Gloomy Gus Giveaway

downloadSince I’ve been rather a Gloomy Gus lately, it’s time for a giveaway. Who knows? It might become an annual event. (Yes, I realize the irony of using a smiling sun with a “gloomy” giveaway. Irony is what I live for.)

What is a Gloomy Gus? “A person who is habitually gloomy” according to Merriam-Webster.com. Out of curiosity, I searched for the origin of the term Gloomy Gus and found this:

From a comic-strip character created by Frederick Burr Opper 1937 American cartoonist
First Known Use: 1904

3372691-hap1Thank you again, Merriam-Webster! Go here to find out more about Gloomy Gus and his brother, Happy Hooligan. This Gloomy Gus is not to be confused with Gloomy Gus the Homeless Ghost, developed by Herbert W. “Red” Holmdale. You can read about that here. There also was a football coach nicknamed Gloomy Gus. The list goes on.

topnotch_33_35-625x301

Here’s an idea for a Halloween costume: Gloomy Gus. Imagine trying to explain your costume to someone without a long discussion of existentialism.

16101109Okay, let’s get to the meat and potatoes, shall we? By that I mean the giveaway, though I hope to have meat and potatoes at some point today. One of you will receive a copy of Rogue while another of you will receive an author-signed copy of Gringolandia. These young adult novels were written by the wonderful Lyn Miller-Lachmann, a good friend and supporter of writers whose enthusiasm is always contagious. Here’s the synopsis of Rogue, which was published by Nancy Paulsen Books/Penguin:

Kiara has Asperger’s syndrome, and it’s hard for her to make friends. So whenever her world doesn’t make sense—which is often—she relies on Mr. Internet for answers. But there are some questions he can’t answer, like why she always gets into trouble, and how do kids with Asperger’s syndrome make friends? Kiara has a difficult time with other kids. They taunt her and she fights back. Now she’s been kicked out of school. She wishes she could be like her hero Rogue—a misunderstood X-Men mutant who used to hurt anyone she touched until she learned how to control her special power.

When Chad moves in across the street, Kiara hopes that, for once, she’ll be able to make friendship stick. When she learns his secret, she’s so determined to keep Chad as a friend that she agrees not to tell. But being a true friend is more complicated than Mr. Internet could ever explain, and it might be just the thing that leads Kiara to find her own special power.

In Rogue, author Lyn Miller-Lachmann celebrates everyone’s ability to discover and use whatever it is that makes them different.

hbc_gringolandia_front_medHere’s the synopsis of Gringolandia (Curbstone/Northwestern University Press):

Daniel’s papá, Marcelo, used to play soccer, dance the cueca, and drive his kids to school in a beat-up green taxi—all while publishing an underground newspaper that exposed Chile’s military regime.

After papá’s arrest in 1980, Daniel’s family fled to the United States. Now Daniel has a new life, playing guitar in a rock band and dating Courtney, a minister’s daughter. He hopes to become a U.S. citizen as soon as he turns eighteen.

When Daniel’s father is released and rejoins his family, they see what five years of prison and torture have done to him. Marcelo is partially paralyzed, haunted by nightmares, and bitter about being exiled to “Gringolandia.” Daniel worries that Courtney’s scheme to start a bilingual human rights newspaper will rake up papá’s past and drive him further into alcohol abuse and self-destruction. Daniel dreams of a real father-son relationship, but he may have to give up everything simply to save his papá’s life.

This powerful coming-of-age story portrays an immigrant teen’s struggle to reach his tortured father and find his place in the world.

Lyn_photoIf you’re a regular reader of this blog, you know that Lyn was interviewed last year when Rogue debuted. Since Gloomy Gus is a cartoon character, it’s only fitting that I give away a book about a character obsessed with a comic book character. Also, the cover reveal for Surviving Santiago, a companion book to Gringolandia, took place here recently, so one very fortunate winner will be all caught up before Surviving Santiago debuts.

For an extra bit of cheer, winners also will receive some crocheted flowers like these (but not these—they’re already spoken for).

