Showing posts with label interview. Show all posts
Showing posts with label interview. Show all posts

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

"The Checkered War" by Aunt Haggis

INTERVIEW and EXCERPT
The Checkered War:
An Infested Story in Three Parts
by Aunt Haggis

The Checkered War: An Infested Story in Three Parts by Aunt Haggis

Aunt Haggis stops by today for an interview and to share an excerpt from her first children’s book, The Checkered War: An Infested Story in Three Parts.

Description
A feud is raging between three colonies. Although the Harvesters, Carpenters, and Blood Red Slave Hunters have been fighting since last year, this summer will secure a lasting victory for only one of them. This is the story of war and feast and … no, not famine … more feast!
And of Willy, our unlikely hero who has been adopted by the Harvesters. He is from the Black-Haired Garden colony and is nothing like them. Small and young, he knows nothing of war. How can he possibly help prepare for the big battle?
Willy learns that some species are parasites who never work, wandering around feeding off other colonies. Others are thieves and robbers, or killers and cannibals. And it’s always about war.
Does Willy merely try to survive, or does he figure out how to be a useful member of the colony? Can an insignificant like Willy help to win an unstoppable war?
At the end of each chapter, real science information called “Ant Facts” provide fascinating knowledge about the real lives of different species of ants.
And they explain why Willy is going to do what Willy is going to do!


Excerpt
Chapter One
Wednesday July 1
0900 Hours
Camp Wheat
Harvester Colony
The war raged between the three colonies. Although they had been fighting since the last year, this summer would secure a lasting victory for only one of them.
The Harvesters lived near the paved road beside a large and spacious wheat field. Their rival, the Carpenters, lived west of where the road splits into a bumpy and dusty path leading into the abandoned forest. The Blood Red Slave Hunters lived wherever they pleased. Everyone was afraid of them.
At Camp Wheat Queen Opal sat against the wall of her dark, dry chambers, glancing around the room. She watched her many advisors, most of whom had served her for years. She scratched her legs and listened as the Harvester soldiers discussed their strategy:
"We should attack from the rear," Ada recommended strongly. "It worked last year, it will work again." Ada was an average-sized soldier, average color, average strength and weight. Her outstanding quality was that she was more industrious than most. She prided herself on being dependable. Ada stood more erect to increase her height. “The rear attack always works,” she repeated for emphasis.
"I disagree," Minolt retorted. Minolt flexed her forelegs. She marched up closer to the front of the group. "That's exactly what they're expecting us to do: attack from the rear. We need an element of surprise." Minolt’s jaw tightened, and her eyes darted back and forth, seeking supporters.
"She's right," an advisor chimed. "Minolt is always right." Minolt gloated and threw a victorious smirk toward Ada.
Ada's face felt hot and flushed. She could feel sixty bulging eyes staring at her. "Minolt says that every year," Ada countered, "but nobody ever thinks of what the surprise should be, so we always end up attacking from the rear.”
The group began to grumble. Ada looked around the room for defenders of her plan. “And it always works," she added quickly.
"Not this year," said Minolt acidly. She moved in closer to Ada, breathing hotly on her face. "If you had a few brains, you would realize that this situation is different. We're not just dealing with the invasion and seizure of goods, but with an opposing army, a BIG army.” Minolt thrust her front legs high into the air. “We have to get there first,” she continued resolutely. “We have to encircle the battleground. We have to move swiftly. We have to approach unnoticed.” Her eyes pierced Ada’s entire being. “Get it?” Minolt backed away, shaking her head in disgust.
Some of the advisors were beaming at Minolt’s forceful, sarcastic speech.
Ada knew everyone was staring at her. She could feel her throat tighten and the hair on her legs quiver. She thought she might faint from embarrassment until the Queen stepped down from her seat.
Queen Opal methodically paced around the chamber, each council member scurrying to get out of her way.
"I have an idea for the element of surprise,” Queen Opal began slowly. “Remember the story of the Trojan Horse? You know, where the soldiers made a big horse and then crawled inside of it? When it was delivered to the enemy, it was wheeled inside the gates and SURPRISE!” She looked around the room at the colony’s brightest and bravest soldiers. “We can do it! “she told them with conviction. “We will build our own Trojan horse!”
Whispers, murmuring, an increasing rustle began to crackle through the crowd. "We don't have any wood," blurted out a soldier.
"It would be too heavy," called someone else.
"We're not Carpenters. We're Harvesters," another cried.
"I know, I know," answered the Queen, louder and more impatiently than she expected. "Not a real Trojan horse,” she explained, “but an 'edible' Trojan horse.” She wrapped her front legs around her head and tried to calm herself. She paced back and forth, then suddenly commanded, “Now everybody leave. I need to draw up the plans. Prepare your divisions for labor." The Queen pointed to the door. "Go! Go! Go!"
The advisory board left the Queen's chambers, mumbling among themselves that she’d lived too long, given birth to too many children, and now was slipping into insanity.
Queen Opal was also mumbling, but to herself, "Oh boy, oh boy, an edible Trojan horse! How ever will I do it?"
***
Willy sat huddled in a dark corner of the Queen’s chambers. Unlike the rest of the colony, he was the only one who was from the Black-Haired Garden colony. He had been adopted last spring after he’d been swept off the bank of the Spanky River during a rainstorm. Miles downstream he had been washed up onto a log. After drying out, he had crawled into the cattle barn of the Harvester colony and had become one of them.
Willy had immediately gone to work milking the herd. Unlike the other males in the colony who were lazy and useless, Willy was a solid worker who did his share. Although his co-workers called him overly enthusiastic, Willy considered it a compliment. No one seemed to notice he was Black.
Willy wanted so badly to help his new colony. Like an enemy spy, Willy had squeezed into a dim nook of the Queen’s chambers, straining to hear the words of the advisory board. As an outsider to the council as well as the colony, the advisory board would never have invited Willy to the meeting. Only he wasn’t a spy; he was just a lowly worker who wanted to make a difference.
Now as he contemplated the upcoming battle, his dream of being a war hero kicked into gear. He wanted to help his colony win the war. He knew he would have to use brains, not strength, to assist his Queen. Try as he might, Willy didn't know how to make an edible Trojan horse. He wanted to come up with a solution for the Queen. He thought, and thought, and thought until his mind became tired. His tiny legs were weak from being scrunched up for so long in the dingy corner. Then he fell asleep.

