Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Writers Wednesday


I've found that writing can be a voyage of self-discovery -- finding what motivates us to put pen to paper, creating that personal connection with young readers, and learning how to listen to and trust our uniquely individual voices. 

How does John Everson, known to his audience as an award-winning mass market horror author discover his inner child and end up writing a children's picture book?

John shares his journey in today's guest post --

From telling tales of the crypt to spinning stories about Peteyboo and the Worm

By John Everson

I never set out to be a children’s author. Not that there’s anything wrong with that! But I’ve spent the last 20 years writing horror stories for adults.

My first novel, Covenant, won a Bram Stoker Award when it came out on an independent press and was subsequently released by a New York publisher in mass market paperback – that was a dream come true for me; my book was in stores everywhere on the same shelves as Stephen King and Clive Barker. Over the next few years, I followed that with five more horror novels.

But something else happened during that time.

I had a son.

Shaun is an amazing, beautiful, smart and funny kid who at 18 months old knew his alphabet and was starting to spell simple words. He’s the best thing that ever happened in my life.
Fast forward a couple years, and while I was still telling creepy stories to adults, I was also indulging in fanciful stories with my son. Shaun and I frequently played a game of imagination – telling each other silly stories, trying to top each other with crazy characters and situations.

And that’s how Peteyboo, a bug with 37 eyes and 18 legs was born. I made that story up on the spur of the moment for Shaun when he was around four years old, and he loved it.

Shaun turns 7 years old this week, and while we’ve long forgotten most of the impromptu stories that we made up during that time, Peteyboo has survived. Shaun kept asking me to tell him the story of Peteyboo and the Worm, and almost every time, he’d stop me, because I forgot a part. So eventually, I wrote the whole thing down, so I wouldn’t forget. (I have a terrible memory… maybe that’s why I am a writer – I put things on paper to remember them!)

I loved those seat-of-your-pants storytelling sessions, because they made him so happy. But they did another thing. They also freed my inner storyteller to a level he hadn’t reached before. When you’re making things up for kids, you can really let your imagination roam. Every time we told stories to each other, it pushed me to be a better storyteller… because I had to come up with inventive things fast and on-the-fly. If they didn’t hold his interest, I knew it pretty quick.

I think Shaun loved Peteyboo for a couple reasons.

One – he was a weird creature, with lots of legs and eyes.

Two, he was a sad creature, because he had no friends. Shaun is an only child, and so yearning for someone to play with rings true with him.  I suppose I knew that when I told him the story, and that’s why Peteyboo forges an unlikely friendship with a worm… and the two creatures find ways to help each other and play together. Peteyboo shares a strawberry with Worm, and then shows Worm how to overcome his lack of legs. And later, Worm teaches Peteyboo to trust, as they take a swim in the pond (where not having legs turns out to be an advantage). Together, they’re a better team than either of them are as individual creatures alone.

If ours was a normal household, Peteyboo would have eventually just disappeared into a stack of Shaun’s discarded drawings. But our house isn’t quite that normal – I have lots of books on our bookshelves with my name on the spine. And Shaun would come with me sometimes to book signings at Borders and Barnes & Noble stores. One day he asked me, “Dada, when is Peteyboo going to be in a real book, like your other stories?”

I gave that some thought and realized pretty quickly that trying to start a whole new career as a kids book writer wasn’t going to happen overnight. If I submitted the story to publishers and waited for them to A) buy it and B) pair me up with an artist to illustrate the tale… it would take months or years before the Peteyboo book was out. By then, Shaun probably wouldn’t care much anymore. So I decided to pull together a homemade chapbook version of Peteyboo and the Worm for Shaun. My day job was in desktop magazine publishing, so the layout was no issue, but I needed something to make the book special, not just a bunch of words. And I didn’t want to use clip art.

So I asked Shaun to help. The Peteyboo book became a joint project for us -- I asked him to draw for me what he thought Peteyboo looked like. And then I asked him to draw a strawberry. And the worm… and little by little, he drew a bunch of illustrations for the book, after each one asking me, “is that OK, Dada?” Sometimes I asked him to fill in the sky better, or the grass… and he’d comply, very serious about the whole project.

Eventually, I scanned them all in, designed the pages and printed out a nice chapbook with color art from my son… and thought that was the end of it.

But then the book made its way to kindergarten and First Grade when first his teacher and then my wife read it to the classes. And his friends started asking if they could get copies for their iPads.

