Tag Archives: BBH McChiller

Cephalopod Awareness Days

October 12 is the last day of International Cephalopod Awareness Days, which is celebrated each year from October 8th through the 12th.

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Copyright photo

In case you’re wondering, cephalopods are a class of mollusks that include octopuses, squids, cuttlefish, and nautiluses.

The timing of this celebration has nothing to do with the spooky Halloween holiday, although cephalopods have been haunting oceans for millions of years. No, the dates were chosen because cephalopods have either 8 or 10 appendages.

cephalopod-days

Cephalopod Awareness Days celebrate our curiosity and love of books, movies, and TV shows that feature cephalopod characters. For instance, ‘20,000 Leagues Under the Sea,’ ‘Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea,’ ‘The Little Mermaid,’ ‘SpongeBob Squarepants,’ and the Harry Potter series, to name a few. Video games like Minecraft and Pokémon have cephalopods, too!

For the sake of keeping this post from growing as long as a giant squid’s tentacle, I’ll share with you just a few interesting facts about octopuses:

They’re extremely intelligent and have excellent memories. It’s no wonder they’re so smart since they have nine functioning brains, one behind the eyes and the others in each of its eight arms. They have four pairs of arms, by the way.

Some octopuses have been known to use tools. Watch the 39 second video below. Home sweet home!

They’re so smart, some have been observed opening everything from screw-top jars to the cap on a childproof medicine bottle.

If an octopus gets bored, they’ve been known to eat their arms. Ew! Do you think that’s gross? It might make you feel better to know that they’re able to regrow their limbs.

They have three hearts. (I wonder if they love Valentine’s Day three times as much?)

They have blue blood. (For a tongue twister, try saying “blue blood” three times as fast as you can.)

Octopuses can change colors to blend in with their surroundings and hide from their enemies. It takes less than a second for them to change color. They can also change their texture to disguise themselves. This is a cool 24-second video:

If a predator confronts them, they can squirt dark ink to dull the sense of smell of their attacker, giving the octopus a chance to escape.

They also have venom, but only the blue ringed octopuses’ bite can be deadly to humans.

They don’t have a skeleton, so they’re able to squeeze through small spaces. Their bodies can fit through any cracks that their beaks fit through. This 1:42 minute video shows an octopus slithering through a crack in a boat:

Do you think Harry Houdini would have been impressed by that escape?

The last interesting fact I’d like to share is kind of scary, like something right out of a horror story. Once a male octopus mates, it dies soon after. The females can lay up to 400,000 eggs, which they guard with their lives. When the eggs hatch, the mother’s body quickly deteriorates until she dies. A haunting tale, for sure.

To learn about other cephalopods, here’s one website among many about these amazing creatures.

So what do you think of cephalopods? Do you find them fascinating? What’s your favorite creature, either real or fictional? Can you think of a book or movie that has a cephalopod in it?

If you love fun, creepy stories, my Monster Moon series coauthor, Kathryn Sant, and I have three thrillers you might like. We write under the pen name BBH McChiller.

Book 1 – Curse at Zala Manor (Great read for Halloween):

978-0615855479

 

“This tale will rattle yer timbers, squiffie, and chill ye to the bone!”

It’s almost Halloween, and twelve-year-old AJ Zantony’s world is threatened by an ancient curse that releases wicked pirates who had been trapped for centuries in his Aunt Zsofia’s creepy mansion, Zala Manor.

Available in print or eBook formats.

 

Book 2 – Secret of Haunted Bog (Fast paced and full of action):

Lynn Kelley Author, BBH McChiller, Secret of Haunted Bog, Monster Moon mysteries

“Beware the bog, landlubbers.

If ye venture into that haunted place,

Yer every step be filled with danger. Yarr!”

Available in print or eBook formats.

 

 

 

Book 3 – Legend of Monster Island (Perfect for Cephalopod Awareness Days):

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Cover illustration by fellow Emblazoner, Mikey Brooks

“Listen, swabbers, to this kraken tale.

Treasure and scoundrels and setting sail.

Sinking ships and a ghostly wail.

Can AJ survive, or will the beast prevail?”

Available in print or eBook formats.

 

 

 

 

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Lynn Kelley worked as a court reporter for 25 years while she and her husband, George, raised their four little rascals, but nowadays she’s a goofball in the highest degree who’s susceptible to laughing jags. She tries to control herself out in public, but it’s not easy. She’ll jump at any excuse to wear funky get-ups. For instance, making wacky YouTube videos, entertaining her grandkids, or hanging out at  a costume party.

She recently became a Master Certified Health Coach through the Dr. Sears Wellness Institute.

 

 

Brainstorming With Fifth Graders

By BBH McChiller (Lynn Kelley and Kathryn Sant)

Visiting a class of fifth-graders and brainstorming with them is awe-inspiring and gives writers for tweens cool insight into the kids’ world, how they think, and what they like. We discovered a wonderful way to engage them during an author visit, so maybe this will give you some ideas, too.

For several years now, Bob Schumacher and Jeff Lindeman, fifth-grade teachers at Cooley Ranch Elementary School in Colton, California, have invited us to visit their classes on Dr. Seuss Day. Mr. Schumacher would usually have us read the final chapters of Curse at Zala Manor, Book 1 in the Monster Moon Mystery series. From there, we’d talk about writing, the importance of revising, and field questions, but this year we tried something quite different.

