Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Book Review - Madison Morgan: When Dogs Blog

When eleven-year-old Madison Morgan’s sixth-grade teacher told her class they were all to start their own blogs for a class project, Madison knew exactly what she wanted to write about – dogs! Madison had always loved dogs, a trait she inherited from her Mom who passed away a few years earlier.

More than anything else, Madison wanted a dog of her own. Her Dad, Henry, still needed some convincing, but eventually he gave in, and brought home a dog for Madison to foster, named Lily. Tiny and shy, Lily was not exactly Madison’s dream dog, However, Madison learned to appreciate why it was that Lily needed extra special tlc, after teaming up with her classmate Cooper for her blog project. As part of their assignment, Madison and Cooper make several trips to the local dog shelter, run by Netta, a friend of Madison’s mom, to learn more about shelters and fostering.

As the story develops, we learn, that Cooper has a secret - one he is not proud off - about his family and Lily’s background. Eventually the secret comes out and there is only one thing Madison can do. Through trust, friendship, and a common love for dogs, Madison, Cooper, Henry, and Netta, help some very special dogs in need.

Madison Morgan is a sweet book that every young dog lover will enjoy. Pam Torres creates enjoyable characters that middle grade readers will easily be able to relate to and appreciate. The subject matter, while serious, is presented perfectly for the intended age group.

About the Book:

Life is getting tricky for eleven-year-old Madison Morgan. She’s not interested in boys, fashion, or the latest gossip, unlike her best friend Paige. Since her mom died, her stepdad, who she knows as Henry, has way too many complicated systems around the house but way too little to say about her mom’s death. To top it off, in her first year of middle school, Madison and her new friend Cooper have become the “school project” of a bully named Donald. And all she really wants is a dog to call her own, but all she gets is the parental-brush-off. What is a straight-talking, spunky middle grader going to do? Kids from ages nine- to twelve-years-old are sure to get a laugh from every page of Madison Morgan: When Dogs Blog, the young adult novel by author Pam Torres that charts the sometimes tough, frequently funny days of the wise-cracking, dog-loving Madison. When her dad arrives home with a foster dog, a scrawny brown terrier named Lilly, Madison is amazed to find she has an ability to understand dogs, their emotions, and often their pasts. However, this rare ability also leads her to uncover some extremely harmful activities that are happening right in her very own neighborhood. If she exposes the culprits behind them, she may risk losing Cooper, not to mention destroy her plan to remain invisible at school. As Madison struggles to feel normal and understand her ability to translate dog-speak, this coming-of-age story shares how one quirky young girl saves the day with the help of her father and their friend Netta at the Second Chance Rescue Shelter. Frank, funny, and full of adventure, Madison Morgan: When Dogs Blog is a must for any middle grader, who is certain to be enthralled by this dog blogger.

Author, Pam Torres will be donating 10% of the proceeds to the ASPCA®, animal shelters and other programs to benefit homeless or abused animals.

About The Author:

Pam Torres has worked with children of various ages for years, teaching them reading, writing, art, outdoor skills and piano. She has also led youth groups for 12-18-year-olds. Torres was the managing editor of a literary magazine and has published several of her own articles. She is an active member of The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators and the Pacific Northwest Writers Association. Torres has raised six children and numerous pets and animals.

Website: www.madisonmorgan11.com
Blog: www.soimfifty.blogspot.com
Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Madison-Morgan-When-Dogs-Blog/dp/0615610951

**I was provided a copy of this book by the author in exchange for an honest review.**

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Author Spotlight: Ethan Rice

Today on the Author Spotlight, it is my pleasure and honor to tell you about Ethan Rice. Ethan is eight years old and he recently published his first book. However, he is not just any author. Ethan is autistic, and wanted to write a story that would help others understand what it means to be autistic.

