Tag Archives: language arts

Interview with Mike Fedison, Author of The Eye-Dancers

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This is a “cross post” from Nerd in the Brain, so if you read both blogs, don’t be alarmed. 🙂

Grace recently did a wonderful job in helping me develop questions for an author of a self-published book…the fantastic Mike Fedison. His book, The Eye-Dancers, is a great read for just about all ages.  (Okay, so the toddler crowd might not enjoy it, but just about everyone else will.) 😉  Some really good advice is given to young authors in the interview, so Grace and I thought this blog would be a great venue for the interview, too.  Grace hasn’t actually read The Eye-Dancers yet, but it’s next on her list…I’m thinking you’ll be hearing her thoughts on the book in the near future.

A great read for a small investment!  Click the picture for links to purchase. :)

A great read for a small investment! Click the picture for links to purchase. 🙂

Without further ado, here’s the interview:

1. Before we really get started with the questions, tell us a little bit about your book.

The Eye-Dancers is a book that (I would like to think!) is hard to pigeonhole. On the one hand, it is a young adult sci-fi/fantasy complete with ghost girls, parallel worlds, quantum physics, mystery, and endless blue voids. I hope readers of all ages will find that the story takes them on a wild, imaginative ride. But on the other hand, the story is, at its heart, about four boys, their struggles to fit in, their difficulties with insecurities , and the challenges of adolescence. Despite the science-fiction backdrop, I very much hope that readers will become invested in the characters, root for them, and care about them.

The Eye-Dancers also explores the theme of oneness—everything is connected. Events and people that seem so far away, a universe away, are, in actuality, much closer to us than we ever dared to think.

2. How did The Eye-Dancers come to be? Was it a story you formulated over time or were you just zapped with inspiration one day?

Both! Back when I was a teenager, I had a vivid dream—the kind of dream that stays with you long after you wake up. In the dream, I felt an unexplainable need to look through my bedroom window, into the street. It was late, well after midnight. When I looked outside, there was a girl standing beneath the streetlight. But she was no ordinary girl. The light seemed to filter right through her, as though she were more ghost than girl. She gestured for me to come outside, and I felt scared, as if she represented a threat.

Then I woke up. Even back then I was always looking to write stories, and I remember wanting very much to incorporate this “ghost girl” into a tale. I tried several, but nothing worked. I couldn’t seem to build a story around her. So—reluctantly, I filed her away in a “story vault,” hoping that, one day, she would appear in a novel or shorter piece of fiction.

Year went by—twenty years, to be exact! And then, one night, I had the same dream—dreaming of this same “ghost girl.” But this time, when I woke up, the basic idea for The Eye-Dancers was in place. It was one of those extreme highs in a writer’s life. Going to bed, I had nothing. Upon waking, I had a novel to write. I felt energized, and couldn’t wait to get started. The next day, I did . . .

3. Tell us a bit about your writing process. Are there outlines and notes and scheduled writing times or a flurry of ideas crammed into a document when you have spare moments or something in between?

I don’t really have scheduled writing times—my dream is to be able to be a full-time novelist, but that hasn’t happened yet! As such, I just write when I can. Sometimes it’s very early in the morning. Sometimes it’s on a lazy, nondescript Saturday afternoon. Other times it’s late at night. The key is—to write at least something nearly every day. Once I get into the process of writing a novel, I want to make sure I keep the momentum going.

I don’t use detailed, chapter-by-chapter outlines—I find those too restrictive. The creative process is fluid and can change midstream. I wouldn’t want to adhere firmly to a set plan ahead of time when the characters in the story might be telling me to go in an entirely new direction. (And yes, characters DO talk to me, after a fashion! I need to keep my ears open.) I do write a lot of notes, though—guideposts where I think the story is going. These, too, can change, though, the deeper I get in to the novel.

4. What advice do you have for a young aspiring author?

Write what you love, not what’s in vogue. Write because you have to, because if you don’t, you feel like you’re going to burst. Be willing to work hard at your craft, and edit, edit, edit. When you think a story is finished, it isn’t. Be open and receptive to feedback, but at the same time, believe in your story, your voice, and what you’re trying to say. And keep dreaming, keep persevering, never stop trying. There will be rejections and criticisms and self-doubts. Get through those. Keep going, and reach for the stars.

5. Your characters are incredibly intriguing and flawed (in an interesting way). Are the characters of The Eye-Dancers based on aspects of yourself or people you know?

