I love having this blog where Eric and I can take you behind the scenes for a little peek into the inspiration for our books. We must be careful, however, not to reveal too much and give out any spoilers! We don't want to ruin any of the surprises.
With that in mind, one of my favorite minor characters whom you'll meet in RISE OF ALLIES, Part I, is Constanzio, King of the Tenors! It is actually very rare that we would take inspiration directly from a real person, but when I saw this classic clip of the late, great Luciano Pavarotti, I knew we had our opera ghost.
Since the arts play such a prominent role in this book, it seemed like the perfect chance to pay a humble fictional tribute to one of the greatest musical artists of the last century. Enjoy this brief clip of the larger-than-life Pavarotti ~ or maybe, like Jake, you're just seeing a ghost!
Amazing voice aside, I love his crazy facial expressions and contagious smile. I can see why millions around the world hailed Pavarotti as the rightful owner of the title, king of the tenors! But did you know that Pavarotti was actually an elementary school teacher for two years before becoming a worldwide star? Can you imagine having him as a teacher?? Now that would be a fun day at school!
La Donna e Mobile ~ from "Rigoletto" (1851) by Guiseppi Verdi
Everybody's heard this classical song in commercials, but what does it mean? Now you know!
(Translation from www.classicalmusic.about.com)
To watch an excellent mini-biography video of Luciano Pavarotti, click here.
Hi Guys! Gael here. I don't know if I mentioned this before, but poetry was my first love as a writer, long before I started writing fiction. I took some playwriting courses too while earning my Literature degree, but fiction was where I ultimately ended up. (All three are very, very different and take different skill sets, of course.) In any case, I no longer write poems, but I still love all kinds of poetry, and since April is National Poetry Month, I picked a few to share with my blog visitors, ones that I especially think kids will enjoy.
If poetry frightens you, here's my opinion on the matter. The trick to enjoying a poem is not to overanalyze it. Parsing a poem to try to "get the meaning out of it" is a little like dissecting a butterfly to figure out how it can fly. You kill the thing.
A poem is not a linear experience for the most part. There's a wholeness to a great poem that tickles your brain and moves your heart at the same time. Here's a great example by e.e. cummings . Feel his delight in the language! And notice how "the children" are the only ones who understand that a devoted love story is happening between the characters, "no one" and "anyone" - who could be anybody! It's universal like that. Just don't overthink it. (Reproduced here courtesy of poets.org with the original punctuation - or lack thereof!) Enjoy!
anyone lived in a pretty how town
(with up so floating many bells down)
spring summer autumn winter
he sang his didn't he danced his did
Women and men (both little and small)
cared for anyone not at all
they sowed their isn't they reaped their same
sun moon stars rain
children guessed (but only a few
and down they forgot as up they grew
autumn winter spring summer)
that noone loved him more by more
when by now and tree by leaf
she laughed his joy she cried his grief
bird by snow and stir by still
anyone's any was all to her
someones married their everyones
laughed their cryings and did their dance
(sleep wake hope and then) they
said their nevers they slept their dream
stars rain sun moon
(and only the snow can begin to explain
how children are apt to forget to remember
with up so floating many bells down)
one day anyone died i guess
(and noone stooped to kiss his face)
busy folk buried them side by side
little by little and was by was
all by all and deep by deep
and more by more they dream their sleep
noone and anyone earth by april
wish by spirit and if by yes.
Women and men(both dong and ding)
summer autumn winter spring
reaped their sowing and went their came
sun moon stars rain
Here's another great poem for kids and kids-at-heart. Again, the delight in the language - not needing words with clear definitions to express the story and emotions. Look at how much he expresses his meaning merely through the rhythm. And - Bonus! You can make up your own definition for what exactly a Bandersnatch might be. I hope I never meet one in a dark alley. ;)
Jabberwocky by Lewis Carroll
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.
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...
Today I am joined by special guest, Mischief, favorite gargoyle of Garnock the Sorcerer. Thanks to a special translation spell that I found in the Enchanted Library at Beacon House, I should be able to understand him long enough to ask a few questions about what it's like being a gargoyle.
Inquiring minds want to know.
G: So, Mischief, how did you first come to be?
M: So glad you asked so I could take the chance to clear up some silly misconceptions about our kind. Actually, you see, it is not well known, but most gargoyles hatch from an egg in the underworld, where it's nice and warm, like an incubator.
G: An egg??
M: It's true. You must be confused if you doubt me. I understand there is some sort of myth going around that gargoyles were originally sculpted by medieval stone masons to serve as water spouts, made to carry the rainwater away from the walls of the great cathedrals so they would not be harmed by erosion, and last for many, many centuries. Nothing but a glorified water spout! How insulting. It may be true of some, but certainly not of the better class of gargoyles, such as those of us to be chosen to become the familiars of a powerful sorcerer.
G: Indeed. What exactly do your duties as a familiar entail?
M: Oh, mostly odd jobs. Appear when you're summoned. Fetch the items he needs to make a potion. Spy on persons of interest for him. Harass enemies. That sort of thing.
G: You're very good at harassment, aren't you?
M: I like to think so. :)
With that, our special guest, obviously bored, flies away to go cause trouble elsewhere. Which is just is well, because the translation spell has just fizzled out! Until next time. ;)