Tales of the Kingdom Illustrator: Zhivko Zhelev

Kingdom Tales Kickstarter Artist: Zhivko ZhelevAs we near the end of our Kickstarter campaign, we are thrilled to introduce you to Zhivko Zhelev, the illustrator for the new editions of Tales of the Kingdom! You’ve been seeing his breathtaking illustrations all over our blogs and Kickstarter page and now we want you to get to know him as we have.

It isn’t a surprise that Bulgarian artist, Zhivko Zhelev, was chosen as a winner in the Tales of the Kingdom art competition – or that he was chosen to be the new illustrator for the trilogy. Artistically talented from a young age, Zhivko entered his first International Competition at age seven and came in fourth place. During his teenage years, he studied at a fine art High School and went on to attend the university where he studied informatics and continued to develop his abilities as an illustrator. Today, living in beautiful Plovdiv, Bulgaria, he continues to work diligently to enhance and improve his skills.

“I have a broad spectrum of creative areas I like to pursue,” he explained when asked his favorite medium to work in. But, while he loves to draw in virtually every medium, he usually finds himself coming back to oil and acrylic on canvas or digital painting.

Zhivko has a passion to draw anything connected with Fantasy. However, the thing that inspires him the most is nature. “When you think about it,” Zhivko explained, “you can find virtually everything in nature. That’s why I LOVE to go out in the wild when I need inspiration.”

To determine who influences his work the most is no easy task. Zhivko admires a wide range of artists, from Salvador Dali to Norman Rockwell. At this point in time, Zhivko aspires to do either a movie or an AAA game title, as he feels either of these would influence many people. Because the Tales of the Kingdom trilogy is so well loved and has been so influential, he feels that becoming the illustrator for the new editions is a big step toward fulfilling that dream.

Zhivko now has more than eleven years of professional experience in the art world and has been a designer and illustrator for many projects including books, music album covers, movie posters and more. He has been part of many exhibitions in places like Vien, Austria where he displays his traditional artwork – and his photography! Photography is Zhivko’s hobby. He describes himself as a “passionate photographer” who likes “more mountains than the sea”.

While art is a major part of Zhivko’s life, his family is his pride and joy. Zhivko says attending university gave him “many great contacts, including my wife, the most good and beautiful contact ever”. Together, he and his beloved wife have a four-year-old son, whom he describes as “the most cool, funny, and curious”!

Like so many others, Zhivko wants to encourage those who are just beginning to pursue a career in art. He has great advice that comes from his own years of experience. He challenges young artists to “Never stop trying – even if success doesn’t come quickly” and to “work hard and advance yourself by improving your skills”. He reminds them that, “in most cases, work beats talent. It’s 90% work and 10% talent. If there is a recipe for that, that’s it”.

You can view Zhivko Zhelev’s online portfolio and see one of his incredible illustrations for Tales of the Kingdom by going here.

When you Back Our KICKSTARTER Project you’ll RECEIVE 3 Award-winning CHILDREN’S BOOKS to READ & ENJOY WITH YOUR KIDS (or GRAND KIDS) — each story teaches character lessons for life, and comes fully Revised, Re-published in print and all eBook formats, and Re-illustrated with Zhivko’s captivating, original art!

If you would like to back our Kickstarter Campaign to revise, re-illustrate and re-publish the Kingdom Tales Trilogy, go here.

The Taxi Resistance

Some people in Enchanted City said that taxis could get you wherever you needed to go, even in power-outs. Some people said that the City Taxi Company was not afraid of Burners and Breakers and Naysayers—but no one said it very loudly.

The sharp wind moaned through the flop hole where Hero tried to sleep. These lonely weeks in Enchanted City had been dreadful. He was hungry and cold and felt lost. Above all, though he was ashamed to admit it, he was afraid.

No one would give him work, and what little money he had was running low. He had no idea how to sight the King, and the ominous spell of the Enchanter was weighing his heart with laden dread. Hero longed for the daylight of Great Park, for Caretaker and Mercie, for the laughter of friends, for the comforting sound of the watchkeepers crying, “But the kingdom comes!” He longed for home.

Light spilled through the cracks in the rickety shelters of Moire Oxan. The sentry cry of patrols disturbed the slumber of the weary people. Sleep in the light! Sleep in the light! they warned. Hero couldn’t sleep.

Hero feared the wandering patrols. He knew an ugly scar on his cheek was evidence of branding, but he wasn’t sure this Enchanter’s mark would satisfy interrogators. Wouldn’t a Breaker demand proof of identity? Some surer certificate of adoption than the note humming in his heart?

Hero despaired. Where was the King? How was he to be found? And what part was Hero supposed to play in the Restoration?

Nay-nay-nay, nay-nay-nay sounded the dread melody of the Naysayers. Nothing can be done; nothing will be done. Hero tried to hum the tune from the dance of the Great Celebration, but the melody was faint. He kept thinking: I am only a lad after all. The Enchanter is powerful and his league is mighty.

He coughed. The stink of Enchanted City always choked his lungs. Suddenly he heard the dreadful sound that all the people feared. Oo-mb-pha . . . Oo-mb-pha . . . Oo-mb-pha-din. The pounding of the death drums. Another dragnet. He had escaped one only yesterday and been forced to find a different flop hole. Hunting orphans, the Enchanter’s men conducted sweeping day raids in Moire Oxan, waking citizens from their sleep.

Hero could hear the drums and then the Naysayers again, those singers who chanted tunes that smothered hope. He could hear the boot tromp of the Burners and Breakers, the Enchanter’s secret police, running up and down flimsy fire exits. Suddenly, cudgels were hammering on doors in his very building. He heard children crying. They have come for me, he thought. What can I do? Where can I hide?

To read the rest of this story and many more fascinating stories like it, go here and back our Kickstarter campaign to revise, re-illustrate, and re-publish the Kingdom Tales Trilogy. If you want to order the classic, original editions, go here.

Doubletalk, Triple Tongue, And Theysay

Heralds stood on broadcast columns throughout Enchanted City and shouted news. They announced special events as well as the hour of the night. Because of power-outs, however, no one really knew the correct time. One herald might proclaim, “Midnight. All’s well!” while another shouted “Ten-thirty o’clock. Half-night approaches!” No wonder citizens suffered from indigestion; they were always eating dinner at the wrong hour.

Doubletalk, Triple Tongue, and Theysay were friends. The three boys had grown up in Moire Oxan, the tenement slums which stretched for miles, hovel stacked upon hovel. Together they endured illness, poverty, hunger, and branding. When Theysay’s parents died, the other two helped him escape orphan dragnets by hiding him back and forth in their own tenement hovels, at great risk of penalty to themselves.

All were now heralds of the Enchanter—and proud of their accomplishment. It was something for penniless young men to rise to heraldship, to stand on the tall broadcast columns, trusted with all the news fit to proclaim. It was something for ragtag ruffians to wear the red and yellow jerseys with the Enchanter’s insignia of blazing fire. It was something to blow the herald horn whenever the wizard’s sleek black limousine moved ominously through the city streets, and to shout, “The Enchanter is coming! Make way for the Enchanter!”

Unfortunately, heralds frequently made contradictory announcements. One might shout, “Melons in the marketplace! First come, first served!” while the herald on the very next post was shouting, “No melons today! Try rutabagas in your fruit salad!”

Some people suspected that heralds were chosen only if they had something wrong with their speech. Some heralds spoke backwards, “!gnimoc si retnahcnE ehT” Some had twisted tongues. Some had lockmouth, so that all s’s whistled through clenched teeth with a wicked his-s-s-s-s-s-s. Some had very bad breath.

Doubletalk made positive announcements out of one side of his mouth. “The Enchanter is coming!”, for instance, or, “Melons in the marketplace!” would be announced out of the right side. Negative announcements, however, would be shouted out of the left side of his mouth: “The Enchanter is not coming!” “The melons have all been stolen!”

Trouble began when Doubletalk couldn’t decide if the announcement was negative or positive. Was the theft of rutabagas good or bad news? Or, maybe it was a good thing that the Enchanter wasn’t coming.

Consequently, he began to make announcements out of both sides of his mouth. “The Enchanter is coming!” (on the right side). “The Enchanter is not coming!” (on the left). Then both at the same time. His tongue worked so hard it eventually split in two. Doubletalk always worked up a sweat, but no one appreciated his great effort. People standing beneath his column shouted, “Heh, bub! Make up yer mind. Watcha got? Wet-noodle brains?” And they threw rotten tomatoes.