Mr. Schumacher reading final chapters of Curse at Zala Manor to his 5th grade class.
Mr. Schumacher reading final chapters of Curse at Zala Manor to his 5th grade class.

We asked Mr. Schumacher to read the final chapters. The students were familiar with our ongoing characters, so we decided to try brainstorming with them for our next Monster Moon book.

BBH McChiller, Monster Moon Mystery series

First, we drew a simple graph of rising squiggly lines on the board and explained, “Here’s the beginning of a story. All of these hills represent an obstacle the main character has to deal with in order to reach his/her goal. The rising action becomes more and more intense with each obstacle, until finally you reach the end of the story, the climax, the battle.”

Next, we explained that we were going to read the beginning chapters of our work-in-progress, Legend of Monster Island, Book 3 in the series, and we wanted the kids to brainstorm and tell us what obstacles they’d like to see the main characters face.

We read the first couple chapters, which begin with 12-year-old AJ Zantony brushing his teeth in the guest bathroom at his Aunt Zsofia’s creepy mansion, Zala Manor. A strange octopus-like tentacle slithered out of the toilet and wrapped around his leg. He managed to escape its grip and watched it slip back down into the commode.

Soon after, his 11-year-old cousin Jaz screamed from the other bathroom. AJ found her in a puddle next to the toilet with a tentacle attacking her, too. After fighting it off, they tried to get some sleep, since Jaz had a big swim meet to compete in the next day.

The class seemed to listen closely, knowing we wanted to hear their input and might possibly write some of their ideas into the novel. When we finished reading the chapters, we asked the students to share some of their ideas. “What would you like to see happen in the story?”

More than a dozen hands shot up, and we were taken aback by the kids’ eager responses. Some of them were so enthusiastic, they could barely stay seated, waving their hands to be called on next.

BBH McChiller, Legend of Monster Island
Screen shot from videoclip of 5th graders sharing their brainstorming ideas.

As students shared their thoughts, sometimes they’d spark an idea in some of the other kids. Their eyes lit up as they let out an, “Oh-oh” and raised their hands.

Here are some of the comments:

  • Boy:  “At the swim meet, the kraken comes back to take Jaz away.”
  • Another student: “Dang!” (Mad because the other boy thought of his idea.)
  • Girl:  “When the kraken comes through the pipes in the swimming pool at the swim meet and gets Jaz, AJ and Emily have to get a boat and go to the island to look for her.”
  • Boy:  “They find the dead body of Vlad. The kraken got him.”

Kids exploded with protests, shouting at the boy. Whoa! He slunk down in his seat and covered his face, clearly sorry he had shared that idea.

The class was in such an uproar at the suggestion of killing off Vlad, the 300-year-old pirate rat (a favorite in the series), that Mr. Schumacher had to stop their protests.

“Great idea,” we told the class. “It’s good to make the reader think something bad happened to a character the reader cares about. They think Vlad’s been killed, but he really hasn’t.” A few minutes later the same boy raised his hand again with another idea.

It was a good way for the kids to learn that when brainstorming, we should be free to come up with anything and everything. Nothing is off limits. Even if one idea doesn’t fly, it can lead to more ideas, some that turn out to be a brilliant twist to our stories. So it was important for that boy and the class to know that his idea was just as good as anyone’s.

We found it interesting the way the students would springboard ideas off of each other’s comments, just like we do when we’re brainstorming Monster Moon plot lines.

Some of the ideas were wild and crazy, and we loved hearing them:

  • Boy: “Jaz gets taken in the toilet, but she lets out a scream, so AJ comes in and then he gets sucked in, too.
  • Kathy: “Oh, no! How will they get out of the toilet?”
  • Boy: “There’s another set of mazes because they’re in the sewer.”

Some of the kids wanted the villains from Curse at Zala Manor to come back in the new book. Many students wanted more scenes in the underground tunnels and secret passages from Curse at Zala Manor. The students’ suggestions confirmed that elements like catacombs and hidden passages appeal to many of us, playing upon our universal curiosity to find out what’s behind the closed door.

Here’s one of my favorite ideas shared by one of the boys:

  • Boy: “While Aunt Z is driving AJ and Jaz to the swim meet, all the krakens circle around them and take the pink hearse.”

By the end of the session, every single kid in the class had raised their hand and participated. We had so much fun brainstorming with Mr. Schumacher’s class that we could have spent hours with them, but we had to hurry to Mr. Lindeman’s class, which was right next door.

We repeated the brainstorming exercise, and the same energy ignited throughout that classroom, too. We left Cooley Ranch Elementary School feeling as pumped up as the kids. They’ll be mentioned in the acknowledgements of Legend of Monster Island because some of their ideas made it into the book!

Legend of Monster Island, Monster Moon Mystery series, Book 3, BBH McChiller
Book 3 of the Monster Moon Mystery series will be published soon.
Cover illustration and design by Mikey Brooks.

Vlad Back Cover Eye Patch

BBH McChiller is the pseudonym for two Southern California writers, Lynn Kelley and Kathryn Sant. The Monster Moon series began one Halloween as a discussion about their greatest fears and ended up being one of their most rewarding experiences.

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