This guest post comes from Berk Washburn, one half of the Brothers Washburn, authors of the Dimensions in Death Series. (I reviewed their book Pitch Green–you can see it here.) I asked the guys what it was like to collaborate with a brother. This was Berk’s response.
Please don’t get me wrong. My brother doesn’t need a keeper, though sometimes my wife says that I do, and if he did need a keeper, he has a bunch of sisters who would be happy to take the job. We have 7 sisters who have been trying to keep us out of trouble for a long time. We are two of 9 sons (16 children total) who grew up in the Mojave desert near Death Valley. Our father was a dentist, who built up a practice in Trona, California, a small mining town. While we were growing up, he was the only dentist in town. As the good citizens of Trona mined the minerals of Searles Valley, Dad mined their teeth.
When, in turn, Andy and I went off to college, we left the desert and never looked backed. We thought we were done with Trona forever, but couldn’t have been more wrong. For about 35 years, I was a business lawyer working for international commercial finance companies in Ohio, Michigan and Colorado. For about 25 years, Andy was a trial practice lawyer working in Southern California. While we have kept our law licenses current, we are now writing fiction full time. Though some would say that’s what we did as lawyers, this is different.
As lawyers, we were always solving other people’s problems. After we each moved to Colorado, we talked for some time about starting a business together where we only had to solve our own problems. We both have many years of formal writing experience, and we have always been story tellers, first to our siblings, then to our own children (I have 8 kids and Andy has 6 kids), and now to our grandkids (who are increasing exponentially in number). Scary stories have always been a family specialty. A few years ago, I started writing a young adult science fiction series, so when Andy also tried his hand at writing fiction, it didn’t take long for us to come together as The Brothers Washburn on a young adult horror series. The tale is of course set in Trona, California, which is the perfect setting for a horror series.
As a child, Andy loved Dr. Seuss, then later, A Collection of Short Stories, by O. Henry was a favorite. As a teenager, he was fascinated with The Illustrated Man, by Bradbury. Growing up, I was on the lookout for anything by Edgar Rice Burroughs, and as a teenager, I was always searching for new and interesting sci-fi writers. It is no surprise, then, that we are currently writing both a YA horror series as well as a separate YA sci-fi series. We find that once we start telling a horror or sci-fi story, the bounds of the story are limited only by our own creativity and imagination–though everything we write has to be grandchild approved.
As brothers, we get along well, and have a healthy level of mutual self-respect, so we can freely share ideas and challenge each other without worrying about egos. We are more creative when we are bouncing ideas off each other and discussing a general storyline, but we actually write separately, and then confer later on what we have been doing. Though we sometimes disagree on specific wording, there is usually some friendly give and take as we consider alternatives, and then we can agree quickly on the final wording. We both appreciate the different perspective and skills that the other brings to the joint process.
In key ways, we are different in how we approach a story. Andy used to be a planner (a habit he got from writing like an attorney), but in fiction writing, he no longer likes to plan ahead. He likes to develop his characters, and then let them take the story wherever it is going to go. On the other hand, I am definitely still a planner. I am always making lists and outlines, not only for the current story, but for future stories as well.
In addition, Andy doesn’t like having other people around him when he is writing, especially when he is creating new material. There is no real reason for this, just sometimes people bug him. In my case, I have to organize my surrounding work environment. Once everything around me is in order, then I can detach from the world and write.
If Andy hits a tough spot in the story development, it is almost always because of outside distractions. If he can get rid of the distractions around him, he can keep writing. If I hit a tough spot, I don’t try to force it. I stop, leave the house, pick up some fast food, and then I can come back refreshed and ready to move the story forward. I find that fresh ideas just come naturally when I’m eating–Chipotle is always good.
Background research is important to both of us in two areas: theoretical science and local Trona geography. This series is an ongoing horror story based on principals of science rather than on demons, devils or magical creatures, so some understanding of the extremes of scientific theory is necessary and fun. But, Dimensions in Death is not a science fiction series with a few scary scenes. It is horror, suspense and fright in a fast pace narrative with a little science by way of explanation, sprinkled on for spice, as the truth is gradually discovered by our heroes in the story. Separately, the local geography in the story plays a critical role in setting the mood of the tale. Trona, California is a real place in this world located in a desolate region of the Mojave Desert by Death Valley, and we try to keep the series settings as real as possible.
