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1. Fantastic Beasts of the Wizarding World

With the wizarding world returning to the big screen with a movie called Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, not only will the magic return but so will the many magical creatures we have come to love. But which ones will we meet again, and how many new ones will we be introduced to for the first time?

There were many different types of magical beasts that were mentioned and introduced throughout both the Harry Potter books and movies. We all have our favorites, the ones we’d want as a pet, and now, the ones we want to see return in the Fantastic Beasts movie. I’ve decided to explore a few of my personal favorites. I’ve got my copy of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them here to help us rediscover these fantastic beasts.

Shall we start with the obvious? Probably the most popular and most widely known throughout the wizarding world as well as the Harry Potter fandom. Terrifyingly beautiful, they are the hardest creature to conceal from muggles.

Dragons

We were first introduced to dragons in Harry’s first year, when Hagrid began raising a Norwegian Ridgeback in his cabin. They were mentioned many times from that point on, finally making a reappearance in Harry’s fourth year as the first task of the Triwizard Tournament. Since the four wizards each had to face a different dragon, we had the pleasure of being introduced to four new breeds: the Hungarian Horntail, the Chinese Fireball, the Swedish Short-Snout, and the Welsh Green.

There are ten different breeds of dragons known in the wizarding world but they occasionally interbreed, producing rare hybrid dragons. They have just a few different uses among wizards, namely for their wands. One option for the core of a wand is a dragon heart string. Other aspects of dragons are also useful in brewing potions or as fertilizer for plants.

As full beings, they have been known to be used as obstacles, sort of like guard dogs. Aside from the triwizard tournament, we see them used this way in the lower levels of Gringotts Bank. The Golden Trio even lived my dreams by flying a Ukrainian Ironbelly, the largest breed of dragon, to safety.

Moving on to one of my personal favorites.

Hippogriffs

A Hippogriff is a beautiful creature with the head and wings of an eagle and the body of a horse. They first appeared in the books in Harry’s third year, when Hagrid took over the job of Care of Magical Creatures professor. Hagrid owned a beloved Hippogriff named Buckbeak. Luckily, Hippogriffs are one of the creatures Hagrid owned throughout the books that are actually able to be domesticated.

Hippogriffs are very sensitive creatures. One must be very careful when attempting to approach them, bowing low and keeping eye contact at all times. If the Hippogriff bows back, it is safe to approach farther. Also, it’d be wise to remember “If you have nothing nice to say, don’t say anything at all,” otherwise you may end up with an injury or two.

Phoenix

Very few people have been able to domesticate these birds, but it is not impossible. Phoenixes are grand birds, with rich scarlet feathers and a golden tail. They are very gentle creatures whose tears have powerful healing properties. The Phoenix song is quite magical as well, it is believed that it can increase the courage of the pure of heart and strike fear into the hearts of the impure.

Ablus Dumbledore was one of the few able to domesticate a Phoenix. Harry, along with the rest of us, were quite confused when Fawkes suddenly burst into the flames the first time we saw him. Phoenixes have a regenerative ability that let’s them burst into flame when their body is weakening and be reborn from their ashes once again. They can also disappear and reappear at will, taking anyone holding onto them along with them. Kingsley Shacklebolt had it right, Dumbledore’s got style.

Acromantulas

I’ve never been one for spiders but I think if I ever came within 100 feet of an Acromantula I’d probably soil my pants. It may not be the prettiest magical creature that I know of but it is definitely one of the scariest and most interesting. An Acromantula is a large, eight-eyed spider that is capable of human speech and has near-human intelligence.

Hagrid raised an Acromantula from the egg, creating a profound bond between the two. The Acromantula, Aragog, inhabited the Forbidden Forest until it’s untimely death in 1997. Within it’s life, Aragog established a colony within the forest where it’s children still live today.

 

Since the latest trailer for Fantastic Beasts was released, we have caught a glimpse of two new beasts: the ever-adorable little trouble maker, the Niffler, and the Swooping Evil. The Swooping Evil isn’t in the Hogwarts textbook, so Warner Bros. will be including Beasts fans would never have expected. The Niffler, the creatures listed above, as well as many others, you can learn more about in the Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them book!

