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Thursday, March 30, 2017

John McRandle on his unusual picture book for grownups, THE AWFULBET


There's little in life I admire more than weirdness and originality, preferably both in the same work. And so, it's my great pleasure to introduce you to the oddest picture book you're likely to see today, The Awfulbet, written and illustrated by John McRandle.

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The Tale of The Awfulbet
by John McRandle

The Awfulbet: A Bracing Compendium of Disease & Effluvia For Grownups is an ABC book with a collection of 26 letters who endure a wide range of amusing afflictions. From Acne to Zombification, and all infirmities in between, each letter has been given an alliterative assortment of awfulness. For example, meet ‘B, who is Beset by Bunions, Baldness and Boils’, or ‘R, who is Ripe with Ringworm, Rosacea and Rabies’—the characters of the book possess a certain comical charm that will appeal to kids and grownups alike.


This is my first book, and my first foray into the world of self-publishing. Starting as a germ of an idea two years ago, the project came to me in a late-night burst of creativity. The writing was the fastest part, with the droll diseases flowing from my pen. But the illustration took a lot of time, as each letter’s illness had to be anthropomorphized and personalized to build the character. I suppose the genesis for The Awfulbet can be traced back to my youth reading Mad magazine and collecting Topps’ Wacky Packages, which fueled my interest in the sort of subversive humor that kids love. Some of my largest influences are Dr. Seuss, Edward Gorey, and Roald Dahl, as they play a huge role in my literary and artistic interests—and my love for darker and more disturbing work.

As a young person I was fascinated by the creatures you would find when turning over rocks, or the strange old things you'd find packed in the attic or basement that had been discarded by their owners but still had stories to tell. Growing up as the child of a German historian and an audiology professor, I always had an interest in language and science. We had a large library filled with art, natural history, and science books, and linguistic humor and wordplay were always popular in our house. What I hope to do with The Awfulbet is make something curiously creepy and grossly entertaining that appeals to the 13-year-old rock flipper and attic explorer in all of us.

BLURB:

The Awfulbet: A Bracing Compendium of Disease & Effluvia For Grownups chronicles the sad state of affairs in which these endearingly ill letters find themselves. From Acne to Zombification, there is no end to the problems these troubled souls will endure.

This contagious interpretation of an alphabet book springs from the fevered mind of John McRandle, a New York-based illustrator and musician. Night after night, he toiled until the wee hours, delving into the lives of these 26 little creatures. Now, the fruits of his labor can be yours!

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Learn more about The Awfulbet on the book's website.
You can purchase The Awfulbet from the Blurb bookstore


See more of John McRandle's work on Tumblr and follow him on Instagram as @jdmcrandle

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Author Suenammi Richards on choosing Taos as a location for her new book


I haven't visited Taos in years, but after reading this essay from today's guest, Suenammi Richards, I think I may need to book a trip there soon...

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Picking Locations with Heart

By Suenammi Richards

There was a swirl of thought placed into the development of my characters for my latest book. Even more so into the location where this great and magical love should grow wings and take flight. During the research side of writing my latest book, So a Psychic and a Rocket Scientist Walk into a Bar, I decided to set the locale as Taos, New Mexico. Taos is an interesting artistic hub bub of modern and indigenous art. Taos went very hippie in the '70s and thankfully, never quite recovered from it. This legacy of art, peace and free love leads us to one of Taos’ most prolific and well-known visual artists. This artist is mentioned briefly in my book. He is Ted Egri. My female protagonist has a piece of his. He represents a blending of indigenous art and regional legacy. 

Taos has a very prolific culture of art. This art is a mix of indigenous stylings and contemporary takes on historical folklore and canon. The art ranges from pottery from very early indigenous tribes to modern digital media. While my characters did not delve into the visual arts scene, it would be remiss to not point out that visual art is Taos’ most valued cultural contribution.

Even though I write, my first artistic love is visual art. Years ago I studied some of the contributions from this area. I was impressed and moved by the cultural history and authenticity of Taos’ artistic scene. So when I wanted to really immerse characters in a place where magic could be believed, I dedicated this location to the cause.

