Sunday 27 February 2011

Edward Fudwupper Fibbed Big - Berkeley Breathed

Edward Fudwupper Fibbed Big
Berkeley Breathed
Storyopolis Books an imprint of
Little, Brown and Company
ISBN 9780316144254

We recently received two of Berkeley Breathed's books for children. He is the Pulitzer Prize winning author and creator of Bloom County and Opus. His style, through somewhat different, is easily recognizable. The illustrations are amazing and the story charming. Well written, and in such a way children will ask to have it read to them again and again. It is the story of a brother and a younger sister; the sister seems to dislike her brother's habit of telling tall tales, until she must tell one to save his bacon.

Wednesday 23 February 2011

Kathryn Lasky - Author Profile

Kathryn Lasky is the author of over 100 books. Her books are beloved by both young and old alike. She is the author of such series as the Guardians of Ga'Hoole, The Wolves of The Beyond,several Dear America books, The Royal Diaries and more. She has numerous books for children, picture books and non-fiction for both children and adults. Thanks to Scholastic Canada she recently took some time to answer some questions for Book Reviews and More.

1. If you had not become a writer what do you think you would be doing for a living?

Heaven only knows! I can imagine careers I would have like to have had but would have been totally unsuited for-like a musician, a ballet dancer, a painter-I can do none of those things. A doctor? But I am very squeamish. I think I am very lucky that I found writing.

2. When did you know you wanted to be a writer? How did you nurture that dream?

As a child, I loved to make up stories in my head. I was a compulsive story maker. I say "story maker" because I never told anyone or showed anyone my stories. I first realized I could be a writer when I was about ten years old. I was with my family, driving at night in our car with the top down. The sky looked so interesting-you couldn't see the stars because of these woolly clouds. And I said it looked like a sheepback sky. My mom turned around and said, "Kathryn, you should be a writer." When my mom said that, I thought, "Wow, maybe I will be."

3. What authors most influenced your writing style and format?

Well, I'm not sure how directly they influenced me but I love Edith Wharton and Willa Cather with an abiding passion. Also Jane Austen. I am particularly enchanted with the way Jane Austen writes dialogue and I love the social analysis of Edith Wharton. Willa Cather is so quintessentially American. They all seem to be able to draw a character, a scene, a place so effortlessly.

4. Do you use a playlist when writing? Are certain books written while predominantly listing to the same music?

I can't write listening to music. I have to be able to hear the voices of my characters in my head. Music would make everything kind of like static.

5. What advice do you wish an artist had passed on to you early in your career, which you only learned through experience?

That is a very difficult question. I think most often one has to figure out what works for them. I would advise aspiring writers to avoid trends. Books are written from the inside out and not the reverse as a trend might suggest. The best books actually -although a reader might never be aware of it --are on some level deeply personal. They come out of some intensely personal question if not experience. I wrote the book Beyond The Burning Time about the Salem witch trials because I wondered what would happen if I had lived in that time and my mother had been arrested as a witch. It was a reasonable and simple question and I spun a whole novel out of it.

6. What does your writing process look like? Takes us through the steps from idea to publishing?

Well, I get an idea and I think about it for months, or sometimes years. Lots of ideas just sort of pass through you brain and then I don't know dissolve into the ether-that's a lovely old fashioned word for the upper cloudy layers of the atmosphere. Anyhow if they do that they probably weren't such good ideas. But if they stick around I begin to think this is not going away. So I might begin to do a little preliminary research. All my books whether fiction or nonfiction, fantasy or historical novels require a lot of research. But this is just the early stage. So I usually get excited. Then the next step is to write a short memo to myself that really reads like book jacket copy. This memo tells me what the book is about. It is usually less than 200 words. Then I write a much longer piece that is a proposal. I send that into the publisher and if they say yes, then I begin to write.

The actual process of writing the book involves extensive outlining. I write first a general outline based on the proposal. It's like a road map for me. It shows me where to start the book, the middle of the book and the end. I even write it that way "Beginning" "Middle" and "End". Then I write a little mini outline for say the first couple of chapters-what I want to happen. I write those chapters and then another mini outline and so on. By the end of the book I might have as many as fifteen little outlines.

Then I go through and polish. There are three phases to the polish 1) correcting all my dumb typos( I am a terrible typist) and really obvious errors-like a time sequence that doesn't work, or something like that. 2) reading through for tone, narrative flow and then correcting that. 3) Then a third read for basically the same thing as in phase 2. In these 3 phases it is as if I am using a sieve with an increasingly finer grid or mesh to sift the story through so that you get down to really subtle issues like nuance and tone, and color in the final sifting through the most refined mesh. Then I send it to my editor and she sends it back at least two times for re-writes.

And then the copy editor sends it back after she has fact checked everything and she asks for corrections.

It's a long process and I just gave you the short version!

7. Of your over 100 books, what book or series is your favorite and why?

That is terribly hard to say. It is like asking what is your favorite child. I do have a favorite genre, historical fiction, and I am particularly fond of a new book of mind that came out last year with Viking Penguin but Scholastic has bought for book clubs called Ashes which is set in the early 1930's in Berlin and focuses on the Berlin book burning in 1933. It tells the story of a thirteen year old girl in Berlin Gabriella Schramm who loves to read and how she views Hitler's slow but unstoppable rise to power. How it impacts her family, her life.

8. What is the favorite character you have created and why?

Again it is hard to answer. In the animal fantasies I love the wolf character Faolan from the series The Wolves of The Beyond. But I love Gabriella and I also love the three girls Hannah, May and Lucy from the Daughters of the Sea series who are not quite human but part mer.