They are! The four main characters are inspired by friends I knew growing up. And yes, there are aspects of myself in them, as well, particularly the character of Mitchell Brant. It was very fun writing for these boys!

6. Is there a character in the book that you relate to better than the others? 

Without a doubt, Mitchell Brant. Mitchell’s love of old comic books in general (and The Fantastic Four in particular), his shyness around girls, and his overactive imagination are aspects I, myself, shared when I was that age.

7. What were your favorite books as a kid? Were you influenced by them as you were writing your novel?

Well, certainly those old comic books. I still love collectible comic books from decades past! Also, I was (and still am) a big fan of The Twilight Zone. I always enjoyed the imaginative storytelling of that show and the important themes it explores. As for books, Ray Bradbury has always been a favorite—I love his writing style, his enthusiasm, his imagination. I used to read Stephen King a lot. It was a favorite of mine when I was a teenager. I think all writers are influenced by their favorite authors. As time goes on, though, you naturally develop your own style, perspective, and cultivate a voice and point of view that is uniquely your own.

8. What are you reading now?

Honestly, most of my reading is assigned! I do a lot of freelance proofreading work for a handful of book publishers. On average, I proofread thirty to forty books each year—which, unfortunately, doesn’t leave as much time as I’d like for pleasure reading. That said, when there is a book I really want to read, I will read it! I enjoy reading the work of indie and up-and-coming authors. I love the classics, and enjoy imaginative storytelling in all its many forms. In a nutshell, I love to read. Always have, always will.

9. Why did you decide to self publish? Are you pleased with the results?

I did query several agents, and a handful of publishers first, but, despite some interest, nothing ever worked out the way I would have liked. In the end, I decided to self-publish. I liked the idea of marketing the book myself, interacting directly with readers, setting the book’s selling price—just being in complete creative control of the entire process.

As for the results, that’s hard to say. I look at this as a long-term project, and I feel like the process has only just begun. I have had a great time interacting with readers and bloggers. That has been a joy. I suppose I will wait to claim success (or failure) for at least a couple of years. Until then, I will do my best to “get the word out” regarding The Eye-Dancers. A wonderful interview opportunity like this one certainly helps!

10. Do you have any other projects in the works for us to look forward to?

I am putting the finishing touches on a collection of three short stories that will be released later this summer. Also, I have just begun working on a sequel to The Eye-Dancers. It will be fun to delve back into that world again!

We hope you enjoyed our first author interview!  We had a lot of fun with this…perhaps more author interviews should be in our future?

What We’ve Been Up To…

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Not a whole lot, actually. 🙂

We had a fantastic week at the beach, and now we’re in full swing with our summer schedule. (Summer schedule = pretty slack, but still getting things done. 🙂 )

We’ve spent most of our school time over the past few days working on an owl unit that Grace requested.

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To go along with that, we’re reading Hoot. 🙂

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To finish up the owl unit study, we’ll be going to a local Raptor Center to visit the owls.

We’ve also been exploring our yard…so many things to see!

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Of course, we’ve been doing some math and social studies, too. (More on that later.)

We hope everyone is having a fabulous week!  We’re looking forward to updating the blog a little more frequently now that we’re back from the beach and back to a “normal” schedule. 😀

My Day as an M&M

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My Day as an M&M

Okay, just one more thing from our chocolate study, I promise. 🙂  Grace’s assignment for this one was to write a short story about waking up to discover she had been transformed into an M&M.  Here’s what she came up with:

 

“I’m falling!” I shouted, thrusting my arms out and pulling myself out of sleep.

“I’m not falling,” I mumbled.  I reached up to wipe my eyes, but found I could no longer move my arms.  I frowned, trying to pull my arms out from under the covers.  I soon realized that I didn’t have any arms!  I started panicking, flailing any limbs I had.  Suddenly, the smell of melting chocolate filled my head.

I tried turning my head, but instead moved my entire body.  A warm, gooey substance trickled down my back.  Slowly, I realized the chocolate-like aroma was me.  I was made entirely of chocolate!  Better yet, I was really fat with a big “M” printed on me.  I rolled my eyes.

“Don’t pass it on they said,” I hissed.  “No one can turn you into chocolate through the Internet.”  I flipped myself over so my back wouldn’t melt.  I then noticed it was very dark.  Looking around, I saw dozens of other M&Ms around me.  Strangely, I was the only green one.

The walls around me looked like they were cracked and falling until I saw they were made of paper.  Suddenly the ceiling ripped away, and a huge hand reached in.  It grabbed me, pulling me toward my gruesome death.  I squeezed my eyes shut.  I felt myself get closer and closer when, finally, I opened my eyes.

