Children’s author Mark M Even joins me today to chat about his new middle grade fantasy, The Wonders of the Peculiar Parasol.
During his virtual book tour, Mark will be awarding a $20 Amazon or Barnes and Noble (winner’s choice) gift card to a lucky randomly drawn winner. To be entered for a chance to win, use the form below. To increase your chances of winning, feel free to visit his other tour stops and enter there, too!
Welcome, Mark. Please tell us a little bit about yourself.
I retired from almost 40 years working for IBM in Mar 2017. I’ve been married for 43 years to my wife, Joyce and have 3 children and 8 grand-children. I enjoy golfing, fishing, bird-watching and travel.
Shortly after retiring from IBM in 2017, I was at a small-town celebration in northern Wisconsin and noticed that a number of the little vendor booths were people selling children’s books that they created and self-published. I looked at these and told myself that I could write something like that. And I did, but these were the type of books that were targeted at small kids and needed vibrant pictures and artwork.
In the spring of 2018, I was visiting my niece and her family, and she told me of this wonderful idea for a story for a children’s book and after talking with her about it, we agreed to collaborate and I took on the task of writing the story. After many iterations, The Wonders of the Peculiar Parasol became a reality.
Please share a little bit about your current release.
When Mandy Mandez and her cousins, Mickey and Gina, discover a peculiar parasol in their Great-grandmother’s attic, their lives are changed forever. The parasol is enchanted and transports each of them to a magical world to experience a story for their enjoyment. They also discover that they are descendants of the powerful wizard who created the parasol.
When Mandy takes steps to use magic in the real world, she inadvertently releases an evil sorceress from a magical prison dimension who endangers Mandy’s world.
Mandy and her cousins must come up with a plan to battle the sorceress to save the parasol, their ancient wizard ancestor, and even their own families.
What inspired you to write this book?
I had been retired from IBM for a year and had attended a local festival in a small town in Wisconsin. Browsing through the various booths set up along the main street, I took note of many booths that were selling books, self-published by the author. Nearly all of them were picture books intended for toddlers. Being a grand-father of 8, I looked at them and while they were all somewhat interesting, I thought to myself that I could write a book like these for my grand-children. I tried various styles and attempts at a book, but never really got it going. But at a dinner with my niece and her husband, we were talking about my retirement “project” and she told me her idea for a children’s book. She and I talked for quite some time about her basic idea and she gave me permission to write the story. One idea followed another and then another and I couldn’t stop writing what has become my series: Dragonstone Story. Wonders of the Peculiar Parasol is the first book of the series, based on my niece’s idea of a magical parasol that takes whoever is holding it to a faraway land to live out a fantasy adventure.
Excerpt from The Wonders of the Peculiar Parasol:
Grandma asked the kids to help clean up and then said, “I called your great-grandmother and told her we’d come to visit today. Let’s get in the car and go now.”
The children loved their great-grandma, whom they called Gigi. Gina quickly shouted, “I get the window,” and ran to the car to get the best spot in the back seat. Mandy reluctantly let Mickey get the other window. That meant she got stuck in the middle, but at least she could sit by Gina. Grandma started her old Pontiac Bonneville and headed off to Gigi’s house in Grandma’s hometown of Remsen, twenty minutes away.
The girls chatted with Grandma during the drive, while Mickey ignored them and played a video game on his cell phone. When they arrived at Gigi’s, she was sitting on the front porch of the old three-story house. The children raced up the steps and took turns giving Gigi a big hug. She led them into the house, where she had fresh chocolate chip cookies and lemonade on the kitchen table.
After snacking and chatting, the kids went off to play, leaving Grandma and Gigi in the kitchen having “grown-up” talk.
“Let’s play Monopoly,” Mandy offered.
“Oh, Mandy, you always want to play that. That game takes forever!” Gina grumbled. “I know, let’s play hide-and-seek!”