9. I once heard Madeleine L'Engle state that her characters were real to her and almost an extended part of her family, she said once that at the dinner table she sat up and stated "Meg just finished her PhD." Are your characters real to you, do you ever get glimpses of what they are up to now, or once you finish a book is that it?

They are very real to me. Perhaps that is why I have been writing series of late. I don't have to say goodbye to them for a long time. I can build them over such an extended narrative arc. I began writing the Guardians of Ga'Hoole when our first child went to college. I signed a contract five years later for another five or six of them when our second child went to college. I have a hard time with goodbyes.

10. You state that you rarely write with a moral objective, but life lessons seem to infuse your writing. Do you think it is your Jewish roots coming through? A matter of 'What's bread in the bone?'

I am not sure if I understand your question. Do you mean because I am Jewish I do not write with a moral objective or that because I am Jewish life lessons come through? Actually I don't think being Jewish has anything to do with it. If any thing is bred in my bone it is the experience of being human and has nothing to do with a system of religious beliefs. If life lessons come through it is because I have lived, lived and reflected. Anybody can do that if they have an open mind.

11. You do extensive research when preparing your books, what was the most interesting part in researching the Wolves of the Beyond?

Wolves have such elaborate hierarchies and ranking systems. Their social behaviors grow out of this and I found that fascinating. Wolves are not solitary like owls. So whenever you have animals who are living in packs -wow! It becomes a natural for politics, intrigue -all that wonderful stuff. I had to push it a bit with the wolves because of their solitary natures. But with wolves it was like diving head first into a treasure trove of goodies when I read about their biology and their social behaviors. I think I might have made a great biologist or primatologist like Jane Gooddall, but I hate camping out and I especially dislike going places that do not have flush toilets. In short peeing in the woods! ( you can cut that if you think it is too risqué)

12. What were your favorite books and authors to read as a youth?

Well of course you know I am so old that people like Lois Lowry and Judy Blume, authors I very much admire were not even writing then. When I was in 8th grade S.E. Hinton was probably in kindergarten. But I loved Nancy Drew, and the Oz books. However I quickly graduated to adult fiction as there wasn't really that many y.a. books out there. So I loved as I mentioned Cather, Wharton, and Austen and I loved contemporary authors like Leon Uris, Norman Mailer. I read the Naked and The Dead when I was in the 8th grade. I loved books about war. But of course I read Catcher in The Rye. I read all sorts of stuff.

13. What are some of your favorite books and authors now?

I love James Lee Burke and P.D. James. I like Alice Hoffman and Alexander McCall Smith who writes The Number One Ladies' Detective Agency. I absolutely loved Dave Eggers's book Zeitoun.

14. I once had a university professor state that the true goal of a university education should be to teach one to learn how to think. What would you state should be the goal of higher education and why?

I agree with your college professor and I feel that is the goal beginning in kindergarten. To teach kids in addition to their abc's how to think critically. I feel the word 'critical' is important.

15. Many of your books are available in electronic formats but with that comes bootleg distribution. What are your impressions of ebooks and the distribution of them through torrents and other illegal means?

Oh gosh. I don't want to get into trouble here. I think I'll just pass on this one. I really don't know this term 'torrent'. And maybe I don't want to know!

16. Some authors monitor torrent sites and have their publishers contact them to remove their content. Do you do so are have someone do so for you?

Well I guess maybe I should learn about the word torrent and consider having someone do this. Yet another thing to worry about! Why did you have to tell me?

17. With the success of the Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole film, are there plans to adapt other of your works onto the big screen?

I hope so but I must keep quiet about it for now.

18. Is it possible we will see more stories about the Owl kingdoms? Or will we have to settle for the two more books planned in the Wolves from the Beyond series?

No more stories about the owl kingdoms. Every series has what I feel is a natural life span and I don't want to push beyond that. It just seems wrong to me. But that is not to say I don't have more ideas for new series up my sleeve, or in my brain or wherever writers put those things.

19. If you were stuck on a desert island and could only have 10 books to read again and again, what books would you want with you?

Custom of the Country, House of Mirth, Age of Innocence ( Edith Wharton) Pride and Prejudice, Emma by Jane Austen. My Antonia, Song of The Lark and Death Comes to the Archbishop and the Professors House by Willa Cather. And throw in Original Sin by P.D. James. Is that 10?

20. What advice would you give to young aspiring authors and artists?

READ READ READ! And read widely. Read novels, read newspapers, read science, and read history. If you read, you learn how to build characters, structure a story, and handle a plot. So READ!

Again thank you Nikole at Scholastic Canada and Kathryn Lasky for this great interview.

Books by Kathryn Lasky:
Guardians of Ga'Hoole Book:

1: The Capture
2: The Journey
3: The Rescue
4: The Siege
5: The Shattering
6: The Burning
7: The Hatchling
8: The Outcast
9: The First Collier
10: The Coming of Hoole
11: To Be a King
12: The Golden Tree
13: The River of Wind
14: Exile
15: The War of the Ember
A Guide Book to the Great Tree
Lost Tales of Ga'Hoole

Wolves of the Beyond:
1: Lone Wolf
2: Shadow Wolf
3: Watch Wolf
4: Frost Wolf
The Wolves From The Beyond Field Guide

Daughters of the Sea:

Starbuck Family Adventures:
Double Trouble Squared
Shadows in the Water
A Voice in the Wind

Born to Rule
Unicorns? Get Real!

