Check This Out: The Danger Gang and the Pirates of Borneo!

Ahoy there, mateys! Glad I am ye stopped by today. With me on the blog is the awesome Steve Bramucci, who is here to talk about his middle grade adventure novel, The Danger Gang and the Pirates of Borneo! ’Twas illustrated by Arree Chung, and then published by Bloomsbury on August 1. For a synopsis, go here.

 

Steve is represented by Sara Crowe. In a few minutes, I’ll tell ye all about a giveaway for The Danger Gang and the Pirates of Borneo! But first, let’s have a chat with Steve!

El Space: Four quick facts about yourself?
Steve: Random facts? Book related facts? Important life facts? Orangutan facts? I’ll try one of each!
1. Even though I write about exotic food, my all-time favorite meal is just rotini overloaded with parmesan cheese. It was my favorite as a boy and the draw of “flavor nostalgia” still gets me at least once per week. I was traveling around the world a few years ago and missed pasta with parmesan so badly that I had a friend bring me some Kraft parmesan when we met up in Cambodia.


2. The first page of The Danger Gang and the Pirates of Borneo!in which the narrator introduces himselfremains virtually unchanged from its very first incarnation, written during a break at an SCBWI conference. Everything else has changed drastically from those early days.
3. My dad died two weeks after the book sold.

El Space: So sorry. You have my condolences.
Steve: He was such an amazing guy that I’ve always worried I won’t be able to measure up to his legacy. That, really, is the theme of the book: One boy’s longing to impress his parents and step out of their giant shadows.

4. Orangutans are a truly astounding species and critically endangered due to habitat encroachment. A portion of my proceeds from the book go here. Anyone who decides they want to donate to that charity, or any other orangutan initiative, can email me on my website for some free Danger Gang swag!

El Space: Awesome! You wear a lot of hats, including managing editor at Uproxx, and you’ve written travel articles for many publications. How did you come to write children’s books?
Steve: I’m actually surprised that more travel writers don’t start writing for kids. Travel is basically the real life incarnation of our childhood fantasies about adulthoodthe way that we thought adulthood would feel when we were young. For me, travel writing is the chance to live out my boyhood adventure dreams, and writing this book was right in line with that.

Photo credit: Jake Anderson

The journey to writing for kids was actually a little longer than me just pivoting all at once. I’ve been telling pirate stories to kids at schools and events near my home for more than a decade now, I’ve been involved in SCBWI, and even written another, unsold, novel. It wasn’t until I went to the Vermont College of Fine Arts that all the pieces congealed.

The author, livin’ the life

El Space: The Danger Gang and the Pirates of Borneo reminds me of the fun of adventure stories like the Indiana Jones moviesat least the earlier onesand The Goonies. What was the inspiration behind it? How did your main character, Ronald Zupan, come to be? Why was a pet cobra an ideal pet for him?
Steve: I definitely wanted the book to feel pulp-y, like an old-timey serial. The Indiana Jones connection was obviously intentional and you can see that in the way the book is packaged. Semi-side note: For me, modern technology rarely serves adventure, so Ronald and his friends sort of exist in a vague pre-tech era (50s? 40s?). You won’t see cell phones or computers or… I actually made great efforts to avoid mentioning any plastic objects all together.

The Goonies is a huge reference point too. I love stories where the basic pitch is: “Kids go on an adventure and learn stuff along the way. Also, there are mean bad guys with bad oral hygiene.” Bloomsbury calls the book Indiana Jones meets Lemony Snicket which is the most flattering “blank meets blank” analogy I could ever hope to receive.

As for the cobra, there are a few big reasons:
• I’m highly allergic to cats and house dogs, so I always had reptiles as pets. My dad would take me to a farm and let me keep whatever snakes I could catch.
• Indiana Jones hates snakes and I love them, so I wanted to give that massive series a little poke in the ribs by having Ronald be a snake lover.
• Ronald would never have an ordinary pet, so the choice feels very natural for the character.
• But mostly, it just came to me and people laughed. When I read something and people laugh, I suddenly become very attached to that bit.

EPSON MFP image

El Space: Are you a pantser or a plotter? What’s your writing process?
Steve: I’d say I’m … a little of both. I’ll outline, but if some idea strikes me, I’m quick to ditch my notes. I’ll follow whims without much convincing. I also don’t outline before the first major turning point. I like to keep the early pages moving and full of that electric energy.

