Letter From The Editor

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Letter From The Editor

What Happens When You Can’t Enjoy Your Writer’s Journey

-May 11th, 2015-

 

“Just Enjoy The Journey.”

 

This is common phrase among writers these days. Right up there with “Read, Read, Read” and “Butt in Chair.”

But here’s the thing: what if you just DON’T love where you are now?

What if, despite being grateful for all you have in your life, there are times when you feel stuck, and no amount of positive self-talk keeps you grounded, hopeful, and even SANE?

 

Of course, and we’ve no way of knowing what the future holds, but if our present just feels like a standstill at best and a slow crawl at worst?

 9780316183567

Slow and steady may still win races, but unlike the tortoise, we all don’t have 100+ years to make things happen.

 

Too often we look at impatience as childish. Sometimes it is.

 

But sometimes it’s simply a product of something

all too real: MORTALITY.

Mortality

“Start by admitting ‘From crady to tomb’ isn’t that long a stay.”-Sung by Liza Minelli in “CABARET

We know that we’re not going to live forever.

 

Some of that impatience comes from the simple fact that we know mortals live and die, and we don’t want to say “I should’ve” via that classic “Death bed” scenario, never the fact we could die in other more immediate ways…

 

Has some of that “Seize the Day” mindset made us short-sighted? Sure, for many it did, myself included.

 

But again, if we only view impatience as childish, we’re denying ourselves or others a very REAL, URGENT and VALID sense of “Making my life count.”

 

Part of that is being able to pursue our dreams, not settling for less when the consequences are long-term (think marriage, kids, and/or a demanding career)

 

This isn’t the same as waiting long lines at the market, or for the latest shiny whatever from Apple (when you can’t pay someone to wait in line for you).

 

I’m talking about the BIG stuff. The things that will either positively or negatively affect your life for the long-term if not permanently.

 

This applies to all areas of life, but to keep things focused, I’m only going to focus on how this applies to writers.

 

This is something I battled a lot the past few years.

 

I’m currently in that hazy nexus between working with my editor on my debut novel, and trying to draft a new book, and trying to diversify what I can do, like being able to write short stories or novels outside the middle grade realm where I started and feel most at home.

 

Jami-Full-Picture-e1280895288949

Many writers, such as Jami Gold (@JamiGold), have recently stirred up heated discussion on the subject back in May 2014-

Is “Do What You Love” Good Advice?

The Value of “Crap” Jobs

I understand where Jami and others who commented are coming from (Though my reply to the latter post may have sounded otherwise).

 

However, for me I still feel it’s not that simple, it’s because I’ve seen too many in my life deny their dreams on the basis of survival, and as noble and pragmatic as that mindset is, it has a dark side, forsaking your passions entirely, not just for a “Season” or so.

(As author Kristi Holl shared beautfully)

There’s a reason “Survive” isn’t a synonym for “Thrive” because they are not the same.

 

They can work together, but they’re NOT interchangeable.

 

I guess I’m just wondering what’s the greater evil here?

 

We may “Survive” by day jobs, and while some enjoy that divide between passionate and practical, others don’t, and while there is merit “Taking pride in jobs you don’t like” for some of us the duality of that existence isn’t just far from ideal, but it’s not sustainable.

 

Also, just because something “Pays the bills” does not mean you can live with it forever.

 

To me, the writers with “day jobs” who’re the most emotionally successful are ones who have jobs that while they may not directly tie to their role as a writer, they’re still fulfilling something that’s core to their external and internal needs, alongside whatever financial contribution it also makes.

 

Abusive bosses, questionable company ethics, and unsafe working conditions aside, 

 

Just because we’ll always need jobs in health care, that doesn’t I want to work in health care, some jobs require a certain mindset to do well in or even enjoy in spite of the challenges, and no one can teach you that mindset.

 

You either have it naturally or you’re willing to work toward attaining it.

 

Even in the case of the latter, your journey will be different than those who had the mindset from the beginning.

 

It doesn’t nessecarilly mean they’re better at the job than you, but I do believe that some people have a more adaptable mindset than others.

 

Let’s not forget the additional decades of schooling to be a doctor in any field.

 

You definitely NEED a certain mindset to be a teacher and I know I don’t have it!

 

(I can’t even teach my grandmother how to use a computer without losing my head, I’d only be the teacher kids feared and hated because of my short temper among other things, and that’s assuming I had the inclination to endure years of certification training and dealing with school politics)

 

I always feel emotional in May. I’m already emotional by nature and May just times it to infinity.

 

Between Mother’s Day, my birthday, and constant talk of graduation, I feel left out and ashamed for my own formal education stalling.

 

It’s hard to imagine how I’ll stand on my own.

 

I know people across the spectrum say to take baby steps.

 

But here’s the thing, I’m not a baby, and I know people who say this don’t mean it in the literal sense. I just don’t feel this common advice is practical in every circumstance.

 

Baby steps aren’t building my income.

Baby steps aren’t changing my living quarters.

Baby steps aren’t enough anymore.

 

Many people, including my colleague Jami, have told me “College isn’t for everyone.”

 

 

But in a world where college degrees are required just to considered, how true is that now?

 

Nobody who who told me this can back that up with tangible examples of people (Born AFTER the 20th Century!) who THRIVED despite not having gone to college, or in my case, even high school, and NOT for lack of trying.

 

Maybe that’s why I things so seriously.

Why I take failure so hard.

I don’t have a safety net to fall back on. 

 

Yes, failure is part of the process, but that doesn’t mean all we want to feel, hear and see is failure.

 

My Grandma often tells me that are so many people that faced some variant of what I’m going throuhg. But when you’ve never known, met, or read about someone of that ilk, it’s hard to believe.

 

This is especially true for those on the Autism spectrum, including myself.

 

Unless you are living with, or know, and/or have raised a child or children with Autism, most of what you read and see are the most severe cases, and while those are stories worthy of being told, they’re not even CLOSE to YOUR story.

 

As those who are on my “Bite From The Cheese Shop” subscribersI recently have learned, I had to take a major step back to rethink my life in general, and my career as an author, after a serious breakdown in March 2015.