 I had the pleasure of reading Ethan's book, Ethan's Story: My Life With Autism (illustrated by Crystal Smalls Ord), and I was very impressed. Ethan is truly an amazing boy, sharing with us his daily experiences. I love how Ethan starts out by saying we are all different and then shows us not only things that are daily struggles, but also pointing out the things he excels at, with pride. He also does a wonderful job explaining some of his behaviors that someone with little or no knowledge of autism may not understand.  Ethan truly is one special and talented boy. The colorful illustrations by Crystal Smalls Ord are the perfect addition to the book. I'm so glad I had an opportunity to read and learn about Ethan's Story.

The following questions were answered by Ethan's Mom - thank you for taking the time to give us even more insight into Ethan's Story:

What’s your inspiration? 
My family

Why do you write? 
Currently, to raise awareness of autism and to spread a message of positivity around the subject. Identifying challenges in life allows strategies for success to be put in place. Books, even children's books, on the topic often have a negative vibe to them. We have never had a negative attitude toward autism. I bought a children's book about autism for Ethan to read, and he wouldn't even read it. I finally asked him why he wouldn't - he said that everyone in the book was sad. Wow. I looked at the pictures, and sure enough, almost every page is someone looking devastated. Ethan isn't sad that he has autism, and he doesn't want others to be sad about it, either. 

Would you write more than one series at a time? 
As a mother of 5, I feel this would be totally feasible as my brain is never in one place ever. But then again, being a mother of 5, finding the time to devote to multiple series would be challenging.

What’s your writing process? Write when inspired? Make time? Daily word goal? Etc. 
The writing process for Ethan's book was very straight-forward. He was going to tell his first grade class that he had autism. We were concerned about him getting in front of his class and just "winging it." We didn't want him unintentionally spreading misinformation about the subject. What an amazing opportunity to spread awareness! We wanted it to be his words, his voice. So we sat him down (Ok, he didn't sit. He paced.), and asked him a myriad of questions. We wanted to know what HE thought about having autism. What were the differences that HE noticed. Sure, there were things that we as parents knew, but we wanted to know what Ethan felt about things. I asked questions, and wrote his answers down verbatim. Of course we were able to ask questions that would allow informative answers - but the answers were all Ethan. 

Do you write to music, other noise, or have to have silence? 

Silence? What's that? Oh, the sound that means that something is wrong! There is no silence in our house, ever. There might have been a sound machine going somewhere in our house - we have so many that it sounds like a rainforest at night time. 

Of all your books, which is your favorite?
Currently my favorite is Ethan's Story: My life with autism

Are you a Mac or are you a PC? 
Definitely PC. The last time I used an Apple, I am pretty sure I died of cholera on the Oregon Trail. 

To learn more about Ethan's Story: My Life with Autism:

Author Bio

Ethan Rice is eight years old and lives with his family in Michigan. He is the oldest of five children. He enjoys math and reading, playing basketball and flag football, and being a Cub Scout. When he grows up Ethan wants to be a farmer, and he wants the whole world to know that Jesus loves them. 

Next Week on the Author Spotlight: Elizabeth Kirke

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Camp - Part 4: Pick Up Day

Today I am posting the last installment of the re-play in my four part camp series - these are posts that I first posted last year - with this year's update. In case you missed parts 1-3:

Part 1: Packing
Part 2: The Drop Off
Part 3: Letters

and now... Part 4 - let's recap what happened last year:

Camp - Part 4: Pick Up Day

This past Sunday was one the day I had been looking forward to all week... camp pickup day! I definitely missed my two older kids and was ready to have them back home.

In theory, the counselors are supposed to have the kids all packed up and ready to go... in reality, it went something like this:

Once again we woke up early to hit the road. We had an hour and a half ride in front of us, and the gates opened at 9:00am. We got there around 9:30 and were thankfully spared of the 9:00 line of cars waiting to get in. Unfortunately, that meant there were few parking spots close to the bunks remaining.

The camp is shaped like a giant horseshoe. We arrived at the boys’ bunks first. I spotted my son right away in the gaga pit (no relation to Lady Gaga... just the name of some camp game I don’t understand). I felt a huge sigh of relief. Not only because it was great to see my son, but because I could actually *see* my son. Last year, he was nowhere to be found when we arrived – we finally found him hanging out in the girls’ bunks (yes – we actually did send him back to the same camp.)