I took the next step, and turned the chapbook into an ebook.  I even recorded an audio narration of the story, so kids can listen to me read it while they follow along (there’s a link to the audio file at the back of the ebook).

And here we are. Now kids all over the world can download the book from Amazon and read the story of a bug with 37 eyes and 18 legs.

Before Peteyboo, I had written fantasy stories with a teen as a lead character, and those stories could be enjoyed by both kids and adults… but most of my catalogue? Definitely for older readers.

Now, I have somewhat accidentally written and published a book for young children. And Shaun and his friends think it’s pretty cool.

Actually, I think it’s pretty cool too. I loved the process of creating Peteyboo, and I loved its purity of message. I’d love to spend more time working on stories that children would enjoy, because those are the kinds of stories that turned me into a reader… and eventually, a writer.

Of course, I have an adult novel about mutant spiders that I’m contracted to finish first… but there is another story I have in my back pocket that I’d like to get out in time for Shaun to read while he’s in grade school. It’s a story of goblins and half-breed trolls and a witch.

I’m hoping he and his friends enjoy that as much as they have Peteyboo and the Worm.

For the Amazon link to Peteyboo and the Worm,

 Click HERE.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Writers Wednesday

I'm pleased to announce that there are two new guests visiting All About the Books.

August 1st:

From telling tales of the crypt to spinning stories about Peteyboo and the Worm

By Bram Stoker Award winning author, John Everson

August 15th:

On writing books with an educational lesson

By Kathryn Starke, founder of Creative Minds Publications and Consulting, a global educational company based in Richmond, Virginia.

Two very different posts that you won't want to miss.

As for today's post -- One of the conversations I seem to have most often with fellow writers, particularly those new to the craft, revolves around actually completing the book. 

Their struggle toward a finished book isn't about problems with character development, plot line, voice, or point of view.   Even after these important aspects of the novel have been successfully dealt with and the last word is written, many of the authors I know seem to be paralyzed when it comes to declaring "THE END."


Most often the the reason stems from the fear of what comes next -- Sharing the work with potential agents and editors or with a wider circle of readers.

Cynthia Morris has written a thoughtful guest post on the subject entitled: The Courage to Launch at Courage 2 Create

Take a few minutes to read her helpful suggestions.  It will be time well spent.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Nonfiction Monday

Nonfiction Monday is hosted today by Perogies & Gyoza.

My selection is "The Daring Miss Quimby" written by Suzanne George Whitaker and illustrated by Catherine Stock.

Ask people to name a famous female pilot and chances are Amelia Earhart will be the name they offer.  But what about Harriet Quimby?  Born in 1875, some twenty years before Earhart, Harriet was the first American woman to receive a pilot's license and on April 16, 1912, she became the first woman to fly across the English Channel.  Sadly, the sinking of the Titanic the previous day had captured the world's attention and her feat went largely unnoticed. Though flying captured her heart, she was also a theater critic published in New York and a screenwriter for Hollywood silent films.

Whitaker's narrative paints a colorful picture of this multi-talented woman who captured the public's imagination in her purple flying suit and became a familiar face in product endorsements during her short life.

Stock's illustrations convey the unquenchable energy of this daring pioneer.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Poetry Friday

Poetry Friday is hosted today by ATeaching Life.

I'm having an "Emily" sort of day -- contradictory, silly, aggravating, and prone to imagining all manner of outlandish behaviors, though I don't think even my most over-the-top speculations will find me eating toads.

For Poetry Friday -- "Emily Stew with someside dishes" written by Thomas Rockwell with illustrations by David McPhail.

Rockwell, who gave us "How to Eat Fried Worms" presents Emily in all her moods and incarnations. Silly on the surface, as when she is imagining herself as a potato, the verses go straight to the heart of our most basic search for identity -- who we are and what is our place in the great scheme of things.

McPhail's  artwork is a spot-on portrayal of Emily's quest.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Nonfiction Monday

Nonfiction Monday is hosted today by Practically Paradise.

Just for fun, my selection is "SCRATCHbot" written by Adam Woog.

A SCRATCHbot is a robot rat designed to teach researchers about how the brain processes the sense of touch.  A SCRATCHbot senses and negotiates through the space around it by utilizing stiff bristles located on the front and sides of its head, much as a real rat does.

