The Secret Origin of Sky Girl by author Joe Sergi

Today’s guest blogger is Joe Sergi, author of Sky Girl and the Superheroic LegacyJoe Sergi is an author who lives outside of Washington, DC with his wife, Yee, and daughter, Elizabeth.  He has published short prose stories and articles in the horror, science fiction, and super hero genres. Joe has also written for comics in the romance, horror, science fiction, and super hero genres. Sky Girl and the Superheroic Legacy is his first novel.  In 2008, Joe was selected as a semi-finalist in the Who Wants to Create a Superheroine contest sponsored by the Shadowline Imprint of Image Comics. When not writing, Joe works for an unnamed government agency. 

Joe’s publications can be found at www.joesergi.net. For more about Sky Girl and the Superheroic Legacy, visit the book’s website at www.skygirlnovel.com.  

“The Secret Origin of Sky Girl” by Joe Sergi

Stan Lee once said that he created Spider-Man because he saw a spider on the wall of his studio.  Frankenstein’s Monster was dreamed up over a rainy weekend in 1816.  The lead character of Sky Girl and the Superheroic Legacy was conceived in a comic’s podcast forum project and born out of a father’s love for his daughter.   

The Comic Geek Speak Podcast is made up of a bunch of great guys that love comics.  I have listened to them for several years and am still an active member of their forums.  It was on those forums that I learned about a proposed prose anthology, which would be written by the listeners of the podcast.  I wrote a story called the Return of Power Boy, a story about a middle aged accountant, who may or may not be a superhero.  (The anthology was never produced and the story was later featured in A Thousand Faces, the Quarterly Journal of Superhuman Fiction.)  The story was a very dark tale of what happens when a super villain wins.  One of the very minor characters was the accountant’s four year-old daughter, CeeCee.  

Sometimes writers don’t create their characters, they channel them and that’s what happened with CeeCee.  After the story was finished, I kept coming back to that little girl.  What kind of life would she live, would she develop her father’s powers, and what would she do if she did?  Well, CeeCee became DeDe, and the character of Sky Girl was born.  

By this time, I had a daughter of my own, Elizabeth.  And I can’t help but think that this is what converted the very dark Powerboy story into the light hearted story of Sky Girl and the Superheroic Legacy.  It is also why DeDe is a strong teenager and not defined by the men in her life.  Don’t get me wrong, she is not your typical one-dimensional stereotype.  Like most of us, DeDe is bold and confident when she is with her best friend and family, yet she is shy and insecure in public, especially when it comes to her crush, Adam, and rival, Nicole.  This first book is really about DeDe’s journey to find herself and she makes a lot of good decisions, but she also makes some bad and selfish ones.  But, she ends up in the right place.  I hope she inspires my daughter to make good decisions. 

At one point in the evolution of the story, someone had suggested that I make the main character into a boy (because comic readers are predominantly male).  That idea never caught on because I think women and men handle conflict differently.  This concept is explored more fully in the second book, Sky Girl and the Superheroic Adventures.  For example, there is a cliché in comics that when two heroes meet, there is always a misunderstanding that requires the two superheroes to fight before they can team up.  DeDe handles this type of conflict very differently when she goes up against another costumed heroine in the second book.  Similarly, comics frequently feature the grudge match, where a villain challenges a hero to a fight where the only goal is for the villain to beat the hero senseless (usually culminating in a new costume for the hero and a rematch).  In my opinion, a superheroine would not engage in this mindless violence and would instead respond with a polite “no thank you” before flying away.  Does that make women better heroes–absolutely not–but it does allow an outlet for more creative storytelling.  

At the end of the day, Sky Girl and the Superheroic Legacy, and the character of Sky Girl is the culmination of reading far too many great comics, finding far too few strong female characters and loving my daughter just enough.  I would like to thank The Children’s and Teens’ Book Connection for letting to talk about the secret origin of Sky Girl.



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Secrets: You Tell Me Yours, I’ll Tell You Mine…maybe by Dr. Barbara Becker Holstein

Joining us today is Dr. Barbara Becker Holstein, author of Secrets: You Tell Me Yours, I’ll Tell You Mine…maybe. This is the second book in The Truth Series for girls. The Truth: I’m a Girl, I’m Smart and I Know Everything, the first book in the series, is also available at Amazon.

Since this book is written as a series of diary entries from the girl, now 13 years old, we asked Dr. Barbara if she had any diaries as a kid and if she remembered anything she had written in them.

DEAR DIARY, TONIGHT I LOVE LUCY IS ON! I CAN’T WAIT!

