Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Meet MG Author Deema T. Kheiry

Carpinello's Writing Pages tries to include a variety of authors in our interviews. While we focus on children's/MG/YA authors, we do try to find authors from around the world to introduce to our readers. Today we visit with Deema T. Kheiry, a middle grade author from a part of the world unfamiliar to many of us. Please join me in welcoming Deema to Carpinello's Writing Pages.
First, here's a bit about Deema:
Hello there, I’m Deema! Ever since I was a little girl, I have loved immersing myself in a great book. A wonderful story can take you anywhere in the world, or even out of this world! Now, as a mother of two young girls, I have come to realize that it is more important than ever to create stories that develop a sense of self and encourage kids to love reading and learning new things, all while putting a smile on their faces and a glint in their eyes. When I am not hanging out with my family and friends, there is nothing I like more than to bring these magical stories to life, one word at a time! I have lived in and visited a lot of countries around the world throughout my life, but for the past thirteen years Dubai, UAE has been my home. It is where I spend time with my family, and where I dream up new magical stories to share with all of you…

Why did you pick to write books for MG readers?

Middle-Grade books encompass innocence, magic, and bright-eyed wonder. But, at the same time, they are the start of learning about more serious topics that exist in the world. For those who want a little bit of both, Middle-Grade is the best place to be.

What types of books do you like to read, and what do you do when you are not writing?

I love a good mystery myself. And I love to read books that take me into another world. Seeing how far the imagination can wander has always been fascinating to me. When I'm not writing, I enjoy spending time with my husband and two young girls. I also enjoy getting together with friends, seeing nature in all its beauty, and reading great books.

Tell us about The Book of Astoriya-The Land of the Blooming Forest and how the story came to be.
The Book of Astoriya-The Land of the Blooming Forest is book one of a four-book series. It actually started out as an attempt to write a short story for my daughter, then it just grew, and grew, and grew. And now here we are, a couple years later, with The Book of Astoriya Series!
What was important for me when writing the story was to have the main character, Sofie, as relatable to kids her age as possible. While there is plenty of magic and fantasy involved, Sofie, herself, uses her love of science and the things she has learned to get her through some sticky situations. Although it is subtle, I am hoping that this message will help kids to realize that the love of learning is magical in its own right.

Here's a peek at The Book of Astoriya-The Land of the Blooming Forest:

The Lands of Astoriya have been unveiled,
A magical journey shall be revealed…

Eleven-year-old Sofie is lost! What started out as an ordinary visit to the Community Library, ended with her thrust into a world that she never thought possible.
Armed only with the strange, dust-ridden book that sent her there, Sofie grapples to find her way back home.
But not all is as it seems in the Land of the Blooming Forest. Jasmine, Queen of the Fairies, needs help to save the land from a vicious, relentless enemy that seeks to plunge them all into a world of darkness. And Sofie is their only hope.
Follow Sofie as she fights to save The Land of the Blooming Forest, makes a few magical friends along the way, and discovers the long-hidden secret of Astoriya, and a secret of her own that she never knew she had…
How do you go about researching for your stories?
Most of the ideas I get for the stories I write are from glimpses of the experiences around me. I usually start out with an idea in my head, and as I start to write, it develops organically, as though the story wants to write itself.
Plenty of what I write is fictional, but when it comes to any facts that are written into the story, it is very important to me that they are accurate and factual. So, I do a lot of research from multiple sources to confirm those facts and then try to tie it all up in an easy-and-fun-to-read little bow.
Have you written other books? If so, tell us a bit about them.

The Book of Astoriya-The Land of the Blooming Forest is my first published novel. It has been quite the roller-coaster ride, and there is still plenty more to come!

What’s next for your writing? Are you working on a new story?

Right now, I’m finalizing book two of The Book of Astoriya Series, The Book of Astoriya-The Land of the Everlasting Sun. Once I’ve completed all four books, I’ll start work on another series I have in mind which will be a mixture of science fiction, mystery, and adventure. It will be set in the not-so-familiar historical places around the world to help bring attention to our deeply vast history.
What advice do you have for other authors?

Patience. Definitely, patience. It takes a lot of time and effort to write (and then rewrite) a good book. As tempted as an author is to put a book out there as quickly as possible, it is best to take the time to perfect it. It will all be worth it in the end.

Anything else you want readers to know?

If you are already reading Cheryl’s blog, then you already know just how incredible reading great books can be. So, all I have left to say is to keep doing what you’re doing, and enjoy the journey!

Where can readers find you and your books?

You can find more about me and my books on my website and social media pages, as well as subscribe for updates:


The Book of Astoriya-The Land of the Blooming Forest is currently available as an E-book, a full color illustrated paperback and a grayscale paperback. You can find them on Amazon, as well as other marketplaces.

For a full list of marketplaces, you can visit this link here:
Find My Books | Deema Kheiry- Author

Thursday, April 8, 2021

Meet MG Author Kathleen Jae

Carpinello's Writing Pages is excited to host Kathleen Jae on her Pump Up Your Book Tour for her very first novel, but not her first book. Please welcome her and be sure to leave encouraging comments. Don't forget to read all the way to the end for something special.