Triple Tongue faltered over each word three times. “Th-th-the En-ch-ch-chan-ter is c-c-coming!” he would cry. His announcements took a very long time. After a while, he discovered that if he rushed his words, his tongue wouldn’t triple so much. So he learned to shout, “Thenchtiscomn!”

Unfortunately, no one (except Theysay) could understand him. People standing beneath his post would wrinkle their noses and say, “Eh? Wha? Why doncha learn to talk plain?” Then they would rock his post.

The third friend, Theysay, had learned early never to state an opinion of his own. That was bound to get you into trouble. “They say the Enchanter is coming!” he would proclaim, or “They say the Enchanter is not coming!” He never took the blame for anything he said because he only said what they said; and he said what they said even when he knew he shouldn’t say it, because he only said what he said because other people said it!

People beneath his column would look at each other and whisper in amazement, “Did you hear him say what they said?” He was the only herald of the three who ever won popular approval.

To read the rest of this story and many more fascinating stories like it, go here and back our Kickstarter campaign to revise, re-illustrate, and re-publish the Kingdom Tales Trilogy. If you want to order the classic, original editions, go here.

Back to the Enchanted City

Once upon a time there was a lad, with boyhood behind him and manhood close, who heard the call of the King to follow him into Enchanted City and do the work of the Kingdom. . . .

Hero was afraid.

He watched the Ranger hold a burning torch to the ring of stones that circled the place of the Great Celebration. The Sacred Flames ignited with a w-o-o-O-O-O-SH, lifted the hems of the blue robes of the protectors of Great Park, who stood as sentries around Inmost Circle. The silver insignia of the Rangers caught the light and flashed in the outer circle around the rim of fire.

Tonight he would leave these friends, leave Mercie and Caretaker, leave these woods, these dear fields, leave everything in the world he had come to love. Well, almost everything, he reminded himself: What he loved most in the world was the King and to be a King’s man and to do the King’s work.

And the voice of that King, the most beautiful of men, had spoken inwardly only this morning: It is time. It is time to begin the restoration of the Kingdom. I need a King’s man with a hero’s heart. Will you come?

Far off, Ranger horns sounded from the watchtowers that guarded Deepest Forest. Croi-croi! Come-come! Croi-croi! Come to the Inmost Circle! Come to the solemn assembly!

Hero watched as the people he loved made entrance, passed through the Sacred Flames and became real. He watched Amanda step into the fire a ragtag tomboy and step out a beautiful, graceful princess. He watched the unhappy woman who had been the orphan keeper’s assistant become someone with a mother’s smile for all children, who ran to hug her. He saw Caretaker become Ranger Commander.

How can I ever go? thought Hero. How can I leave all this? But he had heard the voice of his King: Come, Hero. It is time. And he knew he must go.

So this solemn assembly had been hurriedly gathered for the Rite of Adoption, for no lad could go back into Enchanted City an orphan. Orphans belonged to the evil Enchanter. Hero must be someone’s son; he must have proof of parentage to protect him.

Dread filled his soul. He thought of the darkness of Enchanted City, where the citizens worked by night and slept by day. He remembered Burning Place where the dead were burned: all who had died of weariness, of hunger, of heartsickness.

In his memory, he saw the fire burning the pyre that held his mother’s body. (She had always said, “There is a king. A real King!”) Death drums began to beat in his mind: oo-mb-pha . . . oo-mb-pha . . . oo-mb-pha-din. Visions of Burners with hot brands and smoldering pokers flashed. He heard the blows of the Breakers. The song of the Naysayers, nay-nay-nay, nay-nay-nay, nay-nay-nay, clutched his heart with icy fingers.

He remembered Branding—himself a screaming five year old—and how the hot iron had seared his cheek. For the first time in many months, Hero touched the scar. Here, in this place among these people, he was Hero, loved by many. In that terrible place, he was nothing but scum. The people of Enchanted City would point and jeer in the old way—Scarboy! Scarboy!

S-C-A-R-B-O-Y!!

Suddenly, Hero heard a scream rise out of Enchanted City and fall with a paralyzing moan in his own soul. He raised up his head, startled. It was more than memory. Hero knew it was the voice of the evil Enchanter from the dark midst of the Dagoda, with his fiery head thrown back, with fire priests dancing and their ceremonial bells jangling: jchang-jchang-jchang.

S-C-A-R-B-O-Y!!

To read the rest of this story and many more gripping stories like it, go here and back our Kickstarter campaign to revise, re-illustrate, and re-publish the Kingdom Tales Trilogy. If you want to order the classic, original editions, go here.

Trial by Fire

Not long ago, two children in Great Park made a quest: a boy who sought a way to walk through the thing he dreaded most and a girl who feared she had lost the One she loved most. And together they discovered the Kingdom within and without, which all do, who have the courage to make the quest.

The War of Fire had been won, but a terrible feeling of evil permeated Great Park. Dark beings seemed to lurk in every shadow and behind every tree and bush.

“Oh, Mercie. It’s all my fault,” Amanda cried, after she had returned to the safety of Caretaker’s Cottage. “I did it. I disobeyed. Great Park has suffered because of me. We will never be the same. Never.”

Mercie rocked the blistered child in her arms and wept, too. She offered the girl the healing draught and applied a poultice. She prayed for kingslove, but Amanda did not receive any comfort. A raw wound festered deep in her soul.

Later that night, Hero hurried to the Ranger Lodge where council had been called. Caretaker, not the Ranger Commander, stood on the platform since there had not been time for becoming; but the elderly man’s eyes flashed bold in the old way. Not one Ranger doubted who it was in command.

“I know you are weary,” Caretaker shouted, loud enough so that those in the back of the hall could hear. “We are all weary. Battle is never in the heart of a peaceable people. We all long for peace. The War of Fire has been won. But now, now, our work begins. The evil ones may come again to Great Park. Protection has been breached!

“There will be no rest for protectors. More care is required after disasters. The Burners and Naysayers will grasp any opportunity to take advantage. Watch must be doubled. Our diligence must be threefold.”

The old man stopped. Hero watched as he lowered his head. He looked worn, ancient, and a little foolish. But the boy loved him with his whole heart.

“We must take time for the Ceremony of Purity. If any lust for battle has entered your heart, if any love of the leaping flames or any shadow has lodged in your soul, it must be called out. No advantage shall be given to the enemy by the protectors! None!”

Caretaker lifted his hands, which were gnarled and veined, in invitation. “Come,” he called, “renew your vows to the King! There will be no Great Celebration until the danger is over.”

Hero watched as the men and women bowed their heads. Silence settled down upon the hall like a great, winged bird that smothers all noise beneath its soft, down breast.

The press of quiet was awesome. Some went to their knees. Some stood with tears streaming down their cheeks. Hero thought about the Viewing Circle where he had seen a faithless Ranger revealed. The boy listened to his own soul. Flames flickered in his mind. An old wound throbbed.

Hero heard footsteps across the wood floor, coming from the far back. Then the sound of other footsteps from another place—and more and more and more.

To read the rest of this story and many more powerful stories like it, go here and back our Kickstarter campaign to revise, re-illustrate, and re-publish the Kingdom Tales Trilogy. If you want to order the classic, original editions, go here.

Fire in the Forest

And now, evil lifted its head at the noise of chaos. As smoke billowed from Great Park, dark figures began to advance out of the Enchanted City. . . .

Caretaker rushed into the cottage carrying Princess Amanda in his arms. He laid the child on a cot. Mercie gasped to see her. “What has happened?” she asked.

“Fire fighting,” the old man answered, and the look he gave his wife told all: Because of Princess Amanda’s disobedience, Great Park was now vulnerable to danger.

Croi-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e! Croie! Croie! The Ranger horns blasted the warning over and over. Fire! Danger!

“Do what you can for her, but quickly!” Caretaker ordered, hurrying toward the door. “Then come to Inmost Circle. The Enchanter’s men are rushing the gate. You will be needed right away.”

Immediately, Mercie turned and went to the fireplace where she quickly mixed together a basin full of herb salves. “Hero,” she called, “I need your help. Dip these clean rags into the bowl. Then cover the child’s burns. Like so.”

Mercie cut away Amanda’s singed clothes and covered her with a blanket. Hero watched as the old woman patted compresses into place on all the scorched and burned skin. She took a mug and filled it from the jug of healing draught. Gently, she poured it down Amanda’s throat.

Croi-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e! the horns sounded, urgently.

“I must go,” Mercie said to Hero. “Danger has breached our gates.” The old woman paused as she went out the door. “If you are threatened in any way, do not be afraid. Speak the Ranger cries to give you strength: ‘To the Kingdom! To the King!’”

Then she was gone.

Hero watched the wounded girl, so still on the cot. What had happened? Her blistered skin, her closed and swollen eyes frightened him. She scarcely seemed to be breathing.

