Sambuka Black is a smart book for smart kids (and smart adults) and it’s full of challenging puzzles, natural science, principles of physics and a real sense of risk that won’t let you put the book down. And all this is wrapped up in a wonderful adventure fantasy romp which tickles the imagination with characters that leap off the page. Oh, and there’s magic and dragons, too.
Our novel just received a Lexile score of 950 which puts the reading level of Sambuka Black between that of Harry Potter and A Tale of Two Cities. We dropped one copy off at the Multnomah County Library Administrative Office and within a week, they ordered copies for 6 of their locations. Not only are they on shelves now, they’re being checked out regularly.
What we need is help getting our novel and its companion puzzle book into libraries, schools and after school programs everywhere! Readers so far have loved it and have been encouraging us to find a way to get it out to more people. We have boxes of our books in our living room, but have no money left to pay for promotion or marketing…that’s where we need your help.
So…who are we and how did this project evolve? And how can you get one of these pretty mushroom pendants?
We’re two stop-motion animators who fell in love while animating on a TV show 13 years ago and absolutely adore working together. Our writing involves our alter-ego characters and is inspired by the world around us as seen through their eyes. Here are our official bios:
Jeff Mulcaster – Born many many winters ago in the highlands of Canadia, tragically orphaned Jeff was raised by wild weasels, hence the lingering aroma. With his ferret siblings, the cowardly canuck escaped to Portland in ’86 during the Great Maple Syrup Wars that nearly ripped his homeland apart. He has trouble with the tropical weather, though, and often suffers from excessive sweatiness. Jeff was given asylum by the brilliant indigenous animators who were endlessly amused by his pronunciation of the word “about.” Naturally very gifted at playing with toys, he won an Emmy Award, somehow, then a Clio, and continued animating on projects like the California Raisins, The PJs, and Coraline. With so many voices…er, rather, words in his cluttered head, Jeff did some much needed cleaning of the attic by putting pen to paper for the co-authored Sambuka Black with the love of his life, Dielle Alexandre. Jeff is very fond of strong coffee and cookies.
Dielle Alexandre – Dielle grew up in the very center of the country and, looking excitedly in every direction agreed that, yes, all the world is indeed a stage. Her performance genes revealed themselves early when, at age three, she choreographed her first number about a one-legged chicken. A graduate of the Kansas City Art Institute, Dielle has led a very mundane life pursuing very boring activities like skydiving, her pet iguana, stage performance, film making, medieval sciences, raising Burmese pythons and riding a motorcycle. She moved to Portland in ’98, animated on the multiple Emmy winning Eddie Murphy series The PJs, produced several events such as the 1st Ever Smokey Awards and the Clinton Street Animation Festival as well as filled the role of 2nd Assistant Director of Animation on the film, Coraline. Dielle’s passions include cooking, organic gardening and writing with Jeff Mulcaster, the love of her life.
After we rolled off the movie Coraline in 2009, we decided to finally write that story that had been bouncing around between us. It started with a poem I (Dielle) wrote back in middle school and it challenges the idea that dragons are mindless beasts. Our own alter-egos have infiltrated the story as well, performing as…well, can’t really say what they do, but they’re in there. Here are their bios:
Duncan of the proud six-armed carrier cyclops clan is very very old by human standards but merely middle aged in cyclops years yet retains the maturity level of your average teenager. Nigh impervious to cold, he’s something of a thrill seeker, often risking life and limb for no apparent reason. His running, jumping, climbing and swimming skills have, however, occasionally gotten him out of a jam. Thanks to the wonderful Miss Alex, Duncan has slowly (glacially slowly) been learning to read and write and has an almost autistic romance with words. He has some demons, too, including a life long struggle with honey addiction (clean for 300+ years and counting!) and an inexplicable fear of a certain suspension bridge. Also, a long ago incident cost him two of his favorite arms. He doesn’t like to talk about it. Duncan does like to eat and eat and eat and eat and claims to have no pain receptors in his stomach, whatever that means.
Born of questionable parentage in the wilderness of the Western Territory, Miss Alex was taken in as a small faun by Nancy the Dragonhearted. A natural athlete with a razor sharp mind, her petite stature belies the enormous personality within. She’s a master chef, specializing in sauces and artistic display. Very musical, Alex is a virtuoso of the acoustic mandore and is also known for her haunting passionate whistling though this is heard primarily when she is pensive or upset. Alex’s main project in life is her cyclops, Duncan, her partner and doting houseboy. They’ve been together since they were just kids really, and she has unshakable faith that her diamond-in-the-rough will one day shine. Till then, he makes a fine pack animal. In her spare time, Miss Alex makes costumes, writes songs, and promotes the artwork of several dragon friends.