First, a bit about Kathleen:
Elanora and the Salt Marsh Mystery is Kathleen Jae’s first novel. She has been writing in one form or another for over twenty years. Her greatest success story is her daughter, and their autism journey is chronicled in Kathleen’s first book, From Prompting to Shaping to Letting Go: My Love Affair With ABA and How Being a “Bad Mom” Helped My Daughter With Autism Succeed. Two of Kathleen’s short stories made it to the finals of the 2017 Florida Writers Association Royal Palm Literary Award competition.
Why did you pick to write books for middle-grade readers?
I never set out to write for middle-grade readers. In fact, I did not realize there was such a label when I began Elanora and the Salt Marsh Mystery. I knew my protagonist would be a chipmunk, and in the beginning, I had no idea the book would surpass 150 pages. It kind of evolved, so that when it was finished I knew the readers would probably be about ten years old to fourteen or fifteen. But in reality, middle-grade readers range in age from about eight to twelve.
What types of books do you like to read, and what do you do when you’re not writing? 
I can find so little time for reading strictly for fun! When I am reading, it’s something historical to research for the sequel to an upcoming book, Island Times Three (a historical detective mystery that takes place on Manhattan and Sanibel Islands) or browsing the internet to search for material to use in the sequel to Elanora and the Salt Marsh Mystery. The book I am reading for Island Times Three is The NYPD’s First Years by Bernard and Jon Whalen. When I’m not writing, I am outside as much as possible, gardening or hanging with our dogs.
Tell us about Elanora and the Salt Marsh Mystery and how the story came to be. 

My family and I have visited Sanibel Island in Florida a lot over the past 20 years. About five years ago we decided to take a kayaking tour in Tarpon Bay. At one point, our guide began to talk about the red-mangroves and how they are destroyed to make room for development. While I sat listening, I pictured a chipmunk standing on a red mangrove branch, and I came up with a premise: a young chipmunk protects the red mangroves from destruction.
Here's a peek at Elanora and the Salt Marsh Mystery:

Dangers lurk both high and low,
Marauders, curs, moggies too.
When darkness comes, we must not go,
And wait for light’s renew!
Elanora’s mother uttered the verse daily, just as her mother’s mother had told it to her, so who was Elanora to question it? It gave her shivers when she heard the serious way her mother told it, as if every menacing creature mentioned in the verse were waiting just outside their burrow, ready to pounce on them for daring to leave the safety of their home. The first time her mother recited it, Elanora was busy studying the stripes on the back of her sister Vala. All of them had these same stripes, even her mother, but Elanora thought them quite unnecessary.
“One…two…three…” she counted, poking hard at each line, until her sister screamed for her to stop. Elanora was quietly scolded, as it was normally a time for rest. She promised herself to ask her mother about the stripes at feasting time, for she had an almost vital need to know things.
“Please tell me now—why do we have these silly stripes on our backs?” Elanora asked her mother this question after they arrived at the edge of a clearing where the cobbings grew on the popple trees. She pulled a piece of cobbing from the tree and shoved it in her mouth. Her sisters and brothers foraged around her, and she had never heard them complain about the ugly and slimy things. But Elanora thought they tasted like dirt, and their shape reminded her of the lily pads she had seen in the pond that was not far from their home. Elanora accepted the tops, but she had long ago rejected the stems for she thought they made her tummy hurt. At least that is what she told to all who would listen.
Her mother smiled at Elanora’s question. “Hava has used her wisdom once again with the creation of our stripes. You noticed they are different colors, yes?”
Elanora nodded.
“That is so we are one with everything else she has created.”
“Look at your brother there,” she directed, pointing to Calum. “You must use your eyes skillfully to see him among the leaves and the twigs and the ground.”
Elanora tried to observe the scene in an open-minded way and decided that her mother was right: when Calum was still he seemed to disappear.
Elanora nodded. “I agree, Mother. But if Hava has done this good thing, why did she also create the defyers—those awful creatures who watch for us and take us away with their sharp claws?”
Her mother stopped eating and frowned at Elanora. “You are asking too many questions! We will leave that for another outing!”
She had been told such things before, like when she would ask why the water fell from the sky or why the brightness left and the darkness arrived at the same time. She knew her queries annoyed her family, but she could not help herself. That was why she loved to talk to Damhan. He answered her questions thoughtfully and always welcomed more.
That eventide, Elanora asked if she might explore the nearby pond the next brightness, and her mother agreed. Just as the light pushed through the tops of the trees, Elanora’s mother received a report of a cur wandering near the rock wall. After securing a promise from her daughter that she would not be away long, Sorcha gave Elanora permission to leave the nest.
She peeked from the opening of their burrow. Elanora loved the cozy home she shared with her family, and her mother once told them that she had lived in the same burrow when she was a youngster. The tiny entrance was at the bottom of a tall honey tree, and once inside, Elanora had to turn to the right, climb up two steps, and turn left. A feathered creature had bored a hole through the bark at this point, and Elanora loved to watch the brightness of the moon push through the opening and into their burrow, and it was the last thing she saw before falling asleep.
The other part of the burrow, one that Elanora did not like, was under the ground. Its entrance was just beyond the steps, and the tunnel that led downward was narrow. They sometimes slept in a nest in one of the larger pockets, usually after hearing the cries of a moggie.
Dangers lurk both high and low,
Marauders, curs, moggies too.
When darkness comes, we must not go,
And wait for light’s renew! 
How do you go about researching for your stories? 

During my initial online research for Elanora and the Salt Marsh Mystery, I discovered chipmunks are not naturally found in Southwest Florida, and at the same time I found out that the other main characters, namely the round-tailed muskrats, are not normally found in red mangrove forests. I had to pick up my characters and move them someplace else, and since salt marshes are sandwiched between freshwater marshes and red-mangrove forests, it was a logical place for the book’s setting. In the course of additional research, I found a site that explained how to drain a salt marsh and how it affects the water and, therefore, the animals who live there. I bought a few books online that explained the salt marsh ecosystem, and they were helpful.

Have you written other books? If so, tell us a bit about them. 

The first book I published is called From Prompting to Shaping to Letting Go: My Love Affair With ABA and How Being a “Bad Mom” Helped My Daughter With Autism Succeed. It’s about the journey my daughter and I took after we received her autism diagnosis at the age of three, her ensuing behavioral program I set up and her many achievements over the years.
What’s next for your writing? Are you working on a new story?

I’ve started the sequel to Elanora and the Salt Marsh Mystery, and Island Times Three should be released in August.
What advice do you have for other authors? 