 

I had to make the difficult but nessecary decision to put much of my work on T.A.A. and my author career on hold, with the key exception of my upcoming novel “GABRIEL” since that’s a contractual obligation I will and must meet, but everything else is on hiatus.

 

In spite of the challenges I’m faced with now and going forward, I still have hope, and I know I’ve made some progress, but things are shaky right now, and while I have to be careful not to drown in self-pity, I have to OWN that my fear and frustration is REAL, and that doesn’t mean I’m not grateful for what I do have.

 

To those who’ve reached out to me in private (you know who you are) I thank you, and for both new and long-time T.A.A. fans, I thank you for being on the journey with me, as much as you are able to, this isn’t goodbye, but rather “Until next time…”

 

Taurean J. Watkins (Taury)

-Editor-in-Chief/Literary Rat

Talking Animal Addicts

P.S: In spirit, I hope you’ll sing this with me-

 

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Panel By Panel (2nd Edition)

Panel by Panel (with Swinebert and Dempsey 2.5.5

 

Swinebert: Yo Chicks and Chickies!

Welcome to the second edition of “Panel by Panel” where my pal Dempsey and I chat about out one of our many passions-COMICS! (and graphic novels)

 

Dempsey: This week, S.B., myself and our friend (and podcast director/producer), Taurean J. Watkins (aka “The Literary Rat), review Steven Universe, not the show (though we definitely will get to that) but the comics based on said show-

Steven Universe #1-#5

Steven Universe: Vol. 1-5

Publisher: kaboom!

(from BOOM! Studios)

[@boomstudios]

 

 

From Taurean J. Watkins 

[aka “The Literary Rat”] (@Taurean_Watkins

0-steven-universe-0

(Left, Taurean J. Watkins,  

Right,  Steven Univserse Banner)

I fell in love with “Steven Universe” since it debuted on Cartoon Network over a year ago.

 

For those out of the loop (esp. those of you gave up on CN YEARS ago, but need to check back in for this one if nothing else) it’s about a kid who is half-human and half-gem, “Gems” are otherworldy beings with human-like forms, and that’s all I can share on that front without spoiling the story for you.

 

The series follows the adventures of our titular character,  and three of the of the “Crystal Gems” who protect Earth from intergaltic threats (Thematically, a mix ofThe Secret Saturdays” and “The Fantastic Four“).

SS+FF

(Left, “The Secret Saturdays, Right, Fantastic Four)

 

Garnet, the strong sem-silent type.

 

Amethyst, the free-spirited/scrappy foodie, also the youngest of the three, and Pearl, the level-headed, logical and slightly over-protective “Mother Hen” of the group.

 

The fourth was Rose-Quartz, the former leader of the Crystal Gems, and Steven’s mother, who (again for story reasons I won’t spoil here) passed on her powers to Steven, who slowly begins to awaken them and learn where he fits within the Crystal Gems, who act as his guardians/mentors in differing ways, and the humans who live in small costal metropolis of Beach City.

 

It’s the kind of show I rarely see much anymore, and was plesantly surprised to find on Cartoon Network especially.

 

This is one of the rare departures in CN’s series roster that has an overarching plot it’s building toward, while also having entertaining side stories weaved in.

AT+RS (REMIX)

A contrast departure to current hit series like “Adventure Time” and “Regular Show” which are more episodic and situational in nature (like many of CN’s first original series like “Ed. Edd ‘n Eddy“, Dexter’s Labrotory and “The Powerpuff Girls“). 

 

 

 

(Top, Adventure Time Blu-Ray Seasons 1-5

Middle, Regular Show Blu-Ray Seasons 1-3

Bottom, “Ed, Edd ‘n Eddy, Dexter’s Labrotory,

The Powerpuff Girls”)

 

 

While there are plot throughlines in Adventure Time, they’re more convoluted (esp. from season 4 onward), open-ended, and move at a slower pace.

 

 

If you like an overarching storyline, that’s a little loose in how it’s told (versus a more tradtionally lineral tale) this is the show for you!

 

It’s got it all: Multi-demenstional characters. A world with rooted back story that’s shared bit by bit when relevant. Action, drama, comedy, romance, and ocasional improptu musical moments that don’t feel either annoying or overdone.

 

It also naturally has a diverse cast of characters

(both in terms of ethnicity, age, life stage and personality) without coming off fake or forced. 

In many ways “Steven Universe” is for Cartoon Network what “Avatar: The Last Airbender”

(and it’s sucessor, “The Legend of Korra”)

did on Nickelodeon, takes the world and its characters seriously (no matter how offbeat and quirky they may be), gives them respect, but still has fun with them along the way.   

Avatar and Korra

(Top, Avatar: The Last Airbender – Books 1-3,  

Bottom,  The Legend of Korra – Books 1-4)

I highly recommend it to viewers who want something with a more defined plot, that moves a fair bit faster. On that note…

Steven Universe #1-#5

When I heard back in Summer 2014 there’d be a comic series based on the show, I was really skeptical, as these adaptations can go horribly wrong, something us book nerds at T.A.A. know all too well (RE: Books adapted to movies)

But I’m happy to say that for the first five volumes in, the team at kaboom!/BOOM! Studios have blown me away!

 

They nail the characters on all points, the dialogue, their mannerisms, and especially important for this series, the sizable supporting cast doesn’t get short-changed while centering on our gem-tastic quartet.

 

The bits with Steven and Lion in volumes 2 and 5 are especially touching/hilarious (for PEANUTS fans, think of the scenes with Lucy and Snoopy and you get an idea of what I mean).

 

I also love how they reference specific elements or episodes of the show without ailenating newcomers, but still reward long-time “Steventhusiasts” such as myself.

 

I’m also impressed how they use varying illustration styles throughout, often matching the tone of the story/vingette in each volume: Wispy and detailed for the warm fuzzy stuff, loose and super-stylized for the super-funny/quirky stuff, and something right in the middle when all the above are present in one story.

 

They all feel right and close in spirit to the art style in the series proper, but different enough so that it doesn’t have that generic feel like some comic adaptations of characters who aren’t native to the comics/graphic novel space.

 

Plus, I love the “Manga-Inspired” color spreads in-between the various stories in each volume. For those who LOVE the color spreads of “One Piece” and “Naruto” you’re in for a treat.