When we asked if he was all packed up, he responded “sort of.” I cautiously entered his bunk (a) because I didn’t want to see the mess I still had to contend with, and (b) well after spending four weeks with twenty boys in one hot bunk, the air can get a little ...um... stinky. I was right on both counts. At this point, we just wanted to leave, so my husband shoved everything that was still out into any of his bags that had room. It was on to the girl’s bunk.

As we drove up the road to my daughter’s cabin, I had visions of her waiting on the steps, watching anxiously for us to arrive, and then running with arms wide open toward us as we parked the car. Instead, I found her hiding in the bathroom, tears in her eyes that it was time to leave. After many, many group hugs involving more teary eyed girls, she finally walked us over to her bed, where we discovered she had even less packed then her brother. We once again threw stuff randomly into bags and hit the road, to head home.

As fun as all that sounds – the fun for me really does not begin until we get back home. It is then when I truly realize the extent of what I like to call “camp stank.” Those of you with kids who go to overnight camp know exactly what I am talking about. “Camp stank” is the stinky, damp film that manages to cover every fiber of every belonging that your child has had with them at camp. I spend the next several hours of my day “de-stankifying.” Laundry, laundry and more laundry. Unpacking is always interesting. This year, I expected to find the usual stray sock or t-shirt that belonged to a bunk mate. Instead, in my son’s belongings I found not one, not two, but six pairs of sneakers. Six!! No, my son is not a thief. They are all his. However, I only packed two pairs. It seemed that Imelda sneaked (no pun intended) the other four pairs into his bags when I wasn’t looking. You are probably wondering why my thirteen-year-old son has six pairs of sneakers. I’ll save that for another post... For now I'm enjoying time home with my kids.

And now this year's update:  

The good news - both kids were packed and ready when we arrived. There were only a few stray socks and there was no crying and hiding in the bathroom. 

The bad news: I have now determined that nothing - and I mean NOTHING - smells worse that a group of fourteen and fifteen-year-old boys living together in one tiny cabin for four weeks. Not only that - but the smell followed us home. I seriously could not get all of my son's laundry done fast enough - I even washed his duffel bags. Now don't get me wrong, my daughter's cabin and laundry was not all sweet and rosie - but it was a thousand times better then the boys' stank. PU! Oh and FYI - this year there were seven pairs of sneakers... sigh!

If you have campers of your own, Baskets-n-Beyond now carries camp care packages featuring Nate Rocks!

For more information visit: www.baskets-n-beyond.com

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Author Spotlight: Monika Pardon

Today I'd like to welcome Author Monika Pardon to the Author Spotlight. Monika recently released her book, Golden:

With her long golden hair and tragic run-in with three impossibly large bears in a remote cabin, seventeen-year-old Sonora Martin is a modern day Goldilocks. Yet her life is no happy, romantic fairy tale. Instead she finds herself thrust into a dark magical world of the fae and shape shifters and questions who she can trust.

After the sudden death of her grandmother, Sonora is forced to live with an aunt that she barely knows, her cousin, and Luke, her aunt's reluctant boyfriend. A fight with her aunt sends Sonora running into the woods where she inadvertently learns a web of family secrets and of a startlingly pact for revenge with her as the target. Now with the help of a pair of unlikely allies Sonora must travel to the Shadow Realm in search of a way to survive.

Welcome Monika! Please tell us a little about your inspiration for Golden:

The idea for Golden came when my mother was reading Goldilocks and the Three Bears to my son while I was braiding my daughter’s hair. I was listening to the story and that’s when Sonora came into my mind and so did Ian. Luke came later. He was originally supposed to be a villain, but when I was writing his profile out (I do that sometimes with my characters), he didn’t seem horrible. That’s when my friend’s brother asked me put him in the story. Sam wanted to be evil, so that worked out well. The part for the spider web came from sitting in front of a camp fire. Everyone around me was talking, eating, and having a great time. I was looking around, and that’s when I saw a small spider web in a tree nearby. The moonlight hit the web, giving off a faint bluish-white glow. That’s when the web and the Realm came into my head.

