Sunday, August 20, 2017

100 WRITERS _____ Kristi Wientge's new middle grade novel is KARMA KHULLAR’S MUSTACHE, and Karma is a young girl, the moustache is for real, how fascinating is that

NOTE: This post is part of my 100 WRITERS project.

I met middle grade author Kristi Wientge at this year's Asian Festival of Children's Content. She told me that her first book would be coming out soon. That was then. Karma Khullar's Mustache is published by Simon & Schuster, and it's now available in stores.

I couldn't believe my ears when Kristi first explained what her book was about. I'll let her tell you about it in the interview below.

She also answers questions like: What does it take to find a literary agent and get your first kidlit book published? How is one able to maintain a steady schedule working on books? And taking care of kids at the same time? Etc.

BTW I also featured her daughter Nela's book project earlier, here.

Kristi's social media links are at the end of this interview, feel free to connect with her, particularly if you can identify with the main character in Karma Khullar's Mustache.

— D


Tell us about yourself, and your new book.
Hi, everyone. I’m Kristi Wientge and I write Middle Grade books. I’m originally from the US, but haven’t lived there for about 20 years and have been in Singapore now for over 12.

My book is KARMA KHULLAR’S MUSTACHE. It’s about Karma, a 12 year-old girl. Things at home, school and in her personal life are all kind of crumbling. What really bothers her though is the hair that’s growing on her face. Karma feels like there’s no one who understands her problem and it’s not an easy problem to talk about with other people. So, she spends most of the book trying to figure things out by herself.


Awesome story idea! What inspired this?
This story is something I’ve wanted to write since I was young. Actually, to put it more accurately, I wanted to read a book about a hairy girl since I was young. Growing up I felt a lot like Karma—like I was the only girl with dark hair, the only girl with hairy arms and legs. I have two brothers who teased me and my parents were busy with the company they ran and my friends weren’t hairy. I didn’t know who to talk to about it. So, I didn’t. I dealt with it on my own and kept it buried like something I should be ashamed of.

It wasn’t until after university that I met an amazing girl who is still one of my very dearest friends and I could discuss it candidly.

I didn’t want that for my girls or any other girl. I wrote this book to open the conversation and put a spotlight on something that is way more common than we think.

You're based in Singapore but represented and published in the US. Could you share some tips on how other writers can make this happen for themselves?
Sure! Anyone in the world can get an agent from anywhere in the world. Probably your biggest concern would be taxes. From my understanding, most agents are based in the US and UK. As far as I know, Australia works similar to Singapore in that you submit your work directly to a press or editor at a publishing house. I chose to go the agent route mostly because I’m horrible at sales and marketing. Seriously! I actually have a box of my author copies hidden under my bed!

The other benefit of having an agent is the extra editorial boost. My agent and I worked hard on my manuscripts and did at least 4 rounds of changes and edits before we sent it off on submission to editors. It was hard work, but it also meant that we had minor changes to do with the editor at Simon & Schuster.

Also, agents do a lot of the hard work and have way more connections than most of us. If you’re looking at the US or UK market you should know that most publishing houses don’t accept unsolicited manuscripts—which basically means you have to have an agent.

Of course, agents take a percentage of your earnings, but that is fine by me! My agent shopped my book around to editors she knew would be interested in a book like mine, so it saved us a lot of time. Also, she negotiated my contract and knew all the things to fight for and all the right questions to ask.

If you’re interested in finding an agent, a few of my top sites when I was searching were:

Looking through the sites and noting agent’s preferences will help you narrow down who to query. Good luck!

Kristi says: Here’s my writing desk (where I NEVER write!
Mostly because it’s piled with stuff!)

From your Instagram: you juggle parenting and writing! How do you plan your time? Any tips or tools to share?

Juggling is the perfect metaphor for writing with children! I often drop a ball somewhere. I think the biggest thing I’ve learned is to give myself a break. My house is not as clean as I’d like it. Sometimes we eat the same meal for 3 days. Often times I don’t even get through half my checklist for the day.

This year, my eldest has been preparing for the PSLE, so I’ve been doing my best to just be present and supportive and helpful to her. My mornings are jammed packed Monday to Wednesday, so I really only have Thursday and Friday morning to get my writing done. I say no to a lot of coffees and lunches because I try to protect my writing time and treat it like a job because once it turns 1.30, it’s all about my kids.

BUT once it hits 8pm, I tell my kids that I’m off duty. I’m not super productive at night, but I can be if I’ve had a crappy writing morning. Still, like I said, sometimes I just have to tell myself, it’s okay and binge watch some Netflix and start the next day with a new perspective!

Kristi says: But here is what it looks like when I’m writing (dining table).

Kristi's links:
Twitter: @kwientge
Instagram: @kristiwientge

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The Secret of the Chatter Blocks 
a Toy Mystery gamebook
you decide what happens

Sunday, August 6, 2017

TOY MYSTERY _____ Introducing our new mystery gamebook series for young readers, you choose what happens in the story

Current status: This ebook will be available for pre-order this coming week. All major ebook platforms. Release date is October 20, 2017. Price: $1.99 USD. Excerpt at the end of this blog post.

The Secret of the Chatter Blocks
Toy Mystery series, Book 1
by Don Bosco

This is a short TOY MYSTERY gamebook for young readers. You choose what happens. Kei and Will are students at the School of Amusement Arts in New Toy-ko City. They help Professor Felicity Nora investigate unusual cases involving toys and puzzles. A rare set of Chatter Blocks has been stolen. These Blocks talk when you roll them like dice. Help Kei and Will catch the thief and recover the Blocks. But careful, the Perplexity Gang is involved!

There are a few different endings. See if you can help the characters solve the case, catch the thief, and learn the secret of the Chatter Blocks.