 

My only technical nitpick is that the speech bubbles can a bit hard to read, not so much the fonts they choose, but rather I think they can be a bit bigger to make for easier reading, but it’s a minor gripe for what is a stellar (so far) take on the world and characters.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Swinebert’s Thoughts

Swinebert (Grown Up 1.5)

 

Like Taurean, Dempsey and I are BIG “Steven Universe” fans, and we too were skeptical of how the comics would fare, but after Taurean read/vouched for them, D and I  jumped in, and we agree,

they ROCK! The comics totally capture the heart of the show and run their own creative  stroke through it to stellar efffect. 

 

 

 

 

Dempsey’s Thoughts

DEMPSEY FRAME

To get a little metaphorical, the characters in Steven’s “Universe” have a lot of paralells with my family.

 

No, we’re not a team of warriors weilding anicent magic, but the family dynamics of the Woyzeck Clan and Steven’s nontradtional family certainly have overlap.

LANGLEY SOLO FINAL

(Langley Woyzeck, Dempsey’s Older Brother)

My brother Langley and I fight a lot, kind of like Amethysyt and Peral, only Langley’s not as goofy and isn’t quite as food crazy as me and S.B. are, and I used to be more uptight similar to Pearl, but I’ve lightened up in recent years.

Dominic Woyzeck

(Dominic Woyzeck, Dempsey’s Dad)

My dad and I have differing personalites and tastes, but we both LOVE Steven Universe, and while we used to be distant, we’re as close as Steven and his dad, though mine’s a tad more relaible and as smart as he is kooky!

My favorite story was where Steven and his friend Connie are trying to raise money give Beach City a new library and how Pearl’s neatnik ways lead to hilarious results!

I also loved how Pearl and Connie had an exchange on how “realistic” a book character should be portrayed, Swinebert and I had such a debate once, thankfully I didn’t grill S.B. too much…(LOL!) 

Final Thoughts

Taurean: A worthy companion series for new and diehard fans.

Swinebert: Hardcore Steven Universe must not miss this worthy companion adapatation.

Dempsey: Stven Universe enters the comics world without a hitch. 

 

 

You Can Find Swinebert & Dempsey On Twitter via @Swinebert_and_D

(Tweet them! They don’t bite…)

 

 

facebook-346725

 

 

☚ They’re also on Facebook! 

 

 

T.A.A. on YouTube 2

They also contribute videos to

T.A.A.’s YouTube channel!

Check back next time for another edition of 
“Panel by Panel.”
 

Until then,

Keep reading, keep doodling,

and be careful not to get a papercut!

 

Oh, almost forgot-

 

 

(Steven Universe Intro –

Cartoon Network on YouTube)

 

Hey, we couldn’t feature something

“Steven Universe” related without a sing-along session!

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Critter Chat with Swinebert & Dempsey Pt. 3

SD Critter Chat

This is part 3 of your lit. rat’s “Critter Chat” interview with swine-feline duo, Swinebert Glockchester and Dempsey Woyzeck, from T.A.A. FM’s upcoming podcast series, “Swinebert & Dempsey.

 

If you missed it or are new here, read part 1 of this interview. 

 

Check Our Part 2 of our interview

 

Okay, let’s jump back into it-

 

Taurean: Apart from our “Panel by Panel” column, what are some other things are you two working on for T.A.A.?

 

vlcsnap-00575

 

Swinebert: We’re also going to  do more video for T.A.A.’s YouTube channel, I’m doing a solo video series called “Swinebert Says” where I riff on my life in minerature. I do that on me and D’s Twitter account sometimes, and use #SwinebertSays, when I can fit it in! (LOL)

vlcsnap-00576

Dempsey: For me, I’m also doing a similar solo videos series called

“Life According To Dempsey” where like Swinebert, I also riff on my life, but also share bits about my family I don’t always share in other channels.

I sometimes do on Twitter and use #LifeAccordingToDempsey,

and like S.B., I can’t always fit that hash tag in, and mine’s WAY longer!

(Forepaw to Forehead)

Taurean: I can relate, I’m always battling length and engagement on Twitter, so I hear you both on that! What else are you working on?

 

(Swinebert & Dempsey’s “Hog Wild World Tour”

[TEASER] – Talking Animal Addicts on YouTube)

Swinebert: We’re also working on our first web series that chronicles our “World Tour Holiday” we went on last year, and I know the production of that’s been slow on your end, but we know it’ll be worth the wait.

Dempsey: Right you are, S.B., this was not only a fun trip, but is also changed our family (incl. our humans) in BIG ways, and we can’t wait to share the amazing life changes that occured because of our trip last summer.

Taurean: Thanks so much for taking time to chat with me.

 

Swinebert: Our pleasure, you’re as much a part of our family as you are our director/producer/PR guy.

Dempsey: Agreed, we look forward to sharing more with T.A.A. in the near future. 

Swinebert & Dempsey (Fancy 2-Shot) - FINAL

You can find Swinebert & Dempsey

on Twitter via @Swinebert_and_D

(Tweet them! They don’t bite…)

 

facebook-346725

 

 

 They’re also on Facebook! 

 

 

T.A.A. on YouTube 2

They also contribute videos to T.A.A.’s

YouTube channel!

Finally, you can check out the video they did as part of fellow pet entrepenuers,

Stanley & Katrina’s

“Word of the Week” series.

(Produced by your lit. rat)

Visit their website at: StanleyAndKatrina.com

They’re on Twitter, too, via @StanleyNKatrina

Until next time, may the fantastic fauna be with you.

 

 

 

 

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Critter Chat with Swinebert & Dempsey Pt. 2

SD Critter Chat

 

This is part 2 of your lit. rat’s interview with swine-feline duo, Swinebert Glockchester and Dempsey Woyzeck, from T.A.A. FM’s upcoming podcast series, “Swinebert & Dempsey.

 

If you missed it or are new here, read part 1 of this interview. Okay, let’s jump back into it-

Taurean: Can you tell me about your fellow pet friends? What are they like?

