Author Mary Cunningham is excited to announce the release of the 5th and final book in the award-winning series Cynthia’s Attic, “The Legend of Lupin Woods” (as usual, it’s filled with fun, time travels, colorful characters, unexpected twists and… yours truly is in it!).

Cynthia’s Attic: The Legend of Lupin Woods (Book 5)

Cynthia and Gus have solved a lot of mysteries across time, but something is seriously wrong and things are beginning to unravel.

Aunt Belle is missing…again! Cynthia’s great-grandfather, Beau, was never found! And now they are wondering if Blackie is still making life miserable for Lilly and Annie.

This time, the twelve-year-old girls journey into a strange woods full of frightening creatures and dark secrets in search of answers.

From Aunt Belle’s cottage to a small village in France, they meet new friends and discover a connection to New Orleans that may lead to the devious source behind these alarming developments. Or bigger trouble.

 

Read an excerpt from Cynthia’s Attic: The Legend of Lupin Woods

My back pressed against a small tree as I peered over one shoulder, then the other. More blackness. I pulled my knees tight to my chest to create as small a target as possible. If I could keep still until morning, this place might be less formidable.

Those eyes … did they just move? Hair stood straight up on my neck as a low growl inched ever closer. I sucked in one last breath and hid my face waiting for a fatal blow or bite.

“Well, well. What do we have here?” My head jerked skyward. Yellow eyes hovered over me. “Cat got your tongue?”

The creature bent down and poked my upper arm with a furry finger. I wanted so badly to run, but sheer terror kept me plastered to the tree.
The hulking figure straightened and chuckled. “I’m not planning to hurt you. What are you doing in Lupin?”

Lupin? I tried to answer, but dryness gripped my throat as if I’d swallowed an entire sandbox. Plus, an ominous word jumped into my brain. I’d heard something that sounded a lot like lupin once before. It was at the movies! Wolfman. Oh, no. Lupine is another name for wolf! Was I in a wolf forest?

My eyes scanned the treetops. I might be saved if the sun rose soon, but light would have to pass through the dense canopy, and from where I sat, that seemed doubtful. The beast must’ve read my mind.

“If you’re waiting for sunrise, you’ll be disappointed.” It smiled–or made a weak attempt–revealing huge, pointy teeth. “Instead of night and day, around here we have night and black.”
I gulped and finally manufactured enough spit to choke out four words. “Why-am-I-here?”

Visit Cynthia’s Attic Blog for a schedule of The Legend of Lupin Woods Blog Tour!
http://cynthiasattic.blogspot.com/2012/05/cynthias-attic-legend-of-lupin-woods.html

 

Mary Cunningham: Like Cynthia and Gus, my childhood best friend, Cynthia and I grew up in a small, Southern Indiana town…the setting for the series. Not one summer day passed that we weren’t playing softball, hide and seek, badminton, or croquet with friends in the vacant lot behind Becky’s house.

In my attempt to grow up, I joined The Georgia Reading Association, and the Carrollton Creative Writers Club. When giving my fingers a day away from the keyboard, I enjoy golf, swimming and exploring the mountains of West Georgia where I live with my husband and adopted furry, four-legged daughter, Lucy. Together we’ve raised three creative children and are thrilled with our 2 granddaughters.

At last count, I’ve moved 9 times to six different states (all after the age of 36), and aside from the packing and unpacking, it’s been a great experience, having made some very dear and lasting friendships. My non-writing time is spent showing power point presentations on gathering ideas and the writing process to schools and libraries.

Mary Cunningham Books
http://www.marycunninghambooks.com

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Cynthia’s Attic Series for ‘Tweens on YouTube

Pour inaugurer la version française de “Veronika Asks”, Fanny Joly, auteur (entre autres) de “Marion” et “Hotel Bordemer”, a accepté de répondre à mes questions, dans la joie et la bonne humeur… comme à son habitude :)
Interview in French, dating back to 2006.

Bonjour Fanny ! Ravie de vous accueillir chez « Veronika Asks » ! Merci d’avoir accepté d’être la première interviewée. Pourriez-vous vous présenter aux lecteurs ?
Bonjour. Merci de m’accueillir ainsi, je suis très honorée. Donc, je suis écrivain, j’ai 51 ans et je gagne ma vie avec ma plume depuis l’âge de 16 ans. Mon 1er livre jeunesse est sorti en 1986 et j’en ai publié beaucoup depuis. Plus de deux cent…

Vous intéressez-vous à l’Astrologie ? De quel signe êtes-vous ? Correspondez vous aux caractéristiques de ce signe ?
Non, je ne m’intéresse pas à l’astrologie. Si un horoscope me tombe sous le nez je le lis parfois mais pas toujours. Je suis sagittaire.

Comment (et surtout quand) avez–vous commencé à écrire ?
D’abord j’ai toujours beaucoup lu, dévoré. Etant jeune, mes vacances commençaient par aller vendre mes livres scolaires chez Gibert et acheter des romans avec l’argent ( privilège que mes parents m’accordaient)… A mes yeux lire et écrire sont un même besoin sous deux formes, comme manger (lire) et cuisiner (écrire). A part ça, j’ai commencé à écrire un peu par hasard. Quand j’avais 16 ans, donc, ma soeur qui a 20 ans de plus que moi et qui s’ennuyait dans le métier d’avocate, m’a confié qu’elle avait envie de faire du theâtre, de faire rire. Je l’ai aidée à écrire des sketches, de façon très naturelle, très joyeuse.

Comment êtes-vous arrivée à publier votre premier livre ?
Mon 1er livre publié (chez Centurion devenu depuis Bayard Edition), MARCEAU BONAPPÉTIT était un album, épuisé aujourd’hui. Je l’avais co-écrit avec une amie médecin. C’est elle qui s’est battue pour convaincre un éditeur après s’être fait jeter par plusieurs. Je n’aurais peut-être pas eu ce courage. J’ai eu de la chance, chez cet éditeur travaillait Jacqueline Kerguenno qui se trouvait être aussi l’une des créatrices de J’Aime Lire. On a sympathisé. Elle m’a poussée : « pourquoi n’essayez-vous pas d’écrire un J’Aime Lire ? » et c’est parti…

Comment travaillez-vous ? Avez-vous parfois le syndrome de la « page blanche » ? Si oui, que faites-vous ?
Je travaille cinq à six heures par jour, tous les jours sans exception… J’aime être bien concentrée. Je n’ai pas peur de la page blanche, jamais. Je fais des brouillons, des monstres, des recherches, des plans, des synopsis, sans me censurer. Je m’attends à ce que les débuts soient nuls. Ils le sont. C’est à force de retravailler que j’arrive à me trouver un peu moins nulle. Je suis habituée. Ce fonctionnement demande du temps. Il ne faut jamais se laisser prendre à la gorge par le délai. Mon angoisse se situe plutôt là…

Auriez-vous un conseil pour ceux qui souhaitent écrire (et se faire publier) ?
Lire. Acheter des cahiers de brouillons. Et ne jamais s’impatienter.