In this series, Ronald and I are so similar in mindset that most of the time I just have to ask: “What would I do next in this situation?” By following that thought process, I manage to get Ronald in a lot of trouble.

El Space: You’ve traveled extensively. Of the places you’ve visited, which is/are your favorite place/places to return to again and again? Why?
Steve: I get asked the “favorite place” question a lot and my answer hasn’t changed in a long time now: Madagascar is my #1 place on earth. It’s just … for the adventure traveler, it’s really perfect: Affordable, exciting, not over-touristed, and unique, with incredibly kind people and a fascinating local culture. Also, the whole mini-continent has a rich pirate history and, as you know, I love pirates.

As for a place to return to, I’m going to say the American Southwest. It’s just so iconic, so different from citified-America, so full of sprawling landscapes and potential for adventure. Every few years I go to Canyon de Chelly and ride Navajo ponies through the canyon for a few days. That’s one of my favorite shorter trips on earth.

El Space: You’re going around the world, but can only take three things besides a passport. What would you take and why?
Steve: Objects? A surfboard, an iPod without internet capability, and a good bookmaybe a compendium of Twain or a copy of The Princess Bride. With that set up, I could travel for a year without much complaint.

El Space: What will you work on next?
Steve: I’m finishing the edits on The Danger Gang and the Isle of Feral Beasts right now!

Thanks, Steve, for being my guest!

Where in the internet world is Steve Bramucci? You can find him on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Uproxx.

The Danger Gang and the Pirates of Borneo can be found at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Powell’s. But one of you will find a copy of it at your doorstep—or tablet if you prefer—simply by commenting. Winner will be announced on August 14.

Photos and book cover courtesy of Steve Bramucci, with the exception of the Canyon de Chelly photo, which is found at galleryhip.com, the rotini photo, which is from 34st.com., and The Princess Bride book cover, which is from Goodreads. The Goonies movie poster from movieposter.com. Pirate from clipartlord.com.

Check This Out: Chasing Bedlam

Return to the Shattered States
for a tale of love between a woman & her jeep!

Cover Art by Jon Hunsinger

Cover Art by Jon Hunsinger

Lloyd and Cassidy’s last adventure was to honor a life. This time they are out to end one.

It was a normal, violent mission to Texas that should have had nothing more than beer-induced hiccups. That is until an old enemy makes off with Cassidy’s jeep and most of their gear. Needless to say, she’s pissed off and challenging Lloyd for the psychopath of the month award. With the mouthy serial killer by her side, she is going on the warpath from Dallas to Miami even if it means declaring war on the drug cartels.

So strap in for another wild ride through the Shattered States and learn why you never mess with Cassidy’s jeep.

Available on Amazon for 99 cents!

Want a taste?

“So your boss thought she could send assassins to kill the Riflemen,” the black-haired leader says, earning a cheer from his men. A firm smack to the prisoner’s head silences her gurgling attempt to deny the charge. “Nothing you say can prevent the inevitable. Don’t go thinking that pet serial killer will save you either. The idiot brought a paintball gun to Texas and thought he’d win a gunfight? I’m surprised he lasted as long as he did. All we need to do is find the body and we can collect the bounty on him too. Guess you’re lucky that he’s wanted dead and you’re wanted alive by that warden up north.”

“I’d be careful, boss,” a sword-wielding gang member warns. She leans away from the angry glare, but rolls up her sleeve to reveal a sloppily stitched wound. “While this one isn’t as tough as her reputation says, she can still hit hard. Lost two men before we restrained her and three more are nursing broken balls. Maybe we should use some of our tranquilizer stash and keep her sedated.”

“No reason for th-” Top Hog begins as he runs his hand across the prisoner’s forehead. He rubs his fingers at the sensation of something sticky between his fingers and looks closer to figure out what he has touched. “This scar is fake. Made from glue or something. Are you sure this is Cassidy?”

“She was with Lloyd Tenay at the bar,” a one-eyed man replies in a shaky voice. He shifts from one foot to the other when everyone else takes a step away from him. “You told us to look for him and a blonde woman. She had the denim jacket, the forehead scar, cursed a lot, carried two pistols, and even has the correct tramp stamp. Everyone was calling her Cassidy after she drove up in the blue jeep too. We made sure that everything checked out, boss. Even bribed the bartender and two waitresses.”