 

Swinebert: Sure! We’ve got tons of them, but the ones we’re most tight with our next door neighbors: Clarke, a Jack-Russell mix (OBSESSED with aviation and motorcycles), and his feline roomies, Chuck and Lilac.

 Clark, Chuck and Lilac(Left, Clark, Right, Chuck and Lilac – Neighbors)

Swinebert: There are the squirrels who live in our  backyard. At first, we were enemies after the prize acorns that grow in the many oak trees in our backyard. We’ve long since resolved that and became friends.

 

It took them a lot longer to warm up to Dempsey, his being a cat and all, they worried he’d try to hunt them down, but 

 

THe Backlot Squirrels

 (The Backlot Squirrels – From Left to Right:

Little Wally, Mac, Hazel, and Filbert)

 

Swinebert: We also have plenty of family who live in White Oak Acres. While we of course consider our humans (and their kin) family, I’m talking about our non-human relations-

TRUG-2.5.5

(Swinebert’s Nephew, Trug)

Swinebert: For me there’s my darling nephew, Trug, as our regulars know, and his folks: my brother, Ross, and my sis-in-law, Flair. My Ma, Pa and two kid sisters live back on the ranch where I was born. I video chat with them three times a week, and we visit each other when we can.

 

My Grand-Hog Wes lives at the ranch, too, but he’s always traveling, even at his age, he rarely slows down. I hope I’m that gutsy in my golden years!

 

Dempsey: For me, most of the Woyzeck clan live in various parts of the U.S. and Europe. I  have to give a nod to my Uncle Briggs, my dad’s adoptive hedgehog brother. He lives in another town, but visits us often.

 

Dominic Woyzeck and Briggs Woyzeck II

 (Left, Dominic, Dempsey’s Dad. Right, Dempsey’s Uncle Briggs)

 

On that note, my sister Nina’s also adopted, but she’s not a cat, or a hedgehog-she’s a goat.

The Woyzeck Family

(The Woyzeck  Family – From Left to Right: Dempsey, Langley, Nina, Dominic and Claire)

Dempsey: Here in White Oak Acres there’s my brother, Langley, kid sister Nina, and my parents, Dominic and Claire.

Uncle Doyle and Aunt Moxie

(Left, Uncle Doyle, Right, Aunt Moxie)

Dempsey: In Summer 2014, during me and S.B.’s world tour holiday, I got to meet my Uncle Doyle and Aunt Moxie. They live in London. 

 

Taurean: Who are some your other friends and neighbors, both human and non-human? How you meet? What are they like?

 

Thorne

(Connect with Thorne Thistlestop 

via @TheBookishFox on Twitter!)

Swinebert: Well, you know of our friend, Thorne Thistlestop

(aka “The Bookish Fox”) who’s the librarian at “Bookmobile Sentinel.”  A traveling library in our neighborhood.

 

Taurean: Something I always love to ask duos like yourselves is, who are your favorite duos?

 

Swinebert: I’ve got a soft spot for the classics: Laurel and Hardy, Gilbert and Sullivan, Cagney and Lacey-Swinebert's Duos - FINAL TRANS

Swinebert: But of course we’ve got awesome duets today-

Joe and Sparky, Cork and Fuzz, Herman and Rosie, the list goes on!

Swinebert''s Duos 2

(Covers for “Joe and Spark Go To School”, “Cork and Fuzz: Spring Cleaning”, and Herman and Rosie)

Dempsey: The comic nerd in me would say “Batman and Robin” in particular the Tim Drake Robin, as he had the most bittersweet connection with the dark knight.

Dempsey's Duos - FINAL TRANS

Dempsey: Also, literary duos of note for me are: Tom Sawyer and Hukcleberry Finn”, “Holmes and Watson”, and “Phileas Fogg and Passepartout.”

Dempsey's Critter Chat Playlist - TRANS

(Covers for “The Essential Indigo Girls”, “The Essential Simon and Garfunkel”, “The Carpenters: Singles: 1969-1981)

 

Dempsey: But I also love musician duos such as “The Indigo Girls”,

“Simon and Garfunkel”, “Puffy AmiYumi” and “The Carpenters.”

 

Taurean: Of course at T.A.A. we LOVE books, but we’re lovers of television, too, what are some of your favorite shows?

 

Swinebert: Here’s the thing, Dempsey and I like a lot of the same shows, but we have our differing tastes. So, first we’ll start with shows one likes more than the other. That okay with you?

 

Taurean: Sure, please proceed.

 

Swinebert: Okay, I love shows that don’t just tickle my funny bone, but assaults it! Shows like Zatch Bell, various “Peanuts” Specials, and Kodocha.

 

I also love shows that have food at the center: Antique Bakery, Toriko, and I’m So PSYCHED that Yakitate Japan’s anime is coming stateside!

 

Dempsey : For my part I LOVE shows where you learn stuff, like “Modern Marvels.” and “Bill Nye The Science Guy” DVDs that’s both fun and informative. But I also love fun documenterary-style series stuff like “Unlikely Animal Friends.” If you think Swinebert and me are an “Odd Couple”, some of the unions formed between varting species are even more out there, and seriously, I’m surprised Disney hasn’t optioned some of these stories for film.

 

They need to do more of the cool animal films they had in the 60s, 80s and 90s again! Anway, my girfriend Celeine and I are both big fans of “Too Cute” and “Inuyasha.”

Taurean: So what are some shows you both like?

 Swinebert and Dempsey's Fave Shows - FINAL TRANS

Swinebert: We’re both fans of “Sailor Moon” 

(we’re both die hard romantics),

 Naurto, One Piece, Avatar: The Last Airbender

(the non-James Cameron version)

and “The Legend of Korra.”

 

 

Taurean: What books do you think would make a great film or animated series that don’t yet have one?

 

Swinebert:  Otter, like you, D and I are big fans, we first met Otter on Twitter  (@i_am_otter), and we’re looking forward to her two books in 2015!

Otter Trilogy

(Covers for “I Am Otter”, “Otter in Space”, and

“Otter Loves Halloween!”)

Swinebert: As I commented on in your review back in 2014, my nephew Trug had a NAJOR crush on her.