If an idea comes to you, and you think it will make a good book, just start it. Do some research—enough to get some pages down. I find that when I start writing, the ideas about where my characters go and what they say just flows. Write until the ideas slow. Then walk away for a little while. Think about what you have written. I have worked this way many times, and I might be cleaning or gardening and thinking about the story, and an idea will just pop into my head.
Anything else you want readers to know? 

I want to thank illustrator Lori Taylor, Editor Lisa Gilliam and Graphic Designer Peter Chiappetta for their hard work and skills in bringing Elanora to life.
Where can readers find you and your books? 

To purchase a print version of Elanora and the Salt Marsh Mystery, click here, and From Prompting to Shaping to Letting Gohere.
Readers can email me at and




Kathleen Jae is giving away a $50 Amazon Gift Card
One Printed Canvas Bag
(Canvas Bag Includes one plushie muskrat (Beathas, Lachi and the rest of the colony); one plushie chipmunk (Elanora); one plushie gray squirrel (Nara); one roseate spoonbill photo transfer hanging by Etsy shop owner FeelinGroovyPhotos (Moira and Muirreal); one framed manatee art print by Etsy shop owner SammWehmanArt (sea cow); one cormorant printed tea towel by Etsy shop owner HearthandHarrow (Pelles); one yellow-crowned night heron signed printed note card by Etsy shop owner BlueHenCraft (Morven); one set of 5 vintage bobcat postage stamps by Etsy shop owner AxmxZ (bullycat); one red-tailed hawk applique iron-on patch by Etsy shop owner PatchParlor (defyer); one reusable shopping bag adorned with assorted forest animals including red fox (oppect), white tailed deer (Damhan), rabbit (quidge) and owl (maurauder); one bird-watching notebook with blue jay (Jae) on front; two signed copies of Elanora and the Salt Marsh Mystery and two Elanora bookmarks.)
Terms & Conditions:
By entering the giveaway, you are confirming you are at least 18 years old.
One winner will be chosen via Rafflecopter to receive $50 Amazon Gift Card & one winner will be chosen to win tote bag.
This giveaway ends midnight April 30.
Winner will be contacted via email on May 1.
Winner has 48 hours to reply.
Good luck everyone!

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Meet MG Author Cheryl Kerr

Carpinello's Writing Pages is excited to bring you a first-time MG author, but not a first-time author. Cheryl Kerr was born in Texas. Her childhood was split between Texas and Air Force bases. She raised her family in Texas and currently lives in and writes from the Texas Hill Country.
Here's more about Cheryl:
Hi, readers! My name is Cheryl Kerr and I write for young readers and adults. I write stories that focus on my characters finding their own way. My experience at work and as a parent led me to work with many children in challenging home or life situations, some living away from their families, some not having them. I write my characters to face similar events and find their way through them by being resourceful and a good character. Growing up, books held some of the people I truly connected with, and there is such comfort in knowing where you can find your friends. I have books now that have soft pages from so many readings. Many adult readers tell me the same thing, that they have treasured books, too. I write for all those readers, who find a good story and a good character to be someone to keep.
Why did you pick to write for Middle-Grade readers?

I chose Middle-Grade with 12 as the pivotal age between middle-grade and Young Adult. There is such a change that happens as growth goes from childhood to learning decisions and responsibilities that are their own to make. I was lucky to get to know quite a few young people and watch them on their journey to growing up.

What types of books do you like to read, and what do you do when you are not writing?

I like books with strong, resourceful characters who have a personal code of how they see and do right and wrong, how other people should be treated. I enjoy travel essays, finding the change in perspective that comes with distance from a usual, immediate environment really does result in a different answer or thought process.

Tell us about SandPeople, and how the story came to be.

The Texas Coast is a place of shifting sands, supposed treasure, and the thrill of pirate legends. When twelve-year-old Lea McKinney comes to the tiny fishing village to spend the summer with her aunt, she is searching for a place of her own. 
SandPeople came to be from watching children learn to handle things they could not change like Covid, a family change due to divorce, and a summer away from home. The timing of handling such difficulties during Covd happened to coincide with what many children and students were dealing with as the stay-at-home lockdowns were put in place and then extended. 

Here's a peek at SandPeople:

Downstairs Lea's mother waited on the couch with T.J. beside her. Lea chose an overstuffed hassock next to the fireplace and sank cross-legged into its softness. Dad went and sat at the far end of the couch from Mom. Both of them looked at Lea solemnly. Lea's stomach felt funny. Sort of like being worried about a test, only worse, she thought.

"Lea," Dad started and then stopped. He looked at Mom. "You better do this," he said. He got up and walked to the windows and stood looking out with his hands in his pockets. Mom looked after him and sighed, shaking her dark-blond head.

"Lea, how would you like to go somewhere this summer?" Mom's voice was brittle-bright. It always got that way when she was trying to convince Lea that something was good for her.

"All of us together?" Lea asked and eyed her parents. It seemed like a funny time to be planning a trip. Neither of them seemed to be in a very happy mood. They both looked at her and the silence stretched out. Lea squeezed her hands hard between her knees.

"No-o." Mom drew the word out. Her voice was high, like it got when she wanted Lea to see her point when they disagreed. "Just us, you and me. To Texas. Dad and T.J. are going to go to Grandma and Grandpa's."

"Texas?" Lea asked, puzzled. "We don't know anyone in Texas."

"Your Aunt Meg has a cabin there, on the Gulf of Mexico, for the summer." Mom said.

"Oh," Lea said, still not understanding. Aunt Meg was Mom's younger sister. She was an artist who spent part of each year traveling. Lea didn't know her very well.

"Why?" Lea asked. Summers had always been bike rides on dirt roads, clamming, and long, slow evenings watching sailboats against on the horizon.

Mom looked at Dad and hesitated.

"Why?" Lea repeated, a lump in her stomach.
"Well, you're going to stay with her this summer." Mom said. "We both have things this summer that we need to do."

"We're not going to be together," Mom said. "For awhile."

