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Word by Word

The Power of Fan Mail

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I recently got a couple of fan letter—emails, actually—about my Tails of Frederick and Ishbu books:

“Are you going to make any more Frederick and Ishbu adventure books? I read both of those books in two days, so could you at least think about it?”

For those of you who don’t know, there are currently two books in the series. The first, THE MYSTERY OF THE BURMESE BANDICOOT came out in 2007. It introduces rat brothers Frederick and Ishbu, who live in a cage in Miss Dove’s fifth grade classroom. Ishbu loves marshmallow treats and carrot sticks, and Frederick loves geography. During their sojourn in the class, Frederick has learned to read. When the two rats are called to save the world from the evil mastermind (a blind, albino opossum named The Big Cheese) Frederick’s reading skills—and the fifth grade education he’s received—save the day.

The second book, THE CASE OF THE PURLOINED PROFESSOR, came out in 2009. It can be read on its own, although it includes several continuing characters. The lovable rats must again save the world from the Big Cheese and his gang, the Bilgewater Brigade.

The books are part adventure, part mystery, and total fun. Cultural references range from Edgar Allan Poe, to the Maltese Falcon.

Both books received good reviews and THE MYSTERY OF THE BURMESE BANDICOOT was awarded “Book of the Month” at a library in Wellington, New Zealand! Some fans in Prince George, BC invited me to come and visit their schools, and I had a marvelous time.

I loved writing those books, and I was heart broken when my publisher decided not to publish any more in the series. According to them, the books didn’t sell well enough.

Fortunately, I have options. With new technology, I don’t need a publisher; I can bring the third Frederick and Ishbu book out on my own. It’s truly a labor of love.

At the time of this writing, THE CASE OF THE PURLOINED PROFESSOR is still in print and is available from Amazon.com and all leading bookstores. THE MYSTERY OF THE BURMESE BANDICOOT went out of print in hardback, and I brought it back out in a paperback edition with my own cut paper artwork on the cover. It’s also available on Amazon.com.

I hope to have the third book finished by this summer. (Keep your fingers crossed!) So keep those cards and letter coming, folks. You inspire me.
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Welcome to the Blog Hop!

Thanks to multitalented children’s author Bruce Hale for the invitation to this blog hop! Here’s a link to his website where you can read about his new picture book, CLARK THE SHARK and his School for Spies series for middle grade:
Bruce Hale

What gave you the idea for Ukulele Hayley?

I knew that ukuleles were enormously popular, and that many schools were starting up uke bands and clubs. As part of my research, I taught myself to play ukulele and became completely hooked! The uke is a fun instrument—it’s light, portable, and inexpensive. It’s relatively easy to learn the basic chords, but the instrument is versatile enough for jazz and classical music. In the book, Hayley starts a uke club at school. I became so enthralled with ukulele that I started a ukulele group in my town, and I also teach uke classes for children at a local music store. It’s a clear case of Life imitating Art!

How does it differ from others in that genre?

Ukulele Hayley is an early chapter book with a lot of humor. There are lots of books for that age group, but I think mine differ in that they are a little bit deeper. I hope that my children’s books have “heart”—something you can take away after you finish the book—an idea that resonates with both children and adults. In the case of Ukulele Hayley, I wanted to portray the power music has to bring people together.

Why do you write what you do?

I write humor because I see the quirky side of things. It’s my nature to make up stories; that just seems to be the way I think. I probably only get around to writing down a small portion of them! I was a bookworm growing up, and I remember all the wonderful books from my childhood and the joy reading brought me. I always wanted to be a part of that writing and reading world. Even after 26 books, seeing my books at a library or bookstore is a tremendous thrill.

What’s the hardest part about writing?

That’s changed over the years. When I was working as a teacher, playing in a band, and raising my son, finding the time to write was the hardest part. Now that I’m retired, and my son is grown, I still struggle with finding time--possibly even more so now that I don’t have a regular job to organize my time. I’d so much rather play the ukulele! But, once I sit down and get involved in my story, the words eventually flow, even if not quite at the same pace as they once did.


What are you working on now?

I have a new picture book, tentatively titled “WoolGathering” coming out in 2014. I’m currently working on the third book in my fantasy/animal/adventure series, The Tails of Frederick and Ishbu. The series includes The Mystery of the Burmese Bandicoot and The Case of the Purloined Professor. Frederick and Ishbu are brother rats who live in a cage in Miss Dove’s fifth grade classroom. Ishbu loves carrot sticks and marshmallow treats and Frederick loves Geography. In my new book, they are evicted from their cage and must find their way back home (and save the world from their nemesis, the Big Cheese—an evil mastermind who heads up the Bilgewater Brigade gang.

I've invited other children's authors to participate--I'll add them as they respond, so keep checking back!  Read More 
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