 

Even though Otter turned him down (and he’s still perplexed about why she offered instead to set him up with Giraffe…) I was nevertheless impressed with his courage. The game of love, despite how cynical, comical and downright trvial we portray it, is NOT a game for wimps.

 

Like most things in life, it takes the guts of an olympian athlete, the , and the blindless optomism that’s easier for kids like Trug (with so much life ahead of him) than folks like me, who while nowhere near my final years, sometimes have a harder time keeping the faith.

 

After all, I’ve had many crushes, a couple serious relationships, yet nothing steady at the moment.

 

As I said then and still stand by now, he’ll make the one who finally does look his way a happy mate.

 

For my own part, I still believe that I will find a sweetie sow who makes my piggy heart skip a beat, and feeling my trotters are strolling on clouds.

 

While it’s never fun to come up short: be that flunking a test you actually studied for, , or as in in Trug’s case “Not getting the girl’

 

Dempsey: “Varjak Paw” needs to be a movie, and an awesome one! I like how the book has the action of “Warriors” but does it’s own thing.

 

But I’d be open to an animated series if it was done right and they don’t stretch the story too thin in an episodic format. 

 

Apparently, it was optioned at one point,

but nothing came of it.

 

Someone PLEASE make this film (or animated series) before I’m out of my nine lives!

Varjak Paw Duet

(Covers for “Varjak Paw” and

“The Outlaw Varjak Paw”)

Panel by Panel (with Swinebert and Dempsey 2.5.5

(Panel By Panel: with Swinebert & Dempsey Logo)

Taurean: As some T.A.A. fans know, we just launched “Panel by Panel” our comics/graphic novel column where you guys, and myself, review titles and discuses trends and opinions about this vibrant medium.

(Steven Universe Intro –

Cartoon Network on YouTube)

[The Literary Rat DARES you to sing-along…]

Taurean: I know on Facebook, you’ve professed your love for “Steven Universe.” I’m a fan, too, and I recently checked out the comics put out by “BOOM Studios“, and I was skeptical at first, but they blew me away!

 

Swinebert: We felt the same way at first, though we were excited when  we first learned about them last summer (before new episodes of the series resumed after a LONG break where we feared it was canceled) , we’ve been burned by bad comic versions of television shows or films we love.

But when we heard what you had to say about the comics, we gave them a go for ourselcves. As a fellow “Steventhusiast” we knew we could trust your vouching for them.

 

Steven Universe #1-#5

(Steven Universe: Comics #1-#5, BOOM Studios)

Dempsey: We’ve read the first 5 books and knew we had to review these for “Panel by Panel” so you’ll have to wait and see what we thought…

 

To Be Continued…

 

 

Check back next Sunday for part 3 of my chat with Swinebert & Dempsey…

 

You’ll learn more about what they’re planning just for T.A.A. fans! A sneak peak of what they’re working on next, and a whole lot more! 

UPDATE: Check Our Part 3 Critter Chat with Swinebert & Dempsey Pt. 3

 

 

 

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Panel by Panel with Swinebert & Dempsey (1st Edition)

Panel by Panel (with Swinebert and Dempsey 2.5.5

I’ve long wanted to do reviews of comics/graphic novels on T.A.A. for some time, but it didn’t fit in the “Weekly Readings” format I use for picture book reviews.

 

Why? Because while picture books are just as visual as comics and graphic novels, the latter requires A LOT MORE of its readers.

 

They’re also a lot longer than picture books, and can tell more complex plots and often include at least one subplot.

 

The blend of words and pictures is more sophisticated than it might first look.

 

The stories in the panels, and occasional full page spreads, can be as complex or as simple as their creator(s) desire, FAR more freedom than the average picture book.

 

Those who say comics aren’t “REAL READING” are WAY mistaken! 

 

At T.A.A. we want to champion the fun, the fantastical, and fauna, that gives those without a voice in “reality” a voice on T.A.A. and beyond!

 

Your lit. rat came to comics FAR LATER in his life, and my tastes are highly eclectic, but because I have a limited pool of knowledge…

I’ve enlisted my friends/podcasting partners

(and self-proclaimed comics connoisseurs), Swinebert & Dempsey (@Swinebert_and_D), to take part in our comics/graphic novel reviews on T.A.A.

For our first edition of “Panel by Panel”, Swinebert, Dempsey and I are reviewing our mutual Twitter buddy, Eric Orchard’s debut graphic novel-

9781603090728_zoom

Maddy Kettle

(Book 1): The Adventure of the Thimblewitch

by Eric Orchard (@inkybat)

Publisher: Top Shelf Productions 

Pub. Date: September 30th, 2014

 

Swinebert: Yo Chicks and Chickies! Welcome to the first edition of “Panel by Panel” where my pal Dempsey and I chat about out one of our many passions-COMICS! (and graphic novels)

 

Dempsey: When our friend (and podcast director/producer), Taurean J. Watkins (aka “The Literary Rat), approached us to be on his reviews team, we knew we wanted to do comics, and it was unanimous what our first book would be…

 

 TJW Headshot V2

From “The Literary Rat”, Taurean J. Watkins (@Taurean_Watkins)

Something that I think has held some comics and graphic novels back is feeling they have to been in one camp versus another.

 

You either have to be “Funny” or “Dark and Brooding” but they can’t be both or a middle ground between the two.

 

Every reader wants something a bit different, and for me, generally speaking, I gravitate to books that can make me laugh, but they’re also not afraid to get serious when the story demands and deserves it.

 

Even when you’re writing about steampunk flying machines, witches and pipe-smoking critters, there is still a level of seriousness that the reader can take seriously in the context of the story’s world, the less it’s like ours, the more crucial that is.

 

Naruto and One Piece

(Naruto Vol. 5/Naruto Vol. 28, 

One Piece Vol. 11/One Piece Vol. 61)

Series like “Naruto” and “One Piece” are great examples of this.

 

Like the series above, this book has a very distinct art style, the mural-like compostion is apparent from the cover onward, the panels are clearly defined without looking sterile.

I love the use of shadow and light at play, and the soft rounded/angular look to the characters.

Even the clouds have their own distictive look, slightly reminiscent of those old school cloud trails via 1930s cartoons with a slight nod to the psychedelic 60s in terms of color shading. This mix of bright colors and mural-style presentation made the book feel modern yet retro in the good sense of the latter.

