Discovering the Wonder in S.E.M. Ishida’s Nick Newton

K.A.:
Excited to have S.E.M. Ishida on the blog today talking about her wonderfully inventive, middle-grade steampunk series about a boy named Nick Newton.

Welcome, S.E.M.! For those unfamiliar, please tell us about Nick and his story.

S.E.M.:
Nick Newton Is Not a Genius and its sequel, Nick Newton: The Highest Bidder, are both speculative fiction middle grade books.

S.E.M:
When you live with a family of geniuses, a normal day involves ancient robots, flying baby carriages, and mysterious millionaires. All before lunchtime. Meet Nick Newton, a merely average boy from the country of Thauma. Nick’s not brilliant like his mom and dad or a child prodigy like his sister, but he won’t let that stop him from uncovering the mysteries of a clockwork factory or revealing a war hero’s greatest secret. With help from two new friends and his butler named Jude, Nick embarks on an adventure that will change his life forever.

Nick’s mechanical friend, Plink.

K.A.:
In all of the story, do you have a favorite line?

S.E.M.:
“Always, always, always ask your mother before borrowing her welding torch.”

K.A.:
That’s an awesome line! Definitely solid advice. ;)

So what’s the story behind this story, what inspired you?

S.E.M:
As a child, I watched cartoons like Dexter’s Laboratory and Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius. When I got older, I read Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card. While I can enjoy stories with genius protagonists, I’m not a genius myself, and, thankfully, being a genius isn’t a prerequisite for fulfillment and making an impact on the world around you. Thus, I decided to write a “reverse boy genius” story in which the protagonist comes from a family of geniuses, but he is “average.”

K.A.:
Nick is such a fun character, and the world certainly needs more stories with everyday kids doing extraordinary things. More heart. More grit. It’s one of the reasons I love your series.

K.A.:
Tell us about the research that went into this story, did you venture into any new areas or topics?

S.E.M:
I’ve had an interest in science since childhood, but I still have so much more I want to learn about technology. Although the technology in the story is fantastical, technology is a field that continues to challenge and inspire me.

K.A.:
The ever changing landscape of technology is really something. In the process of writing this story, what would you say is the most interesting discovery you made?

S.E.M:
I originally sent a shorter version of Nick Newton to the publisher and pitched it as an early chapter book for younger readers. The editor suggested making it longer and for an older audience, which I did. I think seeing Nick Newton as a middle grade book helped me realize how much I enjoy middle grade. Although I’m exploring writing in other genres and for other ages, I also plan to continue writing middle grade stories.

K.A.:
Any Easter eggs readers should keep an eye out for?

S.E.M:
The winged toilet in chapter twenty might seem totally random, but it comes from my childhood memories of visiting the electronics store and looking at the computers. My favorite screensaver featured flying toilets flapping their wings across the monitor. It was delightfully bizarre.

K.A.:
So that’s where the winged toilet idea came from!

Any other behind-the-scenes information you didn’t already mention that you can share with us? :)

S.E.M:
I didn’t meet my illustrator, Dana Thompson, until after the completion of the book, but I think his art style and the finished illustrations fit the story so well! The illustrations for Nick Newton demonstrate the skill of the illustrator and also the importance of having a publisher and editor with the right understanding of the heart of your book. With this understanding, they can find the right illustrator and design the book in a way that complements your story.

K.A.:
Nick Newton Is Not a Genius is available from BJU Press, or on Amazon. Don’t forget to check out the book trailer below!

K.A.:
I’ve really enjoyed learning more about your Nick Newton series. Thank you for taking time to give us a backstage tour, S.E.M.!

About S.E.M. Ishida

Sarah Ishida enjoys good stories in a variety of forms, including books, graphic novels, and video games. With a Master of Science in technical communication, she is a technical communicator for a multinational technology company. Besides writing, she also likes to draw, sew, and collect toys.

You can connect with her at her website, or on Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter.

 

 

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New Release: Snow Globe Travelers Activity Book

A lot of research went into writing the first Snow Globe Travelers book and, as a homeschool mom, I wanted to share some of that research in a way that was accessible to kids. So, today, I’m excited to celebrate the release of the activity book companion to the first story!

The activity book is available on Amazon or you can grab an autographed bundle of the Snow Globe Travelers book and the activity book from Eleonora Press’s web store!

Here’s a peek at some of the pages!

About the Activity Book

Venture deeper into the world of the Snow Globe Travelers. Learn about the wonders of Vienna, snow globe traveling, and Elohi through puzzles, hands-on projects, fun facts, coloring pages, and more. A STEM activity book companion for “Snow Globe Travelers: Samuel’s Legacy.”

  • Puzzles: Word search, crossword, maze, seek and find, word forming, find the differences, and counting faces
  • Projects: Making butter and constructing a snow globe
  • Story Connections: Follow Sarah’s footsteps in the story on a map of Vienna, learn how the snow globe devices work, and read about the districts of Elohi
  • Non-fiction Topics: Facts about Austria, geography, history of snow globes, quantum entanglement and wormholes
  • Extended Learning Topics Provided: Quantum entanglement, Cobra Lilies, Original Vienna Snowglobe company, Cafe Neko Wein Cats

About Snow Globe Travelers: Samuel’s Legacy

A mysterious snow globe shop. A multiverse at war. And a girl searching for her father.

In the heart of Vienna, twelve-year-old Sarah Ann Reisende wanders into a mysterious shop where snow globes double as portals to other worlds. After breaking the globe tethered to Earth, she discovers a cryptic note scribbled on the back of a photograph. The note links her father, who left before her third birthday, to a place called Elohi. Could this be a chance to find her father at last?

