High Clowder Cats follows a feral tom cat who sets off to find his own territory and start a colony of his own. However, fate has different plans for him. What was the inspiration for the setup to your story?
I guess everyone is really motivated by a sense of wanting to belong and is somewhere on the journey of figuring out how they fit in. Bushytail is no different. The question is, how much of the opportunities one is presented with on our journey through life are due to fate and how much are because of our actions and the consequences of those actions? Bristle does determine that Bushytail is fated for greatness and leads him toward that but on the way Bushytail also has choices to make – the path Bristle laid out for Bushytail isn’t easy and he could have given up – but thank goodness for the readers, he doesn’t.
Bushytail starts out wanting a simple and quite life; what he gets is something much different and harder to adapt to. What were some driving ideals behind your character’s development?
There is a quote from J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings that has always stuck with me: “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.” Bushytail’s choice is much like that. He did not choose to be the hero of the story, but when he had the choice to try and help others or walk away, he decided to stand up for what was right.
What were some themes that were important for you to explore in this book?
The most important theme is that everyone is a leader and everyone needs to lead by example and be a good citizen. It is easy to feel that you can’t make a difference in the world when faced with enormous issues like global warming but it is up to each of us as individuals to make a difference. In the end, there is no other way to solve the world’s problems except by working together to make the world a better place. The hard problems are a bit easier to discuss through the eyes of cats – it seems to make them a bit more accessible.
What is the next book in the Clowder Cats series about, and when will it be available?
I don’t want to give away any spoilers from book one, but if you have read book one there is a “coming soon” section at the back with some insight into what happens in Book Two: Dark Clowder. The title is a bit of a giveaway! Book 2 is nearly ready for editing at the minute. I will let you know when it will be released on my website http://www.clowdercats.net
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Escaping the Future follows a group of friends on an adventure that leads to a time machine in a wrecked spaceship that sends them to the future. What was the inspiration for the setup to your story?
I grew up on stories like The Goonies and Back to the Future. When I was thinking about ideas to pursue in my own writing, it wasn’t a big leap for me to ask myself, “What if the Goonies were time travelers?” Instead of hunting for a treasure, they could be searching through time for a way home. Instead of the Goonies, the friends from the story were loosely based on the friends from my own childhood. I imagined how my friends would have reacted if they were thrown into the future, and the shenanigans that would result from our choices in trying to get home.
Your characters were interesting and well developed. What were some driving ideals behind your character’s development?
I wanted to portray characters with the challenges that everyone feels as they are growing up. Whether struggling to make their own voice heard like Sophia, not living up to expectations of others or yourself like Tate, not fitting in like Zoe, or just how to gain the confidence you need to succeed like Nic. Everyone deals with these challenges in some degree at some point in their lives, and how they overcome these challenges is the heart of the person they become.
What were some themes that were important for you to explore in this book?
I wanted the reader to understand the idea of seeing things from others perspectives as well as your own, whether it is from strangers or someone as close as your family. While Nic has to move away, he doesn’t see things from his parent’s point of view. Despite his disagreements with his family, he has to learn to not take for granted the time he has with them. We never know what changes might come in the future, family drama, moving away, or even your own alien situation. Understanding others point of view can help you work together and live in the moment.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
I am working on a middle grade story where the main character will travel from Earth into another world filled with magic. It is a fairytale about exploration and discovering your own true potential. I don’t have a working date for its release yet.
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The Last War follows five heroes as they embark on dangerous quest to rediscover the secret of the Elder Song. What was the inspiration for the setup to your story?
Strange as it may seem, I found out about the Elder Song a bare moment before Loremaster Aneirin did. I knew from the start that the five were going to summon the power of the Dragonkin using the Shrines, but how they were going to achieve that – i.e. the setup – was a mystery to me until a heartbeat before Aneirin heard of the Elder Song. However, while the setup came organically in that sense, the Cynnahu Saga itself is directly inspired by the late Ursula K. Le Guin’s Earthsea Cycle; in short, her Archipelago inspired me to create my own.
I remember first reading The Earthsea Cycle in elementary school, hearing the mage Ogion of Re Albi say “To hear, one must be silent.” And I still remembered those words when I took the series up for a second and third time, years later. While the rest of my generation went to Hogwarts with Harry, I traveled by ship to the School of Roke with Ged.
Isn’t that interesting? I openly and sincerely adored Middle-earth and idolized the wizard Gandalf, but it was Ogion the Silent who I related to: “He spoke seldom, ate little, slept less. His eyes and ears were very keen, and often there was a listening look on his face.” I also remember being struck with the fact that Earthsea was an Archipelago, the first I had ever encountered in a Fantasy, with no true main continent to journey across; rather the journeying was done by ship, in the soul, and on different Isles each of which had a special distinction – its own personality, if you will. I was so struck that even at so young an age I decided that if I were ever to write a Fantasy book then it would take place upon an Archipelago. I knew I wanted a mages’ school, a ruling Archmage, and ships. Interesting is it not? I idolize The Lord of the Rings, yet never felt the need to create my own Middle-earth.