Le feuilleton Marion, qui est publié dans Je Bouquine, a un grand succès auprès des jeunes. Comment est née Marion ?
Un peu par hasard. En tout cas pas comme un personnage de série. C’est l’enthousiasme des lecteurs qui a fait de Marion une « récurrente » (le 11ème tome sort en octobre). En 1994, ayant publié une dizaine de J’Aime Lire, j’ai été contactée par Jacqueline Cohen, qui s’occupait de Je Bouquine à l’époque. « Tu n’aurais pas envie d’essayer d’écrire pour les plus grands ? » Et c’est parti. Rebelote (cf plus haut).

Pouvez-vous nous en dire un peu plus sur les prochaines aventures de Marion (va-t-elle enfin réussir à attirer l’attention de Félix ?) ?
Dans les prochains mois, Marion va… faire des expériences capillaires, jouer du théâtre classique, manger du curry, avoir la fièvre, rire, pleurer, voyager et déclencher pas mal de catastrophes, comme d’habitude… (J’écris en ce moment l’épisode de janvier 2007) Côté Félix, il va se passer des tas de choses bien sûr… Mais pas « eau de rose & prince charmant ». Sinon ce ne serait pas Marion. Ni moi.

Laquelle de vos histoires préférez-vous et avez-vous le plus de plaisir à retrouver ?
Toutes. Mes histoires sont comme mes enfants. J’y mets mon cœur en entier.

Vous dites aussi écrire pour le théâtre (les one woman shows de Sylvie Joly, par exemple) et la télévision. Quelles sont les différences entre l’écriture d’un scénario et d’un roman ?
Dans l’écriture scénaristique, le style compte moins… Seuls les dialogues seront perceptibles par le public. Le reste est utilitaire, transitoire. Péripéties d’abord. Dans un roman, tout compte. Un auteur de talent peut faire dix pages sur un rien. Ou même cent.

Ne voudriez-vous pas essayer d’autres genres ? Écrire pour les adultes, par exemple ?
Vous ne croyez pas si bien dire… Mon 1er roman adulte sort en octobre. Il s’appelle LA VIE COMME EVA. Il m’a été commandé par… une de mes éditrices jeunesse qui est passée « dans la cour des grands » chez Intervista. Ça m’a donné bien du travail, bien des doutes. Catel m’a fait le grand plaisir d’accepter d’illustrer ce texte. 250 pages de texte et 18 dessins Noir et Blanc.

Vos romans sont publiés en 14 langues. Lesquelles ? Suivez-vous toutes les sorties de tous vos livres (dans toutes les langues) ?
Je ne tiens pas la liste mais comme ça de mémoire : anglais, allemand, grec, italien, coréen, espagnol, portugais, polonais, hébreu…

Quels sont vos projets pour cette année ?
Partir en vacances (après-demain)… Des vacances studieuses puisque je dois rendre un épisode de Marion le 15 août, un texte chez Hachette image le 4 septembre, à nouveau Marion le 15 septembre, le 7ème épisode d’une BD historique que je co-écris un mois sur deux dans J’aime Lire : SUZIE et GODEFROY vers le 20 septembre, le 10ème tome de ma série DROLE D’ECOLE chez Pocket le 30 septembre. Après, hé bien je suivrai la sortie de mon roman adulte et puis… on verra.

Et maintenant la-question-qui-n’a-pas-vraiment-de-rapport-avec-les-livres-mais-qu’on-aime-quand-même : vous venez de trouver 100€. Qu’allez vous en faire ? Sans trop réfléchir…
J’achèterai sans doute des livres ou des disques ! C’est mon principal poste de dépense… A moins que mes enfants ne me les piquent avant !

“J’aime…”

Série télé : Je ne regarde pas la télé. Je n’ai jamais regardé une série ni un film en entier.
Livre :
Je dirais plutôt : auteurs. Comment citer tous ceux que j’aime ? Balzac, Maupassant, Zola, Mauriac, Marcel Aymé, Roald Dahl, Alison Lurie, Elisabeth Taylor, Jean Paul Dubois, Jean Echenoz, Weyergans, Ludmilla Oulitskaïa, Anita Brookner, Alice Munro, Magda Szabo… Je m’arrête mais je pourrais continuer…
Film :
Un de mes films préférés : RETOUR A HOWARDS END de James Ivory.
Musique :
Du jazz, piano, saxo, voix…
Ville :
Paris.
Endroit pour écrire :
Un lit et une paire de boules Quiès.
Dicton, mot, proverbe :
« Je m’empresse de rire de tout de peur d’être obligé d’en pleurer » Beaumarchais.

“Pile ou Face?”

Samedi soir. Sortir ou lire un livre ? Lire un livre.
En vacances. Plage ou Montagnes ?
Plage.
Au cinéma. Drame ou Comédie ?
Comédie.
Ville ou campagne ?
Ville.
Timide ou communicative ?
Communicative.
Sérieuse ou rigolote ?
Rigolote, j’espère.
Voyageuse ou pas ?
Voyageuse.

Merci Fanny!
Le site officiel de Fanny Joly: http://www.fannyjoly.com

Veronika Asks
is five years old!

Thank you for making it possible.
Stay tuned for more!

A few words from author friend Mary Cunningham:

“To kick off the release of Cynthia’s Attic: The Magician’s Castle, I ran a contest to name your favorite character in the Cynthia’s Attic Series. And, guess who won? None other than Veronika! The prize is to be cast as a character in Cynthia’s Attic: Legend of Lupinwold Forest (working title). She’s anxious to read how her character is developing, so here’s a short excerpt. Not too much. Don’t want to give away any of the mystery, but I hope you’ll enjoy a snippet of the latest Cynthia’s Attic adventure with Cynthia, Gus and Veronika.”

