children’s fiction

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SJ Reads: Hester

Published October 30, 2017 by admin

Time to round out the month with another nostalgic Halloween read! This week’s pick will be one of my favorites from when I was a kidlet, and likely one that only people who date back to bronze age (like me) will remember. I give you: Hester.




Hester is an alligator who’s getting ready for her Halloween party, but has time to spare. She goes out trick-or-treating, but ends up at a house that is owned by a very nice older lady and her friends. Since this book isn’t easy to find and has been out forever, spoilers ahead:

Hester totally trick or treats at a haunted house, but it’s full of nice monsters who are happy to have a visitor (and if memory serves, they let her in because she’s dressed as a witch, herself). There’s also a vignette where she helps the older lady (a witch) with some broom issues.

This is a super-cute book with some really vibrant and vivid illustrations. I remember checking out this particular title all year round as a kid, because I had a thing for exploring haunted houses (and this book is probably responsible for me thinking that any inhabitants of such houses would be a friendly delight, setting up my childhood mind to get wrecked by adverts for horror movies later on). The illustrations really give you room to explore – there’s some good detail which led to a great deal of imagining on my part as a kid.

I like this story because it’s somewhat gentle, with Hester soothing and helping out the haunted house inhabitants. They’re never really referred to as anything other than a nice old lady/nice people, so the book relies fully on the illustrations to convey the “joke.” Still, if you also look at it from the standpoint that they could very well be nice people except for the prejudices that are put on them (thanks horror genre), it’s interesting from that angle, as well.

Over all, a cute, fun, Halloween read that will give kids a lot to explore and give adults a chuckle. Unfortunately, it’s out of print, and while it’s a little easier to find than last week’s title, you’re going to end up paying for it.  I would definitely recommend checking out your local library system for it, because it is definitely worth a flip through.



SJ Reads: Hob Goblin and the Skeleton

Published October 23, 2017 by admin

Apologies for last week – apparently it’s that time of year that my sinuses decide to rule over every other part of my life. So, that was fun.

On to the books!

This week’s nostalgic Halloween title is one that I’m pretty sure my mother randomly grabbed at the library when I was a kid. It was one that I was deeply attached to growing up, but then couldn’t remember the title for the life of me – it took a lot of enquiries, mass googling, and finally people with better recall than me to find this thing again. I reread it for the first time in decades last year and fell in love all over again. Today we look at Hob Goblin and the Skeleton by Alice Schertle

Hob Goblin lives with his friend Bones Jones the skeleton – who insists that he was the King of England and therefore shouldn’t have to help clean or do chores or any of that nonsense (ed. – I feel ya, Jonesy. Unfortunately the ‘my skeleton is nobility’ excuse has never worked for me, either). After a fight, Bones Jones leaves and Hob Goblin decides to kidnap a human slave to do his work for him.

Okay, obviously there might be some people who would rather that aspect not be in a children’s book, and admittedly I kind of blinked because I didn’t remember that bit at all as a kid. However, I mean, it seems in character for a goblin, so there’s that.

Thus begins the adventure of Hob trying to find someone to kidnap…except it’s Halloween and everyone mistakes him for a trick or treater, right down to his big sack he intended to stuff his victim in. Things come to a head when Hob is mistakenly entered into a costume contest, and he eventually meets back up with Bones, and they share his Halloween candy, though they’re not quite sure what it is (and give it all sorts of slightly gross, fun names).

That last scene is what I really remembered, but suffice it to say, the whole book really held up well to my memory. The story moves along nicely, and there’s a lot of detail, from Bones using furniture polish to polish himself to the branch Hob uses to fly with his frog to the human world.

The art is also exquisite – down to the borders on each page. There’s so much movement and expression in the illustrations, I could just sit and stare at them for a good long time – and have memories of doing just that as a kid.

While it’s a little harsher than some kids’ Halloween fair, really it’s a perfect blend of spooky and funny with a decent lesson. As an adult I enjoyed it on story alone, and the illustrations just really took me to a place where I wondered (once again) what it would be like to live in that world.

The downside is this is not an easy book to find anymore. Seriously – the lack of cover is only because I’m not even finding a legit image of it.  There’s one listing on Amazon, but given the cover shown doesn’t match the book, I’m a little skeptical of the listing. I want to say this title is circa late 70s early 80s, and it’s definitely one keeping an eye out for (if one thing my search has found, it’s that so many fondly remembered- and good- titles from my childhood are now out of print). My local library does have it, however, so definitely check yours.

SJ Reads: Harriet’s Halloween Candy

Published October 9, 2017 by admin

Alright, time to cutesie this thing back up.