I was back in my bed, limbs attached and candy shell gone.  I passed my palms against my forehead.

“Okay,” I groaned.  “No more chocolate before bed.”

Face Cream Ads: Comparing and Contrasting

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Grace’s most recent writing assignment was to find two ads for similar products in a magazine and then write a short essay comparing and contrasting them.  She found these two ads for face creams that will supposedly help you look younger.  (I could easily go into a rant about how much I despise our society’s love for this sort of thing, but I’ll spare you.) 😉

So, here’s what Grace had to say about the two ads she chose:

The brands OLAY and Origins each have an ad for anti-aging cream in a magazine. Both of these ads make their products sound scientifically advanced, using micro-sculpting technology for OLAY and raspberry plant stem cells for Origins. Also, they both have the bottle of cream in the picture to let you know what to look for in the store.

 

Origins seems to lean toward a bright, natural feel, telling you that nothing can actually erase wrinkles, but their cream uses natural ingredients to help your skin stay healthy while making you feel good about yourself. OLAY presents a flashy, modern feel, telling you that their cream uses the latest technology and ingredients to make you look younger fast.

 

Also, OLAY focuses your attention on a model, practically telling you that if you buy their cream, you will end up looking beautifully young, like her. They don’t have very many words, so that they won’t distract you from the picture-perfect user. Origins has no model, and focuses your attention toward the small paragraph they have about the cream. They use statistics to tell you that lots of people use their cream. They also tell you, honestly, that their product won’t erase your wrinkles right away. They say that their cream actually protects your skin, making you look and feel younger.

 

In conclusion, OLAY says their cream makes you look younger, and Origins says their cream makes you feel younger. Which cream would you choose?

 

-Grace<3

Painting Birdhouses: A Descriptive Essay

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Grace has been working hard on her descriptive writing.  Her most recent assignment was to write about an outing or experience with family or friends.  She chose to write about purchasing and painting our birdhouses last week. 🙂  Here’s what she had to say…in all of its descriptive, detailed glory. 😀

 

Gravel crunched underfoot. I pushed the heavy glass door aside as the smell of cinnamon and cheap air freshener filled my nose. Emily and I walked through the craft store, trying to spot the birdhouses. We came to a halt in a narrow aisle with woodworking supplies on either side. Emily scanned the houses, ruling out the expensive or ugly ones.

 

Which ones do you want?” she asked, nodding toward the birdhouses.

 

Ummm, how about these two?” I suggested, picking up two rough wooden houses. One was rounded, and the other had windows and a fake door. Emily nodded.

 

Alrighty, one more,” she said. She knelt down and plucked up a house with two holes for the birds to sit in. I smiled. We walked over to the paint, picking only a few shades of blue, yellow, brown, and white with two packs of brushes. We were quick to get them home.

 

As soon as we opened the door, the soft sound of clicking claws echoed throughout the house. Frank circled our legs like a shark, his shredded raccoon toy in his mouth and his tail wagging like crazy. Emily draped a huge black trash bag over the table, laying out all the houses and paint. As she lay the paper plates out, I sat down and pulled up a house. Emily sat down across from me. We each picked our paint and squeezed out the colors we wanted.

 

I dipped my sponge brush into the thick puddle of brown paint, getting way more than I needed. Not sure what to do, I pressed the side of the brush against the plate until some of the paint seeped out. I leaned in closer, the paint fumes filling my head. I applied a sloppy layer of paint onto the roof, trying to make as few mistakes as possible. In no time, the entire house was covered in brown and white. I looked up. Emily had both of her birdhouses finished and had left the table. I laughed. Maybe I hadn’t finished that fast after all.

 

-Grace<3

The Music Box

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Grace is practicing her monster-fighting writing. 😀  We hope you enjoy this little tale of twisty-time and vampire slaying…among other things…

The song was still playing in the back my of my head. The music box had looked so innocent. How was I supposed to know it was a prison that held some of the most terrifying demons in all of creation?

 

I held tight to my scythe, ready to pounce on anything that moved. My best friends, Eli and Jaxon, followed at my heels. Jaxon held a pointed staff, one notch carved for nearly every day in the prison. His neon green hair shone in the pale light of my watch. Eli appeared to have no weapon, but secretly kept a stake up his sleeve. His crooked glasses were missing a lens.