Frantic noises from outside intruded into the silence of the cottage. All the able people of Great Park were hurrying toward Inmost Circle where the Sacred Flames were being lit. Hero heard Ranger shouts, heard the warning horns sounding over and over. Then from far away, he heard the ominous, low beat of the death drums of Enchanted City. His ears picked out another sound, too: Nay-nay-nay, nay-nay-nay, nay-nay-nay.

It was the battle song of the Naysayers, who held the power to freeze people’s minds by speaking “no” into their hearts. Hero knew that Burners, spreading fires of destruction with their glowing pokers, and Breakers, carrying cudgels to beat to death those who resisted them, would be creeping behind the marching army of Naysayers.

To read the rest of this story and many more gripping stories like it, go here and back our Kickstarter campaign to revise, re-illustrate, and re-publish the Kingdom Tales Trilogy. If you want to order the classic, original editions, go here.

Sighting Day

The subjects of the Kingdom worked hard keeping Great Park beautiful. Some were gardeners. Some were foresters. Some were vinedressers. Some were experts on animal husbandry. Some were guides for strangers. Some were healers. But no matter how hard they worked, they loved to play. The game the children played best was seek-the-King. . . .

“I saw the King!” exclaimed Amanda as she burst breathlessly into Mercie’s cottage. Two little red foxes came bounding through the door after her, one bumping to a halt on top of the other. “I saw the King on Sighting Day!” she repeated, proud of her success.

“How wonderful!” replied Mercie, who had just walked Man-Who-Sat-Like-Stone to a chair by a window where the sun shone in. Once seated, the man didn’t move. He didn’t turn his head. He didn’t say a word. Mercie said he must have experienced some awful grief in his life.

Hero’s little brother often crawled into the man’s lap and patted his cheek, but still he didn’t move. In a way, they were two of a kind. Little Child never said a word and the man never laughed.

Often the two sat quietly together in the sunshine.

“Sighting Day means the King takes times to play,” Amanda said, turning to explain to Hero, who was still too cautious for the lively girl.

“The children try to find the King all over Great Park on Sighting Day,” Mercie explained further. “It is a huge game of seek-the-King. He appears in disguises, and once a child makes a sighting he can go to the practice field where the King and the children play the rest of the afternoon. Why don’t you try to sight the King, Hero?”

Hero shook his head no, so Amanda bounded out the door without him. She laughed as she ran, and the boy watched the foxes gamboling at her heels down the path toward Wildflower Woods.

It was no use. He would never “sight” the King. Every time someone had whispered, “There’s the King!” Hero had only seen a beggar or a woodcutter or a gardener. Never a king.

Mercie said this was because he didn’t believe in a king. “You have to believe,” she always explained, “in order to see.” That didn’t make sense to Hero. The Enchanter had said the opposite: “Seeing is believing.” It was all well and good for everyone else in Great Park to talk about a king. But how was Hero to know they weren’t playing a game with him? Or pretending?

At any rate, he wasn’t in the mood for such games today. Mercie had said that a friend of hers was coming this morning to look at his brother. Something was wrong with Little Child. Mercie said he was too old to be unable to speak, and that normal children were full of laughter. Something must have stunned this little one, something that had knocked the words and laughter from him.

Hero knew it was the Enchanted City. Its sour odor sat upon their hearts. He remembered the Burners igniting the bier at his mother’s funeral. He saw again the stricken look in his brother’s eyes. Now the younger boy could no longer laugh, and the older would not play games.

Watching his brother sit quietly on the still man’s lap, Hero wondered: Does Mercie’s friend also know what to do for a boy whose scar goes deeper than his skin?

To read the rest of this story and many more touching stories like it, go here and back our Kickstarter campaign to revise, re-illustrate, and re-publish the Kingdom Tales Trilogy. If you want to order the classic, original editions, go here.

Artist Profile: Katalin Kovács

Kingdom Tales Kickstarter Artist: Katalin KovacsWhen she was only 11 years old, Katalin “Katyus” Kovács began attending art school. She later studied advertising design at Partium Christian University in Oradea, Romania to develop the skills that have made her the talented artist that she is today.

The Tales of the Kingdom project was an ideal fit for Katyus, because illustrating books – especially children’s books – is her favorite medium. She told us that she was excited about the 99 Design contest and the Tales of the Kingdom, “from the first moment, the first impression, when I read the story, until the last part of the project.” Her excitement can literally be seen in her art.

Not all that many years ago, it might have been difficult for a woman in the small village of Bäile Tuşnad, Romania, to make it to the international stage with her artwork. But with the emergence of the internet, this young lady in this quaint village in the mountain valley alongside the Olt River, some three-and-one-half hours north of Bucharest, is now receiving world-wide recognition.

Her dream as a child became her passion and, eventually, her passion burst into flames to become a reality. We are honored to welcome Katyus to our family of friends around the world.

The transformation of her ideas into a beautiful illustration has helped to make the 2015 Princess Amanda and the Dragon Wall Calendar very special.

When you Back Our KICKSTARTER Project you’ll RECEIVE 3 Award-winning CHILDREN’S BOOKS to READ & ENJOY WITH YOUR KIDS (or GRANDKIDS) — each story teaches character lessons for life, and comes fully Revised, Re-published in print and all eBook formats, and Re-illustrated with Captivating, Original Art!

If you would like to get the Wall Calendar and/or back our Kickstarter Campaign to revise, re-illustrate and re-publish the Kingdom Tales Trilogy, go here.

The Baker Who Loved Bread

Once upon a time, there was a King who walked astride his world—here, there, and everywhere. He became poor in order to be like the people he loved, and he lived among the outcasts in order to feel their pain.

The baking complex was hidden in the heart of Deepest Forest, close to the clearing where the Great Celebrations were held. It was important to the Chief Baker that the breads from his ovens be served warm and fresh at the banquet tables. He had carefully planned this cluster of stone houses where the bakers lived and the many, outdoor clay ovens—some large, some small, some with roaring fires, some with smoldering charcoal beds. Each oven was designed to bake a different kind of bread to perfection.

This baker had worked hard to become chief. His father had been a baker and his grandfather before that, but he had his own particular genius for making bread. His doughs were lighter and more nourishing than any his ancestors had ever kneaded! There wasn’t a dough of any kind—wheat or rye or corn—that didn’t become tasty and delicious after his touch.

The Chief Baker particularly loved making special breads for the Great Celebrations. He loved to twist and braid dough. He loved to invent new recipes for sweet breads. He loved muffins and biscuits and brioches and croissants. He loved to hear the “Oooohs!” of the King’s subjects when, with a flourish, the banquet procession was begun and his many bakers carried his creations into the feast in great baskets.

“Chief Baker’s done it again!” everyone always exclaimed. “No one can make breads that melt in your mouth like these!”

Bread, the Chief Baker knew, gave special strength, so he prepared baskets of round, black loaves to feed those who had spent the morning at the practice field. He admired the Rangers and enjoyed preparing nourishing squash-and-cheese breads for them to carry on watch.

After that, however, he drew the line. He refused to send baskets of bread to the old Mercie, though she had never requested it from him. She has a fireplace and recipes of her own, Chief Baker thought. Besides, it would only encourage her and that crazy husband of hers to keep filling Great Park with weird people. If these outcasts had so much wrong with them, they must have done something to deserve it. They certainly were not worthy of the King’s bread.

One day the Chief Baker inspected his new invention, a wooden paddle wheel that kneaded thirty loaves of bread at the same time. Genius, he thought.

At that moment, Chief Baker noticed someone walking up the path to the open clearing of the baking complex. It was a woman carrying a baby in her arms. Her clothes were ragged.

Chief Baker looked around for his assistant, but he could see that the boy was in the middle of rolling out flaky pastry. All the other bakers seemed to be busy: grinding flour, measuring ingredients, watching loaves in the oven. I’ll handle this intruder myself, he thought.

Still he hated interruptions. Good bread was a matter of timing. A moment too soon, a moment too late, and all was lost.

“What do you want?” he asked the woman, gruffly, as he met her on the path.

Her baby whined. Its little head hung limply on its neck. “Please, sir,” the woman answered.

“Some bread. We lost our way in the forest, my child and I, and we have not eaten for two days.”

A likely story, thought Chief Baker. These kind of people were always looking for a handout, the lazy things. “Can’t you see I’m getting ready for the Great Celebration? We have hundreds of loaves to bake today. I can’t be bothered just now. Go find Mercie. She’s always feeding your kind.”