You can’t have Halloween without candy, and if we’re being honest, then that’s just buckets and buckets of candy. So much candy. As a kid, I’d dream of getting enough Hallowen candy to swim in it like Scrooge McDuck in his money. I had some good hauls back in the day, and I’m ancient enough to remember when more than the ocassional person gave out full size candy bars and really special neighbors who we knew wouldn’t murder us would give us cookies and candy apples and stuff like that. My mom always had juice bottles for little kids, and through the years we made it a point to have non-food options decades before teal pumpkins were a thing.

And every year, I had to check out and read this book.



I don’t know if I identified with the being the older sibling aspect (which I’m not sure, because I didn’t start out life as the elder sibling – that didn’t happen til somewhat late in the game, considering). I don’t know if the detailed art just really appealed to me (I definitely loved looking at all the little details as a kid and identifying the types of candy).  Maybe it was because, for a kid’s book, Harriet struck me as a character who actually acted like the way I felt half the time.

The story is that Harriet goes trick or treating, but her baby brother is too young, so she has to share her candy. And of course she’s not going to because she worked hard for that, yo! After hiding it different places and getting worried, she decides that the only way to make sure she gets all her candy is to eat it all Right. Now.

You know where this is going.

The moment where she starts to feel sick and pivots towards sharing more is priceless – kids can see it coming from a mile away and giggle about it. The art is fun and friendly and accessible. I loved all of Nancy Carlson’s books growing up, but Harriet was my favorite character.

I got to hear her talk about her books as a teen (and she was kind and lovely.  However, by the time she got to our library for a signing she was freakin’ out of this book and I am STILL upset about that. I mean sure, I love Harriet and the Roller Coaster as much as anybody, but THIS WAS MY FAVORITE HARRIET BOOK AND A HALLOWEEN NECESSITY AND INNER CHILD SJ IS STILL SAD SHE DOESN’T HAVE A SIGNED COPY.

So obviously I learned the ‘sharing/letting other people have things you like is good’ lesson really well.

I actually checked this out last year, and like a lot of books from my childhood, I’m surprised by how short it is. I don’t know why I thought it was longer, but it seemed like this whole big thing when I read it as a kidlet. I tend to think part of it were the illustrations – I was much more prone to sprawling on the floor and immersing myself in picture books as a kid than I am now that I am…uh, not. And I think the funny moments just tickled me so much I probably just kept reading them.

So if you want a cute trick or treat down memory lane or want to see if your children learn to share better than I apparently did, definitely check out this book. 


SJ Reads: Space Case

Published October 2, 2017 by admin


space case


It’s that glorious, wonderful, macabre, spooky, creepy, magnificent time of the year! And of course I’ll be reading creepy stuff all the way through it. For this month’s SJ reads, though, I thought I’d do something a little different and heap a big ol’ spoonful of nostalgia on this month’s pics (Don’t worry, I’ll likely throw in a few posts of horror stuff here and there, too, because it’s me).

Growing up, I loved Halloween books. It was hard for my mom to keep them designated to one time of year (and to her credit, she was adept at using them for bribes other times of the year). In remembering some of my favorites, it’s not that hard to see how I grew up to become the person I am. So let’s look at my cute/creepy title of the week!

Anyone who remembers Reading Rainbow should remember Space Case. I mean, anyone who was growing up in the eighties and in school at the time should remember it. This was one of the titles that my mom gave in and bought for me in the school book order program, and I was beyond ecstatic when it came.

It’s a simple story: A thing from outer space visits a boy while trick or treating. The boy passes the thing off as a friend, they get a lot of candy, and the next day the thing comes to the boy’s rescue at school. Still, the pictures are still quirky and plain fun – I found this in the basement a couple months ago while cleaning and admittedly fell into it again. There’s something really approachable about the work of Edward and James Marshall. It’s not too cutesy, it’s not mean, there’s just enough suspense for a little kid, and it’s fun. I think there is actually a follow-up book, but I can’t begin to tell you what it is off the top of my head.

I think this appealed to me because I really wanted some sort of strange adventure to happen while I was trick or treating growing up in the worst way. The thought of an alien just coming by to say hey and tagging along with me was just the greatest thing ever at the time. As an adult, it’s an admittedly quick read, but titles like this also make me slow down and appreciate the art more, appreciate the beats of the story more. I’m kind of in awe of children’s writers, because it takes a lot to tell a full story with so little. The pictures really remind me of something I’d want to be able to draw as a kid – they look approachable and not super hard (which I’m sure is deceptive), and they have a fun humor to them that invites you to sit and stare at the little details.

This title also still feels really Halloweeny to me, even with a distinct sci-fi vibe. Plus, it’s kind of cool how it doesn’t just end on Halloween but carries over into the next day – what kid doesn’t know the feeling of being tired and forgetting something at school after a night of trick or treating?

