Posts Tagged ‘children’

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!


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

Smashwords Ebooks

Cynthia’s Attic Series for ‘Tweens on YouTube


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:

Kevin Scott CollierAuthor and illustrator Kevin Scott Collier talks about his newest title, “Heaven Quest”.

Hi Kevin! Welcome on “Veronika asks”! If you could describe yourself with three words…
Creative, Imaginative and Inspired.

You’re both an author and illustrator. What did you start with?
I drew first at age 5, then learned how to write. Creating characters via art always provokes writing, as characters need identities and adventures!

Let’s talk a bit about your latest book, “Heaven Quest”…
I think it’s the best book I’ve written. It’s co-authored by Kristen Halter, and we worked as a team creating the Heaven Quest Universe featuring teenage alien Izzy Warp and his dog. It was a book I juggled writing with Kris for like 8 months trading chapters and had no idea how it would end up. When you are really busy being pulled in all directions you just work, work, work and rarely have time to sit back and absorb one particular project for its worth. When “Heaven Quest” was finished, Kris and I both went, Whoa!” I had no idea how special it was until I read the final manuscript. It’s an entertaining book, but also very tender and pulls at the heart strings regarding love and faith.

I read on your website that you help young authors by offering, several times a year, free illustrations. That’s great! Why do you do that? How did you get that idea?
Because when I was growing up there were not people there with talents or skills to help me. I feel if there is a talent you can share, it means nothing unless you do.

How do you prefer to work? Does a plot pop in first? Or does it start with characters (and then you see what can happen to him)?
Sometimes a story emerges in my mind, other times characters come to mind that provoke a story. It’s like asking what came first, the chicken or the egg. Sometimes it’s one, sometimes it’s the other.

What theme (genre, things) do you prefer to illustrate?
I love drawing animals and creatures as characters. Children are fun to draw, also. A story has to have a purpose, and possess hope. That interests me and inspires my art.

How do you see your reader? You know, when you say to yourself: “there’s somebody reading my book right now”… who do you picture?
Some youth somewhere curled up with one of my books, and his or her eyes are big with wonder. I write stories that touch the hearts of others. I feel the only way you can reach the mind of a child is to touch his or her heart first.

I noticed many of your books are only available on downloading or on CD, not on paper version. Why? Is there a particular reason?
There are ISBN commercial electronic download books. Two companies I work for, Writers Exchange E-Publishing and Guardian Angel Publishing I have created titles that are for sale online. I have done 10 such commercial e-books. They don’t sell in volume like print books, but they are a way for a writer or illustrator to keep up with the market trends.

How do you see ePublishing in some years?
It continues to grow, so who knows? I want to be along for that ride.

Could you tell us more about your upcoming projects?
I am writing a sequel for my book “Esther’s Channel” for Baker Trittin Press. I am also illustrating several books for other authors, including “Peter Potato and The Quest for Knowledge” and “Ashby the Happy Little Elephant” for New World Publishing, co-illustrating “The New Puppy” with Gisele R. LeBlanc for Writers Exchange, and will begin drawing “A Blessed Bethlehem Birth: As told by Abraham and Anna Mousenstern” written by Walter Lee McElligott for Guardian Angel Publishing soon. Another Guardian Angel title I am completing illustrations for is Sharon Lyle-Soffe’s “Rooter and Snuffle” book about two faithful raccoons. Kristen Halter and I are working on a children’s picture book for Tangerine Sky Productions titled “A Pony Named Promise” that she will write and I will illustrate that will be released next year, and also we are turning in an Izzy Warp Heaven Quest e-book for Writers Exchange around January 2007.

Would you like to add something?
Yes… I need some sleep! lol

And now the nothing-to-do-with-books question. You’ve just found 100 $ in your pocket, how will you use that money?
Spend it on someone else.

“Tea or Coffee?”

