Monday, February 24, 2014

Junior Inker Sam Krol
Interviews Christopher Healy


by Sam Krol

Sam fell in love with The Hero's Guide to Saving Your Kingdom.

Click on the link, please, and read the first page. You'll see why. Since his twin, Victoria got to interview Richard Peck, Sam asked if he could interview Christopher Healy.

Christopher said Yes.

Here is the Interview

Sam Krol
Did you base any of your characters on people you know?
Christopher Healy
None are completely based on people I know, but Princess Lila is based partly on my daughter, who, like Lila, considers herself a scientist, always asks a ton of questions, and often has one curl of hair falling into her eyes. And while my son is not an evil genius like Deeb Rauber, he does share a sense of humor with the Bandit King. As for the four princes… well, they all represent different parts of myself. When you put Liam, Frederic, Gustav, and Duncan together you get me: full of myself, afraid of everything, easily frustrated, and embarrassingly weird.
Sam Krol
Where did you come up with the idea for the bard?

Christopher Healy
Sadly, I didn’t come up with the idea. Back in the middle ages, bards and minstrels really existed! They would travel from town to town, singing long songs that recounted epic legends. I simply decided to see what it would be like in a world where bards and their musical fairy tales were the only source of news. And then I decided to make them really bad at getting the facts straight. And to not really care about the facts as long as their audiences were entertained. Hmm… I guess there are actually some people like that in real life, too.

Sam Kro

How many other books have you written?
Christopher Healy
After The Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom, there The Hero’s Guide to Storming the Castle and The Hero’s Guide to Being an Outlaw, which comes out in May. I’m working on a new book now that is not part of the same series, but has just as many words in the title.
Sam Krol

How long did it take you to write this book?
Christopher Healy
It took me over a year to write the first Hero’s Guide book, but less to write the others. That’s partly because, with the first book, I had to figure out everything—who the characters were, how they would act, what their world was like, and so on. That was some of the most time-consuming work—and it was already done by the time I sat down to write Books 2 & 3.

Plus, I learned to outline—you can write a lot faster when you’ve already decided what will happen in the story.
Sam Krol
How hard was it to write this book?
Christopher Healy

Very hard. Writing is tough, tiring business. I’m getting exhausted just writing the answers to this interview. But it’s fun, too. And rewarding. And hard to avoid when you list your profession as “writer” on most questionnaires.
The hardest parts about writing are getting started (because there’s nothing scarier than a blank page) and finishing (because you can revise your work forever, so deciding when it’s good enough to stop can be an incredibly tough call to make). 
Sam Krol

When did you write this book? 
Christopher Healy

After breakfast, during lunch, and before dinner.
Sam Krol

How did you come up with the idea of Prince Charming?
Christopher Healy

Thankfully, I can say I didn’t come up with the idea of Prince Charming—because Prince Charming is boooooooring. It was some guys a few hundred years ago who said, “Hey, let’s invent a totally lame royal guy with no personality and make him the hero of all our stories!” But I’m glad they did, because if not for all those dull princes in old fairy tales, I would never have had a reason to create my own, more interesting versions.

For my character creation process, I read through a bunch of old fairy tales and thought up reasons for all the strange, unexplainable behavior in them. For instance, I asked myself why the prince in “Rapunzel” never tried to get a ladder; and that’s why Gustav is a less-than-genius guy who never thinks before he acts.
Sam Krol

Why is Frederick a scaredy cat
Christopher Healy

His father tried to feed him to a circus tiger when he was young! Wouldn’t that turn you into a scaredy cat?
Sam Krol

Did anybody help you write your book?
Christopher Healy
The story fairies. Most of what I type during the day is complete gibberish; then the fairies come to my computer at night and rework it into readable sentences.

But seriously, I get input from a lot of people as I write—my wife, my kids, a few close friends. I show them chapters as I go along, and ask for their opinions and suggestions. And then, of course, my editor at the publishing company reads through it all and offers his advice too.

But, mostly it’s the fairies.
Sam Krol
Who is your favorite character?
Christopher Healy

 Chewbacca. Unfortunately I can’t use him in my books due to copyright reasons.
Sam Krol
Where did you write this book?
Christopher Healy
In my Hobbit Hole. Which is what I like to call my home office. I call it that because it is a quaintly furnished underground burrow in a country hillside.
Sam Krol

Did you take breaks while you wrote your book? 
Christopher Healy
Only bathroom breaks. And snack breaks. And video game breaks. Also coffee breaks, fresh air breaks, television breaks, and dance breaks. Oh, and breaks during which I would read other people’s books. But as a writer, reading other people’s books is really an essential part of the job. So, no—no breaks.