* * *

In trying to escape the boring summer of 1964, Cynthia and Gus, adventurous twelve-year-old best friends, discover a trunk in Cynthia’s attic that her family has possessed for three generations. The trunk has magical powers that allows them to travel through time solving mysteries and having adventures with their ancestors.

In the latest story, Cynthia and Gus journey to a small town in France to search for clues as to why all the mysteries solved in previous adventures are unraveling. In the village of Beauvais, they see a woman, Amelia, the girls first spotted making beignets in New Orleans (Curse of the Bayou: Book Three). Amelia runs a small pastry shop in town and her young daughter, Veronika, helps out when she can.

Veronika offers to show Cynthia and Gus an old monastery-school building where they might search for clues to solve this latest mystery.

* * *

Cynthia’s Attic: Legend of Lupinwold Forest – Excerpt: Chapter Five

I couldn’t argue that mother and daughter appeared as different as night and day. Amelia towered over us and her hair and eyes were the same color as the dark chocolate fudge my dad made every Christmas.

Veronika sensed my confusion and explained, “Maman claims I’m the image of my Grand-mère Colette, my papa’s mother. “She was born in the south of France, but claimed Irish ancestry, which must explain my blonde hair and freckles.”

I was quick to point out our common ground. “I take after my grandmother, too. And, Cynthia is the image of her great-aunt, Belle, so we all bear resemblance to one relative or another.”

“Aunt Belle lives in France,” Cynthia added. “In fact, we just came from her cottage.”

Veronika stopped walking and asked, “Really? Does she live close by?”

I held my breath while my friend answered since we never knew for sure where Aunt Belle lived except that her home was somewhere outside Paris.

“She lives in the countryside, outside Paris, but the village is so small I’m not sure it even has a name.”

“That’s quite possible. Many villages have no formal designation, but are known by a landmark or by the name of the original inhabitants,” Veronika said.

I sighed with relief when she continued to lead us past dozens of small shops and didn’t press for more information. Few of the stores contents were distinguishable, but one displayed candles in the window and another had baskets of fresh and fruit at the front entrance. One thing they had in common were “closed” signs displayed in each window. Despite my disappointment at not being able to investigate and sample more delicious food, we had to continue the mission.

Our pace quickened and we soon reached the outskirts of town.

“We’re here,” Veronika announced. “Big and solemn-looking, isn’t it?”

I couldn’t dispute that. The three-story, stone building, complete with bell tower, gave the appearance of a church rather than a school.

“It used to be a monastery,” Veronika answered, as if reading my mind. “I love the creaky wood floors, although it’s harder to sneak into class when I’m late for school. Would you like to go inside? The doors are open all summer.”

“Sure, why not?” It couldn’t look more depressing on the inside than the old elementary school Cynthia and I attended from kindergarten through fifth grade. To reinforce how old, my grandmother, Bess, went to high school there! During school, the janitor had a full-time job keeping wax on the worn wood floors and the principal spent winter months banging on the old furnace coaxing it to heat the three-story building.

Veronika led us through the massive double doors into a marble hallway. While the age of the building was apparent, the sounds from our footsteps echoed off huge wooden beams giving me a strange sense of historical significance and purpose. I could almost see monks in long robes roaming the hallways centuries before.

“This way!” Our new friend ran down the hallway, her laughter contrasting with the somber interior of the school. “There is supposed to be a secret passage somewhere near the tower stairs. I’ve never seen it, but my friend, Bridget swears it’s there, but I’m not sure how much to believe since she also swears her brother is a werewolf.” Veronika laughed. “I don’t think he is, but…he does have unusually long canine teeth.”

Cynthia laughed along with Veronika, but I didn’t find talk of werewolves the least bit funny. Ever since screaming and hiding my eyes through Wolf Man at the Dream Movie Theatre, I’ve imagined hairy, fanged faces staring in through my bedroom window! “She’s kidding, right?”

“Probably.” Veronika grinned. “Her older brother, François, is quiet and a little eccentric, but, other than extra long teeth, he doesn’t appear at all wolf-like.”

I paled and Cynthia snickered. “She’s teasing you, Gus. You’ll fall for anything.”

“Ha! I know she’s kidding.” Or is she? A shadow passed over Veronika’s face, but the moment I blinked it was gone and her sunny smile returned. Still, a shiver moved up my spine.

We ran up the stairs to the second floor and encountered a long hallway of closed doors—classrooms, I presumed. Veronika walked ahead, jiggling doorknobs criss-crossing from right to left, but everything was locked tight.

“Nothing so far.” She called over her shoulder. “I’m afraid Bridget teased about the secret passage, too.”

I didn’t know whether to be relieved or disappointed. All this talk of werewolves had me on edge, but our only recourse is finding clues to fix the mess that’s been created, or many people will to suffer. Aunt Belle, Beau, Cynthia’s whole family! Not to mention the effect on my family, particularly my grandma, Bess and me. One thing certain; we wouldn’t escape unscathed.

I couldn’t determine if my dark mood played tricks on my or if another shadow passed directly above me, but by the time I looked up, I saw nothing but the ornately sculpted ceiling.


Mary Cunningham

Mary Cunningham is the author of award winning ‘Tween fantasy/mystery series, Cynthia’s Attic. Her children’s mystery series is inspired by a recurring dream about a mysterious attic. After realizing that the dream takes place in the home of her childhood friend, Cynthia, the dreams stopped and the writing began.

She is also co-writer of the humor-filled, women’s lifestyle book, “Women Only Over Fifty (WOOF),” along with published stories, “Ghost Light” and “Christmas Daisy,” A Cynthia’s Attic short story.


Official website

http://www.marycunninghambooks.com

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Kindle
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Quake/Echelon Press

Garden gnomes need love too. Today, I get the chance to interview director, writer and voice actor Kelly Asbury. Kelly answers my questions about his new baby “Gnomeo and Juliet”, movie-making, Ventriloquism…and much more.