Leave a comment about which fantastic beasts you’d like to see in the movie!

 

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2. Artist of the Day: Grace Nayoon Rhee

Discover the art of Grace Nayoon Rhee, Cartoon Brew's Artist of the Day.

The post Artist of the Day: Grace Nayoon Rhee appeared first on Cartoon Brew.

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3. DC Entertainment nabs Dan Abnett for exclusive DC and Vertigo work

b056_-_aquaman_rebirth_aqmreb_cv1Writer Dan Abnett (Aquaman) has just been announced for an exclusive deal over at DC. The creator, best known for reimagining Guardians of the Galaxy with his writing partner Andy Lanning has already been announced as the writer of DC’s upcoming Aquaman series during Rebirth. Rebirth is the publisher’s brand new superhero line-wide initiative that […]

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4. Neil Gaiman: Dream Dangerously to premiere on Vimeo in June

Respect Films new documentary following Neil Gaiman’s life and work and Ocean at the End of the Lane tour is called Neil Gaiman: Dream Dangerously. The movie was made over the last few years with NEil’s cooperation. Director Patrick Meaney also made the Image Revolution, Warren Ellis: Captured Ghosts and Grant Morrison: Talking with Gods […]

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5. Ten Tips for A Successful Critique Group

#writingfiction, #writingtips, #fiction, #critiquegroup, #genre, #novel, #storybuildingblocks, #screenplay, @Diana_Hurwitz,  #temperament,#critiquegroup
Last week, we discussed how to find your writing tribe. Once you find them, it is time to lay down the ground rules.

1.Decide what type of feedback/group you truly want and need.



Are you all at the same level of beginner, intermediate, or expert? Sometimes a mix is good, but sometimes it causes aggravation. If you need help growing your craft, find a mentoring group. If you just want to be encouraged, find a nurturing group. Are you able and prepared to exchange high-level analysis, editing, proofreading, etc.? Find a master class group.

2. You must be willing to commit to it as if it were a job.

Uneven groups foment resentment. It is bad for the group when some people submit and critique and others don't. Members who don't show up are disruptive. Everyone has "life" events that intrude, but you should try to schedule a time and place and hold it sacred.

3. Make rules and stick to them.

Decide how often you will meet, where or how you meet (in person, online groups, Skype, etc.), how many pages are submitted, the type of feedback you need for each submission, and the format of the feedback (written notes, verbal exchange, notations in Word for Windows, or a combination). Some may be at the final draft stage, others at the first draft.

4. Assign a "clock watcher." It is best to divide your time up evenly so no one gets left out or feels their work has not received equal attention. Make it someone's job to keep time.

5. Assign a "temperature taker." This person keeps everyone on topic and keeps the discussion from becoming heated. Hurt feelings can fester and destroy a group quickly. Make it someone's job to keep the flow positive. It is best to confront any negative interaction right away.

6. Check your ego at the door. If you can't handle constructive criticism, then this is not the venue for you. Everyone will have a different take on your work. They will catch different things. They will have opinions. You do not have to respond to or adapt to them. Say thank you and move on. But if more than one person says the the same thing, you should listen a little closer.

7. No gossiping about each other. Period. No trolling members you don't like.

8. Don't make assumptions. You are fiction writers. Don't assume anything is autobiographical.

9. What happens in the group stays in the group. You should not discuss the other members, their work, their critiques, etc. with other people unless you have their permission. To do so is a violation of trust.

10. If you have a problem member, address the topic openly amongst everyone. Give them a chance to fix things (i.e. not submitting, critiquing, attending) with a deadline. Enforce the rules. If you decide to make exceptions because of special circumstances, make sure everyone agrees.

For more information on writing craft, hang out with me at Story Building Blocks on FacebookPinterest, Linked-In, or Twitter and visit www.dianahurwitz.com for free downloads.