Whether you remember this from your own past or have kids, this is a super-cute, non-intense read for the season!




Reading with SJ: Kid Lit Edition

Published July 5, 2015 by admin

Sean Taylor’s roundtable discussion this week is about the books we loved to read as children. If you’re like me, you’ve never quite let them go and revisit them from time to time…and maybe pick up some new loves, too.

I mean sure, I’m a responsible, functioning adult, but I will admit that there is a certain nostalgia in flipping through one of the Babysitter Club, American Girl, or Reading Rainbow titles of my youth. I fully admit that I’ve burned through two collections of Beatrix Potter and one full set of Little House books because they’re a more relaxing way for me to turn my brain off at night than pharmaceuticals. Heidi will always be one of my favorite books, and I spent a summer a few years ago reading as many of the books that Disney cartoons were based on as I could find. Yeah, that was one interesting summer, let me just say that.

So craving something comfy cozy and reminiscent of li’l Selah, I went to the library and you get to benefit from it.

Basil and the Lost Colony and Basil in the Wild West by Eve Titus – I grabbed these because I recently re-watched The Great Mouse Detective, which is based on the first book in this series. Don’t judge me. I saw that movie in the theater as a kid and the bat was absolutely terrifying. There are a few titles the library didn’t have (that one included), but honestly, it wasn’t that much of a loss. I got halfway through Basil and the Lost Colony, and couldn’t be bothered to finish it or start the other book. The basic premise is Basil is the mouse version of Sherlock Holmes and he and his partner in crime, Dawson, live in the household of the great detective, fighting against mouse villain, Rattigan. The Lost Colony features the pair scaling the mouse version of the alps to find a secret, lost colony of mice that descended from a group around William Tell’s time, and features characters like the Adorable Snowmouse.

Usually I’d be all for this, but dude, the mouse puns. Every. Page. All. The. Time. There’s consistency and then there’s obnoxiousness. While it’s interesting that the mice have their own version of our world somehow set in our world, it’s a little incongruous at times and makes for a much better visual like in the cartoon than reading it in a book. Plus, honestly, Basil is annoying. Constantly prattling (Dawson is the narrator but his chatter moves the action along), misogynistic, and full of himself…it’s irksome and actually toned down for the movie. I can see where I would’ve enjoyed this as a little kid for like five minutes, and the concepts are really cool, so it’s disappointing that I didn’t enjoy this more. Plus, every chapter also ends on a forced cliffhanger, and there’s such a drive to wind tension and build anticipatioin that it just isn’t calming. At all. And part of the reason I read kid titles is to chill out in the evenings. It’s definitely one of those series where I get why it was popular. The concept is fantastic – the execution is just so, so annoying.

Also, Disney, holy cheese, why the ever loving mousedom have you not rebooted The Great Mouse Detective to modern day England and called it Basil?! You are missing an opportunity, Disney!

I can’t remember how I figured it out, but I realized a few weeks ago that a series I loved as a kid was only finished as of like 2006, when I was just a little bit older. Obviously I had to find out what happens, so that brought me to…

Return to Howliday Inn by James Howe – I love these books. In a bad way. James Howe is one of those middle school/ya writers that has become a little overlooked for rockstars like JK Rowling, but he is so, incredibly good. I will fully admit that the Bunnicula series (for me, at least), can be a little mixed – I like some titles better than others, but now I’m wondering if that was just where I was at as a kid. I vaguely recall reading this one before and being neutral about it, but I tore through it this time. Basically Harold is a dog who writes books about the Monroe family’s adventures. Chester is his friend the cat who is way involved in conspiracy theories. Howie is the other dog who came to them in Howliday Inn (second book in the series, after Bunnicula). Bunnicula is a vampire bunny that drains veggies. It’s adorable. It’s awesome. There’s never any actual paranormal activity, but Chester is always convinced there is, and it always gets them into trouble and runs them into kooky characters along the way. This time the crew is taken to Chateau Bow Wow again, where they spent Howliday Inn, though this time there’s a mostly new cast. Animals start disappearing, there’s a questionable weasel and some cat burglars, ventriloquism…it’s great. Chester and Harold’s banter is hysterical, and poor Howie is trying to figure out what’s going on. Love it.

Bunnicula Stikes Again – Bunnicula never stays at Chateau Bow Wow (Because of his special diet? I can’t remember),so this book sees him back in the cast, though ill. While the Monroe family struggles to save a local theatre (where the bunny was found during a screening of dracula), the animals try to figure out if Bunnicula once again has designs on mankind or if there’s something seriously wrong with him. There’s some really nice comparisons to Sherlock Holmes and while Chester has been a bit one note throughout the series, he suddenly evolves at the end of the book (for Chester). Besides being amused, I really found it very heartwarming, ever proving that I’m a sap or a lunatic.There’s also the first mention of MT Graves in this book, which admittedly made me choke, because it’s a not-so-subtle jab at the over-the-top titles of RL Stine. And it’s hilarious. Howie and the two human brothers can be a little grating, but they’re just being who they are, and part of the family, after all.

