Book Review: Agatha Hattie Queen of the Night

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I kind of wish that my kids were little again – so I could read them this story during D.E.A.R. time (Drop Everything And Read). There’s a new children’s book out, Agatha Hattie Queen of the Night, written by Jacquelyn Fedyk and illustrated by Leslie Nan Moon “for strange parents to read to odd little children…” Considering I include myself in the circles of strange and my children are certainly not mainstream, this tag line on the book’s web site is engaging and makes you want to check it out. You should.

Agatha Hattie is a gothic fairytale where Dr. Seuss meets Lemony Snicket, one I think is poised to become a contemporary classic. Agatha Hattie is a girl who just can’t follow the crowd; it leads her down the path where she meets a vampire dog and dances with him in the fog and the mist, much to the distress of her waiting-at-home parents. The vampire dog bites her and Agatha Hattie’s life goes down yet another unexpected path – which lets readers know why some things in the monster world are as they are.

I loved the unique angle of the story, and like I said, the Dr. Seuss meets A Series of Unfortunate Events slant it has to it – all in a gloriously done picture book. Moon’s art pairs dead-on with Fedyk’s darker, yet huggable, themes in the book – independence, diversity, and embracing opportunity. It reminded me of the The Misadventures of Dreary & Naughty (by John LaFleur & Shawn Dubin)– which is aimed more at a young teen audience, whereas Agatha Hattie can be embraced by children as young those who can hold books and sit still for mom to read to them. – Parental approval pending. As a parent myself, I never assume to know what other parents approve of – since each child has to be individually considered. My point is that I would have read it to any of my kids beginning about that time. The book empowers children to look at dark and scary things in a new light and accept them as whimsical and just part of another culture. I really dig that because it allows children to embrace all manner of differences – and isn’t that a good thing to teach our kids? And why not do it with such a fun book!

Where the story ends leaves the door open for another volume. I hope the author and artist will do more. They probably would if there are enough of us clamoring for more.  Since the team of Fedyk & Moon did a smashing job of independently publishing this book, it’s likely an easier sell than other children’s books. I can see the headlines now:  We Want More Agatha Hattie!

For now, I hope that (eventually) I’ll get to read Agatha Hattie Queen of the Night to some (grand?) children.  In the meantime, I wonder if my teenagers would humor me?

Buy this book.

Note:  Fedyk and Moon will be having their first reading/book launch of the book this Saturday (March 9th) in North Bend, Wash. The event begins at noon at Selah Gifts on North Bend Way. I’ll be there.


Virtual Author Tour! It’s Free! It’s Fun! Come join in

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I haven’t done an author’s blog tour before. Neither had my compatriot, Samantha Tiner. But she did The Next Big Thing; then, asked me to join in.  Sam saw it as a great way to promote her indie release  “The Secret of the Storm” which was released on Sept 1. You can find it on Amazon.

I figured I’d be game to do the same, if only to just get my thoughts clear on what I’m doing with this current work in progress. Also, the idea of this virtual mystery tour was fun.

This tour doesn’t require me or you to get on a plane, train, boat, with a goat or eating Green Eggs and Ham. Just to answer a few questions of interest, have you read them and then tag some fellow writers to participate in the same. It’s a great way to get to know all kinds of emerging writers.  For some authors what they are discussing will already be published (and those that I will tag will find that to be the case, too); but for me, it’s all about the next big thing — unpublished. But hopefully you’ll find it interesting and come back when it is at that magical place called “published.”

Next Big Thing Interviewer:  What is the working title of your book? 


TNBT: Where did the idea come from for the book?

C: During a rainy October day, I saw a flash in the alley of my small town. News events of the previous weeks coupled with some personal tragedies spurred the story. 

TNBT:  What genre does your book fall under?

C:  Someone asked me that the other night as I was vetting some hooklines via social media chat. It most certainly falls under the umbrella term of speculative fiction. It has some urban fantasy elements because it’s set in 2009(ish), but also has some horror elements to it as well. I just call it weird tale. 

TNBT:  Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

C:  The Reverend (AKA Rolston Heyerdahl):  Keith David (aka Keith David Williams)

      Anna Ruby:  Alana de la Garza

      Sam Ruby: Seychelle Gabriel

      Wyatt Raines:  Paul Walker

     Abaak Lajjad:  Steve Buscemi 

TNBT:  What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

C:  A small town is gripped by an malevolent creature and thrust into an epic battle of good versus evil.

TNBT:  Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

C:  I don’t know yet.

TNBT:  How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

C:  30 days. It was my 2009 NaNoWriMo project. 

TNBT:   What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

C:  I told a friend that it’s like the second-half of THE STAND in some aspects, but doesn’t incorporate the whole of the country. It also feels a bit like THE RITUAL, but probably only because I just recently read that. 

TNBT:  Who or What inspired you to write this book?

C:  People who live their truth and do the right thing in the face of much diversity.