I started to keep a diary when I was nine years old.  Actually, it was a leather bound Girl Shout Diary purchased downtown in Reid’s Department Store in Bridgeport, Connecticut.  Yes, I do mean ‘Girl Shout’.  You see, I was dyslectic.  Spelling was not my strong point.

Keeping a diary in the fourth, fifth and sixth grades was an amazing commitment for me.  I made a promise to myself that every day would be recorded.  I almost kept the promise.  Once in awhile when I was sick I just fell behind.  Otherwise, even if I was three days behind I wrote.  I would lie on my bed at night and write about my day, or yesterday.  Basically, the diary was a journal of events and a few feelings.  It would go something like this:

“Today I wore my brown jumper and my new loafers.   My father took me to school.  We had indoor recess.  I had a tuna fish sandwish for lucnh.  I walked home with Angela.  We had steake for supper.  I had to pratice my violin a lot today.  My mother tested me on my spelling words for the week.  I got most of them write.  I was so happy.  I love Lucy was on tonight.  I took a shower and then came down to watch it.  I went to bed after it was over.  Eileen called and asked if I was sleeping over this weekend.  I don’t know yet.”

Now as I look back on a typical excerpt, such as the one above, I realize how I shied away from any comments that reflected thoughts or feelings that were uncomfortable to me on any level.  I never talked about my parents’ arguments or if my feelings were hurt.  I never mentioned the one episode I had when a neighbor was inappropriate as I walked home from school.  Although I felt upset for months about the episode, not a word was said in the Girl Shout Diary!

Most of the feelings I was willing to share in the diary were happy ones, such as my pleasure watching I Love Lucy or the excitement I felt about going on a vacation or going to New York City to see a play.  Other feelings appear to be much too risky.  What was I afraid of?  Perhaps my parents would read the diary?  I don’t remember worrying about that.  Maybe I simply wanted to keep the history of my life simple and upbeat?  What is so fascinating is I do remember intentionally leaving out anything risky at the emotional level.  But what I can’t remember is why.

Sometimes I think it was girlish wisdom and optimism combined.  Could I have known at a deep unconscious level that staying happy means to a large extent not focusing on what is not right?

When I decided to write The Truth Series for girls, tweens and teens, I had to make some other choices.  Now I had to build into a young girl’s diary not only what happened to her, but also her feelings and insights.   To not do so, would of course have made The Truth (I’m a girl, I’m smart and I know everything) and Secrets: You Tell Me Yours and I’ll Tell You Mine…maybe as dull as my paragraph above.  Also the fictional diary would be without the fabric that is essential for the reader to process and benefit from.  After all, it is the window the author provides into the feelings, thoughts, and happenings to the characters in a book, through which we can look at our own lives and how we are handling them.

So I knew I had to take the concept of a diary but imbue it with feelings and words I never would have dared to write.  I also knew I had to make my character much more universal that I ever was.  She has had happen to her so many universal themes: her parents do not get along; she has crushes; she has sibling issues; she has to deal with moving; a close relative dies; she has questions and no one to ask them to; she has jealousies; she discovers secrets in her family and the list goes on.  Yet, she too, must remain basically upbeat and optimistic.  That way she is a beacon of light and encouragement to other girls and also a role model for discussions with their moms, teachers, guidance counselors, etc.

I know I have achieved this in The Truth Series.  And yes, I have my three Girl Shout Diaries to thank for much of the success of these books.  My Girl Shout Diaries reinforced the practice and diligence that is necessary to become a writer.  They also left me fascinated with the diary concept and the intimacy it can achieve for both the writer and the reader.  I am grateful I had the chance to write at such a young age.  I am also grateful that no one checked my spelling!

Dr. Barbara Becker Holstein, internationally known Positive Psychologist, is the creator of The Enchanted Self,(r) a systematic way of helping to bring more joy, meaning and purpose into our lives. Thanks to authors like her, more people have been studying the mind in psychology degree programs and great advances have been made in improving the human condition. Dr. Holstein has been a school psychologist for more than twenty five years. She has taught elementary school children and was an assistant professor of education at Boston University. She has been in private practice as a psychologist with her husband, Dr. Russell M. Holstein, in Long Branch, New Jersey, for over twenty five years.

 



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Wishing for Tomorrow by Hilary McKay

I just finished listening to Wishing for Tomorrow by Hilary McKay, narrated by Justine Eyre.  This is an audio book I received through the Amazon Vine program. I didn’t know it was an audio book when I requested it, but I am glad I gave it a shot.

My full review will appear on Amazon, but I wanted to highly recommend it to my readers here. This is a sequel to A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett. McKay was captivated by this story of a group of young girls at Miss Minchin’s Select Seminary for Young Ladies when she was a girl and used that book as a basis for her story.

