Book Hippo

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

An Interview

One of my fellow Muse authors, Suzanne de Montigny, is releasing her first e-book, The Shadow Of The Unicorn: The Legacy on November 30th, 2012. I did an interview with her and have decided to publish now because as of today her story is available at 20% off on pre-order at the Muse Bookstore. 

I hope you an all get to know Suzanne, she's a wonderful gal, full of magic. I hope you enjoy this interview and if you like unicorns, you may want to get the deal.

Can you explain the term 'middle grade' for readers and how you got interested in writing in that genre.
Middle grade is literature aimed at children in the intermediate years of school. Normally, they’re nine to twelve years old, although many older kids enjoying reading this level too. I was an elementary classroom music teacher for over twenty years and discovered over the course of the years, that I was a pretty good storyteller. As a matter of fact, that’s how I got the kids to behave. If they were good, they’d get a story I’d make up on the spot at the end of class. After a while, even teachers started asking me where they could get a copy of my tales. Of course, I didn’t have any – until now.

What is your main character's name and what did you most like about her/him?
Azaria is a unicorn colt who puts duty above all else. He swallows his fear when the asteroid strikes the earth to reassure his friend, Gaelan. Then, later on, when the other yearlings rebel, he stays true to the herd, despite their mockery of him. He’s also got a great sense of humour.

Do you have any interest in writing in other genres?
Yes, I have written a Young Adult Paranormal novel entitled A Town Bewitched about a fourteen-year-old child prodigy in classical violin who struggles to fit in the small town of Hope, British Columbia. When a mysterious fiddler bewitches the town, only the girl knows who is really vandalising the village, leaving dead and gutted birds as tokens.

Have you ever published traditionally and what do you like about e-publishing?
The Shadow of the Unicorn: The Legacy is my first novel. I love traditional books, but the industry is swiftly moving toward e-books this century. Plus I recently developed a visual impairment that makes traditional books very difficult to read without a magnifying glass. E-books solve all that for me. Speaking of which, I’m a firm believer that everything happens for a reason. Because of this, I’ve decided that one half of all my proceeds will be donated to the Third World Eye Care Society, a group of opthomologists who travel to third world countries distributing thousands of pairs of glasses and performing eye surgery for free.

What is your writing time like? Quiet? Chaotic?
I get up at five AM and write until seven, when my boys get up. Then I start writing again at around 10:30, after doing exercise or running errands. At 2:30, I pick up the boys. The minute they’re home, it’s all about them.

What are you working on now?
I’m doing a rewrite of my second unicorn book. There are three altogether. And just to let you in on a secret, there will be yet another natural disaster. But I won’t tell what!

I haven’t got an Amazon link yet.


Monday, November 19, 2012

Strong Childhood

I was very strong when I was in grade school. Before grade one, I had a friend named Randy, after we began school, he never talked to girls. Later, when we were older, I had another friend named Karen. We met up with him once because he liked Karen and his idea of liking was to wrestle.

Karen always lost. She told me, "When you lose, you win."

But I didn't want to lose. I threw him on his back and held him down. I won. He started calling me Goliath and told all boys in school about me. I'd already had trouble with them because I could beat them all at arm wrestling.

The thing I can't figure out is, when I began junior high, I lost all my strength. I couldn't beat anyone at anything. I don't know why that happened with the women. The men, of course, get stronger, but the women, I just don't know why I've been such a weakling since then.

Even today, skinny, skinny girls are stronger than me.

It did teach me something and that is not to rely on anything you have because it can be lost. I don't think I was a violent person to start with but it was definitely something to get used to.

So I guess I'll just be a wimpy or wuss but at least I'm not involved in any of the fights that I see on TV between the young people.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Tagged On A Blog

Well, I'm doing a blog tagging jag. I was tagged and now I'm to put up my work in progress for all to read. So here it is and if you want to leave a comment and tell me what you think go ahead. Hope you enjoy my excerpt.

On a night like this, with the wind a-jiggering the sails and carrying the rough words of sailors over to me, I can't stop tears pouring from my eyes and washing the decks as much as the sea. I be feared my thin bones will snap in the storm and the tossing will be a-pushing my shins through my knees. My name is Beggar Charlie and I be ten years old or thereabouts.

The Devil makes times like this so He can a-laugh when a small boy like me slides into the railings and falls among the sodden ropes a-tangling on the decks. I kick the debris around me and begin to scream. I just know that Satan is hoping to make a home for me among the fires of everlasting torture.

“God be with me.” I holler as loud as I can. “Bless those that be on the sea.”

Everywhere there be coarse men a-hanging onto something that will keep them from falling into the great ocean beyond the ship. When I finally manage to lift myself, I be awash with salt from the waters, and slip with each crest of a wave until I make the Captain's cabin, where I dry my spindly body and think to rest in the corner where Captain Butler lets me sleep.