Ant Facts 1
Ants are a wonderful People. They belong to the order of insects called Hymenoptera. There are billions of them upon the earth, and there are over 12,000 known species. If you carefully study them, you will see that they have some of the virtues and many of the vices of human beings. They have surprising talents and can perform many different tasks. Because they live in organized communities with a highly specialized division of labor, they are known as social insects.
Ants live, work, and sleep just like other peoples. But they are not as industrious as you might think. Some species never work, wandering around like parasites feeding off other colonies. Some are thieves and robbers, while others are killers and cannibals. Just like the human race, ants can be their own worst enemy.
Ants live in a caste system where there are three distinct groups: the queen, the workers, and the males. Like human queens, the queen ant is in charge; she has servants that take care of her. The workers are not so lucky; they work their entire lives. All of the workers are sterile females. Males don’t work at all, and only live in the nest at mating time. After mating, the males soon die. In most species, the males have the best vision, the females have eyes that don’t work very well, and the workers have the poorest eyes. In some species, the workers are even blind because there is no optic nerve. Still, some have no physical eyes at all. The brain, however, is another matter. Generally, it is barely developed in the males, improved in the females, and the most well-developed in the workers.


[Want more? Click below to read a longer excerpt.]


Praise for the Book
“This book was fun to read because I could hardly wait to see what would happen next!” ~ Tanisha – Age 11
“I normally don’t read books, but this one was very interesting. I learned a lot about ants.  I like it better than any other book I’ve read.” ~ Chandler – Age 14
“Most of the boys like horror stories and things like that, but lots of the girls like girlie types of books, so your book is good for boys and girls.” ~ Alyson – Age 10
The Checkered War was very educational. I learned a lot. I really liked the action parts and the jokes.” ~ Paige – Age 12
“I liked this book because it has a lot of action and tragedy.” ~ Adam – Age 11
“I liked how the fact cards were at the end of each chapter.” ~ Kaylee – Age 11
“I suppose this book is the best book I’ve ever read!” ~ Joe – Age 10
“It was funny. I liked this book! I really liked how you used all the real names and species of how it is the ant kingdom. I didn’t put the book down after I started.” ~ Kimberly – Age 14
“I really got into The Checkered War.  I learned a lot about the army, war, and especially ants. I don’t think I will ever step on an ant again.” ~ Rory – Age 13


