November 24, 2008

Searching For A Starry Night Goes to School!

Searching For A Starry Night, A Miniature Art Mystery has gotten good grades recently from students in Wisconsin, Illinois, and New York.

Although I couldn't be there in person, author Terrie Moran chose to read portions of Searching For A Starry Night, A Miniature Art Mystery, as part of Literacy Day at the Brian Piccolo Middle School in Far Rockaway, New York.

Terrie, along with authors Chris Grabenstein, and Marco Conelli, spent time reading to individual classes and at the end of the day, they addressed the Sixth Grade Assembly. The book also is now in the school's library.

You can see more photos at Terrie's blog. Thank you, Terrie, for sharing my book with these fantastic kids!

Meeting with Home Schoolers

Recently, I had the chance to talk to a great group of Home Schoolers from Wisconsin and Illinois. We talked about the book and several of the kids liked to write stories, so it was fun to give them a few tips on writing. (Pictured: Kids crafting and young writer Hannah with my book.)

(Pictured: Chloe with her card corner) We had a craft time, too, with the kids making their own greeting card corners (small vignettes made of foam core board, a standard greeting card and scrapbook paper) to start their own miniatures collection.

(Pictured: Josh, Julie and mom)

I had a lot of fun meeting kids who are enthusiastic about writing and reading. A great group of kids!

November 19, 2008

Book Blog Tour: Meet Tony Napoli, author of "My Father, My Don"

Today, I'm featuring a fascinating book, My Father, My Don: A Son’s Journey from Organized Crime to Sobriety by Tony Napoli, which gives a personal look at organized crime from a son's viewpoint. Don't forget to read the Q&A below.

“Tony Nap” Napoli is the son of crime don James “Jimmy Nap” Napoli, a mob kingpin who ruled over the largest gambling empire in America for nearly 40 years.

Growing "Mobbed" Up

Napoli grew up in Brooklyn, job-hopping from the military to boxing, then working as an enforcer and casino boss before becoming a fugitive and a hustler. Following a brutal attack against a man who sexually abused his daughter, he was sentenced to a period at a VA hospital. He cleaned himself up, completed a sobriety program and became active in the rights-for-veterans movement, and helping former boxers get counseling and other services.

The senior Napoli grew up in New York at the turn of the century and ascended through the ranks of organized crime to become one of the most powerful and respected Mob bosses.

In the pages, readers will find well-known mob figures like Al Capone, Frankie Yale, Mickey Cohen, Vincent “The Chin” Gigante, Anthony “Fat Tony” Salerno, Crazy Joe Gallo, Frank Costello, and Don Carlo Gambino.

Entertainers like Frank Sinatra, Lana Turner, Jimmy Roselli, Tony Bennett and Johnny Carson, as well as boxing champions Rocky Marciano, Sonny Liston, Rocky Graziano and Paddy DeMarco also make appearances.

In addition, notable names from the world of politics appear in the story, including former US Attorney Rudolph Giuliani, who prosecuted Tony in 1984.

For almost 40 years, Jimmy Nap ran the largest illegal gambling operation in America. His vast empire included the entire New York numbers racket, which he controlled for New York’s Five Families. He also had controlling interests in professional boxing, labor unions and casinos. In 1976, Jimmy Nap was listed number four on the Forbes list of the wealthiest people in America.

Q & A

Q: Tony, how old were you when you realized your family was "different"? What did you think and what was the first incident you recall?

A: It was at my 18th birthday party when I realized my family was different from the average American family. That's when I saw some of my Father's friends, who came to the party wearing expensive looking suits and jewelry. Their pinky rings and cufflinks were very expensive looking.

I overheard some of their conversations even though they would try to talk real low. They were reciting to each other articles from the newspaper about organized crime people. I heard one of them say, "why don't they leave us alone and go after the real crooks." Each one of his friends gave me hundred dollar bills in Happy Birthday envelopes as a gift, for my wonderful and precious Mother to keep for me. Yes, that's when I really knew that my family was very different from others.

Q: One thing I always wondered about - how do the women often turn a blind eye to knowing what the husband (in a crime family) does? What is your mother's view and how do you see her?