I hunker by the wall, pretending that the storm be but a dream and I be a-cradled on my mother's bosom while she sings me to sleep. If she hadn't died I would still be with her and the thought of her can rescue me from the dreariest of thoughts and the most mortal depressions. Her face in my mind makes the year I had to beg melt away and makes the press-gangers seem as unreal as I hope my life could be. If she be still alive I wouldn't be here on this ship with all these hard-eyed and rope-burned men and all their bitter thoughts at being stuck on the sea when what they want is a pint of ale and with all their bewildering talk is of warm women.

Their shouts a-come to me, even through the wet wood of the cabin and I hear the masts a-creaking with the plundering winds trying to wrest them from the deck. My head bangs on wall when I try to settle down in the corner. I can only think of the glad soil of the earth and how I would rather be on it.

If those press-gangers hadn't stole me, if the Navy men hadn't laughed at my skinny, starved shape, I wouldn't be near the coast of China, in a tempest. Those Navy men sold me to this merchant ship. Captain Butler says to me, “I'm saving you, young lad. Those devils will throw you overboard in a second.” I believe him. It be my only happy thought, that instead of washing decks on a rotting war ship I be fetching things for this Captain who refuses to call me Beggar Charlie, only Master Charles. He says I'm mature, more than ten, he a-tells me and that I speak like a big man, not the child that I be.

I be trying to make the best cabin boy ever. Captain Butler says he be proud to be a father to such a sprout as I, so I work hard and keep my face turned whenever tears of sadness begin. He be the only one on board that I have any comfort with. All the other faces be turning into their own thoughts when I be around them.

I a-fear those sailors sometimes. They be rough men and even though I think they mean no harm, it's hard to stand one's ground with the schooner a-rolling and a-shivering in the waves and the knowledge that I be the youngest on the ship. The other day I passed two of those stone-skinned tars and one of them grabbed me. “You're the Captain's pet, are ye?” I could feel the ridges on his hands through my always-wet shirt.

“Yes Master-sailor.” I says. They laughed at that and tho it was a merry sound that came from them, I could not help but think of the sea down below me and how it goes so far down. If they find themselves the route to jealousy I could be thrown by secret into the waves below. There be no help for anyone alone in the middle of the ocean.

I comfort myself that if those hard men be really disliking me, they would throw me over when Captain Butler be busy at the helm. In truth, I begin to like these men sometimes though the granite veins of blood be a-pumping devilish tricks and games into their minds.

But I can't keep my head from falling onto my chest. I be tired. I work always as the days fly away behind me. My stomach a-dips with the ship but my corner looks so comfortable, it be my only home out here. The place where I hide the tin-type of mother when she was only mine. I lift it to my lips, the blond ringlets rendered grey by the black and white of the picture. I kiss her lovely face.

“Master Charles.” I did not a-see Captain Butler come in.

“Yes, sir.” These are the only words I can sing out here on the waves. All other music is dead in me. His eyes brighten.

“The storm is calming. It's passing. In an hour or two we should be on placid seas. I worry about you when the seas are up. I know you can hardly handle the ocean at all. If all be well, tomorrow we see land, Master Charles and I must over-see the unloading, to make sure the winches are handled right.”

“Yes, sir” Captain Butler does what my mother used to call, 'thinking ahead'. He knows what he be needing to do before he does it and it's quite a feat, I ponder, I will try to do it myself sometime.

“Well, lad. I know you would like to be on land. I'll send Master Richard with you for a little leave. Now don't go far, will you? I'm sure you'd like to get off for a little while, especially after all this tossing.”

I just a-know he can see how happiness just comes to me. Land! I can touch my foot on soil, even Chinese soil be good. I be not too fond of Hickory Dick, or Master Richard as the Captain calls him but it be true that I need an escort. Even one so mean as Hickory Dick.

“Has he ever a-been to China?” I find it jumps from my mouth.

“No, you know he was in the New World. He was at Montreal and he travelled down to America where he dealt with Indians and all he met there. That's why the men call him Hickory Dick, after the trees that he used to cut down. He's only fifteen but he's been in a couple of fights in that part of the world when there were troubles between the whites and Indians. I think he will know how to deal with the Orientals. He has to learn sometime.”

“He be older than I.” I said.

“Yeay, Master Charles. I say he's near to a man but still the second youngest to you. I think you should find commonality with him.”

I a-struggled over some of the Captain's words. It be plain to me that my brain gets funny when it's tired and a-scared of dying but I let the Captain know I liked his plan. It's hard to promise something when all is a-moving around you but I opened my mouth to swear to be his loyal sea-dog while I was here, but Captain Butler put his arm on my back.

“Master Charles, lay down and sleep. The sandman wants to see you, that I can tell. This storm will blow over this night, I suppose, and I want you to enjoy your escapades on land.”

I never be so grateful to anyone as to Captain Butler and it's funny that with all the a-weaving of the ship, I soon felt sleep coming on. The boards a-calmed under me during my dream of Captain Butler having me as a son. And how is it possible that a mood can a-change overnight to a hopping, dancing feeling in his bones?

