If you’ve been around this blog any length of time, you’ll know what a fan I am of Jill Williamson. I am super excited about this new project she’s doing with her family (part of the inspiration for the story I’m writing here on Thursdays). I also love the fact she’s targeting books for some of the most reluctant readers – middle grade boys. I hope you’ll join the bandwagon and help support this awesome project! And now, here’s Jill!
My son, Luke, and I came up with the idea of writing a science fiction fairytale series, which we called RoboTales. In each story, Robo the robot dog befriends a child who helps him gather a clue to the mystery of who built him and why. This is a children’s chapter book series for readers ages 7-13.
In the first book, we meet a twelve-year old mechanic named Tinker. He is scavenging for parts outside the city when he finds a broken robot dog with the letters R.O.B.O. on his side. This is no ordinary robot assistant. Its hull is made from thick alloy. Robo can not only fly. He can fly in outer space. But Robo is broken, so Tinker takes him home to see if he can fix him.
Tinker lives with his uncle and cousins. He works in his uncle’s repair shop and scavenges parts from the local Hunk and Junk. Tinker’s motto is “recycle and create,” and he hopes to someday invent something that will make a difference in his planet’s pollution levels.
When the Invention Institute holds a Recycle Race contest for young inventors, Tinker wants to enter. His uncle gives him permission—if he can find his own parts. Tinker finds an old airbike at the Hunk and Junk and hauls it home, but the night before the contest, his cousins destroy the airbike. That’s when Robo steps in to help.
Each book in the RoboTales series follows Robo to a different planet where he meets a new boy and they help one another. In the later books, some of the early characters will return as they all work together to solve the mystery of Robo’s past.
With children’s books, the illustrations matter just as much—and sometimes more than—the story. We went hunting for the perfect artist and found her! Kirbi Fagan, a Michigan-based graphic artist, has a gift for illustrating these types of books. And she loves dogs too.
But we couldn’t afford her. Not up front, anyway. Which was why we decided to try a Kickstarter campaign. This would help us gather book buyers in advance. In backing our campaign, you are really pre-ordering these books. That way we can use the money to pay the illustrator now, and you’ll get the books once they release in October 2015.
Kickstarter is an all or nothing program, though. If we reach our goal within the allotted time period, those who backed us will be asked to pay the amount they pledged. If we fail to gather enough supporters by the end date, no one is charged and we get no money to pay our illustrator.
Click here to visit our Kickstarter page and read more about this project, including our budget and a full list of backer rewards. Please help us spread the word about RoboTales. We can’t wait to get these books into the hands of young readers everywhere!
To thank you for taking the time to learn about our project, here is the unedited first chapter of Tinker (book one in the RoboTales series).
Tinker couldn’t see.
Dust covered the glass of his helmet screen. He wiped it away and looked at the nearest street sign. Gibbos Street and Taden Avenue. Almost home.
In the mornings, Tinker had a clear view of the glass dome of the Invention Institute. Now it was late afternoon. School was out and people were heading home from work. The movement of so many vehicles stirred up the dust to a dangerous level.
At this time of day in the city of Tharsis, Tinker couldn’t go outdoors without a helmet or he’d be blind.
He also wouldn’t be able to breathe.
Tinker pulled his wagon across Taden Avenue. His cousins would be home soon. He needed to hurry back to the shop and hide Robo.
A horn blared. Tinker ran the rest of the way across the street. Behind him, a crawler bus rumbled to a stop. An ad for the Invention Institute covered the side
Tinker’s father had been a student there. And later he had worked as a part-time teacher on the weekends when his repair shop was closed. That was back before he had died. Back before Uncle Noctis had taken over the shop.
If Tinker could go to school, he would go to the Invention Institute.
But school cost money. And Uncle Noctis said there wasn’t enough to send Tinker. There was never enough of anything for Tinker.
He sighed. At least he had Robo, his first friend.
His only friend.
Tinker looked at Robo. The robot dog was sitting in his wagon. A plastic cover hid the contents of the wagon from the dust.
His only friend was a robot dog.
Better than no friend at all, though. Right?