TNBT:  What else about your book might pique the readers’ interest?

C:  If they loved Twin Peaks, they’ll probably like this; also I turn establishments on its ear and I win, at least on the pages of this novel, a bit of social justice for the LBGTQ community. 


So, now I get to tag authors to join this loop.

Stephen Matlock and his brand new release STARS IN THE TEXAS SKY.

Victoria Bastedo, who never ceases to amaze me with always having a smile on her face. She also has a new release.

Evan J. Peterson and Eric Andrews-Katz. Both Evan and Eric and I appeared in the anthology AT SECOND GLANCE.  Evan is teaching a class I would LOVE to attend, and has a new release, SKIN JOB. Eric also has a new release, THE JESUS INJECTION.

Last, but surely not least, Kymberlee della Luce. She’s done a one-woman show, UNBRIDLED, which I’m hoping gets more than its inaugural run, and writes constantly. She’s going places in the art world. Keep tabs on her work now. You’ll be glad you did.

Hope you enjoyed the tour and the interview. Go check out the folks that I “tagged.” They are muses to me in their own right.

Thanks for coming along on the tour.


My bad habit of writing industry reading and why you need to read this one article

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In the realm of social media, I follow a lot of industry leaders:  agents, publicists, writing-business gurus, and of course successful authors. The articles, blogs, and other news items that they post, I will often open and leave open on my desktop for reading during my appointed reading time. Currently, I’m behind.  Truth be told:  I read slow. Yet, I think I retain the information I read better than some that read more quickly. So this morning I poured myself a mega-mug of coffee and donned the reading spectacles and went to work at reading all these open tabs about the latest and greatest in book publishing, trends in the business, blogs about what the who’s who in the writing world is reading, and most notably (since I’m gaining momentum in that direction), what’s what in the world of epublishing/ebooks.

All day I’ve been digesting one of these articles. I have concluded that any writer trying to break into the publishing world, especially if you’re planning on doing the ebook route, needs to read this:  What Amazon’s ebook strategy means, written by the author, Charles Stross. Not only do you need to read this article, but you’ll likely need to do like I did and set up a Google alert on some key phrases (digital rights management, epublishing trends, amazon business strategy) so you can continue to follow everything that happens with this very critical piece of the publishing puzzle.

In the honor of full disclosure, Mr. Stross is one of my favorite authors when it comes to hardcore science fiction/space opera. He is a 2005 Hugo award winner, which is nothing to sneeze or poo-poo your literary snoz at. But he’s also a computer guy whose spent a good portion of his writing career providing expository on technology and human interface. The fact that the Linux penguin, Tux, is the icon for his URL endears me greatly. However, that doesn’t mean I didn’t read his post on this subject matter without looking at it critically. But even taking point by point and examining it and playing devil’s advocate, I can’t find a lot of holes in the information he presents. And for those who are just learning the business of the write life — he outlines some nice terms for which you need to be aware.

Jeff Bezos

Here’s my bullet points from all the information Stross provides, which are really sticking with me personally (your Casz’s Exec Summary, if you will, featuring non-technical, non-business-ese language):

  • Amazon can placate emerging writers with contests and grants all they want; but, it won’t take away that on both sides of the coin — author or consumer — we’re all getting screwed by the Bezos’ empire (by the way, he is worth more than $40 billion, mind you).
  • Amazon is the entire planet’s Wal-Mart. And we all know what Wal-Mart has done for the little guy.
  • Learn about Digital Rights Management, it’s impending death (which would be good in the long run for authors and publishers and consumers).
  • Don’t be fooled by the fact that this element has the word “Rights” in it and sounds like it would be something good.
  • When dealing with ebooks remember Stross’ words here, a special heads up to bibliophiles like myself:

Now, most ebook customers are not tech-savvy. It is possible to unlock the DRM on a Kindle ebook and transcode it to epub format for use on other readers; but it’s non-trivial. (Not to mention being a breach of the Kindle terms and conditions of use. Because you don’t own an ebook; in their short-sighted eagerness to close loopholes the publishers tried to make ebooks more like software, where you merely buy a limited license to use the product, rather than actual ownership of an object.) So, because Amazon had shoved a subsidized Kindle reader or a free Kindle iPhone app into their hands, and they’d bought a handful of books using it, the majority of customers found themselves locked in to the platform they’d started out on. Want to move to another platform? That’s hard; you lose all the books you’ve already bought, because you can’t take them with you.