Why do you write?

I write for myself. I love stories and my imagination is wild. It’s something that has been source of real fear, real humor, and real entertainment. After a while, I started to write things down. I never stopped.

And now the question that fascinates me, because this is something I just cannot do - Are you able to write more than one series at a time?

I have.

Jealous! So what is your writing process? 

I sit down and outline. I sometimes write character notes. I write down the most important scenes on Post-Its and stick them in my notebook, so that if something needs to be changed, it’s an easy fix. Then I sit down and go for it. Usually, I have water or a Diet Pepsi with me.

My family knows that I need quiet when I write - how about you - silence or music?

I do both. I like listening to music while I write, and I make playlists. I also like quiet, but that can tire me out quicker. Generally, it’s whatever I’m in the mood for.

Do you have a favorite story that you have written?

So I have a few manuscripts that I have written within the last few years. No one has them. The first manuscript that I wrote, no one will ever see that one! For my favorite, I have two. I have a vampire one that is really creepy. Think Salem’s Lot meets Fright Night. It’s still unnamed. There is another that the idea came from two places, the Iliad (Helen of Troy) and Margret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale. I wrote it while in a 20th Century Novel class where I had to read Atwood’s crazy, dystopian novel. Seriously, that is one messed up story!! Anyway, I don’t know if that one will ever see the light of day. I will say that I also love Golden. I love Luke. He’s so vulnerable, but incredibly strong at the same time. I love Sameron, and what I will say, you haven’t seen anything yet from him!

Sounds intriguing! I look forward to reading your work.  Thanks so much for stopping by!

About Monika:

Monika Pardon grew up, the youngest of six children, in southern Maine. As a child, she constantly made up stories that entertained her family. As she grew up, she never grew out of her imagination or her fondness for story-telling. She eventually went on to college and graduated from the University of Michigan in 2006. Today she lives near Portland, happily writing her stories and reading anything entertaining that she can get her hands on. Golden is her Young Adult debut novel.

To learn more about Monika Pardon and Golden, visit her Facebook Page: http://www.facebook.com/pardonmonika

Next Week on the Author Spotlight: 8-Year-Old Ethan Rice

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Camp - Part 3: Letters From Camp

The following blog post is Part Three in my overnight camp series. For those following along - I am re-posting my camp series from last summer - figuring nothing really has changed... or has it?  ... Anyway - in case you missed it you can catch up here:

Part One - Packing for Camp 

Part Two - The Drop Off

Now on to last year's Part 3:

Camp - Part 3: Letters from Camp
My kids have been at overnight camp for exactly one week. I’d like to be able to report that they are doing great, but I cannot... well – this is not completely true as the camp posts pictures on their website regularly, so I can at least see their smiling faces... but I’d much rather hear about it in their letters to home.

I’m not really surprised. The first year my son went off to camp, I received three one-sentence letters in this order: “I love you,” “I miss you,” and “See you soon.” These letters were in response to my regular pleas to him through my own letters to write home. I even gave him multiple questions he could answer in his letters should he be suffering from summer writer’s block.

His next summer, I was more specific. The instructions were to write at least three sentences in each letter – one telling me if he was enjoying camp, one telling me about an activity he enjoyed, and one telling me about the other kids. However, I failed to tell him how many of these letters I wanted, as I only received one letter.... two days after he was already home. I think it was that oh crap – it’s pickup day and I forgot to write home letter.

By his third year, he had much improved. I received three descriptive letters. We shall see what this year brings.

I was at least expecting a letter from my daughter by now. She set the bar for herself higher early on. Her first summer, I had a letter from her after just a few days. It was her first summer at camp, and I was anxious to hear if she was having a good time. Her letter said, “I miss you, send a folder.” Huh? Her letters got better as the month progressed and came every few days.