The baby whined again, and Chief Baker thought that the woman tried to look even more pathetic than she was. He relented a little and drew a map in the dirt. “This is the way to Caretaker’s cottage,” he explained.

No sooner had the beggar woman left than Chief Baker spied something moving in the woods. Someone was hiding behind a bush…

To read the rest of this story and many more powerful stories like it, go here and back our Kickstarter campaign to revise, re-illustrate, and re-publish the Kingdom Tales Trilogy. If you want to order the classic, original editions, go here.

Featured Artist: Wid Saputro

Kingdom Tales Kickstarter Artist: Wid SaputroWidhi Saputro lives in Jakarta, in his native country of Indonesia. Although he excels at artistic concept and design, it is even more remarkable that he has never had any formal training. Widhi recalls that his passion for drawing developed in early childhood. He simply loved drawing. He gained skills by watching how other artists worked and by using the internet as a learning tool. As he prepared for a career in architecture, he found that he could not dismiss his passion for creative art, so he began to apply disciplines learned in his architectural training to further develop his artistic talent.

Though his early work was produced along traditional lines, he realized that he could leverage the power of the digital age by rendering his artwork on his computer. Widhi is quick to note that mastering artistic skills is a life-long process. He continues to study caricatures and classical, Renaissance and Indonesian art to gain a greater understanding of style, perspective, color, and composition. In addition to his personal work, Widhi makes a living as a creative design artist in an animation studio.

Because his first love for art developed by reading children’s books, Widhi was delighted to become a part of the Tales of the Kingdom project through 99 Designs. He expressed his appreciation, saying that he was thankful for “how open minded [we were] about his exploring various themes and approaches,” and how we helped him to improve his skill sets.

Widhi, we appreciate you also. We are proud to include your work in the 2015 Princess Amanda and the Dragon Wall Calendar and Poster and we are thankful that we have been able to get to know you.

You can view Widhi Saputro’s online portfolio and see his incredible illustration of Amanda and the Dragon, created for the 2015 Princess Amanda and the Dragon Wall Calendar and Poster, by going here.

When you Back Our KICKSTARTER Project you’ll RECEIVE 3 Award-winning CHILDREN’S BOOKS to READ & ENJOY WITH YOUR KIDS (or GRANDKIDS) — each story teaches character lessons for life, and comes fully Revised, Re-published in print and all eBook formats, and Re-illustrated with Captivating, Original Art!

If you would like to get the Wall Calendar and/or back our Kickstarter Campaign to revise, re-illustrate and re-publish the Kingdom Tales Trilogy, go here.

Hero’s Quest

Long ago and today and beyond, there was and is and will be a Caretaker who is forever busy making and tending new ideas. But the ideas he loves best are the ones he plants in the minds of children.

“I will never be brave enough to be a Ranger,” said Hero one day as he watched Caretaker creating flowers in the middle of Wildflower Woods. The boy sat with his hand covering his scar.

People in Great Park never called him names, but the boy was sure he caught them looking
at him. He thought they probably talked about him when he wasn’t near.

“A new idea,” said Caretaker. “Let’s try this one and see how it looks. Ta-doo!” The old man motioned with his hands in front of his face. A bright yellow blossom exploded from the end of a stem.

“Ta-daa . . .” said Caretaker again. The flower changed. This time it had an orange center and its petals were flat and rounded, not spiky.

“No, no, no. Not right. Not right.” Caretaker shook his head. “Let me see. . . .” He thought a while, his chin in his hand.

The old man suddenly looked up, a bright light in his gray eyes. “Aha! I know!” He lifted his arms. “Ta-dee!”

The flower trembled, then its petals turned spiky on the inside with a rim of smooth, cupped petals on the outside.

“Ah-hah!” chortled Caretaker. “Perfect. Perfect. Just right. Absolutely beautiful. Now watch, boy. Watch me!”

The old man stood on his tiptoes. His elbows were bent and held upright; then he began to wave his arms. The knives and shears and trowels in his vest began to jingle and chime. “Ta-dee! Ta-dee! Ta-dee!” More blossoms exploded.

Caretaker waved his arms some more. He pointed. “Ta-dee!” Petals and stem. A flash of yellow. “Ta-dee!” The floor of the woods became carpeted with lush, butter yellow blooms, all delicate orange at their centers.

Caretaker twirled around. “Oh, they’re beau-ti-ful!” He sat down. “Beau-ti-ful!” He held his middle and laughed for the joy of creation.

Hero was amazed. He had heard that Ranger Commander and this old Caretaker were the same person. The powers contained by each continually surprised him. One had the power of leadership; the other had power over creation. Hero was learning to love both faces, but in different ways.

Caretaker stopped his ecstatic glee. He wiped his eyes. “What were you saying, boy?”

For a moment, Hero couldn’t remember. He kept seeing wildflower explosions in his mind. Then he knew. “I said, ‘I’ll never be brave enough.’” In his heart of hearts Hero wanted to be a keeper of the watch, one of the Rangers who were always brave and true. The boy looked down. He held his hand tighter over his cheek. “I think,” he continued, “that you gave me the wrong name.”

“Nonsense,” said Caretaker. The old man stood. He tucked his beard into his vine belt, stuffed some tools in his pockets, and picked up his hat—a small apple tree in blossom. He took the boy by the shoulders. His voice was low and kind. “Only a boy with the heart of a hero would defy the Enchanter to find a king. It always takes courage to believe.”

But Hero knew he had only sought Great Park because he was afraid: afraid of the Enchanter, afraid of Burning Place, afraid of fire and of being an orphan. Hero pulled his collar up to hide his cheek. His voice implored, “Can’t you make me brave? Can’t you give me a potion to drink or a magic mushroom to eat? You can do anything. Can’t you make a boy brave?”

To read the rest of this story and many more stories like it, go here and back our Kickstarter campaign to revise, re-illustrate, and re-publish the Kingdom Tales Trilogy. If you want to order the classic, original editions, go here.

The Faithless Ranger

Long ago, danger always came to the people in Great Park who were the most brave and to the places that were the most beautiful. Men and women were never what they seemed to be, for magic and mystery and wonder were always possible.

But that is not so different from the way things are today.

Not long after the boy, Hero, came to Great Park, he went exploring. He walked down across some craggy hills toward the Duck Pond, past Great Park Gardens and Mercie’s Vineyards, then around the shores of Lake Marmo. He skirted the edge of Deepest Forest to faraway Outpost Meadow. Sitting beside Singing Swamp, he opened the lunch of cheese and bread Caretaker’s wife had prepared for him. Finally, at midday, he sought the cool shadows of Wildflower Woods.

For the first time in his life, Hero felt content and protected. No Burners chased him. No flames threatened. He did not know who ruled this place, but it was certainly better than Enchanted City.

Suddenly, the sound of laughter surprised him. Following the sound, he discovered a girl sitting upon a stump, with flowers between her bare toes. She was braiding her long, blonde hair. She stopped, arched her arm, and a butterfly alighted on her finger.

She turned at the sound of his coming. At her look, Hero covered his face with his hand. For one moment he had forgotten his terrible scar.

“I woke up late,” she said, not surprised to see him. Blowing the butterfly aloft, she continued pulling one flower after another from between her toes, weaving them into the braid. “Welcome to the Kingdom,” she said with a smile.

“The Kingdom?” Hero echoed. Everyone knew there was no such thing. Then he stopped; of course, this girl must be pretending. He could play along. “Oh, I suppose your father is the King.”

“Oh, no,” she answered. “The King is my older brother, as he is a brother to all.”

Hero tried not to show his doubts. “Then you must be a princess,” he teased, looking at her much-washed pants and shirt.

“Yes.” The girl was tying her gym shoes. She stood straight finally, curtsied grandly, pulling out the sides of her jeans with her hands. “I am the Princess Amanda. Welcome, Hero.”

Hero choked back a laugh and was surprised she knew his new name. Before he could say anything else, however, the girl spat.

“Can you do that?” she asked.

Anyone can spit, thought Hero. He spat on the ground.

“Oh, but can you do this? Can you hit that toadstool over there?” The toadstool was fifteen feet away and small. Amanda spat again and hit it: bull’s-eye! Hero didn’t know anyone who could do that. He said so.

“It’s a gift,” said Amanda. “I have perfect aim.”

She spat again and hit a knob on a tree, quite directly. “I was just going to the practice field, but I thought I would pick some flowers for my hair. We are practicing for the Great Celebration. What is your gift, Hero?”

The boy thought, but nothing came to his mind. He was pleased when their conversation was interrupted by a cry that echoed through the woods. “How goes the world?”

And answer came back, “The world goes not well.”