The general outline for Pitch Green came together one evening in November of 2010. We were attending a writer’s seminar together in Manhattan and listening to panel discussions by top literary agents. As we rode the subway from one end-of-the-line stop across town to the opposite end-of-the-line stop, and then back again, we mapped out the basic elements we would need to expand a favorite childhood scary story into a full-length novel. Andy wrote the first rough draft, and then I took it over to edit and expand the tale. In the writing of the first book, the ground work was laid for both the sequels and the prequels of that series.
In Pitch Green, we meet two teenagers, Camm and Cal, who are destined by their wit, pluck and luck (not always good) to become the balancing force in this world against predators that keep showing up around an old mansion, which is apparently something more than just a mansion. Our heroes must make a stand against the mansion’s guardians, any visitors who might want to come through the mansion in search of easy prey, and the forces of the U.S. Federal Government, who are using the mansion to access unlimited natural resources. Camm is the brains, Cal is the muscle and together they make a formidable team when they decide to work together. They are joined by an FBI agent, Special Agent Linda Allen, who is smart, resourceful and not easily intimidated by those protecting the government’s secrets.
In this first book of the Dimensions in Death series, our heroes are introduced to the mansion and an other-worldly guardian while being hurled from one scene of horror to the next. They barely have time to catch their breath or scratch the surface of what is happening, and they do not understand the nature of what they are really facing. Though their intentions are good, by the end of the first book, they have left a doorway wide open and unguarded. Pitch Green is the opening act of a long and complex tale in which Camm, Cal and Agent Allen will be explorers in the dimensions in death.
Thanks for stopping by! Pitch Green is available as a hardback and eBook from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, and wherever fine books are sold.
Connect with The Brothers Washburn
Camm and Cal have a problem that’s stinkier than a sulfur lava vent, creepier than a naked rat tail, and hungrier than a shark. It’s a problem and puzzle they’ll have to solve before it strikes again and another child disappears.
Pitch Green, by Berk and Andy Washburn publishing as the Brothers Washburn, is the first in their young adult Dimensions in Death series. Set in the Mohave desert, Pitch Green introduces us to Trona, a small California town whose only claim to fame is a dry lakebed where chemicals are extracted and processed in the town’s factory and a huge deserted mansion that miraculously repairs and cleans itself. Seven years ago on Halloween night, Cal’s younger brother Hughie disappeared and Camm has never forgiven herself. Now high school seniors, Camm and Cal are in a race to discover one of Trona’s darkest secrets before it can kill again.
Of course, nothing is quite what it seems in Trona. There are layers to this town that I’m sure will be revealed as the series progresses. There are delicious hints of government conspiracies, mad scientists, and cover ups. There are also guns, puzzle boxes, Hebrew script, and barf-tainted kisses. Best friends and potential romantic couple Camm and Cal are intelligent, dedicated, resourceful, and brave—not lily-livered, hide your head under the sheets characters or girl/boy stereotypes—and refreshingly, the adults aren’t buffoons either.
By turns witty, funny, scary, thrilling, and chilling, it’s a horror story mystery that reminded me of a more sophisticated and modern spin on Nancy Drew or The Hardy Boys. It’s fresh, fast-paced and smart. Can’t wait for book two!
Pitch Green, Book 1 in Dimensions in Death series, written by the Brothers Washburn and published by Jolly Fish Press, is available in hardback, paperback, and eBook from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other purveyors of fine literature.
Today I’m part of a blog hop, officially known as The Next Big Thing. Many thanks to Elsie Park for inviting me to hop in after her. You can check out her website here. Her debut book is called Shadows of Valor and will be available everywhere July 27, 2013! It is going to be great! Can’t wait.
If you’ve never heard of a blog hop, it’s a bit like a game of tag. Writers post about their works and link to other authors ahead and behind them in the chain. So, without further ado–
What is the working title of your next book?
