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