What Some “Misfits” Taught Me About The “Near Win” – Letter From The Editor

The Misfits Series Banner BETA 5

Letter From The Editor

What Some “Misfits” Taught Me About The “Near Win”

-September 30th, 2015-


When you hear “The Misfits” most people these days might think of the antagonistic rock star rivals from “Jem and Holograms.”

The Misfits #2


But long after the original 80s animated series first hit the airwaves, over two decades later, a new generation of “Misfits” were born, in the form of author James Howe’s novel “The Misfits” first published back in 2001.

The story revolves around a group of childhood friends facing the typical challenges of middle school, puberty, and the politics of popularity.

While these self-proclaimed “Misfits” all play a key role to the story, our central character is 12-Year-Old Robert “Bobby”, who narrates us into his small town world of Paintbrush Falls in upstate (i.e. FAR from NYC) New York.

Bobby’s friends include, Addie Carle, the height-conscious type-A academic and occasional “Mother Hen/*Wendy” of the group, who wields a vocabulary as big and grand as her principles. (*Wendy, see Peter Pan)



Skeezie, who at one time, might’ve become one of the story’s antagonists given his mischievous antics and penchant for teasing, but thanks to a kind gesture from Addie back in grade school, he instead became a good friend, who just dresses like the “hooligan” most folks blindly assume he is, but we, as the wide-eyed reader looking in, know better.

Last, but far from least, is Joe Bunch, the celebrity-obsessed, and outrageously flamboyant semi-closeted Gay boy whose as much comfortable in his own skin as those outside his friend and family circles are left confused at best-and feared at worst.

Of course, this being middle school, when kids fear something, they often belittle it, and during a time in life when differences of any kind are grounds for isolation and ostracization, it often resulting in name-calling and/or violence.



The irreverent, self-referential narrative will be quite familiar for those of you old enough to remember the sitcom, “The Wonder Years” starring a tween-to-teen FredOswald Savage  (who would later go on to voice the charming blue octopus, Oswald).

But while that iconic series had an (unseen) adult Kevin looking back on his life through junior high and early high school years, this story takes place within the confines of the first semester of 7th grade, and while Bobby occasionally tips his hand at certain chronology, he tells us his story in the way only a kid in that “Middle Place” between childhood and the early adolescence can, albeit in a more eloquent way.

As a reader, and an author myself, who takes pride in smart use of language, this is a refreshing change of pace from the more informal tone most books these days employ.

But for those of you worried about *KSLA (*Kids Sounding Like Adults Syndrome) not to worry, neither the prose or dialogue ever forgets that this a story about and narrated by a kid, and if you’ve heard the full cast audiobook version of “The Misfits” (as I did) where kids are playing “The Gang of Five” and the extended supporting cast, it further reinforces just how natural and real our proudly unconventional preteen heroes (and heroine, I didn’t forget, Addie) sound.

Those familiar with John Green’s books, and their smart use of language, will enjoy the depth found here.

While we often talk about YA/Adult reader crossover, but this is a book I feel is one of the few I’ve come across that has excellent crossover appeal for middle grade/YA readers.


2015 marks the 15th Anniversary of “The Misfits”

(As depicted in the banner above)

This book has garnered much praise amongst writers, and readers alike, since it’s release  quite the following and I’d 9781416913856first heard of the “The Misfits” back in 2011 (the book’s 10th Anniversary), right before the release of “Addie on the Inside”, the second of what would be three companion books set within the timeline shortly after the events of the first book. 





9780689839580“Totally Joe”, the first companion book, debuted in 2007, which brings us more insight to Joe’s emerging gay identity, something author James Howe himself had grappled with growing up.

While we’ve made some key progress in the decade plus since “The Misfits” debuted, most notably the end of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”, more nuanced and varied portrayals of LGBTQ characters in books and other media, (versus the “comic” stereotypes from eras past), and recently the U.S. Supreme Court ruling same-sex couples have the legal right to marry (and have that marriage be validated) in all 50 states, we still have more work to do.

Especially amongst the transgender community, where trans women often receive the worse treatment, and amending our federal laws to disallow organizations to discriminate against LGTBQ people in the workplace, which, at the time of this writing, in most states of the nation is sadly still legal.

We also have to amend (if not totally revamp) the U.S. adoption laws to ensure same-sex couples (or single LGBTQ individuals) to adopt and raise children and teens, and ensure they’re entitled to the same health, federal/legal protections, and end of life benefits opposite-sex unions have.