Readers will discover how the SCRATCHbot came into being, how it is used at present and hopes for its use in the future as well as receiving a basic understanding of robots in general.  Sure to fascinate and inspire young inventors.

Click HERE for a SCRATCHbot video.

Friday, July 13, 2012

poetry Friday

Poetry Friday is hosted today by Check It Out.

Prelutsky delights in this foray to the dark side where dreadful destruction and mind-numbing horrors await.  Each  cleverly worded verse introduces young readers to bizarre worlds ranging from seething slime to bone splintering cold.  Even the flower-filled forests are malevolent --
"The delicate twigs are deceitful,
and pierce you with torturous spines. 
There is pain in the touch of the branches,
There is fire in the whip of the vines."
The language is sometimes challenging, but Prelutsky trusts his readers to figure it out and rewards the effort with rhymes that are a delight for the ear even as they give you a good case of the shivers.  Pickering's bold colors and images enhance the power of the word pictures with ghoulish precision.  Taken together the book is a creepy good time.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Nonfiction Monday

Nonfiction Monday is hosted today by A Curious Thing.

My garden is awash in Lady Bugs which aren't bugs at all, but one of many varieties of beetles. 
So it seemed appropriate that today's selection is The Beetle Book by
Steve Jenkins.

"Jewel beetles, tortoise beetles, giraffe beetles, forest fire beetles, flower beetles.  Beetles that stink, beetles that bite, beetles that sprint, beetles what walk on water.  Beetles that squeak and beetles that glow." So begins this fascinating exploration of one of nature's most abundant creatures: "Line up every kind of plant and animal on Earth . . . and one of every four will be a beetle," explains Jenkins.

Whether  arrayed side-by-side as if displayed in an entomologist's case or featured individually, each beetle-filled page offers readers a detailed look at these amazing creatures from descriptions of their anatomy to an explanation of Latin nomenclature. 

Jenkins' illustrations of torn and cut-paper collage are visually appealing and invite readers to pause and appreciate the beauty, diversity, and occasionally weird forms of these specimens collected for discussion.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Poetry Friday

Poetry Friday is hosted today by -- Tabatha Yeatts: The Opposite of Indifference.

"My selection is "What's for dinner?: quirky, squirmy poems from the animal world" written by Katherine B. Hauth and illustrated by David Clark.

Hauth's collection of 29 poems in a variety of forms combine biology and verse in a sometimes macabre, but always entertaining dance of predator and prey that is nature's food chain.

The first poem which echoes the  book's title is a perfect example and clearly introduces the tone and theme of the verses that follow.

What's for dinner?

They might seek meat,
or nectar sweet,

the white of eggs,
or yolk,

sleek fish, dead trees,
fresh blood, live bees,

or prickly artichoke.
But finding food

is not a joke.
Living things must eat
or croak.

Well-known cartoonist, David Clark, provides comical relief.  Whether it's "yucky" vultures cleaning up road-kill or an "icky" praying mantis decapitating her mate, the illustrations are sure to generate a smile even as the reader squirms.

Teachers will find this book an enjoyable introduction to life cycles, food chains, survival, symbiosis and other life-science concepts.  Students might be inspired to create their own verses to describe animal-related studies.

The book concludes with definitions, animal facts and additional resources.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Happy 4th of July!

Monday, July 2, 2012

Nonfiction Monday

Nonfiction Monday is hosted today by Booktalking.

What particular set of circumstances existed to set in motion the Age of Exploration?  How did those circumstances influence the events that followed and change the world as it had been known until that time?  This National Geographic publication challenges readers to discover the answers to these questions and more. Aronson and Glenn give their audience a contemporary look at the new world and old as they existed before, during, and after the events ushered in by the arrival of European explorers in the Americas. 

The text covers three significant time periods and begins with an introduction to the people and cultures that existed in America and their counterparts in Europe prior to the voyage of Columbus.  Readers are offered a modern, global approach to this turning point is world history that is far more comprehensive and thoughtful than a mere clash between primitive vs. advanced societies.  The authors provide a balanced look at what both Native and European people lost and gained by the contact while remaining sensitive to the impact that contact had on America's extant civilizations.

The authors continue their work with a discussion of some of the explorers  that followed Columbus and provide timelines, maps, and illustrations to enrich the text. The consequences of exploration are the authors' final focus as they lead readers through the negative and positive impacts for the world at large that resulted and are still being felt today.

The Gingerbread Cowboy Book Trailer