Saturday evening. Going out or reading a book ?WRITE or DRAW a book!
Holidays. Beach or Mountains ?Beach, always.
Country or City ?CountryWatching a movie.
Comedy or Drama (or something else ?) ?Comedy
Shy or Easy-going ?Both!
Serious or Funny ?Both again!
Traveler or not ?Not much a traveler
Sporty or not ?Very athletic, outdoorsy
The leader in the group or not?Leader


TV show : Law and Order
Movie : It’s a Wonderful Life
Book : Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel
Music : Steppenwolf
Food : Pizza
City : Grand Haven, MI
Favorite place to write: Outdoors in nature
Quote or motto : Doers never dream enough and dreamers often do nothing at all.

Thank you, Kevin!
You can visit Kevin’s website

Mary CunninghamMary Cunningham answers my questions about her time travel series “Cynthia’s Attic” and takes us through Time! Ready for a trip?

Hi Mary! Glad to welcome you on “Veronika asks”! Here we go! Please, introduce yourself to our readers…
Hi Veronika. It’s great to be with you. My husband, Ken, and I, are recent transplants to West Georgia. We have three grown children living in Kentucky, Michigan, and Iowa, and a thirteen-year-old granddaughter in Indiana. My dad was a journalist for many years and his human-interest stories sparked my love for writing.

If you could describe yourself with three words…
Compassionate, funny, insecure

Tell us more about “Cynthia’s Attic”. Especially about “The Missing Locket”.
I’m going to cheat and give this description right off the book.

Best friends, Cynthia and Augusta Lee, or ‘Gus’ as she prefers to be called, are as “different as bubble gum and broccoli.” They are, however, equal in their ability to get into trouble without much effort. In trying to escape the “boring summer” of 1964, the adventurous twelve-year-old girls stumble upon a trunk in Cynthia’s attic that has been in her family for three generations. They discover its mystical qualities when they are swept into the trunk and whisked back to 1914, literally into the lives of their twelve-year-old grandmothers, Clara and Bess. The mystery of a missing family locket is revealed, and Cynthia and Gus are compelled to solve its half-century disappearance. Their quest takes numerous twists and turns, including a life-and-death struggle on a large steamship traveling from England to America. Along with perilous escapades, they make important, sometimes humorous discoveries about their ancestors, and even manage to change history–for the better–along the way.”

The second book of the series, “The Magic Medallion” will be out in December 2006. Could you tell us more about what will happen?
Cynthia, Gus, magic trunk, time travel, more of the same…just kidding! At least in some respects. The girls still take that same magic trunk back to 1914 where an ill-fated trip to the circus leads to Blackie, a sinister hobo clown. Before Blackie can force them to become permanent clown troupe performers, the girls are rescued by Gabriella, a fortune-teller, and are entangled in the theft of her family’s treasure. Much to their dismay, Cynthia and Gus appear to be the family’s only hope of recovering a precious magic medallion. I truly enjoyed writing the Missing Locket, but I think The Magic Medallion is my favorite because a special character…a teenage cave guide…appears, out of nowhere, at an opportune time. My dad was a cave guide as a teenager. Hmmm? Could there be a connection?

How did you get this amazing idea? How (and when) did you start writing?
Interesting story. I’d just finished telling my best friend, Diana, about the recurring dream I’d had for almost 20 years, when I had a “light-bulb” moment. It occurred to me that the dream took place in the attic of my childhood friend, Cynthia. “Hmmm…” Diana thought. “Cynthia’s Attic. What a great title for a book!” The dreams stopped and the writing began. I decided it might be fun to write a “little” story about the dream and my fond memories of playing in Cynthia’s attic as a child. I should write a memoir! No…a picture book…maybe a song! (Good grief) Nothing seemed to strike me, so I just started writing. My four-page memoir eventually turned into a 33,000-word young reader novel, and took more than three years to write.
I began writing non-fiction…memoirs, mostly, but fantasy fiction is my true passion.

Are some characters from “Cynthia’s Attic” real? (Aunt Belle, Gus, Clara, or Bess…)
That’s the fun part! I just mentioned that Cynthia was my real childhood friend. Her character is loosely based, she wasn’t bossy, but was very pretty and petite, and, I don’t believe we ever had a fight. Clara is her real grandmother, and Bess is mine. I use family members in Book Two, “The Magic Medallion,” and also in Book Three (a work in progress),” Curse of the Bayou.”

