Interview with Sherry Alexander, Author of Search for the Red Ghost

author pixSherry Alexander is a woman of many passions—mother, blogger, child advocate, author, and friend, but she is quick to say that grandmother is the most rewarding. “Watching your child’s child move into the world with their wide-eyed innocence is inspiring. I love it, and it is what led me to writing for kids.”

Admittedly obsessed with American and Native American history, Sherry Alexander comes by it honestly. Her ancestors were 1800 pioneers who travelled West in hopes of making a new life, and she was fascinated by the stories of their lives on the frontier. “As a kid, I wanted to be a pioneer, so reading books was the last thing on my mind. Instead, I lead my siblings and cousins on great adventures into the forests of Scappoose, Oregon, hunted and fished with my brother, and dreamed of forging new trails to an unknown land.”

Sherry is also not one to take a dare lightly. She started writing on a dare, and her first book, published in 1987, was the result of that dare. Recently retired, Sherry now spends her days writing children’s articles and books. Her articles have appeared in Guardian Angel Kids, The Pink Chameleon, and Red Squirrel Magazine. Her books include The Great Camel Experiment of the Old West, Oliver’s Hunger Dragon, and Search for the Red Ghost (released in January by MuseitUp Publishing). When she’s not writing she is homeschooling her 11 year old granddaughter—a job she says is the best part about being a grandmother, sharing her new found love of books with her family and friends, and enjoying life with her husband on their ten forested acres in Southwest Washington and the occasional pack of wild coyotes.

Find Sherry online at:

http://www.rightsherry.blogspot.com/

http://www.sherryalexanderwrites.com/

https://www.facebook.com/sherryalexanderbooks/

Twitter @hungerdragon

Thank you for joining us today, Sherry. Can you please start off by telling us a bit about yourself?

I love writing. When my kids were young in the 1980s, parenting was my passion. I wrote hundreds of parenting articles, and had my first book, The Home Day Care Handbook, published. I dreamed of making freelance writing a career, but finances demanded a regular paycheck. I went back to school, got my Associates Degree in Criminal Justice, and went to work for 9-1-1. I thought my dream was gone forever. Then the grandkids started arriving and with them came a newfound love for children’s books. In 2012, I retired from 9-1-1. I wanted to write, but I had convinced myself that it was a hopeless dream. On a whim, I took a course in writing for children from the Institute of Children’s Literature. That course taught me two things important things about myself—I actually could write and it was up to me to make my dream come true. So . . . this is me making my dream come true some thirty years later. 

When did you first get bit by the writing bug?

I was always a storyteller, and believe me I told some whoppers. But, unlike other authors who wrote hundreds of stories before they were ten, my love of writing happened in high school. An English teacher asked me to join the newspaper staff as a photographer when I was a freshman. I found that every picture I took had a story attached. It took a while to work up my courage, but near the end of the year, I asked if I could submit a story or two. She said yes, and I was hooked. 

Why did you decide to write stories for children?

My sixteen-year-old granddaughter is a lover of books. She devours them. However, when she was in fourth grade, she decided reading was boring and writing was out of the question. One day, I was encouraging her to start reading again, and she challenged me. “I’ll read if you read,” she said. So, I accepted. She read a book, then I read it, and then we would discuss it. That summer, we read a book every week. We continued our challenge until two years ago. That’s when she started reading a book in a day and writing her own novels. When I retired, I found that I had read so many children, tween, and young adult books with her that all I could think about was writing books for children and tweens. 

Do you believe it is harder to write books for a younger audience?

I think you have to understand your audience whether it is kids or adults. With a younger audience, though, you not only have to tap into the child inside you but you need to introduce him or her to kids today. Once you’ve done that, it is easier to write from a younger person’s perspective.

What is your favorite part of writing for young people?

My favorite part is putting myself in their shoes. I get to be young again, and enjoy running, being part of nature, feeling free, learning to use my skills to survive, and that it is alright to make mistakes. 