On… Kelly Asbury:

Welcome on Veronika Asks, Kelly! Thank you for being my interviewee. You’re a director, writer, voice actor and illustrator. Did you achieve everything you wanted to or is there something else you’d like to try?
I’d like to keep doing it all again and get better with each try!

Which animated movie made you want to become involved in this industry?
I saw Disney’s SNOW WHITE AND THE SEVEN DWARVES when I was about 7-years-old and that was that.

Which one of the movies you worked on is your favorite?
I”ve enjoyed them all to a large degree, but, as of now, GNOMEO AND JULIET is my favorite!

In most animated movies, the hero often gets help from a fairy godmother. Do you have a fairy godmother? :)
My high school art teacher Mrs. Minnie McMillan is as close to a fairy godmother as I’ve ever come.


On “Gnomeo and Juliet”:

“Gnomeo and Juliet” is “an epic tale on a tiny scale”. The making of the movie too, must have been epic. Could you share your best and “worst” “Gnomeo & Juliet” memories?
My best memories are too many to mention here, but suffice it to say that I loved working with all the brilliantly talented artists and technicians I had the priviledge to be surrounded by. My worst memory is when it was all over and we had to say “goodbye for now.” It was like parting with family.

Fairytales often teach us valuable life lessons. What about “Gnomeo and Juliet”? Is there a moral behind the fun?
Don’t judge a gnome by the color of his hat!

Are there other classics you’d enjoy “gnoming”?
Been there, gnomed that.


On Animation and Movie-Making:

You’ve worked on amazing animated movies such as “The Little Mermaid”, “Shrek”, “Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron”, “Beauty and the Beast”… What do a storyboard artist, assistant art director, story artist and director do exactly?
A storyboard artist works closely with the director to tell the story in still drawings, much like a comic strip. The storyboards serve as the blueprint from which the entire movie is planned. An assistant art director helps the production designer and art director develop and design the look of the movie from the environments to the colors and lighting for a given scene. A director oversees and shepherds all the creative decisions from the start to the finish of production.

What is the difference between a “good story” and a “story worth turning into a movie”?
All stories are worth turning into a movie and all stories are only as good as the teller.

Once an idea is born, how is an animated movie made? Could you briefly describe the movie-making process, taking your new baby “Gnomeo and Juliet” as an example?
Idea + script + storyboards + editing + many revisions + designs + voices + animation + surfacing + color + sound + sound mixing + final print = animated movie. A process of usually no less than 4 years.

I’ve heard it will soon be possible to “revive” dead actors thanks to the new technologies. Does that mean it will soon be possible to see new movies with those long-gone stars? How far do you think special effets may go?
I think the sky is the limit, but the stories have to be good and the characters have to be engaging or none of it’s worth a hill of beans.


On “Dummy Days”:

You wrote a non-fiction book titled “Dummy Days: America’s Favorite Ventriloquists from Radio and Early TV”. How and when did your passion for this incredible art form start? Have you ever considered becoming a ventriloquist yourself?
I was given a toy ventriloquist dummy as a kid and never was very good at actually being a ventriloquist. Still, I’ve always loved puppets and magic and those interests remained into my adulthood. After searching for a good book on the history of ventriloquists, I became frustrated and decided to write one myself.

Who is your favorite ventriloquist? And the greatest dummy of all-time?
My favorite ventriloquist is my good friend Mr. Jimmy Nelson, who’s famous for those old 1960s Nestle’s Quik commercials featuring his dummy Danny O’Day and the singing dog, Farfel. The most famous ventriloquist dummy of all time is Edgar Bergen’s Charlie McCarthy, who, in the 1930s and 40s was as popular as Mickey Mouse.

Do you think there’s room for another Golden Age of Ventriloquism?
There’s room for anything!


My…

Hero: Walt Disney
Favorite Animated Movie:
DUMBO
Favorite Animated Character:
Mickey Mouse
Favorite Actor/Actress:
Marlon Brando/Meryl Streep
Motto:
There’s always something new to learn.
Dream:
I’m living it
Favorite Food:
Fried Chicken
Favorite City:
Los Angeles, CA
Favorite Music:
Anything that makes me want to sing along.
Hobby:
Deep sleep

Bonus Question: You’ve found $100. How will you use that money?
I’d first try hard to find out who lost it, in the hopes of getting it back to them. If that failed I’d throw a KFC block party.

Thank you, Kelly!

You can follow Kelly Asbury on Twitter: http://twitter.com/KellyAsbury
…and discover “Gnomeo and Juliet”: http://www.gnomeoandjuliet.com

Dr. Stephen M. Thompson answers my questions about lucid dreaming, the Chagos Islands and his novel “Coma Story”. When fiction meets History.

Good morning Stephen, welcome on “Veronika Asks”! Could you please briefly introduce yourself? Then, if you could describe yourself – and Coma Story – with three adjectives…

Thanks for having me. My name is Stephen, I’m a working author who lives in St. Peters, Missouri. I got drifted from Singapore to the U.S. just before the millennium bug.

Me: Creative, Motivated, Kind

My book: Humorous, Shocking, Enlightening

In your novel Coma Story, coma survivor Aldan Foy and Diego Garcia native Tarzan conspire to get back the Chagos Islands – without rioting and violence. What sparked the idea for Coma Story? Why did you base your novel on the Diego Garcia depopulation?

Let me give a real brief blurb first. Coma Story is an alternate history fiction based on a recent unfortunate event, i.e. the merciless depopulation of Diego Garcia Island (once part of Mauritius) by the British to help the U.S. build a massive military base. Aldan Foy, when in coma, gets into the habit of lucid dreaming. Along with his native friend Tarzan, he finds a way to get back the islands from the superpowers – without a fight.

However, he wakes up after four years and realizes nothing’s changed. Then he starts recollecting his dreams. Coma “recovery” was the main theme with which I started the book. Lucid dreaming followed as an after thought. Integrating the plight of the Chagossian people was kind of a miracles bold idea, as I stumbled upon their unthinkable history during a non-related research. Though it’s a dark subject, the novel is very inspirational at many levels and fun to read – or at least that’s the feedback I have been receiving.

Why lucid dreaming?

Good question. But tell me, what would one do in coma when trapped in his or her non-responsive body, but then aware of what’s happening around? Hypothetically, all that one could do is dream. To add a clever element, I inserted the scientifically proved concept of lucid dreaming into the story. Believe me, I spent countless hours reading about lucid dreaming, which is indeed a fascinating subject. I just fell down the rabbit hole, I guess.