My road to reviewing “Maddy Kettle” is an intersting one.

Often writers debate amongst themselves if social media is worth their time, and if so, what platforms make sense for them.

 

I know many of my favorite authors simply aren’t interested in social media or simply find it too much of a time suck that would prevent them from writing actual books, they don’t even have a basic website (which I think even the most luddite folks need, but I’m not getting on that soapbox here! LOL).

 

But for me, I would likely never have learned about “Maddy Kettle” had I not been on Twitter and started connecting with artist-author Eric Orchard (@inkybat on Twitter), at least not as soon as I did.

 

There really is a skill to reading comics and graphic novels. Just as there is great skill in crafting them in the first place.

 

From developing the story, scripting the dialogue, drawing the art (or hiring the illustrator if the author’s not also the illustrator, the latter a lot more common in the comics/graphic novel space than picture books), and bringing it all together in the final book we buy.

 

As an author myself, I know firsthand that some of the hardest things to pull off, look the most effortless to lay readers, and from the cover onward, you can feel the care and attention that went into this book. 

 

 

Swinebert (Grown Up 1.5)Swinebert’s Thoughts

Back in Fall 2014, when I got my hooves on “Maddy Kettle” I knew from the first few pages this was a book I’d always cherish, and the fact that it’s the first of a multi-volume series only has me jonesing for the next installment. 

 

 

 

 

Side Note: Since Dempsey and I first connected with artist/author Eric Orchard on Twitter, we often wondered where his *handle “Inkybat” came from, and after reading “Maddy Kettle”, we now know… 

[*Handle is another way of saying Nickname or Username.]

Anyway, back in late Summer 2014, my nephew Trug saw the cover (while D and I were conversing with the author on Twitter), he said, “Uncle Swinebert, to the bookstore, now!”

The book wasn’t out yet, but our pal and producer, Taurean J. Watkins, found the book on Net Galley, and after checking it out himself, he shared it with me and Dempsey, and I shared it with Trug, and here’s what he says-

TRUG-2.5

“I’ve been in love since seeing the cover (back in August) I finally read it and it ROCKS! I’ll be on ‘Cloud Nine’ to get the next installment.”

-Trug Glockchester

 

 

 

DEMPSEY FRAME

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Dempsey’s Thoughts

I LOVE heroes, or in this case HEROINES, like Maddy for many reasons.

First, she LOVES books, as do I, be they fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and (obviously) comics and graphic novels.

Second, she’s not afraid to take charge of a situation, even if those closest to her (such her overprotective yet thoughtful parents, who when this story begins are Kangaroo rats, more on that later…) would rather her take a “wait and see” approach, which in real life is sometimes the best move, but doesn’t nesscarially make for thrilling storytelling.

Third, she drives her own story, BUT, is not above getting help along the way.

While first-time entrepenuers often shout “It’s all about getting off your duff and being your own boss” most of us need SOME help from others to either just get started on reaching our goals, or after we’ve reached our goals, keep it going if’s something that requires ongoing commitment versus a one-time push that requires less hands-on proddling. 

 

It’s like the difference between day camp versus a tradtional summer long camp.

 

Any leader worth his or her salt knows that while looking out for their team is essential, if you can’t also rely on the the team you’ve assembled or grew over time, you’re doing them and yourself a disserivce. 

 

Just how we need to remember that every viewer or reader is an actual living being , not merely a statistic, we need to treat our team members with the same level of respect we’d want as the team leader.

 

Maddy has those qualities that allow her to take the lead, but not be arrogant during times she needs info she can’t get on her own.

 

That’s something we bookish types tend to have in common, our curious thirst for knowledge allows us to not feel above seeking council from others.

 

Asking for help isn’t the same is asking somone to “do it for you” and that’s the kind of nuance we don’t teach kids enough or at all.

 

This book shows that difference in a non-preachy manner, as the best stories speak for themselves (though that doesn’t make marketing them any easier for some of us).

 

Final Thoughts

Taurean: A spunky steampunk fairy tale with NO shortage of charm and wit.

Swinebert: Maddy Kettle is Acorn-Tastically OUT OF THIS WORLD!

Dempsey: A crackerjack start of what looks to be a hearwarming yet gutsy series.

FINAL NOTE FROM THE LITERARY RAT

Check out our fan book trailer for

“Maddy Kettle (Book 1):

The Adventure of the Thimblewitch”

 

Check back next time for another edition of 
“Panel by Panel.”

 

 

Until then,

Keep reading,

keep doodling,

and be careful not to get a papercut!

 

 

UPDATE 3/31/15: T.A.A. recently learned Eric Orchard (creator of Maddy Kettle) is being hospitlized after a violent misunderstanding with police last night.

 

 

On behalf of Swinebert & Dempsey, and everyone at T.A.A., our thoughts and prayers go out to Eric and his family.

 

Love,

Taurean J. Watkins

Founder and “Literary Rat”

Talking Animal Addicts

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Critter Chat with Swinebert & Dempsey Pt. 1

 SD Critter Chat

Today, you’re in for a treat, T.A.A. Fans!

 

Your lit. rat had the chance to interview two memebers of our growing extended family of in-house fantastic fauna.

 

Our favorite pig and cat duo, Swinebert Glockchester and Dempsey Woyzeck, from T.A.A. FM’s upcoming podcast series, “Swinebert & Dempsey.

 

Taurean: It’s so great to finally have a proper interview with you guys.

Swinebert:  Agreed, we’ve put this off for too long!

Dempsey: Truly, we’re looking forward to this.

Taurean: Okay, let’s get started. How did you two meet?

 

Swinebert: Our humans are friends, and decided to move in together, so by association, me and Dempsey became roomies.

 

Dempsey: We didn’t get along at first. We’d met many times before we all started living together.

But being in the same house meant the things we couldn’t stand about each other stood out more than when we only saw each other every now and then.

Taurean: What kind of things bugged you about each other?

Swinebert: Dempsey seemed like such a stick in the mud! He kept to himself a lot, always had his snout in a book, and didn’t say much to me, and when he did, it was usually because something I did was driving him nuts!