Mandy rolled her eyes. Once again, Gina has to be in charge, she thought. They decided to do rock-paper-scissors to decide who was “it.” Mandy was happy she at least won that, and Mickey got stuck being it, so the girls ran off through the big old house to hide while he counted to fifty. Mandy ran into the dining room with the built-in cabinets that covered an entire wall. She knew there was a cupboard there that she could squeeze into, and she opened the door to hide in it. As she was shutting the door, she heard Gina’s footsteps running up the stairs to the second floor.
Mickey shouted, “Ready or not, here I come!” Rushing to the dining room, he opened the cupboard door. “Found you, Mandy. You hid in there the last time we played.”
Then he stopped and listened. Mandy heard a loud squeak coming from above and then chased after Mickey as he bolted up the stairs. Instead of staying on the next level, Mickey ran to a narrow set of steps that led to the attic. He turned and whispered to Mandy, “She’s up here. That creaky door to the attic made that noise.”
Mandy followed Mickey into the attic, and when the door squeaked loudly, there was a loud crash just ahead of them. Lying on the floor was a wooden coat rack with old winter coats, and Gina’s feet sticking out of the mess.
“Found you, Gina! Now one of you is it!” Mickey cried triumphantly.
Gina struggled to get out from under the mess, giggling. “I heard you come in and tried to make sure I was hidden, and then tripped on this old coat rack.”
Mandy looked down and saw something peculiar on the floor amongst the coats. It was like an umbrella, but different. The handle was wooden, carved to look like a dragon with its tail curved at the bottom. The umbrella’s fabric was a faded beige, decorated with branches or vines with different-colored flower buds coming off them. At the very top was a dull white knob. Was it glass, or was it a crystal? Mandy picked the umbrella up and wiped dust off the knob to see it better. It looked more like a crystal—a polished stone, she decided.
She said, “Hey, look at this dirty old thing. It sure doesn’t look like it would keep anyone dry. See how flimsy it is? Water would probably soak right through it.”
“Let me see!” said Gina as she grabbed it from Mandy. “Let’s go ask Gigi about it. I think it’s kind of pretty, but weird.” As she walked across the dimly lit attic, she passed through a beam of sunlight shining through the window. Suddenly, the room flashed with a bright red light.
“Wow—what was that?” said Mickey. “It looks like it came from the glass knob!”
Mandy stared thoughtfully at the crystal stone. She had seen it turn red, and now its color was quickly fading. She looked at her cousins, who stared back at her, unsure of what to say or do.
“Gigi!” Mandy yelled, and the kids all turned and sprinted across the dusty attic, through the doorway and, without closing the door, descended the narrow dark stairs as quickly as they could without falling.
They ran into the kitchen and stopped with a lurch in front of Gigi. Gigi looked at the umbrella in Mandy’s hands, put her own hands to her face, and said, “Oh my! The… the parasol!”
What exciting story are you working on next?
The 2nd book of the Dragonstone Story series is called The Power of the Emerald Ring. It is currently going through the editing process and it will be available September 2020. The book continues the story of Mandy Mandez and her extended magical family as they struggle with learning magic and using it in the real world.
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
Only after going through multiple editing efforts with professionals did I even consider that I might be a writer. Still not sure – I’m still learning.
Do you write full-time? If so, what’s your workday like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?
No – My writing now is pretty much broken up into bursts of writing. I typically formulate an idea for a chapter in my head, working out dialogues and plots before I even start writing. Most of my days, now that I’m retired from a paying job, is spent golfing, fishing, birdwatching, travelling, and hanging out with my grandkids.
What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I like to hide little family “secrets” and private jokes within the text, just to test my kids and see if they catch the hidden meanings.
As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
A professional baseball player! Then, even though I played on some state championship teams in Little League and high school and played in college, reality set in. Then my aspiration was to be a baseball coach and teach math. But I took a computer class in college and went in that direction instead.
Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
I hope everyone is staying safe and healthy and are finding ways to stay connected with their families and friends. So much is happening so fast in today’s world. Be sure to slow down and take some time for yourselves. A good way to start is to buy my book and be entertained with the magical adventure of The Wonders of the Peculiar Parasol (sorry for the last ditch plug….)
Thank you for being a guest on my blog!
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