Can you tell us what your latest book is all about?search cover

Search for the Red Ghost is an action/adventure tween novel set in 1883 Arizona. An unknown animal kills a woman pulling water from the creek next to her ranch. Her thirteen-year-old son, Jake, discovers plate-size hoof tracks and strands of red hair where she died, and demands that his father hunt the animal down. Jake’s father, an army scout, refuses, so when his father is ordered back to Fort Apache to help track renegade Apache, Jake takes matters into his own hands

Feeling abandoned and betrayed by his father, Jake’s desire for revenge takes him on a dangerous journey into an inhospitable desert that not only tests his courage but his desire to survive. Wolves, snakes, grizzlies, renegade Apache, and the ever-present threat of death are waiting for him. The question is, “Will Jake find his Red Ghost? Or, will he succumb to the inherent dangers?”

What inspired you to write it?

When I was researching my non-fiction book, The Great Camel Experiment of the Old West, I came across the Legend of the Red Ghost. It was about one of the camels the government brought over from the Middle East in 1857 to serve as transportation in the southwest. After the Civil War, several camels were turned loose into the desert. The legend stated that one of the camels trampled a woman to death at a creek near her ranch. The only thing left behind was several strands of red hair and plate-size tracks. I started wondering what my brother or I would do if we were faced with the same circumstance in the same time-period. I knew right then and there that I had to write Jake’s story. 

Where can readers purchase a copy?

It’s available at all ebook retailers including Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, and MuseitUp Publishing.

What is up next for you?

I am presently working on two new tween novels. One set in 1856 tentatively called, Little Owl Woman, and one in present day, tentatively called, Firestarter. Both are action/adventure. 

Do you have anything else to add?

Just thank you for hosting me. It was fun. I think I’m living proof that you’re never too old to make your dreams come true. Please visit my blog or my website.

I write a blog for and about kids where I cover topics that specifically relate to kids and the issues they face. I just finished a series on sadness and depression. It’s at http://www.rightsherry.blogspot.com/.

I also have a website at  http://www.sherryalexanderwrites.com/. My books are highlighted and my blog details my writing journey, but I also include a weekly writer’s inspiration photograph. 

Thank you for spending time with us today, Sherry. We wish you much success.

 

All Because of Chickens by G. L. Miller

chickens

 

Returning to the family homestead intensifies twelve-year-old Sammy’s longing for the family heritage—farming. But Dad’s ultimatum, “… no crops, no animals, no barn…” shows Dad wants nothing to do with farming, for himself or Sammy. Then why did Dad insist Sammy join a farming club?

Permission slips for Ag club summer projects are due. Sammy defends his project choice with, “Technically, Dad, chickens are birds not animals.” Miraculously, he wins Dad’s approval.

Sammy’s problems begin with the early arrival of his peeps and the loss of his best pals.   His ingenuity to care for his chicks, make a new friend, and design a compost bin win him a new name. His biggest challenge—can he butcher his roosters?

Summer’s many adventures include solving a mystery, fighting a hawk, and being disqualified at the County Fair.

At the end of the project, has he won…or lost…the thing he wanted most—Dad’s change of heart about farming?

Excerpt

During a lull in the suppertime conversation, Sammy found the courage to broach the subject. “Dad, Mr. Conklin said we had to bring our signed summer project paper to next week’s meeting.”

“And what have you chosen to do?” asked Dad, sipping his coffee.

“Raise chickens,” mumbled Sammy. Afraid of Dad’s reaction, he toyed with the last of the peas on his plate.

“What?” Dad almost sloshed his coffee as he set down the mug. “I thought you understood there would be no animals.”

“Yes,” Sammy admitted, “but I thought—”

Sammy saw Dad’s angry frown and tightly drawn lips. He decided to try a different approach. “Dad, I’m confused. You’re the one who wanted me to join the Ag club of CAYC, the County Agriculture Youth Club. You said you belonged as a boy. Surely you remembered there were summer projects?”

