dinner since the Last Supper. (If you know any of these authors, you understand what I mean.)

Henry: You read it here first, folks. Josh Whedon is Christ.

What is your favorite creature that exists only in literature?

The honest politician.

Henry: I don’t even think those exist in fiction…

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

I read a great deal, I’m a die-hard gamer (tabletop role-playing, like Dungeons & Dragons, not so much computers), and I enjoy seeing how many bad puns I can subject people to before their brains combust.

Henry: Ari posts humorous out-of-context quotes from D&D sessions on social media.

What would you like it to say on your tombstone?

“Here lies a famous author who somehow managed to live a successful and happy three-hundred years.”

Henry: Well played, sir.

Where can readers find your work?

Most online vendors (Amazon, B&N, etc.) and in many brick-and-mortar bookstores. My own site, mouseferatu.com, has links to all of them.

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

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Superheroes’ Part-Time Jobs: Because Saving the World Doesn’t Pay Well

from http://www.boredpanda.com/part-time-job-superheroes-flying-mouse-365/

Besides saving the world, they are just like us, they need money for living, food, drink, daily needs. I think the most expensive things are their beautiful costumes.

Unfortunately, they don’t get payed for saving the world. With their very unique ability, they definitely can get a part-time job for their living.


Laundry Shop

Sport Shop

Apple Farm

Rat Catcher


Sheep Farm

Meat Shop

Pizza House

Roasted Chicken Shop

Road Construction


Veggie Farm

Window Cleaning

No Job


Metal Factory

Magic Show

Ice Cube Manufacturers

Cleaning Company

Knives Hurled Show


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Interview with Picture Book author/illustrator Angela Sage Larsen

Every time Angela Sage Larsen asks “what if…?” she ends up with a story or a series on her hands. Her series of seven picture books (which she wrote and illustrated), now being adapted into a Broadway-bound flying musical, Petalwink the Fairy, and her 5-book time-travel series for tweens, Fifties Chix, all started with characters Angela sketched followed by imagining possible answers to “what if…?”


For what age audience and in what genre do you write?

I don’t think about it this way, but I guess technically I’ve been writing fantasy! My picture book series is about Petalwink and her fairy friends which includes talking animals, and the Fifties Chix books for middle grade readers is about 5 teens who time travel from 1955 to present day. Though the time travel theme is considered fantasy, there is a lot of history in the Fifties Chix books from the Civil War through present day. It was interesting to research the astounding events this country has seen and weave them into my stories, trying to retain as much accuracy as I could while being true to my fictional characters. I think about my audience all the time, but I’m not as conscious of the genre; I just use whatever devices I need to get the story told! I’m more excited to think about the characters and what we can learn from their adventures.

Tell us about your latest book.

The last book I completed was Fifties Chix: Till the End of Time, the final book in the 5 book Fifties Chix series. It answers all kinds of questions the rest of the series raised about the characters and their adventures, but I left a little room to revisit the characters. The book I’m working on now is the script for Petalwink: The Musical, which is like Frozen with fairy wings meets Cirque du Soleil! Our lyricist-composer, Deborah Hurwitz (who’s in the original Broadway cast of the Tony award-winning Jersey Boys) has written five amazing pop songs and is waiting on me to finish the script to write more. It has been surreal to see my characters come to life on stage over the past year as we’ve been workshopping the script and showcasing the scenes and songs at Principia College!

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

From any of the books I write (including books for stage!), my hope is that my audience will come away feeling delighted, uplifted, inspired, and ready to celebrate an imaginative and innocent childhood. I am heartened by the growing social movement, which is a rebellion against the superficial and hyper-sexualized portrayal of girls and women in the media. I am passionate about this cause that is taking a second look at how gender stereotypes are limiting boys and girls. I champion “Good Books x Strong Girls” on my blog and in my books. So while I write fiction (that is fun and uplifting), I write with the intention of creating strong female characters that offer an alternative to the often discouraging and demoralizing portrayal of girls and women.

