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1. WordPressers Making a Splash

We might think of the end of summer as a slow news season. Not so for the authors and bloggers we feature today, who’ve been hard at work on some exciting projects recently.

Rebecca Hains

princess problemWriter, professor, and media scholar Rebecca Hains often shares thoughtful posts on her blog, especially on topics revolving around gender and discrimination. Earlier this month, she celebrated the release of The Princess Problem: Guiding Our Girls through the Princess-Obsessed Years (Sourcebooks), her most recent book. A critique of popular culture and the messages it sends to young girls, the book has already earned rave reviews, including from Brenda Chapman, writer and director of Disney’s Brave.

Broken Light: A Photography Collective

broken light

Danielle Hark founded Broken Light Collective, a community for photographers coping with mental health issues, more than two years ago. We’ve been following that project for a while (and mentioned it in a mental health-focused roundup earlier this year), so it was nice to see Danielle, and Broken Light Collective as a whole, receive the attention they deserve in a New York Times profile. It was published to coincide with the Collective‘s first group gallery show, which closed in New York in August.

Hungry Sofia

cuban table

Ana Sofía Peláez‘s site has showcased the colorful, mouthwatering delights of Caribbean cuisine for more than five years, mixing in great storytelling with beautiful food photography. Next month,  Ana Sofía will see her book, The Cuban Table: A Celebration of Food, Flavors, and History (St. Martin’s Press), hit bookstores (and kitchens) everywhere. A labor of love on which she collaborated with photographer Ellen Silverman, the book chronicles Cuban food cultures from Havana to Miami to New York.

Notches

Anyone interested in engaging, wide-ranging discussions on the history of sexuality will enjoy Notches, a blog that has tackled topics like Medieval love magic and the origins of “Born This Way” politics.

Jack the Ripper

Earlier this week, Notches editor Julia Laite, a lecturer at the University of London, wrote a thought-provoking article in The Guardian on another fascinating topic: our decades-long obsession with Jack the Ripper.

Ever Upward

ever upward

Justine Brooks Froelker, the blogger behind Ever Upward, has been chronicling her journey through infertility, loss, and acceptance in posts that are at once unflinching and moving. Now, Justine is preparing for the release of her book, also named Ever Upward, in early October (it’ll also be available on Amazon starting February). You can get a taste of Justine’s writing in this excerpt from the book’s opening chapter.

Are you publishing a book soon? Has your blog made the news? Leave us a comment — we’d love to know.


Filed under: Community, Press, Writing

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2. Two Fabulous Picture Books


Constructionby Sally Sutton, ill. Brian Lovelock, Walker Books Australia
The long-awaited third picture book by this talented pair (after Roadworksand Demolition), this handsome hardback volume will be greeted with joy by children and parents alike. It’s the same format as the previous two: “Build the frame. Build the frame. Hammer all day long. Make the stairs and floors and walls. Big! Bang! Bong!” And what are the busy workmen creating? Why, a library, of course. Some Aucklanders will recognise the completed building as the flash Birkenhead Public Library. Brian Lovelock’s expansive illustrations (done with pigmented inks) are full of busyness and interesting construction features. You’ll find the traditional Facts page at the end that offers information about cranes, trucks and construction workers, and readers will also notice the endpapers with their photograph of assorted nuts (not edible). This is the kind of book that pre-schoolers will ask for repeatedly – because of the irresistible rhythm, the clever onomatopoeia, and the bright, spacious illustrations. Heartily recommended for pre-school centres and junior primary classes.

ISBN 978 1 922077 30 1 $29.99 Hb

Elizabeth, Queen of the Seas by Lynne Cox, ill. Brian Floca, Schwarz and Wade Books (dist. Random House NZ)

This delightful and good-looking picture book is based on fact, set in Christchurch, and written and illustrated by Americans. I love it – but crikey, why wasn’t the story of Elizabeth the elephant seal turned into a book by a New Zealand author? Anyway, congratulations to the enterprising Lynne Cox for her excellent story (her first children’s book). She was walking on the banks of the Avon when she met two children who asked her if she was looking for Elizabeth. Once she was told that Elizabeth was an elephant seal who lived in the Avon river and liked to sunbathe on the nearby roads, Lynne knew she had a great story to tell. It doesn’t take much research to check Elizabeth’s history, and to realise that the book sticks closely to fact. Elizabeth lived in the Avon and Heathcote rivers from the late 70s till her death in 1985. She was hugely popular with the people of Christchurch.