Your descriptions are very colorful; you seem to know a lot about the life and story of the Chagossians. Could you describe “the making of” Coma Story? Did you make researches? Did you travel to Mauritius?

That’s a question I have been asked a lot and I take it as a compliment. No, I did not had the opportunity to visit Mauritius nor had the privilege to meet a single Chagos islander so far. However, as I started writing I reached out to various organizations, that had been working on many spectrum of the Chagos situation. Though my research progression was not easy, I was lucky to get in touch with some awesome people from various sectors – military, social activists, politicians and service groups. Then again, Internet and local libraries were great assets as well. Since this is a sensitive subject from a military perspective (then again, it’s about real people who are still suffering), I had to go through strange challenges in finding middle ground. No wonder, it took two years to complete Coma Story.

You say Coma Story is “in no way an attempt at a definitive history of the British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT) deportation during the Cold War nor a catalyst for any anti-base”. What is it, in that case? What is the purpose of the novel?

I would like to emphasize that Coma Story is not only about exposing BIOT events. It’s also about coma recovery and lucid dreaming – told in an approachable and balanced style. In terms of BIOT the purpose is simple: help mainstream discover the story of the Chagos Islands and do something for the displaced people.

You seem to share a lot of things with Aldan. Did you base any character of Coma Story on real people?

Yes, to some extent. Many sub-events or small part of a character are in fact based on real inspirational folks I know. For example, I had put in an occurrence about at-risk school programs, which is something I have personally been involved with for a few years now, as I am an advocate for preventing high school dropout situation. Tarzan’s childhood accident recovery account is a real – and moving – event in the life of a good friend of mine, who is now a successful movie star. In many aspects, Coma Story was fun and interesting for me to write. It was sometimes difficult having a life outside the book.

You’re an IT techie; how did you come to writing? Can you remember the first story you’ve ever written?

I started writing because I had to. I took up technical writing at my first job – documenting software features and compiling training materials. Subsequently, I started writing a lot. Then came dissertations, technical papers, online journals, collaborative blogs, wiki biographies and one fine day – books.

Can you tell us more about your first book “Land of Opportunity Forever”?

Sure. It’s a non-fiction book where I discuss social issues in the U.S. and its links to superpower status sustainability. Land of Opportunity Forever not only fetched me couple of awards but established me a as a social and current affairs author.

What is a typical working day for Stephen Thompson?

When I write, I actually spend most of my time researching with Internet and end up actually writing for a couple of hours. In any case my working day is usually not that organized, so let’s not even go there.

Finally, an off-topic question: you’ve found 100$, how will you use that money?

I would buy a bunch of copies of Land of Opportunity Forever and give them for free to teenagers at my book events and speaking engagements.

What are you working on right now? What about your plans?

Well, there are a couple of inspirational people, whom I am familiar with, I’d love to write biographies of. But it seems to be an extremely daunting task for now. So am sticking to my previous life’s profession and it’s going to be business book series; starting with Customer Service. I am not under any contact though.

Would you like to add something, Stephen?

I would like to thank you for this opportunity. I certainly enjoyed the interview.


“My Favorite…”

Author & Book: So many! It’s really hard for me to pick one.
Movie & TV Show: IRT Deadliest Roads
Food: Thai and ice-creams
City: I am not a big fan of cities in general, but I would have to say my favorite is Amstelveen, Holland.
My Idol: My parents
Music: Abba, 90′s and I love all kinds of Indian music.
Hobby: Golf and car shows
Place to write: Home
Motto: Get your parents dream for you and follow their dream.

“Tea or Coffee?”

Tea or Coffee? Tea of-course, with cream and sugar.
Saturday night. Disco & Restaurant or Home, Books & DVDs? Restaurant or at home.
Going on holidays. Beach or Mountains? None, though I can handle both.
Sleepy Little Town or Crazy Megalopolis? Crazy because we currently live in a kind of sleepy town. Both suit me.
Pick a DVD: Comedy or Drama? Whatever by daughter gets as I am not allowed to pick.
Like To Travel or Hate to Move? Like to travel and learning new things.
Sport Lover or Couch Potato? Proud to be a Couch Potato, though I do like to golf.
Leader or Follower? I would follow only if I trust.
Shy or Easy-going? I’m very easy-going.
Serious or Funny? Combination of both, but maybe a bit more funny.

Thank you Stephen!
You can learn more about Dr. Stephen M. Thompson and his books at: www.ComaStory.com


“Coma Story” review by Veronika Asks

Have you ever wondered what the Diego Garcia depopulation is? What do you know about the lives of the Chagossians, forced out of their island?

In “Coma Story”, Aldan Foy gets the opportunity to meet the victims of the Diego Garcia depopulation and get a glimpse of the destinies of the Chagossians. With the help of Diego Garcia native Tarzan, Aldan conspires to get back the Chagos Islands – without rioting and violence! And, as surprising as it may sound, the pacific fighters win…until Aldan emerges from coma and realizes his incredible project and victory were a lucid dream.

Stephen Thompson’s “Coma Story” helps shed some light on the Diego Garcia depopulation and introduces the reader to a wide range of colorful and sympathetic characters (my personal favorite is Tarzan). The novel gives us the opportunity to learn more about this historical event and travel to Mauritius and Diego Garcia with Aldan and Tarzan. An interesting read for those who want to know more about lucid dreaming – and fight every day, whatever it takes.

Today, Veronika meets Mrs Stephen Fry. Edna Constance Bathsheba Fry took Twitter – then the Net - by storm with her spicy confessions and hysterically funny diary. How does it feel to be Stephen Fry’s wife? Edna opens up about her marriage and talks about kebab, karaoke and her five, six or possibly seven children. Oh, and her diary, of course.