Author Suenammi Richards
I also desired to point out the importance of indigenous voices. Art as it exists and lives is much like writing in the idea that it is a living tangible expression of the most poignant aspects of the human soul. As artists it is important to recognize our roots and how they have influenced where we are as a species. What our artistic futures can hold. In the shards of a dish that is thousands of years old we can see the parts that carried us and made us. There is the need for community, sustenance and care. A bowl is a symbol of how we should preserve and treat our art. We carry the best of it. We carry as much as we can. Not only for ourselves but to share with others.


So a Psychic and a Rocket Scientist Walk into a Bar

Clair wasn’t sure what she should expect when she literally ran into Sergei and promptly passed out. There had always been whispers about Clair and her family. No one knew quite what they were but it was a history and a birthright Clair had deftly avoided for almost all of her life. This new occurrence puts Clair on the cusp of what was always fated to be her calling. With someone’s life at stake she knew she finally had to literally choose between life and death. 
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You can learn more about Suenammi Richards on her blog and by following her on Twitter.

You can purchase So a Psychic and a Rocket Scientist Walk into a Bar on Amazon.


Thursday, March 9, 2017

Learn about Christina Hoag's dark, gritty gang novel, SKIN OF TATTOOS


As a fiction-writer with one foot in the world of journalism, I am especially interested in this guest post by Christina Hoag. But hers is a type of hardline reportage much different from my own experience. For Skin of Tattoos, she found inspiration in an element of society that most of us hope to avoid. But we're thrilled to read about it! Welcome, Christina.

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What inspired me to write Skin of Tattoos
by Christina Hoag

Skin of Tattoos is set in the gritty underbelly of Los Angeles’ gangland, the darker side of the palm-studded, movie-star lifestyle that L.A. is known for the world over. Why, readers have asked me on more than one occasion, did you write about gangs?

In 2000, I was sent on a magazine assignment to El Salvador for story about gang members deported from Los Angeles to their birth country, which they identified with, but really didn’t know because they had left, fleeing the 1980s civil war, when they were infants and small children. Some of them barely spoke Spanish.

Growing up in L.A., they had joined gangs to protect themselves against long-entrenched Mexican-American gangs who didn’t welcome outsiders. But because the Salvadorans weren’t U.S. citizens, they later were vulnerable to deportation when the government started cracking down on immigrants with criminal records. The stories of the young men I interviewed, who were basically stuck between worlds, struck me as an unusual outcome of both a civil war and an immigrant experience. I tucked it away in my mind as a great premise for a story, and a couple years later, I wrote an outline for a novel and stuck it in a drawer.

In 2008, I became a reporter for the Associated Press in Los Angeles and ended up covering gang issues. I dusted off that old outline and started writing, although I stopped and started many times, not confident that I could pull it off. I got a lot of encouragement in writing classes I took, however, and eventually finished it.

I then ended up collaborating on a nonfiction book with a former Black Panther who had formed a programme to turn former gang members into community peacekeepers with the aim of stopping the cycle of retribution that drives gang violence. That book, “Peace in the Hood: Working with Gang Members to End the Violence,” is now being used in several universities as a textbook for courses that involve urban communities and policy.

Author Christina Hoag
After many rewrites and even more rejections, Skin of Tattoos landed a publisher and was published in 2016—sixteen years after I did those initial interviews in El Salvador. It was a long journey, indeed, but I learned valuable lessons: Write about something you’re passionate about so you don’t lose interest along the way and success is a lot about perseverance.


SKIN OF TATTOOS

Los Angeles homeboy Magdaleno is paroled from prison after serving time on a gun possession frameup by a rival, Rico, who takes over as gang shotcaller in Mags’s absence. Mags promises himself and his Salvadoran immigrant family a fresh start, but he can’t find either the decent job or the respect he craves from his parents and his firefighter brother, who look at him as a disappointment. Moreover, Rico, under pressure to earn money to free the Cyco Lokos’ jailed top leader and eager to exert his authority over his rival-turned-underling, isn’t about to let Mags get out of his reach. Ultimately, Mags’s desire for revenge and respect pushes him to make a decision that ensnares him in a world seeded with deceit and betrayal, where the only escape from rules that carry a heavy price for transgression is sacrifice of everything – and everyone - he loves.