The Royal Diaries:
Elizabeth I: Red Rose of the House of Tudor, England 1544
Mary, Queen of Scots: Queen Without a Country, France 1553
Marie Antoinette: Princess of Versailles, Austria-France 1769
Jahanara: Princess of Princesses, India 1627
Kazunomiya: Prisoner of Heaven, Japan 1858

Dear America:
Journey to the New World: The Diary Of Remember Patience Whipple, Mayflower, 1620
Dreams in the Golden Country: The Diary of Zipporah Feldman a Jewish Immigrant Girl, New York City, 1903
Christmas After All: The Great Depression Diary of Minnie Swift, Indianapolis, Indiana, 1932
A Time for Courage:The Suffragette Diary of Kathleen Bowen, Washington, D.C., 1917

My Name Is America:
The Journal of Augustus Pelletier: Lewis and Clark Expedition, 1804

My America:
Hope In My Heart, Sofia's Ellis Island Diary
Home at Last: Sofia's Immigrant Diary
An American Spring: Sofia's Immigrant Diary

Standalone Titles:
The Last Girls of Pompeii
Blood Secret
Broken Song
Star Split
Alice Rose and Sam
True North
Beyond the Burning Time
Memoirs of a Bookbat'
The Bone Wars
Beyond the Divide
The Night Journey
Chasing Orion
Dancing Through Fire

Children young adults non-fiction:
3038 Staat der Klone
John Muir: America's First Environmentalist
Interrupted Journey: Saving Endangered Sea Turtles
Shadows in the Dawn: The Lemurs of Madagascar
The Most Beautiful Roof in the World
Sugaring Time
Days of the Dead
Searching for Laura Ingalls
Surtsey: The Newest Place on Earth
Dinosaur Dig
Traces of Life
A Baby for Max

Picture Books:
Lunch Bunnies
Show and Tell Bunnies
Science Fair Bunnies
Tumble Bunnies
Lucille's Snowsuit
Lucille Camps In
Starring Lucille
Pirate Bob
Humphrey, Albert, and the Flying Machine
Before I was Your Mother
The Man Who Made Time Travel
A Voice of Her Own: The Story of Phillis Wheatley, Slave Poet
Love That Baby
Mommy's Hands
Born in the Breezes: The Voyages Of Joshua Slocum
Vision of Beauty
First Painter
The Emperor's Old Clothes
Sophie and Rose
Marven of the Great North Woods
A Brilliant Streak
Hercules: The Man, The Myth, The Hero
The Librarian Who Measured the Earth
She's Wearing a Dead Bird on Her Head!
The Gates of the Wind
Pond Year
Cloud Eyes
I Have an Aunt on Marlborough Street
Sea Swan
My Island Grandma

Night Gardening (pseudonym of E.L. Swann)
Dark Swan
Mumbo Jumbo
Mortal Words
Trace Elements
The Widow of Oz
Atlantic Circle

Monday 21 February 2011

You Are My Sunshine - Caroline Jayne Church

You Are My Sunshine
Caroline Jayne Church

Cartwheel Books an imprint of

ISBN 9780545075527

This book is twelve pages of board book fun. It follows 6 different children as they play with their teddy bears and sing the well-known nursery rhyme to them. With great illustrations that convey much love and feeling, children of all ages will love this book and read it time and time again. Caroline Jane Church has authored or illustrated over 90 books; my children have loved all of them that we have read. This book is part of a new series based upon known nursery rhymes with the first two titles being The More We Get Together and You Are My Sunshine. With shiny metallic covers children are immediately attracted to the books. They are books young children in your life will love to have read to them and to learn to read with.

Books by Caroline Jane Church:
Leaf Trouble
Here Comes Halloween!
Here Comes Easter!
Here Comes Christmas!

The More We Get Together
You Are My Sunshine
Goodnight I Love You

Books Illustrated by Carolyne Jayne Church:
I Love You Through And Through
How Do I Love You
A Kiss For You

Thursday 17 February 2011

Alexander Gordon Smith - Author profile

Alexander Gordon Smith he is a young author who seems to be coming into his own. With a growing following in the UK and abroad, his fan base is spreading with an almost viral effect. Everyone I know who has read one of his books has ended up going back and reading more. His first book The Inventors was short listed for the Wow Factor Award. In the past 6 years he has published 7 books across two series; The Inventors and Escape From Furnace. The Furnace series is a dark dangerous ride through the human psyche and a critical look at society and youth crime. He has graciously taken some time to answer questions for us at Book Reviews and More.

Hi Steven, thanks for interviewing me on your blog, it's fantastic to be here!

1. Alexander when did you know you wanted to be a writer?

It's a terrible cliché, I know, but a writer is the only thing I can really ever remember wanting to be. Of course when I was a kid I had dreams of being a SAS solider and a film star and the ruler of the universe, but writing was the thing I loved to do - as far back as six or seven years old. I remember thinking, when I was really young, that books were magic. I mean literally magic - they weren't written by people, they just appeared on the shelves. It was only when my mum and dad made up stories for me that I understood they came from real people and not thin air. My uncle Frank, too, used to write stories and make them into little books. I thought that if other people could write books and stories, then so could I - it was an epiphany!

2. If you were not a writer, what would you see yourself doing?

Well the only thing I've ever really considered doing other than writing is being a truck driver. It's been an ambition of mine for years. I'd love to drive one of those massive rigs from coast to coast in the States. I don't know why, I just love being on the road. Sometimes I think I'll take a year off from writing and be a truck driver!