Bunnicula Meets Edgar Allan Crow – Pete, the older Monroe boy wins a contest to have author MT Graves visit his school, which leads to the author staying with the Monroes. A sullen, mysterious figure in a cape with a pet crow who doesn’t talk, he immediately makes Chester go on high alert. Convinced the author and his crow have designs on Bunnicula (because no pet is ever left unscathed in his books, and what’s with the giant murder of crows in the backyard?!), he leads the plot to figure out what malice the author is plotting and save the beloved bunny. Mr. Howe sneaks in some self-deprecating humor here and there and some sly references to the boy wizard, as well. There were some twists in this I didn’t completely see coming, and like its precursor, I found myself actually feeling stuff at the end. I should mention that each book features a note from Harold’s editor, so you also get an idea of what’s going on in the outside world, as well through little framing stories. By the end of this book, Harold is getting older and makes a decision about his career, the editor is making his own decisions, and the torch is passed to Howie (there’s apparently a spin off series, but I haven’t looked at it yet).

The whole ending was done really, really well. It felt complete. It felt full circle. It also made me surprisingly sad that it was over (and has been over for years, I just didn’t know it).

All in all, a cute series that mixes horror tropes with humor and some very gentle creepiness. I remember as a kid it took me a little bit to really get the tone of this series, but oh how I loved it once I did.

Author Interview: G.L. Giles

Published August 8, 2013 by admin

It’s been a long time since I’ve had a willing victim, but today G.L. Giles joins me in the interview hot seat!



SJ:  Every writer has some sort of process. Give us a glimpse into yours. Do you meticulously outline? Do you write depending on what calls are out there?

*Bonus question – Do you put on a cape and do a chant before hunkering down to work? Sacrifice anything? Along with your process, what’s your quirkiest writing habit?

GL:  My process has undergone changes as I’ve hopefully matured as a writer and that includes taking everything quite a bit more seriously these days—though I still fancy myself a humorist upon occasion, too! J In that vein, I am a vegetarian, so I don’t sacrifice any animals, but I do murder the hell outta some veggies and fruit, compliments of my NutriBullet, before I sit down to type for the day. Alas, no cape and chanting, as I preferred going skyclad whilst chanting and circling my bonfires in homage to the Goddesses of the Greek pantheon, but at almost 49 years old now, my neighbors would surely be turned to stone watching me—more quickly than gazing upon Medusa, I’m afraid! On a more serious note, my process in writing my WATER VAMPS (2nd ed.) involved lots of coffee beforehand, too, but no outline was necessary this go-round, as I was basically reworking the first edition—making sure that there were no ‘plot-holes’ for anyone to step in this time, hopefully sharper dialogue, changing the tone somewhat, etc.!

SJ:  Are you a meticulous planner or do you believe in the muse? Where do your ideas come from? Do they filter in through your dreams? Do they result in a shady deal with a dark power?

GL:  I believe in meticulously planning AND the muse!! So, parts of WATER VAMPS came from planning and studying the various kinds of ‘real-life’ vampires:  Psychic Vampires and Sanguine Vampires. And, I also had a dream which I reworked for parts of my Prologue, etcetera. Let’s see:  “…shady deal with a dark power?” Hmmm…does my being published by a vanity press (early on in my career as a writer) count? 🙂

SJ:  What’s the book/story that’s closest to your heart? Is there a piece that you clearly feel is a piece of you? Do you play favorites?

GL:  I try not to play favorites at this point, but there are certain characters that are closer to my heart than others. Certainly, the protagonist, Robyn, in WATER VAMPS is nearer and dearer than the antagonist:  Jonas. What I wasn’t expecting was to kind of bond with two of the secondary characters:  Candace and Molly. Here’s an excerpt from my WATER VAMPS (2nd ed.) showcasing their rather irreverent dialogue (taken from page 45):

            Robyn caught up with her friends, Molly and Candace, while switching out books for her next class at her locker. “Hey, Robyn, you excited about Marion’s birthday bash?” a breathless, from being a bit overweight and having two classes close together on the opposite sides of the school, Molly managed to get out—behind her locker’s door to the left of Robyn’s locker.

            “Well, yeah, now that I have my costume picked out. What are you going as?”