004

Flowers are usually cheerful. Even the rare corpse flower (Amorphophallus titanum) has a jaunty air. (And no, I will not comment on why this flower is so named. Google will help you there.)

corpse-flower-2010

Comment below to be entered in the drawing. If you feel like it, tell me about a time when someone cheered you up or you caused someone to stop being a Gloomy Gus. Winners will be announced November 5. Looking for Lyn? Look no farther than her website.

Happy Hooligan and Gloomy Gus from comicvine.com. Gloomy Gus from robot6.comicbookresources.com. Sun from clker.com. Corpse flower from hometown-pasadena.com.

Stuck in Neutral

After so many gloomy rainy days, the warm sun beckoned. I ventured outside as eager as a chick bursting through an eggshell, glorying in a sky scrubbed clean of clouds. But enjoyment of the day wasn’t the only thing on my mind. Something bothered me.

Bright-Blue-Sky (1)

I didn’t take this picture, but it provides an idea of what I mean.

I’m not sure why, but a cricket chirping in the bike shed of my apartment building caused me to glance down at the T-shirt I wore—this T-shirt:

009

And I thought, That’s it. That’s what’s bothering me. I don’t mean the image per se. I’m quite partial to it, actually. No, the idea of movement itself—or the seeming lack thereof in my life—is what bothers me.

Let’s see . . . I’ve sent out manuscript queries; I’ve applied for jobs; I’ve networked. Baby steps these seem—tiny bursts of movement like flickering fireflies.

fireflies

But I made them, and now I’m waiting for something to happen, or at least some step I can take toward making something happen. For now, I feel stuck in neutral.

shift-in-neutral

Everybody waits for something. Is there something for which you wait? Some of us don’t wait easily. We long too much for something to change—a change for the good.

27712A scene I recently read really resonated with me. It comes from The Neverending Story by Michael Ende. Without giving away the plot (It’s complicated), I can tell you that the main character, Bastian Balthazar Bux, comes across an unusual house that can change its own rooms. Here’s a small portion of the scene.

After a short silence she said: ‘I think it would like us to move into the next room. I believe it may have arranged something for you.’

‘Who?’ Bastian asked, looking around.

‘The House of Change,’ said Dame Eyola, as if that were the most natural thing in the world.

And indeed a strange thing had happened. The living room had changed without Bastian noticing that anything was going on. (Ende 404)

Would you like to live in a house that could do this? I love this scene, not only for its coziness (I’m partial to scenes like this as well as the scene in Tom Bombadil’s house in Fellowship of the Ring), but because of the theme of change. The house did its best to delight Bastian by changing in such creative ways. I’m reminded also of another delightful book—Tuesdays at the Castle by Jessica Day George, where the castle changes its own rooms.

                   423092  10508431

I love any scene in which someone or something acts toward the good of someone and a delightful change is the result. And that’s key—something that delights. In a year in which bad changes have occurred, I can’t help longing for something good to happen.

Ende, Michael. The Neverending Story. Trans. By Ralph Manheim. New York: Firebird/Penguin, 1983. 404. First printed in Germany as Die Unendliche Geschichte by K. Thienemanns Verlag, 1979. Print.

Blue sky from freetwitterheaders.net. Fireflies from successfulworkplace.com. Neutral gear from georgecastellion.com. Book covers from Gooreads.

Going for the Heart

Today, I’ll reveal the winner of Charles Yallowitz’s Legends of Windemere books. (See author interview here.) But before I get to that, let me get to this. . . .

When I was a kid, Saturdays were for watching martial arts films and Godzilla movies. I didn’t care so much about plot or whether or not a story was emotionally satisfying. Watching two people with a specific skill set fighting each other or watching a crowd running from a huge monster provided enough satisfaction for a kid like me who generally felt powerless.

bruce-lee-bruce-lee-32791998-1200-791

Bruce Lee!

But when I became an adult, a story’s emotional core mattered. Plot and action scenes without heart failed to interest me. And heart is shown through good, solid characters with emotional arcs.