Dempsey: Swinebert has a very dynamic and impactful personality, as you well know…

His Brooklyn accent threw me for a loop in the beginning. He always sounded “angry” to me at first. 

Now I know it’s just how he talks, and find it endearing.

Plus, once I knew how S.B. sounds when he’s actually angry, his normal speaking voice became all the more endearing to me.

Swinebert: Thanks, I think…

Taurean: What are your humans like? What do they do for a living?

 

Ferenc (Kid + Adult) 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 (Swinebert’s Human: Ferenc Süto, left youth, right grown-up)

Swinebert: My human’s Ferenc Süto. He works in a café by day and goes to night school four times a week. His dream is to one day open his own restaurant.

 

Dempsey: My human’s Vermont, Vernie for short. He works in a bookstore.  Like me he LOVES books!

He’s still not sure what he wants for a career, but his dream is to inspire teens who don’t read for fun, to learn that love for literature. He also works part-time at a pub once a week, usually a Friday.

Taurean: Dempsey, I know you’ve mentioned in videos recently you have a girlfriend. Mind sharing a bit about her?

Céline 2.5

 (Cèline, Dempsey’s Girlfriend)

 

Dempsey: Sure! Cèline and I have been together almost 8 years. We first met at a pet parents potluck my human Vernie threw trying to connect with more pet parents to find potential pet-sitters for Swinebert and me in case our usual one can’t make it.

Swinebert: Cèline’s human became our back up pet-sitter, and she’ brought Cèline to our place. Her and D clicked *claps hooves* like that. She was kind of freaked out by me at first.

Being a city cat she’d never met a studly hog such as myself up close before. But we’re buds now.

Taurean: That’s good to know. Have you got a sweetheart of your own, Swinebert?

 

Swinebert: Not at the moment, but I hope that’’’ will change someday.

Dempsey: I know it will, S.B. Hang in there. It took me several years before Cèline and I met.

 

To be continued…

 

Check back next Sunday for part 2 of my chat with Swinebert and Dempsey…

You’ll learn more about their friends and family, their city/town, White Oak Acres, and what they’re planning just for T.A.A. fans!

 

Until then, you can find them on Twitter via @Swinebert_and_D

(Tweet them! They don’t bite…)

 

facebook-346725

 

 

 They’re also on Facebook! 

 

 

T.A.A. on YouTube 2

They also contribute videos to T.A.A.’s

YouTube channel!

Finally, you can check out the video they did as part of fellow pet entrepenuers,

Stanley & Katrina’s

“Word of the Week” series.

(Produced by your lit. rat)

Visit their website at: StanleyAndKatrina.com

They’re on Twitter, too, via @StanleyNKatrina

Until next time, may the fantastic fauna be with you.

UPDATE: Check Out Part 2 Here

Critter Chat with Swinebert & Dempsey Pt. 2

 

 

 

 

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Weekly Readings XIX

Weekly Readings 19

Welcome one and all to another edition of Weekly Readings!

Weekly Readings is when your lit. rat reviews books I’ve read here and there. 

 

While T.A.A. focuses on animal stories, we do give humans their due now and again…

 

This week, we’ve got a trio of fantastic fauna to lift your spirits, while we wait for Sprng to (Slowly) hit, for those of us in 4-season climates. 

 

9781596432369

Amandina 

by Sergio Ruzzier (@SergioRuzzier)

Publisher: Roaring Brook Press 

(Imprint of Macmillan Children’s)

[@MacKidsBooks]

Pub. Date: September 2nd, 2008

 

“There are no small parts. Only small actors.”

 

It’s a common saying among thespians (*a fancy word for “performers “), but while that sentiment can be debatable, depending on the production, it’s more or less true.

 

No one knows this better than Amandina. She can sing, dance, and act, but she lacked two things every performer needs: an audience, and self-confidence. She’s also intensly shy, something this lit. rat can relate to, as that was me as a rattling who had not yet discovered my love for literature…

But Amandina’s determined to work through her shyness: She rents out a theatre, spruces it up, designs the set, makes her costumes and puts up flyers all over town.

 

 

Finally, the opening night of her solo show, Amandina takes center stage, only to find: No one showed up!

 

A lot of people early on in my journey as an author suggested I read “Leo the Late Bloomer” as that’s often touted as the pinnacle of working through difficult (and LONG) “seasons” in our lives. I did read it, and yes, it helped, a little.

 

But I’d recommend “Amandina” for those who already “felt the fear, did it anyway, but can’t find or reach their audience” because those “writer seasons” are different, even if they share some overlap.

 

Even if you’re not a writer, we all have these “seasons” to work through.

 

The season of a college senior’s different than a college freshman, so is the season of a first-year teacher versus a veteran 10 or more years in the field, and first-time parents have a different season than parents with many years of experience. 

Sergio Ruzzier’s illustrations have this warm and whispy feel to them that invoke that eviable timeless charm, for fans of his more recent books, this book showcases a new side of his artist palate you don’t want to miss.

 

 

SR Books

Since the release of “Bear and Bee”, “Bear and Bee: Too Busy” and “A Letter For Leo”, author-illustrator Sergio Ruzzier is becoming one of the hottest names in the modern picture book era.

 

But as with many authors, the road to noetriy was a long and winding grind, as such sometimes earlier works get sent to the dreaded, “Isle of Misfit Out of Print Books.”

 

For those not the biz, out of print books (sometimes called remaindered books) are titles the publicher no longer prints.

 

There can be various reasons why books go out of print, but I hope now that Sergio’s reached a new level of noteriety, his O.P. backlist titles can be reivisited and reissued, and “Amandina” should be at the top of the list, in this humble lit. rat’s opinion.

 

 

 

9780807563205

Party Croc!

A Folktale from Zimbabwe

by Margaret Read MacDonald

Illustrated by Derek Sullivan 

Publisher: Albert Whitman & Company

(@AlbertWhitman)

Pub. Date: March 5th, 2015

 

 

 

 

What do “The Frog Prince” and “Party Croc!” have in common? They both tackle the “Make A Promise, Keep A Promise” creedo that many classic stories are based on.