As with most things in this global economy, it’s all more complicated than it seems. Because, being able to be listed on Amazon is a marker in this modern write life. Having folks find your work easily helps sell more of your work. It’s a vicious circle thing. But the power of the internet is this:  we can all be Amazon. I think of many books I’ve purchased as of late, even ebooks, which sometimes is the only way to get some of the newest writers out there, are purchased through independent sources, whether they be brick and mortar stores or through the author’s web site directly. The point I’m trying to elude to here, albeit clumsily, is that as writers if we’re just automatically going to Amazon to purchase our books — we’re feeding the Monopoly and Monopsony. Take a little more time and support the independent book and mortar stores (sounds like the big six are going to need more revenue for legal fees) and/or go to your favorite author’s site and purchase directly from them or their publisher. Buy the real book whenever possible. Ebooks are great for checking out an author and testing literary waters, but if you want to own those words forever — an old fashioned book never ceases to satisfy.

It’s disheartening being an emerging writer and having to also spend time on a business model that seems to change every six months. But it’s a necessary evil.  I encourage folks to do their own research and tell me in the comments below what their own tactics, strategies and knowledge is on the business of writing. All I know is that right now I’m thinking that perhaps a bad habit of writing industry reading really isn’t such a vice.

Don't let real books die; Digital Rights Management must





When Publishing Doesn’t Come To You…Create Your Own Magic

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The writing group that I founded more than three years ago now, SnoValley Writes!, just completed its third writing competition, third volume of our literary journal, and our third public reading. So many threes we decided that the journal’s theme would be THREE IS THE MAGIC NUMBER.

We increased our writing contest entries four fold this year – breaking the whole “three” theme we had going on. But it was totally worth it. We especially got slammed with entries from the category of writer age 17 and under. What incredible stories we got from our writers in the making! The adult category was stunning as well – and a very, very hard decision. Incredible, however, that so many of the young writers got the submission guidelines dead on and about half the adult writers missed the chance to be judged because they didn’t follow instructions. It’s great to think outside the box, except when it comes to submission guidelines, folks! Our 2013 contest should be announced by October or so. So stay tuned. In the meantime you can read the winning entries from both our winners on our web site.

Speaking of increases, the quality of the writing the group is producing and as is featured in the journal has increased threefold, if I do say so myself. And the fact that our first run in the journal is all but gone is testimony as well. However, more can be procured via our page on LuLu.

Art work incorporated into our journal by Toby VanBryce, Jackie Fedyk and Sheri J. Kennedy.


For some in the group, this journal presents a unique opportunity, if their only one, towards publication. As someone whose batting average is barely above nil for my personal submissions this year, I know the occasion for publication is few and far between. But self-publishing is changing all that. Self-publishing is providing new prospects and openings for those who would otherwise not get a chance, especially given that for most it’s all about a numbers game and less about quality (sometimes). Some self-publishing gets a bad name because of poor assembly and internal editing, but I think we cleared that hurdle even higher this time (yes, one could say even…*cough* threefold).  We’re fortunate enough to have some visual artists included in our ranks of SnoValley Writes! including painters, designers, graphic artists, and photographers. The design of this book shows off their talent in that as well.

Putting the book together is quite daunting and I’m refusing to do it again without a proper desktop publishing program. But it also taught me a few things as I work to finish up the first collection of Martius Catalyst episodes in Adventure One: Tangled Treasures.

As far as our Word Jazz performance is concerned, I think it was our best one yet, albeit the least attended. I’m blaming the plague that has descended on our little Cascade Foothills community. Those who participated were allowed yet another break in reading to an audience – something any successful author must expect to do throughout the course of her career. I shed the jitters and applied the lessons I learned from the AT SECOND GLANCE reading back in February. I had fun. My brother saw the photos from the event and said I looked as if I was spell-casting. In a sense anyone who does a proper reading does (and should) cast a spell on their audience.

The biggest lesson from the whole experience – contest, reading, and publication – is that you can create your own literary magic. It’s a lot of work; there may be mistakes made; but it’s all worth it in the end. Feel free to come get a piece of this magic we made, order your copy of THREE IS A MAGIC NUMBER today.

Inkster Dispatch: Trying to Kickstart my Steampunk Heart

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As many of you know I’m co-author on an episodic Web fiction, Martius Catalyst.   Those who have been with this story from the beginning understand the tinkering that has gone into make it happen. There have been times when we sputtered and stalled, but we always made adjustments and kept going full steam ahead.  But even the best inventors need some investors. So, Samantha Tiner, my co-author, and I and our new resident artist, Dan Breaux, have offered up a kickstarter to help get our creation off the ground.

At our Kickstarter page, we have a very cool video that gives you some information and a hint at things to come in our series. We certainly hope that you’ll consider helping us to keep it going. Yes, there are some perks for your donation. Part of the project includes creating a chapbook that you can put on the shelf.

What’s Kickstarter you ask? It’s just like it sounds. Kickstarter is a crowdfunding platform that supports independent artists by allowing them to post their projects and allow fans and friends to help support it along the way. Artists set a goal, patrons pledge during the timeframe of their campaign, and money changes hands only if the project reaches or exceeds it original goal when time is up.

It’s up, it’s live and we’re hoping you participate. Read all about what we’re doing via the link below. And stay tuned for the ride.