            “I was thinking of going as a vampire,” Molly said softly, waiting to see how her friend would react. “Do you think that it’s too ‘out-there’ for Charleston—especially with it being a South of Broad Halloween-Birthday party?”

            Robyn rolled her eyes and replied, “If you ask me, Charleston needs to get a little more ‘out-there’, as in with the times…it’s the ‘80s after all…I love it…your idea…yes, it’s out there—a necessary ‘out there’!”

            “Here, here,” Candace chimed in. “As if we’re not ‘out-there’ enough being the only public lesbian couple our age here!” And with that, Candace, moving from her locker to the right of Robyn’s locker and bypassing Robyn, quickly gave Molly a kiss on her cheek. “You know, out of the closet, out here, out there…as long as it’s out!” And, at that, all three of them burst into peals of laughter. When their laughter subsided, Candace said, feigning having had her feelings hurt, “Hey, you didn’t ask me what I’m going as.”

            Playing along, Robyn smartly answered, “Maybe I didn’t care to know!” Again, all three burst into laughter.

            “Oh yeah?! Well, now you’re gonna know, whether or not you want to,” Candace replied with a broad smile. “I’m going as a zombie.”

            “Great gods,” Robyn teased, “that’s even more ‘out-there’ than a vampire.”

            “What about you, Robyn?” Molly asked, with her sweet Southern drawl.

            “A ghost.”

            “Boring!” Candace teased, and that made the three of them fill the locker hall with laughter once again.  

 SJ:  If you could only write one genre ever again upon pain of being sacrificed to Cthulhu, what would it be and why?

GL: I’m pretty sure Cthulhu and most horror writers will want to sacrifice me anyway for my answer, but the truth is:  children’s picture books championing animal causes. It’s no secret that I’m both canine crazy with a ‘pittie’ named Dejah Thoris and feline crazy with 7 cats:  Anubis Star, Eclipse, Luna, Vega, Comet, Bo and Dyson. I am both fascinated and frustrated by the following genres:  horror, mystery and thriller. They are infuriating to me in the sense that to write well in any of them takes a lot of dedication and frustration—at least for me—but the payoff of having a finely-crafted work in your hands at the end of the process is pretty amazing, too!!  

SJ:  If you had to be stuck in one of your own books/stories for the rest of your life, what would it be and why? If you had to stick a loved one in one of your own books, what would it be and why? An enemy?

GL:  Probably in WATER VAMPS since I know already know the ‘rules’ in this ‘cosmos’ I created and unlike in my children’s picture books, it spans centuries and many geographical locations, so there probably wouldn’t be as great a chance of boredom; it is an adventure story, too. My loved ones I would stick on dry land in WATER VAMPS—away from the water vamps who might consider them a tasty snack.  By contrast, I’d definitely stick my enemies in the water with my water vampires! [evil laugh with fangs bared] But, with my luck, the water vamps would not be hungry that day, so the enemies would survive as ‘fodder’ for my next novels. J

SJ:  Do you think it’s possible to develop a sure-fire recipe/formula for success as a writer? Would you want to, or does that compromise the art or the fun of it?

GL: Perhaps know the rules for the blockbuster hits/bestsellers, and then turn them on their heads? That way one is true to oneself and can actually make a living at it? I don’t really know…I’ll let you know if I ever have a bestseller! 

SJ:  Everyone has words of wisdom for young writers, so I’m not going to ask you about that. With a few unknown writers becoming success stories, a lot of people seem to think it’s an easy career choice. What would your words of wisdom be to these people?

GL:  It’s not too late to change paths! J Just kidding, but it is a very challenging, competitive field, so expect an uphill battle, and if you happen to have it come easily, then be amazed and grateful for your good fortune because it doesn’t really happen that often.

 SJ:  What do you want people to instantly think of when they hear your name or your work mentioned?

GL:  Definitely books worth buying!

SJ:  Please tell us about your latest/favorite work or a little bit about what you’re working on right now. It’s plug time, so go for it!

GL: I’m taking the liberty of substituting your “or” above for ‘and’, as I recently had the distinct pleasure of being sent “AFTER DEATH…” (edited by Eric J. Guignard) for review, and there wasn’t a story in the collection that I didn’t find captivating—for the content and well-crafted storylines.