 

But what sets this retelling of an african folktale apart from the original “Grimm’s” story (and it’s MANY retellings) is the frenetic energy and unabashed gusto.

 

Instead of short-sighted princess, we have a normal, down-to-earth girl named Zuva, who wants to bring home fish for dinner, but has no luck with her angler skills.

 

So, she makes a bargain with a crocodile (i.e. the earnest “Frog” of this folktale): if he brings her fish, she’ll invite him to a party the coming Sataurday.

The  thing is,  the crocodile’s presence would not be welcome in the Zuva’s village.

The croc delivers his part of the promise, and Zuva brought back fish for the village, and quickly forgets her bargin with the crocodile, thinking he’d never learn when Saturday was…

But the crocodile (blissfully unaware) is no oridinary crocodile, but rather a Party Croc,  and tells (or rather SINGS) to everyone who’ll listen he’s been invited to a party.

If you’ve watched “My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic” for any length of time, you can almost hear in your mind one of the many random freestyle dittys sung by Ponyville’s #1 Party Pony, Pinkie Pie! (Or “Double P” as I call her)

Also, the Party Croc would ask various kids when Saturday would arrive, and when Saturday comes, the croc leaves the fishing pool to “Get down with his scaly self.”

When Zuva spots him sashaying into the village, dressed in his swampy best, she quickly hides him in her house, and begins realizes that making a promise she couldn’t keep was not a good idea, especially when the Party Croc finally crashes the party he thought he’d been invited to all along!

Derek Sullivan’s illustrations have this raw yet warm energy, and Margret Read MacDonald’s use of concise, punchy text, along with the repetition of our titular reptile’s refrain of jubilation come together in a delightful way.

Eventually Zuva had to confess her lie, and from there, well, you’ll have to read for yourself…

Folktales, much like picture books in rhyme, or novels in verse, are TOUGH to write, and even tougher to sell, but a joy to readers of all kinds when done well.

“Party Croc!” is a hilarous reminder that one shouldn’t make promises you can’t or don’t wish to keep. 

 

9781454910527

Rufus Goes to Sea

by Kim T. Griswell (@kimgriswell)

Illustrated by Valeri Gorbachev

Publisher: Sterling Children’s Books

(@SterlingBooks)

Pub. Date: April 7th, 2015

While “Spring Break” and “March Madness” are buzz words on many folks minds (at the time this review’s being written), we’re looking ahead to what we hope will be T.A.A.’s best summer ever, if it’s even half as eventful as the well-read pig making his seafaring return in the follow up to his 2014 debut, this lit. rat will have little to complain about-

9781454904168

 

School may be out for Summer, but Rufus Leroy Williams III (really, you can just call him Rufus) has more lessons to learn. These are lessons you can’t learn in the classroom, but in the wider world we call life.

 

Instead of taking dance lessons, or going off to camp, Rufus wants to spend his summer being a pirate.

 

Not to pillage and plunder, but to have adventures on the open sea, and uncover buried treasure that’s meant to be claimed to the ones who find it first! He quickly makes contact with a pirate gang in need of a new crewmate.

 

But just like fighting for his rights to an education is his inaugural outing-Rufus must prove himself worthy to a band of sea dogs who have reservations about letting a pig join their crew.

 

Valeri Gorbachev’s illustrations are as charming as ever, and given the new season and seaside locales, the colors pop with a extra shot of intensity. 

 

Kermit the Frog of Muppets fame historically said, “It’s not easy being green.”

 

Well, it’s also not easy being a cultured and literate pig, in a world filled with narrow-minded humans who think pigs are hopeless naughty slobs (Not saying none are, just that it’s not true of  EVERY pig, okay?)

 

It’s no different than most folks thinking all rats are mean and nasty.

 

Hello! Discriminate much!? But I digress…

Swinebert and Dempsey LOGO X-2

Anyway, as with the last Rufus book, I felt it only right to let my piggy pal, Swinebert Glockchester (from “Swinebert & Dempsey”) share his thoughts on the book-

 

Swinebert (Grown Up 1) POLOAROID 2

 

 Swinebert: Yo Chicks and Chickies, I’ve been  looking forward to the new Rufus book, and  when “The Literary Rat” sent me a tweet that  some stores already carried it ahead of its April  date, I did some store stalking and found a  copy.

 

As I mentioned in my commentary from the first Rufus book, these books remind me of my dear nephew Trug, back when he first started school. He’s a big piglet now, but the Rufus books take me back…TRUG'S PHOTO

The first time he read a whole chapter book on his own, I  was so proud of him, the only one prouder was his father (my brother), of course.

 

Man, does Rufus have it tough!

 

I long for the day when more humans get we pigs are as invidual and itelligent as any dog, cat, horse and even rat you can name!

Trug and I are lucky we live in White Oak Acres, it’s the only city I know of that have special sanctions for allowing unorthadox companion animals in residential areas.

 

Or to it put in plain Brooklyn real talk: you don’t have to live on a farm to have pet pigs, goats, ferrets and even skunks, among others, so long as yop meet their needs and whatnot. 

 

Plus, most of the vets in this city are specially trained to treat non-tradtional pets like Trug and yours truly.

 

Anyway, I loved “Rufus Goes To Sea.” While Rufus reminds me Trug’s early school days, Rufus in this story has a little of a young me in him, too,  as I have to prove myself at times. particularly when I meet pets from other towns and cities, their humans even more so. 

 

Ferenc (Kid + Adult) (Swinebert’s Human: Ferenc Süto, left youth, right grown-up)

My human, Ferenc, does all he can to make sure I feel as welcome as when we travel, he’s the best pet parent a scrappy pig like me could ask for.

Speaking of which, I better go remind him about our weekly date. 

 

Swinebert's Signature (FINAL) MINI

 

 

Follow Swinebert (and his feline pal, Dempsey)

on Twitter via @Swinebert_and_D

 

facebook-346725←They’re also on Facebook!

 

 

 

That’s it for Weekly Readings.

See you next time!

 

NOTE FROM THE LITERARY RAT: If my ramblings convinced you to buy one or more of the books mentioned above, please support T.A.A. by clicking on the affiliate cover images above or links within the review(s).

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