Your characters are all unique and detailed. What were some driving ideals behind your character’s development?
Most simply came to me, cliche as that sounds. However, I tried to have them represent something I felt needed a voice. Archmage Hoth is my idea of an ideal leader. Myrriden is a single father who is not afraid to show how much he loves his son and surrogate daughter. He represents rank, power and skill coupled with humility. Emrys is not unlike myself at his age, nervous and following the rules fervently, yet possessing an inner flame and smarts. He is not the stereotypical brash “boys will be boys” hothead and is instead deeply thoughtful. Sakura is a girl who had everything she loved taken from her in an instant, and now seethes with a need for vengeance. She represents trauma that takes time to heal but is smart and would fight to the death to defend her still living friends. Volcan is the mysterious and unwillingly funny figure you can utterly trust and who keeps surprising you, because every good Fantasy needs such a character.
Stormlady Mica leads the blue warriors because I have noticed that, in Fantasy, women tend to use their wits and magic while the men lead the actual glorious cavalry charge; women have the special powers while the men use swords. This is hardly an ironclad rule and, even if it were, there is nothing wrong with it – indeed I love countless books that employ this storyline tactic. But I wanted to flip the coin. I wanted a woman wearing armor and leading the land’s most elite warriors into white-hot battle while the men wrestled with matters of magery.
Loremaster Aneirin in the scholar in me, for I love historical research and adore archeology. Yet just as much he – and the grey nobles in general – portray my firm belief that the best societies are deeply aware of their own history and learn from their past. Instead of trying to gloss over or justify the genocide of the Dragonkin, most modern Cynnahu folk – thanks to the Loremasters – are appalled by their ancestors’ deeds. Furthermore, I prefer wars won in ways beyond mere military tactics and/or magic as otherwise it is boring. Which is why Aneirin uses his scholar’s training to unravel ancient mysteries, his work being crucial to the war effort and the quest for the Elder Song despite never fighting.
Did you plan the story before writing or did it develop organically while writing?
A bit of both. I had what I like to call beacons – major events I wanted to happen because they were turning points in the story – but getting there was up to me. I was like a ship captain sailing unknown waters towards the distant lighthouse then, upon reaching it, setting out for the next. So I planned the story insofar as the beacons went, but everything in between developed organically while writing.
This is book one of The Cynnahu Saga. What can readers expect in book two?
Book two, Dragon Guardians, will hopefully be out by this time next year. Hopefully. I am making no promises as life has a horrid habit of getting in the way, but the book is fully written – meaning all that remains to be done is editing. Indeed, even the rough draft of book three, Mages’ Legacy is complete.
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Price of Life by David Crane is a page-turning and suspenseful science fiction story that follows the journey of a prehistoric boy who discovers an unusual meteorite while hunting, which gives him the power of immortality. He becomes the first known human to possess this power, and all the benefits and challenges that it carries. It’s a great supernatural story that touches on many historical eras, including references to World Wars I and II and the Russian Civil War.
Crane writes in such as realistic way, as if the story is a documentary, following the character through many years, societies, and relationships. The gift of immortality is a power for which many people would do anything, but what are the consequences when an immortal falls in love with a mortal? Many people, such as Laura, keep the nature of their existence secretive, though eventually, it must be revealed to those closest people to her. The story explores many aspects of immortality and how living without the fear of aging and dying, while an amazing experience, can present a new world of challenges.
How do the characters handle life after thousands of years of existence? Would you abandon your gift of immortality to become a frail mortal and live like everyone else? Crane does an exceptional job of bringing up the question of humanity’s fragile existence and how people would handle a life that never ends. Is it a gift that later becomes a curse when everyone you love eventually leaves you in death?
I recommend Price of Life for its original and creative style and unique twist on the human side of a popular science fiction theme. It’s a great story for fans of this genre who want to explore the implications of immortality.
Pages: 318 | ASIN: B00Y424WD6
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Mia the small raccoon loves exploring and hunting alongside her mother and brothers. But when the unexpected occurs, Mia finds herself far from home and everything she knew. Thrust into a brand-new environment, and struggling to use her limited knowledge to survive, Mia finds herself in danger as she fights to adapt. Discovering new allies as well as new enemies, Mia and her friends, Coe the handsome raccoon, Henry the badger, and Gallant the crow work together to defend their forest home. Encountering both good and bad from their human neighbors, Mia and her forest community must find a way to protect their futures against a deadly foe.