And, now plug time, too! Here’s my synopsis of WATER VAMPS (2nd ed.):

Take a both fun-filled and treacherous ride into the waters surrounding the peninsular city of Charleston, South Carolina with G.L. Giles’s water vampires. Slake your thirst for different vampire species and subspecies at the same time! On dry land, you’ll also experience a part of Charleston, South Carolina (set primarily in the 1980s)—from White Point Garden to The Battery to the surrounding marshes, complete with plough mud and fiddler crabs—atmospherically rich with the inherent tapestry of the Carolina Lowcountry and then embellished with a healthy dose of dark fantasy! With several species of vampires in the mix, conflicts naturally arise. Add to that, some of the various species of vampires, as well as some of the humans, also have potentially fatal run-ins with some of the specters and shape-shifters found in this young adult novella as well. More than just peppering the plotline are the mostly human protagonists, Robyn and Marion, who are like contemporary versions of Robin Hood and Maid Marian in many ways—that is, with Robyn being a female and Marion a male in Giles’s mythology—and the ‘young love’ version to boot, as they’re middle school kids. Yet, unlike other children their age, they have special ‘gifts’ and a lot of responsibility for those so young in years. You see, they have the distinct burden, squarely placed upon them, of being the only ones who can save their older counterparts from another place and time: Setiana and Vasario.

Here are some of the reviews:

 “Water Vamps is one of the most clever supernatural stories I’ve read in years… only the singular mind of GL Giles, in all her guile and wit, could have come up with the idea of aquatic vampires who behave like the sirens of yore. As wildly out to sea as the premise seems, Giles’ rich, warm, and emotional writing style manages to make everyone seem so real, and our young protagonists, Robyn and Marion, are as grounded and substantive as can be. Water Vamps is a truly unique, engaging story – the sort of which makes GL Giles the worthy successor to the authors of my childhood (Ursula K. Le Guin, Madeleine L’Engle) and will certainly earn her a place in the canon of today’s most imaginative and engaging emerging fantasy authors.”

 Staci Layne Wilson, author of DARK LULLABY and co-host of Inside Horror

 “G. L. Giles once again brings vampires to life, this time in a young adult novel spanning centuries, dimensions and death. Giles’ tale of protagonists Robyn and Marion includes all the usual suspects one expects from a good horror tale; vamps and werewolves, romance and loss, life and death. Mixing these ingredients with a brand new revisionist spin, Giles creates a world familiar yet astonishingly different from similar young adult fare. Giles has not forgotten what it is to be twelve. Armed with this knowledge, she lures readers in with interesting characters and daring messages not mired in traditional fantasy tropes. Giles cannily circles the familiar before transforming her tale into something entirely new. Water Vamps is a tale of tolerance and understanding, written in descriptive, engaging prose.”

Will Colby, reviewer at KillingBoxx

“A good storyteller shows the ‘human’ in the alien creatures, in this case water vamps, and the ‘alien’ in the humans and GL Giles’ “Water Vamps” lives up to a great fantasy tale because of it. A new kind of vampire is created in Water Vamps and Giles fascinates readers with those differences. It is not just blood sucking vamps but a kind of species that lives in water and behaves sometimes similarly to sirens. These creatures live by a set of rules – ones you probably haven’t encountered before – and these codes are mirrored in the young lives of the human protagonists. Targeted for young adults, the depth of the story easily catches adult readers in its snare as all good fantasy/fairy tales do.”

Gary Starta, author/reviewer and a ‘Top Ten Finalist in 2010’s Preditors and Editors Poll for Science Fiction’

“I was thrilled when I read about the Water Vamps that Giles created…every author needs to come up with a new twist that makes their vampires unique and memorable. With vampires seen as a species, Giles has definitely done this overall, but then she takes it a step further by creating an entirely new species that seems a little like a mermaid, a little like a siren, and all vampire!…Their story [is told in] “Water Vamps,” and it will slake the thirst of anyone wanting to know more. Giles weaves a tale of intrigue and gives us a glimpse of the underwater world of the Water Vamps, and the history and origins behind these beautiful and dangerous creatures is truly unique!…We get to interact with these creatures on a more personal level:  they go to school, have spelling and vocabulary tests, have to deal with their parents and even crush on each other. In this sense, we get to see the more ‘human’ side of the water vampires and see that the youth water vamps are similar to the human heroes, Robyn and Marion. Written for young adults, the main characters are children, and the adults are secondary to the story, which will appeal to any young adult. Robyn and Marion understand each other, and they (like the water vamps) have to deal with all the things children deal with, despite their unusual gifts. Even without these gifts, Robyn is a role model for any young female with her strength of character, respect for adults (at least those who deserve it) and her loyalty to Marion, who deserves his own credit for his loyalty and friendship…In the end, even the water vamps come to be [those] we can relate to and accept in this thrilling ride into the waters of Charleston, South Carolina.”