Last year (her second year) she continued to impress. In her first letter, she asked that I send her robe and slippers. Apparently my daughter had mistaken overnight camp for the Four Seasons Hotel. Perhaps she would like a mint on her pillow as well? However, my favorite letter from her came towards the end of her stay. After telling me all the great things she was up to, she ended the note with:

“P.S. Did you know that J (her older brother) kisses girls?”

 Ah-ha – this explains why he didn’t have time to write home *sigh*

Anyone want to place bets on when I get my first letter?


Well - we pick the kids up from camp on Sunday already. This summer is flying by! So what about the letters?

Well it's only Wednesday, so things could change - but so far I've received from:

Daughter - 3 letters 
Son - ZERO - yup - he's got some serious kissing up to do when he gets back in the form of a long list of chores I've been putting together everyday that a day goes by without a letter from him.  mwahahaha.


If you have campers of your own, Baskets-n-Beyond now carries camp care packages!

For more information visit: www.baskets-n-beyond.com

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Discover Fantasy Tour: Author Jonathan Gould

Today I have our final author guest post for the Discover Fantasy Tour. I hope you have enjoyed reading all of the participating posts, not just on my blog, but on all of the hosting blogs. The tour continues all month and there have been so many great stops as well as some fabulous stops coming up. Be sure and visit the Discover Fantasy website for the complete listing.

So without any further delay, let's welcome Jonathan Gould, author of Doodling and Magnus Opum - thank you so much for stopping by Jonathan! Now on to his post:

I’d like to start by thanking Karen for having me here today and for participating in the Discover Fantasy tour.

Looking at this site, and the books Karen has written (which look terrific), I thought I’d pull together a little something related to writing for children.

It’s a funny thing, but almost without fail, when I say to somebody that I am a writer, the first thing they respond with is, “What sort of books do you write – are they for children?”

I’m not quite sure why I get this response. Maybe there’s something about the way I look – and I’ve been told that I look substantially younger than the number of years I have – which is extremely helpful given I constantly lie about my age. Or maybe it has something to do with the way I behave – and anybody who has had the pleasant experience of chatting or networking with me will know that I also tend to behave in a way that doesn’t reflect my age- both the real one and the one I tell most people.

It’s not that I’m offended. I actually believe there is no higher calling than producing stories for the young. I’m a massive fan of education and I think there can never be too many stories for our kids to read. Besides, what can be better than having a young and impressionable audience that you can brainwash, oops, er, I mean share your ideas about the complex ways that the world works.

And looking at it from the other direction, as someone who (in theory anyway) is now an adult, I still enjoy reading children’s stories. It’s a totally guiltless pleasure for me to invade my kids’ bookshelves to see what gems I can find. To be honest, most of them don’t excite me too much, but that’s not necessarily because they are intended as children’s books – most books supposedly written for adults don’t grab me that much either (I’m just kind of fussy when it comes down to it). But every so often, I’ll find a gem that is every bit as satisfying a reading experience as anything else I could have chosen to read.

When it comes down to it, a good story is a good story. I might quote from an Australian writer and artist I really admire, Shaun Tan (never heard of him – google him – you won’t regret it). He has won just about every honour for children’s writing there is, including the Astrid Lindgren Medal which is like the Nobel Prize for children’s writers. But does he regard himself as a “children’s writer”? Not at all. Just because his stories have pictures and seemingly simple plotlines, there’s no reason for his work to be pigeonholed that way. Like any great story, there are all sorts of hidden depths to what he has written.

So, let’s get back to the original question. As anyone who has followed any of my ramblings for a while will know, one of my attempts to answer the question was to come up with my new genre – dag-lit. But these days, I try to keep it simple. When someone asks me if my stories are children’s stories, I reply that they’re just stories. If children like them, that’s great. If adults like them, that’s also great. I try to be as democratic as I can and hope there’s something in there for everybody.

About Jonathan:

Jonathan Gould has lived in Melbourne, Australia all his life, except when he hasn’t. He has written comedy sketches for both the theatre and radio, as well as several published children’s books for the educational market.