The text of the book is straightforward, suitable for pre-schoolers and early school-age children. The illustrations are done in pen and ink and watercolour, using different perspectives to provide light, bright pictures featuring the smiling seal. The illustrator has done his homework too – I can’t fault his rendition of Christchurch in the 1970/80s.

My review copy is going to my two preschool grandchildren in Christchurch for Christmas. They’ll love it.

ISBN 978 0 375 85888 8 $29.99 Hb 
Reviewed by Lorraine Orman      

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3. TURNING PAGES: THE EMPRESS CHRONICLES, by Suzy Vitello

I admit that this book put me in a bit of a spin, when I'd finished it. I had no idea how to talk about it. Magical realism? Historical fiction? Problem novel? The line between what was, and what wasn't was... a little shaky. The pacing was very... Read the rest of this post

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4.


Has your picture book manuscript been turned down so many times you're considering using it to wallpaper your office?

Have you agonized over every single word in your picture book manuscript and are unable to make one more change--but still don't feel it's ready to submit?

Do you love picture books but long to learn more in a deeper, more meaningful way?

Or would you like to work with like-minded writers in exploring a new picture book story?

Well, I have good news for you!

I've been told there are still a handful of spots left for my upcoming online course, INTERMEDIATE PICTURE BOOK WRITING. Click here for information. I hope to see your name on my roster!

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5. Defining Moment

You know the one.
It's the moment where you realize you don't have to defend yourself.
That revelation split second in time when you ask yourself the question,
"Why did I ever think I did?"

A smack your forehead kind of time in life.

The Bible speaks repeatedly about God being our judge and counselor. Now I am not talking about going out on Saturday nights and partying and then coming to church on Sunday morning hung over. I am talking about making decisions to do something that is in the best interest of an innocent even when it doesn't make sense to others. Even when it offends them.

The Bible also speaks about standing up for truth. I am not going to stay somewhere that His word is compromised, sugar coated, or twisted. I'm not even talking about a church right now. I am talking about anywhere I go.

People are going to sin. It's human nature. But to live with your head in the sand for the sake of appearing tolerant is something completely different. I am going to tell the truth. And I am not going to add sparkly wings to it.
When it comes down to it-
I don't allow magick wands in my presence.
Deception.

If I am unaware of it, I pray for God to make me aware. It takes a while sometimes, but then God will do something amazing like give me scripture about dusting my feet. I know then I had better act.

If we don't listen in those moments my darlings- we will be sorry later.

I don't like offending people. But every time I have ever tried to be subtle about something, it ends horribly. So I have to be who God made me to be.
Imperfect. Determined. Strong. Loud. Alarming. Honest.  Creative.
Weird.
Strange.
Different.
Flowery.
Poetic.

Who has God created you to be? Do you know for sure? Are you seeking His face in order to know? Whoever HE has made you to be, be that person. And nothing else. Please. It will not end well. If you are meant to be a sweet and quiet example- be that. If you are called to be the loud one who climbs on tops of buildings and yells down to the masses, then do so. If you are told to be still, then be still. But know His voice. Know it well. Don't listen to other voices. Block the noise from your ears and heart.

Sometimes if I am running around in circles- I will stop somewhere at a stop sign and suddenly someone will pull up next to me with a license plate.

Saturday it said JAE (that would be my name) 9213. Saturday was 9/13... Just saying.
What about the two? Perhaps something happened at two o'clock that day that I will never know about. But it slowed me down to take the time to listen to my Father. And I had peace about what is coming for us. In that moment I hadn't been sure I was headed in the right direction, and too many other voices were trying to speak to me (children, spouse, parents, friends). I had to know whether to head up that mountain and take the tiny place that was offered to me- or to stay here and wait for the farm to come. I know now. And now I am moving.