Unable to return home, Sarah follows the lead into the world of Elohi. But an army of vicious hybrids led by a genetically engineered warrior named Malvine now rules the once peaceful planet, and she becomes a target as Malvine wants to use the shop’s connections to wage war.

Can Sarah uncover the truth behind her father leaving and find a way home before Malvine gains control of the shop?

Samuel’s Legacy is the first book in the Snow Globe Travelers series, a middle-grade science fiction adventure series.


Awakened by J.F. Rogers’ Astray

K.A.:
Welcome, J.F.! Thanks for stopping by. I’m eager to learn about the world of Astray. Before we dive in, tell us a bit about this first book in your Ariboslia Christian fantasy series for teens.

J.F.:
A mysterious amulet leads Fallon to everything she’s ever wanted…and possibly her death.

After a lifetime with no knowledge of her parents, troubled seventeen-year-old Fallon Webb receives a necklace once belonging to her mother. The amulet leads her on a life-changing journey through a portal to a foreign land where she encounters unusual creatures, shape-shifters, and something she’s always longed for—family.

In Ariboslia, Fallon learns her mother is alive. Vampire-like creatures have her, and many others, captive. Most distressing is the prophecy that devastated her family. Can she trust it? Because if it’s right, Fallon must destroy the vampires’ leader—her uncle—to rescue her mother and free her people from the threat.

Unprepared and afraid, Fallon sets out on the journey, with no skills to assist her quest and no other way home. In her travels, she learns about the One True God and how desperately she needs Him. Perhaps, with His help, she’ll find a way to fulfill her destiny and stay alive.

J.F.:
If you enjoy visiting alternate worlds that feature fast-paced adventure, supernatural creatures, compelling characters, and exciting plot twists, come to Ariboslia.

Lake Atitlan, Guatemala
Inspiration for book 2, Adrift
Lake Atitlan, Guatemala
Inspiration for book 2, Adrift

K.A.:
What an exciting story line. Vampires, prophesies, and alternate worlds all intertwined with family conflict and a journey of faith. Just reading it got my pulse racing.

What other creatures can we expect to find in Ariboslia?

J.F.:
Ariboslia is another realm that exists alongside ours. The original inhabitants, the pech, are small dwarf-like creatures. They create megaliths and amulets that allow for travel between the realms: Ariboslia and ours. Shapeshifters existed in our realm long ago, but the humans began to revere them as gods. The One True God became jealous and transplanted them to Ariboslia and memories of shapeshifters in our realm faded, eventually becoming myth. Unfortunately, the new inhabitants in Ariboslia drove the pech underground.

K.A.:
What does Ariboslia look like? Is it very different from Earth?

J.F.:
Since Ariboslia takes up the same space as Earth, the sky is the same and there are many similar landscapes: oceans, lakes, mountains, etc. Many of the animals and food are similar. But there are things that don’t exist here such as living grass that retreats so it won’t be stepped on, flying toads, fur dragons, and—of course—the pech and shapeshifters (gachen and selkie).

K.A.:
You mentioned the original inhabitants, the pech, were driven underground. In the history of this alternate realm, how did their downfall come about?

J.F.:
At one point, the clans were all united as believers in the One True God. When some clans started worshipping false gods, war ensued. Two women, hoping to save their husbands, resurrected Morrigan—the Battle Crow. But she wasn’t fully resurrected. She was undead. The first fasgadair (vampire). When the main character, seventeen-year-old Fallon arrives in Ariboslia, their realm is becoming overrun with vampires.

K.A.:
This world has a lot of past, present, and, I’m betting, future conflict. So what inspired it all?

J.F.:
Ariboslia was sparked by the song, “Silent Lucidity” by Queensryche. Because of the song, I originally envisioned Ariboslia as a dream world Fallon visited while her body was asleep here. But every time I’d try to write, the story fell flat. When I finally submitted to the One True God personally, the book practically wrote itself and became a very different story.

K.A.:
That’s such a great song. Sounds like writing this story was it’s own journey. Tell us about some of the research that influenced your story world.

J.F.:
I researched some Gaelic and Celtic myths. The gachen are very loosely based on the Sídhee (shee). Morrigan is a well-known mythical character who has appeared in many different stories including Authurian legends. She’s had many names such as Morrigan, Morrigu, Morrigana, Morgan, the Battle Crow, the Battle Queen, the Phantom Queen, etc. The selkie come straight from Gaelic myth. But, as with everything, I like to shake things up.

Learn more about Morrigan on Mythology.net.

K.A.:
As our fabulous travel guide, is there anything else readers should know?

J.F.:
It’s a great place to visit and one of the cheapest trips you’ll ever take!

K.A.:
Lol. Traveling by book is certainly a wonderful way to explore. Especially on a budget!

K.A.:
You can pick up a copy of Astray here.

And if you scroll down the homepage of J.F. Rogers‘ website, you’ll find details on how to snag a free copy of an Ariboslia short story called The Redeemed.

K.A.:
J.F., it was great to have you here. And thanks again for the guided tour into the world of Astray!


About J.F. Rogers

J.F. Rogers lives in Southern Maine with her husband and daughter. She has a B.S. in Behavioral Science and teaches a 5th-6th grade Sunday School class. If she’s not visiting Ariboslia, you can find her buried in snow or kayaking, depending on the time of year. Or at church. She enjoys reading, watching television, going to concerts, drinking coffee, and gabbing. But most of all, she’s a believer in the One True God and can say with certainty—you are loved. Connect with her at jfrogers.com.

You can also find J.F. Rogers on Facebook, Pinterest, or Book Bub.


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