He likes to refer to his stories as dag-lit because they don’t easily fit into recognisable genres (dag is Australian slang for a person who is unfashionable and doesn’t follow the crowd – but in an amusing and fun way). You might think of them as comic fantasies, or modern fairytales for the young and the young-at-heart.

Over the years, his writing has been compared to Douglas Adams, Monty Python, A.A. Milne, Lewis Carroll, the Goons, Dr Seuss and even Enid Blyton (in a good way).

To Learn More about Jonathan and his books, visit Dag-Lit Central

Don't forget, there is still plenty of time to enter the Discover Fantasy Giveaway to win a $100 Amazon GC! Enter here.


Sunday, July 15, 2012

Happy Birthday Kittens!!

It's hard to believe the kittens are a year old today!! Just so you know, I will continue to call them "the kittens." We adopted them when they were just three months old. Don't worry I'm not going to sing, but I do want to share with you some of my favorite kitten moments...

Happy Birthday to Wolverine (Wolfie for short... in black) & Storm (in grey)

Homecoming day:

Settling in:

It's hard work being adorable:

Catching up on the news:

Playing Games - Storm won this one:

Learning to read:

Hanging with Vaughn (miss you buddy!!!)

Helping to tie shoes:

Giving kisses:

 School Bus Watch:

Best Buds:

Happy Birthday!!!

Friday, July 13, 2012

I've Had A Makeover!

For those of you who stop by here regularly (and hopefully that's more than just my mom), you may have noticed that the top of my blog looks a little different! See the thing is, I've become friends with a lot of bloggers over the past year, and their blogs are all so elaborate and functional and customized. Now granted, I think I did okay with my little blogger provided template, but I felt it was time for more. Since I miraculously managed to create my Facebook banner, I thought maybe I could do something for my blog.  What do you think?

What's that? What's that new book cover about? Oh - I'm so glad you asked! I have a new book! Well, I will have a new book. For now, I have a fab book cover and a pretty good third draft (or is it fifth? I've lost count already.)  Next week, I send it off to my editor, and if all goes well, I should be looking at an October release.

So who is Millicent Marie? Another excellent question!  Here's  what "Millicent Marie Is Not My Name" is all about:

Twelve-year-old Millicent Marie does not like her name. After all, she was named for a woman who died more than fifty years ago and was not the most loveable member of the Harris family. Her friends call her Millie, but when she writes in her diary she refers to herself as Amanda – the name she always wished she had.

When Millie’s younger brother finds her diary on her computer, he decides to publish it as a blog for all the world to see, including the boy Millie has a crush on. In the midst of all the mayhem, Millie/Amanda discovers she is suddenly Springside Elementary’s most sought after sixth-grade mystery gossip and advice columnist. 

But not all is fun and games as Millie quickly learns once she realizes feelings are at stake. Nobody, least of all Millie, expects things to turn out as they do, in this tale of friendship and respect.

I hope you all will love Millicent Marie as much as I do, and thank you to Deana Riddle at Book Starter for creating another amazing cover for me! Stay tuned for excerpts, giveaways, and more!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Author Spotlight: Christy Sloat

Today I'd like to welcome author Christy Sloat to the Author Spotlight! Thanks for stopping by today.

Please tell us a little about yourself:

Hello everyone! My name is Christy Sloat. I am the author of The Many Lives of Avery Snow and the newly published, The Brown House. I am pleased to be featured on this blog. I hope you check out my books and if you read them leave a review. I am an avid reader myself. I enjoy Paranormal, Young Adult, Horror and Romance books. I support Indie Authors, because I know how hard it is to get yourself out there as an author. My books are available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Smashwords and more.

Why do you write?

I write because I feel that it is a passion that I have always had. I loved to write as a child. I have a very vivid imagination.

Anyone who as been on my blog, knows that I cannot multi-task. Are you able to work on more than one project at a time?

Yes actually I am doing that right now. I have my "Past Lives Series" and my "Visitor's Series" out at the same time. I like being busy.

I agree - busy is a good thing. When do you like to write?