Moving to a tiny place now forces me to get rid of all the unimportant things in my life. To clear out the clutter. At one time nine people lived in this five bedroom home (my five kids, us, and a couple of extra teenagers). The mess was easily hidden in closets. But you see, God has been revealing things in the natural as much as in the spiritual. Although I had gotten rid of half my belongings months ago, I needed to get rid of more. Moving to my tiny place before the farm causes me not to carry all this clutter with me to a farm. My promised land. It's up that mountain. I am going there. I will sit and wait. Prepare many stories for publication, and instead of wasting time finding the perfect place to try and put those stories- The Lion's Roar will do so for me...

If the Lord tells you to do something my lovelies, no matter how badly it hurts, do it. You won't be sorry. Know it's Him before you act. And then ACT. Please.

I love you all. Have a blessed week. If you don't hear from me for a little while, it's not because I have forgotten you. It's because I am embracing a life on TOP of the mountain.

Selah.





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6. summer reading challenge: congratulations, everyone!

I've heard so many wonderful things about this year's Summer Reading Challenge, and SO many people took part! I got this message from the kids at Dewsbury Library in Kirklees, who were having a party to celebrate earning this year's medals:



So right here from the studio in London where I make my books, I've made a message back! It's for Kirklees and ALL the people who took part in the Summer Reading Challenge: readers, librarians, volunteers, family members, sponsors... probably even more people were involved than that. Thank you!



And here's the slightly fancier video we made at Leith Library, if you want to see that, too. :)

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7. KidLit Events September 16-23

We have a lot of exciting events this we, from early readers to young adult, authors and illustrators. There is also a free writing workshop, so take notes and mark your calendars. While you’ve got your calendar out, be sure to put a big circle around September 27th for Tweens Read 2014!

September 17, Wednesday, 5:00 PM  LOUISE LOVES ART by Kelly Light
Blue Willow Bookshop
Kelly Light, Author/Illustrator

Kelly will also be appearing at Barnes & Noble, The Woodlands, September 18, Thursday, at 7:00 PM

For fans of Olivia and Eloise, this stunning debut from Kelly Light is an irresistible story about the importance of creativity in all its forms.

Meet Louise. Louise loves art more than anything. It’s her imagination on the outside. She is determined to create a masterpiece–her piece de resistance!

Louise also loves Art, her little brother. This is their story.

 

September 18, Thursday, 5:00 PM THE ODD SQUAD, KING KARL by Michael Fry
Blue Willow Bookshop
Michael Fry, Cartoonist/MG Author

Michael Fry will discuss and sign KING KARL (Disney-Hyperion), his newest novel in the ODD SQUAD series for kids. Nick, Molly, and Karl have nowhere to turn but to each other in KING KARL, the latest Odd Squad adventure, and they’ll need every ounce of wit, resourcefulness, and help they can get in order to rise above their biggest challenge yet.

Visit Michael Fry’s website to read the first four chapters of KING KARL.

September 18, Thursday, 6:30 PM MADE FOR YOU by Melissa Marr
Murder By The Book
Melissa Marr, MG, YA & Adult Author

Melissa Marr will sign and discuss MADE FOR YOU (Harper Collins). Eva Tilling wakes up in the hospital to discover an attempt has been made on her life. But who in her sleepy little North Carolina town could have hit her with their car? And why? Before she can consider the question, she finds that she’s awoken with a strange new skill: the ability to foresee people’s deaths when they touch her. While she is recovering from the hit-and-run, Nate, an old flame, reappears, and the two must traverse their rocky past as they figure out how to use Eva’s power to keep her friends—and themselves—alive.

Visit Melissa Marr’s website to read an excerpt of MADE FOR YOU.