The Management would like to thank Christopher and Sam for this interview. Currently Sam is devouring Book two, The Hero's Guide to Storming the Castle. 

His sister Victoria is urging him to hurry up.

Christopher's third book, The Hero's Guide to Being an Outlaw comes out April 29th and we all can't wait.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Dispatch #18: Walk Across a Field

by Lupe Fernandez

I walk across the fallow field of my former high school. The signs are faded, the grass stripped by neglect and thirty-four years of footsteps. I am performing reconnaissance for my engagement photos, checking angles and light and color and locations for romantic poses. Once upon a seventeen year old, I shuffled across this same playing field feeling sorry for myself that I didn't have a girlfriend, much less any hope of getting married some future day.

Now I cross the same field on a uncharacteristically hot January day. I hear young girls sitting on the bleaches chatting, "I told him I loved him but he's like what's that mean, don't get so serious. I mean, shit, what's the matter with you, you know. I mean I was serious but he's like what did she say..." while their small children cavort on a track that still encircles the old football field. The goal posts still stand, the old score board waits for Home or Visitors to make a touch-down.

I take a photo of the bleachers with the score box in the frame and imagine my fiancee and I sitting together, and hope our photographer can capture our essence.

I check out the quad for other potential photo possibilities, re-imagining a past on these empty school grounds, a past of dandruff, heavy books, clanking lockers, corduroy pants, tube tops, cigarettes, McDonald's lunch, Farrah Faucet feather, World War III, Disco, my pencil thin mustache so I won't look twelve, the shrill class bell, the smell of hot asphalt, the rumble of a 1970 Boss 302 Mustang, the putter of a Datsun 280zx, the echoing bounce of a basket ball, the electric hum of a passing BART train, and the deep drop in my stomach every time I feel like a failure with girls.

Today, my wedding to my fellow alumni is four months away. A wedding undreamt of in my high school years. A love unimagined in those distant days.

So I'm happy. The ghost is gone. Romantic Justice has prevailed. Why should I write YA anymore? The story is done. Love triumphs and, as the song goes, "We've only just begun."

Without going into a detailed thesis of time-travel paradoxes, that kid with the greasy hair, sarcastic mouth, skinny arms and terrible clarinet skills still walks the hallways to the noise of clanging lockers and voices of girls whom he wishes he could ask out on a date. He sits silent in Science Fiction class when the English teacher asks "what is the theme in the Time Machine" and he's dying to raise his hand. He dreams of becoming a mission specialist on the newly launched Space Shuttle and fails calculus, chemistry and physics and hates P.E.. He graduates and can't wait to leave town and is bitter that there's no one to hold him there - he's haunts the hallways and classroom listening to the babble of students, he sits in the cafeteria listening to screech of metal benches and the chatter of lunch trays.

The old high school is aptly renamed an Adult Continuation School.

As an adult, I move forward. The teenager remains. He dreams of being famous in show-business, though he has no idea how.

And he fantasizes, "What if?"

So the work continues.

Photo recon done. I walk to my car parked outside the gym. A red truck blares a song by The Hollies. I strut to the opening guitar licks of Long Cool Women in a Black Dress and flash the guys a thumbs up.

The past is present.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Love is in The Air

By Susan J. Berger

It's Valentines Day week and I'm going to post about love.

My first adult book came out January 29th. It's called Time and Forever. And the book got written because of Pen and Ink.

In 2009 I had put out a request up at Critique connections for new members for the critique group I was currently involved in . I got a lot of responses. Hilde emailed me and suggested we all meet up at her house and see who fit with whom.

Twelve of us met up Hilde's, snacked on food, including her wonderful cookies , schmoozed and read two pages aloud. When I heard Lupe and Hilde's pages, I absolutely knew I wanted to be in a critique group with them, even though I wrote mid grade and Picture Books. (No, Hilde. It wasn't because of the cookies. Really. I love your work. Of course if you felt like making some, none of us would ever say no. . . )

Kris Kahrs felt the same way as I did. She was at that time writing picture books. Kris and I joined a picture book critique group that formed at that meeting. Lupe joined another YA group with my former critique partner Teri Fox And the three of us joined Hilde's Tuesday night group. We were a perfect fit. We each had something special to offer each other. A critique group made in heaven.

Two months in, Kris suggested we start a blog so that we would have a platform once we were published. Lupe, grumped a bit, but went along. I think Kris did the original design of the blog and set it up.

My first post on the Pen and Ink Blog was about the joys of NaNoWriMo. To write the post, I signed up for NaNoWriMo without any intention of participating. On November 3, 2009, my Jewish/Catholic guilt genes surged to the forefront of my brain and forced me to sit down at the computer and begin typing. I had not a single idea in my head. In one month I had a book called Second Chances. The premise was two women in their sixties time travelling back to 1969. I wrote a story I wanted to read and it made me very happy. Of course that was a first draft and it needed work.