3. What were some of your favorite authors in your teen years who helped shape you?

I read pretty much anything and everything I could - I used to come home with piles of books from the library. Tolkien was one of the most influential writers for me, less The Lord of the Rings than The Hobbit, which really inspired my love of adventure. Arthur Ransome's Swallows and Amazons books were so important to me, as were The Famous Five, when I was younger, and Lloyd Alexander's Black Cauldron series too. I loved Tintin and Asterix when I was a kid. When I was a teenager my tastes shifted more towards horror, mainly Stephen King, who just blew me away, and Clive Barker too. King's books I read because of the incredible characters, Barker's books appealed to me because of their astounding scope - literally anything could happen. I love Dean Koontz, too, I have very fond memories of discovering his books. I first read Nineteen Eighty-Four when I was a teenager, too, and King, Barker and Orwell, along with the aforementioned writers, really helped shape me as a writer (and a person too).

4. What are some of your favorite books and authors now?

Nothing much has changed, really, except for the fact that I read a lot more YA horror now.

5. Who were some of your biggest supporters and contributors to your early success?

My family, without a doubt. Although my dad was fond of saying 'get a proper job' every time I announced I was a writer, both of my parents were always incredibly supportive. I was so lucky - so many people get told that writing isn't a viable life choice, that it will never be a successful career, that they shouldn't do it. If your parents drum that into you again and again then you start to believe it. My mum and dad did the opposite, they told me again and again that I could be a writer - that I could be anything I wanted to be - that if I worked hard enough at it then I could be successful. They believed it, and so I did too. Without their support, especially during the tough times, I probably would have given it up a long time ago. It's what I tell other people now - anyone can be a writer, you have to love writing and you have to believe it will happen and yes, you do have to work really hard, because it doesn't happen overnight, it takes a lot of work. But people are incredible, they can do pretty much anything they want if they put their minds to it. If you've got a dream, just go for it.

6. What does your writing process look like? Takes us through the steps from idea to publishing?

I don't plan my books, I don't have the patience for it! I do spend a long time thinking about a story, though, mainly about the characters. I try to get to know them as well as I can - just by hanging out with them in my head, trying to work out what kind of people they are. I'll let a story gestate for a while, not writing anything down, just thinking about it. Then, when it feels ready, I'll sit down and blast it out. It usually takes me between three weeks and six weeks to write a book, it's pretty intense! I love it, though, because it really feels like you're in the story, that you're living it alongside your characters. It feels like you're writing at the speed of life, which I think gives a story its relentless pace.

Once the book is done, I send it to my agent and she passes it on to my editor at Faber. Each book goes through about half a dozen edits before it's ready. They do all the cover designs and page layouts, although I do get a say (not as much of a say as you'd think, though)! Then, usually about eighteen months after the first draft is completed, the book is on the shelves. It's an amazing experience! I should say that I actually got my big break through a competition. My first novel, The Inventors, which I wrote with my nine-year-old brother, was entered into a nationwide competition here in the UK. It didn't win, but it was shortlisted and Faber (who were running the competition) offered us a deal there and then. I've been with them ever since. For the writers out there, enter as many competitions as you can - it's a great way to fast track your book onto an editor's desk.

7. What was your favorite book to write and why?

I loved writing the Furnace books, but they were tough going. I was so close to the characters, especially Alex, that I really did feel as if I was buried alive inside Furnace Penitentiary with them, that I suffered every torment and humiliation and terror. The truth is that I was going through a pretty bad time when I was writing Lockdown, a family tragedy, and I knew that I was just like Alex. If he didn't find a way out of Furnace then I'd never find a way to get through this dark place in my life. So everything he felt was real, the pain and the fear and the desperation and the hope too. They were all things that I was feeling too. It made the writing extremely intense, it was an incredible experience, but I'm not sure if I'd call it enjoyable!

I think the book that I've had most fun writing was my first novel, The Inventors. I wrote this with my little brother, who was nine when we started it and eleven when it was published. We had such a great time coming up with the plot and the characters and all the inventions - Jamie, my brother, actually tried to build a lot of the gadgets and traps and he tested them out on me!

8. The Escape From Furnace series is incredibly intense and detailed. Did you come up with the concept for all 5 books at once, or did the idea grow as the work progressed?

Thanks! I didn't plan the books, I wanted to see what Alex would do inside the prison, how he'd respond to this nightmare, because his spur of the moment choices would always seem more genuine than any rigid destiny I might have prescribed for him. I realized that if I knew in advance what was going on in Furnace and, more importantly, how (and if) Alex was going to escape, then the book might lose some of its dramatic tension. If I wrote like this then I'd know how he was going to get out, and what happened to him throughout the series, and I think some of that awareness, that relief, might leak into the story. Readers would know that everything was going to be okay because it would already be written into the text, invisible but unmissable.

So I just rolled with it, I just started writing. I threw myself into Furnace the same way Alex had been thrown in, without hope and without a plan. Because I'd done it like this, I felt as desperate as he did. Time was running out for him because the Blood Watch and the gangs were closing in. Time was running out for me because I was getting through the book and I still didn't know how he was going to get out. I didn't even know if he was going to escape! I think writing like this - writing at the speed of life - is what gives the books their relentless pace. I didn't slow down when I was writing, I was living the story alongside Alex, so the story never lets up for a second. I love writing this way!

9. With the Escape From Furnace books being published at different rates in the UK and North America, do you find it frustrating that they are being released so far apart?

Only because I know it must be frustrating for readers. In the UK I asked my publisher to release the books as fast as possible. They were originally going to publish two a year, but I convinced them to release the first three between March and October 2010. The reason that the schedule is slower in North America, I think, is that there are hardback and paperback versions of each book. As an author, I feel blessed to have two versions of each book, and it does give the series more time to build up a readership, which is very important. I do get a huge number of emails asking why the books aren't all out yet, though. All I can say is that I'm sorry about that, and I hope they're worth the wait!