 

We had been stuck here for at least three months, maybe more. Jaxon lost count at 82 days. We had climbed at least 99 flights of stairs, and we had heard from a starving vamp that there were only 100. Our only hope was that we would be released on the last level.

 

Eli put a hand on my shoulder. “Alice, maybe you should rest.” I looked down at my leg. It had been bitten by an Archion, a flesh-eating demon. I had managed to pull it off before it could inject any poison, but it took a great chunk of leg with it. I nodded.

 

This place looked like a huge Victorian mansion, so finding a place to crash wasn’t hard. We set up camp in a music room, nestled behind a row of guitars. Eli plopped down beside me. He studied my face, taking in every detail. I self-consciously raised my hand to my cheek. I knew I hadn’t brushed my hair in a while, but I wasn’t that hideous.

 

What?” I asked, blushing. “do I have an eye booger or something?” Eli laughed. I blushed harder.

 

No, but I think you broke your face,” he joked.

 

How did I do that?”

 

You smiled.” I looked down. Eli cleared his throat.

 

Alice, what if there is no way out? I mean, why would there be?” he whispered, picking at a scab. I sighed.

 

If this is a prison, than there must be police. They need some way out, and we’re going to find it,” I said, trying to make him feel better.

 

I should probably keep watch,” Eli said, pushing his glasses up his nose. I smiled.

 

As he walked away, I thought about our life before the prison. We would go to Bert’s Ice Cream and sit on the roof. Eli would tell me to get my nose out of a book and live a little. Jaxon would pretend to push him off. I sighed. Even if we got out of here, we could never go back to that. We’d seen too much. I rested my head against a drum. We had to get out of here.

 

***

 

One flight later, we were on the last level. It looked like a long hallway, with only one door all the way on the other end. Jaxon ran ahead. Eli soon followed, but I kept my steady pace. When I got there, I put my hand on the door handle, but a sharp sting shot through my arm. I jerked my hand away. Eli frowned.

 

That’s not good,” he mumbled. “This must be the last test. We have to find a way to open it.” We thought about that.

 

What about Galdren blood, it’ll burn a hole through the door,” Jaxon said. I shook my head.

 

I have a feeling we need to open the door, not burn through it.”

 

If we coated the handle with a vampire dust, we might be able to hold it just long enough to open it,” Jaxon suggested. I frowned.

 

Where are we going to get vampire dust?” I asked.

 

Eli shrugged. “I guess we go looking.” We turned away from the door and started walking, kicking open doors in our wake. After about 10 minutes, I heard a snarl. We turned, and three vamps jumped us. Jaxon, Eli and I sprang into action. A vamp swung at me, and I ducked right on time. I hurled my scythe at his head, but he kicked it out of the way, pushing me backward. I kicked him in the face, and he stumbled. I swung my scythe again, chopping off his head. The body turned to dust before it could hit the floor. I looked over to my friends. Eli had already staked his vamp, and Jaxon was kicking his vampire’s butt. He kicked him in the face and did a flip over the vamp’s weak attempt to bite him. When he was still trying figure out where Jaxon was, Eli staked the vamp, instantly turning him to dust.

 

Jaxon ducked down and grabbed a handful of dust, dumping it on the handle. He looked over to me, and for the first time, fear filled his eyes. I nodded. He turned back to the door. Taking a deep breath, he yanked it open. A bright light filled the room, temporarily blinding us. As soon as we could see again, we ran for door. A loud bang filled our ears, and we were blinded again. Only this time, when we opened our eyes, we were standing in an alley.

 

I looked around, shielding my eyes from the harsh glare of the sun. I knew this street. This was the same place we were when we disappeared. I glanced down at my watch. 7:02, 3/25/2013. Not a single day had passed. I heard Jaxon’s staff hit the ground.

 

Where are we?” asked Eli. I smiled. Really smiled.

 

Home.”

 

-Grace<3

Tear Away the Sky

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We’re currently studying ancient Greece, and one of Grace’s recent assignments was to write a “mixed up” myth.  She randomly picked two Greek gods, a setting, and a problem…then she was off into myth writing.  I think she’s done a splendid job with it. 🙂  Enjoy!

Tear Away the Sky

One day, the great god Apollo sat atop Acropolis staring into the blank night. He had finished his flight across the sky, and the Earth was shrouded in darkness. He sighed, wishing for some form of light that would allow him to gaze upon the lush fields and smooth lakes. He knew that Mother Earth, or Gaea, had sewn the night sky to protect her people from being burned by the blinding light of the heavens, but Apollo didn’t care. He wanted to see. Suddenly, an idea appeared in his head. He called for his sister, Artemis. A single deer trotted to him. Her fur was a shimmering gold, and a thin silver band was snugly fitted to her head. Apollo smiled.