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6. You’ll see us…coast to coast…

Coral Gables,FL-Venetian Pool-Linen

Coral Gables,FL-Venetian Pool-Linen

About a month away before Lux Mentis ventures to Coral Gables, FL for Rare Books and Manuscripts Section/ACRL Conference 2016! Lux Mentis is sponsoring a seminar:

“Common Sense, Charm, and a Glass of Wine: Successfully Navigating Donor Relations in Special Collections”

Stay tuned for exciting catalogs furthering our manifesto of vice and debauchery and if you are lucky, a print version (while supplies last!).

Follow the marauders on Instagram: instagram.com/luxmentis/

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7. More-igami by Dori Kleber, illustrated by G. Brian Karas



More-igami is the debut picture book from Dori Kleber, illustrated by longtime favorite G. Brian Karas. More-igami is a fantastic picture book for so many reasons. The main character shows perseverance or, grit, to use the hot new word in the world of education, as he struggles to master a skill. More-igami is a marvel of diversity in a picture book, featuring African American, Asian and Hispanic characters. But, best of all, More-igami is just a really great story with marvelous illustrations that is a joy to read our loud.


Joey loves all things folded, from maps to accordions to tacos to, of course, foldaway beds. When Joey's classmate, Sarah, brings her mother to school to teach the class how to make origami cranes, Joey's mind is blown. Mrs. Takimoto tells Joey that she can teach him the folds, but if he wants to be an origami master, he'll "need patience and practice." No problem! Joey practices everywhere with everything, including folding the $38.00 he found in his mother's purse. Frustrated and out things to fold, Joey heads to the restaurant next door because "fajitas always made him feel better." There, he finds a place to practice folding and help out Mr. Lopez. Even better, he finds a new friend to share his talent with - as long as she has patience and is willing to practice!

Karas's illustrations are perfectly matched to Kleber's text, which wonderfully, simply shows the frustration and determination that Joey possesses. The hand drawn texture of Karas's illustrations add to the creative feel of More-igami, which will undoubtedly inspire readers to do some folding of their own, especially since there is a two page spread at the end of the book that shows you how to fold an origami ladybug!

Source: Review Copy

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8. The Picture Book Process

There are many steps from thinking about writing a picture book to showing the published book to children,

http://www.buzzfeed.com/macbarnett/how-to-write-a-picture-book-i066#.etWKVbzND

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9. Edith Grossman Q & A

       At the Los Angeles Review of Books Liesl Schillinger continues her series of Q & As with translators with the third instalment, Edith Grossman on Reading Spanish and the Pitfalls of Literalism.
       Among the observations:

There are times when I'm translating seven days a week. When I was younger, I was doing seven hours a day, but now I'm down to five.
       Quite a few of her translations are under review at the complete review -- including Carlos Rojas' The Ingenious Gentleman and Poet Federico GarcíaLorca Ascends to Hell, and it's good to hear she's working on another Rojas novel (which The Modern Novel already has under review (where he notes that it appears, to (then-)date only to have been translated into ... Hungarian and Russian -- this despite the fact that, as Grossman notes, Rojas has long been Atlanta-based)).

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10. ‘Revengeance’ Trailer: Bill Plympton’s Eighth Feature Might Be His Quirkiest Yet — Exclusive

Cartoon Brew reveals an exclusive trailer for "Revengeance," the new animated feature by Bill Plympton and Jim Lujan.

The post ‘Revengeance’ Trailer: Bill Plympton’s Eighth Feature Might Be His Quirkiest Yet — Exclusive appeared first on Cartoon Brew.

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11. Todays inspiration

I was gardening, and looked up to see my my 5-year-old doing this.
This is why we who are in the children's publishing industry do what we do.

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12. Tickets on Sale for ‘Privacy’ Starring Daniel Radcliffe

Tickets are now available for purchase for the off-Broadway production of Privacy, starring Daniel Radcliffe. As announced last month, Radcliffe is set to take on the role of “The Writer” in the play, which is inspired by the revelations of Edward Snowden and explores the concept of privacy in the digital age.