To read the rest of this story and many more stories like it, go here and back our Kickstarter campaign to revise, re-illustrate, and re-publish the Kingdom Tales Trilogy.  If you want to order the classic, original editions, go here.

The Orphan Keeper’s Assistant

Once upon a time, the Enchanter decreed that all who had disease or defects that could not be cured would be cast outside the city and left to die. All the unwanted and all the odd were cast out and all those who belonged to no one, except orphans. Orphans were kept because they were useful to the Enchanter.

In the blazing sun, a young woman picked her way across the garbage dump outside the Enchanted City. She wore sunglasses, a wide-brimmed hat to protect her pallid skin, and a large, round button that read: WE LOVE CHILDREN—Orphan Keepers’ Association.

She kept slipping on the mounds of garbage. Even behind sunglasses, her eyes were bothered by light. “Whoops! Down again. Watch out! Light’s white,” she mumbled to herself. “Smats! Huffy-puffy. Garbage dumps are stuffy.”

Stained and filthy from her falls, she approached Stonegate Entrance to Great Park. She thought she would rather do anything than go on this wild orphan chase. “Miss a day’s sleep. Smudges!” How was she supposed to get these gates opened? She’d never been in this dreadful park before, but this was where the Burners said the orphans had gone.

She rattled the iron gate, noticed a curled potato skin caught on her sleeve, and swept it away. She rattled again. Nothing budged. She tried to crawl over the gate, but her legs kept slipping and her button caught between the thin rails. She finally stood back and hollered, “Does anybody h-e-a-r . . . m-e-e-e-e-e?” Her hat bobbed back and forth. She
shifted her bulging basket of a purse and shouted again. “Does anybody
h-e-a-r . . . m-e-e-e-e-e?”

No answer.

She tried another idea. “I am the Orphan Keeper’s Assistant! In the name of the Orphan Keeper, open! I am hunting for orphans.”

The gates creaked open. She was impressed by the power of the name she had shouted, never suspecting for a moment that the gates always opened for hunters.

Once inside, she followed a path, huffing and puffing all the way. Whoo! What a jungle. All those trees! Better they were chopped down for fuel. . . . What’s all that noise?

In the distance she noticed a crowd of people in a large field. Some seemed to be dancing. A young man juggled several balls in the air. Then he dropped one. An older man was walking on a tightrope. All were working hard, but they were laughing and seemed to be enjoying themselves. What a strange place!

Orphan Keeper’s Assistant hurried on, ignoring brightly colored flowers waving on long, green stems and majestic, four-legged creatures, their ears poised to catch any sound. Thankfully, her eyes were shaded by sunglasses; she squinted behind them to keep out the bright light and this dreadful profusion of shape and color.

Orphans were on her mind. Oh, bother! Orphans and outcasts. No sane person cared for either. She knew that better than others. Hadn’t she been the daughter of an outcast before earning a useful place in the Enchanter’s service?

“Nha-a-a, nha-a-a, nha-a-a,” the children of Enchanted City had all teased when she was a little girl. “Your mother’s an outcast, an outcast, an outcast!”

Her mother had come down with an incurable disease, a malady called heart sickness, and been cast out. Then when her father died, she had become an orphan.

The double chin of the Orphan Keeper’s Assistant folded into her neck and her shoulders shuddered at the memory. She hated outcasts! Nobody wanted an outcast.

The path she followed led to Caretaker’s Cottage, all gingerbread trim and fieldstone. A young man, tall and handsome, stepped out the door just as she arrived. He was wearing a long, navy cloak with a silver clasp on the shoulder. She knew from her training that it was the uniform of a Ranger, one of the many watch keepers for the man who called himself the King.

“Can I help you?” the young man asked. His eyes twinkled with light, though his lips were unsmiling.

You certainly can, you nice thing, you, giggled the Orphan Keeper’s Assistant inwardly. But she said, “Smats and smudges! Get me out of this light. I’m a perfect puddle in the heat. Is Caretaker home? And what’s a mercie? ‘See mercie,’ the Orphan Keeper said to me. ‘Get orphans from mercie.’”

Ranger took her bulging purse, held the door, and explained, “Mercie is Caretaker’s wife. Caretaker is not here today. Step inside. . . . Mercie, someone from the Orphan Association.”

The Orphan Keeper’s Assistant took off her sunglasses. She saw an old woman standing in front of the fire, older than anyone she had ever known. The elderly lady was stirring the contents of a pot over the fire in the hearth. She wore a long, blue cotton dress, covered by an apron pinafore. Tendrils of white hair curled and fell from beneath a snood. She turned and smiled at the visitor and all the wrinkles on her face creased upward.

“Welcome, hunter,” she said. “I am Mercie, Caretaker’s wife. We are servants of the King.” The hand she extended in welcome to her visitor was as smooth and unlined as a girl’s and her back was straight.

Odd, the Orphan Keeper’s Assistant thought. Mercie seemed both very young and very old. The Orphan Keeper’s Assistant felt nervous and confused. Keep your eye on the odd ones. Be official, she chided herself. She heard the Orphan Keeper’s warning, “Bring ’em back alive. If you fail, you’ll have a Burner on your tail.”

“I am the Orphan Keeper’s Assistant,” she announced, loudly, hoping everyone in the room would be impressed. She hooked a thumb under her official button and pushed it out from her blouse. Opening her basket, she produced a signed document. “I have a warrant for errants, here. Signed by Orphan Keeper herself. Two runaways last seen at Stonegate Entrance. One called Scarboy.”

To read the rest of this story and many more stories like it, go here and back our Kickstarter campaign to revise, re-illustrate, and re-publish the Kingdom Tales Trilogy.  If you want to order the classic, original editions, go here.

Kickstarter Artist: Lorraine Barreras

Kingdom Tales Kickstarter Artist: Lorraine BarrerasAs you undoubtedly already know, the term “art” lends itself to a multitude of genres – and that number is ever increasing. In fact, one of the newest ones, Digital Art, is one that Lorraine Barreras especially enjoys delving into.

“There are actually two areas,” Barreras shares, “that I currently enjoy working in – Digital and Acrylic.”

Barreras states that she has spent her whole life interested in art!

“Since I was able to pick up a pencil,” she explained with a big smile, “I have been drawing something.”

Most of her training as an artist during her childhood years was self-training. Once she reached high school, however, she pursued it a little more actively, though her high school did not exactly have a host of programs to participate in. As a result, she pursued her interests in both writing and music.

“When it came time for college, however,” she shared, “I concentrated on the art programs there and that really allowed me to expand my talents and abilities.”

Her main areas of artistic pursuit center around fantasy and animals – especially coyotes and sparrows! She involved herself with 99Designs to gain more exposure for her efforts and to enjoy the challenge of the time frames that its projects present.

“I completed the project in about five days,” she replied when asked how long it took her to prepare her artwork. “I had a fair number of drafts as I went along, always trying to tweak them and make them better. And,” she added with another big smile, “dragon scales take aaaaages to finish!”

While 99Designs provides an excellent opportunity for her to gain exposure and compete with other talented individuals, Barreras makes her living by doing comic book conventions.

“It’s a lot of fun,” she explained, “and I really enjoy the laid back atmosphere they provide.”

Barreras was thankful that she was able to participate in our program, and we are thankful that she did!

You can view Lorraine Barreras’ online portfolio and see her captivating illustration of Amanda and the Dragon, created for the 2015 Princess Amanda and the Dragon Wall Calendar, by going here.

When you Back Our KICKSTARTER Project you’ll RECEIVE 3 Award-winning CHILDREN’S BOOKS to READ & ENJOY WITH YOUR KIDS (or GRANDKIDS) — each story teaches character lessons for life, and comes fully Revised, Re-published in print and all eBook formats, and Re-illustrated with Captivating, Original Art!

If you would like to get the Wall Calendar and/or back our Kickstarter Campaign to revise, re-illustrate and re-publish the Kingdom Tales Trilogy, go here.

The Enchanted City

Kingdom Tales Kickstarter Campaign: The Enchanted CityOnce upon a time, not long ago and not far away, there was a boy, no longer a child and not yet a man, who lived in the Enchanted City. . . .

The boy, Scarboy, and his younger brother, Little Child, were not like the other children in the city. Yesterday, their mother had died, and they had immediately been taken into custody by the Enchanter’s men. Rumor said that the Enchanter kept orphans to stoke the huge fires that burned deep in the hold of Dagoda, the temple where the Enchanter lived and ruled.

A Burner, one of the secret police who carried out the Enchanter’s bidding, had brought the boys to the Burning Place, a vast square of ashes. There they would watch the funeral ceremonies for their mother, whose body rested on an ornate bier in the middle of the field.