Dad took a deep breath then and turned back to face the room. "Lea. T.J. We're separating, your mom and I."

Lea looked from one to the other. Both of them looked sad but also kind of relieved.

"Did I do something?" she asked them. 
How did you go about researching SandPeople?

I research each of them as I work through the story so that they are real, all of them are based in fact and accurate for history or how the mystery is solved. For SandPeople, I researched coastal legends and ghost stories, shipwrecks, immigration to Texas, Texas history, middle-grade and family feelings and emotions. This meant trips to museums, reading narratives and diaries of individuals as they came to settle Texas, and researching the European towns or areas they came from so I could understand what brought them to sail to an unsettled place for a new life in 1840’s Texas.

Have you written other books? If so, tell us a bit about them.

Yes, I have two other books published.

See Ya is set around World War II and the German Prisoner of War camps that were here in the United States during the war. It is the story of what war does to people. And families.

Photofinish is a mystery set around horse-racing and is the story of two people who learned to be a family and the incredible love they had for each other. It is also about horses, good training and the pig who helps solve the mystery of the grandfather’s murder.

What’s next for your writing? Are you working on a new story?

Yes, I am working on finishing another adult novel, planning my next Middle Grade book in the Across Time Mystery series, and a picture book.

What advice do you have for other authors?

I write fiction so my comments relate to that. Write what you know and feel. All my books say something about getting through hard circumstances. My characters face something and find their own answers without harming other people.

Read books so that you find what you connect with. I love books that say something to me about good character and bravery.

I learn a lot from rewriting, too, do not be afraid to try something a few different ways. If you are writing fiction, it is your story, well, yours and your characters, who sometimes will set the direction.

Anything else you want readers to know?

I have found some of my best friends and moments in books. Books do not have to be long to be excellent. I keep the ones I treasure and share many, especially when a book reminds me of someone I know so we can chat about what we enjoyed about the story.

Thank you for letting me share about my writing world! I welcome hearing from readers, at either my website or Facebook page.

Where can readers find you and your books?

Thursday, March 18, 2021

The Temple of the Crystal Timekeeper Blog Tour

Carpinello's Writing Pages is excited to be a stop on Fiona Ingram's Blog Tour for her exciting Middle Grade adventure story The Temple of the Crystal Timekeeper. It is the third book in The Chronicles of the Stone series.

About the Book:

Author: Fiona Ingram

Publisher: Bublish Inc.

Pages: 318

Genre: Juvenile (preteen) / Action / Adventure

A plane crash! Lost in the jungle! Hunted by their old enemy, will Adam, Justin, and Kim survive long enough to find the Third Stone of Power? With only a young boy, Tukum, as their guide, the kids make their way through the dense and dangerous jungle to find the lost city of stone gods, where the Stone of Power might be located. River rafting on a crocodile-infested river and evading predators are just part of this hazardous task. Of course, their old adversary Dr. Khalid is close behind as the kids press on. But he is not the worst of their problems. This time Adam will clash with a terrible enemy who adopts the persona of an evil Aztec god, Tezcatlipoca, and is keen to revive the ancient tradition of human sacrifice. Adam, Justin, and Tukum must play a dreadful ball game of life and death and maybe survive. Will they emerge alive from the jungle? Will Dr. Khalid find the third Stone of Power before they do?
About the Author:
Fiona Ingram is a children’s author, but up until a few years ago, she was a journalist and editor. Something rather unexpected sparked her new career as an author—a family trip to Egypt with her mother and two young nephews. They had a great time and she thought she’d write them a short story as a different kind of souvenir…. Well, one book and a planned book series later, she had changed careers. She has now published Book 3 (The Temple of the Crystal Timekeeper) in her middle grade adventure series Chronicles of the Stone, with many awards for the first book, The Secret of the Sacred Scarab, a few for Book 2, The Search for the Stone of Excalibur, and several for Book 3! She also teaches online novel writing for aspiring authors and she finds that very satisfying. Fiona’s experience with raising an adopted, disadvantaged African child struggling with literacy got her interested in the subject and she has written numerous articles on child literacy. Relaxation time finds her enjoying something creative or artistic, music, books, going to the theater or ballet. She enjoys doing research for her book series. Fiona loves animals and has written two animal rescue stories. She has two adorable (naughty) little rescue dogs called Stanley and Pumpkin, and a beautiful black cat called Bertie.
“Action, danger, and excitement are the key words for the riveting adventure novel, The Temple of the Crystal Timekeeper ... Its spellbinding storyline explores the history of the Aztec and Maya gods and their cities with exceptional accuracy; this is one of those books you can’t put down. With authentic historical facts expertly woven into this spectacular action-packed fiction series, no one of any age can resist its magnetism. This is a fascinating and exciting fiction story created with expertise and finesse, which educates while entertaining the reader.”
— Susan Williams, for Readers Favorite

USA Book Awards:
• Winner Pre-teen Readers’ Favorite Book Awards 2017
• Winner Book Excellence Awards 2018
•  NYC Big Book Awards Distinguished Favorite 2018

Read the first chapter and receive a free download of The Young Explorer’s Companion Guide, a nonfiction guide to the journey and cover history, geography, mythology and subject kids will love to learn more about. In this guide, your child will discover the story behind The Temple of the Crystal Timekeeper and experience the history of the Maya and Aztecs as well as ind out who was the ancient priest-king Topiltzin and why he is important.

Click here to read the first chapter and download your free copy of The Young Explorer’s Companion Guide!

Book Excerpt:

A guard turned Adam round to face Smoking Mirror again. It was horrible being so close to this evil man. He seemed like a giant, and his gaze bored into Adam as he leaned down from his throne to stare at Adam. His eyes were cold, hard, and utterly pitiless.

“Oh, but he is very … very special. In fact, quite extraordinary. I did not realize the true significance before, but now I see it.” Smoking Mirror spoke in a silky whisper as he stared fixedly at Adam. “You see, this boy has the fire hair and the pale skin of the god Quetzalcoatl who came to my land from far across the sea. This boy also bears the mark of an ancient civilization, yes?”