Good afternoon dear Edna! I’m delighted to meet you for a cup of tea and some friendly chit chat about your diary and Mr. Stephen Fry (yes, that Stephen Fry). I imagine there was a before and an after Stephen: can you tell us a little bit more about yourself, before you became “Mrs. Stephen Fry”?
Oh, there’s not much to tell. I was just your average bullfighting, gun-running, Nobel Prize-winning girl, really. Of course meeting Stephen changed all that. Now I’m more your average tea-making, dinner-cooking, wallpaper-hanging, domestic appliance-fixing, carrying-Stephen-home-from-the-pub-on-a-Friday-night kind of girl

How did you and Stephen meet?
It was just your typical ‘Boy Meets Girl’, ‘Boy Meets 12 Pints of Lager’, ‘Boy Meets Policeman’, ‘Girl Talks Policeman Out Of Arresting Boy’, ‘Girl Spends The Next 16 Years Wondering What on Earth She Could Have Been Thinking Of’ story.

You’ve been married for 16 years! What is the secret of such a long-lasting marriage?
Trust, honesty and a very short memory. And trust.

If you could describe Stephen with three words…
I’d love to, dear, but I’m afraid you’d be removed from the internet.

What sparked the idea for your diary?
I’ve always kept a diary ever since I was a mere slip of a thing. I find it oddly comforting, like a cosy blanket. With a bottle of gin in it.

The diary mentions kebabs, window-cleaning and womanizing. Your confessions differ a little from Stephen’s autobiographies. Do you mean that Fry is… a liar?
Good heavens no, dear! He’s as honest as the day is long. Provided that day is in the middle of the Siberian winter . .

That’s reassuring! Stephen wrote the foreword to your diary. How did he react to your revelations?
I don’t think he really noticed, to be honest. He was far too busy with her at number thirty eight.

Could you share a tasty bit that didn’t make it into the diary?
I have to say all my tasty bits are in the diary, dear. And Stephen’s tasteless bits . . .

Life with Stephen: what is your best memory so far? And the worst?
I don’t think there is a worst memory. They’re mostly equally dreadful, to be honest. As for the best? Well, there was that time he said ‘I love you’ in front of an entire restaurant full of people. He said it to his Chicken Madras, but it’s the thought that counts.

Very nice, indeed. Oh, there’s a question from die-hard fan Roxy: what makes your husband happy?
Hello, Roxy, dear. What a delightful name! I imagine you to be a fighter pilot or possibly a pole dancer. As for what makes Stephen happy – need you ask? Me, of course! Well, on a Sunday morning at any rate. The rest of the week I leave it to the kebabs, lager and karaoke.

Let’s talk about your family, now. Do your five, six or possibly seven children want to be like their Dad?
Sadly yes, dear. Apart from Hugh Junior, unfortunately. Even little Brangelina’s growing more like her father every day. I’ve tried the school psychologist and the school exorcist but it seems nothing can be done.

The Web buzzes with rumors. According to those, Mrs. Stephen Fry “is a fake”. Some people suspect Mr. Fry himself to have originated “the hoax”. Your reaction?
Ridiculous, dear! I mean, do I look like a fake to you? The very idea!

Are you planning another diary? What about your plans?
I always keep a diary, dear. I only hope my current one doesn’t fall into the hands of some unscrupulous publisher like the last one did. As for my life plans, I can’t really say, dear. I did have one dream but then I discovered that Stephen wasn’t insured.

And, finally, my favourite question: imagine you found £100 in your purse (or in Stephen’s pocket). How will you use that money?
If I found £100 in Stephen’s pocket, I’d put it straight back in my purse where he got it from, dear! Then, perhaps, I’d splash it all on a pampering day at Widdecombe’s Beauty Parlour. And possibly a nice bottle of Blue Nun.


“My Favurite…”

My Idol: That would have to be Stephen, dear. Oh, I’m sorry. I thought you said idle.
Author & Book: I’ve always been terribly fond of that George Eliot. He really seems to understand women. My favourite book is probably The Cat in the Hat – it keeps Stephen amused for hours while I get on with the housework.
Movie & TV show: I’ve always been terribly fond of ‘Brief Encounter’, dear. Two people thrown together by circumstance only to be thwarted by society and their own moral decency. It makes me wonder what might have been . . Food: Well, I am a bit of a domestic goddess as you know, dear, so that would have to be my speciality, Spam Rumpy Pumpy – an intensely satisfying dish, I assure you.
City: It has to be Paris – the city of love. It has that certain je ne sais quoi. And a big tower.
Music: I rarely get time to listen to music, what with six or seven children to look after. As a teenager, I was a big fan of Stephen’s punk band, The Kebabstards. Sadly they disbanded due to musical similarities.
Place to write: My diary, of course. (what a ridiculous question!)
Motto: If life gives you lemons, make Lemon and Bacon Cheesecake.


“Tea or Coffee?”

Tea or Coffee? Tea of course, although our local café, the Cuppa Cabana, does have a rather nice Colombian. Pablo, I think he’s called.
Saturday night. Disco & Restaurant or Home, Books & DVDs? Generally at home while Stephen’s at the disco. Unless he’s mislaid his leather trousers again.
Going on holidays. Beach or Mountains? Sadly neither. We generally go to Stephen’s favourite theme park, Lagerland.
Sleepy Little Town or Crazy Megapolis? I’m sorry, dear. I’m afraid I don’t play computer games.
Stephen Fry or John Cleese? Oh, John Cleese, dear! He’s so funny and tall. And terribly dashing. Sorry, who was the other one again?
Pick a DVD: Comedy or Weepy Drama? I do love a good three tissue movie, dear. As does Stephen, when he manages to unlock the adult channel.
Like To Travel or Hate to Move? I love to travel but Stephen hates to move. He gets nervous if he’s more than a hundred metres from the fridge.
Sport Lover or Couch Potato? If you’re talking about Stephen, both.
Leader or Follower? I like to follow. But only when Stephen’s ankle tracking bracelet isn’t working.
Shy or Easy-going? I’m very easy-going. With a husband like Stephen, I don’t have any choice.
Funny or Serious? Most of the time I’m a combination of the two, dear – Furious.


Thank you Edna, dear!

You can follow Mrs Fry on Twitter: http://twitter.com/MRSSTEPHENFRY
…and support Fry’s Gig: http://www.frysgig.com

Acclaimed author Anne Fine talks about writing, editing and getting published. The Carnegie Medal winner shares her views on the publishing market, book competitions and movie adaptations.