A: When it comes to my mother, and how I saw her in the day to day activities, I saw a saint. She was the type of mother who cared only to keep the household together, no matter what. I used to hear her tell my father, "Jimmy, go do what you have to with your friends. Just make sure there's enough money for us to buy clothes and groceries. Go traveling around the country like you do, but make sure you have one of your friends bring money here every week, so that I can pay the bills."

He did all that, and she turned a blind eye on his activities for the benefit of keeping the family together. In my eyes, my mother was the backbone of the family who kept things going for our benefit. Men like my father would school their wives by telling them to take care of the kids and don't complain about anything that's wrong in the household in public.

It would be degrading the family and his image if she was to complain in public. So, at times, no matter how bad things were in the household, no one knew. Why? Because my mother, like other Italian women who are married to Wiseguys supported their wishes. Again, I must say, it's the woman who stays behind the scene and never gets enough credit for the good things she does.

Q: What led you to write the book?

A: I found that I had to write my book, MY FATHER, MY DON, to let the whole world know, especially disabled veterans, recovering alcoholics, indigent fighters and connected guys born into the Mob like myself, that there is a better way in life.

What is it? SOBRIETY. Become a volunteer for any of these organizations I mention in my book and by helping others, you help yourself. I tell the readers a lot about my Mob life, to make them understand that if a guy like me can do it, so can they."

Q: What made you decide to turn your back on that life? Any fears from writing the book?

A: After, my father passed away in December 1992, I became a complete alcoholic, drinking day and night and not spending enough time with my immediate family, my wife and children. I knew the power and influence he had in the streets would not be automatically passed on to me.

My father taught that to me when he was alive. You have to earn your way when it comes to the street guys. When your father, who was a boss in the streets and very well connected, is deceased, and if you happen to be his son, you do not carry his badge of honor. It's not automatic like the FBI seems to think.

Because, I never took the oath of "Omerta" taken by members of different crime families, I am not breaking any rules. My father would never allow any of the bosses from any of the different crime families to claim me as one of their own. And, let's remember, I found sobriety, which is stronger than any "Omerta" oath. My autobiography is accepted by everyone, even those who can't find the courage to walk away from it all and join me in a life of sobriety.

Q: A former Mob member said that the Mob still has its hands in gambling - most people don't know the influence. Is that true? And what about Indian-run casinos?

A: When you have gambling, whether, legal or illegal, the Mob will always get involved. They have the knowledge, experience, influence and the know-how on how to operate things. Where the government doesn't use the kind of force the Mob uses to get results, in the end the Mob can accomplish more.

Legitimate people who are appointed by the government to oversee legal gambling operations come to Mob guys for advice. I was involved in the development of Foxwoods Casino in Connecticut. Before my father died, he sent me from New York to Connecticut to meet some of his friends and school them about our involvement in building the casino. I was able to convince the Indian representative that we had the knowledge, experience and the know how with manpower and money.

See, what happens is the government gives the Indians the right to open a gambling casino and then leaves them alone to start the operation on their own. They fail to realize the Indian does not have the knowledge on how to bank the games played in the casino. So, what happens, the Mob gets involved.

Q: Isn't it street gangs now who have the strength rather than the Mob or are they working together more?

A: From whatever connections I still have in the streets, I'm told that the street gangs are mostly Latino and Black. Their strength is mostly in drugs, and whatever is left of the five families of Italian heritage in the New York area called the Mob, will not cooperated with them. If they are working together in any category, it's only an understanding such as: Don't push your drugs in my area and I won't take any action in yours.

During my time, when there was a beef between families and street gangs, we would ask the bosses to call a sit-down to settle our problems. But, the respect is no longer happening. And, if it is, it's done in a much smaller way. No more honor among thieves.

Q: Other thoughts/comments?

A: At this time I, would like to thank Donna and Nikki for introducing me to Chris Verstraete and Virtual Book Tour. It's been a great experience for me, and I will recommend it to other authors in the future.

*Tony, thanks or stopping by.

My Father, My Don: A Son’s Journey from Organized Crime to Sobriety is a must-read for anyone interested in an insider's view of life in the mob.

* Visit Tony's website for a Napoli photo gallery .

* Find out more about the book.

* View the book video.