September 20, Saturday, 10:00 AM
Writespace
The Houston YA/MG Writers
Writing Workshop: “More Than Words: Crafting Dialogue with Impact”

Join the Houston YA/MG Writers and YA author Kathleen Bagley for this free workshop! Dialogue is the backbone of character, but it is also notoriously hard to get right. It can be too long, too short, too wordy, too sparse, and, worst of all–sometimes dialogue just doesn’t work. But how does one know if one’s dialogue is working? In this hands-on workshop/lecture, Kathleen will show you several examples of dialogue that DOES work, and we’ll focus on what is done right. I’ll also show you how to cut out lengthy, unnecessary dialogue, and, most importantly of all, how to work with the most important aspect of dialogue: what is left unsaid. (Bring a writing utensil, because you’ll definitely be writing and sharing.)

September 20, Saturday, 1:00 PM SHATTERED by Mari Mancusi
Blue Willow Bookshop
Mari Mancusi, YA Author

Mari Mancusi will discuss and sign SHATTERED ( Sourcebooks Fire), her newest novel for young adults. Trinity, Connor, and Caleb are holed up in an abandoned West Texas farmhouse. Their only problem is Emmy, a baby dragon who is growing like crazy. When Emmy is caught on tape and the video goes viral, they find themselves on the run again. Their only hope comes from an old map leading to a man who has come from the future to help them.

September 23, Tuesday, 5:00 PMHALF A WORLD AWAY by Cynthia Kadonata
Blue Willow Bookshop
Cynthia Kadohata, MG Author

 Cynthia Kadohata—author of the Newbery Medal–winning book KIRA-KIRA, the National Book Award winner THE THING ABOUT LUCK, the Jane Addams Peace Award and Pen USA Award winner WEEDFLOWER—will discuss and sign new novel for children HALF A WORLD AWAY. (Atheneum Books for Young Readers).

Eleven-year-old Jaden is adopted, and he knows he’s an “epic fail.” He’s sure that’s why his family is traveling to Kazakhstan to adopt a new baby—to replace him. And he gets it. He is incapable of stopping his stealing, hoarding, lighting fires, aggressive running, and obsession with electricity. He knows his parents love him, but he feels…nothing.

But when they get to Kazakhstan, it turns out the infant they’ve chosen has already been adopted, and literally, within minutes, they are faced with having to choose from among six other babies. While his parents agonize, Jaden is more interested in the toddlers. One, a little guy named Dimash, spies Jaden and barrels over to him every time he sees him. Jaden finds himself increasingly intrigued by and worried about Dimash. Already three years old and barely able to speak, Dimash will soon age out of the orphanage, and then his life will be as hopeless as Jaden feels now. For the first time in his life, Jaden actually feels something that isn’t pure blinding fury, and there’s no way to control it, or its power.

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8. It's Time for Tuesday's Question!

Hello, and welcome to Tuesday's Question. 

       Olive Oil's daily attire

Tuesday’s Question is as old as this blog, which I started writing sometime in 2007, thinking it would be a great way to get to know more about the people reading my blog. But, within a short period of time, I realized my readers answers were just the icing on the
cake, because after I began visiting their
blogs, I learned more about them, and as a result stumbled upon valued friendships.  


Alright, enough wordiness, I know you're wondering what this weeks question is, so
here it is... 

          

What are you wearing today?  (And do not copy off of Olive Oil.)



Alright, I'll answer first- I'm wearing a white cotton shirt that you're supposed to wear over a bathing suit, so it has long openings under my arms and down my side. I'm wearing a blue jean jacket over it, jeans, and low top converse tennis shoes. My favorite type of clothing is cotton and linen, but most of the time I wear cotton. I love clothes that are soft and comfortable. Thank goodness I work at home because if I had to dress up everyday, it would depress me, especially if I had to wear heels, because I'd would wobble a lot, due to broken ankles.   

Now, it's your turn:

Thank you for stopping by A Nice Place In Sun, and for answering Tuesday's Question-

Have a terrific day- 


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9. Book Trailer: The Vast and Brutal Sea by Zoraida Córdova

Compiled by Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

Check out the book trailer for The Vast and Brutal Sea by Zoraida Córdova (Sourcebooks Fire, 2014). From the promotional copy:

This epic clash of sand and sea will pit brother against brother–and there can only be one winner. 

In two days, the race for the Sea Court throne will be over-but all the rules have changed. 

The sea witch, Nieve, has kidnapped Layla and is raising an army of mutant sea creatures to overthrow the crown. Kurt, the one person Tristan could depend on in the battle for the Sea King’s throne, has betrayed him. Now Kurt wants the throne for himself. 

Tristan has the Scepter of the Earth, but it’s not enough. He’ll have to travel to the mysterious, lost Isle of Tears and unleash the magic that first created the king’s powerful scepter. 

It’s a brutal race to the finish, and there can only be one winner.


Cynsational Notes

Diversity Needed Under the Sea: Not All Mermaids Have Blond Hair and Blue Eyes by Cindy Rodriguez from Latin@s in Kid Lit. 

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10. Welcome, BACKHOE JOE! Long-Time Reader, First-Time Author Lori Alexander (plus a prize pack!)

September should be “giveaway month” here on the blog, since we’ve got a bounty of books ‘n’ stuff. The winner of THE LAKE WHERE LOON LIVES was Carol Nelson, who was notified, and who exclaimed that she never wins anything. I was tickled to prove her wrong!

And today we’ve got yet another giveaway, from a long-time blog reader and PiBoIdMo participant, Lori Alexander. Her debut picture book, BACKHOE JOE, is being released TODAY! A round of applause for Lori! I sat down with her to discuss the making of a debut. (Well, I sat HERE, while she sat THERE. We did not sit together, although I would have loved to. I mean, look at her! Isn’t she adorable?)

Author Photo_Lori AlexanderLori, there are many truck books on the market because they’re so popular with young children. (In fact, once an editor told me not to write a truck book because of others already out there!) Tell us what makes BACKHOE JOE different and special!

You are right, Tara! There are lots of truck books. When my son was younger, he was crazy about construction. He wore truck shirts and slept on truck sheets and had truck birthdays. We pulled the car over for close-up looks at construction equipment (which set an exhausting precedent on cross-country trips, with me wishing my son had been born a dinosaur fanatic instead. No stops!). We also sought out as many construction books as we could get our hands on. After a while, they all seemed similar to me: a bulldozer pushes, a dump truck dumps, an excavator digs. A playground is built at the end. To mix it up, my son and I had lengthy conversations about what we would do with our own backhoe. Our backhoe could scoop Legos into a pile, dump dirty laundry into the washer, and drive all the neighborhood kids to school (that front loader is roomy!). These dreamy discussions led to the kernel of the idea for BACKHOE JOE which is about a boy who tries to adopt a “stray” backhoe. So, like pirate books and dinosaur books and princess books, BACKHOE JOE joins a crowded subject, but I’m hoping he will dig out some space of his own on the bookstore shelves.

backhoejoeI’m sure he will! (I mean, look at him! Isn’t he adorable?)  And that’s what we all have to do, take a common theme and make it unique! I love the idea of a truck as a pet.

Is this the project that landed you an agent? How did you pitch it?

That is something you hear editors ask for…a fresh twist on a common theme! With Backhoe Joe, it took me a few years to get it right. My early drafts were about a boy asking for a backhoe for his birthday, through a series of letters to his parents, à la I Wanna Iguana. I received some positive feedback from a small publisher, who liked the concept, but wasn’t sold on the letter format. Many more months of big-picture revisions as well as tiny tweaks lead to the current version. I received some positive feedback from agent Mary Kole during a webinar critique, and that gave me the boost of confidence I needed to begin querying agents. I queried with BACKHOE JOE but had two other PB manuscripts ready to go, in case an agent was interested. Lucky for me, one was! And you asked how I pitched it. I believe in the cover letter I said something completely cheesy, like “it’s FANCY NANCY for boys!”

Well, that would certainly grab my attention!

What can you share about your debut book experience that’s been most surprising?