Deanna Anderson for Target Audience Magazine

“G.L. Giles has written a YA book worthy of a closer look by young adults and adults of all ages.  Her stories read like a welcome canteen of water when one has been in a desolate literary desert for too long.  Let’s face it.  One can’t throw a stake without hitting one of the many vampire novels out there these days.  With Giles’ book however, one hits a rich vein of gold or perhaps in this case, blood and, as every vampire knows, the life is in the blood.  The life blood of “Water Vamps” is in the talent of such a gifted writer as Giles.  Such are the literary riches one finds in “Water Vamps.”  If you love vampires, you are in for a rare treat.  The most intriguing thing about her Water Vamps is that they are a fantastic and wholly unique twist on the vampire myth.  Even if vampires are not your cup of tea (or goblet of blood) you will be engaged by Giles.  It is her skillful writing style, engrossing narrative and some of the most interesting characters in all of literature that brings delight to the reader. I absolutely love the biracial storyline with Robyn and Marion. With this, Giles doesn’t merely tell a story.  She digs deeply into the human consciousness, bringing out old modes of thinking and revealing them in the light of day, inviting the reader to expand his or her mind. This is story-telling at its best.  The most important thing I can say about this book is this:  Best twist on the vampire mythos ever.”

Evelyn Smith, author of “Transylvania, Louisiana” and “City of the Undead,” for Eviesite (WordPress Blog) 

“G.L. Giles creates a delightfully original vampire mythology in her young adult book Water Vamps. The main characters Robyn and Marion (aptly named after the literary adventurers Robin Hood and Maid Marian) engage in their own adventure involving Water Vampires, a complex hybrid of ravens and mermaids—with teeth! Giles celebrates the unconventional in numerous ways throughout the book, which any vampire-lover will embrace whole-heartedly. Her compelling tale follows the burgeoning young romance between Robyn and Marion which leads to their dangerous encounter with the Water Vamps. Giles mixes her unique history of vampires and the background of Charleston, South Carolina, creating a fully absorbing fantasy tale. Together, Robyn and Marion discover a pair of deceitful adults and a perilous, hungry species who are more than they appear to be on the surface and with whom they have more in common than they realize.”

Bryce Warren, author of “Voodoo Mayhem”

“GL Giles delivers a new concept to an old tale noteworthy of a fictional television documentary. Her descriptions of her characters lend charm and mystery to the history of how vampires have always been perceived. I think Stoker would be well pleased to see this ‘new breed’.”

Rena Short Brashear, Reviewer (for Target Audience Magazine, etc.)

 Links to purchase a copy of WATER VAMPS (2nd ed.):

Links to connect with G.L. Giles:

Thanks so much for this wonderful opportunity, Selah!


Thanks very much to GL for sharing her thoughts, excerpt, and work with us! It looks fabulous, and I’ve really enjoyed what I’ve read so far!


Author Interview: Deborah Smith Ford

Published April 17, 2013 by admin

Today’s interview is with a fantastic children’s author and an all-around insanely talented lady, Deborah Smith Ford! I first met her at Fandom Fest last year, and have been fortunate to get to know her and her incredible talent since then. See what she has to say about writing for children, an area that a lot of people take for granted (and shouldn’t)!

Ford sharing about writing in classroom

SJ: Every writer has some sort of process. Give us a glimpse into yours. Do you meticulously outline? Do you write depending on what calls are out there?
DSF: My writing process varies, and an outline is part of the beginnings, although my outline is more like webbing – on paper, computer or just in my brain! 
When I write I write non-stop! Usually one thought moves into another and so on until, sometimes, I physically drop. By the way, I do not always use a computer, and my typewriting days have ended due to the strength in my fingers has lessened (but I’m sure I could get it back!). Instead, I write many times with pencil and paper, skipping every other line.
On other occasions I write from memories, notes I have taken after I wake up, when on the road riding with someone (not driving), seeing something that triggers a thought, anywhere and everywhere, etc., so I combine all those ideas into my own, thus beginning another chain of writing.
Sometimes my illustrator, Susi Galloway Newell, comes up with an artistic idea and my writing also flows from that.
Either way, all of the writing ends up making sense eventually, even though it may not to others to begin with.
SJ: Bonus question – Do you put on a cape and do a chant before hunkering down to work? Sacrifice anything? Along with your process, what’s your quirkiest writing habit?
DSF: I do like to be comfortable when writing. Cotton pj bottoms-type pants (sweatpants are my fave) are nice with cotton long sleeve t-shirt, and a drink, always a drink nearby – usually just water, but sometimes cold or hot tea (depending on the weather).

Like my study days in school, I do prefer almost absolute quiet with a window nearby – and even the phone off the hook if need be!