The thought of his mother choked the older boy. She had been so beautiful, as beautiful as the daughter of a king.

“There is a King,” his mother had always insisted. “A real King.” She believed the ancient tales even though signs were posted all over Enchanted City.

THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A KING.
DEATH TO PRETENDERS.

But his mother had become ill, as so many did in the foul air of Enchanted City. In the last days before she died, she slipped in and out of the fever—often telling Scarboy the ancient tales from her childhood.

“Once a great King ruled our city,” she had said. “All the people thought him beautiful and served him willingly. But the Enchanter came and deceived the people and put a spell on the city. The King was exiled. Those who would find him must hunt for him in the place where trees grow—.”

Oo-mb-pha . . . oo-mb-pha . . . oo-mb-pha-din—the death drums interrupted the boy’s memories. Now he heard the ceremonial bells sewed to the hems of the Fire Priests’ robes. He heard the mourner’s chants. Then a swish, an explosion! The funeral flames had been ignited.

As the swirling swords of fire leaped toward the sky, a long line of shining cars, low and shadowy and quiet, moved toward the field and parked on the edge of Burning Place. The boy’s heart pounded. The Enchanter had come to the funeral ceremony.

Scarboy watched the tall man step out into the field of ashes. The boy saw the amber hair that curled and caught the light of the blazing fire. A handsome man, most thought. But Scarboy’s mother had said that the look in his eyes was cruel. The boy took Little Child’s hand and held him close.

The Enchanter was wearing the robe of fire, a mastery of woven color: red and yellow patterns interwoven with orange and white and blue. Burners, each holding a glowing poker in their hands, climbed from the other cars. Soon the tall, proud man was surrounded by these guards.

The Enchanter ruled Enchanted City with fire. He loved fire, loved its power. He called it to himself and used it to cast spells. Long ago he had decreed night to be day and day to be night, because he was so jealous of the light of the sun.

Now the people of Enchanted City rose from their beds to work and play and eat when the moon, a lesser light, came up. They went to sleep at dawn. Mothers tucked their children beneath the covers and said, “Morning-morning. See you in the night.”

The Enchanter turned and looked across the ash field at the two boys as the drums beat out his personal rhythm, din . . . din . . . din.

“Are these the orphans?” he called, pointing at them.

To read the rest of this story and many more powerful stories like it, go here  and back our Kickstarter campaign to revise, re-illustrate, and re-publish the Kingdom Tales Trilogy. If you want to order the classic, original editions, go here.

Kickstarter Artist: David Lojaya

Kingdom Tales Kickstarter Artist: David LojayaOne of the age-old questions we face when it comes to an individual’s development is based on the theory of “nature or nurture.” In the case of David Lojaya, one of the artists who is helping with the new Tales of the Kingdom artwork, it most definitely is a case of “nature.”

“I have known,” Lojaya shared in a recent interview, “that I wanted to be an artist since I was five years old when I did my first drawing.”

Lojaya, who lives in Lampung, Indonesia, self-trained up through his teen years, and then went to the university and majored in animation.

“Interestingly enough,” Lojaya added, “neither of my parents are artistically minded, but my siblings and I all took art related majors for our education.

Lojaya, who is hoping to find employment outside of Indonesia, currently works as a freelance illustrator. He has learned that 99Designs, where he located the Amanda and the Dragon Illustration Project, serves as a good source of work.

Kingdom Tales Kickstarter Artist: David LojayaLojaya shared that the most exciting part of the project was getting to “build” the characters from what he read, while the most challenging part was determining what kind of art would be suitable to the client. He said he was most appreciative that he was able to receive such good advice in regard to what was expected of him. He also shared that the project took him a mere five hours, from sketch to finished project.

You can view David Lojaya’s online portfolio and see his charming and dramatic illustration of Amanda and the Dragon, created for the 2015 Princess Amanda and the Dragon Wall Calendar, by going here.

When you Back Our KICKSTARTER Project you’ll RECEIVE 3 Award-winning CHILDREN’S BOOKS to READ & ENJOY WITH YOUR KIDS (or GRANDKIDS) — each story teaches character lessons for life, and comes fully Revised, Re-published in print and all eBook formats, and Re-illustrated with Captivating, Original Art!

If you would like to get the Wall Calendar and/or back our Kickstarter Campaign to revise, re-illustrate and re-publish the Kingdom Tales Trilogy, go here.

It Is A Joy for Authors to Receive Letters from Children

by: Karen Mains

Kingdom Tales Kickstarter CampaignIt is a joy to receive letters like this one, written on lined school tablet paper where the envelope is addressed with a pencil:

Dear David and Karen Mains,

My name is Calvin. I am seven years old. I love your Tales of the Kingdom series. I read it at lunch every day. My favorite book is Tales of the Resistance. I like it because it has a lot of action. Sincerely, Calvin.

Did you get the fact that Calvin is seven?

It is a joy to receive letters like this one, hand- written by close friends’ son when he was in his early teens:

Dear Uncle David and Aunt Karen,

I’ve read your second book! (Tales of the Resistance, which isn’t really your second book!) It’s gotta be one of the best books I’ve ever read! I really want to encourage you guys to write a third! The concepts and principles as well as the excitement and adventure make it fantastic, but I could of expected that when two geniuses like you get together! Right now I’m on a plane over Utah writing this letter after just finishing reading your book. I’m dying to know what happens with Amanda and Hero!—so please hurry and write another one! Well, I gotta go! I just want you to know what you’re doing in my point of view is really going to benefit the Kingdom! Keep up the good work!

TO THE KING! TO THE RESTORATION!

Love, Shadd.

Did you get the fact that Shadd (who now has his own adult novel circulating with an agent) was in his teens when he wrote this?

I weep when I receive letters like this, typed on professional stationery:

Your books Tales of the Kingdom and Tales of the Resistance have meant a great deal to me and the people I help. I am a psychologist working with Satanic abuse victims most of whom were raised in multi-generational cults. One of the ways I have found to reach into their shattered lives is to read to them out of your books. Now, reading stories may not seem like your vision of psychotherapy but since I encounter many cases of multi-personality disorder, it is necessary to do quite a bit of re-parenting and teaching. Your moving stories provide a deeply stirring way to reach this need. Enclosed is a drawing that Mary E.—one survivor—drew about story time at my office. She identified with many of the characters but none more than the girl in the pig pen. Doubletalk seemed all too familiar, but it was good to know that the King knew about such things.

Chris lived a life of terror and isolation. She eventually developed a fantasy world of her own. Her idea of God and mine were very different. God touched her soul when the King entered the world of the carnival in your story—even if I had trouble making sound effects like fireworks—BLA-CHEW-AH!

Did you notice the age of this writer and the clients he was helping? They are all adults. That’s why we say that the Kingdom Tales Trilogy is written for children of all ages. They are written to reach the child in age and the child within.

Perhaps you can also see why we are working so hard (and bothering you all with notices) to get these books back into print. Not only do all ages—children, teens (college kids) and adults love them, but many somehow when used by skilled hands, in many lives, the power of the Enemy (the Enchanter) is defeated.

TO THE KING! TO THE RESTORATION!

Become a Backer by going here.

Princess Amanda and the Dragon

Kingdom Tales Kickstarter Campaign: Princess Amanda and the DragonThe huge beast sat waiting for her. Its long tail swept slowly across the ground behind it, then flickered, then swept back. The claws on one paw flexed, tearing the thatch and soil beneath it, then opened, then flexed again. A thin, wet trickle dripped out of its mouth, down its jaw. Yellow light gleamed in its eyes. The dragon had become cunning. Why had she not seen this?

Amanda drew herself to full stature. She ignored the throbbing in her feet. “Dragon,” she announced in her most majestic tone, “you must go. You are too big for my den. Grown dragons are not allowed in Great Park. Your breath is too hot. Fly away!”

The dragon leered at her. It hunched, like a cat on the prowl, and moved closer and closer to her. Finally, the huge beast was near. It swept its tail, which quickly covered the distance between them. Amanda hopped over the tip. The dragon swept the long jagged tail back, faster. She hopped again. It raised its head and blew hot flame onto the grass behind her. She could hear the vegetation crackling. She could feel it beginning to burn. She turned and stamped the fire out. The dragon breathed again. More fire.

Her heart filled with terror. One small princess cannot put out all the fires this one large dragon starts!

The dragon breathed again. The flames licked her clothes, her hair. She slapped at the fire with her hands. She rolled on the ground. She could see the great beast inching closer, flicking its tail, the yellow light growing brighter in its eyes. Amanda backed away. She knew it was useless to run. The dragon always won the races.