“Er … yes,” said Dr. Khalid in a sulky tone, shooting a quick, angry glance at Adam that seemed to say, “Now look what you’ve done!”

“In fact, the mark is from your civilization, no?”

“No … er, I mean, yes,” Dr. Khalid gabbled. “It is the ankh, the sign of life.”

“The sign of life?” Smoking Mirror shouted. “Then we will extinguish that life!”

He leaped up and screamed an announcement in the people’s language. The crowd remained silent except for a few women who began crying. But not a minute later, a deep collective groan arose from the gathering. Smoking Mirror’s warriors cheered and clattered their weapons against their shields as he continued with his speech.
Adam turned his head a little to one side, trying to catch Tukum’s eye. “What’s he saying?” he whispered, although he sensed already that it was bad.
Tukum’s head drooped. “He says this is the ultimate battle, because you represent the Aztec god Quetzalcoatl, or Kukulkan to the Maya. He says the game will prove who is the ultimate winner.”
Adam could hardly speak. His heart had begun pounding so hard it felt like a hammer against his ribs. He was breathless for a moment. This was the confrontation Kotz had spoken of, but it would be impossible to defeat Tezcatlipoca.
“So he thinks we’ll lose?” Adam asked.
“Yes,” said Tukum.
“What if we win?” asked Justin. “It’s possible.”
Tukum gave him a despairing look. “How can we win?”



Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Meet Fantasy/Science Fiction Author Brad Swift

Carpinello's Writing Pages is pleased to introduce you to author Brad Swift. Brad is a prolific author who writes fantasy and science fiction for children/middle grade readers, and YA. He also writes for adults.

First, here's a bit about Brad:

My name is Brad Swift, and I write fantasy and science fiction. Much of my time is spent these days writing visionary fiction for children and young adults to inspire them to become joyful lifelong readers by introducing them to the pure pleasure of reading. Books like the Zak Bates Eco-adventure series and Spacehoppers. I believe reading for pleasure stretches the imagination of young readers in ways that TV, movies, or video games do not. I also love to encourage young people to write their own stories, knowing that some of them will grow into the world’s future authors as I did.

Why did you pick to write books for children/MG/YA?

I became an avid reader of fantasy and science fiction as an eleven-year-old boy when my next-door neighbor, Ms. Crabtree, a children’s librarian, took pity on my single-parent mom. Bored out of my gourd with no one to play with but my mom, I drove her crazy until Mrs. Crabtree brought home a stack of books she knew would hook a young boy’s imagination. It worked. I’ve been an avid reader ever since, and for the past several years an author as well. Writing books are my way of giving back and paying it forward.
What types of books do you like to read, and what do you do when you are not writing?

Well, I still love reading and listening to fantasy and science fiction books and the occasional nonfiction book on personal development and spirituality. When I’m not writing or reading, you’re likely to find me outdoors playing pickleball or senior softball, or walking around the neighborhood or Carl Sandburg’s home with my bestie canine buddy, Argos.
Tell us about Zak Bates Eco-adventure series, and how the series came to be.

Before pursuing my combo career as a writer and personal development coach, my primary life goal was to become a small animal veterinarian. I have a great love for all the animals of the world and especially for those with who we share our homes, dogs and cats. So, when I set my aim to become an Indie author, I combined my love for books with my love for the animal world and for Earth. One of my favorite series growing up was the Tom Swift, Jr. series, so I decided to write about a boy who loves animals and magic. In book one, Dominion Over All, Zak meets Ra-Kit, the last living magic cat, and her flying dog companion, Sampson. The three make up the foundation of the Zak Bates Eco-adventure team. Books 2 and 3 are Endangered and Ghost Elephant.

The Junkyard Dogs, Book 4, is scheduled to be released later in 2021. I've included an excerpt from it. As a teenage zoo-owner and the head of an eco-team that’s been tasked to overcome global warming and protect endangered species, Zak Bates is as busy as ever. Despite much help from a truly stellar multi-species coterie, his life, in a word, is wild, and it seems that things are about to get hairier.

When the eco-team receives word from the Council of Animals of the Spiritual Frontier about a curious disturbance amongst New York’s animal population, it soon becomes clear that something truly sinister is afoot—or apaw—and, worse, the plague is prodigious.

Across the city, scores of store owners, led by real estate mogul, Stanford Ivory, have started using and abusing junkyard dogs as living burglar alarms and stray cats as mousers. Having been abandoned at birth, Faith Bandara is particularly sensitive to such abuse. She resolves to use her empathic abilities to save these sentient beings from a life of servitude. Faith and her street-smart friend, Midge Meadows, join the eco-team to do just that, but will it be enough to turn the tide against such ruthless forces?

As Zak and his team begin to dig deeper, they find that the truth is worse than expected. Yes, someone must save these animals by bringing the syndicate’s crimes to a stop. The only question that now remains is where exactly to start.

Here's a peek at The Junkyard Dogs:

As Zak sat down on the park bench to wait for his friends, he glanced at his cellphone.
#Urgent! Meet me in the park…RK#

Zak had yet to figure out how a cat who didn’t own a phone was able to send him such messages, but then again, she was a magic cat and he’d seen her perform feats much more amazing than a little electronic hocus pocus. He was still contemplating how she might pull off the feat when he saw his best friend, Allie George, approaching.
“Did you receive a message as well?” Zak asked.
Allie held up her phone. “Yep, though for the life of me, I can’t figure out how she does it.”
“Me either,” Zak replied. He slid over to give Allie room to sit down, but they’d hardly gotten comfortable before they heard rustling coming from the bushes behind them. The two of them turned in time to see a giant black Newfoundland dog strolling towards them with a mangy black cat sitting in a strange lotus-like position on his back with its eyes closed.