The crawler bus started moving again. It filled the street with a cloud of dust that blinded Tinker. He waited for the dust to settle and wiped his helmet screen again. Through the cloud of swirling sand, Tinker caught sight of the sign to his uncle’s shop.
Sark & Sons Service and Repair
You break it, we fix it
Or Tinker fixed it, anyway.
A narrow alley ran between the repair shop and Monn’s Eatery. Tinker pulled his wagon between the two buildings. The smell of greasy baji slices made his stomach growl. Maybe he and Robo would visit Mr. Monn later and beg a snack. Mr. Monn loved Robo and often tried to feed him baji slices. Tinker always ate them instead. Robot dogs didn’t need food.
Tinker opened the airlock door. He pulled his wagon into the dust cleaning chamber. The door closed behind him, and he flipped the vacuum switch. The vents on the ceiling and floor sucked the dust off Tinker and his wagon.
Once everything was clean, Tinker turned off the vacuum. He opened the cargo doors and pulled his wagon into the workshop. He unzipped the wagon’s dust cover so he could see Robo.
The robot dog was silver with black accents. One of his eyes was a camera lens. The other was a light bulb that lit up green or red. This was Robo’s quick way of saying “yes” or “no.” He also had a black monitor screen for a face. He used this to talk with green text. His tail was an antenna. His legs rotated so he could stand or lie flat on his stomach. And he had the letters R-O-B-O on the bottom of his belly.
That was how Tinker had learned his name.
But that wasn’t the most interesting thing about Robo. His body—or his hull—was made from thick alloy. He could not only fly. He could fly in outer space.
Except he was broken. So he couldn’t fly at all.
Tinker heaved Robo into his arms. “Let’s get you upstairs before Grezzer and Ratch get home.”
Robo beeped. Words scrolled across his face screen. Engine malfunction.
“Yes, I know your engine is broken. But I don’t have time to look at it now.” Tinker crept up the stairs to his loft above the workshop. He set Robo on the floor. When Robo stood on all four legs, he came up to Tinker’s knees.
Tinker shifted Robo’s legs so that the dog lay flat on his belly. Then he slid Robo under his bed where he would be safe.
Tinker ran back down to his wagon to sort his finds. If the customers knew most of the parts used to fix their gadgets came from the Hunk & Junk, they might complain. But Tinker’s rebuilt parts were better quality than the cheap parts his uncle bought from offworld salesmen.
Recycle and create. That was Tinker’s motto. Kitz was the most polluted planet in the Upeero system. Someday Tinker would find a way to create clean energy.
“What are you doing, Stinker?”
Tinker stiffened at the muffled voice of his cousin, Grezzer. He glanced up. Both Grezzer and Ratch were standing just inside the airlock doors. Grezzer was tall and thick with skinny legs. He reminded Tinker of a screwdriver. He was the older of the two. Ratch had the same thick build but was shorter. Tinker thought he looked like a drickle from planet Zigmar.
Ratch had removed his helmet. Grezzer still had his on. No wonder his voice had sounded strange.
Grezzer removed his helmet and tucked it under his arm. “Maybe you wouldn’t stink if you stayed away from the Hunk & Junk.”
“We saw you from the school crawler,” Ratch said. “Dragging that wagon of trash.”
“Where’s your trash dog, Stinker?” Grezzer asked, his tiny eyes darting around the shop.
Tinker didn’t answer. His cousins acted like Robo was a hunk of junk, but Tinker knew better. They wanted him. He sorted the last two items into the part bins and moved his wagon to its spot in the corner.
The door to the front of the shop burst open. Uncle Noctis peeked inside. “Tinker! Where have you been? There’s a line of customers out the door.”
“He’s been to the Hunk & Junk again, Father,” Grezzer said.
“That’s why he stinks,” Ratch added.
“I don’t care if he stinks,” Uncle Noctis said. “I need someone in the front. Grezzer? Ratch? Do you boys want to help in the shop today?”
“I’ve got homework,” Grezzer said.
“I’m hungry,” Ratch said.
“That’s what I thought.” Uncle Noctis held the door open. “Tinker, get in here. Now!”
End Chapter One
WHAT ABOUT YOU? WHAT DO YOU THINK OF THIS PROJECT?