 

This unusual play actually encourages its audience to stay connected during the performance:

 

“Privacy explores our complicated relationship with technology and data through the funny and heart-breaking travails of a lonely guy (Radcliffe), who arrives in the city to figure out how to like, tag, and share his life without giving it all away. The play uncovers what our technological choices reveal about who we are, what we want and who’s keeping track of it all. This provocative theatrical event will ask audiences to charge their phones, leave them ON during the performance and to embark on a fascinating dive online and into a new reality where we’re all connected…for better or worse.”

 

Privacy will run July 5 through August 14 at Public’s Newman Theater. The play’s opening night is scheduled for July 18.

 

To learn more, visit broadway.com.

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13. Jeanie Loiacono to speak at OWL August 2016 Conference

Jeanie Loiacono to speak at OWL August 2016 Conference
http://www.loiaconoliteraryagency.com/jeanie-loiacono-to-sp

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14. Be a Reading Superhero

Scholastic Summer Reading ChallengeReading Is My Superpower. What’s Yours?

The Scholastic Summer Reading Challenge is on! You can log minutes, earn rewards, and enter for a chance to win prizes.

And here is another fun reading activity you can do with a friend. Print the Scholastic Summer Reading Mad Libs story starter, grab a friend, and crack yourselves up filling in the story with your answers. If you have never played Mad Libs before, here is what you do:

  • Print the sheet and don’t let your friend read it first.
  • Ask your friend to give you words for each blank space on the sheet. The clues in parentheses under the blanks tell you what words your friend should say. For example, the first blank asks for a name, so your friend would tell you any name.
  • Write down the word your friend says in the space, NO MATTER WHAT the word is!
  • When you have filled in all the blanks, read your story out loud.

Reading Superhero

 

 

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15. Roundtable Review: DC Universe REBIRTH #1

REbirthDC“I look down at it and know without question: I love this world. But there’s something missing.” In the five years since DC Comics rebooted their universe through the Flashpoint event and New 52 line, the oldest major comics publisher in America has seen its fortunes fall. After being barraged with complaints about homogeneous artwork, constant […]

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16. Sugawara and the Secrets of Calligraphy review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of the classic eighteenth-century Japanese play, Sugawara and the Secrets of Calligraphy, just out in a paperback re-issue (alas, a fairly pricey one) from Columbia University Press.
       Do not expect many calligraphic revelations -- but it is certainly an entertaining piece.

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17. Tapping into Tornado Safety

RealTornado

A tornado in action.

Summer time is right around the corner! You may want to imagine the sun, sand on the beach, and fun doing outdoor activities. However, the dangers of tornado season continues on. In the United States, tornado season typically occurs from March through June depending on the region. The South and the Midwest are the areas where tornadoes occur the most often. Other countries around the world also endure these storms such as South Africa, Argentina, China, and the United Kingdom. Our book Tornado Tamer takes on the re-imagining of the tale, “The Emperor’s New Clothes” where a weasel weaver tricks a whole town into believing an imaginary cover can protect them from tornadoes. Though it is a hilarious situation within our book, tornadoes are a serious danger in real life. Tornadoes can go up to 300 miles per hour and can last up to 1 hour. The wind speeds alone can cause a lot of destruction including the loss of homes, businesses, and the lives of people and animals. To keep you informed and aware, these safety tips are important to know what to do in case the need to use them arises.

Before a Tornado:

  • Practice tornado drills to know what to do in case one comes.
  • Listen to local news or radio outlets to stay informed about tornado watches and warnings.
  • Pick a safe room in your home or nearby building. Preferably a room that is underground without windows. An example is a basement.
  • Board up windows if at your home and secure any items outdoors such as trash cans and furniture that can be picked up by the high speed winds.
  • Prepare a disaster kit for your home or car if travel is necessary: First aid kit, flashlights, food, water, and a battery-operated radio/television if the electricity goes out.

During a Tornado:

  • Go to the safe room that was chosen that is windowless.
  • Get under a sturdy piece of furniture such as a table.
  • Do not stay in mobile homes or cars because they offer minimal protection and immediately find shelter in a sturdy building.
  • If stuck in a vehicle, keep your head down with the seat belt on below the windows and keep yourself covered with your hand.
  • If stuck outdoors, find a low-lying area and lie flat away from roadways.
  • Stay away from damaged areas.