“It looks like our little magic friend is meditating,” Allie said, and Zak nodded.

“She is,” Sampson replied, a note of dissatisfaction in his voice. “She’s been like this off and on for two days. She opened her eyes this morning just long enough to call this meeting. Then she climbed on my back and went back into the pose."

“Has she ever done this before?” Zak asked.
“Only once or twice since I’ve known her. She was into yoga for a few years as well, but she said it became too hard on her joints.” Sampson paused for a moment and looked around to be sure they were alone. “But whenever she’s done this before, it meant that there was some major disturbance in the psychic energy field.”
“Disturbance?” Zak asked, not liking the sound of that.
“Yes, something big has either come to her attention or is about to,” Sampson replied, and as if on cue, Ra-Kit opened her eyes and looked around as though awakening from a nap.
“Sampson is correct,” Ra-Kit said, then paused a moment to clean her whiskers before continuing. “I sense an important mission coming our way -- deep trouble that needs correcting. We must make plans.”
“Great! I was hoping something would happen. I know it’s only been a couple of weeks since school let out, but I’m already getting bored.”
“Really? Not me. I like it nice and quiet,” Allie said. “Besides, Mom has me working almost full time so she can give her technicians some vacation time.”
“That’s okay,” Ra-Kit replied. “You may be more valuable to us here anyway, especially if you are needed by your mom.”
Zak remembered that Ra-Kit had great respect for Dr. George, in part because of how much she helped other animals as a small animal vet, but particularly because she’d treated Ra-Kit herself so well, even though Dr. George thought she’d just been a stray cat.
“I was hoping we would have time for a short training mission, but it doesn’t look like traveling to Sri Lanka will be possible.”
“Sri Lanka?” Allie asked, as she glanced over to Zak. “We studied a bit about it in school last semester.”
“Yes,” Zak agreed. “Isn’t that the large island off the coast of India?”
“That’s right,” Ra-Kit said. “It’s a beautiful place with beautiful people. Maybe we’ll go another time.”
“What did you want me to learn there that I can’t learn here?” Zak asked, though he really liked the idea of traveling to such an exotic place.
“Well, besides being a pristine, mostly unspoiled, part of the world, many of the people there are devout Buddhists.”
“That’s right,” Allie agreed. “I seem to remember that over two-thirds of the population practice Theravada Buddhism and that one of the chief tenets is a respect for life in all its forms.”
“Correct. That’s why Buddhism prohibits the eating of any and all meat,” Ra-Kit continued. “It violates the First Moral Precept.”
“Really?” Zak replied, remembering the two slices of bacon he’d enjoyed that morning.
“All life is sacred,” Ra-Kit repeated. “But this is not about one set of practices or religions over another. Just imagine if all humans could embrace that one principle. We’d be living in a completely different world.”
“Boy, that’s for sure,” Allie agreed. “My mom and I have slowly been reducing the amount of meat we eat, though it’s not easy. Everywhere we go, we’re tempted by the delicious sights and smells.”
“But many animals in nature eat other animals,” Zak countered. “Where’s the respect for life when a lion runs down a gazelle or zebra?”
“Well, that is part of the circle of life. I know it may appear paradoxical, but the design of nature is that there be hunters and the hunted, but somewhere along the line, human beings forgot that they are also a part of nature.” Ra-Kit paused a moment and cocked her head to one side, closing her eyes as she did so. She sat like that for several seconds before opening her eyes again. “Sorry, but I just received word from Kavka. He wants to meet with us. But first, he needs to get permission from the rest of the Council.”
“Who’s Kavka?” Zak asked.
“He’s now the leader of the Domestics Clan. He took over when Oink stepped down. He’s a Caucasian Mountain Dog,” Sampson replied, with a note of pride in his voice.
“Is he coming here?” Allie asked, and Ra-Kit nodded.
“This sounds serious,” Zak added.
“I’m afraid you’re right,” Ra-Kit said. “We don’t have time to travel to Sri Lanka, even by warping, but we can do the next best thing.”
“What’s that?” Zak asked, feeling suddenly uncomfortable, but not knowing why.

"You and I will travel there in our minds.”
“Really? Is that safe? I mean, why don’t we wait until we can go there in person?” Zak felt himself starting to perspire. He loved Ra-Kit and had a great deal of respect for her, but he’d also seen some of her magic go more than a little wonky at times. 
How do you go about researching for your stories?

Well, first I get a fragment of an idea then spend time noodling on it, journaling about it, walking around thinking about it, and often talking to Argos, my dog, about it. He’s not much of a talker but he’s a helluva listener. After a few days, weeks, or months doing that, I start to outline the story, mostly using the Seven Point Story Structure. That’s usually when I begin to realize I don’t know everything in the world about this particular story (and that takes quite a bit for me to admit it because I think I know everything. :-) ) Most of my research either comes from the internet or from conversations with people who know more about a given subject than me. It’s not unusual for me to also take time researching various aspects of a story in the midst of writing the rough draft as well.
Have you written other books? If so, tell us a bit about them.

Well, since I’m working on my 29th book, I’ll save the readers from discussing all of them. Besides my books for kids and young adults that I write as W. Bradford Swift, I also have several fantasy and science fiction books for adults under the pen name of Orrin Jason Bradford. This includes my ‘opus’ six-book SF series, FreeForm, a combination of aliens/first contact, and genetic engineering gone bad. Then, there’s also my two volumes of urban fantasy stories, Fantastic Fables of Foster Flat. As it says in this series, blurb, “In the beguiling spirit of Ray Bradbury’s novels and ‘The Twilight Zone’ series, this supernatural assortment stands as a testament to the fable’s lasting power.” And last of all, one of my personal favorites (but don’t tell my other book children I said that), Babble, which is book one of the Cosmic Conspiracy series with book two, Rabble, due out in 2021.

What’s next for your writing? Are you working on a new story?