This gamebook has been designed for younger readers, ages 8 to 12. It can be read alone, in a group, or for bedtime reading. It introduces young readers to the interactive fiction genre.


What's new: I've written this quirky mystery story for kids. With an interactive twist. It's a chapter book kind of reading experience. Short, thrilling, funny, and easy to read. Nice for reluctant readers. But along the way, you also get to choose how the story develops. Should the characters go forward, or turn back? Should they interview this suspect, or look for clues around the neighbourhood? And when you reach an ending — there are a few possible ones — you're invited to start again and explore other ways to unfold the story.

In short, this is what one might call a gamebook. An interactive story. Hypertext fiction.

I used to be involved in running local maker events for kids, like the HacKIDemia workshops. We had fun stations to let kids experiment with coding, interactive storytelling, game and toy design, and so on. This Toy Mystery gamebook gives me a chance to bring all those ideas together into one cool creative maker project of my own. And it's something that I'd encourage young readers to create too.

The word count is slightly over 5,000 words. If you complete all the possible story threads, that would add up to around 8,000 words. I didn't make this too long, or more difficult, because it's designed for younger readers, and I'd like them to have a sense of ease and fun as they navigate the different story threads and create a mental map of all the possibilities. This format actually makes kids more attentive as they read, because they have to keep making decisions. It also develops their story literacy as they observe how different plots are structured.

The tools I used to make this were: notebook and pen, Twine software for prototyping, Scrivener for writing and editing, 8bit Painter mobile app for creating the cover illustration, Canva for designing the cover layout, Preview for slight colour correction, and LibreOffice for creating the final Epub source file.

You can make your own story gamebook too. It's a really fun experience, especially if you're collaborating with kids on this. (I worked on Toy Mystery with my two sons.) I'll be posting some articles about my development experience going from raw idea to digital gamebook, and I'll include tips and guides, so come back again in a week or two.

Do get in touch if you have suggestions or comments or questions, whether about this Toy Mystery gamebook, or interactive storytelling in general.


And here's a short preview PDF below. I should highlight that this gamebook is only available in EPUB format, from the main ebook platforms. This excerpt's PDF layout has been designed just for preview here.

Download PDF from Google Drive here
Open this in your PDF viewer and the story links will work 

Or read the excerpt below:

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MY BLADE QUEST series by Don Bosco

Friday, July 14, 2017

SUPER COOL BOOKS CATALOGUE 2017 _____ Here's a list of our available books and other publishing projects

These are the paperbacks listed below.

NOTE: We aren’t able to take direct orders, sorry. Do buy from your local bookstores, or through online retailers.


LION CITY ADVENTURES series by Don Bosco
Book 1: Lion City Adventures
Book 2: Secrets of the Heartlands
Book 3: Island of Legends

SUPERKICKS series by Don Bosco and Benedict Boo
Book 1: Time to Play
Book 2: Best Shot

Book 1: The Immortal Nightingale
Book 2: The Peranakan Princess
Book 3: The Scroll of Greatness
Book 4: The Legend of Lady Yue

Magicienne by Ning Cai and Don Bosco

Imagine All This: How to Write Your Own Stories by Don Bosco



MY BLADE QUEST series by Don Bosco
Book 1: A New Game
Book 2: Second Shot
Book 3: Sudden Threat (end-2017)
Book 4: Hot Pursuit (end-2017)
Book 5: Close Call (early-2018)
Book 6: Showdown (early-2018)


(Distributed by Select Books)

Diary of Young Justice Bao by Don Bosco
Ghostly: Save Your School by Don Bosco
The Immortal Nightingale by Don Bosco
The Peranakan Princess by Don Bosco



Super Cool Books by Don Bosco iPad app
Exclusive ebookstore contains digital editions like the TIME TALISMAN series, Secret Engines: Studio Journal, Captain Cardboard, Thor the Greatest, and more.


Our story education and outreach projects. Links here.

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Sign up for my PASSIONATE PEN kidlit writing workshop
9 Sept 2017, Saturday, 9am – 6pm
Organised by Armour Publishing
Early bird ticket pricing ends 31 July 2017

Monday, July 3, 2017

SUPER COOL BOOKS iPAD APP _____ Yes, we have a digital library of exclusive kidlit editions and creative journals for the iPad, created just because some fans are so enthusiastic

Hello! Look at this photo above and notice:

The cake!

You're looking at the official Super Cool Books celebration cake here. Bet you didn't know we had one. It looks so good because the design is based on the icon for our iPad app. Which features our logo. Rather prominently. And yes, this cake is awesomely yummy. Fun fact: it was created by the nice people at White Ombre.

Also notice: the people in the photo!

Oooh, this is the awesome app development team from Tusitala Books. They made this official app of ours. They actually started work on the first version of this back in 2013. That's how long our app has been around. You can check out photos from that modest launch party here.

And now notice: the Super Cool Books iPad app!

Which is actually the star attraction of this post. This app is like a virtual bookstore. It contains a selection of our ebook editions and creative journals created specially for this package. There are stories for children, like the Time Talisman series, Diary of Young Justice Bao, and more. Some young adult short fiction, like the early Eastern Zombie Society stories. And also compilations of my studio journals for projects that are still in development, like the Secret Engines comic book. You can check out all these and get a good sense of how our ideas are turned into stories and finally packaged as books.

App features:

- Free sample titles: enjoy complete stories
- Buy individual titles to add to your library
- Large type and generous white space makes for easy and fun reading
- Bookmark pages so you can come back later
- Personalise the app with your own photos
- Recommended Ages: 8 to 12+
- Suitable for girls and boys

Download the Super Cool Books iPad app here. It's yummy fun for your imagination! Note: The stories are available as in-app purchases.

Also: watch out for another new digital story product from us, coming later this year.

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