In an article in Entertainment Weekly about Christopher Nolan and his latest film, Interstellar (in theaters November 7), writer Jeff Jensen said of Nolan, “Finding new ways to emotionally engage an audience has become increasingly important to him” (Entertainment Weekly 23).

      interstellar-poster-christopher-nolan CHRISTOPHER-NOLAN-INTERSTELLAR-MOVIE-2014-HD-WALLPAPERS

Glad to hear it. I’ve generally found Nolan’s films to be emotionally engaging. Batman Begins and The Dark Knight are two of my favorite superhero movies ever. I love Nolan’s ability to write/produce/direct a film that engages the brain and the heart—not an easy task. So of course, I’m looking forward to seeing Interstellar, which stars Matthew McConaughey and Anne Hathaway, and involves a wormhole.

          Batman-Begins the_dark_knight_poster1

Charles Yallowitz is another author who strives to engage the brain and the heart with his books. (How’s that for a segue?)

          Charles_author_photo_B&W Compass_Key_Cover

So, let’s get to the winner of his books, shall we? The winner of the Legends of Windemere books is . . .

Is . . .

Is . . .

Is . . .

Andy of City Jackdaw!

Congratulations, Andy! Please comment below to confirm, then email me at lmarie7b(at)gmail(dot)com to provide the email address you generally use with Amazon. If for some reason, you cannot accept, please let me know and I will choose another winner.

While you cheer for Andy, please tell me the name of your favorite Christopher Nolan film or, if you like, name something (or someone) a film has to have in order to engage your heart. I’ll start by telling you two words that generally work for me: heroic elves. Now if Christopher Nolan somehow worked them into the plot of Interstellar, he has my loyalty for life.

Jensen, Jeff. “Interstellar.” Entertainment Weekly. 24 Oct. 2014. 20-28. Print.

Bruce Lee photo from fanpop. Instellar images from hdwallpaperscool.com. Batman Begins poster from filmoria.co.uk.

They’re Back

There I was, driving down the street next to my apartment building when I saw them, huddled at the curb, as if daring me to draw nearer. In fact, they chose that moment to saunter into the street. My heart sank and I slammed on the brakes. As they crossed to the next curb, each turned and gave me a look as if to say, “Yeah. We made you stop. We can make you do whatever we like. And there’s nothin’ you can about it, ’cause we own this street. Mwahahahaha!!!!!”

Who are they? Canadian geese. They’d been away much of the summer. Now that the weather cooled down, they were back. Since I was driving, I couldn’t grab my phone to snap a photo of my own. I had to find one on the Internet.

Canadian-Goose

Look at ’em. They’re plotting to walk in front of my car.

I don’t know why they usually feel the need to saunter into the street the moment they see my car. But whenever I see them, my attitude instantly shifts toward the negative. And they don’t have to do anything to merit my negativity. All they have to do is show up.

Ever feel that way? Not just about geese but about a person or a group? What about teens? I ask about them specifically, because sometimes, when I see a few geese sauntering down the street, I think of teens. This doesn’t mean that I have the same negative attitude toward teens as I’ve expressed about geese. But teens in my neighborhood, like geese, gather in groups in parks and on street corners. Many have an “I dare you to stop me” manner, as if they expect anyone they encounter, particularly an adult, to thwart them in some way. (Not all behave that way of course.)

The-Sims-FreePlay-for-iPad-1

Look at ’em. Waiting for the rest of the gaggle.

When I was a teen, I usually knew when adults had a negative attitude toward me, especially those I saw each day on the bus on my way to school or at the mall. Perhaps they had an expectation that my friends and I would be too loud or too impetuous or too _______ (fill in the blank). That attitude was usually expessed with a look that told me, Oh no. Teens. Why do they have to be here? As if they wished us 50 miles away.

Perhaps their attitude sprang from a bad experience with a teen or from a lack of understanding of teens, though they were teens themselves once. Perhaps suspicion has created a gap neither side has bridged.

You know, suddenly I’m reminded of my attitude toward the geese. My jaded attitude comes from dodging geese in the road or dodging their poop in parks. But my attitude says more about me than about the geese, doesn’t it? Even if I think I’m justified, am I really?

The day I saw the geese, I was impatient to get to my destination. The geese happened to get in my way. I felt that my desire to get where I was going was more important than their desire to cross the street. When their rights coincided with mine, intolerance was the result.