“Oh, help!” she cried. “Caretaker! Caretaker! I am too small for this terrible dragon. Help!”

Suddenly, she scarcely knew how, Caretaker was standing beside her. He must have come bounding the moment the flames had begun.

“Kill it! Kill it!” Amanda screamed. The great beast began to lurch. It raised itself on hind legs and roared. Flying flames filled the air.

“No, Amanda,” said the old man, “I cannot kill this dragon. Only the one who loves a forbidden thing can do the slaying. You will always hate me if I do it. Only you can slay this dragon.”

Caretaker pulled his woodsman’s hatchet from the silver belt around his waist. He held it erect before him.

He lifted his eyes to the sky. “In the name of the King, Amanda. For the Restoration. . . . You must slay the dragon!”

Caretaker tossed the hatchet directly overhead. It flew high, then started to tumble down, end over end. The humming began, the singing the princess had always loved. The hatchet landed at her feet; its blade stuck firmly in the ground. Amanda reached down and gripped the wood. She felt the hatchet’s power as she pulled it from the soil.

By this time, Amanda had backed almost to the middle of Outpost Meadow, and Caretaker had moved out of the circle of mortal combat. Small fires were burning here and there on the grass. The princess must do this work quickly. She would only have one chance.

To read the rest of this story and many more powerful stories like it, go here and back our Kickstarter campaign to revise, re-illustrate, and re-publish the Kingdom Tales Trilogy.  If you want to order the classic, original editions, go here.

Two Noisy Knights

Kingdom Tales Kickstarter Campaign: Two Noisy KnightsSir Bumpkin was long and thin and farsighted. He was always tripping on roots and bushes and stones because he couldn’t see the danger that was near. Sir Pumpkin was round and short and nearsighted. He was always getting stuck in tight situations, because he squinted to see the danger that was far off.

The two knights always attended Ranger councils in the Ranger Lodge. At the end of each meeting, after all reports had been made and all tales had been told, the Ranger Commander would ask for the pledge to the King. He would shout, “How goes the world?”

And all would answer back, “The world goes not well! But the Kingdom comes!” each Ranger, to a man and woman, raised his hatchet and vowed, “To the Kingdom and the King!” Then they marched from the lodge to take up watch or to go on patrol.

The two knights would shout these same cries. They would draw their swords from their scabbards. Then they would rush from the lodge with the others—and lead their horses to a large stone. Bumpkin, grunting and groaning, would push the heavy Pumpkin into his saddle. Then Pumpkin, in turn, would pull the gangly Bumpkin into his. Often, one would drop a sword or banner.

“Yoo-hoo! Yoo-hoo!” they would shout. “You over there! Would you mind getting my sword (or banner)?”

If no one seemed to be around, they yoo-hooed all the louder. When no one appeared, one of the knights would have to climb down, and then mount all over again.

By the time both knights were seated on their steeds, the Rangers would all be gone. The lights in the lodge would be dark, but Pumpkin would shout anyway, “Onward! Onward under the banner of the King!”

But alas, they never seemed to find the service they sought, for the danger was always over when they reached the scene.

“It’s the spirit that counts,” Sir Bumpkin reminded Sir Pumpkin one day when they were both feeling a little low. So they made up a spirited song.

A Ranger is a Ranger is a Ranger.
His shout is dreadful bale.
He keeps the park from strangers
With his awful, mighty hail.
 

Wouldn’t you know that on this very afternoon, they engaged the enemy. Or at least, they thought it was the enemy.

“Halt! Who goes there?” cried Sir Pumpkin. His weak eyes couldn’t quite make out the man running hurriedly up the path, but he thought he could see clearly enough to know that the figure was carrying a weapon.

“Halt?” questioned the man. “Why, it’s me. The Baker.” The Chief Baker was hurrying from the kitchen with three loaves of hot bread fresh from the oven balanced on a baking paddle.

The two knights thought he said, “A Breaker.” Breakers were the Enchanter’s huntsmen. Everyone in Great Park was thankful when Rangers caught these spies, so the knights had visions of glory.

“We’ll teach you a thing or two,” yelled Bumpkin and reined his steed to one end of the path. Pumpkin clattered to the other end, then turned toward the Chief Baker in the middle.

Both knights fixed their visors. Both steadied their jousting poles. Both horses pawed the ground. Both breathed hot air from their nostrils.

“Charge!” screamed Pumpkin. “On we go!”

To read the rest of this story and many more stories like it, go here and back our Kickstarter campaign to revise, re-illustrate, and re-publish the Kingdom Tales Trilogy.  If you want to order the classic, original editions, go here.

The Apprentice Juggler

Kingdom Tales Kickstarter Campaign: The Apprentice JugglerThe Apprentice Juggler was sure he would shame the troupe in tonight’s performance. He knew he would drop a baton during the pyramid cascade. Then, the Juggling Master would know his secret, and he would lose his place in the juggling group. A knot in the pit of his stomach felt like a tug-of-war between giants.

Standing in the middle of the practice field, the Apprentice Juggler warmed his hands in a patch of morning sunlight. He loosened his fingers with limbering exercises. He started tossing balls in a basic crisscross pattern.

The Apprentice Juggler concentrated. He could hear the words of Juggling Master’s first lesson. “Teach the balls to dance. The word ball is from the French. It means to dance. Make the balls dance!”

The balls did dance in the Apprentice Juggler’s hands. As long as he worked alone, he did fine. In this last year as an apprentice, he had learned to toss rings, batons, clubs, and eggs (unboiled ones even). He could spin plates on sticks. He could balance umbrellas on his forehead and shoulders and hands—all at the same time.

He put three balls in motion. Throw * Throwcatch * Catch * Throw* Throwcatch * Catch.

No one knew he was battling his inner count. No one knew that a different rhythm was ticking in his heart than in his hands.

It was only when the Apprentice Juggler worked with the other student jugglers, or when he did a routine with the troupe, that things went wrong.

He tripped.

He dropped batons.

The others thought this was because he was new at juggling. But the young man knew his inner count was just plain different. He didn’t want anyone to know his secret, particularly the Juggling Master. To work with the troupe was the glorious goal of every apprentice.

The balls danced in the Apprentice Juggler’s hands. He switched to the two-in-one-hand. He practiced showers. He picked up two clubs. He tested their weight in each hand. He tossed one—high. It turned twice in the air—a double. He started a third club with an outside foot kick up. It turned twice in the air. Soon, even the clubs were dancing.

He guarded himself against his inner rhythm.

One of the other fellows was juggling clubs. He moved closer to the Apprentice Juggler and started passing. Six clubs now looped into the air. The young men timed out loud. “Pass, Self, Self. Pass, Self, Self. Pass, Self, Self, Pass.”

So far, so good, thought the Apprentice Juggler. If only he could count out loud as he was now. But every juggler knew that was the sign of an amateur.

“Very good! Very good!” shouted the Juggling Master. “Excellent work this morning! And I have wonderful news. The King will be present at tonight’s Great Celebration. We will be performing for him!”

The whole troupe cheered, but the Apprentice Juggler’s heart fell to the pit of his stomach, where the tug-of-war was raging. He had juggled at Great Celebrations before, with the other students. Tonight he was supposed to solo, then appear with the troupe in the finale.

What if he failed before the King? It would serve him right for keeping this hidden thing to himself. All he had ever dreamed of was seeing the King smile in pleasure at his juggling.  He had even imagined the King walking over to him and saying, “Well, done, young man. You have a special gift.”

The Juggling Master’s voice interrupted his thoughts. “Let’s practice the finale!”

The troupe moved into position for the pyramid cascade. Four jugglers stood in a row. A signal was shouted, “Hup!” All counted inwardly, One, two, UP! Three jugglers hopped on the shoulders of the first four.

The signal again, “Hup!” One, two, three, UP! A hand grasp, a scramble, a hop. The two apprentices climbed to the very peak.

The clubs began looping upwards, turning and spinning up the pyramid. Eight came from the bottom. Six passed from the middle. The apprentice turned the rising clubs back down toward the outside men. It was quick work, but simple—as long as the count was kept.

The Apprentice Juggler knew that all nine members of the troupe were timing inwardly: Throw * Throwcatch * Catch; Throw * Throwcatch * Catch.

With horror, he realized his count was off again. He had been silently timing: Throw * Throwcatch * Throw! He caught himself, and changed his pace—but it was a loud danger signal.

Should he tell the Juggling Master? But how could he bear to have his place taken from him and given to another? What would happen if he followed his inner count? What disaster would befall him?

To read the rest of this story and many more beautiful stories like it, go here and back our Kickstarter campaign to revise, re-illustrate, and re-publish the Kingdom Tales Trilogy.  If you want to order the classic, original editions, go here.