I didn't feel I could take the revision through Pen and Ink cause we were a children's book group. I did the first revision on my own. My sister, Kelly and another casual friend both read it and loved it. I was delighted and continued to revise.

In May 2010 I had open heart surgery. Pen and Ink's response. "Well, you may not be writing right now but you will be again and open heart surgery shouldn't stop you from critiquing." Oddly enough, Lupe, Kris, and Hilde all had experience with open heart surgery and they made me see that it wasn't a forever kind of thing. That within a year I would be back to normal and the whole thing would become a memory.

I think I was excused from the blog for three months, but I wasn't excused from meeting. We met bi weekly at my house. And I started writing again and revising.
I bid on a professional critique from one of my favorite authors, Kelley Armstrong and her trenchant advice and the advice of GAP editor Lynda Burch inspired another revision.

In 2012 I sent the book to submissions at Soul Mate Publishing. I got back a letter from Cheryl Yeko saying before we could talk contract I needed to make some changes.  
Contract?! At this point I went to Pen and Ink and asked if I could take my revisions through the group. And they said yes. Even Lupe. And his eyes did not bleed when he read the sex scenes. Kris, Hilde and Lupe all gave me fabulous edits.

I sent the revised book back to Cheryl in June, 2013 and they offered me a contract. There were lots more rounds of edits. Time and Forever came out January 29th. So far the reviews are good. If you would like to take a peek, the first 4 chapters are readable on Amazon.

So, Hilde, Lupe and Kris, you are my Valentines. Thank you all and I love you forever.

Our next big adventure together will be Lupe and Angel's wedding.

Monday, February 3, 2014

A review of My Brother is My Best Friend


by Hilde Garcia

My Brother is My Best Friend
Mi hermano es mi major amigo
Mon frère est mon meilleur ami

Nicole Weaver’s trilingual picture book is a breathe of fresh air. It’s fun and light, not too long and just right for an emergent reader.

Being a person who speaks three languages: English, Spanish and French, the languages used in this book, I found it fun! You can choose which language to read because each language has its own color, but if you are like me who can read all three, you will find yourself changing the language depending on the page you are reading. Sometimes I started in English and then I finished in French.

The twins go on a rip roaring, imaginative adventure. The book chronicles their romp through the seasons. It has them playing leap frog, building snow forts, climbing up to their tree house and jumping in puddles. And at the end of it all, they come home hungry for lunch.

I am envious of their fun. (I loved building forts out of sheets when I was a kid- it didn’t snow in Miami- but it was just as fun.)

I particularly loved the fact that the two brothers are best friends. Twins are special to me, as I own a pair myself, although mine are boy/girl.

The fact that they are twins isn’t mentioned directly in the book until the end of the story, but the illustrations say otherwise. Of course, I was simply having fun reading all the languages, so I didn’t notice they were twins until the end. I am sure children are better at catching that fact because they are going to look at the pictures first!

The illustrations are warm and work well with the multiple languages. Clara Batton Smith juxtaposes soft and bright colors with crisp outlines giving a watercolor effect, which I personally like. For me, picture books should be like for favorite, cozy blanket, the one you like to take out over and over again.

My children attend a dual language immersion program in Glendale. Our school has four tracks- Spanish, French, Italian and German. This is a book that would fit in well with us. Many times during the course of the day, the staff will run into each other, and all of us being polyglots, will start speaking in one language and finish in another.

We particularly love books of this type because some of our students, with Spanish speaking backgrounds will opt to be in the Italian or French programs, so multiple language books are no problem for them to read. Other students simply love being challenged regardless of what languages are spoken at home.

This book is a great read and a good book to pass along to families that value the gift of languages.

A couple of really good sites to visit for more titles in multiple languages:

This site has lists of award winning books:

NPR also has a great list for books with side by side text in different languages.

Just search for Arts and Books/Author Interviews.

Also, Laura Lacámara wrote Flotando on Mama’s Song/ Flotando en la cnación de mamá, illustrated by Yuyi Morales who is also the author of Nochecita. In Lacámara’s book, she tells the story in English and Spanish, but without putting each language in a particular color. That format works well for her book because of the style of the illustrations, but I love how the colors in Nicole Weaver’s book blend and enhance the illustrations. The color scheme becomes part of the book voice.

I hope you’ll check it out in whichever language you choose!

Visit Nicole at
Check Out My Brother is My Best friend at Amazon

Or Goodreads

Or run, don't walk, to your nearest independent bookstore.