So, I know what I need to do. I need to deal with my own issue, instead of blaming the geese. Yes, they’re back as they usually are at this time of year—just in time to remind me that patience and tolerance are virtues I can cultivate.

Canada_goose

Are you lookin’ at me? Honk if you are.

Canadian geese from Wikipedia and elsewhere on the Internet. Sims FreePlay teens from blog.mezzacorona.it.

Check This Out: The Compass Key

Hello, and welcome to one of my favorite pastimes on the blog: author interviews. Today on the blog is the always awesome Charles Yallowitz, the author of the Legends of Windemere fantasy series. Welcome, Charles!

You undoubtedly know Charles from his blog. But do you know his series? Five books have been published, the latest of which is The Compass Key. (Read the synopsis here.) Take a look at the groovy covers with art by Jason Pedersen.

            Charles_author_photo_B&W Compass_Key_Cover

               wattpad_beginning rsz_prodigy_cover_final

               rsz_1allure_final_cover  21541645

Later, I’ll tell you about a giveaway I’m hosting. If you’ve read an interview on this blog before, you already know what I’m giving away. Let’s talk to Charles, and you can see if you’re right.

El Space: Now that you’ve published the fifth book of your series, what have you learned about yourself as an author?
Charles: I learned that I’m still learning how to improve my style. Through writing full-time, I’ve made friends with other authors and some editors who have given me pointers. So I’m using this knowledge to improve my writing as I continue. My core style remains the same, but it’s more the mechanics and how to make things neater that I’m improving on.

Honestly, the fifth book didn’t really change anything for me. I expected a lot to happen, but it seems to be business as usual as far as sales and social media activity. In fact, I was kind of disappointed since so many people said “things change” when the fifth book of a series is released. So I’m starting to think that I should focus more of my attention on editing and writing the other books than hunting for trends. In that respect, I’m falling back into the role of carefree writer than number-obsessed author, which is what I was for a little while.

El Space: What pleases you most about your characters’ evolution? Is there anyone whose growth surprised you? If so who? Why?
Charles: I like how I never know exactly how the characters will evolve. I get the basic ideas of where I want them to go, but they routinely take detours, fall a few steps back, or go in opposite directions. It feels very organic and natural since I’m not forcing them to step out of their established personalities just because I want them to be a certain hero. I think it makes the characters more relatable since everyone has had moments where they fall back in their personal “evolution.”

        Luke_Cross_Swords  Nyx_Glowing

Luke and Nyx

It’s hard to pick a character who stands out since so many of them went differently than what I planned. Baron Kernaghan, the main villain, came out a lot more benevolent and kind than I expected. I enjoy writing his scenes because I actually like the guy even when he’s doing something evil. Every piece of his past that appears makes him more human and oddly sympathetic. On the other hand, another villain was supposed to start off mildly evil and rise into sadistic menace. Then I started writing him and his first big scene is him torturing one of the female heroes. I’m not sure where this character can go from there and I really look forward to the book where I get to kill him off because he’s so vile.

El Space: What did you find the hardest about writing The Compass Key? The easiest? Nonspoilery, of course. :-)
Charles: The hardest part about The Compass Key is that it closed up a lot of old plotlines and introduced several new ones. It was a rough transition and I was always wondering if I was doing justice to the things I was retiring and introducing. This was made more of a challenge with the book having more action scenes than the previous volumes. I believe I counted 36 separate fights throughout the book, which is why I had the characters showing signs of mental and emotional exhaustion near the end. Don’t get me wrong though. Writing the action scenes was a lot of fun and it helped me see how the heroes interacted with each other, but it felt strange to have so much action after being more focused on dialogues and character interactions. Nothing I could do though, because everything was necessary. Oh and there’s a scene near the end that was truly gut-wrenching to write.

The easiest part about The Compass Key was that I had been planning it for so long. It’s a turning point book in the series, so I’ve had to foreshadow toward it. So it meant that there was more of a foundation than the books that had their own relatively contained story like Allure of the Gypsies and Family of the Tri-Rune. Those had planning, but they were so character driven that things kept changing as I wrote. That wasn’t the case with this one because it was very much about jumping from the old stories to the new.