Dear Anne, thank you for visiting me on “Veronika Asks”! If you could describe yourself – and your books – with three adjectives…
Me: Impatient, curious, restless
My books: Cruel, funny, unsettling

What are you working on right now?
A comedy for children of 8-11 – the third in my Mountfield Family Series (following on from The More the Merrier, and Eating Things on Sticks).

How did you come to writing? Can you remember the first story you’ve ever written?
At Northampton High School for Girls, in the upper thirds, I and my best friend Gillian wrote a book called Agatha the Witch. We took turns to write chapters in a French Vocabulary book, and the English teacher allowed us to read each episode out on Monday mornings at the beginning of our lesson. Alas, the book has been lost, and I can remember nothing of the story.

How did you break into the publishing world? How much time did you spend looking for an agent or publisher?
I didn’t even know about agents. I sent my first book off to two publishers. The first sent it back saying they did not publish children’s books (clearly, I’d never heard of the Writers’ and Artists’ Year Book, either). The second sent a really positive letter, regretting that my book wasn’t quite right for their list. I thought she was just being polite, and threw the typescript under my bed. Two years later I fished it out to submit it for the Guardian/Puffin Kestrel Award, and was runner up after Jan Mark. Both our careers started with that prize because, at the prize ceremony, the agent Gina Pollinger asked if she could represent me. She sold the book to Methuen Children’s Books a few months later. So I am a huge fan of competitions.

Your views on the evolution of the publishing market: was it easier – or, on the contrary, more difficult – to get published in the 80′s and 90′s? What do you think of ebooks? Are paperbacks meant to die?
I truly have no idea about the first book – though I do believe that a really, really first rate first book will still finally find a publisher. But I do guess that since established novelists are finding it harder and harder to get almost automatic publication of further works, it must be more difficult than ever to find a first publisher. It’s obvious that ebooks are storming away (tellingly, this year I took a flight from Manchester to Los Angeles, on which most readers had printed books; then a further flight up to Seattle on which the majority of readers were reading from screens). I don’t for a moment think paperbacks will die. But I do suspect they will turn much more into Print on Demand, because of the total collapse of the range in bookshops.

Authors often complain about editors “butchering” their manuscripts. What about you? Do you have complaints or did you get used to it?
When I was much younger, I had a copy editor for my third book (The Stone Menagerie) whose plan was clearly to rewrite my book in the way she herself would have written it. Luckily the commissioning editor took my side. I take enormous care to edit myself as well as I can before I submit anything, and so my in-house editors tend to go very easy, and I appreciate their input as it usually airbrushes out mistakes and infelicities and therefore improves the book. Currently I am delighted with the skills of the editors in all of the publishing houses I use (that, I admit, is unusual; but it is true. I don’t know if I’m currently just lucky). I do hear horror stories. On the other hand, I read so many books that seem to me to cry out for stricter editing that I might be on the publisher’s side more often than many of my author friends might imagine….

Do you pay attention to bad reviews? How do you handle criticism?
If it’s dishonest (misquoting, axe-grinding etc), stupid (e.g. “I did not like this book because I did not like anyone in it”) or wrong (“Children don’t want to read about this sort of thing”) then I have learned to ignore it. If it puts a finger on a real weakness in your book that you yourself were trying to pretend wasn’t there, it really hurts. Since they are so much longer and can therefore be more thoughtful, I tend to find the foreign reviews – particularly of my adult novels – well worth reading and often useful.

Did you improve your writing skills (attending classes or reading special books)?
No. But I did have superb English teachers at school. And I do read a lot of excellent novels.

What is a typical working day for Anne Fine?
Wake up. Make tea. Back to bed. Press ahead (pencil and rubber). Drain teapot. Get up. Breakfast. Walk dog. Type up earlier scribblings on computer. Correct, correct, correct. Quick lunch. Walk dog. Do office work. Read in bath. Supper. Walk dog. Go to bed.
A typical ‘event’ day is just alarm clocks, trains, rain, clockwatching, heavy bag carrying, more trains. (Grim.)

Could you describe “the making of a novel”?
Not really. Before I start, I have a sort of vision of what the book will be like. The instant I begin, the work seems to depart entirely from my mental template. I struggle through. Surprisingly, at the end, I can often look back and the book mirrors my original intention far more than I would have thought possible.

Do you have writing secrets or tips for aspiring authors?
Guess the maximum length of the book. Keep a chart of thousands of words written (like a child’s chart of days to the end of term). It takes so long to finish a book that it is encouraging to cross the stages to the end off one by one. It reminds you the task is finite.

You are a fellow of the “Royal Society of Literature”. What was your reaction? Did you use Byron’s pen or Dickens’ quill to inscribe your name on the official roll?
I took it as a tremendous compliment. I used Byron’s pen.

Do you have a favorite book among your own works?
Of the adult novels I love Raking the Ashes best. And for the books for younger  people, it’s a toss up between How To Write Really Badly and Up on Cloud Nine (both for personal, rather than literary reasons).

The famous movie “Mrs. Doubtfire” is based on your satirical novel ‘Madame Doubtfire”. Were you involved in the making of the movie?
Not at all. I don’t really like working with other people much, so I left the whole thing to the film makers. All I asked was that they would not make the children bratty, and they did indulge me in that.

Are you satisfied with the result?
If a book has paid off your mortgage, it’s rude to criticize – especially if you yourself chose to have nothing to do with it. Let’s just say it’s not the film I would have made. The tone and the circumstances of the book are very different. Essentially, the filmmakers paid for the ‘ex-husband dressing up as his own children’s nanny’ idea – and a few of my jokes (And if I’d made the film, probably no one would ever have heard of it).

Finally, my favorite off-topic question: you’ve found £100, how will you use that money?
Half to Sight Savers (I dread, absolutely dread, perhaps one day not being able to read). And half going out for dinner.

What about your plans?
As usual, I plan to take a few weeks off, go on holiday with Richard, lounge on a beach, etc etc. As usual, I have started another comedy for young children.

“My Favorite…”

Author: Tolstoy
Book: Middlemarch
Movie & TV Show: McCabe and Mrs Miller. Have I Got News for You
Food: Avocados
City: Melbourne
Music: Bach
Hobby: Reading
Place to write: Bed
Motto: Never trouble trouble till trouble troubles you.
Idol: Andrew Carnegie

“Tea or Coffee?”