I’ve just finished book four of the Zak Bates Eco-adventure series, Junkyard Dogs, which should be released sometime before the end of the first quarter of 2021. I’m in the brainstorming (which means a lot of walking and talking with Argos) on book five with the working title of Polar. My goal is to have that finished and ready for release sometime in the second or third quarter of 2021.
What advice do you have for other authors?

Well, since I maintain a small coaching practice called Write On Purpose where I primarily work with aspiring authors, I’ll direct my advice to that group. Boy, what is the number one thing I could offer? Well, let me start by paraphrasing one of my favorite authors, Ray Bradbury. “The first million words don’t count,” or perhaps to say it in a more positive way, the first million words are practice and in one sense all the subsequent words are the same. 
So, start writing those practice words. And you don’t have to start writing the “Great American Novel.” In fact, you don’t have to start writing a book at all. I started writing over thirty years ago as a way to pay for my first Macintosh (full story here) and, I wrote articles about animals and pet issues for years as a way to both make money and to develop my craft. I’ll point aspiring authors to my R Game which helped me move into action and kept me going during those early days. In other words, you’ve got to be willing to write poorly, like really bad, so you can eventually write well enough that others will enjoy reading your work.
Anything else you want readers to know?

Yes, two primary additional things.  First, in the summer of 2020, a combination of the COVID epidemic and my personal desire to connect with young readers and parents in a more personal way led my audiobook narrator, Ben Fife, and me to create the Zak Bates Eco-adventure Readup series as live, interactive Zoom-based hours to connect with kids and their parents or guardians. They've been so much fun that we now are inviting other children and young adult authors of fantasy and science fiction to join us in our Guest Author Readup Series.

Second, one of the simplest and most economical way to check out my Zak Bates’ books is to receive an ebook AND audiobook copy of book one, Dominion Over All, on my author website.
Where can readers find you and your books?

Author Website

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Meet Middle Grade Adventure Author Suzy Davies

The internet can be a intimating place which pulls you in and can quickly overwhelm you. On the other hand, it can be a place to connect with people with common interests and occupations. I've met several authors through the internet and social networking sites. It's always gratifying to see how professional and friendly they are. I met today's guest on Twitter when I found out she wrote for MG readers and was also a teacher. As I've said before, I love interviewing teacher/authors because of their commitment to opening avenues of reading to young people and those not so young-at-heart. Please join me in welcoming Suzy Davies and her wonderful books to Carpinello's Writing Pages.
First, here's a bit about Suzy:
Children’s Author and Poet, Suzy Davies was born in Reading, Berkshire, in England. She is a former Lead Teacher of English, and a certified Life Coach with Counseling skills. She believes in the magic of the imagination, and the power we have to create ourselves and realise our dreams.

A graduate of The University of Leicester, (Applied Sociology with Social Psychology,) and a postgraduate of The University of Sussex, (M.A English Literature,) Suzy began her writing career in 2012. She wrote her first children's book in 2016, which was published traditionally. Now, she is a full time writer.

Suzy lives in Florida, with her husband, Craig, and two semi-wild cats, Cubbie and Dinky.
Why did you pick to write books for children and MG readers?

I write Picture Books and Middle Grade. My most recent book, The Girl in The Red Cape: A Mystical Sled Ride, is a high Middle Grade which will also appeal to young adult readers and adults who are young at heart.

I enjoy writing children’s books because I think books make a huge difference in children’s lives and have a significant impact on their development, personal life scripts, and life choices. I use my background as a former Lead Teacher and Life Coach with Counseling Skills when I write my stories. I like the messages in my stories to instill good values and positivity, for example, to teach children about the importance of family values, friendship, loyalty, teamwork, and kindness. I hope that my story, The Girl in The Red Cape, will also encourage children to have self-esteem and reach for the stars.

What types of books do you like to read, and what do you do when you are not writing?

I’m an avid reader. I like to read well-known award-winning books for children and children’s classic literature, including fairy tales and poetry. I read popular Indie kids’ books and unknown authors. I like to do research for books I am writing, and I always read around the themes and ideas for my books in the planning stage. I’m always drawn to non-fiction psychology books to revise my knowledge of archetypes which appear in my stories. I regularly read life coaching and self-help books. I also like biographies.

When I’m not behind a book, reading or writing, I like listening to music, watching films and looking after my cats. When the pandemic has calmed down, I hope to get out and about again walking on nature trails. I also have plans to do some traveling in America, and beyond.
How did The Girl in The Red Cape: A Mystical Sled Ride come to be?
The Girl in The Red Cape: A Mystical Sled Ride had its genesis in Charles Perrault’s Little Red Riding Hood of which it is a retelling. I have fond memories of the tale, and decided to revisit it. I thought it would be nice to set the tale in a snowy landscape, and the idea of The Junior Iditarod in Alaska came to me.

I saw images of scarlet flashing through the woods, and imagined dog teams pelting across oceans of snow in the tundra. I saw spectral snow, lit up in the moonlight, like dust from the cosmos, the shadow of a great mountain, with a snowy peak - a metaphor for the challenges faced by the rival dog-sledders.These moving images - fleeting at first - grew on me, and I found myself daydreaming. I pictured the dogs and their individual personalities, their strengths and weaknesses. I envisioned one in particular, a wolf dog, who would be central to the story.

One of my favorite films, “Dances with Wolves,” helped me visualise the dogs and the lone wolf. It was important to me to depict not only the central human sibling relationship between Stella and Billy, but also relationships between animals and humans, Man and Nature in my book. 
How did you research The Girl in The Red Cape: A Mystical Sled Ride?
I start with an idea. I obsess about it to see if it’s going anywhere. I “play” with settings and characters in my head. If I get really excited about an idea, I move on to the research stage.

At this stage, I delve deeper and deeper, focusing my research. For example, to research The Girl in The Red Cape I went “back to school” and successfully completed two online University courses; one about “fairy tales” including those of Charles Perrault, and The Brothers Grimm, and one specializing in Hans Christian Andersen's work.