I try to write when I can find time. Being a stay at home mom, it makes it very hard to write during the day. So my writing time is late at night. I am a night owl. You will find me up until at least 1:00 am writing. I love to turn on Pandora and listen to music while I work. It helps the creative process. I do not have a word goal. I write until I can do it anymore. Until my fingers are tired.

 Do you like to write with music playing or do you prefer silence?

I have been known to write to silence at times, but I prefer music. It helps get me in the mood for my characters. For example when I am writing from Avery Snow's perspective my music is sad/mellow. I prefer to listen to Pandora Radio. I like the Twilight Radio, Indie Rock and Christina Perri stations. 

Which of your books is your favorite?

I think I am most proud of The Brown House. It's not that I do not love Avery Snow, but there is just something about The Brown House characters that I adore. Of course I love both my books. But right now, The Brown House wins.

Are you a Mac or are you a PC? 

PC. I have no clue how to use a Mac.

That was me a year ago - but now I'm a Mac girl through and through! 

Where can readers find you online?

Where can we find your books? 


Paperback Amazon

Barnes and Noble print-



Thanks so much for joining us today for the Author Spotlight, Christy!

Next Week: Monika Pardon

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Discover Fantasy Tour: Author Jeremy Rodden

Good news friends!! Author Jeremy Rodden is in fact joining us today!  He claims my last post was inspirational ;) Personally, I think he wants to make sure he restores Tolkien's good name. Either way, it is my pleasure to welcome author and fellow Phillies fan: Jeremy Rodden...

Jeremy Rodden on Classifying Toonopolis

When I first finished Toonopolis: Gemini, I traveled to some author-author networking sites (like Authonomy.com) and decided to post my manuscript for people to critique. I got stuck at the portion where the form asks for genre.

Granted, I knew that Toonopolis was fantasy – comedic middle grade/young adult fantasy set in a cartoon universe, to be precise. Maybe not Tolkeinesque fantasy, but it was most certainly fantasy. After all, some of my major inspirations for the work were Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Wizard of Oz, and The NeverEnding Story. If I was inspired by fantasy, surely my work was fantasy.

At this time, I began to delve further into the subcategories of fantasy. The first big delineation was between high and low fantasy. I discovered that when most people think of fantasy, they think of Tolkein, of George RR Martin, of Robin Hobb. These writers are high fantasy authors - and more specifically, a subgenre of high fantasy known as epic fantasy. Epic Fantasy has become synonymous with “fantasy” in popular culture. The grand, sweeping sword & sorcery stories that inspired Dungeons & Dragons and Roleplaying Games and countless others (and that were subsequently inspired BY D&D et. al).

While I love to read epic fantasy, I never felt I could write it. Good epic fantasy is detail oriented, grounded in some semblance of reality that feels both familiar and foreign at the same time, and (most of all) is LONG. That was certainly not my style of writing.

So in my search to classify Toonopolis, I had to look at other subgenres of fantasy. In looking at the general difference between high and low fantasy, I definitely found that Toonopolis was high fantasy. The difference between the two being that high fantasy takes place in a world completely “other” than our own and low fantasy inserts fantastic elements into our world. The most common subgenre of low fantasy is urban fantasy (such as Twilight, Percy Jackson, or Artemis Fowl).

I then tried to figure out any sub-category of high fantasy to put my work into. It wasn’t epic, to be sure (although there are some sections of city of Toonopolis that would be considered epic, such as Camenot and Adventure Realm). That’s when I realized there wasn’t one. I considered trying to coin the term Middle Fantasy, but it never really stuck. At one point, I tried marketing it as “high fantasy with low comedy” but many people misunderstood the second half and thought “low comedy” meant not-very-much comedy instead of low-brow humor.

At the end of the day, I discovered that I was happy my work couldn’t be easily classified. Meeting other authors such as Jonathan Gould and David Brown, who also write unique forms of fantasy, only solidified this pride. At the end of the day, fantasy is a huge generalization. Whether the stories take you through a wardrobe into Narnia, into a vampire-infested northwestern town, or into a cartoon universe - fantasy is fantasy, and I love it.