A Little Princess centers around a young girl named Sara Crewe, who is living a life of privilege, until her father, Captain Crewe, dies penniless in India. Sara now works for the mean Miss Minchin as a scullery maid and is forced to live up in the attic, but she says she can still be a princess inside. Then one day, a mysterious man from next door changes Sara’s world forever.

Wishing for Tomorrow is the story of the girls left behind at Miss Minchin’s after Sara leaves with the mysterious man from next door. Ermengarde struggles now that her best friend, Sara, is gone. Lavinia is leader of the girls again and dreams of a more interesting life. Lottie gets into all kinds of mischief.  And the new maid, Alice, is a welcome addition to Miss Minchin’s, even if her standards aren’t quite up to what Sara’s used to be.

I have not read A Little Princess, so I don’t know how closely McKay followed Burnett’s original creation when she wrote about Ermengarde, Lavinia, Lottie, Jessica, and Gertrude, but this is a moving story. One that I will certainly listen to again.

As I might have mentioned before, I am currently at work on a middle grade novel about Amelia, a young orphan girl who is sent to live with her miserable spinister aunt. I requested Wishing for Tomorrow because Amelia will be spending part of her time at Wheaton Female Seminary (now Wheaton College), and I wanted to get a feel for some of the things Amelia might have experienced. Having never gone away to college or off to boarding school, I needed to find a way to make Amelia’s experiences real for the reader.

While I reviewed the audio version of this book, Wishing for Tomorrow is also available as a hardcover.



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Audio Books–Do You Listen to Them?

 Children’s Book Week has meant all sorts of new adventures for me. In addition to going to see a production based upon Judy Blume’s classic Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, I am reading a book in a format I usually avoid–audio.

I have a confession to make first. I didn’t know this was an audio book when I requested it from the Amazon Vine program. This program allows you to request a certain number of items each month and post a review on Amazon. I don’t participate much in the program because I have so many other books to read for my blogs, but when I find something of interest I’ll send in a request.

I am currently working on a middle grade historical, part of which will be set at Wheaton College in Norton, MA–which during the time of my story was Wheaton Female Seminary. I wanted to get a feel for life at an all girl seminary and thought Wishing for Tomorrow by Hilary McKay would be perfect. When I discovered it was an audio book, I have to admit I was disappointed. I’m not the kind of person who can listen to music while she works, let alone try to pay enough attention to a story at the same time I’m working.

I have found, however, that these compact discs are perfect to listen to in my truck while on the way to the grocery store or when I have a bunch of errands to run. I’m truly enjoying the story. The characters are all so different, and narrator Justine Eyre does a wonderful job of breathing life into these characters and capturing their essence.

Do you listen to audio books? If yes, how often? What do you like about them? Is there anything you don’t like about audio books?



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Noonie’s Masterpiece by Lisa Railsback

 You are going to fall in love with Noonie Norton!

Noonie’s Masterpiece tells the story of Noonie Norton, a ten-year-old aspiring artist who is stuck living with her Aunt Sylvia, Uncle Ralph, and annoying Cousin Junior. Her mother died when she was in kindergarten and Noonie’s father is an archeologist. Rather than take Noonie along on his many digs, the stability of a regular family life is what her father believes is best for Noonie.

Problem is, Aunt Sylvia, Uncle Ralph, and that annoying cousin of hers can’t possibly understand Noonie’s genius. So Noonie wanders through different periods of her life trying to make it the best she can, sure that she’ll be discovered at any moment.  

When Noonie hears of her school’s art contest, she’s determined to win first place, even if Sue Ann Pringle wins everything. Maybe then, Noonie’s dad will come home pronto.

Noonie’s Masterpiece is a brilliant story by Lisa Railsback. With Noonie Norton, Railsback has created a character that middle graders can’t help but sympathize with. Here’s Noonie, stuck with relatives while her father travels around the world with his job. She has a best friend, Reno, who is a bit of nerd. He’s a clumsy fellow, and he tries Noonie’s patience. Then, of course, there’s Sue Ann Pringle. That girl is perfect compared to Noonie and she wins all the school contests.

To say that Noonie has a lot on her plate, is perhaps, the understatement of the day. This is just one of the many things that will allow readers to relate to Noonie. Since this story is told in a humorous way, even the tougher topics, like Noonie missing her mother, are easier for readers to deal with.

The artwork for Noonie’s Masterpiece was created by Sarajo Frieden. From depicting Noonie’s many wonderful creations, to the illustrations of Noonie, Ms. Lilly, the art teacher, Reno, Sue Ann, and more, Frieden did a superb job of bringing this story to life in a visual way.