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

Writing has taught me to have more empathy for my fellow man. As I imagine conflicts for my characters (so hard to make people I love, even if they’re fictional, struggle on purpose!), I must think through the ways that they deal with these conflicts. The plot usually demands that a character’s first response isn’t the most productive and she makes the situation even harder on herself. (For example, in Petalwink Comes in Second, Petalwink “loses” every contest she enters by coming in second place. When her friends go missing and she’s the only one left to go find them, she has a pity party instead of taking the opportunity to be a hero.) Writing Petalwink’s and the Fifties Chix (Mary, Maxine, Beverly, Judy and Ann)’s stories has made me more alert to how people act in real life and helped me have compassion on them. People don’t act like jerks in a vacuum! There’s always something they are struggling with that may not be immediately obvious.

What advice would you give to aspiring authors?

I’m always thrilled to meet someone who says they are working on writing or publishing a book and I get emails constantly asking for advice, which I am happy to give. I’m enjoying coaching several people on how to write and publish their books. The publishing industry is undergoing huge changes right now and I forever remind myself and others that this means there are more opportunities than ever. A writer who is working to get published should be like a tree, rooted and grounded in the love of their writing and ideal reader, strong and always reaching out, but flexible when the big storms (rejection, unforeseen obstacles, etc) come. My mantra is “Keep going!” Though, I guess if we’re talking about being a tree, “Keep growing!” is more accurate! My favorite advice, which you hear from authors time and again, is to write what you want to read, even as you’re keeping your ideal reader constantly in mind. I think this is really important because then you’re being authentic and continually refining your voice and message. When your writing is coming from a place of love, you’re assured of success (when success is defined as finishing a piece of work and connecting to a reader through that piece).

Where can readers find your work?

The Fifties Chix book series is available as ebooks and in print and are available wherever books are sold and also on FiftiesChix.com, where you can also find a link to the Fifties Chix lit guides. The Petalwink picture book series has 7 ebooks and 4 of those are in print, available on Petalwink.com. You can get the books there and also find a link to info about the musical, or you can go straight to Petalwinkthemusical.com.

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

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Interview with middle grade A SNICKER OF MAGIC author Natalie Lloyd

Natalie Lloyd lives, writes and daydreams in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Her first novel, A Snicker of Magic, was released by Scholastic in February. She listens to bluegrass music, collects old books, and likes exploring quirky mountain towns with her dog, Biscuit.


For what age audience do you write?

I’m most excited when young readers connect with the book. I like writing tween characters because they’re still brave enough to wear their hearts on their sleeve. They’re imaginative, curious and hopeful. And I vividly remember how I felt in middle school – awkward, brave, hopeful, self-conscious, curious and afraid- all at once. All of those feelings still tumble together inside me, but they felt much more intense in middle school. As far as genre, I love writing magical realism. I used to think I would write fantasy, and I might do some of that eventually. But I have the most fun writing about the magic a character can find in an ordinary day.

Tell us about your book.

A Snicker of Magic is the story of 12 year old Felicity Pickle, who has moved all over the South with her dog, her sister, and her road-loving mother. The Pickles move back to their mama’s hometown, a quirky little spot in Tennessee called Midnight Gulch. Felicity soon learns Midnight Gulch is famous (or infamous, maybe) because it used to be a magical place, and people who lived there had magic in their veins…until a curse drove the magic away. When Felicity discovers the curse is linked to her own family’s misfortune, she sets out to break the curse, bring back the magic, and find a permanent home for her wandering heart.

Henry: I’d think twice about moving to a town named Midnight Gulch.

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

If a reader enjoys reading the story, that’s an incredible thing for a writer to hear. Readers have shared different ways they connected with the story, and I’m always bowled over. One of my favorites is when readers decide to “Be the Beedle.” There’s an anonymous do-gooder in Midnight Gulch, a mysterious character called The Beedle, who has been doing kind things all over town for years. Some readers have decided to be the Beedle in their classrooms and communities, and that makes my heart spin.

Henry: Not to be confused with Dan Santat’s Beekle.

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

I think most writers do their best writing when they’re brave enough to wear their hearts on their sleeves. That can make other parts of this process painful. But having an openness to the world, and especially a sensitivity to people, makes for better writing and a better life. Even when you’re doing what you love, I think dark days can make you feel pretty low. But the joy I get from writing, and from connecting with readers who’ve loved the book, make all the tough days worth it.