In April 2014, “Also Known As Elvis” gives us the skinny from Skeezie (legal name: Skyler), who as the title infers, also goes by “Elvis”, though you’ll have to read to find out why, and it’s not as obvious as you might think…


610t+dyr3PL._SL300_It wasn’t until this year that I experienced “The Misfits” for myself (via the aforementioned audiobook version), and I’m glad I did, and as many readers often say, wish I’d read it sooner.


I was 14 when Bobby and Co. first arrived on the kidlit scene, and I see many aspects of myself reflected in “The Gang of Five” (though there’s only four of them), and even now at 28, I feel their struggles and triumphs as fervently raw now as I would’ve then, perhaps even more-so because I see from my adult perspective, where some of those twists and turns can lead.

Something I learned in reading (er, listening) to this book, is I have to do a better job at embracing the “Near Win.”

As a writer, one of the many mottos you hear ad-nauesum is “Celebrate Every Success” which in all honesty is not easy for me. I don’t mean that in a snobbish way.

You both CAN and WANT to be living independently.

Instead you’re still living at home because you can’t afford to live anywhere else.

You want to do good work and be paid for it.

You’re shut out of most careers because you’re not a college graduate.


As a writer, it looks like this-

Selling A Book (Win)

Haven’t sold a book yet. But I finished a draft of a book. (Near Win)


Often being a writer involves making compromises, and some are easier (or at least more feasible) than others-


Indie/Self-Publishing is a viable option.

(Compromise to being unable to or infrequently publish traditionally)

The push-pull between “Just do it!” and “Do it right” are harder to navigate when you have limited finances and resources to bring a professional book to the market.


As much as I believe in the nuance of gender identity (whatever your sexual orientation), and that animal stories aren’t just for babies and preschoolers, I struggle with the gray areas in publishing, in particular, and life in general.

Sometimes I feel like a hypocrite because of this disparity, especially given recent conversations I’ve had with fellow writers recently, but now I’ve come to realize that I’m more narrow-minded than I wish was the case.

I can see gray areas in many ways, but not others, and like most things in life, the issues that hit closest to home are often the toughest areas for me to even SEE (let alone embrace) the near win.

Without spoiling the story for those of you unversed in the world of “The Misfits”, they too had a “near win” which resulted in the now infamous “No Name-Calling Week” imitative, reminding us words can hurt as much as physical violence.

Something to think about as we near October, and the start of “National Bullying Prevention Month.” 


Until next I write you, my dear readers, your lit. rat’s signing off.



Letter From The Editor – What Happens When You Can’t Enjoy Your Writer’s Journey


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?


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.


“Start by admitting ‘From cradle 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.


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 beautifully)


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, if we can’t sustain the “logical” choice, it’s not logical for us.


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. 


Technique can be learned, mindset’s harder to teach, and NO ONE can teach passion. 


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” subscribers I 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 necessary 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) [@Taurean_Watkins]

-Editor-in-Chief/Literary Rat

Talking Animal Addicts


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

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)




From Taurean J. Watkins 

[aka “The Literary Rat”] (@Taurean_Watkins


(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“).


(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.


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


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 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…)






☚ 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!

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.?




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)


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…)





 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.





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-


(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?



(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!

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…)





 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.





Weekly Readings (National Pig Day Edition)

National Pig Day 2015 Banner


Welcome one and all to another edition of

“Weekly Readings”

Normally, your lit. rat reviews a range of books solo, but seeing as today is “National Pig Day” T.A.A.’s favorite pig, Swinebert Glockchester (from “Swinebert & Dempsey”) will be taking over today and shares some of his favorite books, and reprises some of our previous reviews. 



Hamlet and the Tales of Sniggery Woods

by Maggie Kneen

Publisher: Henry Holt and Co. (BYR)

Pub. Date: May 26th, 2009

This is a charming collection of stories about a gentile pig who despite the Shakespearean roots of his name, takes inspiration not in the theatre world, but the world of culinary arts and runs a cooking school, Maggie Kneen’s illustrations undoubtedly hearken back to a time when the forefathers and fore-mothers of animal fantasy were just getting started.

I wish there were more books set in the charming world of Sniggery Woods, but even if this remains a one and done, we got a nice day visit, and I encourage anyone who loves short reads and old school charm give it a read.






