Trojan Tub Entertainment

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Come Visit Patria!

I mentioned in my last post the first in the series of my Patria series of humorous adventures for middle grade readers, Stout Hearts & Whizzing Biscuits. Well, Stout Hearts is now available at Amazon, and very soon will also be available at Apple’s iBook Store, as well as at Barnes & Noble. The audiobook will also be available this coming week, probably on Tuesday. News on that still to follow.

Here’s a link to the Stout Hearts page on Amazon:

And here is a synopsis of the book:

When Oliver Stoop, age 11, moves with his family to a remote piece of land in northern Indiana, he soon discovers that someone is already living there—an entire kingdom of someones, in fact. These are the good citizens of Patria, a secret land founded by refugees from the Trojan War who sailed across the Atlantic in a reconfigured Trojan Horse—3,000 years ago!  

For Oliver, Patria is a land of wonders—and for the first time in his life, friendship. There's young Prince Farnsworth Vesuvius, inventor of the Magna-Pneumatic Whizzing Biscuit Blaster, and his formidable sister, Princess Rose, whose inedible, stone-hard biscuits provide the blaster's ammunition. But there's also the rest of the eccentric and lovable Patrian Royal Family, the boy warriors in the Potawatomi Indian Camp, not to mention the Viking kids from the Geat Village, newcomers to the area who only arrived 1,000 years ago. 

Yet when the noble Knights of the Blue Sock threaten to drive off the Stoops by force of arms, Oliver has to decide where his loyalties lie, and whether he has the courage to undertake the quest that is both Patria's, and his family's, last, best hope of peace.

So come on and follow Oliver on his adventure in Patria! It will be fun for the kids in your life—and for the kid in you.

Trojan Tub Entertainment’s Kingdom of Patria interactive website is on schedule to debut this coming Tuesday, November 1. Expect more background on Patria, blogs from Oliver, Rose and Farnsworth, free short stories, and opportunities for kids to join one of two Patria-related clubs. All coming Tuesday at:

That beautiful cover art that I’ve placed at the top of this post was illustrated by Theodore Schluenderfritz. The Kingdom of Patria website is designed by Snap Design.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Stout Hearts & Whizzing Biscuits

The first review of my humorous children's middle grade novel, Stout Hearts & Whizzing Biscuits: A Patria Story, is in!

"A funny, clever children's book that absorbs you into Oliver Stoop's adventures from the moment the first biscuit is fired."
Rachel Dove, Kindle Book Review

OK, so it's just a blurb. But the full review should be in by the weekend. Watch this space!

And starting next Tuesday, November 1, Stout Hearts & Whizzing Biscuits will be available as an ebook from Amazon's Kindle Store, Barnes & Noble's Nook Store, and Apple's iBooks store.

Also on November 1, my company, Trojan Tub Entertainment, will unveil the Kingdom of Patria website featuring an immersive experience related to my Patria series of middle grade novels: free short stories, interactive features, contests, audio, and more! A great place for kids and the entire family to come and read and play. 

The audiobook of Stout Hearts & Whizzing Biscuits will also be available on November 1. More news on that front coming soon! 

Monday, October 24, 2011

Shakespeare's Blackfriars Playhouse--in Virginia

My family and I just spent a marvelous weekend in Staunton, Virginia (pronounced by the locals as “Stan-ton”). One of the things that took us there--other than views of the brilliant autumn leaves in the glorious Virginia countryside-is the town’s replica of the Blackfriars Theater in London, the indoor companion theater to the Globe that was used by Shakespeare’s company, the Lord Chamberlain’s Men, later to be known as the King’s Men.