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Learn more about Christina Hoag on Facebook and Twitter.

Skin of Tattoos is available in ebook and paperback from Amazon


Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Webrid rides again...space picnics and fuzzy spies in RED SPAWN DELIVERY, out now! #funny #scifi


It's launch day for RED SPAWN DELIVERY, third installment of the Webrid Chronicles!

Time to go planet-hopping with a giant, hairy Yeril again as Webrid gets forced into another misadventure.











How can a picnic go so wrong?

Ganpril Webrid's grandfather always told him not to use his cart unless he was getting paid for it. But this huge, hairy carter on the planet Bexilla let a friend talk him into carting beers and grub to a picnic with her old college roommate. 

Worst mistake he ever made. Before he can even burp up his first sandwich, the ol' roomie stretches out her ten shiny legs, and out pop a hundred spawn. And before Webrid can settle his churning stomach, fifty of those spawn have been kidnapped.

Like it or not, Webrid finds himself on another planet-hopping adventure with snarky, brainy pals Zatell and Stravin and a host of wacky aliens. This time, Webrid's cart turns into an interplanetary playpen--or it will, if he can only find those blasted spawn.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Historical Fiction Author Jennifer C. Wilson Knows How to Use NaNoWriMo to Her Advantage


I know a lot of you participate in NaNoWriMo. Even if you've never heard of the National Novel Writing Month challenge, you'll be interested in the post by today's guest. Jennifer C. Wilson has figured out how to make a month of relentless fiction-writing work for her, and her latest novel, Kindred Spirits: Tower of London, is proof.

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A New Novel, Thanks to NaNoWriMo
by Jennifer C. Wilson

In March 2015, I was in Leicester Cathedral, attending the service of compline for my debut novel’s leading man. Rewarded for my early arrival with a front-row seat, I watched his coffin arrive, be carried with solemn ceremony through the doors, and placed on the waiting stand.

There cannot be many writers who get to attend part of their lead character’s funeral, and even fewer historical fiction writers who can claim the same. But there I was. Of course, at that stage, my debut novel was simply a file on my hard-drive, waiting to be worked on, but from the moment I received the pristine white envelope, with the ‘RIII’ emblem on the reverse, I knew I had to get it sorted. Returning that evening to my hotel (by tradition, on the site of the inn Richard III stayed at prior to Bosworth), I opened my notebook and began making plans.

The plotline was thanks to a Writing Magazine poetry competition, to feature ghosts. I started thinking that the spirits of Richard III and Anne Boleyn would have a lot in common if they happened to meet, and the more I thought about it, the most logical place for both to be was the Tower of London. I was lucky enough to visit the Tower twice within six months, in freezing blizzards and glorious sunshine, and gradually ideas began to crystallise. The original poem was awful; I never entered it. But the general arc seemed to flow, and finding a quiet spot on my second visit, the poem became an outline for a novel.

By the time NaNoWriMo arrived, I was ready.

I’ve used NaNoWriMo three times to finish a first draft; I love the manic joy of just sitting down and getting the words out. No self-editing, no re-reading, just onwards to a conclusion that’s never been the one I expected. But there it was: fifty thousand words. It felt almost like cheating, with no need to worry about anachronisms or sixteenth century women using twenty-first century slang, but there was still plenty of fact-checking needed – burial locations, ages, and ensuring people could have met if I’d said they had. This all came later of course, once the bulk of the plot was down, with plenty of time and space for finesse.

For me, NaNoWriMo is the best way to get that first draft ‘out’, and I’m already planning for November 2017. After all, you cannot edit what you haven’t written, however inspired you might be.
Author Jennifer C. Wilson
Two months after compline, my novel was submitted; six months later, it was published. 