Interview With the Author
Aunt Haggis joins me today to discuss her new children’s book, The Checkered War.
For what age group do you recommend your book?
Geared for ages 7-14, The Checkered War is innovative children’s literature that takes an unusual twist on genre by mixing action and adventure with both fact and fiction. While immersed in a thrilling and exciting story, young readers learn fascinating facts about science.
What sparked the idea for this book?
I became fascinated with ants when I bought an ant farm for one of my kids for Christmas. The idea that my child could view and study these tiny, industrious creatures was intriguing. And I would be teaching him something new and fun.
So I thought.
But the box remained unopened. For two years.
One day while cleaning out his closet, I noticed the ant farm smothered in a pile of clothes on the floor. Apparently, he still wasn’t fascinated, intrigued or mildly interested.
But I was.
So, I took the box to my downstairs home office and set up the ant farm. Then with the coupon I found inside, I sent away for my live harvester ants and impatiently waited.
Finally, the ants arrived, and I was elated! I carefully poured the contents of the plastic vial into the ant farm, not letting a single ant escape, and voila! Instant ant farm! After a brief awakening to their new home, the ants set to work.
I watched fascinated as nature’s tiniest engineers dug tunnels, built roads, and erected bridges. They built room after room, segregating their living space, and never quit working! As I excitedly observed them day by day, I began to notice things they do that are just like humans, only better. They work together quietly, quickly, and efficiently. Without training, classrooms, or the Internet, the ants figured out how to cooperate with each other, working as a unit to build a colony, find food, and take care of their young.
Simply stated: ants are pure inspiration.
And then I thought: “What if there was a book that readers assumed was about humans, but it was really about ants?”
What was the hardest part to write in this book?
The Ant Facts. I wanted them to be correct and precise, so I did an enormous amount of research, reading several books, including a 732-page encyclopedia-like scientific volume entitled The Ants.
Wow! How do you hope this book affects its readers?
My desire is that all ages of readers will become fascinated with ants, as well as other small creatures that we know so little about, and perhaps not pre-judge their sophistication and importance in our world. To quote a young reader who read The Checkered War, “I really got into The Checkered War. I learned a lot about the army, war, and especially ants. I don’t think I will ever step on an ant again.” ~ Rory – Age 13.
How long did it take you to write this book?
The Checkered War took me one year to write. Half of that time was spent on the illustrations. I knew what I wanted them to look like, but I knew nothing about the art of air brushing. So, I bought a couple of books and started practicing until I got the nine illustrations right.
Impressive! What is your writing routine?
I write every day for four to six hours. I spend the rest of the day plotting and planning, making outlines and, most of all, researching needed information to make sure it is correct.
How did you get your book published?
I self-published it on Amazon's Kindle.
What advice do you have for someone who would like to become a published writer?
To quote Winston Churchill, “Never, never, never give up.”
Great advice! What do you like to do when you're not writing?
Photography, reading books, researching interesting topics, cooking, riding my bike, rafting wild rivers and, most of all, hanging out with my family.
What does your family think of your writing?
Some of them, as expected, are my biggest fans :-)
Please tell us a bit about your childhood.
I literally grew up on the river studying nature, rafting wild whitewater rapids, basking in the sun, and sleeping under a canopy of brilliant constellations. When I wasn’t looking up to examine the stars at night, I was looking down by day to investigate the most intriguing of creatures … ants. You will find my discoveries in The Checkered War.
Did you like to read when you were a child?
I have always loved books and great stories. I read at least one book every week as a child ... I still do.
When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
I wrote my first short story while I was in elementary school. When I went to college, I thought I had to do something more noble, like go to medical school or law school. Every time I changed my major, I changed it back to English and creative writing. Seven times!
Did your childhood experiences influence your writing?
My childhood experiences have influenced everything I do, from the way I connect with my family and friends, to the way I write stories, relate to my readers, and conduct business.
Which writers have influenced you the most?
When I was younger, it was Judy Blume I loved. She told a great story and made me laugh at the same time. Now I like thrillers and suspense and mysteries ... any of the great writers hitting the big book lists.
Do you hear from your readers much? What kinds of things do they say?
Over one hundred children between the ages of ten and fourteen in Indiana, Illinois, and Utah have read The Checkered War, including two middle school literature classes. Their responses were overwhelmingly positive; they loved the story and the scientific facts. The students commented on format, vocabulary level, and general interests and their suggestions were incorporated in the final draft. Teachers I have interviewed are enthusiastic about a new way to teach both literature and science. They have stated that they would like to include the book in their teaching curriculum. I also plotted the reading level on the Edward Fry Readability Graph, confirming its suitability for grades 5, 6, 7, and 8. Parents and younger children were also enthusiastic about the book.
What can we look forward to from you in the future?
Whatever my readers beg and plea for, I will deliver!
Anything else you would like to add?
I hope The Checkered War is the first in many of its kind to come, as I am a true believer in combining fiction with fact ... and who's to say where to draw that line?
Thank you for taking the time to stop by today, Aunt Haggis. Best of luck with your future projects.