10. Some of the artwork for the Escape From Furnace series has gone through a number of changes and revision. The American covers are drastically different from the UK, what is your favorite cover and why?

I've been so lucky with my covers, I absolutely love them all. The UK covers were very much geared towards teenage boys, which is why they're full of guns and explosions. I like them because they resemble video game covers, they're full of action. Okay, they are a little 'clip art', but I think they work, and I will always have a soft spot for them because they were the first covers I saw for the series. The original US ones were very creepy, but I have to say that the new US covers, with the striking red and green images, are absolutely stunning. There's so much depth to them, and the whole design of the cover is wonderful. I think they are the perfect covers, and I'm so lucky to have them.

11. Do you use a playlist when writing? Are certain books written while predominantly listing to the same music?

I sometimes listen to music when I'm writing, but it can't be anything with lyrics in it or I won't be able to concentrate! I often listen to movie scores, because I try to picture scenes as visually as possible, as if I was watching them at the cinema. Hans Zimmer is my favourite composer - Gladiator, The Dark Knight, The Thin Red Line, Inception, they're all amazing soundtracks. Tron, by Daft Punk, is the one I'm listening to most at the moment. It's an amazing experience, writing to powerful music. It really does help stir the imagination, and I'll often find myself writing something that, in all likelihood, I wouldn't have thought about if I didn't have music on. It also lets you dream about what your book might be like as a movie!

12. Your books are also marketed mainly to teen and youth and yet I have read them and recommended them too many adult friends who loved them. You also appear to have a very large adult audience. Do you see yourself writing a book aimed at a the general fiction audience?

Thanks, that's great to hear! To be honest, I didn't set out to write Furnace specifically for a young adult audience. I just had the main character, Alex, and the story grew out of him. Because he was a teenager, the book settled as a YA, but I certainly didn't want to compromise on anything because of this (except, I guess, for the bad language). I wrote the story exactly as I saw it happen, and during the process it didn't cross my mind at all whether I was directing it at teenagers or adults. I think that's maybe the best way to do it - setting out to write for a particular age group might stop you writing the book you want to because there are certain expectations and constraints. Just write the story you want to tell and it will find its audience.

13. Your books are not currently available in electronic formats but many publishers are now starting to almost make this standard practice. What are your impressions of ebooks?

At first I was dead set against ebooks, mainly because I just love books as physical objects. They are wonderful - the way they feel, the way they sound, the way they smell. I guess I was a little scared that paper print might go extinct, and that if ebooks ever replaced actual books then my own stories might never be published in print. And that's one of the best things about being an author, holding your book in your hands. I realize now that I was being a snob! Ebooks are every bit as valuable as paper books, maybe even more so because they will help spread stories even further. As long as people are reading then I don't think it matters if books are on paper or on a screen. It's the stories that are important, not the means of delivery.

14. Speaking of eBooks sometimes without, vendor eBooks comes the distribution of them through torrents and other means. Do you monitor to make sure your books are not being distributed?

No, I never check. Don't tell my publisher, but I wouldn't be too upset if people were illegally sharing my books. The fact that people wanted to read them enough to steal them is kind of flattering! I just want people to read the stories, and to enjoy them. If somebody downloads a torrent of one of my books and loves it then they'll hopefully still talk to their friends about it and spread the word. And some of them might then go on to buy a copy. And even if they go and illegally download it, at least they're reading it! So long as a few people actually go out and buy a copy then I'm happy!

15. Are there any plans for translated editions of your book?

Furnace is currently being translated into French and Polish, and I think there might be a few more languages further down the line. It's astonishing, really, to see it in a different language - to have a book that you've written but which you can't read. I'm not very good with languages, I just don't have the brain for it, but I'm incredibly humbled when I see foreign editions. It's just amazing to know that your stories are being read around the world.

16. I once heard Madeleine L'Engle state that her characters were real to her and almost an extended part of her family, she said once that at the dinner table she sat up and stated "Meg just finished her PhD." Are your characters real to you, do you ever get glimpses of what they are up to now, or once you finish a book is that it?

Yes, they are totally real. They feel more genuine and more three-dimensional, sometimes, than my actual friends and family! Like I mentioned, I spend a great deal of time getting to know my characters, basically just spending time with them. With Furnace, I'd spend hours and hours just chatting away to Alex and Zee and Donovan. I was like a ghost in the cell with them. We had so many conversations - jokes, confessions, dreams - and only a fraction of those actually made it into the books. Those guys were my best friends. Sometimes I'd remember they weren't actually real and I'd be so disappointed. Saying goodbye to characters at the end of a book, or a series, is really upsetting, because they form such a huge part of your life for such a long time. I do occasionally get glimpses of them, yes, but generally they're frozen in the story we experienced together. You feel guilty for leaving them behind.

17. If you could only recommend 10 books to a reader looking to be a well rounded reader what books would you suggest?

I honestly think this is an impossible question to answer. There are so many amazing books out there, I couldn't limit it down to ten. I think the important thing is to read as much as possible, and as widely as possible. You won't enjoy everything you pick up, but every book will teach you something - especially if you're a writer. If you hate a book, ask yourself why. It will improve your writing. The same if you love it. Books are amazing, stories are incredible, just read as many as you can.