Sweat beading on his face, Top Hog draws his large gun and presses it to the prisoner’s temple. He leans around her, his eyes repeatedly darting toward her hands to make sure they are still bound. Lifting her white shirt, he sees the unique tattoo that the widespread stories mention Cassidy getting a little less than a year ago. The design is two pistols back to back with vines of bone curling around and binding them together. A strange discoloration catches the gang leader’s attention and he rubs his thumb along the woman’s side, pushing his weapon harder against her head to prevent wiggling. He swears that he feels a seam, so he gets a dirty fingernail beneath what turns out to be a flesh-colored sticker. Top Hog yanks it off and shows it to his men, the prisoner biting her lower lip to avoid screaming. He can already see that the tattoo is smeared from where he has touched it with his meaty fingers.

Enraged and embarrassed, the gang leader is about to kill the fake Cassidy when he hears distant rock music. Within seconds, he realizes that the source is getting closer and is soon joined by maniacal laughter coming over a crackling megaphone. With a snap of his fingers, Top Hog orders one of his men to take the prisoner to his office while the others run for the exit. Nobody gets very far before a blue jeep, which has been outfitted with a wide battering ram, smashes through the front of the warehouse. The vehicle leaves a gaping hole in the wall, which is made worse by hooked chains on the rear bumper that catch and tear more of the obstacle down. The jeep continues at full speed through crates, shelving units, and the slower gang members whose deaths are celebrated by honks of the horn. Tires screech as the driver hits the brakes and gets the car to spin, the move appearing to have no purpose beyond making those inside dizzy. With an embarrassing thud, the vehicle hits the back wall and hisses to a stop.

The gang have already drawn their weapons and are cautiously approaching the jeep when the sunroof opens. Bullets fly at the blonde figure that leaps out, the projectiles creating so many holes that the top half of their target falls off. The legs of the cardboard cutout are casually tossed to the floor before the shriek of a megaphone makes everyone cringe and cover their ears. With the tattered remains laying face up, the frustrated criminals realize that they have destroyed another Cassidy decoy. They are about to inch closer when the jeep briefly roars to life and a man inside begins making engine noises. The sounds change to the exaggerated screams and detailed begging of those whose parts are still stuck to the scuffed battering ram.

“So that was your plan, Cassidy?” Top Hog asks with a chuckle. He turns to see their prisoner is trying to roll away and fires his gun into the air to stop her. “Two decoys, so that you could get the drop on us. Guess you thought more of us would get run over. You still have thirteen of my crew standing and you’re cornered in that jeep. Now, the only question is if I send a piece of you back to the Duchess as a message that she should stay out of my business. Damn northerner needs to stay out of Texas’s business.”

“Actually, that young woman was the bait and I was the distraction,” Lloyd announces from inside. With a gleeful laugh, he opens one of the doors and yanks it back when the gang shoots at him. “Well shit. That was my favorite power window button. Anyway, people make that mistake all the time. You see, bait draws you in and, at least here, allows the real predators to follow you back to the previously hidden hideout. Not even a sign to help us out, which is very rude and unaccommodating. Now, the distraction’s job is to keep you looking in one direction while a mischievous maiden of mayhem prepares her new toy somewhere else. Don’t bother running, boys, because she’ll take that as an insult.”

Top Hog and his men turn toward the hole in the wall, which has exposed them to the large parking lot. The sun forces them to squint at the lone figure standing behind a loaded mini-gun, the weapon glinting in the midday light. Clouds move across the sky, which makes it easier for the gang to identify the denim jacket and blonde hair of their enemy. They take a few shots at the distant woman, but their bullets either miss completely or bounce off several riot shields that are strapped to the weapon. A slamming car door causes them to jump, but they turn in the wrong direction and are unable to stop Lloyd from racing toward the prisoner. Wearing orange pants from his time as a prisoner and a red shirt with a lightning bolt, the black-haired serial killer seems like an obvious target as he scoops up the young woman and dives behind a box of grenades. Suddenly afraid for their lives, Top Hog and his men attempt to scatter and hunt for cover.

“I hate moving targets,” Cassidy growls.