-Grace<3

Sister, you do not need to wear such costumes. No human dwells here.” The deer glowed a blinding silver, and the Goddess of the Hunt took its place, the silver band still on her head. Artemis frowned.

Why have you called me here?” she asked. Apollo pointed at the sky.

I need you to tear the night from the sky; it makes my only free time dark and dreary.”

Artemis tensed. “ I cannot help you; even my arrows cannot pull the blanket away.” Apollo stood.

Maybe one of your immortal maidens can. They have immense power,” Apollo suggested. Artemis sighed.

If you wish”She called out to her huntresses, and a huge group of girls ran to their goddess’s aid.

What do you need?” the maidens asked, and Artemis pointed to the sky.

Whoever can pull away the night will be crowned Leader of the Hunt!” the goddess shouted. The maidens gasped. A tall girl with spiky hair shoved her way forward. She pointed her bow at the sky, pulling her fingers to her temple. Her arrow shot upward, ripping a small hole in the night. A thin stream of light burst from the heavens, but the blanket still hovered. Several other girls tried, but only few even reached the sky. Apollo stepped forward.

Sister, get all of your huntresses to shoot at once. Maybe then the blanket will fall.” Artemis smiled. She gathered her bow and pointed it at the sky. The huntresses did the same. She released, and 1,000 arrows shot forward, each piercing the sky. Tiny lights littered the night, with a gaping hole where the goddess’s arrow had gone. The land was filled with light. Ever since then, Apollo would sit on Acropolis and gaze at the fields with the newly formed stars lighting the land.

 

How To…Write a Goal

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Grace has finished up her writing unit on how-to writing.  For her final paper, she chose to write about creating goals (another skill we’ve been working on).  Here’s what she had to say:

Setting a Goal

The first step in setting a goal is gathering your supplies. You will need paper and a pencil. Then, think of something you want to accomplish, like writing a short story. After you have the idea of what you are going to do, write down how long it will take you to accomplish. For writing a short story, you might want to stick to three weeks.

After that, write the first thing you need to do to complete your goal. After writing the first step of your goal, write (on the same line) how long that step will take. You might think that creating the main plot for your story will take two days, so you would write that down. After that, write down the date you would finish that step. This is so you know when you complete each step. Use this method to write down all steps.

After you have finished writing your steps, calculate when you will finish completely. If you didn’t give yourself enough time to finish, you might want to rethink your time limit. If you finish early, then you have plenty of wiggle room, or time to make mistakes. If you start your goal on April 1st, your paper should look like this:

Writing a Short Story

(three weeks)

1. Create main plot (two days) 4/2/13

2. Create characters (three days) 4/5/13

3. Write chapter 1 (three days) 4/8/13

4. Write chapter 2 (three days) 4/11/13

5. Write chapters 3 (three days) 4/13/13

6. Proofread (1 day) 4/14/13

Wiggle Room: 1 week

Check up on your goal every time you finish a step to make sure your timing is correct. If not, think about what you are doing that is causing you to take longer than you had planned. Are you slacking off? Did you not give yourself enough time? If you are early, you know you gave yourself plenty of time and can use that information for future goals.

Have fun!

-Grace<3

Last Week in Pictures

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We had a fantastic week last week even if we did have some random oddities.   This week looks pretty darn promising, too. 😀  I hope everyone’s having as much fun as we are!

Crazy Colors – Grace’s New Game

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Grace has been hard at work creating a new game!  She spent a lot of time designing cards, writing out rules, test-playing, and revising…and we have a final product: Crazy Colors!  It’s a fun and simple game of luck, logic, and strategy.  Not that I’m biased or anything, but I think she’s done a fantastic job with her first game. 😀  So awesome that we’ve decided to add it to the Nerd in the Brain store.  We’re starting with an introductory price of $1.00, but after a week the price will go up to $2.00, so snag your copy now if you’re so inclined.  (Yep, any money made on the game will go to Grace…and Grace’s college fund.)  The game is a downloadable printable.  Translation: some assembly required. 😉

The stack of cards after a winning move. :)

The stack of cards after a winning move. 🙂

Playing a round of Crazy Colors with Daddy (and Frank). :D

Playing a round of Crazy Colors with Daddy (and Frank). 😀