Kickstarter Artist: Irina Voloshina

Kingdom Tales Kickstarter Artist: Irina VoloshinaIf you are a mastermind when it comes to World Geography, then you might know exactly where Irina Voloshina hails from!  She currently resides in Chisina, the capital of Moldova – a small country in the geographical center of Europe between Ukraine and Romania.  Through the miracle of the Internet, however, she was able to participate in the program of seeking new art for The Tales of the Kingdom Trilogy.

“I have been drawing my whole life,” she shared when asked when her interest in art began.  “In fact, I always found it easier to ‘draw’ than to ‘tell.’”

With such a close relationship with art, it is not surprising that she graduated from an Art High School, and then went on to the Ukrainian Polygraphic Institute in Lviv (Western Ukraine), where she became a Graphic Designer and Illustrator.  Her full-time occupation finds her designing packaging for meat and dairy products, concentrating on the advertising aspect of the packaging.

“I particularly like to work with ink line drawings,” she explained, “because that medium does not allow for corrections.  Rather, one must be especially precise and focused.”

Irina came across the Tales of the Kingdom competition at 99 Designs after a former student forwarded her the link.  She has participated in other such competitions, always enjoying the creation of characters.

“I found myself especially affected by this project” she shared, “as I had real empathy when the girl had to destroy that which she had helped to grow up.  Much of my free time and money are dedicated to taking care of homeless dogs, many of whom I have dealt with from birth, so I had special feelings towards this project.”

Irina describes herself as reticent, satisfied with a place to work; books to read; and a sense of peace with those she loves – her family and the animals that need her!

You can view Irina Voloshina’s online portfolio and see her amazing illustration of Amanda and the Dragon, created for the 2015 Princess Amanda and the Dragon Wall Calendar, by going here.

When you Back Our KICKSTARTER Project you’ll RECEIVE 3 Award-winning CHILDREN’S BOOKS to READ & ENJOY WITH YOUR KIDS (or GRANDKIDS) — each story teaches character lessons for life, and comes fully Revised, Re-published in print and all eBook formats, and Re-illustrated with Captivating, Original Art!

If you would like to get the Wall Calendar and/or back our Kickstarter Campaign to revise, re-illustrate and re-publish the Kingdom Tales Trilogy, go here.

The Girl Named Dirty

Kingdom tales Kickstarter: The Girl Named DirtyForever and always, the Caretaker of Great Park brought those who were hurt or frightened, sick or broken to his wife, Mercie, because she was wise, and whatever she touched was made better. . . .

Except Dirty. Dirty refused to become better. Caretaker had found her outside Stonegate Entrance, rooting around for food after a Burner had beaten her. The child was covered with welts and bruises.

When Caretaker approached the girl, she immediately stood to her feet and shouted, “I’m Dirty! I never wash! I never cry! I’ll fight anything that raises a fist to me!” Then she fainted from her wounds and hunger.

Caretaker brought her to Mercie. But all of the old woman’s efforts could not help the girl to enjoy life in Great Park. Dirty hated the cottage. She despised the people who lived there. She thought Caretaker with his tree hat and jingling pockets was stupid. She hated Hero’s ugly scar.

“I’m not going to live with those creeps,” she declared one day as she stomped off to the barnyard to make her home with the pigs.

From that day on, she tromped in the mud and slept in the sheds. She practiced pig grunts. She learned pig calls, “Hoi-soi-soi-soi-hoi!” She watched the sows give birth to litters, and made pets of the piglets. And because the pigs were gentle, she loved them.

But she refused to love people.

Another outcast was living in the cottage, a girl Dirty’s age who had a disease that made her crippled. Dirty hated the Crippled Girl because she was ugly.

“Sui! Sui!” she would say to her pigs. “How can they live with that ugly thing? Why don’t they just get rid of her?”

Dirty sat on a big sow and watched when Caretaker carried the Crippled Girl on a pallet into the warm sunshine. She heard Mercie, that crone of a housewife, sing songs. Dirty made pig grunts to drown out the sound.

At first Mercie tried to persuade her to come into the cottage for meals, but she would not. Then Mercie carried nourishing lunches to the dung heap where Dirty liked to sit, and she ate there with the girl. Finally, Dirty refused any food from Mercie’s hand.

“I’ll eat the pig slop,” she said. “If it’s good enough for pigs, it’s good enough for me.”

Finally, the wise woman and her husband decided to leave Dirty alone. The girl would have to learn that what was fine for pigs was not always right for children.

To read the rest of this story and many more beautiful stories like it, go here and back our Kickstarter campaign to revise, re-illustrate, and re-publish the Kingdom Tales Trilogy.  If you want to order the classic, original editions, go here.

Love Working with Artists

by: Karen Mains

Author: Karen MainsI am enough of an artist that I love working with other artists.  I can remember the first time I was invited to attend a two-week laboratory where one of my books was being turned into a film project.  The screenwriter was a friend who had talked me into letting her submit this entry, and I rather reluctantly made my way to New Harmony, Indiana where I realized for the first time in my life I was with a whole group of people and we were all speaking the same language (artist-ese).

So some thirty years ago, when Jack Stockman, the artist who illustrated the first two books of the Kingdom Tales trilogy, began scheming and dreaming with me of collaborating on his first fully illustrated book project and my first venture into creative writing, it was pure joy to see how Jack’s mind interpreted my stories.  I loved his work and still love it.

Jack’s process, however, is not cost-effective for a tight publishing budget.  It takes Jack a week of work to paint one illustration.  His work is detailed, imaginative and leans back into the classic children’s illustrated books of another generation.  The artists who submitted illustrations for the contest we ran through the 99Designs Web site are using computer technology.  Consequently, the winning artist (from Bulgaria) Zhivko Zhelev, can turn out two to three illustrations per week.

However, David and I (and countless other readers) love the Stockman illustrations.  (The publishers hired another artist to do the third book, Tales of the Restoration—one of the headaches of being an author is being subject to the whims and fancies of the publishing industry.) If the Kickstarter Campaign exceeds expectations—and many do (many also don’t even reach their goals)—there will be enough money to pay Jack to complete the third book with his gorgeous artwork.  This then, will give us the “classic-illustrated set” in addition to the newly-illustrated set with more of a multi-ethnic representation in the art.

Check out this link https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/kingdomtalestrilogy/the-kingdom-tales-3-illustrated-storybooks-that-ki to see how we are doing in reaching our goal.  Check out the Backer levels to see if there is anything you would like to pre-order for your own family or to give as gifts.  Pledge an amount if you are led to do so.  Then, would you tell your friends about this campaign?  We need lots of buzz, not only to reach the goal but to exceed it so that we can get Jack Stockman started on finishing a long-unfinished project.  Thanks so much.

Kickstarter Artist: Zoltan Tobias

Kingdom Tales Kickstarter Zoltan TobiasThe artist in us all can be sidetracked, but it can never be eliminated.  That’s a fact that Zoltan Tobias, of Szeged, Hungary will readily attest to.  Though currently a university student who is about to become a medical doctor, Tobias still pursues his love for art.

“When I was ten years old,’ Tobias explained, “I saw an extremely inspirational movie about a young child who was drawing comics.  And,” he added with a big smile in his voice, “I discovered that I could do the same thing.”

Like so many artists around the world, Tobias is self-taught.  He prefers digital art, but when dealing with more traditional mediums, he is attracted to markers and ink.  While searching online for digital paint jobs, he came across 99 Designs.  He followed through with signing up because he realized it presented him with a number of promising projects, opportunities to improve himself, and good financial offers.

“I think I was probably attracted to the Tales of the Kingdom project because I have been fascinated by dragons since I was a child, making this an obvious choice for me.”

This particular project did prove to be a challenge for Tobias, especially creating Amanda.  While most of his projects are completed in four to five hours, this one took closer to eight, due to the fact that he made several changes to the piece as he received feedback about the art he was producing.

You can view Zoltan Tobias’ online portfolio and see his incredible illustration of Amanda and the Dragon, created for the 2015 Princess Amanda and the Dragon Wall Calendar, by going here:

When you Back Our KICKSTARTER Project you’ll RECEIVE 3 Award-winning CHILDREN’S BOOKS to READ & ENJOY WITH YOUR KIDS (or GRANDKIDS) — each story teaches character lessons for life, and comes fully Revised, Re-published in print and all eBook formats, and Re-illustrated with Captivating, Original Art!

If you would like to get the Wall Calendar and/or back our Kickstarter Campaign to revise, re-illustrate and re-publish the Kingdom Tales Trilogy, go here: