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.
Greetings, my gargoyles! Today we're kicking off our Story Extras with a little Behind-the-Scenes about our new release, The Gryphon Chronicles, Book Three: THE DARK PORTAL, and where better to start than by taking a look at the setting?
So how do a pair of American writers end up writing a fantasy novel set in Wales? Well, that's easy. First of all Wales is just plain cool. Just ask Dr. Who. He returns to the Welsh city of Cardiff all the time. And if you don't think the bow-tie wearing Time Lord is really all that cool, then A) What's wrong with you, and B) Just look at their country's flag, the Red Dragon. Seriously cool.
But more importantly, using Wales as a setting was inevitable when you consider the fact that one half of E.G. Foley (ahem, that would be G) was OBSESSED as a kid with reading the great Chronicles of Prydain series by Lloyd Alexander (who was also an American, despite his Welsh name) over and over and over again.
G: Yes, the summer between fourth and fifth grade my family moved to a new state (from PA to New Jersey) and I was pretty devastated to leave my friends and grandparents and cousins behind. At our new home, I didn't know anybody, I didn't like it, and I did not know what to do with myself. In such situations, books can always come to a kid's rescue. I re-read Taran of Caer Dallben's whole saga five or six times in that summer, taking breaks only to try during that loooong summer to train my dog to do Dog Agility tricks, but she really wasn't into it. At all. LOL. So I just went back to reading.
So, Wales was always a draw, and as I started researching it, I grew all the more intrigued. I thought I would just show you a little of what I found so you can see it for yourself and perhaps picture Jake's next adventure better in your imagination.
First of all, you do know, right, that Wales is, um, attached to England. If you didn't know that, you might want to duck before "Old Sack," the headmaster ghost, whacks you in the noggin with an eraser from all the way up at the chalkboard. Wales is the dark greeny bit on the map below.
Jake's Welsh estate of Plas-y-Fforest is in the northern half of the country, in the mountains of Snowdonia. Nowadays, people flock to Snowdonia National Park to go hiking and camping, birdwatching, fishing, and communing with nature. Isn't it magnificent? Click here for more pictures and info about the region.
Moving on, when you read the book, you'll notice that the kids visit the town of Llanberis. So why don't we go visit it, too? Let's take the train. :)
Now make sure you realize that when you're looking at the video of these lovely woods through which the train winds, don't forget, there are probably pixies living in the trees. Just sayin'.
Now then, as you noticed in these pix and vids, there are all sorts of mountains in Snowdonia. In a future blog, we're going to looks at what's UNDER them. You are gonna love it.
Before I wrap this up, I must mention one of the most remarkable aspects of Wales and that is of course it's unusual place names. Wales boasts having the longest name of any village in the world. Behold: Here's the full name and below it, a little audio player so you can hear it the name is pronounced. (Hopefully the audio will work.)
If you find yourself as charmed as we are by Wales and want to enjoy it more (short of a holiday there, like Jake and friends!) then you should look for this Hugh Grant movie of a few years ago, set in Wales. Really cute! I believe at one point in the story he is as puzzled by the Welsh place names as I am!
And finally, because we know our readers are smart and like learning new things, here's a friendly Welsh fellow called Jason Shepherd who will teach us all how to say hello and goodbye in Welsh.
Well, my friends, Da Bo! Until next time. Please visit again for more Story Extras about THE DARK PORTAL! Hope you enjoy the story. xo, G. and E. too :)