About the Author
Aunt Haggis
Aunt Haggis is a published author, photographer, and outdoor enthusiast. She literally grew up on the river studying nature, rafting wild whitewater rapids, basking in the sun, and sleeping under a canopy of brilliant constellations. When she wasn’t looking up to examine the stars at night, she was looking down by day to investigate the most intriguing of creatures ... ants. You will find her discoveries in The Checkered War.
Aunt Haggis has previously written seven full-length screenplays, one adult fiction novel, one illustrated novelette (which was a recipient of the Benjamin Franklin Award), a biography (of a famous river runner), and numerous magazine articles under a boring name she is required to use for business. The Checkered War is the debut of her first book for children.


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Monday, May 7, 2018

"Catalina and the King's Wall" by Patty Costello


REVIEW and GIVEAWAY
Catalina and the King's Wall
by Patty Costello

Catalina and the King's Wall by Patty Costello

Catalina and the King's Wall by Patty Costello is currently on tour with BeachBoundBooks. The tour stops here today for an interview with the author, an excerpt, my review, and a giveaway. Please be sure to visit the other tour stops as well.


Description
One day Catalina overhears the king planning to build a wall and fears her family will never be able to visit. Catalina tricks the king into building walls that droop, drip, swirl, and swoosh away. But now the king demands a wall that will outlast even a Twinkie. Luckily, Catalina has the perfect ingredients to bake up a family reunion!

Book Video


Excerpt



Praise for the Book
“When a foolish king decides to build a wall to keep people from a neighboring kingdom away, his royal baker dreams up a delicious solution. Catalina is a lighthearted parody full of colorful confections. Innovative artwork in a riot of watercolor shades depicts the crafty baker as she whips up gobs of dough, gallons of icing, and miles of rainbow sprinkles, outsmarting the king just in time for a visit from her family one kingdom over.” ~ Foreword Reviews
“Catalina is a talented baker in the story, so in the spirit of this theme, the book s illustrations are the icing on the cake. The pictures on each page are as colorful as the characters personalities are, with very little white space existing in the pen and watercolor illustrations. The thoughtfulness of details in the setting on each page (e.g., the ornate frame of the king's mirror) is incredibly eye-catching. Best of all, Catalina s baked goods made from her love and hard work are beautifully depicted on each and every page. I highly recommend this book for all progressive parents.” ~ Tonia Bock, PhD in Developmental and Educational Psychology Professor of Psychology, University of St. Thomas, St. Paul, Minnesota
“Delicious, edible looking illustrations with sly images of little Russian nesting dolls decorate the pages of this modern fable of Catalina and the King's Wall, a homily warning against greed and separatism that speaks to today's children and adults as well.” ~ The Midwest Book Review
“Great conversation starter for families about why someone would want to keep two communities apart and how brave Catalina was for standing up for what she believed in.” ~ Carrie
“A lovely book that is whimsical, poignant and relevant. It's wonderfully written and beautifully illustrated. Children will love it and it provides an opportunity to open a dialogue to how it relates to whats happening in the real world.” ~ Mark Hubert

My Review
I received this book in return for an honest review.


By Lynda Dickson
The king wants to build a wall between his kingdom and the neighboring kingdom where Catalina’s family lives. Fearing she will never see them again, Catalina comes up with a plan to thwart the king’s plan.
The text flows beautifully and is full of humorous puns, alliteration, and onomatopoeia, while the accompanying watercolor illustrations by Diane Cojocaru are simply gorgeous. On the surface, this is a simple picture book, but it contains commentary on the current political climate. With these varying elements, this story is sure to appeal to children and adults alike.