When I do research, I spend a great deal of time in this planning stage, then the writing goes smoothly. Writing is architecture. You have to build a solid foundation for your castles in the air. And that means it is hard work, especially in the planning stage. The more immersed in your subject matter you become, the better your book will be.
I drew on my childhood in Wales to “see” the different kinds of snow featured in my story, and on my horse-riding treks as a child to envision the up and down motion of the sled teams. My walks in ice and snow in Cornwall a few years back helped me put myself in wild terrain. I worked as cabin crew in my younger days, and my trips in light aircraft were useful in depicting the aerial views of Alaska and the race in my book.

After all my imaginings, I realised I had to do some serious research about mushing in Alaska. I contacted Anna Stephan, Winner of The Junior Iditarod, 2019, and asked for her help.

Anna kindly explained many things to me. After speaking to Anna, I read some factual biographies about mushing, and got a topographical map of Alaska to familiarize myself with the geographical features encountered on the race. Anna made herself available to answer questions. I got to know her more and more, and a friendship developed.

I wanted my lead fictional character, Stella, to have something of Anna in her. Anna told me she loved to play the violin. So I created a passionate, musher/violinist as the female protagonist. I’m pleased with how she has turned out, and I hope Anna agrees that she represents all that is good about feisty heroines, feminism, and girl-power.

I must admit, Billy, the lead male protagonist in “The Girl in The Red Cape,” a hero in his own right, was inspired by the wizardry of Harry Potter and my love of J.K.Rowling’s work.

Tom is Stella and Billy’s Inuk step-brother, and I drew on my knowledge of Inuit people to draw his mystical, mysterious character.

Tell us about The Girl in The Red Cape: A Mystical Sled Ride.

The Girl in The Red Cape
is a  heartwarming, modern Coming-of-Age fairy tale, with plenty of action and adventure. And I felt the whole atmosphere of the Alaskan wilderness as a character. One of the central themes of my story is about how we create and “find” ourselves on the journey which is Life itself. J.R.R Tolkein inspired me when he said that not all those who wander are lost.

I explore this theme of wandering and loss by borrowing from Alaskan stories of The Alaskan Triangle, and weaving this phenomenon into my tale. Animal helpers Black-Claw, The Raven and Tag, The Fox show that their instincts are good, and they help retrieve lost objects and guide the human travelers through portals, obstacles and dangers on the journey that leads them home.

The silent strength of Tom represents the ability to wander with purpose, and he has the depth to become even more himself on his travels. There is something very sure and certain about him and he develops a quiet tranquility. The motto of my old university in Sussex, England provided some inspiration here: “Be Still and Know.”

Young people benefit from understanding that sometimes, we have to stand alone, and have the courage of our convictions.
Here's a peek at The Girl in The Red Cape: A Mystical Sled Ride:
Brother and sister, Billy and Stella, compete in the Junior Race with their dog-sledding teams. All kinds of dangers await them, not least the wolves. Their step-brother, Tom, a solitary Inuit, has angered the pack. Queen Wolf is missing. The wolves will make good their loss or else seek their revenge.
In this heartwarming, fast-paced fairytale retelling of Charles Perrault's, Little Red Riding Hood, Stella, a rookie musher is on the threshold of womanhood. The Girl in The Red Cape is running with wolves, dancing across the virgin snow. All alone, it's Stella against the wilderness. But sometimes, an invisible power supports her. And she has her comrades.
In this high-stakes action adventure story, anything could happen.
Who will catch a dream?

Have you written other books? If so, tell us a bit about them.

Yes, indeed, I have. I have written six others. My first book was a memoir. My other five children’s books all have elements of animal or nature writing, and in each book I have written something of the magic of a legend or fairy tale. Two of my books, Sleepy Animals, a picture book, and Celebrate The Seasons,  a Middle Grade book illustrated by notable Laurie Shanholtzer, are poetry books for kids.
Snugs The Snow Bear is a Middle Grade story illustrated by notable Peter Hall, and Luna The Moon Pig is a magical picture book story, illustrated by award-winning, world-acclaimed Sheila Graber.
The Cave is a middle grade story. One of the characters in this children’s action adventure story paved the way for Ariana, the tailor/seamstress in The Girl in The Red Cape.

What’s next for your writing? Are you working on a new story?

Ha! Ha! This question makes me chuckle. I’m always conjuring ideas and I always have books in progress. I have three completed books no-one has seen yet, and have about 4 or 5 new stories in the pipeline as works in progress. I like to keep busy. There will be another fairy tale retelling, that I can say.
What advice do you have for other authors?

Read and write every day. Believe in yourself. Learn from others and be humble.
Anything else you want readers to know?

I love the illustrations in the book, created by notable artist, Michele Bourke. My favorite one is the one of Stella who is standing in the snow in a red dress, playing the violin, with animals watching her. This, of course, is pure fantasy, but at the same time it is a metaphor for harmony with animals and The Natural World, and Stella grows to become a “Force of Nature” at one with the wilderness in the book. 
Real Musher Champion, Anna Stephan is a role model for young women, and I hope this shows. In my book, Stella wants to make something of herself. She fights against shyness and self-doubts, to be transformed into a believable heroine who is human, likeable, brave and strong. When you delve deeply into well-known fantasy fairy tales, they have something of reality in them. This is the paradox.
Children’s books are almost always deceptively simple. People tend to believe they are an “easy write,” when in fact they will only flow and sparkle if you have done the work. Children are an honest and discerning audience. I like this. It motivates me to give my best.
I’d like to thank you, Cheryl, for kindly inviting me here. I appreciate it. And thank you to all my readers worldwide for reading my books. I am truly grateful and blessed.
Where can readers find you and your books?

The Girl in The Red Cape:A Mystical Sled Ride:

Amazon UK 
Amazon US
Listen to an excerpt from The Girl in The Red Cape here.