Unsurprisingly given the name of “Blackfriars,” there is an interesting connection of the theater to English Catholic history--though the connection is to a rather sad episode: the dissolution of the Catholic monasteries by Henry VIII. Here is what Shakespeare scholar Stephen Greenblatt has to say about the Blackfriars Theater in his captivating book on Shakespeare, Will in the World (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2004):
"During the rein of Elizabeth, in 1596, the entrepreneur James Burbage (the father of the famous actor) paid six hundred pounds for property that had, until the dissolution of the monasteries, been part of a large friary, belonging to the order known as the Friars Preachers or Black Friars [i.e., the Dominicans]. The location was a desirable one: though it was within the city walls, it was a “liberty” and hence outside the jurisdiction of the city fathers. A theater had already been established twenty years earlier in one of the Blackfriars halls, where a succession of children’s companies had performed. But this enterprise had collapsed after eight financially troubled years, and the indoor theater had gone silent. The enterprising Burbage smelled a profit, if he could reopen it for performances by what was then the Lord Chamberlain’s Men. He had built the Theater, one of England’s first outdoor playhouses; now, by reconstructing the hall where the children’s companies had played, he would open England’s first indoor playhouse for adult actors. The location was prestigious--not in the suburbs, hard by the bearbaiting arenas and execution grounds, but right in the heart of the city. The Blackfriars hall was much smaller than the Globe, but it had the great advantage, given the vagaries of the English weather, of being roofed and enclosed. It was, at least by comparison with the open amphitheaters, a place of decorum and even luxury. Disorderly crowds would not stand restlessly around the stage; instead, everyone would be seated. Hence admission prices could be greatly increased--from the mere pennies at the Globe to as high as two shillings in Blackfriars--and, it was possible to illuminate the hall by candlelight, there could be evening as well as afternoon performances" (pp. 366-67). 

We saw two performances at the Blackfriars Playhouse put on by the repertory company of the American Shakespeare Center: on Friday night, Henry V, and on Sunday afternoon, The Tempest. Both performances were hugely enjoyable, living up to the company’s motto of “serious fun.” Both performances aimed at being as accessible as possible, and they mostly hit the mark extremely well, though at times giving in a bit too much to buffoonery and sexual gags (not in Shakespeare’s text).
But it was a charming discovery to find this replica of the Blackfriars Theater in a small town in central Virginia. It is a testimony to what the arts--privately funded as far as I can tell-can be in our polity.    

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Love in the Ruins

“Now in these dread latter days of the old violent beloved U.S.A. and the Christ-forgetting Christ-haunted death-dealing Western world I came to myself in a grove of young pines and the question came to me: has it happened at last?”

Such is the beginning of Walker Percy’s darkly comic apocalyptic novel, Love in the Ruins: The Adventures of a Bad Catholic at a Time Near the End of the World.

Percy’s satire—published back in 1971 (two years before Roe v. Wade)—dovetails nicely with the prevailing negative mood in our country, and in the West in general:

off-the-wall protests on Wall Street…similarly protesting Italians taking a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary out of a church and smashing it (don’t ask why)…a pervasive sense of malaise even as our economic doldrums drag on…a weariness with institutions at all levels…Europe crumbling…a gross lack of civility and simple good manners everywhere…a general shabbiness and neglect of good craftsmanship…an educational system decades past the point of crisis and in deep decline…

“Undoubtedly something is about to happen.
Or is it that something has stopped happening?

Is it that God has at last removed his blessing from the U.S.A. and what we feel now is just the clank of the old historical machinery, the sudden jerking ahead of the roller-coaster cars as the chain catches hold and carries us back into history with its ordinary catastrophes, carries us out and up toward the brink from that felicitous and privileged siding where even unbelievers admitted that if it was not God who blessed the U.S.A., then at least some great good luck had befallen us, and that now the blessing or the luck is over, the machinery clanks, the chain catches hold, and the cars jerk forward?”

It is hard to know anymore what it means to be an American. In principle, it means being dedicated to the Constitution. But in practice, the Constitution is simply one more battleground in the cultural conflict.

The constitutional crisis however is just one symptom of the deeper cultural crisis. The dystopian scenario depicted by Alasdair MacIntyre in the prologue to his book, After Virtue, seems more definitively to characterize our way of life than when it was written in the early 1980s.

A culture at bottom is a cultus, a way of worshipping. So what are we worshipping, here in the Christ-forgetting Christ-haunted death-dealing Western world? 

(The image at the top was painted by William B. Montgomery)

Monday, October 17, 2011

Kids & Kindles

Apologies for being out of touch with High Concepts of late, but I’ve been going great guns preparing for the launch of Trojan Tub Entertainment’s “Patria” website two weeks from tomorrow on November 1st. (What’s Trojan Tub? Click here.)

I’m writing web content this week, as well as recording the audio book of the first book in the Patria series, Stout Hearts & Whizzing Biscuits. Meanwhile, the folks at Snap Design continue their marvelous work constructing the site, and Ted Schluenderfritz continues to amaze with his delightful illustrations.

As I talk to people about Trojan Tub, the question tends to arise, “Are kids really reading books on Kindles, Nooks, and the like?” More and more, I think they are. A recent survey by Scholastic Publishers bears out the hunch. For a summary, click here.

And with Pottermore readying to launch at the end of this month, I believe the buzz around children and ebooks will only grow louder.

Last Christmas was the break-out season for ereaders and ebooks. This Christmas could very well be the break-out season for children’s ebooks. 

Friday, October 7, 2011

From My Patria

I'm a Mac person—and not just because I'm a McInerny. I’m vain enough to be proud to own one of the few black Macbooks. I love my iPhone. I love using many Apple apps, such as iMovie, iPhoto, iTunes, and Garage Band. I love the way images look crisp on a Mac.

And like many, I'm attracted to the sleekness of Apple design—in hardware, software, and in their graphic presentation. Bold images against a white background. The simplicity of the Apple logo. The overall user-friendliness of their devices. The “coolness” factor is very compelling. 

Steve Jobs, who died Wednesday, had of course much to do with making Apple one of the most exciting companies on the planet. He is being widely celebrated this week for his innovation and savvy, and there is much to admire in what he accomplished. 

But what I appreciate most in the achievement of Steve Jobs is the way the personal computer, of which he is one of the founding fathers, makes possible a certain kind of creative and economic freedom. Under the digital cloud, entire businesses can now be run from a desktop. Indeed, entirely new industries have become possible because of the technology that Jobs helped make so widely available.

One of these industries is the self-publishing industry, which is being freshly re-imagined almost by the minute. Capitalizing as it does on the surging interest in ebooks (a surge in which the iPad has played a significant part), self-publishing is just one instance of the revolution in ownership, and one that I myself have decided to plunge into.

I would like to introduce to you today my new company, Trojan Tub Entertainment, a web-based children’s entertainment company featuring my Patria comic adventure stories for middle grade readers (approximately 7-13 years old). Designed by the superb creative team at Snap Design, and illustrated by the rich and whimsical talent of Theodore Schluenderfritz, the Patria website will launch November 1, and feature the free first chapter of the first book in the Patria series, Stout Hearts & Whizzing Biscuits. Those parents willing to dig deep enough into the old sock to purchase the entire book for their offspring will be directed to Amazon’s Kindle site, Barnes & Noble’s Nook site, or Apple’s own iBooks store in order to exchange the ridiculously low price for hours of peace while their children squirrel themselves away with this soul-stirring adventure. Given that your credit card will already be drawn and quivering, the site will also direct parents and other readers to iTunes, where the unabridged audiobook of Stout Hearts & Whizzing Biscuits will be awaiting your download.

However, the Patria website is not all about commerce. There will also be free Patria short stories available on the site, blogs written by the main characters, an interactive map of Patria, contests, not to mention the free first chapter of the sequel to Stout Hearts, tentatively titled, Work More or Less in Progress That Needs to Get Finished Pretty Darn Quick. This sequel will be available (gulp!) December 1. 

So how to fill the trackless void until November 1? Visit the Trojan Tub Facebook page and “Like” the company, and join up to follow the news from Patria on Twitter: @kingdomofpatria.

Trojan Tub would not be possible, in the end, without the kind of vision displayed by Steve Jobs. And for that, I am sincerely grateful. 

May God bless him, and may he rest in peace.