* * * *

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Abandoning Luck

Luck is a funny thing. Some people seem to have a lot of it, like the man back in White Rock who won every contest he ever entered. He had a trailer he won and a car and a barbeque. He had won so much that whenever there was a contest and people heard he entered, they never bothered to put their name in, feeling, what's the use? Which, of course, increased his luck because there weren't as many people competing against him.

Myself, I feel I have good luck in the bad luck.

Years ago, when I was in painting and visual arts, I made contact with an organization that showed art for a fee.  I didn't realize that the woman who ran it was a manipulator and so when she offered to forgo the fee to give me a break, I accepted. I thought it was good luck.

I sold my sculptures and she began to look for a payback. I needed to come in and man the desk, sell other's work and keep an eye on things, hadn't she done me a favor? I did it but after a few weeks of her looking for favors, I began to feel I hadn't made such a good deal, hadn't had as much luck as I thought.

Then, out of the blue, she left town, practically abandoning the organization, which found ten thousand dollars missing. Nothing was done about the money and a new woman took over the running of the place.

This was my good luck because now I was off the hook and the new woman was a nice, honest and straight-forward person. No more favors.

It's that kind of thing which has happened to me all my life, the bad luck then the good luck that makes me think that luck may just be a state of mind or even a creation. Surely I 'see' good luck in things which are bound to happen. Like the woman who obviously didn't know how to run a business organization having to skip town when her 'deals' came back to bite her.

Is bad luck bad choice? Bad judgement?

Well, gamblers will tell you all about luck but I don't play scratch and wins anymore because I think luck is just too ephemeral to trust. Use good judgement, get to know the people who you might want to deal with and make yourself indispensable to your boss, that way you'll always have luck on your job.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Hurricane Sandy

Ugh. What an awful Halloween. There were hardly any kids out as it was raining. This was entirely Sandy's evening. Rain, rain, rain. Costumes ruined. But still some kids went out. I guess as long as the little ones find some fun, it's okay. Once we get older, we tend to forget how much fun a child can have with next to nothing.

Our city here of Ottawa is in a good location. We had a really bad earthquake a couple of years ago but we miss most of the devastation that other places seem to have. Certainly we're nowhere near the horrendous damage of the Eastern Seaboard of the USA.

Hurricane Katrina was just eight hours of rain when it hit here. There was flooding but not much.

When I first moved here I thought Ottawa had bad weather but the winter is no longer six months of -20 degrees Celsius but a nice -10, which I can handle well. I didn't even need any mitts last year.

But Sandy has got me worried. My room mate is always watching science shows on television. I know from them that the earth has gone through phases of extreme weather. Two hundred and fifty mile an hour winds and rains that cause rivers to rise by fifty feet.

The cause, they say, is global warming and they add, there is going to be a lot of extreme weather coming our way again. So when something like Sandy happens, I wonder if this is the start of it and if we all have to be worried all the time now for these storms. One per year is one too many.

Bikes instead of cars and other things are what they tell us we can do about it but since I don't drive, I don't know what I can do personally.

I guess we all have to be on our guard from now on and try to help out in any way we can. I'm going to paste a message from MuseItUp leader Lea Schizas;
MuseItUp Publishing may be a Canadian house but our authors come from all over the world, especially the United States where Sandy has caused horrific damage to our neighbours.

For the entire month of November, with any purchase made from our MuseItUp Bookstore, we will donate 10% of the purchase price to the Red Cross toward the devastation caused by Sandy. On behalf of all of us at MuseItUp Publishing we'd like to thank you for your support.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Violence In The Old Days

Last night I was thinking of the old days. When I grew up there was a lot of violence children had to put up with.

First of course, were the gays, not only did gay men and women have to worry about getting a beating but all school age boys had to do violent things to avoid being called gay and beat up.

The girls had to have a boyfriend in high school or she was a 'lez' as they used to say back then. Well, girls back then weren't physically violent but they did a lot of psychologically cruel things, like a girl without a boyfriend or one who pays too much attention to other girls would walk into the showers to change for gym. All the other girls would pick up their stuff and move as far away from her as they could.

And those girls who didn't want to get in on abusing someone had to, or risk being called, Lez too.

Back in grade school there was the strap. Only the bad kids got the strap but I remember good kids standing around a kid showing off his red hands and saying, "it wasn't really that bad." That kid was always getting the strap, still a lot of kids had sympathy for him because it was a punishment that hung over all our heads.

Lastly, another thing that irks me now is the fact that we were supposed to train our dogs by hitting them on the nose with rolled up magazines. Any time they didn't do what we wanted, they'd be bunged on the nose.

Imagine if that were you, just finishing a meal and someone comes up and hits you in the nose to get you to go into the bathroom to do your business.

I actually trained my dog, Cindy, like that and hated every minute of it but didn't have any other idea of how to go about it. I just remember that look and slouch that came over her whenever I went to get the magazine. It worked but it's nasty.

It's much better nowadays when you take your dog outside and praise them and give them a treat when they do the right thing.

So good riddance bad old days, hope never to see your like again.

The Mountain City Bronzes is available at