What advice would you give to aspiring authors?

I would echo Dori from Finding Nemo and say, “Keep on swimming!” Keep writing. Keep reading. Keep going.

Henry: “Fish gotta’ swim. Bird gotta’ eat.” Yes, persistence and a thick skin.

Do you have any favorite quotes?

“It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well have not lived at all. In which case, you fail by default.” – JK Rowling

Henry: “Who Dares, Wins” – British Special Air Service

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

I think I write best when my dog, Biscuit, is close beside me. She actually helped me finish A Snicker of Magic in a really sweet way. Sometimes I get so excited about new ideas, that I abandon stories midway through. But I knew if I could picture Biscuit scampering through the scenes, I would keep going—so I wrote her into the story. It worked!

Henry: Biscuit is your spirit animal. Does she get a portion of the royalties?

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

I would be able to find homes for every stray and shelter-animal. I don’t know what kind of powers I would need for that to happen. But I think everybody is an animal-lover once they find the right animal.

Henry: A unique and lovely response.

What is your favorite creature that exists only in literature?

Definitely Aslan, from C.S. Lewis’s The Chronicles of Narnia. The first time I felt book magic, it was because of that series. The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe helped me through some tough moments when I was little. Even though the book was fictional, the courage I found in the pages was real.

Henry: Ah, now that was a lion’s lion.

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

I love to travel! I like to explore old antique stores, because I feel like stories are hiding in every book and nook and shelf. I like snuggling with my dog and watching movies, reading, spending time with my friends, and hanging out with my family.

What would you like it to say on your tombstone?

My next story is set (mostly) in an old cemetery, so I’ve been paying special attention to stones and epitaphs lately. One of the sweetest I’ve seen was on the grave of a child: She went about doing good. I think that’s an amazing way to be remembered. I think I would want something like this:

She loved, bravely.

Henry: And wrote with her heart on her sleeve.

Where can readers find your work?

A Snicker of Magic is available in print and audio in bookstores and online.

I’m on twitter, where I frequently share pictures of my awesome dog: @_natalielloyd. My Facebook is: Facebook.com/NatalieLloydAuthor and my website is www.natalielloyd.com.

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


KidLit Authors at the LA Times Festival of Books

Pelican Publishing asked me to sign some books at their booth for the LA Times Festival of Books. I had never attended, and so was looking forward to experience “Bookstock”. I had a great time meeting some kidlit authors:


This made my day. I got to meet Jon Klassen and Mac Barnett (again). Too much awesome!


With James Burks, illustrator of The Monstore and author/illustrator of Bird & Squirrel.


Here is Debbie Diesen, author of The Pout Pout Fish, and Salina Yoon, author/illustrator of Found and Stormy Night.


Here is author/illustrator Andrea Zimmerman.


And here is yours truly in costume to lure customers. Read or die!


My Excellent Adventure at the Texas Library Association (TLA) 2015 Convention

My publisher, Pelican, flew me out to the Texas Library Association’s 2015 convention. TLA is the second largest such convention in the U.S., after ALA. It’s Comic-Con for librarians! I had a terrific time signing books, getting free books, getting books signed by authors I admire, and meeting lots of cool librarians and teachers. I was a kid in a candy shop. Below are photos of some of the talented KidLit writers and illustrators I met.

Highlights that I was not able to capture in photos included:

  • signing a book for a child with the cool name, Azul Estrella (blue star)
  • I approached Mac Barnett, who was wearing a name tag of “Harry N. Abrams”, and said he looked a lot like Mac Barnett. He concurred. We also agreed that he looked pretty good for someone who passed away years ago.
  • watching Drew Daywalt and Oliver Jeffers sign The Day the Crayons Quit in parallel, Drew on the left side of the spread, and Oliver on the right. They needed to be efficient given how long the line was.
  • seeing Dan Yaccarino (the Italian Stallion) vs. Dan Gutman (the Kosher Butcher) verbally sparring to a standing room only crowd.

Larry Brimner – prolific author and all-around nice guy. I have an interview with him elsewhere on my blog.