18. Completely off topic but what TV shows or movies do you enjoy?

I have to confess that I watch way too much TV and way too many movies! I love movies, especially horror movies. I'm a horror addict! As for TV, I'm a huge fan of American drama. I watch as much of it as I can, and I'll often buy box sets and sit up all night to find out what happens. The Wire, Alias, Buffy, The Sopranos, Breaking Bad, Band of Brothers, Carnivale, Nikita, V… I watch everything!

19. If you were stuck on a desert island and could only have 10 books to read again and again, what books would you want with you?

I have no idea! I just don't think I could narrow it down to ten. The Lord of the Rings would be there, because it's so long and so immersive you can read it again and again. Nineteen Eighty-Four because it's my favourite book. The Collected Works of Shakespeare, maybe, because I do love many of his plays. A couple of Stephen King doorsteps that I can get lost in. The Tintin anthology, for a bit of colour. The Bible, maybe, because it's got so many stories. There are so many classics too, I just can't decide!! I'd probably take one of my books, probably my first novel The Inventors, to remind me of home. That's not quite ten, but I really don't think I can narrow it down. Ask me tomorrow and I'd probably give you a totally different list!

20. What are your plans once the fifth and final book in the Escape From Furnace series publishes. Do you have any projects on the backburner or in the development stage?

I've literally just had copies of the fifth and final Furnace book, they were delivered this morning! It's amazing seeing the whole series, but it's also very strange to know that it's finally finished. I got so attached to the characters, especially Alex, that saying goodbye to them all was really difficult. It's also tough moving on to something new, you kind of feel like a traitor to your old characters by spending time with the new ones. Saying that, I have a few new projects ready to go, including a horror series which will follow Furnace. It doesn't have a title yet, but it is hopefully just as exciting, scary and gory! I've also started a couple of other stand-alone horror novels, but I'm not sure if they're going anywhere yet.

The other thing I'm hoping to do this year is make a horror movie. I wrote a script a couple of years ago with my sister and my brother-in-law, and it's just been taken on by a producer so we're keeping our fingers crossed that it happens. It's called Stagnant, and is about a mutant bride who kills stag parties on the Norfolk Broads!

21. What advice would you give to young aspiring authors and artists?

First, and most importantly, never give up. If you love writing, if you have stories you want to tell, if you're passionate about it, if you work hard enough and fight for it, then you will be successful. It does take work. You don't just decide you want to be a brain surgeon one day and march into the operating theatre. Writing is like anything, it takes practice and it takes patience - even if you have a natural talent for it. But it's worth it. It really is the best job in the world, you get paid to do what you love, to tell your stories. Write because you love to write, and you'll get there.

Second, don't worry about rejection, it doesn't matter. Finding an editor is like going on a date, you're looking for your soulmate, somebody who understands your writing, who loves it as much as you do. You're not necessarily going to click with the first editor you meet, or the second. If they reject your work, mark it down to experience and move on to the next one. You're bound to have to date a few frogs before you find your soulmate! Remember, Harry Potter was rejected by about twelve different publishers before Bloomsbury took it on.
Third, and equally important, read. Read, read, and read some more. It really is the best education any writer can have.Good luck with your writing!

Thanks again for interviewing me on your blog, Steven, it's been great!

I have greatly enjoyed corresponding with Alexander on this project and other queries. His books are amazing, if you have not read them check them out. And we wish him the greatest of successes with his future book and film projects. And I for one look forward to reading more from him in the near future.

Books By Alexander Gordon Smith:
Escape from Furnace:

Death Sentence
Execution Epilogue - Short Story
The Night Children - Short Story

Fury Series:
The Fury

The Storm 

The Inventors:
The Inventors
The Inventors And The City of Stolen Souls

1001 Questions and Answers
Inspired Creative Writing: 52 Brilliant Ideas from the Master Wordsmiths
The Solar System
Family Quiz
Writing Bestselling Children's Books: 52 Brilliant Ideas for Inspiring Young Readers

Mystery Books as Alex Smith:

Softley Softley Series:
2.0 Hard Luck House

DCI Kett Series:
2.0 Bad Dog
3.0 Three Little Pigs

The Art Of Furnace
Author Profile Interview With Alexander Gordon Smith

Sunday 13 February 2011

The Genius Files: Mission Unstoppable - Dan Gutman

The Genius Files: Mission Unstoppable
Dan Gutman
Harper Collins
Browse Inside
ISBN 9780061827655

In this book we follow 12 year old geniuses Coke and Pepsi McDonald as their family journeys across the country for a relative's wedding. Why, you might ask, would we care to follow a family as it RV's across the country? In part because Coke and Pepsi are not ordinary children; they have been selected to be part of the Genius Files, a secret government project to tap into the unconventional brilliance of youth to solve the world's problems. But something is afoot; strange men in bowler hats are trying to kill the children. They have allies trying to help them, Mya and Bones, two adults who are part of the project. The children keep being left cryptic ciphers and are trying to solve the problems.
So the family travels 3000 miles across the continent, visiting such places as the Donner Party Memorial, a museum of PEZ memorabilia, and the world's largest ball of twine (or at least both cities claiming that distinction). The book is a fun and exciting read, but will also provide a lot of history and lore for the readers. It also includes side bars with directions to Google the sites being visited and the road directions from site to site. So it will be fun, informative and educational all at the same time.

It is a well written book, with fun main characters, and interesting supporting cast and a stunning plot twist. It was an enjoyable read, and I eagerly anticipate the next volume in the series. Hopefully they will be available soon.

(Note: I received an electronic galley of this book through NetGalley, courtesy of Harper Collins. The book was read on my Kobo eReader. As per my general disclaimer, free books have no impact on my review.)