Are you a meticulous planner or do you believe in the muse? Where do your ideas come from? Do they filter in through your dreams? Do they show up at inopportune times and whap you upside the head? Do they result in a shady deal with a dark power?
DSF: I guess I kind of covered where my ideas come from before under “writing process,” and yes they do come from everywhere. Mostly from  my memories, but from people, animals and objects that I meet as well!
SJ:  bonus question – If your muse had a physical manifestation, what would he or she look like and how would she or he act? Is it a sexy superhero version of Callisto? A sharp-tongued rogue? A reptilian alien? Do they have a catch phrase?
DSF: Any muse I might have would have to be myself when younger and/or any child-like character. When I write for older ages, the child becomes older in my thoughts, as well as in his or her actions.
SJ: What’s the book/story that’s closest to your heart? Is there a piece that you clearly feel is a piece of you? Do you play favorites?
DSF: The first published book, “The Little Apple, “would have to be the closest one to my heart, as that is where it mostly came from. The young lady in the first book does come from the imagination, but she was also inspired from real life. Her own thoughts and companions she meets along the way are from both as well – imagination and real life.
Illustration from The Little Apple, Allie on swing with mommy pushing
Hard to play favorites at this point, except if it were not for the first book, there probably would not have been others, and thus the series established – “Allie’s Adventures”!
The Little Apple
SJ: If you could only write one genre ever again upon pain of being sacrificed to Cthulhu, what would it be and why?
             DSF: Children or youth are the genres I currently like to write in.
             SJ: What’s your biggest frustration as a writer? What do you consider the downside, or is there one? Is there any cliché that makes you want to wring people’s necks?
            DSF: My biggest frustration is feeling guilty if I do not write every day or over a period of time. Since I write almost every day, but not books, then that guilt is lessened. I am not a spring chicken anymore either, so I keep thinking I need to rush things – but rushing anything is not good.
           I despise, “So are you still writing.?” “When will the next book be published?” “Do you make money at writing?”…
            SJ: If you had to be stuck in one of your own books/stories for the rest of your life, what would it be and why? If you had to stick a loved one in one of your own books, what would it be and why? An enemy?
             DSF: I would love to be back on a farm, traveling and having adventures, but returning to the farm. I’d also like all my loved ones to be there with me. I don’t think of having enemies – if there were any, that is probably their punishment, I wouldn’t think (or write) about them. 

Do you think it’s possible to develop a sure-fire recipe/formula for success as a writer? Would you want to, or does that compromise the art or the fun of it?

            DSF: No recipe to be a successful writer (in my mind). Just write (study up on grammar if need be), but write what you like and better yet, write what you love.

             SJ: Everyone has words of wisdom for young writers, so I’m not going to ask you about that. With a few unknown writers becoming success stories, a lot of people seem to think it’s an easy career choice. What would your words of wisdom be to these people?

             DSF: After one has decided that he or she cannot eat or sleep without writing SOMEthing, then they know they are hooked, and that’s that. IF one has to make a living at writing, that becomes another ballgame. There are so many opportunities to earn money writing, not writing only books necessarily.
Then when the real life job is settled upon and lived, one’s spare time can be spent writing for enjoyment – books, poetry, articles – whatever floats your boat until eventually THAT becomes one’s real life job AND love!!!
Allie's Adventures, 2nd bk, The Little Goat in Africa


             SJ: It seems like everyone likes to gang up on certain genres as being inferior, less meaningful, or cheap entertainment (especially if it’s speculative in nature). Make a case for the genre you write.


Perfect example I think with my being an author of children’s books. All I can say is, try it!!! I would also love to illustrate them, and I did with the first one (in the 1980s) until this new digital age came about. I find I can only do one or one hundred things well at a time, and adding on that one additional talent, like illustrating, does not work for me.

Creating children’s books with multiple illustrations is not the most wise way to go financially either, but what is a children’s book without them?! I have people remind me of this, and others also say things like “No one will pay that for your book.” – They do.
In the end, I do what I like, am blessed to be able to, and have to just ignore those who think otherwise – you have to or you’ll go crazy! Personally, those who support me, say such people are just jealous (not my words).
I am also an actress in film and TV and am a celebrity lookalike, so I also keep busy acting and traveling as a result. I find myself writing when on set sometimes!
             SJ: What do you want people to instantly think of when they hear your name or your work mentioned?
            DSF: “Why that Deborah Smith Ford must love what she does, as it shows up in her books. Most of all, it is obvious in “Allie” and all the other characters who are part of her adventures.” 
             By the way, “The Little Apple” is available as a soft covered book, an ebook and as a CD (the CD is only available through me). Links for all the above are given.
             Thank you for taking the time to interview me. It was refreshing, fun and thought-provoking, and I was ready to answer even more questions!
Deborah Smith Ford by Michael Cairns
To learn more about Deborah Smith Ford and all her projects, check out her collection of links!
Deborah Smith Ford also writes excellent articles about literature, entertainment, fantasy, and the arts! To check those out, please go to, type her name in the search box at the upper right, and see all that she has to say about others!