Of course, Patisserie Ducubo in the film is in the modern times, not Victorian, and it's in Belgium (well, they speak French there, kids). But ((SPOILER ALERT)) you may have heard that Belgium is the chocolate capital of the world. Need I say more? (Now you know why Napoleon invaded.) Enjoy! Oh, and Happy Valentine's Day. But if you've got no Valentine this year, don't worry ~ chocolate loves you. And so do we. :)
We thought this might be a good time to share some of the neat facts we learned about surviving in arctic conditions while we were researching for JAKE AND THE GINGERBREAD WARS. It was a tricky challenge to make the North Pole landscape believable, but not soooo realistic, like to the extreme of having Jake and the gang quickly freeze to death. A sudden and tragic end to the series!
That would not have been very Christmassy for a Christmas novella, methinks.
So, boys and girls, if you find yourself stuck in a snowy wasteland, first, hope that you don't run into any hungry yetis. Then follow these little tips if you want to survive. Here's a quick recap of Arctic Survival Tips from veteran Expedition Director Pen Hadow, from an article that originally appeared on CNN.com. (Original article here.)
* Wear layers - especially on your hands and feet. Keep your face covered up.
* Bring a dog and flares called "bear bangers" to ward off polar bears. The dog will smell a bear in the area before you will, then you can deploy the bear bangers to scare the bear away before he has you for lunch. (Not something I'd personally like to test!)
* Eat candy and high-calorie yummies like macadamia nuts. Well, ok, if I must. :) In the Arctic, Hadow says an adult needs to consume a recommended 5000-6000 calories a day (compared to the average 2000 calories a day) because the cold makes your body burn so much fuel.
* Don't step on black ice. If it's black that means it's thin, but gray ice is OK to walk on.
* Never travel alone, and bring a GPS.
Still not convinced you're going to make it out alive? Yeah, maybe we still need a little more training... [Video credit to the Survival Information Channel on YouTube.]
Hello Everybody! Well, this week I learned something new, something I'll bet some of you kids out there probably knew already. This was my major newsflash:
THERE ARE NO PENGUINS IN THE ARCTIC!!!
Hold the phone!
No, don't call Al Gore, that's not a global warming thing, that's just normal. Go figure!! Penguins are South Pole creatures only (well, except for zoos). And get this - polar bears are North Pole animals only, so a penguin and a polar bear could never meet in Nature.
Which is definitely good news for the penguin.
Imagine my surprise. Yes, I was researching something about whales, actually, when I just happened to stumble across a side mention of penguins only living in Antarctica.
Well, oh, SNAP, I thought, we just put penguins in the North Pole in JAKE AND THE GINGERBREAD WARS. So, I figured we had better own up to our mistake before we start getting hate mail from offended penguins everywhere.
Of course, most penguins aren't usually trained to serve dinner as waiters or answer doors as little butlers, either, so I think in a fantasy-based story, we can probably get away with it. Just wanted to share. But as it turns out, January is an excellent time to be talking about penguins, because January 20th is....wait for it....PENGUIN AWARENESS DAY.
I kid you not. Yeah, I know. You thought January was all about New Year's resolutions and Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. Well, think again, coz! We are T minus 10 to Penguin Awareness Day. Better start making your plans...
So, what do people do on Penguin Awareness Day? Well, according to Holiday Insights, (one of my favorite fun websites out there), they dress up in black and white in honor of penguins everywhere. Very snazzy. *g* Actually, this is a rather timely topic, since most of us felt like penguins here in the US with the "Polar Vortex" gusting through. Brrrrr!
On a more serious note, because, yes, I do realize this is a Very Silly Blog Post (it's Friday), here's a link to a very interesting article that ran a couple weeks ago in the Wall Street Journal, called SEE GROWNUPS READ, by Alexandra Alter. It's about the kinds of books we love ~ and what we write! ~ novels that are technically classed as "middle grade" but are actually for all ages.
Here's a fascinating quote about how popular these kinds of books are right now with adults as well as kids. Frankly, Eric and I had no idea our genre was this hot. We just write it because we love, love, LOVE everything about it. But apparently it's all the kick, as Jake would say. Check out this quote from Ms. Alter's article:
"Middle-grade books have become a booming publishing category, fueled in part by adult fans who read "Harry Potter" and fell in love with the genre. J.K. Rowling's books, which sold more than 450 million copies, reintroduced millions of adults to the addictive pleasures of children's literature and created a new class of genre-agnostic reader who will pick up anything that's buzzy and compelling, even if it's written for 8 year olds. Far from being an anomaly, "Harry Potter" paved the way for a new crop of blockbuster children's books that are appealing to readers of all ages. Recent hits include Rick Riordan's mythology-tinged fantasy books, which have sold have sold some 35 million copies; Rachel Renee Russell's "Dork Diaries," which has 13 million copies in print; and Jeff Kinney's "Diary of a Wimpy Kid," which has sold more than 115 million copies."
To which I say: Holy Guacamole. Now that's something to dance about.
Great writers of the past like Charles Dickens, Mark Twain, Edgar Allen Poe, Jack London, and Oscar Wilde did not write for one narrow "market segment," but for everybody. Even Jane Austen did not write "romances" for a strictly female audience, but for all ages and both sexes: Witness the dedication to HRH George, the Prince Regent, who was one of her biggest fans. (He kind of insisted on having her book dedicated to him, but that's 19th c. royalty for you. *g*) Anyway, I thought you might enjoy the article.
Much of the story in our new book, THE DARK PORTAL, takes place underground. This was a challenge in a number of ways. But unlike Jake with his mild case of claustrophobia, we LOVE going into caves and underground tunnels, so you can imagine how thrilled and inspired we were to find an outdoor adventure company in Snowdonia, right where THE DARK PORTAL takes place. These folks are not dwarves, but they do take people on underground tours of old Welsh mines!
If you want to get the flavor of what Jake's mine tour with the dwarves and his foray into the coalmine would have felt like, run-don't-walk your clicker over to the website of Go Below Underground Adventures and check out the dramatic pictures. If you live in or near Wales, you should go! We'll be jealous.
But lest you think that's all we have for you today, nay nay! Here is a video by Paul Hawkins of his explorations around an abandoned goldmine in North Wales. Very mysterious! I'd also call your attention to the very lush, green, and mossy woodland setting. Magic in those woods for sure. :)
But wait, there's more. We wouldn't leave you hanging. You want to see inside! Well, Emrys was busy at Waterfall Village, so we brought in these guys to lead you on a tour into a different abandoned gold mine in Wales. (Video copyright credit @ A n00b Production.)
Well, after all that traipsing around in the cold and damp, I'm sure you're ready for some of Snowdrop Fingle's warm bannocks and tea. No problem! I've got an authentic Welsh recipe for bannocks that I will share with you in an upcoming post. :)
And now, here's a special little treat for you, because I know our readers love strange, weird, and wonderful things. A little old-timey horror music on the theremin, originally known as the Aetherphone. Here's the inventor explaining it. He starts playing your classic haunted house spooky music 15 seconds in so be patient. You'll laugh! Until next time...