Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Forgotten Letters from the Underworld

I'm very excited to announce a new project/series that the incredibly talented artist M. Stagi and I are working on for my favorite children's literature magazine Underneath the Juniper Tree. The series is called Forgotten Letters from the Underworld.

The first letter of the series BARNYCLES can be read over at the site here.

I hope you enjoy reading them as much as we enjoy creating them. We hope to keep them going for a long time to come. I want to give a huge THANK YOU to Tex and Marjorie Merle over at UTJT for all their guidance and love. And especially for helping a little dream come true.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Jarrett Krosoczka serves up the PUDDING

I love our next guest. He's a returning guest and all round awesome dude. I've had the pleasure of talking to him on a few occasions (book fairs) and our daughters share the same name - which already tells you how cool we are (laughs at own comment). But seriously, if you are involved in the world of children's literature or comics then you know about Jarrett Krosoczka. If you are wadding in the kiddie-lit pool and don't know who he is... (shakes head), I can't help you.

When I read that he was contributing to the GUYS READ: THRILLER book I was more amped than a stack of Marshalls at a Punk Farm gig. If you don't know Punk Farm... (shakes head again), I seriously cannot help you.

With lots of help from Kellie at Walden Pond Press, we were able to pin Jarrett down for a few minutes during his whirlwind of a schedule and ask him a few questions about his involvement with the GR: T project. This is what he had to say for himself...

Can you talk to me about your involvement with GR: Thriller and how it came about?

Jon Scieszka invited me to create a piece for Guys Read: Thriller, and well I owe him a lot of money from off-track betting. Just kidding. My debts have been paid. I had the great opportunity of creating a piece for Guys Write for Guys Read way back in 2004, so I was delighted when Jon asked me to be a part of the Guys Read Library series.

Was it is decided that you would tell your story in comic form from the start or was there ever talk of writing in prose? 

Right from the start. I was brought on to create a graphic piece for the book. Kind of like how in Oceans 11, George Clooney hired Casey Affleck to help with the heist.

In your opinion, what makes a thrilling story? What keeps readers glued to the page? 

With a graphic novel, its all about the page turn. The bottom right hand side of every spread is an opportunity to crate a mini cliffhanger. It can be a moment as small as a character putting their hand on the doorknob and turning the page to learn whats on the other side of that door or a much bigger moment, like introducing the villain and turning the page to reveal he is attacking!

What scares you the most? Does this ever influence your writing? 

My mortgage scares me the most, so that keeps me motivated. Kidding, again. (Sort of.) I don’t allow fear to motivate me. I write in the search of awesomeness.

Don't be scared kids.

Do you think these kinds of stories important to have in literature? Why? 

Most definitely. Every reader will connect with a different genre and its important to have work available for all readers.

Did you read thrilling/scary stories growing up? If so, what were some of your favorite stories/authors?

Bunnicula was one of my favorite books from childhood. A vampire bunny? Terrifying! And in high school, I animated Stephen King’s Misery for English class.

Bunnicula was pretty scary. I remember the time I saw the killer bunny rabbit in Monty Python, I was then convinced that vampire bunnies existed. That's how they get you. Cute little bunny wunny.... HISSSSS.... CHOMP!!!

Jarrett, you are one righteous dude. Thank you again for all your time and returning to the Asylum to hang out. Kellie, as I've said on many occasions, you are awesomesauce - no - the entire factory of awesomesauce.

Stay tuned for more thrills and chills and killer bunnies!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011


Break out the leftover Halloween candy!! The judges have settled on a winner for the GUYS READ: THRILLER contest.

First of all let me apologize for the delay. Unfortunately I had a death in the family of someone who was very dear to me. It has been a trying week with many other things piled on (being sick as well) and it has taken a great amount of energy to get back into blogging.

But let this be a celebration of writing and life and all things thrilling. And before we announce the winner and let you read it below - we wanted to chime in on WHY it was chosen. There were many entries for this contest and many of them were well thought out but in the end they missed a key element that would take it to another level.

Let's get down to the nitty gritty. Our fearless writer accomplished many things in a few short sentences. At first read you think you know what is going on. But then we are steered somewhere completely different which is refreshing and fun. The opening is left with a cliffhanger - always a great aspect to thrilling writing - and really made us want to read more. Another aspect to this top pick, it sets up a story in a few short lines. We are getting story, thrills, creeps, and a cliffhanger. And most of all, it was not typical. What we get at the end of the few lines is something we are not reading in every short story or book coming out right now. There are no zombies, vampires, ghosts, etc.

However, there were some great entries that did have zombies, vamps, ghosts and otherworldly beings, but they didn't really change the game or leave us with a sense that there was more to the story than a shocking opening.

This leads me to a discussion I had with one of the judges about the term THRILLER. For many of the entries, the term meant straight up horror. Blood, scares and monsters. We feel thrillers are more or less a story that keeps you on edge, something that has a ticking clock, a story that is not necessarily horrifying but something that keeps you turning the page or not wanting to turn the page in fear of what will happen to the main character. Yes, many of these elements are part of horror writing. But with horror writing there is a greater sense of dread, doom and gloom. Thrillers aren't always doom and gloom. A bank robbing scene is thrilling but not necessarily horrifying. Being chased by a horde of flesh-eating zombies is both thrilling and horrifying and we would put that in the horror cataGOREy (see what we did there?)

Okay, okay... without further adieu we are pleased to announce and quiet shocked to be honest that our winner is a well known published author. Before you scream UNFAIR, let me tell you that all entries given to the judges were anonymous. Because, yes, we all know that a name author could sway judging. However, I can tell you right now, the judges were stunned that said author even had time to enter but were stoked at the entry.

Walden Pond Press, Underneath the Juniper Tree and Literary Asylum are completely elated to announce... wait for it....

Author of The Strange Case of Origami Yoda, Darth Paper Strikes Back, Horton Halfpott: Or, The Fiendish Mystery of Smugwick Manor; or, The Losening of M'Lady Luggertuck Corset, and many other fabulous books is our winner!

AND here be the few short lines that captured our imagination.

       The man in the sewers sent a message with his mind. "Return to me my pets! You've slaked your hunger up above... now return to me!" 

       Hours later they began to arrive. First one, then two, then dozens and dozens. Knee deep in the swarming mass, the man welcomed them with gentle hands.
      "Ah, my lovely tapeworms. You've grown long and fat.... now... tell me the secrets you've learned."

I don't know about you, but I want to read more and I am grossed out a bit. At first I thought it was rats, but when I got to tapeworms I was all giddy. What's going on in this story, where is it going to take us, what happened before we got to this point? Many answers await us.

We want to THANK everyone for their entries, their hard work, spreading the word and having a good time with the contest. Keep writing, keep thrilling, and stay away from tapeworms... just sayin.

Head of the tapeworm... ewwww
Stay tuned for more THRILLER interviews and if you haven't had a chance to read GR:T yet... what are you waiting for!!?