NaNoWriMo and a funeral are an odd combination, but hey, with writing, it’s never worth arguing with what appears to work! Although, unless we start looking for more monarchs, I doubt lightning will strike twice…

Kindred Spirits: Tower of London – Blurb
A King, three Queens, a handful of nobles and a host of former courtiers…

In the Tower of London, the dead outnumber the living, with the likes of Tudor Queens Anne Boleyn and Katherine Howard rubbing shoulders with one man who has made his way back from his place of death at Bosworth Field to discover the truth about the disappearance of his famous nephews.

Amidst the chaos of daily life, with political and personal tensions running high, Richard III takes control, as each ghostly resident looks for their own peace in the former palace – where privacy was always a limited luxury.

With so many characters haunting the Tower of London, will they all find the calm they crave?


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Learn more about Jennifer C. Wilson on her blog, Twitter, and Facebook.
You can purchase Kindred Spirits: Tower of London here.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Like #funny #scifi? Win RED SPAWN DELIVERY at Goodreads Giveaway!


What more need I say? Candlemark & Gleam is giving away three copies of the third book in the Webrid Chronicles series, RED SPAWN DELIVERY.

Webrid’s grandfather always told him not to use his cart unless he was getting paid for it. But this huge, hairy carter on the planet Bexilla let a friend talk him into carting beers and grub to a picnic with her old college roommate.

Worst mistake he ever made. Before he can even burp up his first sandwich, the ol’ roomie stretches out her ten shiny legs, and out pop a hundred spawn. And before Webrid can settle his churning stomach, fifty of those spawn have been kidnapped.

Like it or not, Webrid finds himself on another planet-hopping adventure with snarky, brainy pals Zatell and Stravin and a host of wacky aliens. This time, Webrid’s cart is a playpen -- or it will be, if he can only find those blasted spawn.


Enter the giveaway by clicking here! Closes Feb. 28, 2017.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Author Jennifer Bohnhoff Talks about Mistaken Identities in Middle Grade Fiction


My guest today is Jennifer Bohnhoff, the author of several works of middle grade historical fiction. Her next book, Valverde, is set in New Mexico during the Civil War and will be published this spring. 

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Mistaken Identities in Middle Grade Fiction

by Jennifer Bohnhoff


Most middle school readers wonder if they were adopted. Some actually revel in it: who are these people, and why can’t they understand me? Clearly my own people are elsewhere. Middle grade readers are going through so many emotional, physical and psychological changes that it’s not surprising that they are drawn to books about other children who don’t know who they are. Here are a few suggested books with this theme.

Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist is the classic novel of mistaken identity. Originally published in monthly installments between 1837 and 1839, it tells the story of an orphan born in a workhouse in 1830s England. Oliver leaves the workhouse when he is nine years old and apprenticed to an undertaker, but runs away and finds himself in the company of a troop of pickpockets. Through a series of interwoven circumstances, the kind that only Dickens could have created, Oliver’s identity is eventually revealed, and the orphan boy goes from rags to riches and takes his rightful place in the kind of generous and loving family that every middle school child wishes he had. 

Jennifer Bohnhoff
Jip, His Story, written in 1996 by the Newbery-winning American novelist Katherine Paterson, focuses on another orphan, this time a 12-year-old. Set on a poor farm in Vermont during the 1850s, it tells the story of a baby who supposedly fell of a cart and was never retrieved. He is called Jip because his dark skin color made people believe he was a gypsy. Despite the hard work and difficult conditions, Jip gets along well with the other workers on the farm, many of whom are mentally ill, and he enjoys working with the farm animals. But when a man shows up and begins asking questions about Jip’s background, it becomes clear that Jip is no gypsy, and his real identity puts him in grave danger.

The main character of my historical novel Code: Elephants on the Moon may not be an orphan, but she still doesn’t know who she is. Eponine Lambaol thinks she is the only red head in a town filled with brown-haired people because she is Breton living in a tiny village in Normandy, France. It is spring of 1944 and there are many things that Eponine doesn’t understand. Where is her father? Who is the mysterious cousin who has come to live with her and her mother? When Eponine finds her mother and cousin listening to strange announcements on a forbidden radio, she realizes that nothing she’s believed about herself is true.

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Learn more about Jennifer Bohnhoff on her website.
You can purchase Code: Elephants on the Moon on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other online retailers.