Tea or Coffee? Tea (except mid morning, when coffee).
Saturday night. Disco & Restaurant or Home, Books & DVDs? Disco & Restaurant
Going on holidays. Beach or Mountains? Beach
Sleepy Little Town or Crazy Megapolis? I say megapolis because I already live in a sleepy little town and really, really fancy a change.
Pick a DVD: Comedy or Drama? Comedy
Like To Travel or Hate to Move? Hate to move.
Sport Lover or Couch Potato? Couch potato
Leader or Follower? Well, I’m bossy. So Leader, I suppose (though I’d hate to have to do it).
Shy or Easy-going? Easy-going.
Serious or Funny? Strangely, serious. But I’ll fall in love with anyone who can make me laugh.

Thank you, Anne!
Anne Fine’s official website: http://annefine.co.uk/

Bestselling author Rosalind Miles answers my questions about writing, women writers and the ladies of the Arthurian world and gives readers useful advice…

Hello Rosalind, thank you for answering my questions on Veronika Asks. Could you please briefly introduce yourself to our readers?
I am an Englishwoman who always wanted to write. I went to a very strict and academic girls’ school, but then I got to university to study and I never looked back.

Then, if you could describe yourself with three words…
Lover, mother, writer.

You’re Capricorn, aren’t you? I’ve heard they’re usually known for being practical, reliable and thoughtful. But they’re also quite temperamental. Do you consider yourself a typical Capricorn?
I’m not temperamental. For me a Capricorn is down to earth, pragmatic, reliable and hard working, and I like to think I am all those things. But the goat must climb. That’s where the creativity, the fantasy comes in. If you tied our front legs together (which all societies try to do with energetic, ambitious and aspiring females) we Capricorns would still climb.

Who were you prior to becoming a full-time novelist?
I had my first job at 13 in a plastics factory when all such work was still done by hand and by female labour. I have worked as a travelling saleswoman, a stable hand, a ganger in a chain factory, all alongside studying and graduating. I then married a fellow student from the university and we had 2 children, a girl and a boy, but I still persisted with graduate work, part-time teaching and trying to write. This was hard because my children were so lovely I really only wanted to be with them!

How did you break into the publishing world?
As a graduate student I had to write 2 theses, one for my M.A. and one for my Ph.D. I then set about trying to get this work published, to no avail. Then I saw an announcement in the literary section of the Times of London that there was to be a new series of studies of the novel, and 20 names were listed, not one of them a woman. I was so enraged I wrote a furious letter to the editor and to my amazement he wrote back to say if you care so much about this, why don’t you write a book for me? Or course I had to write about all the women writers in one volume when each of the men had a volume of their own, but at least it was acknowledged that women wrote fiction too!
That book was called The Fiction of Sex.
Then once I had published that, they asked me what else I wanted to do and I published my doctoral work about Shakespeare, in a book called The Problem of Measure for Measure.

How much time did you spend looking for a publisher (or agent)?
I lucked into my first publisher via the editor who was interested my idea of women writers, but I was still locked into an academic format. But through my husband I met an agent who said if you want to write for the popular market, what would you write? Oh, hold me down! I had a hundred ideas and he sold the first one – Danger: Men At Work.

You write an Arthurian trilogy (composed of three trilogies) with the Guinevere and Isolde trilogies. How was the trilogy born?
The more I studied the story of Guenevere, it was clear that her life fell into three distinct sections.
Also, three is the Goddess number – the old matriarchal religion was based on the holy trinity of a woman’s life: maiden, mother, wise old woman. This concept was hijacked by the Christians who reduced women to the simplest level, virgin and mother (? please!). So all those stories had to be trilogies.

Can you tell us more about the third and final one?
That is still brewing. There are so many Ladies of the Lake in the Arthurian world.

There is a controversy surrounding the Arthurian world: some people suggest Arthur, Guinevere and the Round Table are only part of a legend. Others believe they were real. I even read that some people suggest Arthur was in fact Slavic. What do you know (and think) about it?
In British history, there is no doubt that a national hero emerged at the time of the collapse of the Roman Empire in Britain, who may or may not have been called “Arthur”. There were also many Celtic queens regnant like Boudicca and Cartimandua, so we have no problem accepting Guenevere. Around these people and the knights who served them, many stories, myths and legends naturally grew. I am quite sure that a Slavic Arthur could have fulfilled the same role for his people, fighting to protect and preserve the life they knew.

What is a typical working day for Rosalind Miles?
Get up and get into it, don’t mess around! Up at 6, writing this at 11.30 pm, but don’t do it if you don’t love it, and you have to have a life in between, or where will you get your material?

Do you have writing secrets?
Keep at it. Never give in. Fake it till you make it, keep going all the time.

Thank you, Rosalind!
You can learn more about Rosalind Miles and her books at http://www.rosalind.net

Review: “Curse of the Bayou” and “The Magician’s Castle” by Mary Cunningham

Have you ever dreamed of traveling in time, uncovering secrets from the past, taking a ship cruise from Paris to America, enrolling in a colorful circus, fighting dangerous pirates and visiting a magician’s castle? Here’s your chance with Mary Cunningham’s series “Cynthia’s Attic”!

In the third installment of the series “Curse of the Bayou“, tomboy Gus and picture-perfect Cynthia are on they way to dust away the mist wrapping the disappearance of Beau Connor, Cynthia’s great-grandfather. They’ll have to deal with a hungry alligator, awful dumplings, a bunch of colorful pirates and their parrot (keep an eye on your belongings with him) and a very special puma. You’re in 1914 New Orleans!

In “The Magician’s Castle“, Gus, Cynthia and their friend Annie will have to cruise between a chilling castle and a farm, fight a ruthless antique seller and help a century-old love story end with a “happily ever after”. A pretty heavy program, but not heavy enough to scare our sassy and inventive twelve year old.

A light-hearted action-packed comedy adventure that would make a great family movie or miniseries. Gus and Cynthia’s fans won’t be disappointed as they meet old acquaintances and make new friends in a whirlwind of humor, aventure and green and purple lights. A pleasant trip to the past…and the future.

Buy the books: http://www.amazon.com/s?ie=UTF8&rh=n%3A283155%2Ck%3Amary%20cunningham%20Cynthia’s%20Attic&page=1
Visit Mary Cunningham’s website: http://www.marycunninghambooks.com/