One Shark, No Swim, Book 2 in the Niuhi Shark Saga. It’s currently in editorial review at Jolly Fish Press and will come out late summer/fall 2013. It follows One Boy, No Water.
Where did the idea come from for the book?
The genesis for the series was a scene from Legends of Hawaii that I saw when I was seven years old. In the film a young Hawaiian boy’s shirt is ripped off to reveal gaping shark’s jaws where his back should be—it’s the kind of image that tends to stick with you if you have an overactive imagination.
What genre does your book fall under?
It straddles the line between Middle Grade and Young Adult. Technically, it’s fantasy, but it’s set in modern, every day Hawai’i. Supernatural things happen, but it’s all rather matter of fact. While Zader and his friends are twelve in One Shark, No Swim, the themes developed in the series are universal. It’s PG in content and language, making it appropriate for MG readers, but it wasn’t written specifically for an MG/YA audience. It’s an adventure series that appeals to adults, too, particularly if they’ve lived in Hawai’i.
Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
Jackie Chan. Uncle Kahana, Zader, ‘Ilima, Jay, Char Siu—it doesn’t matter which character; the answer to this question is always Jackie Chan. (Call me!)
What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
Adopted twelve year old suspects there’s more to his birth family than he ever dreamed and the truth changes everything.
Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
The Niuhi Shark Saga is published by Jolly Fish Press.
How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
About six weeks split over nine months. Bursts of writing punctuated by life and lots of dust gathering.
What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
In book 2, Zader discovers a way he can take a shower without blistering, he meets both his biological parents (although he doesn’t know it), learns Filipino Kali-style knife fighting from a master, and Uncle Kahana and ‘Ilima don’t see eye to eye on what to tell Zader, Jay, and Char Siu about what’s really going on. And niuhi sharks! Lots of sharks.
And that’s my Next Big Thing! Now here are the fabulous authors I’ve tagged to tell you about their Next Big Thing! They will be posting on 1/30/2013. Enjoy!
Great authors who’ve already posted their Next Big Thing that you shouldn’t miss!
Mele Kalikimaka! We hope your family is well and enjoying all the aloha of the season. This past year we’ve felt especially blessed for all the good things in our lives. Here’s a quick snapshot.
Lili continues dancing hula in Halau Na Pua O Lauele and had a solo in their holiday performance at Ala Moana. Her halua is practicing hard and raising money to compete in next year’s Merry Monarch Festival. She is a sophomore at Ridgemont Academy and is the secretary of the Hui Lama club.
Jay and Zader are in Ms. Robinson’s sixth grade class at Lauele Elementary. We just learned that Jay was accepted to Ridgemont for 7th grade and Zader’s on the final waitlist. With Zader’s art talent, we think he’s a shoe-in for a final spot.
Speaking of art, if you’re headed to the Honolulu Arts Museum, check out Zader’s turtle carving in the Young Artist Showcase. It’s amazing!
After winning the last two Menehune surf meets, Jay’s taking a break from surfing to play flag football in the park. It’s odd seeing him out of the water, but I don’t miss all the wet towels and sand!
Both boys are studying Lua with Uncle Kahana, which probably means drinking soda and watching old Bruce Lee movies. At least they are staying out of trouble. I hope. You never know what’ll happen when Uncle Kahana and ‘Ilima get involved.
Along with all our aloha, we wish you and yours the best and brightest of the season and good fortune in the new year! A hui hou,
The Westin Ohana
Paul, Liz, Lilinoe, Jay, and Zader
PS: You can find out more about our adventures in One Boy, No Water by Lehua Parker. The Kindle version is on sale now through January 2!
In One Boy, No Water each chapter begins with a word or phrase in Hawaiian or Pidgin followed by its definition. This structure uses ‘ōlelo no‘eau, wise or entertaining sayings that reveal a hidden truth. Hawaiian relies heavily on poetic imagery, riddles, and puns to communicate significant truths veiled under casual conversation. Words and phrases can hold hidden layers of meaning called kaona, which is why songs about mist or fish or flowers or wind can leave old folks laughing and young ones wondering what’s so funny. Examples of ‘ōlelo no‘eau can be found on the Internet or in this book of collected wisdom:
‘Ōlelo No‘eau: Hawaiian Proverbs and Poetical Sayings
by Mary Kawena Pukui
Bishop Museum Press, 1983
Here are some of the newest ones I’ve come across:
· ‘A‘a i ka hula, waiho ka hilahila i ka hale.