Books by Dan Gutman:
The Genius Files: (HarperCollins)
Mission Unstoppable (2011)
Never Say Genius (?)

My Weirder School: (Harper Collins)
Miss Child Has Gone Wild! (2011)
Mr. Harrison is Embarrisin'! (2012)
Mrs. Lilly is Silly! (2013)

My Weird School Daze: (HarperCollins)
Mrs. Dole is Out of Control! (2008)
Mr. Sunny is Funny! (2007)
Mr. Granite is from Another Planet! (2008)
Coach Hyatt is a Riot! (2009)
Officer Spence Makes No Sense! (2009)
Mrs. Jafee is Daffy! (2009)
Dr. Brad Has Gone Mad! (2009)
Miss Laney is Zany! (2010)
Mrs. Lizzy is Dizzy! (2010)
Miss Mary is Scary! (2010)
Mr. Tony is Full of Baloney! (2010)
Ms. Leaky is Freaky! (2011)

My Weird School: (HarperCollins)
Miss Daisy is Crazy! (2004)
Mr. Klutz is Nuts! (2004)
Mrs. Roopy is Loopy! (2004)
Ms. Hannah is Bananas! (2004)
Miss Small is Off the Wall! (2005)
Mr. Hynde is Out of His Mind! (2005)
Mrs. Cooney is Loony! (2005)
Ms. LaGrange is Strange! (2005)
Miss Lazar is Bizarre! (2005)
Mr. Docker is Off His Rocker! (2006)
Mrs. Kormel is Not Normal! (2006)
Ms. Todd is Odd! (2006)
Mrs. Patty is Batty! (2006)
Miss Holly is Too Jolly! (2006)
Mr. Macky is Wacky! (2007)
Ms. Coco is Loco! (2007)
Miss Suki is Kooky! (2007)
Mrs. Yonkers is Bonkers! (2007)
Dr. Carbles is Losing His Marbles! (2007)
Mr. Louie is Screwy! (2007)
Ms. Krup Cracks Me Up! (2008)

Funny Boy: (Hyperion)
Funny Boy Meets the Airsick Alien from Andromeda (1999)
Funny Boy Versus the Bubble Brained Barbers from the Big
Bang (2000)
Funny Boy Meets the Chit-Chatting Cheese from Chattanooga

Tales From The Sandlot: (Scholastic)
The Green Monster in Left Field (1997)
The Catcher Who Shocked the World (1997)
The Pitcher Who Went Out of His Mind (1997)
The Shortstop Who Knew Too Much (1997)

And Me Series: (Harper Collins)
Roberto & Me (2010)
Ray & Me (2009)
Jim & Me (2008)
Satch & Me (2006)
Abner & Me (2005)
Mickey & Me (2003)
Shoeless Joe & Me (2002)
Babe & Me (2000)
Jackie & Me (1999)
Honus & Me (1997)

Million Dollar:
The Million Dollar Shot (1997)
The Million Dollar Kick (2001)
The Million Dollar Goal (2003)
The Million Dollar Strike (2004)
The Million Dollar Putt (2006)

Kid Who Ran for President:
The Kid Who Ran for President (1996)
The Kid Who Became President (1999)

Qwerty Stevens Adventures:
Back in Time With Thomas Edison (2001)
Back in Time With Benjamin Franklin (2002)

Homework Machine:
The Homework Machine (2006)
Return of the Homework Machine (2009)

Other Books:
The Day Roy Riegels Ran the Wrong Way (2011)
The Talent Show (2010)
The Christmas Genie (2009)
Recycle This Book: 100 Top Children's Book Authors Tell You
How To Go Green (2009)
Nightmare at the Book Fair (2008)
Casey Back at Bat (2007)
Getting Air (2007))
Jackie Robinson and the Big Game (2006)
The Get Rich Quick Club (2004)
Babe Ruth and the Ice Cream Mess (2004)
Race For The Sky (2003)
The Secret Life of Dr. Demented (2001)
Johnny Hangtime (2000)
Landslide! A Kid's Guide to the U.S. Elections (2000)
Jackie Robinson (1999)
Joe DiMaggio (1999)
Cal Ripken, Jr.: My Story (1999)
Virtually Perfect (1998)
Katy's Gift (1998)
The Way Baseball Works (1996)
Gymnastics (1996)
Ice Skating (1995)
Taking Flight (1995)
They Came From Centerfield (1995)
Banana Bats & Ding-Dong Balls (1995)
World Series Classics (1994)
Baseball's Greatest Games (1994)
Baseball's Biggest Bloopers (1993)
Baseball Babylon (1992)
SuperMemory (1991)
It Ain't Cheatin' If You Don't Get Caught (1990)
I Didn't Know You Could Do THAT With A Computer (1986)
The Greatest Games (1985)

Author Profile and interview with Dan Gutman.

Wednesday 9 February 2011

Plyocide - Tony Horton One on One Volume 3 Disk 6

Tony Horton One on One
P90X - MC2

Volume 3 Disk 1


The run time for this video is nearly 70 minutes with warm-up and cool down. It is a very hard workout but one I loved from the first time through. I love the original Plyometrics workout. And the final product in P90X MC2 will be awesome. Like all works in progress this is a little rough around the edges but a workout you will be able to use again and again. Out of the 6 available in volume three this one makes the top two with Shoulders and Arms MC2. And it is probably in the top 10 of 23 One on One's that have been released so far. Each exercise is done once, either for a target set of reps or for a set time.