And don’t forget how it all started in
CROSSING BEDLAM!
Also on sale for 99 cents!

charles

About the Author:

Charles Yallowitz was born and raised on Long Island, NY, but he has spent most of his life wandering his own imagination in a blissful haze. Occasionally, he would return from this world for the necessities such as food, showers, and Saturday morning cartoons. One day he returned from his imagination and decided he would share his stories with the world. After his wife decided that she was tired of hearing the same stories repeatedly, she convinced him that it would make more sense to follow his dream of being a fantasy author. So, locked within the house under orders to shut up and get to work, Charles brings you Legends of Windemere. He looks forward to sharing all of his stories with you, and his wife is happy he finally has someone else to play with.

Blog: www.legendsofwindemere.com
Twitter: @cyallowitz
Facebook: Charles Yallowitz
Website: www.charleseyallowitz.com

The View from the Deck

Trip Photo 6 011

Hey, it’s been awhile. Sorry about that. I’ve missed my routine of posting and reading the posts of others. But my stress points had begun to stack up like billiard balls before the break. I needed to get away. So I headed to central Pennsylvania for a retreat—the perfect antidote for stress, thanks to the gracious hospitality of a friend. I wrote, walked, hung out with classmates, ate lots of good food, and made new canine friends. (Sorry. I don’t have permission to share photos of them. Suffice it to say that I enjoyed being with them.)

The sunrises and sunsets were glorious over the hills. Each day I enjoyed watching the poetry of the sky, a meter measured by my lowered heart rate and quieted spirit. You can’t buy this kind of peace, people.

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If you’ve been through Illinois, you know how flat the land is here. So the sight of any hill is a treat.

Trip Photo 13Trip Photo 11

Trip Photo 12   Trip Photo 2

But I’m glad to be back home in my familiar routine. By the way, Mom still awaits her insurance’s okay for treatment. (Very frustrating.) And I’m still waiting for other news too. If you have no idea what I mean, click here. I hope to return to my regular blog reading soon. 🙂

Beaver Stadium at Penn State University

(not far from where I stayed)

Trip Photo 1

Woods near where I stayed

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View from above (going home)

Trip Photo 9

I’m Back!

Howdy! Yes, I’m back at last. I’m sorry this blog was dark for a week and that I’ve missed reading many of my favorite blogs. Wondering where I’ve been? Well, remember this photo from my previous post?

002For the past week, I traded that setting for the warmth of two cities in Texas: Austin and Houston. Yee ha!
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In Austin, I met up with four VCFA classmates for a writing retreat at the Writing Barn, a 7.5 acre retreat and book launch center in Austin (operated by author Bethany Hegedus; click on the Writing Barn above to find out more about this place).

Ever feel your soul expand? That’s how I felt the whole time I was away. Back home, life felt too narrow and grumbling too familiar. I needed to be in a place filled with interesting trees and green grass if only for a short while. Here are some photos of the grounds where tame deer roam freely, and beauty can be found in abundance.

005Note the lack of snow in this photo.

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My friends and I stayed here—at the Book House (below). Very appropriate, since we were all writing books. 🙂

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This is the Writing Barn—the place where conferences, book launches, and book magic happen.

Whenever we weren’t discussing the craft of writing, a pleasant walk was the order of the day. My hat is off to Bethany for the ambience. Everywhere you look there is something beautiful or inspiring to see—a good reminder of the calming power of nature. Ah! I could feel my stress melt away.

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After staying at the Writing Barn a few days, I headed to Houston. Since my parents, brother, and sister-in-law live there, Houston is a second home.

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Houston, but not one of my photos

Since I travel to Houston quite a lot, I don’t usually do touristy picture taking. I hung out with my family, soaking in the 72 degree weather (Fahrenheit; 22 degrees Celsius, if you prefer) and eating delicious Thai food at the Thai Cottage in Sugar Land. If you happen to go there, I recommend the shrimp mermaid appetizer and the chili paste with shrimp. My stomach was grateful for the experience.

menu-mermaid

Shrimp mermaid (stuffed with crab meat)

Now I’m back home in the cold, unpacking and getting back into my normal routine. At least I have wonderful memories.

For another post on a visit to the Writing Barn, check out Laura Sibson’s blog.

Photos by L. Marie, except for the shrimp mermaid appetizer, which came from the Thai Cottage website, and the Houston photo, which came from houstontransit.blogs.rice.edu.