About Jeremy:

I  spent the first ten years of my professional life in retail sales, working my way up to store management positions in two different Fortune 500 retailers. Along the way, I managed to earn a BA in Religion and English Writing from La Salle University in Philadelphia, PA and an MA in Secondary Education from Holy Family University, also in Philadelphia.

After completing my Masters, I began teaching high school English. When my second son was born in May, 2010, however, my wife and I decided that it would be more prudent for me to be a stay-at-home dad, taking care of the new baby along with my first son, who was born in June, 2005. I have since had the challenge and pleasure of being a homemaker.

It was at this time that I finally grasped the stories that had been in my head since I was a teenager and wrangled them to paper. Toonopolis began as a silly interactive fiction game played with some real life and virtual friends. The game only lasted a few years but the world I had created and my characters never escaped my thoughts.

As a writer, I consider C.S. Lewis and Lewis Carroll to be my strongest influences. They were able to create magical worlds that readers of all ages enjoy, which is exactly what I want to achieve with Toonopolis. It is a lofty goal, indeed, but the only goals that will invariably be unachievable are the ones that are not set.

Welcome to my world. I hope you have as much fun as I do.

To Learn More about Toonopolis and Find Jeremy Online:


Thank you so much Jeremy!

Enter the Discover Fantasy Giveaway to win a $100 Amazon GC! Enter here.


Discover Fantasy Tour: What? I'm A Fantasy Writer?

For those following the Discovery Fantasy Tour, I was hoping to have author Jeremy Rodden on my blog today to talk about his books, and his take on fantasy. Unfortunately, he was unable to stop by, but I'd still like to encourage you to check out his great books - Toonopolis Gemini & Toonopolis Anchihiiroo and read about Jeremy at the Discover Fantasy website. Maybe we can even convince him to stop by another time.

So unfortunately, you're stuck with me - and what I am about to say may be very disturbing. Please do not throw things at your computer screen while reading this – I cannot be held responsible for any resulting damage. Deep breath...

I’ve never been much of a fantasy fan. While I have the highest respect for Tolkien, I was never really able to get into his books. So I tried the movies. To be honest, I found them boring ~~ (ducking) ~~  It’s true. Just ask my husband – whenever I have insomnia, he puts in the Lord of the Rings DVD, and it puts me to sleep instantly ~~ (ducking again) ~~. My husband on the other hand loves fantasy. He’s also a gamer – something else I just don’t understand... and yet I find the entire culture fascinating.

So what am I doing hosting the Discover Fantasy tour? Good question...

About a month or so ago, I was reading a review someone posted about Nate Rocks the World, when I noticed that they tagged the post as “fantasy.” What? That’s impossible. I am not a fantasy writer. I don't even like fantasy! Nowhere in my books do I talk about middle earth, elves, dwarves, or even hobbits.

It got me thinking – What does “fantasy” really mean?

So I looked it up – yeah, I’m a geek that way: According to the Oxford Dictionary:

... the faculty or activity of imagining impossible or improbable things:
...a fanciful mental image, typically one on which a person often dwells and which reflects their conscious or unconscious wishes:
...an idea with no basis in reality:
...a genre of imaginative fiction involving magic and adventure, especially in a setting other than the real world.

Does Nate Rocks use his imagination to come up with impossible or improbable things? Check
Does Nate Rocks dwell on conscious or unconscious wishes? Check
Does Nate Rocks often come up with ideas that have no basis in reality? Check
Do many of Nate’s adventures involve adventures and magic in settings other than the real world? Check

Huh...  As it turns out, it would appear that I (Karen Pokras Toz) am a writer of fantasy! Who knew? I guess I am a fan of fantasy after all! As I was saying above - I think fantasy is awesome ;)

A huge thank you to the Discover Fantasy Tour for helping me to discover all the wonderful worlds and stories fantasy authors have to offer!

Enter the Discover Fantasy Giveaway to win a $100 Amazon GC! Enter here.


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