The Exercises are:
Rope Jump Doubles
Box Jump Knee Tucks
Top Tap 360
Killer Katherine Lunges
Wide Leg Toe Squats
Run Jump Chair
Warrior 3 Lunges
Think Drills
Depth Charges
Super Skater Kicks
Rope Jumps Single
Run Up Kicks (Gladiators)
Football Hero
Jump Tap Jump
Frog Burpee Hops
Half Pipe Spins
Weighted Quick Jumps
Lunge Jump Lunge
4 Direction Iso Lunge
Medicine Ball Jump Press
Equipment Needed:
Jump Rope
Medicine Ball
Like I said earlier, one of the best of the One on One's. It will make you sweat, and make you moan but keep you coming back for more.

To find out more about this series or other workouts in the collection, follow the links below. I have created a random workout generator that uses 1 on 1's and P90X if your interested.Volume 1, Disk 1: Plyo Legs
Volume 1, Disk 2: Power 90® Road Warrior
Volume 1, Disk 3: Killer Abs

Volume 1, Disk 4: Just Arms
Volume 1, Disk 5: 30-15: The Upper-Body Massacre
Volume 1, Disk 6: Fountain of Youth
Volume 1, Disk 7: Super Cardio

Volume 1, Disk 8: Mammoth UML
Volume 1, Disk 9: Bun Shaper
Volume 1, Disk 10: Medicine Ball Core Cardio
Volume 1, Disk 11: Recovery 4 Results

Volume 1, Disk 12: Diamond Delts
Volume 1, Bonus Disk - Holiday Workout
Volume 2, Bonus Disk - Pay It Forward
Volume 2, Disk 1: Cardio Intervals
Volume 2, Disk 2: Core Ball Sandwich
Volume 2, Disk 3: Patience "Hummingbird"
Volume 2, Disk 4: 10-Minute Crusher Pack

Volume 2, Disk 5: Butt and Belly (I Dare You)
Volume 2, Disk 6: Back and BellyVolume 2, Disk 7: On One Leg
Volume 2, Disk 8: Iso Abs
Volume 2, Disk 9: Cardio Confusion - Mason's Choice
Volume 2, Disk 10: 100/30/20
Volume 2, Disk 11: On One Leg 4 legs
Volume 2, Disk 12: Upper Body Balance
Volume 3, Disk 1: Chest, Back & Balls
Volume 3, Disk 2: ARX2 (Ab-Ripper X 2)
Volume 3, Disk 3: Shoulders and Arms MC2
Volume 3, Disk 4: Base and Back
Volume 3, Disk 5: MC2
Volume 3, Disk 6: Plyocide
Volume 3, Disk 7: Stretch And Recovery
Volume 3, Disk 8: V Sculpt
Volume 3, Disk 9: Core Synergistics MC2
Volume 3, Disk 10: UBX
Volume 3, Disk 11: PAP
Volume 3, Disk 12: Total Body X

I am asked frequently if I am a Beachbody Coach, no I am not, I am just some one who has used their products, P90X, 1on1 with Tony Horton and more and liked them and achieved good results. I am not paid by Beachbody or any of their affiliates. You can see my full disclaimer here.)

Tuesday 8 February 2011

Invasion - Jon S. Lewis - CHAOS Book 1

CHAOS Book 1
Jon S. Lewis
Thomas Nelson
ISBN 9781595547538

This book took me completely by surprise. From the promo blurb about the book it looked interesting, but once I was reading it, I came to the conclusion that it is fantastic. In some ways it reads like classic science fiction by authors like Robert A. Heinlien, Isaac Asimov and others, yet with a slight religious twist much like C.S. Lewis's Space trilogy. The story is extremely well written. The characters are fresh and exciting. The plot has some amazing twists.

Colt's life has changed more than he ever thought it could but this is only the beginning. His parents are killed in a car accident. He moves from San Francisco to Arizona to live with his grandfather. But soon he finds out that the comics he read as a child about an organization called CHAOS - Central Headquarters Against the Occult and Supernatural, were real and his Grandfather was the original Phantom Flyer during World War II. He soon discovers that his father was an agent and so are his older brothers. Soon he is informed that his parents' death was not an accident. His mother, an investigative reporter, was working on an expose of Trident Industries. With his long time friend Danielle and his new friend from school Oz, they start to try to put the pieces together about what his mother uncovered.
The story is filled with gadgets and gizmos aplenty, enough to make James Bond look under equipped. With jetpacks, flying motorcycles and killer robots the adventure is fast-paced and a thrill ride from start to finish. Combine that with aliens from parallel universes and a visit to another world, this story has everything in classic science fiction and adventure novels all rolled up in one. This book was a great read and I cannot wait for the next book in the series to come out.

(Note: I received an electronic galley of this book through NetGalley, courtesy of Thomas Nelson. The book was read on my Kobo eReader. As per my general disclaimer, free books have no impact on my review.)

Books by Jon S. Lewis:
Grey Griffins :

The Revenge of the Shadow King (2006)
The Rise of the Black Wolf (2007)
The Fall of the Templar (2008)

Grey Griffins Clockwork Chronicles:
The Brimstone Key (2010)
The Relic Hunters (2011)
The Paragon Prison (2012)

C.H.A.O.S. Series:
Invasion (2011)
Alienation (2012)
Domination (2013)

Free Realms:
Free Realms (12 part comic book series.)
Free Realms Book 1 (Issues 1-6) Graphic Novel (2010)
Free Realms Book 2 (Issues 7-12) Graphic Novel (2010)

The Mysterious Journals of J.S. Lewis (????)

Author Profile Interview with Jon S. Lewis.