Interview With the Author
Author Patty Costello joins us today to talk about her new children’s book, Catalina and the King's Wall.
Please tell us about yourself, Patty.
I live in Boise, Idaho, with my husband, a toddler, a dog named Pippa, and a dog named Spencer. I have a BA in Psychology from the University of St. Thomas and a Ph.D. in Neuroscience from the University of Minnesota. I was born and raised in the Twin Cities, Minnesota, and still consider myself to be a Minnesotan (you betcha!) I currently work in higher education and have had my research on attention and implicit processing published in journals such as Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Consciousness and Cognition, and Psychological Science. My background in neuroscience and psychology helped me to write my first picture book. It is designed to be a teaching tool for progressive parents to discuss current events with their young children.
I am an active member of Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) and my local Idaho-Utah chapter of SCBWI. I am currently in my first 12 x 12, a supportive community for picture book writers, encouraging us to write a new picture book a month. I recently was offered representation by a New York Agency and my book is currently out “on submission.”
What inspired this book?
I was inspired to write this book after I took my son to my local women’s march in January 2017 following the combative U.S. presidential election. I stood with him on that cold and snowy day and wondered: What kind of world was he born into? How will he learn to always be kind? I was deeply concerned, yet hopeful because of the turnout at the march. I wrote my book to help parents discuss these questions with their kids in a fun story format that children can relate to. I would love for all kids to hear the story of a persistent cookie baker named Catalina and how she never gave up on seeing her family again.
I am excited that the book has successfully garnered a lot of attention and pre-orders before the launch date of May 5th. I ran a successful Kickstarter campaign to raise PR funds and also funds for local refugee organizations.
Tell us about your main character.
I really loved how Catalina turned out. Catalina is a talented young baker, away from home, happily baking for the king. However, she learns that the king wants to build a wall to keep anyone who is “different” out. She realizes that her family, due to visit her soon, won’t be able to visit after all if a wall is built. She is too busy baking to take time off to go visit them. Catalina is determined to come up with a plan to stop the king from building his wall. She is persistent, never giving up on her dream of seeing her family. She speaks in baking puns and is always very positive. When she is trying to come up with her next idea, she says to herself “Oh, for goodness bakes!” and when the king demands more and more of her cookies, even when yelling that he does not like them, she thinks to herself “he really frosts my cookies!”
What do you think readers will find most appealing about your book?
I think parents will appreciate the underlying message and will find the subtle political spoofs – both in the text and the illustrations - amusing. I think kids will like it because it talks about cookies, cake, and frosting! They will like Catalina’s silly way of talking in baking puns and how persistent she is in standing up for what she believes in. She is the true underdog to root for, and kids will be rooting for her the entire story.
Tell us about your illustrations.
I really lucked out with my illustrator Diana Cojucaru! I found her through an online forum of international artists. I immediately fell in love with her whimsical watercolor. Diana had done children’s books before, but my project was her first project for a book that would not be self-published. Even though she lives in Romania, half a world away, we developed a wonderful rapport and communicated often. We discovered that we both had toddler boys – our first-born children; we dedicated the book to our sons and she told me that I was the first author that had asked her whom she wanted the book dedicated to.
I was the art director – I had to give her a general idea of what I was looking for on each page and she created the rest. Her vision is what you see - amazingly rich and detailed paintings created with care, flair, and pure imagination. I did not give her any of the political backdrop information as I thought that might detract from her creative endeavors. I also figured that Romanians probably just aren’t that interested in US politics anyway! We continue to stay in touch and I would love the opportunity to work with her again. I can’t tell you how many people ooh and ahh when they open my book and see these remarkable paintings. I smile and say the only thing I can take credit for is finding and hiring her! Small presses, with their smaller staff and resources, tend to rely on the authors to find their own illustrators (unless you are an author-illustrator and don’t have to worry about that at all!).
Thanks for stopping by today, Patty. I hope you enjoy the rest of your tour!

About the Author
Patty Costello
Patty Costello lives in Boise, Idaho with her husband, a crazy awesome toddler, a dog named Pippa, and a dog named Spencer. She has a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology from the University of St Thomas and a Ph.D. in Neuroscience from the University of Minnesota. She currently works in higher education. Catalina and the King’s Wall is her first book. At all hours of the day (and night) she can be found standing at her desk, helping her university run smoothly and working on her next story.




Giveaway
Enter the tour-wide giveaway for a chance to win a $25 Amazon gift card or PayPal cash.

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