Mary Had A Little Ham

by Margie Palatini

Illustrated by Guy Francis

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion (@DisneyHyperion)

Pub. Date: September 2nd, 2003


NOTE FROM THE LITERARY RAT: This is a re-post of our original review of “Mary Had A Little Ham”


Even the shyest souls among us have at times dreamed of life in the spotlight, even your lit. rat likes to pretend he’s a famous actor or performer of some kind.


In some ways my upcoming podcast imitative “T.A.A. FM” will give me the chance to in some small way live that fantasy, but with my voice more so than my face, but more on that later, now onto the review…


As the title suggests, this is a retelling of the vintage nursery rhyme “Mary Had A Little Lamb” but recast to star a pig by the name of Stanley Snoutowski who leaves his home on the farm to chase the siren song of stardom.


Illustrator Guy Francis left nothing to chance, using every page spread from cover to cover, crease to corner, and dedication to end papers, to invoke the spirit of Old Hollywood at it’s best.


While also depicting the lows of our swine-tastic protagonist on his way from humble beginnings to the big time, part of which is chronicled via the old school snail mail between, and his girl, named, you guessed it–Mary, alongside Margie’s spare but effective prose.


My friend Swinebert Glockchester (of Swinebert and Dempsey fame) has a dad who worked in the movies as an actor, and when I shared the story with him, he said-


“This pig fits my Pa to a T, when he was just getting started in show business. Hope Dempsey and me do as well with our endeavors.”  


You will, S.B. I’ll do my best to make sure of that. Classic movie buffs and starry eyed thespians alike will find much humor and unabashed optimism abound in “Mary Had A Little Ham.” On that note: Here’s looking at you, Stanley!




Rufus Goes to School

by Kim T. Griswell

Illustrated by Valeri Gorbachev

Publisher: Sterling Children’s Books (@SterlingBooks)

Pub. Date: August 6th, 2013


NOTE FROM THE LITERARY RAT: This is a re-post of our original review of “Rufus Goes To School”


Rufus Leroy Williams III (you can just call him Rufus) is a little piglet, with a BIG, yet simple dream-


To read his favorite book, that at the moment he only can follow from the pictures.


Rufus decides to send himself to school so he can learn to read.


But has a heck of a time convincing the principal to let him attend.


He seems to confuse earnest pig Rufus for “The Big Bad Wolf” of Grimm’s fame, not in the man-eating sense, but thinking him more a preordained bully than potential scholar, thankfully Rufus remains unflappable in his quest to attend school.


How does he win this misguided principal over? You’ll have to read

and find out.


Valeri Gorbachev’s illustrations have this warm, unassuming charm matching well with Kim’s narrative, using repetition and rhythm to great effect.


The warm tone to the illustrations reminds me of the late and great Fred Marcelino, and dare I say, the legendary Richard Scarry, but his style’s all his own.


Swinebert and Dempsey Title Cover #2

Given the piggy nature of this book, I’ve asked Swinebert Glockchester (from T.A.A. FM’s“Swinebert & Dempsey”) to share his thoughts on the book-


Swinebert: This book reminds me of my nephew Trug’s first day of school


He’s in 4th grade now, but when he first went to school, he was just as eager as Rufus to learn to read. 

Thankfully his school was open to him from the start, though Trug told me the janitor looked at him in a “Scary Mean” way whenever he saw him.


(«Swinebert’s Nephew, Trug Glockchester)

Apparently, he’d been told the myth that pigs are always messy and smelly slobs that would make his job all the harder.

Let me make one thing clear, it’s true we pigs like to get messy and muddy, but we’re not all slobs in every circumstance, and as far as Trug and me, we know there’s a time and place to be muddy and a time to be clean and neat, and at school (especially a human/nonhuman school like Trug’s) it’s best to be clean and neat!


SWINEBERT (YOUTH)That said, I went to an all piglet school when I lived on a ranch outside of New York City, and we did have a “Mud Bath” period, but we always showered off afterwards.





(Swinebert  in the flush of youth)


Reading “Rufus Goes to School” brought back all those memories of Trug’s (and yours truly) first days of school: the good times, bad times, sad times, and all the times in-between.



Swinebert (Grown Up 1.5)

Uncle Swinebert's Signature (FINAL)











P.S: I can’t wait for the next book “Rufus Goes To Sea” Coming April 2015



BONNIE GLAM SHOTBefore I go, check out the video I did with Bonnie

(from T.A.A. FM’s “Guido & Bonnie“) as part of a fan tribute to Carolyn Crimi’s “Dear Tabby” 




That’s it for Weekly Readings.

See you next time!


FINAL 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).