Raccoons are one of nature’s most endearing creatures. When I was young, my family and I would safely observe these highly intelligent creatures from our own home. The Way of Courage showcases the raccoons propensity for mischief and their ingenuity in navigating situations. The message of protecting the forest environment as shown through the eyes of Mia feels authentic and grounded, while the characterization of the animals weaves a story that is both suspenseful and engaging. I loved the legend of how the raccoon got her mask, and I look forward to the day when leg-hold traps are effectively illegal nationwide. This is an adventure story that has intense moments, but that ends satisfactorily with no loose ends. This educational children’s chapter book also includes notes on safe observation tactics and how to chronicle your own nature findings.
I recommend The Way of Courage by Janet Hallagin for its ability to weave an important message of ecological protection into an interesting and informative narrative. A story of bravery, teamwork, and going the extra mile to protect the world from harm, The Way of Courage is a highly engaging children’s book about heroism, and how even one small raccoon can make a big difference.
Pages: 156 | ASIN: B0056J6WES
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The Ballpark Buster by Don Shearer tells the story of an average kid, Buster, who lives an ordinary life like everyone else, with just one difference: he’s well over six feet in height by the time he’s twelve years old. Buster strives to have a normal life, hanging out with friends, going to school, helping his parents at home, and playing sports, despite this unusual medical condition that rapidly speeds up his growth rate. Instead of focusing on the challenges of his record-breaking height, Buster Logan uses it to his advantage to become an athlete. He quickly learns how his size can work for him, not against his pursuits, transforming his life from ordinary to an extraordinary nationwide sports hero.
This fascinating story is set in the 1940’s, imbuing this sports fiction story a unique historical fiction feel. The story explores the golden era of major league baseball, a simpler life, and the nostalgia of this decade. Shearer writes a rousing story which feels like a classic with a clear and lighthearted tone throughout, making this an easy read. It’s a fun book for children and young adults. It conveys the importance of living your life to its fullest potential and using any attribute you have, including an unusual height, to your advantage.
Shearer adds creative and unique characteristics into a tale that could otherwise be considered ordinary. It’s a fantastic story for baseball fans as there are pictures of ballparks included, and the descriptions give the reader a decent visual of the author’s love of the game. It’s an inspirational and feel-good story that makes a great light read. I recommend The Ballpark Buster for its creativity and simple but profound writing that makes a fun story for all ages.
Pages: 287 | ASIN: B0B7QP7V9X
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Arya betta fish and her brother, Krishna, journey from the pet store where they were born to their new home at a lovely koi pond. While exploring their new home, Arya and Krishna meet new friends Blake and Sharktooth and explain their greatest mission: to reunite their family. However, when the world of the koi pond is turned upside-down, all the betta friends find themselves on an exciting adventure. Meeting new friends, discovering amazing new places, and helping each other survive, Arya and Krishna must use their wits and find a little luck on their quest to find their missing parents.
Bettas have a special place in my heart. My first pet was a betta, and I love this charming adventure tale of fish friends working hard to help each other. I also love the multi-cultural approach to this lively narrative, where both the fish and humans in the world are from many different ethnicities. Spunky Arya, courageous Krishna, wise Ash, and all the other friends the bettas encounter add their own personal magic to this thrilling journey. Numerous endearing illustrations add to the enchantment of the adventure. Whether fish, human, or animal, everyone works together to aid each other in this entertaining tale of friendship, family, and fun.
Author Gabriel Bietz uses lighthearted storytelling and adorable illustrations by Ananta Mohanta in this book that is perfect for children ages seven and up. The illustrations brought the story to life, making this a middle grade book that young readers will find engaging. The adventure wraps up nicely while leaving plenty of room for many more exciting stories to follow. The Adventures of Arya and Krishna Betta Fish is a cheerful romp through a world of never-ending challenges and fun, where friendship and determination may be the key to everything.
Pages: 129 | ASIN : B09QH8YW9W
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Lacie’s Moon follows a little girl who embarks on a fantastic adventure where she learns about love and grief. What was the art collaboration process like with illustrator Amyia Staskiewicz?
Amyia is my daughter and that made working on this project extra special. She had been drawing since she was six years old, and I was happy she said yes when I approached her to do the project with me. It was during a difficult time and we had loss many loved ones. She created the character, and everything took off from there. I was amazed that without reading the full story and with little instructions she was still able to capture its essence.
What scene in the book did you have the most fun creating?
When Lacie rides through the stars having a heartfelt conversation with the moon. It was both fun and therapeutic because I was grieving alongside her.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
I am currently working on a couple of book projects. One of them is the next book in the “Little People Big Emotions” series which focus on children processing their feelings. It will feature Lacie adjusting to having a new sibling. It has just started the illustrating phase and I anticipate it will be available by early 2023. The second book is a story about kindness, and I am working to make it available by December 2022.
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