I choose Noonie’s Masterpiece while sitting around waiting for my laptop to reboot. The book I was reading was downstairs, so I picked up Noonie for a few seconds. I ended up reading all of Noonie’s story before continuing on with the other book. Railsback hooked me right away and I didn’t want to let go of Noonie until I was done with her. Let’s face it, if a character tells us that she’s a brilliant artist who hasn’t been discovered yet, and proceeds to tell you that she is going to explain her art while she’s alive because you never know if tomorrow she would be “trampled by a herd of kindergarteners” or “might choke to death on a rotten nut”, you want to pay attention to what she has to say.

I immediately fell in love with Noonie, and you will too.  It’s one of the best middle grade books I’ve read in while.

Rating:  🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

  • Publisher: Chronicle Books
  • ISBN-10: 0811866548
  • ISBN-13: 978-0811866545
  • SRP:  $18.99


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    Tiny Angel by Nancy Carty Lepri

     Macy Carver is the new kid in town and she sure isn’t happy about it. With her father being transferred from Massachusetts to North Carolina, Macy left her best friend and all that she loved behind to start over in a new school where she is made fun of and bullied. 

    But when a flash of light announces the appearance of her guardian angel, Jody, things start looking up for Macy, and with Jody’s encouragement, Macy finds a way to fit in and make some true friends.

    A fun and inspiring chapbook for tweens, Tiny Angel by Nancy Carty Lepri will quickly become your child’s favorite.  In this engaging story, your tween will learn how to appreciate their talents, disarm bullies, and the importance of meaningful friendships.

    I love the unique aspect of Macy having a guardian angel who encourages and helps her along her journey through the challenging transition from the school and the best friend she lost to truly coming into her own at her new school and making new friends. And while Jody encouraged Macy, she also motivated her to think of others.

    I would have liked to learn a tiny bit more about Kenny the bully, just so we had an idea why he acted the way he did, but not having this knowledge didn’t take anything away from the story.

    As someone who was teased from the day she entered school until the day she left, I sympathized with Macy’s, and her friend Tomas’s, plight of always being picked on for one reason or another. While the messages in Tiny Angel are timeless,  I also like how Lepri gave a contemporary feel to the story by having one of the characters being left alone at home each day after school while her divorced mother was off working.  The insight into Susan’s character was something very special.

    I would definitely recommend this book for your tween. Tiny Angel is an engaging and compelling story whose timeless messages will stay with your tween long after she’s read the last page.

    Rating:  🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

  • Publisher: Guardian Angel Publishing, Inc.
  • ISBN-10: 1935137948
  • ISBN-13: 978-1935137948
  • SRP:  $8.95


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    Cynthia’s Attic: Book 4, The Magician’s Castle by Mary Cunningham

     Cynthia and Gus return in Book 4 of the Cynthia’s Attic series, The Magician’s CastleThe time-traveling duo return to the year 1914, this time to a Swiss Castle, in order to prevent Cynthia’s family from financial and personal ruin.

    Sebastien the Great, a magician whose fiancee, Kathyrn, disappeared through the magic trunk vows revenge if Cynthia and Gus don’t find the missing page from the “Book of Spells”. Traveling back in time to 1914 to meet with Sebastien’s grandmother, Eva, Cynthia and Gus find clues that lead them to an enchanted garden ruled by a rock monster and into the Alps.

    But when the girls travel fifty years into the future, not only do they get the surprise of their young lives, they also encounter another set of best friends, and discover new clues that could lead to Kathyrn’s return.

    There is much to enjoy in this imaginative and delightful time-traveling tale. Gus (real name Augusta Lee) and Cynthia are two best friends who couldn’t be more different if they tried; yet their friendship works, even when they get on one another’s nerves from time to time. This book opens in 1964, and many of the historical references were familiar to me, so that made it especially fun. 

    With The Magician’s Castle, Cunningham has created a uniquely woven tale of lost love, jealousy, mystery, and strange discoveries. Though this is the first book of this series that I’ve read, I was certainly able to climb into Gus and Cynthia’s world right away. Cunningham sprinkled in enough backstory so that I had a some idea of how Gus and Cynthia had discovered the magic trunk in Cynthia’s attic and learned a bit of their previous adventures, while not slowing down the pace of the current day events. 

    Once the reader opens the cover of The Magician’s Castleshe won’t want to put it down until she reads the final page.  With numerous twists and turns, this is one time-traveling adventure that is sure to please readers and find them impatiently waiting for the next Gus and Cynthia adventure.

    Rating:  🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

  • Publisher: Echelon Press/Quake
  • ISBN-10: 1590806565
  • ISBN-13: 978-1590806562
  • SRP:  $10.99
  • Find our interview with Mary Cunningham, author of the Cynthia’s Attic series, here.



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