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As a kid, I used to love ‘playing history.’  For Christmas one year, I got the Jane West doll along with her Palomino horse, Thunderbolt.  When I got the wagon for my birthday, I was in heaven. Then my brother and cousins got Johnny West dolls (the boys called them action figures 🙂 ) and we added more horses and accessories from saddle bags to campfire frying pans. I spent HOURS creating an imaginary world, a life before cars, computers, and phones.  

Fast forward a few decades and I still love history.  I still love imaging life long ago and creating stories for the people who lived in those times. I hope you enjoy Kep’s newest adventure: Kep Westguard Rebel Spy. It is available for pre-order on Amazon and will be released April 18, 2023.

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I’m often asked why I write about the American Revolution.  A big part of the reason goes back to my grandpa.  Grandpa served in the South Pacific during World War II.  He was 26-years-old, married, a father to three toddler-aged girls, and a welder by trade when he entered the navy after the attack on Pearl Harbor. 

Years later, I spent many hours at his dining room table listening to stories about this time in his life.  It was crazy hard for him to be away from his young family, to wonder if he’d ever return home. He learned to play one mean game of checkers during long hours aboard his ship. Side note: I never beat him in over a hundred games, so we finally switched to cribbage.  For one of my birthdays, he carved a cribbage board for me, which I treasure.  

Through hearing about those war years, the incredible heat in the engine room where he was assigned, the fear and dedication of those sailors, I learned to have enormous respect for the sacrifices that were made to give me the freedom I enjoy as an American.  I hope to never take that for granted and to share some of America’s history with future generations, as my grandpa shared history with me.

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Interview with artist Ricky Gunawan

My second book, SARATOGA, comes out April, 2023 and I was delighted to work once again with the talented Ricky Gunawan.  In the interview below, you get a sense of his work as an artist. 

Question: Describe how art is important to society.

For me, art in general is very important not only for the current society we lived in but to the entire world culture. As an example, imagine the history that happened hundreds of years ago. There are civilizations that fall and rise again, there are inventions and discoveries, mistakes and improvements. We can have all of that knowledge, learn about all of them through arts such as literature, illustration, motion pictures, documentaries or video games nowadays. 

Question: What motivates you to create?

As an illustration artist, I really love to see and learn something new. I’m Indonesian and when I worked on the covers of ONE IF BY LAND, TWO IF BY SUBMARINE and KEP WESTGUARD REBEL SPY I learned about American history, the people behind the revolution, and the route they had to take to achieve their goal. For ONE IF BY LAND, TWO IF BY SUBMARINE, I even drew the map of Paul Revere’s famous midnight ride and that was exciting. 

Question: How do you define success as an artist?

Success as an artist is very subjective and personal for every individual. As for me, it’s more simple. It might not be a definitive definition of success, but right now I’m pretty satisfied that I can make a living as a fulltime artist. 

Question: What are your favorite and least favorite parts of being a professional artist?

My favorite part is finding out or learning something new every time I’m working on something. The least favorite part is AI drawing. Currently AI drawing is threatening the art world itself. It’s not considered art because they generate an image by mixing up stolen artworks all over the net. 

Question: Describe your dream art project.

A future goal is to make a video gamer project.

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First letter to readers

Dear Fellow Reader,

I hope this finds you well and scouring the bookshelves at libraries and bookstores and online to find new worlds to explore and new lives to live inside the hearts and minds of a multitude of new characters.

My first middle-grade story, ONE IF BY LAND, TWO IF BY… SUBMARINE will be released October 2019.

I’m excited for you to meet my characters Kep, Max, Tela, and T.J. as they arrive in Boston, 1775, and attempt to save the country at its very birth.

When Paul Revere is kidnapped by a time traveler determined to change the outcome of the American Revolution, thirteen-year-old Kep Westguard is sent to Boston, 1775, to take his famous midnight ride. Kep’s four-person team has twenty-four hours to light the famous lanterns at Old North Church, warn Lexington and Concord that the British are coming, and rescue John Hancock and Samuel Adams from hanging as traitors to the crown.

As the clock ticks, one teammate is arrested as a runaway slave, a British watchman stops another from lighting the lanterns, and Kep nearly drowns when he attempts to cross the Charles River in a Patriot inventor’s prototype wooden, hand-crank submarine. When Hancock and Adams ask Kep to sneak a trunk of critical papers out from under the eyes of the British Army during the Battle of Lexington, Kep has to decide how much he’s willing to sacrifice for his country. If he fails, there will be no America to return to.

I got my first reviews on Goodreads! I am SO excited and grateful to those who took the time to read and review! After having lived with these characters in my head for so long, it is a joy to send them out into the world.

Best wishes to all for a spring full of great stories – both on the pages of books and in the hours of your days!