El Space: If a videogame were to be made using characters from your series, what would you envision as a quest? What characters would be involved in the game?
Charles: Somewhere in my room is a notebook with information on a Legends of Windemere videogame and I believe I got as far as designing Timoran Wrath. Given the epic quest and character-driven stories of the series, I’d go with an RPG along the lines of classic Final Fantasy, though I’d like more active combat where you can switch between the characters on the field. Again, I have the naïve setup somewhere and I think I had it as squads depending on how many characters were involved in the scene. Since you need all of the heroes in the story, it would be set up that you could take control of whichever one you wanted.

final fantasy game wallpapers_15

I do remember there was a side quest where you gathered magical instruments, sheet music, and other bard-based items so that the six champions can perform in a tavern. It doesn’t come up that often in the books, but each hero knows how to play an instrument or sing.

El Space: Recently I read an article at this website on the future of science fiction and fantasy. How would you answer the question posed there: “What is the future of Science Fiction and Fantasy?”
Charles: The future is ahead of us and possibly behind us. The genres are kind of weird because it really depends on what an audience jacks into. I can only speak for fantasy, but currently it’s all about dark, gritty stories with political intrigue and anti-heroes. This is probably due to the popularity of Game of Thrones. Before that, you saw more quest-based stories like Lord of the Rings and there were the series revolving around a chosen hero like Harry Potter. So there are cycles that happen within fantasy and you never know when it’s going to come around.

                Game-of-Thrones-Tie-in-Cover-a-song-of-ice-and-fire-20154638-794-1213   harry-potter-half-blood-prince-new-cover

If people are wondering if these genres will vanish then the answer is no. Fantasy will always be around because it’s pure escapism and I think that will always have an audience. There does seem to be a rise in people reading to find plot holes or show how science disproves magic, but that could just be a vocal minority. In the end, fantasy will survive and continue drawing people out of reality either by quests, gritty dark fantasy, or whatever else the genre will evolve into as new authors appear to put their own twists on things.

El Space: What are you working on now?
Charles: Right now I’m finishing up this interview. After that, I’m going back to editing Family of the Tri-Rune in my project to read through all of my books and use my new knowledge to clean them up a bit more. This is nothing more than cosmetic changes and I’m double-checking my continuity. I already have the first 8 books written, so I want to make sure everything is in its proper place before I tackle Book 9. That’s another big transition book, especially for two of the heroes. As far as publishing goes, Curse of the Dark Wind is still being edited and I’m waiting on cover art. I’m not able to say when it will be released, but I’m hoping for December to take advantage of Christmas. It really depends on how chaotic things are for me and everyone else involved.

Thanks, Charles, for taking time out of your busy schedule to stop by!

You can find Charles at his blog, Facebook, Goodreads, Wattpad, and Twitter. The Legends of Windemere series can be found at Amazon. One of you will win all five books of this series. Comment below to be entered in the drawing. Winner to be announced on Tuesday, October 21.

Cover art for the Legends of Windemere by Jason Pedersen. Character art by Kayla Matt. Final Fantasy image from arts-wallpapers.com.

A Patch of Blue

All morning I’d been gloomy over the gray, gray skies and a dearth of ideas for my novel. Having felt about as creative as a spoon, I went for a drive—a usual head clearer for me. As I headed home, however, my spirits lifted at the sight of a patch of blue in the gray sky, a patch like the blue lining of a gray pouch.

004

Though “the blues” is a euphemism for depression, the color blue “is a practical, happy color for many,” according to an article, “What Your Car Color Says About You.” Look for that here. In another article, one at the Huffington Post website (from 2012—I couldn’t find a more current one), blue is a favorite house paint color for many in America.

    something-blue-rsvp-shoes-on-black-bridal-bliss Blue_Button_Mix

My favorite color is red, but I also love blue. The house paint article mentioned the “serenity” of the color blue. I can understand the feeling. You can too, right? Many of us would gladly loll on the beach, gazing at cool blue water. Watching the waves gently lapping the shore makes me feel peaceful. And I usually cheer up immensely when I see a blue sky after days of rain, rain, rain let loose from an iron gray sky.