After a Tornado:

  • Check on others that are with you for injuries.
  • Use the phone only for emergency situations.
  • Stay tuned to news/radio outlets for updates and new information.
  • Stay inside until it is reported safe to come out.
  • Avoid power lines that were knocked down or submerged in water.
  • Use a flashlight to inspect your home or building for damages.

Stay safe out there and use these tips!

Find out more about tornadoes and other kinds of storms with these books!:

bookpage.php?id=TornadoTamer

Tornado Tamer

In this adaptation of “The Emperor’s New Clothes”, Mayor Peacock declares he will hire a tornado tamer to protect the town. After a long search, Travis arrives to fill the position and this weasel has a plan. He will build a very special, transparent cover to protect the town. Travis’ magical cover is so transparent that only those smart enough and special enough can even see it. Mouse is doubtful, but his questions are brushed off. Months later, the cover has been hung and Travis has been paid a hefty sum, but a tornado is in the distance and the town is in its path. Will the magic cover protect the town?

bookpage.php?id=ReadySet

Ready, Set, … Wait!

Hurricane . . . just the word brings to mind the power of these natural disasters. Humans watch the news and know of impending arrival. We board up windows and gather supplies. We might huddle in our homes or go inland. Then we wait for the storm to arrive. But what do wild animals do? Do they know when a storm is coming? If so, how do they prepare? This book explains how nine animals sense, react, and prepare for a hurricane. Based on research or observations, the brief portraits are explained in simple, poetic language for children of all ages.

bookpage.php?id=PrairieStorms

Prairie Storms

Cozy up for this great rainy day read! Prairie Storms gives you a front row seat to learn about a year of ever-changing prairie weather, and how the animals living in these grasslands adapt and survive in this harsh climate. Each month, read about a new animal, and learn about everything from how a prairie grouse can survive the January snows to how an earless lizards escapes the harsh, unrelenting drought of August. Told in lyrical prose, this story is a celebration of the great American prairies. See more about Prairie Storms at http://prairiestorms.com/.


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18. A Comic Ode to Booktalking

We’re in the throes of booktalking here at Darien Library, and I thought this time-honored tradition deserved a comic.

anodetobooktalking-sm

All illustrations copyright Lisa Nowlain, 2016.

Lisa Nowlain is the Harold W. McGraw Jr. Fellow and Children’s Librarian at Darien Library in Darien, CT. She is also an artist-type (see more at lisanowlain.com).

The post A Comic Ode to Booktalking appeared first on ALSC Blog.

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19. When Jack Kirby drew Captain America saluting Adolf Hitler

201605261328.jpgHate and outrage have defeated love and optimism yet again. On Monday it was suggested that Marvel had a story trick up their sleeve that would steal the spotlight from DC's ramming-speed publicity blitz for its revamped universe and Rebirth #1. A shocking!!! plot twist in Captain America Steve Rogers #1 that revealed Steve was really a Hydra agent all along seemed unlikely to unseat a wholesale rewriting of ten years of DC history, along with a shocking Alan Moore related plot twist. But, today we have a genuine tweet storm and think piece blitz, all wrapped in a bow

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20. मोदी सरकार की उपलब्धियां

मोदी सरकार की उपलब्धियां अगर बार बार लगातार देखने पर भी आपको मोदी सरकार की  उपलब्धियां नजर नही आ रही तो आप HD channel लगाए … क्योकि कम्पनी हमेशा दावा करती है कि आपको एक दम साफ साफ दिखेगा … इसलिए मैने HD लगा लिया है और आपने ??? amitabh bachchan nda government india gate central government […]

The post मोदी सरकार की उपलब्धियां appeared first on Monica Gupta.

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21. Interview: Belgian Cartoonist Brecht Evens Invokes Fear In a Handful of Colors with PANTHER

PANTHERinterior_25Over the past few years, cartoonist Brecht Evens has become one of the great Belgian imports thanks to books like The Wrong Place and The Making Of. Evens has a fascinating eye for color, a unique sense of design, and the ability to juggle a large cast of relatable characters. Those fascinating, thoughtful stories though […]

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22. Friday Feature: Tempting Death



The truck should have turned Libbi Piper into a Libbi pancake, but a mysterious boy named Aaron saved her life instead. The problem? Aaron’s the local Grim Reaper. The bigger problem? He saved her life so she can take over his job. 

Libbi has just days to choose between dying like she was supposed to or living a lonely life as Death Incarnate. The choice only gets harder when she learns Aaron’s reasons for wanting out of the whole morbid business. Basically, his job sucks. 

Still, when Aaron looks at her, there’s something more in his eyes. Something dark and secret. Something he’s hiding. Libbi will be damned if she’ll die without figuring it out. And she’ll be damned if she lets him go. 

Excerpt:

The creep is back.

I may not be able to see him, but I know he’s here, somewhere. Call it intuition. Or maybe it’s just the eerie memory of when the guy stared me down last night. I don’t know, but I’m not taking any chances.

I hunch over my history final and release my thick hair from behind my ears. It swings forward like a dark-brown curtain and hides my face.

Show’s over, buddy.

I can’t look around, not with Mr. Winkler on “cheater duty.” Hopefully, the guy will get bored and go wherever the hell he went last night when he took off.

The final is what’s important. I need to focus on this test.

I read the next question on the page, but the loser’s gaze bores through my dark shield of hair and my arms erupt in gooseflesh. Before I can skim the multiple choice answers, my eyes betray me and shoot up to scan the classroom.

Mr. Winkler sits at his desk scratching at some poor schlub’s paper with his red pen of doom. His bald head gleams in the harsh fluorescent light. God, I hope it’s not my paper he’s destroying. I can’t afford another bad grade in this class.
I quickly scan the rest of the classroom through the part in my hair, but everyone is working. Eerie feeling or not, nobody’s looking at me.

But I know someone is watching. Just like last night, I can feel his stalker stare.

This is ridiculous. I shake my head and rub my arms to dispel the goose bumps. This guy has freaked me out so much I’m imagining his eyes on me now. I don’t have time for this. I have an exam to finish.

The tip of my pencil hovers over the letter C, and something in my peripheral vision shifts. I snap my head up and finally see him.

The guy I caught staring at me at the art show last night, the guy who warned me something bad was going to happen to me today, stands at the tiny rectangular window in the door. He tilts his head and his ice-blue eyes lock on mine, sending a shiver through my body.

Shake it off, Libbi, I tell myself. He’s just a crazy boy with a crush.

Actually, with his tousled black hair and his nose pressed against the glass like that, he looks a little like a lost puppy. If he wasn’t so creepy, I’d almost feel sorry for him. But couldn’t he choose a better time than the middle of my history final to eyeball me? Plus, he said he wanted to talk to me alone, and this is most certainly not alone.

I point to my partially finished test and mouth, “Final exam.”

He nods. A half-smile lifts the corners of his lips.

“Bye.” I wave my hand.

“I need to talk to you,” he mouths.

“No,” I reply, but he continues to stand at the door.

Dude, catch a clue already. I spin away from the door, sneak a peek at Mr. Winkler, and shove the eraser of my pencil between my teeth. I yank the eraser out of its metal holder and flick it at the back of Haley’s head. Her chair squeaks as she jumps and whips around to glare at me.

“What?” she whispers.

“Look.” I point over my shoulder with my pencil to the classroom door. “That crazy guy I told you about is at the window.”

We turn to the door together, but the window’s empty. He must be a shy creeper.

“Where?” Haley says.

“Never mind. He’s gone.” I slump back in my chair. At least I can finish my test in peace.

Grab a copy on Amazon.

Elizabeth Holloway is a maternity nurse, an avid reader, an artist, a karaoke singer, a music lover, and a kick-ass Pictionary player. She lives in Hanover, Pennsylvania.

*Want your YA, NA, or MG book featured on my blog? Contact me here and we'll set it up.

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23. First Chapter Reveal: The Hunt by Megan Shephard

Read the first chapter of the The Hunt by Megan Shephard below!     Meet Megan Shepherd! Megan Shepherd grew up in her family’s independent bookstore in the Southern Appalachian Mountains. She is the author of the acclaimed young adult series The Madman’s Daughter and the forthcoming middle grade novel The Secret Horses of...

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24. बच के रहना फोन कॉल से

बच के रहना रे बाबा … बात ज्यादा पुरानी भी नही है जब चुनावी दिन चल रहे थे तो नेताओ के जैसे कभी मोदी जी की आवाज में तो कभी अरविंद जी की आवाज मे फोन सुनने पडते थे ( अब भई काट भी तो नही सकते आदरणीय मंत्री जी जो ठहरे ) नई टेक्नोलोजी […]

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25. Austin Distance Challenge!

The famous Distance Challenge fridge magnets
It's been a few months, but I finally have some time to sit down and blog my having completed the Austin Distance Challenge (long course), sponsored by the Austin Runners Club.  I'd done most of the events before, but decided to do the challenge itself (six races, culminating in the Austin Marathon), because I wanted to put more structure into my training for the marathon. I'd done several in the 90s, but this was my second of the century and I wanted to do better than my last one (2013).

The first race was the Run Free Texas 80s 8k (for those who don't think in metric, that's about five miles) up in Cedar Park.  Naturally enough, there were a couple of DeLoreans, each outfitted with a flux capacitor.  Time travel being what it is, they were obviously the same car but from different time periods. :-).  The course was through residential neighborhoods and parks and had some rolling hills -- nice for a beginning of the season race.

Back to the Future!
The second race of the Challenge was the Run for the Water Ten Miler.  The course was along Lady Bird Lake and up through Tarrytown and then back downtown, There were some great hills on this course and let me know I needed more hill work...And, ironically enough, it was raining. :-)
Rain and hills
Race three was the Decker Challenge, a half marathon in early December with a course around Decker Lake.  It's notorious for hills and really bad weather.  (The last time I ran it, it was in the 40s and pouring rain).  If anything, last year, it was a bit too warm.  The hills were pretty brutal, though. 
My face when attacking the hills
But Santa was there!
After that, we had a month break until the Rogue Distance Festival 30k (about 18.6 miles) in early January.  This one was fairly cold and probably my least favorite of the events.  It was up in Cedar Park again and ran through residential neighborhoods which was fine.  There was an issue with marking the course, though, so most of us got off track, which meant the mile markers were out of order so it was impossible to figure out a pace. (I think at some point, we were going in circles -- and ended up going about a mile farther than we should've.).  Still, it was my longest run before the marathon and I was kind of glad it happened that way. 
Yay!  I'm done! :-)
With four events done, it was all downhill from there.  Literally.  The 3M Half Marathon starts up in the Great Hills area and runs a straight line down to downtown. It also has a swag bag filled with useful (and not so useful) 3M products.:-)
Leo checks out the swag bag
This one also started out pretty cold and way too early :-). 

Before dawn, in the warm car before the cold race.
I really enjoyed this one, though, and it was a nice preview of many of the neighborhoods on the marathon route.
Finisher!
The piece de resistance, of course, was the Austin Marathon in mid-February.  I like the course, but the first time I ran the Austin Marathon, it was all downhill, starting up north and snaking its way downtown.  Now, there's a good bit of uphill until around mile 18.  I still like the course, though, and it's not like the hills from the Decker Challenge or the Run for the Water races.

I was pretty happy with my time -- my second fastest of the century!  I did it in under 4 hours, which had been my goal.  Next year, I'll work more on speed, but this time, I just wanted to not have my quads seize up in the last two miles :-).

Running through UT campus
Made it! Best time of the century!
Anyway, thanks to everyone involved in putting on the races and the challenge itself: organizers, volunteers, emergency personnel, and all the rest!  You keep Austin running!

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