In silence Dad swallowed another sip of coffee. “I remembered,” he said. “But, I was hoping you would get interested in growing flowers for your mother or vegetables for the kitchen. Couldn’t you do that as your project?”

“Well, you said there would be no farming, either,” Sammy pointed out.

“What I meant by that was fields of plants, not just a few around the house or in a small garden.”

“In that case, yes, I probably could.” Then, with heroic effort he blurted, “But that really wouldn’t be any fun. All plants do is sit there. You have to water them and feed them and weed them. And they still…just sit there.”

“You have to feed and water chickens, too,” Mom gently reminded. “And clean their house and take care of them.”

“At least they move. And I could play with them. I know they’d be work, but I hope maybe some fun, too.”

“What made you decide on chickens?” she asked.

“Well,” said Sammy, “first I thought of a foal, but I knew Dad wouldn’t approve of that,” he added quickly, stealing a glance at his father. “Besides, we don’t have a barn or any place to put a young horse. True, during the summer he wouldn’t need much more than a lean-to. Still, I would hope to have him longer than just this summer…” Sammy’s voice trailed off.

“Then I considered a puppy.” How am I going to explain this to Mom? Sammy took a drink from his water glass and quickly got his thoughts together. “I would probably want to have him in the house, though. You know, to play with and sleep on my bed.   But dogs get fleas and shed their hair so I didn’t think you’d permit that.”

Mom’s smile confirmed his supposition. “So that’s when you thought of the chickens?” she asked.

Sammy nodded.

“But they’re still animals,” prodded Dad.

Turning his attention back to Dad, Sammy defended himself. “Not really, Dad. Technically, they’re birds.”

Sammy watched the astonishment in Dad’s face turn to amusement.

Technically, they are not birds, they are fowl,” Dad replied.

Embarrassment tightened Sammy’s jaw. “You’re laughing at me.”

Sammy felt Dad’s hand gently clasp his own, causing him to focus on what Dad was saying.

“Never, Sammy. I would never laugh at you. I love you. You are growing up and using words that surprise me.   I enjoy your ingenuity. I’m laughing in delight of you, but never at you.”

Sammy grinned and ducked his head.

Mom pushed back her chair and stood up. “Let me get dessert, and then you can tell us more about this project.”

“I’ll get my stuff.” Sammy ran to his room for his club materials and the form he and Gran had filled out earlier. He also swooped up his drawings and the copies of the Internet pages. Spreading everything out in front of his dad, he explained what Mr. Conklin was encouraging them to do.

“And Gran said I could use that old lumber behind her shed to make the house.   I mean, coop,” Sammy corrected himself.

“I thought I smelled my mother in this,” muttered Dad.

“Oh no, Dad,” Sammy hurried to set things straight. “I thought of all this myself. When I told her today, Gran asked me the same things you did. All she did was help me to look up some information on her computer and to fill in my form.”

Sammy looked through the papers he’d put on the table. Choosing two, he placed one before Dad.

“See, I’ve even drawn some plans for their coop,” Sammy said. Putting the second page on top, he explained, “And I have enough money in my bank to pay for the chicks, their equipment, and part of their food. I plan to sell their eggs to get more food money.”

Sammy watched Dad’s face for signs of approval. He didn’t realize he was holding his breath until Mom spoke.

“How many peeps are you thinking of getting?” she asked.

“Mr. Conklin said we can buy as few as twenty-four or twenty-five,” Sammy answered. “He’s bringing catalogs to the next meeting so we can see what breeds are available. But, I think I already know what kind I want.”

Sammy searched through his computer printouts. Pulling a couple of pictures from the stack, he handed one to Mom.

“Gran and I looked at different kinds on the computer,” he said. “These Golden Comets seemed to be the most interesting. You can see in the picture that the roosters are white and the hens are red.” Sammy chuckled, and then added, “With that sort of help, I won’t be asking a rooster why it isn’t laying an egg.”

“Good thinking,” agreed Dad. “A beginner needs all the help he can get.”

“That’s what Gran said,” admitted Sammy.

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