    Blue-water-blue-22687419-2048-1365 blue sky

There are sooooo many beautiful shades of blue.

pantone_colours07

Here’s one of my favorite blue items (the TARDIS from Doctor Who in case you’re wondering):

doctorwho_s05_e00_21_tardis__x-large

And this one:

007

Seeing that patch of blue in the sky during my drive reminds me that gray won’t always be the prevailing color. There is the hope of change.

Random daisy photo (another reminder of hope):

002


Blue shoes from blackbridalbliss.com. Buttons from galleryhip.com. Blue water from fanpop.com. Pantone blue shades from genx10.com. Blue sky from iloveeasthampton.blogspot.com.

Cover Reveal: Surviving Santiago

You’ve heard that it takes a village to raise a child. Well, it takes a village to produce a good book—a literary “child.” And that’s true of Surviving Santiago, a literary child by the awesome Lyn Miller-Lachmann. Feast your eyes on the cover.

9780762456338

You might know Lyn from her blog and from her visits here.

Lyn_photo

A good book needs a place to call home. Surviving Santiago, a young adult novel, found a home at Running Press. It is a companion book to Gringolandia (Curbstone/Northwestern University Press, 2009) and debuts June 2, 2015. Here’s the synopsis:

To sixteen-year-old Tina Aguilar, love is the center of her world with its warmth and ability to make a place into a home. Thus Tina is less than thrilled to return to her birthplace of Santiago, Chile, for the first time in eight years to visit her father, the man who betrayed her and her mother’s love through his political obsession and alcoholism. Tina is not surprised to find Papá physically disabled from his time as a political prisoner, but she is disappointed and confused by his constant avoidance of her company. So when Frankie, a mysterious, crush-worthy boy, shows interest in her, Tina does not hesitate to embrace his affection.

However, Frankie’s reason for being in Tina’s neighborhood is far from incidental or innocent, and the web of deception surrounding Tina begins to spin out of control. Tina’s heart is already in turmoil, but adding her and her family’s survival into the mix brings her to the edge of truth and discovery.

Romance and intrigue intertwine in Lyn Miller-Lachmann’s coming-of-age story set amidst the tense anticipation at the end of the Pinochet regime in 1989. Fans of Gringolandia will recognize the Aguilar family as they continue their story of survival and redemption.

You know you want this book. I can tell.

A good book needs champions at a publishing house. One of Surviving Santiago‘s champions is the editor, Lisa Cheng, who also edited The Color of Rain by the ever wonderful Cori McCarthy, who was interviewed on this blog. Another champion is the publicist, Val Howlett, who helps spread the word about Lyn’s book.

Last, but not least, a good book needs a good cover. (That’s your cue to take a second look at the cover above.) Surviving Santiago‘s cover was designed T. L. Bonaddio. Click here for her website.

Wondering what Lyn thinks about the cover? Wonder no more:

My reading of Latin American detective fiction influenced Surviving Santiago, which blends history, romance, and suspense. One of my favorite authors for adults is the genre-crossing Chilean-Mexican-Spanish writer Roberto Bolaño. Surviving Santiago’s cover references his Distant Star, a novel that explores truth and revenge at the end of the Pinochet dictatorship.

Distant-Star

Looking for a good book? You can preorder Surviving Santiago here:

Indiebound
Amazon

Curious about Gringolandia (another good book)? Click here.

Lyn Miller-Lachmann is the author of Gringolandia (a 2010 ALA Best Book for Young Adults) and Rogue. She has an M.F.A. in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts and an M.S. in Library and Information Science from the University of Wisconsin. She is the former editor of MultiCultural Review and has taught English, social studies, and Jewish studies. She is the assistant host of Vientos del Pueblo, a bilingual radio show featuring Latin American and Spanish music, poetry, and history. She grew up in Houston and currently lives in New York with her family. You can visit her online at http://www.lynmillerlachmann.com/

Lyn is represented by Ellen Geiger at Frances Goldin Literary Agency.