(c) 2008 C Verstraete

November 17, 2008

Writing Tips & Markets for Kids and Teens

Young writers interested in getting their work published should be aware that there are numerous markets and resources available to them online.

Following is a list of sites with information for the young writer and markets that will interest both youth and adult writers. Some of the publications also are open to youth writing (or may be, so query them).

Compiled by: Christine Verstraete, author, "Searching For A Starry Night, A Miniature Art Mystery", -

Writing Sites:

Real - Kids writing critique group, tips

Debbi Ohi - Kid's writing tips & Links

Author writing tips - how to improve your writing

Author Ralph Fletcher writing tips

Preditors and Editors - market, agent, site warnings

Writing Markets:

Be the Star You Are - true events stories for young writers, 360-630 words. Deadline: Jan. 6 '09

Flashshot, 100 word stories - sci-fi, horror, mystery, may be open to younger writers. (non-paying)

Funds for Writers, Writing Kid Excellent, free newsletter by email with markets and tips. Subscribe and get a free markets ebook with tips by email!

Imagination Café - weekly writing contest for kids, winner posted on site (free member sign-up, needs parent approval, email confirmation) - Great market listings

Stone Soup Magazine, accepts work to age 13

Stories For Children Magazine, ages 3-12, accepts younger author work

Story Station, stories for ages 6-12, protagonists of same age (ask if accept stories from younger writers)

Teen Ink, accepts young author's work (fiction and nonfiction, print and ezine)

Young Writer. UK - youth writer magazine, England

Good luck and get submitting!

Eye Candy: Christmas in Miniature

'Tis the season, well almost, even if the stores already had Rudolph fighting off the witches and gremlins for shelf space before Halloween was over.

I'm a traditionalist in that I've ignored any way-too-early Christmas carols and have no intentions of shopping until after Thanksgiving. But working in miniature, of course, means that holidays can be celebrated at any time.

Procrastinator that I am, I still haven't finished the Christmas room I began last year. So for fun (and maybe to push me to finish), I thought I'd share a few of the Christmas miniatures I already finished for my Christmas shoppe.

You also can see photos of my miniature Santa's House at my website.

This was the first time I tried making a Gingerbread House and I plan to do more.

I cheated, though, and made the walls, floor and roof with painted Crayola (TM) Model Magic air-dry clay. The roof pieces are covered with pre-baked FIMO oven-bake clay I cut in slices. The door was framed with bugle beads. (Note: Get a FIMO color chart and a useful color mixing chart here.)

Sweet Tooth

The real fun is making, and collecting, miniature food. These great cakes and cookies were made by my friend, Kitty, who has a way with clay and makes a lot of my food and most of my teapots. I'll feature her cheery Christmas Tea Shoppe later. (I did make the jar using a large bead.)

Other inspirations:

Check out the yummy plate of miniature Christmas cookies or this incredible Gingerbread House I found on Etsy. ( Ha! She even makes miniature food earrings!)

For fun, you can make your own Gingerbread House using this polymer clay tutorial. If you'd prefer an edible version, make this Graham Cracker Gingerbread House.

** Your Turn: What's your favorite Christmas tradition or craft? Is there a favorite decoration you enjoy bringing out every year?

November 06, 2008

"Eye" Candy - In the Eye of a Needle

Today I thought I'd highlight an incredible artist whose work many may not be familiar with.

I collect and make miniatures, but working in quarter scale or 144th scale is small enough for me. I've worked in these scales but prefer larger projects.

Now imagine something smaller than the eye can see, even smaller than the eye of a needle.

That old question, how many angels can dance on the head of a pin, can be demonstrated in the hands of micro-artist Willard Wigan.

For an amazing view of his work, check out this ABC News video.

November 02, 2008

Searching For A Starry Night spooky excerpt - Book Blog Tour

Today for the Virtual Book Tour, I'm a guest at Joyce Anthony's blog.

Be sure to read a spooky excerpt from Searching For A Starry Night, A Miniature Art Mystery... Boo!

New Reading Poll!

I, like every other author - and reader - wonders how the economy has affected your reading habits. None of us are reading less, but maybe your buying habits have changed? Please vote in my reading poll.

Your Turn: Share in the comments how your habits have changed, or what you do differently now to continue your book habit.