Glowing Review Bestowed on Emma and the Lady Aardvarks

‘ Trisha Sugarek’s Emma and the Lady Aardvarks is both whimsical and thought-provoking and will delight and attract fiction and nonfiction young readers alike, as a new mandate to save the planet emerges.  A time travel adventure about climate change and a mystical forest that features sister Aardvarks, who arrive in the mystical forest quite by accident when their time travel adventure goes awry.

Emma and the Lady Aardvarks adds another book to Trisha Sugarek’s Fabled Forest series for advanced elementary to early middle grade readers. The aardvarks meet friendly elves, fairies, farm girl Emma, and a host of creatures who inhabit a rare habitat, indeed. Annie is the shy one. Her braver sister Agnes has always protected her young sister, but even she quakes at the strange creatures and dialogues that emerge at the beginning of their new adventure.

Trisha Sugarek’s dialogue and setting is anything but predictable, from a Spanish-speaking spider to a host of characters who greet the skittish sisters Aardvarks: “Patsy, where are your manners?” Donald strolled over to Patsy. “Everyone is welcome in the fabled forest, as long as they come in peace.” “Dios mio, how do we know they come in peace, pequeño? Se ven como bandidos!” Donald laughed, “No they are not bandits, Patsy. Don’t be silly.”

Colorful drawings bring the forest and its creatures to life as Sugarek spins a colorful yarn, from a magical portal that discharges a posse of puppies to the injection of facts about extinction, global warming, and threats to wildlife. While Sugarek’s Fabled Forest milieu has been explored previously in five prior adventures, it should be noted that newcomers need have no prior familiarity with its creatures or history in order to appreciate this warm fantasy of a magical place and a mandate to try to stop climate change’s impact.

Young readers just past the picture book stage will find the peppering of colorful drawings a fine embellishment to a tale that weaves elements of fantasy and reality into a thought-provoking adventure.’  D. Donovan, Midwest Book Review

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BOOKS BY TRISHA SUGAREKfairy tales, fables, elves, fairies, running away, audio books




Storytelling….. (Nostalgia series)

I was reading a particularly good story (Brave Girl, Quiet Girl by Catherine Ryan Hyde)  the other day and it set me to wondering;  when was my first memory of a story being told to me. The very first one? I must have been three or four when I first heard of Cinderella. Many stories were told orally by my mother.   It’s really amazing how many fairy tales she knew by heart. I believe that began my life-long-love of story telling.  When I got a little older, my mother went on to tell me hundreds of stories about her five sisters and their growing up in the woods of Tumwater, Washington.  (Wild Violets)

At about age eighteen my sister gave me three books by Erich Maria Remarque. I don’t remember why those particular books, or why that author. Arch of Triumph, A Time to Love and A Time to Die, and All Quiet on the Western Front. (First Editions, copyright 1954) I wasn’t a reader of books; a typical teenager who got plenty of assigned reading in high school left no time for pleasure reading. Sigh. I can’t believe I was ever of that mindset!

 I had idolized my big sister since birth and wanted to please her in all things so I began reading the first book. I was enthralled with the writing and the story. Sixty years later I still have those books; From that moment on I have always had a book in my hands. 

There came a time when I felt I should try my hand at ‘storytelling’.  Writing plays at first. Telling a story in less than 100 pages. It came so naturally. Friends who read my plays wanted more of the stories; fleshed out as it were. (What happened to the characters after the play was over; what were their lives like before the play began?) and they insisted I expand the stage play into a full length novel. Which, even though it took me years of labor, I did. 

As I lived my life I was always the one who sought out stories. I never tired of my mother’s tales about her and her sisters and what hellions they were. My own library of books grew and grew.  Walls  of books.

Around 1994, I sat down and wrote my first stage play…and as they say…the rest is history! By this time I had read hundreds of scripts (during my acting career)  so I found it extraordinarily easy to write in that format. It certainly sharpened my skills at writing dialogue. Along the way, I discovered that ten minute plays were very popular and for me, easy and fun to write. 

In another life I must have been a forensics detective because, as a hobby, I love murder, gore, forensics and clues. Characters come first for me when writing and one day Detectives Jack O’Roarke and Stella Garcia popped into my head. They were fully formed and rarin’-ta-go!  (World of Murder).

My advice to writers? If you’re just starting out, tell a story you know . You can always research a topic that you don’t know anything about but your writing will take longer, because you must get it right.  Keep writing!


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A NEW Children’s Play~~Book Give-a-Way

              CLIMATE CHANGE. ENDANGERED SPECIES have all come to the Fabled forest. In this sixth script in the series, Emma, Donald, Thomas, Cheets and Stare all return (to the story) to meet their visitors and try to help them. 



This is a fable about climate change and endangered creatures. Two sisters Aardvarks arrive in the Fabled Forest by accident. Their travel agent, Time Portals to Your Next Adventure, malfunctions and instead of Australia, they are plopped down in Cheets’ clearing in the forest. Here they meet Donald, the fairie, Cheets, the elf, Emma, the farm-girl and all the creatures that inhabit the fabled, mystical forest. Agnes and Annie are so ugly they’re cute. With their jaunty hats atop their weird heads, with their rabbit-like ears and short elephant type snouts, Emma and Donald are entranced. They set about helping the two aardvarks to complete their trip to Australia while helping other endangered species.

The Aardvarks and the Painted Wild Dogs are endangered species and it is a dangerous lifestyle. In this fable children learn more about climate change wiping out habitat and about other endangered species and how we humans can protect them.



Emma ~~ A young earthling girl
Stare ~~ A rhetorical owl
Donald ~~ A young fairie

Cheets ~~ a rambunctious elf
Patsy ~~ A large banana spider
Agnes & Annie ~~ the sister Aardvarks

Thomas ~~ the sea-faring sea turtle
Bertie, the bookworm ~~ the resident reading teacher

Fergus ~~ The royal engineer

Mr. Moseyalong ~~ Papa of the Painted Dogs
Mrs. Moseyalong ~~ Mama
Mic, Jax, Roger, Zeke and Serengeti ~~ the Puppies

No child need be turned away, there can be non-speaking roles as forest creatures and fairies.

TS. “We created a book cover representing the future time when our planet dies and everything is black and white. With a spot of color called hope.”

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Writing Tips: Prequels and Sequels

fairies, books for children, literacy, reading, bullying, bullies, elves,

Recently I’ve returned to the Fabled Forest  writing a new book for the series of children’s books.   
Emma and the Aardvarks will address endangered species when two sisters, aardvarks, arrive unexpectedly in the Forest. Just when I think a series has run its course another book pops into my head. 

I write fables (not fairy tales) with a lesson in every story. Subjects like bullying, running away, being different, ecology and so on. 

For you new writers:  A sequel, of course, is a new story that continues (almost) where you left off in the last one. It has reoccurring characters and the scene is usually the same as in my forest. 

A prequel is a story of what happened before your current book.  For example: I might write a story about Emma’s life before she entered the fabled forest and met all her mystical friends.

Is there a prequel or sequel to a story you have written? I’ll bet there is. This idea is very popular with readers. If they like a story, they want more of the same.



Cinderella's stepsister stumbles into the Fabled Forest clearing


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Author of The Colonel and the Bee Joins Us, (part 2)

Q. Tell us about writing The Colonel and the Bee. Not so much the cerebral process but more your ‘gut’ instincts, the fairytale (but not quite) fantasy idea of it.

PC: I definitely wanted to straddle the line between fantasy and reality, so that the most extraordinary events in the book are implausible but not impossible (though that’s definitely strained). The idea was to have a whimsical journey you could almost believe is true. I tried to portray a world worth exploring that conceals surprises and treasures for those willing to venture out into it. It is definitely a halcyon view of the time period (though not without its villains and pitfalls), eschewing any too-heavy issues/events because it’s meant to be an adventure viewed through the romantic eyes of explorers. I love historically accurate books and I love fantasy books, this one just happens to trend toward the latter.

Hot air ballooning over Africa
Q. Do you ‘get lost’ in your writing?

PC. If you mean ‘get lost’ in a total-immersion way, not as much as I’d like to. I’m working on that. I do sometimes ‘get lost’ in a plot sense, especially in the middle of stories. When that happens I try to look back to the most core elements of the story for direction. If those aren’t there, then something is really wrong. Never fun to get halfway through a first draft and have no access to your own story.

Q. Do you have a new book coming out soon? If so tell us about it.

PC. I recently finished a sort of cozy mystery set in a 1980’s Midwest neighborhood. It starts with a goat murder and gets weirder from there. I’ve been pitching it was a suburban thriller plot à la Liane Moriarty, set in Ray Bradbury’s halcyon Midwest, with a hint of Neil Gaiman fantasy thrown in for good measure.

Q. When did you begin to write seriously?

PC. Screenwriting in my early 20’s, novel writing in my mid/late-20’s.

Q. How long after that were you published?

PC. I was 32 (self-pub/indie-pub).

Q. Do you think we will see, in our lifetime, the total demise of paper books?

PC. Not a chance. Most articles I see these days are about them making a resurgence. I think everyone got a little uneasy when e-readers initially came out, but each format has its own virtues and limitations. I think they’ll continue to find their equilibrium with one another (at least until whatever’s next comes along…)

Q. What makes a writer great?

PC. The cliché of ‘a good story well told’ seems to hold true. For me its also clarity and mastery of craft, creativity in linking previously independent ideas, brave but intentioned prose, portraying simple things elegantly or elegant things simply, and telling the truth in a compelling and memorable way.

Q. and the all-important: What does the process of going from “no book” to “finished book” look like for you?

PC. I accumulate ideas for a long time, usually a few years, constantly adding to a document on my phone/computer (always write ideas down, you will 100% forget some of them otherwise). When the story is ready, I’ll do any required research and translate the document of random ideas into a semi-coherent, narratively chronological outline. Off that, I write a first draft in as short a time as possible (I think inertia is important with first drafts), then take as much time away from it as possible for objectivity before the first revisions. Last, I get feedback/outside editorial input and revise, revise, revise.

Q. How has your life experiences influenced your writing?

PC. Almost everything seems to find its way in somehow. I think more time lived equals more to draw from, so I’m always up for new experiences.

Q. What’s your down time look like?

PC. I think I’ve watched The Office (US version) about 50 times. I’m always trying to read more too (audiobooks are a godsend in LA traffic).

Q. Have you or do you want to write in another genre?

PC. So far each book has pretty much been a different genre. That’s not by design, it just kind of happens that way for me. Knowing the genre you’re writing in can be powerful/useful though, so I may be on my way to becoming a ‘master of none’ by switching so often. I think there are strengths/weakness with regard to sticking with one genre and of course it varies by the individual.

Note to Self: (a life lesson you’ve learned.)

PC. Living in the moment seems to be a nice idea. Try not to get too many parking tickets but pay them if you do. Garlic and cinnamon make just about any food better (just not together).

Did you miss part I of this wonderful Interview?

Purchase The Colonel and the Bee: click here

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Jackpot!! My Children’s Play Produced in Ontario, Canada

Euphoria!!  My full length children’s play, The Exciting Exploits of an Effervescent Elf is being produced in Ontario, Canada! 

In this stand alone sequel to “Emma and the Lost Unicorn”, Emma is held captive in Patsy, the Banana Spider’s web.  No one can see her except the irrepressible elf, Cheets.  Everyone in the forest has been searching for Emma to no avail and given his reputation, no one believes Cheets when he claims to have found her. Cheets can see Emma but not hear her through Patsy’s web.  Emma must “act out” vital news concerning the enchanted forest.   Hazard, the Lord of the Underworld is selling the forest to developers.  Emma must not stand in his way!    This fable tells of greed, ecology, friendship, enduring love and justice. 

Most of the characters from “Emma and the Lost Unicorn” [Published by Samuel French] return to this new fable.  New characters include: Thomas, the sea turtle, pedantic but loveable.  Laughter erupts when the audience realizes that he speaks only in nautical expressions and sayings.  Patsy, the spider represents greed.  Rose, Emma’s mother emphasizes maternal devotion and the ability to believe when the magical creatures of the forest reveal themselves to her.  Hazard, Lord of the Underworld reunites with a lost love.  Roles for every child who auditions! fairy tales, children's plays, scripts for kids,riddles for children,unicorns

Returning characters:        
Emma, the earthling girl
                                                Cheets, the elf
                                               Stare, the rhetorical owl
                                                Donald, Emma’s faerie best friend
                                               Cleo, Queen of the Faeries
                                               Handmaidens of the Queen
                                               Assorted faeries and woodland creatures

New characters:                  Patsy, the spider
                                    Hazard, Lord of the underworld
                                    Thomas, the sea faring turtle
 Rose, Emma’s mother

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Interview with Patrick Canning, Author of The Colonel and the Bee

TS. I first ‘met’ Patrick when I stumbled across The Colonel and the Bee. Something made me order it and read it. Then review it. I don’t generally read fantasy but this was different…and beautiful…and my favorite character in the book was actually the three-story basket attached to the hot-air balloon. I ask, as I do all of my interviewees, for a short bio to begin the interview. Here is Patrick’s answer. 

PC. I’ll try to do it all in one breath: born in Milwaukee, grew up in Chicago suburbs, came to LA for film school, worked in film/entertainment throughout my 20’s, now trying to spend increasing amounts of time writing because I love it and I think I could be good at it with enough sweat/luck/coffee.

Q. Where do you write? Do you have a special room, shed, barn, special space for your writing?  Or tell us about your ‘dream’ work space.

PC. I rotate between a shared workspace, coffee shops, libraries, and my own apartment (where I get the least amount done). I live alone so being around people part of the day is nice. My dream work space has electrical outlets, a chair comfy enough to be in for hours but not so comfy you can fall asleep in it, ample people watching, low music, a bathroom, and if we’re aiming high, free refills.

Q. Do you have any special rituals or quirks when you sit down to write? (a neat work space, sharpened #2 pencils, legal pad, cup of tea, glass of brandy, favorite pajamas, etc.)

PC. Coffee and tea are almost always involved, but other than that I try to keep it as un-exotic as possible. Recently I started making the background of my Word docs legal-pad yellow. I heartily recommend this to writers who get sick of staring at bright white all day.

Q. Could you tell us something about yourself that we might not already know?

PC. I’m exceptionally bad at foosball, but above average at ping-pong and pool.

Q. Do you have a set time each day (or night) to write?

PC. Morning session/afternoon session, both 3-4 hrs. I’m still working on a more solid process and seeing what works. I heard one writer’s schedule (Dan Brown maybe?) is 4 am-11 am. That sounds weirdly alluring to me but I have yet to wake up at 4 am to give it a try…

Q. What’s your best advice to other writers for overcoming procrastination?

PC. I think if you’re really procrastinating a lot, over and over again, it could be a case of wanting to be a writer more than actually wanting to write. I think a lot of people torture themselves over this when in reality they might just be chasing the wrong vocation. Some days are better than others to be sure, but if they’re all bad days, there’s no shame in career/hobby course correction.

Q. Where/when do you first discover your characters?

PC. Usually they’re a part of the initial idea but I love the revision stage when they start to crystallize and sound more like themselves in the dialogue. I try not to panic if elements like that are less than perfectly clear early on because they usually arrive by the time things wrap up.

Q. What first inspired you to write?

Ballooning over Africa

PC. I came to novel writing through screenwriting, which I came to through a love of movies. I’ve always loved any kind of creative storytelling and the more I write, the more I enjoy it (for the most part), so that’s reassuring to me. Beyond that, it can be a matter of ‘why isn’t anyone talking about this’, or ‘this could be a nice way for people to escape’, or the ol’ reliable: ‘what if’.

Q. What comes first to you? The Characters or the Situation?

PC. The situation, followed very closely by the characters, and they become inextricable almost immediately (though both bend and change as the story takes shape).

Q. Do you ‘get lost’ in your writing?

Join us March 22nd for the  conclusion of this interview with the talented Patrick Canning.

Did you miss my review of The Colonel and The Bee?


MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!   December:  Jayne Ann Krentz (Amanda Quick)  January: Molly Gloss.  February: Rick Lenz. March: Patrick Canning and April: Poet, Joe Albanese


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Emma and the Lost Unicorn ~ Kids’ Book

     A new edition of Emma and the Lost Unicorn has been released.  Full color illustrations in watercolor by artist, H. J. Stine. 

Emma, an earthling girl visits her friends in the forest all the time. She delights in the antics of Stare, the rhetorical owl and Cheets, the mischievous elf.  One day she is introduced to Rainey, the Unicorn,  a prince who’s been banished, for centuries, by the warlord, Hazard.   He can never return home unless Emma solves more riddles than Hazard’s Lieutenant, Kodak. The fable ends with a surprise twist which will delight readers young and old.  While written for children, this fairy tale is sophisticated enough to appeal to adults as well.

Queens, warlords, faeries, elves, unicorns, handmaidens, scary henchmen and one small mortal girl child in an enchanted forest.  This fable offers many subtle lessons.


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Other books in the Series of The Fabled Forest

Create Your Own Story Board if It Helps….

Visuals really are important! Create your own story board if it helps you write. It doesn’t matter if you can’t draw; cut and paste. After all, nobody is going to see it except you, right?

Sketch for layout of Title and credit/s

At this point, in my story, I had to see a visual. My illustrator would not be working on this part of the tale for weeks, so I created my own.

Excerpt from “Cheets Heads for Trouble-sville” ©

‘Cheets, the elf,  swooped down and dove into the empty box. The carrot beaconed to him from the far end of the box. Cheets tipped-toed across the box, lightly stepping up on a silver platform.

SNAP! B.A.N.G! The door to the cage slammed shut. Cheets whirled around and ran back.  Cheets grabbed the side of the door in the cage and shook it as hard as he could. Nothing. It wouldn’t open.  He shook it and shook it. He was trapped.  The big, juicy carrot didn’t look so good now. 

Two large human hands clutched the sides of the box and lifted it down. A shadow fell over Cheets and he looked up.  What appeared to be a huge, rough man stood over the cage and grinned at him.

Original art by Jefferson O’Neal

“Got’cha!” He extolled. “Ya little varmint!” He turned away. “Hey, Simon. SIMON!  Lookie what I got.”

Across the aisle, Simon turned and looked at his friend. “What? I’m busy, I’ll be there in a minute.”

“You’re gonna wanna see this! Hurry up!” Herman said.

“Okay, okay, keep your shirt on.” Simon yelled.

A moment later Simon was in front of Herman’s stall. “What’s the big to-do?”

“Ta-Da!” Herman whipped off a rag he’d put over the cage. He grinned at his friend. “Whad’ya think that is?”

“Holy smokes! Ya caught the little bugger!” He leaned over and peered closer, “What is it?”

“Don’t know. It ain’t a dragon-fly or a bat. I’m stumped.”

A crowd quickly formed when the news spread through the farmer’s market that Herman had caught something in a trap.

“Lemme see!”

“I can’t see!”

“What is that?”

“Does it bite?”

“I can’t see!”

“Whad’ya gonna do with it, Herman?”’

Postscript: My illustrator finally caught up with me and here is a sample of his delightful images. Jefferson O’Neal. 


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