We originally wrote this story as an animated screenplay. Then, when a 10 year old friend of ours found himself reading it well past midnight on a school night because he couldn’t put it down, we decided to turn the clunky, truncated script into a fully rounded out novel so we could share it with the world. This approach resulted in showing, not telling, and led to a writing style which inspires the imagination while simultaneously satisfying the senses with a “what-happens-next” tempo.
Part classic fairy tale, part summer action flick, Sambuka Black is filled with enough heart and intelligence to warm the soul of the most bitter cynic, plus over 150 drawings! If a picture is worth 1000 words, this story tops out at about 200,000 within a comfortable three hour read. Plus, for the extra clever and creative, there is the Sambuka Black Activity Book: drawings from the novel for coloring along with many puzzles including mazes, word finds, and two elaborate wacky crosswords. Recommended for geeky adults and kids ages ten and up.
So, what’s the difference between magic and science? This question plays throughout the story while at the same time teaching readers about how an aquifer works, how to use a fire piston, how to make a fish trap, how common practices can upset an environment, and even how easily a society can forget its past.
The story is not a cliffhanger, but it is a mystery. For those who read between the lines, there is subtext to be found and hidden clues to the unanswered questions such as, “What does the title mean?” Or “Why is Little Purple so valuable?” The sequel is titled, “Sambuka Noir,” and we are currently learning ASL because it includes a race of characters who communicate through sign language. Currently a 2” stack of college-ruled notebooks, we expect to finish it sometime in 2012….the more support we get, the faster it will come out. Not to mention, Sambuka Black was specifically designed to be read over and over, clues and connections will pop out at you on the second and third readings…and just wait for the sequel!
How can you help?
We want to send a novel to as many school and public libraries as we can. This will get us recognition, reviews of our book, and word of mouth marketing.
We want to donate copies of our Activity Puzzle book to after-school and learning enrichment programs. Our activity coloring books stand on their own with really awesome mazes and dot-to-dots and wordfinds, but they also work as promotion for our novel because the two in-depth crossword puzzles only work if you know the story.
We want to tell the rest of our tale….which is 5 books long. We have outlines, but need a fan base to help us get to the end. Kids who follow us now have the chance to grow with our characters and even inspire the subjects we include. A weaver we met a few weeks ago has inspired a character who can make carpets do tricks…and a girl named Sarah emailed us about a problem with our website which helped us find and rescue a Bobbykin who had gotten trapped in a server.
All books donated in the name of a sponsor will be accompanied by a handmade letterpressed card with the patron's name done in calligraphy and a description of our Kickstarter program.
the following are 2 of several reviews from amazon.com...
Highly Imaginative, January 17, 2012
Black is an extremely creative children's story that is also an enjoyable read
for adults. Dielle Alexandre and Jeff Mulcaster have crafted a tale of a child
who is on a quest to find a baby dragon and encounters many perils and new
friends along the journey. The book has many colorful characters and vivid
I loved the many illustrations sprinkled throughout the entire book. Especially the ones that are drawn by the main character Kara, the authors do a great job at seeing the world through a child's eyes.
The birthday song made me laugh!
a fun fantasy romp, January 16, 2012
book that's equal fun for both adult readers and the YA crowd.
It's the classic quest of a young girl to overturn a malicious magician. The villain has seized control of a magic realm through enslaving the wise and mighty dragons that once roamed free. As one might expect, as the plucky heroine sets off to rescue her own young dragon companion, she encounters a variety of fantastical beings--some helpful, others deadly. Gathering strength along the journey, everything leads toward a climactic confrontation.
I was delighted with the antics of the sidekicks she teams up with: a faun and a four-armed cyclops. There's a spirit you feel in them that is just so warm and good-natured, you leave the book wishing you could go back to their house for a cup of tea and pan-fried grubs. It's a pleasure to find warmth like this in fiction, which--though imaginary--helps conjure a place of safety in one's mind that lingers long after the book is done.
At the same time, I'm very pleased that the authors didn't pull their punches when our heroes came face-to-face with danger. There's a death, a painful loss, and a very visceral sense of risk when the adventurers face violent conflict. This is as it should be; without the possibility of failure, who cares? The stakes are high, and light shines in contrast to the dark.
The authors are clearly great fans of classic Sci Fi/Fantasy films. Genre fans will have a fun time picking out all the references to Ray Harryhausen flicks in particular. Not that you'll miss out on anything if you don't catch them--but the shout-outs and homages are there to be found. As are a number of other puzzles and mind-ticklers. Hints at the end of the book encourage younger readers to go back and look for the clues, to see if they can figure out the mysteries. Answers to a few still evade me... I look forward to the promised sequel to expand my understanding of this entertaining universe.
If you enjoy stories like the Dark Crystal, or Miyazaki's "Spirited Away," or if you're a fan of all the various dragon worlds--check this one out.
- (30 days)