How many books will the series count?
As many as my imagination can create! Three definitely, but we’ll have to see where the magical trail of Book Three, “Curse of the Bayou,” leads Cynthia and Gus.

If you had a trunk and could travel in Time, where would you go?
I’d go back in time to when my great-great-grandfather disappeared, and see if I could stop him from taking his ill-fated trip down the Mississippi to New Orleans (the basis for Curse of the Bayou). Although…if I stopped him, how would that have changed the life of my great-grandfather who had to take over raising his younger brothers and sisters when his father disappeared. Would he still marry my great-grandmother, or would his life have been altered? Would I even be here, writing books and talking to you??

How do you write in general (how, when, where…)? What do you do when comes the “writer’s block”?
I write exclusively in my office, sitting at my computer (although I will occasionally sit outside and take notes). I’m not as disciplined as most writers. If I don’t feel the words flowing within 5-10 minutes, I get up and do something else. I’ve found that if I force myself to write, it usually isn’t any good, and I have to spend more time rewriting, or end up deleting all. Usually, if I allow myself enough time, I can overcome writer’s block. I also depend on my husband to help me over “the block.” He’s had great ideas for new twists and turns in all three books.

Is “The Missing Locket” your first novel?
Yes. Before, I wrote mostly short, nonfiction, and wasn’t even sure I could write fiction until I began “Cynthia’s Attic.” Now it’s my passion.

Do you already have plans for an after “Cynthia’s Attic”?
I can’t even imagine life without Cynthia, Gus, and their magic attic! I may try another genre, but I don’t know, yet, what that would be.

And now the nothing-to-do-with-books question: You’ve just found 100 $ in your pocket, how will you use that money?
Well, obviously $100.00 would be a nice “find” for any of us, but it would only be a temporary bonus. I’d give it to one of the animal shelters in the area because that money would help many, many, dogs and cats. I have a soft place in my heart for shelters because that’s where we found our dear, sweet, Molly, the smartest little brown dog this side of the Atlantic.

Will you visit me again to talk about the Magic Medallion? 😉
I would love to! When do we start??

Would you like to add something?
I’ve always had regrets that I didn’t talk to my grandparents so that I could find out about their childhoods, and hear stories about their parents and grandparents. One of my reasons for writing “Cynthia’s Attic” was so that I could create adventures that I thought they might enjoy…adventures that we could enjoy, together. It’s been a fun journey; one I hope will continue for a long, long, time. One more thing: Having moved to Georgia, I now live 35 minutes away from Cynthia! We hadn’t seen each other in more than 22 years, but have renewed our life-long friendship. It’s like we’ve never been apart.

“Tea or Coffee?”

Saturday night. Going out or reading a book ?Going out to eat!
Holidays. Beach or Mountains ?Mountains. I lived in Florida for many years, and got my fill of beaches. I’m now living in the gorgeous mountains of Georgia.
Country or City ?Hmmm. Country, with easy access to the City!
Watching a movie. Comedy or Drama (or something else ?) ?Both! I love to laugh, but I love a good “tear-jerker,” too.
Shy or Easy-going ?Shy. Except when it comes to my books. They’ve given me the motivation to talk to large groups of people because I’m so passionate about them, and about writing.
Serious or Funny ?I’m a combination, although I’d rather laugh than be serious.
Traveler or not ?I think I’m a traveler at heart. I’ve moved 10 times in 22 years, and love the excitement of new people and new places. I do miss the friends I’ve left behind, though.
Sporty or not ?I AM Gus! A true tomboy. I’m a sports fanatic! I love to watch almost any sport on TV. I don’t play softball or basketball anymore, but enjoy golf, bike riding, and swimming.
The leader in the group or not ?Not! I’m a good worker, but not a good boss.


TV show: Ghost Whisperer
Movie : To Kill A Mockingbird
Book : Same as above! (To Kill A Mockingbird)
Music : Country
Food : Chocolate cake with chocolate icing (anything chocolate!)
City : New York City
Favorite place to write: my office
Quote or motto : “I live in my own little world, but it’s okay. They know me here.”

Thank you, Mary!
You can visit Mary’s site