When one wants to dance the hula, bashfulness should be left at home.
· Hōhohua no ke kawa.
A deep diving place indeed. Said of a topic that requires deep thinking.
I kani no ka pahu i ka ‘olohaka o loko.
It is the space inside that gives the drum it’s sound. The empty-headed person is the one who does the most talking.
He manō holo ‘āina ke ali‘i.
The chief is a shark that travels on land. Like a shark, the chief is not to be tampered with.
Today’s post is an interview with Corey Egbert, illustrator for One Boy, No Water. Corey was gracious enough drop by to answer a few questions.
Did you always want to be an illustrator?
No. When I was 6 years old, I wanted to be a scientist/nature photographer. Then when I was about 9, I wanted to be a Lego master builder. Even now I secretly wish I could be a travel show host. But I knew I loved to draw since before I can remember, and I’ve always loved books. So I figured illustration would be a perfect job because it is a combination of both of those.
What’s your preferred medium? Would you rather sketch on paper or on a computer?
I wish I was patient enough to do all my work on paper. If I did though, I would have to erase far too much and it would take forever!
I always start out with a pencil drawing in my sketchbook and then I scan it into the computer. The computer lets me do so much in a short amount of time, and if I want to change something, I can do it really easily without having to start over. But even though it’s on the computer, it’s still drawing. I still have to know all the components of art like scale, value, line, perspective, etc. The computer is just a tool.
One Boy, No Water is the first book you’ve illustrated. How is book illustration different from some of the other projects you’ve worked on?
Book illustration is different than doing other art because you have to create images based on someone else’s ideas instead of your own. The author created the characters, objects and world, and you have to draw them to be true to the story. I had to do a lot of research, ask a lot of questions, and sometimes revise my drawings multiple times to get them right. It really helped me grow as an artist because it pushed me to take my artwork farther than I would have on my own.
Which part of the process did you enjoy the most?
I really loved the challenge of taking characters that are only described in words and turning them into something that you can look at. The kids were very fun to draw because they each have different personalities. I enjoyed working on Zader because I felt like I could relate to him, especially since he is an artist too.
Which illustration from One Boy, No Water is your favorite?
I would have to say the one with Zader and Dream Girl and the castle. It was the hardest one for me to do. I worked on it forever and I really wasn’t pleased with what I was coming up with. I dreaded working on it and actually saved it for the night before my deadline! I ended up throwing my first version away and completely starting over. I am really pleased with how it eventually turned out. Castles have always been one of my favorite things to draw.
Now for the really important questions: Crayons or markers?
Haha. When I was a kid I thought crayons were for babies so I used markers. I like the deep, even colors and finer lines you get with markers. Crayons are too hard to control.
Whenever I am asked this, I always say that I like all colors because I am an artist. I just can’t decide.
Who are some of the illustrators you admire?
Maurice Sendak who created Where the Wild Things Are is one of my very favorites and possibly the most influential children’s book illustrator ever. I also used to try to copy the style of Eyvind Earle who did the background art for Disney’s Sleeping Beauty. Pauline Baynes, who illustrated the original editions of The Chronicles of Narnia was a big influence, too. I also love Glen Keane, Richard Scarry, Edward Gorey, Mary Blair, Kali Ciesemier, Chris Van Allsburg, Paul O. Zelinsky and Carson Ellis, to just name a few.
When you were eleven did you have a favorite cartoon or tv show?
I really liked the show Recess. I love how the playground was a microcosmic empire ruled by kids. It was full of wars, politics, economics… everything, just on a kid scale. I’m still waiting for that show to come out in a DVD collection.
What’s your favorite middle grade book?
There are too many to pick just one! I love Narnia, Harry Potter, the Prydain books, Tuck Everlasting, My Side of the Mountain, The Phantom Tollbooth, From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle, A Wrinkle In Time, The Giver, The Little Prince… and more. I still read middle grade books, and I can’t wait until my son is old enough so I can read my favorites to him!
Any words of wisdom for burgeoning illustrators who are considering illustration as a career?
Doodle every day! Keep a sketchbook. Learn the fundamentals of art like shape, color, line, value, balance, rhythm, etc. Learn to draw the human figure. Draw your friends and family! Invent your own characters and draw them doing different things. Try to tell a story with your drawings. Observe the world around you. And keep challenging yourself!
Thanks for stopping by, Corey! One Boy, No Water is available in hardback, trade paperback, and ebook on September 29, 2012 wherever books are sold.
Follow Cory on his blog: http://stevencoreyart.blogspot.com/
With the launch party for One Boy, No Water just ten days away, I’ve been doing some publicity interviews. (I know!) One of the questions that keeps popping up is about the genesis of the story. People want to know which Hawaiian myth or legend it comes from and if it’s a myth or a legend. Here’s the real scoop.
Those that parse such distinctions define a legend as a story about actual events or people that sometimes include imaginative elements, or as I like to think of them, the stuff that makes the story good. Myths are defined as stories that are considered completely imaginary that attempt to explain the natural world through symbolism. Personally, I think it’s all a matter of cultural bias. One person’s myth is another’s legend. It all depends on world-view. Out of respect, I tend to call all these kinds of stories legends.
With One Boy, No Water and the rest of the Niuhi Shark Saga, there’s been some confusion, especially in the earliest press releases. I don’t think Jolly Fish Press, the publisher, got it initially. There isn’t a Niuhi shark legend in traditional Hawaiian literature, but Hawaiian culture, traditions, and legends do play an important role in the series.
Most cultures have stories about shape-shifters. Throughout the Pacific there are lots of stories about gods and demi-gods who could change form, including human to shark. Niuhi is the Hawaiian word for “shark large enough to eat a human” which I used to describe beings who are really sharks that are self-aware in their role as predators and can appear as people on land. In my imagination I created a backstory where at one point they lived side-by-side with ancient Hawaiians who knew and accepted what they were. After western contact and the fall of the kapu system, the Niuhi moved away and into hiding. In my books only a few people remember the stories and fewer believe, only the ones with ancestral family ties to Niuhi.
To be clear, there is a Hawaiian legend about a boy named Nanaue who is raised as a human but can turn into a shark. Nanaue eats unsuspecting villagers until they unmask and banish him. There are other Hawaiian legends about humans that can turn into sharks that help fishermen and those lost at sea, and even legends about deified ancestors appearing as sharks and protecting family members, all of which influenced the series, but do not define its story arc. The series is not a retelling of Nanaue. Promise.
Where I think the confusion crept in was when I told JFP that Uncle Kahana, the mentor character, would also bring in other Hawaiian legends into storyline, allowing me to share some Hawaiian culture and lore with the rest of the world. I’m talking about Menehunes, ghosts, and other supernatural beings. I think that got twisted a little to imply that the story itself is from a Hawaiian legend.
While it’s being marketed as middle grade and book one is appropriate for that age group, in my mind the whole series is more young adult coming of age and is about eventually choosing to define yourself and how you want to live your life despite what others want you to do. Unknown to Zader is his true nature and the reason he’s been hidden among Uncle Kahana’s family. In One Boy, No Water he gets some strong hints that things are not what he thought they were. After leaving him alone for 12 years, in book 2, his biological family begins to interact with him and more of his true nature rises to the surface. Above all the mystery is a more mundane story about a kid who doesn’t fit in and what choices he and his friends make as they grow up in modern Hawaii.
One Boy, No Water is at its heart a Hawaiian story and like most Hawaiian stories is full of hidden meanings called kaona. Nothing is what it appears to be on the surface. Even Zader’s Hawaiian name is a clue: Kaona-kai, a hidden or concealed sea. It’s my hope that the series is enjoyed by both kinds of readers: the careful readers who search for clues and the deeper kaona and those who would rather just enjoy the ride, taking the saga along the surface all the way to the beach.
Either way, it’s going to be a wild ride!
To tide you over until the release date, here’s an excerpt from chapter 1, The End of Summer Fun.
I was walking toward Jay when it happened.
‘Ālika threw a Dixie cup of water on me.
“Zader!” Jay shrieked.
The water hit my shoulder and upper left arm. Hot lava fingers oozed down, scalding, sizzling, burning everything in its path like acid. Like snake venom. Like death. On fire, I dropped to the ground and rolled.
“Holy crap,” said Chad. “Try look. J’like holy water on one devil!”
Wide-eyed with excitement, ‘Ālika crossed himself. “He’s possessed!” he shouted. “Everybody, Zader stay possessed!”
Through the pain, I felt Jay kneel down next to me, his hands ripping at the bottom of my t-shirt. “Zader, off! Get it off! Lift your arms so I can get it off.” As he threw the shirt over my head, I felt a final sting as a wet sleeve brushed against my face, raising another angry line of welts along my cheekbone.
More shadows ringed me. I opened my eyes through the pain to see Jerry Santos and Benji Chang looking down at me, mouths open and catching flies. I pushed Jay away and stood up, covering the weeping sores and broken blisters with my hands as best I could.
‘Ālika now stood on the picnic table bench, holding out his index fingers, making the sign of a cross, his utility knife blade forgotten in the dirt. “You stay away from me, you freak,” he yelled.
Excerpted from One Boy, No Water by Lehua Parker. Copyright © 2012 by Lehua Parker. Excerpted by permission of Jolly Fish Press, LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
One Boy, No Water, Book 1 in the Niuhi Shark Saga, will be available in stores and online September 29, 2012. The series is set in Hawaii and tells the story of Zader, an 11 year old boy, and his adventures as he discovers who—and what—he really is. Most of the descriptions of island life in the series are true. However, in some areas Aunty Lehua may have stretched the truth just a little bit. Here’s the real scoop about private schools.
Private Schools in Hawaii
In One Boy, No Water…
6th grade is a big year for applying to private schools in Hawaii and the pressure to get in can be intense.
The real scoop…
Many private Hawaiian schools only accept new students certain grades, 7th grade the most common, putting the pressure on the 6th graders. Some schools are privately endowed and most offer scholarships, so top students can get an amazing education at a fraction of the real cost. Ridgemont Preparatory Academy and the HISA exams? Pure shibai!
One Boy, No Water, Book 1 in the Niuhi Shark Saga, will be available in stores and online September 29, 2012. The series is set in Hawaii and tells the story of Zader, an 11 year old boy, and his adventures as he discovers who—and what—he really is. Most of the descriptions of island life in the series are true. However, in some areas Aunty Lehua stretched the truth just a little bit. Here’s the real scoop about Lua.
In One Boy, No Water…
Lua is ancient form of Hawaiian hand-to-hand combat. It was taught in schools by Lua masters who could perform amazing feats of strength and agility.
The real scoop…
Lua is real! Known anciently as Kapu Ku‘ialua, Lua was traditionally taught to young Hawaiian nobles and warriors, both male and female. Lua ‘ai forms focus on breaking and dislocating bones, locking joints, performing nerve strikes, and using various weapons such as shark tooth clubs, spears, and slings. Lua students were also taught to heal using massage and herbal remedies and to use spiritual forces against their enemies.
In ancient times Lua warriors plucked all their hair (girls, too!) and put a thin layer of coconut oil all over their bodies so they could slip out of holds during battle. The word for Lua master,‘ōlohe, literally means hairless.
Kept secret, sacred, and hidden in legends and taught underground since the mid-1800s, Lua is experiencing a cultural re-birth. Like many martial art forms, Lua also embodies a philosophy. It teaches traditional Hawaiian ideas such as remaining pono in all one’s thoughts, actions, and feelings.
Because so much of Lua is still considered sacred and secret and is not shared outside Lua schools, be wary of websites or people claiming to know all about it. For more information about authentic Hawaiian Lua practices, check out this book:
Lua, Art of the Hawaiian Warrior
By Richard Paglinawan, Mitchell Eli, Moses Kalauokalani, and Jerry Walker
Bishop Museum Press, 2005