Justin Chanda, aka very busy guy. Not only is he the editor of children’s imprints at Simon & Schuster, but I saw him setting stuff up, taking photos, etc., all with a big smile on his face.


Dianne De Las Casas – fellow Pelican author


Peggy Eddleman – author of the Sky Jumper series. I have an interview with her elsewhere on my blog.


Dan Gutman – funny and prolific author of Honus & Me, the My Weird School series, and the Genius Files series. I first met him at LA SCBWI 2012. I have an interview with him elsewhere on my blog.


Henry Herz – yours truly signing Monster Goose Nursery Rhymes at the Pelican booth


Molly Idle – Caldecott Honor-winning author/illustrator and all-around delight. She was on a KidLit panel I moderated at WonderCon 2015. I have an interview with her elsewhere on my blog. She hogs all the talent.


Cynthia Leitich Smith – NY Times bestselling author of the Feral and Tantalize series. I have an interview with her elsewhere on my blog.


Meg Medina – Pura Belpre medal and CYBILS Fiction winning author of Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass. I’d vote for it based on the title alone.


Karen Santhanum – Up and coming picture book author/illustrator from San Diego.


Neil Schusterman – NY Times bestselling fantasy author. I met him at the 2014 ABLA Big Sur Writing Workshop. His voice sounds like Jon Favreau’s.


Jon Scieszka – Awesomely creative author, whose name I’ve spelled correctly.


Don Tate – picture book illustrator. He’s cool, plus his hair is the inverse of mine. Together, we are fully coifed. He completes me.


Eugene Yelchin – Newbery Honor-winning author illustrator. I first met him at LA SCBWI 2012.


Jane Yolen – Nebula, World Fantasy, Golden Kite and other award-winning author of Owl Moon. She contributed a story to my dark fantasy anthology, Beyond the Pale. I refer to her as a legendary writer, but she assures me that she does indeed exist.


“A good time was had by all.” – Tea Rex by Molly Idle

 Click to Tweet: My Excellent Adventure at the 2015 TLA Convention at http://wp.me/p31Xf4-Pq via @Nimpentoad

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Geeky Newborns Following in Their Nerdy Parents’ Footsteps

From http://www.boredpanda.com/geeky-newborn-baby-photography/

We can all pretend that a newborn’s first photoshoot is supposed to be all about the baby, or we can give in to our secret desire to dress babies as characters from our favorite fantasy and sci-fi movies, books and TV shows. It’s hard to tell who’s having more fun with these pop-culture newborn baby photos, the parents or the babies.

Before arranging such a photoshoot, just be sure that your baby is comfortable and that all of the materials being used are safe – but if you’re the parent of a newborn baby, you probably don’t have to be told that.

If you have a cute photo of your baby showing their (or their parents’) true nerdy colors, please add it to this list – and upvote your favorites, too!

#1 Baby Princess Leia

Baby Princess Leia

#2 Baby Mario

Baby Mario

#3 Baby Ninja Turtle

Baby Ninja Turtle

#4 Baby Spock

Baby Spock

#5 Baby Star Wars Jedi

Baby Star Wars Jedi

#6 Baby Ewok

Baby Ewok

#7 Baby Flash

Baby Flash

#8 Baby Harry Potter

Baby Harry Potter

#9 Baby Yoda

Baby Yoda

#10 Baby Gamer

Baby Gamer

#11 Baby Spiderman

Baby Spiderman

#12 Baby Olaf

Baby Olaf

#13 Baby Knight

Baby Knight

#14 Baby Batman And Baby Wonder Woman

Baby Batman And Baby Wonder Woman

#15 Baby Luke Skywalker

Baby Luke Skywalker

#16 Baby Doctor Who

Baby Doctor Who

#17 Baby Hobbit

Baby Hobbit

#18 Baby Batman

Baby Batman

#19 Baby Alice In Wonderland

Baby Alice In Wonderland

#20 Baby Wonderwoman

Baby Wonderwoman

#21 Baby Ninja Turtle

Baby Ninja Turtle

#22 Baby Luke

Baby Luke

Click to Tweet: Geeky Newborns Following in Their Nerdy Parents’ Footsteps at http://wp.me/p31Xf4-Pc via @Nimpentoad


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