While writing BACKHOE JOE, I really tried to nail the page breaks. I studied the page turns in my favorite picture books and read blog posts about layout (Tara’s “Picture Book Dummy, Picture Book Construction: Know Your Layout” is one of my favorites). I submitted BACKHOE JOE to my agent divided into 16 spreads. I thought she might want to remove the breaks and submit it to publishers in paragraph form, but it never came up. I was surprised (in a good way!) when my editor at Harper agreed and the final layout of Joe was exactly how I envisioned it. All that homework paid off!

Another surprise was, although I should have known better, having one sale under your belt doesn’t make it any easier to sell the next book. Rejection—a thing of the past? Not so!

Ha, don’t I know it! They never stop, but they do get easier to swallow. (However, I am not advocating eating your manuscript.)

What’s your favorite line in the book?

My absolute favorite line is on the last page, but I don’t want to spoil anything. I will say Craig Cameron did a fantastic job bringing Joe to life and he set-up the twist ending beautifully.

Aha, I LOVE a twist ending! I think it’s so important for a successful picture book, to surprise your audience, to extend the story beyond the story. Let them imagine what happens next (plus set yourself up for a sequel)!

My second favorite bit is when the main character, Nolan, tries to train Backhoe Joe like he’s a dog. But naughty Joe revs at the mailman, buries his cone in the flowerbed, and digs in the garbage. It was fun to think about the ways a dog and a construction truck might behave similarly.

Sounds hilarious!

OK, one last question. I have a list of fun words I posted recently, which has become quite popular. What’s your favorite word?

This time of year, my favorite word is monsoon.

Yeah, I love ooh sounds!

And now our readers are gonna make ooh sounds (corny segue, Tara) because Lori has a BACKHOE JOE prize pack to give away! Just leave one comment below by September 23rd!

The prize pack includes a signed copy of BACKHOE JOE, bookmarks, stickers, and squishy foam stress “rocks”. (Hey, I could use some of those! Remember, the rejections never cease!)

Thanks, Lori!

backhoejoe prize pack

Lori Alexander lives in Tucson, Arizona, with her husband and two rock-collecting kids. Her family always brakes for road construction so they can admire the dozers and diggers. Lori still secretly hopes a backhoe will follow them home. She is represented by Kathleen Rushall of Marsal Lyon Literary Agency. This is Lori’s first picture book. Visit her at LoriAlexanderBooks.com.


10 Comments on Welcome, BACKHOE JOE! Long-Time Reader, First-Time Author Lori Alexander (plus a prize pack!), last added: 9/16/2014
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11. Page Critique: Let actions speak for themselves


Page critique Tuesday!

If you would like to nominate your page for a future Page Critique Event, please enter it in this thread in the Forums. Also, I'm offering personal consultations and edits if you're interested in that.

First I'll present the page without comment, then I'll offer my thoughts and a redline. If you choose to offer up your own thoughts, please be exceedingly polite and remember the sandwich rule: Positive, constructive advice, positive.

Random numbers were generated, and thanks to XXX, whose page is below:
Gone, Kitty, Gone: A Brock Rockster Mystery 
Middle-grade mystery/comedy
I smashed my steel-toed loafer through the front door and tumbled in, where I landed face-first on the floor of the large, dark foyer.
“Worst! Day! Ever!” I yelled. I knew everyone in the house was sleeping, but I didn’t care. I was upset, and with good reason.
“Carver!” I picked myself off the ground. “Carver! We need to talk!”
My perfect record had been shattered. When I woke up this morning I had been Brock Rockster, The Boy Who Always Got His Man, the twelve-year-old mustache prodigy and world’s greatest private investigator to the stars. I was untouchable, unstoppable, and undefeated – but not anymore. After today’s calamity, I didn’t know what I was.
I saw a room dimly lit off to the right and stomped toward it, each step echoing through the otherwise silent house. A reading lamp glowed in the room’s far corner over the head of Carver McCarver, who sat at her desk surrounded by stacks of papers and folders.
“Hello, pard,” she said. She finished reading the sheet in front of her before looking up. “Find Mr. Janston’s statue?”
“Janston got his weird little sculpture back just fine, Carver, but it wasn’t me that found it,” I said.
I took my fedora hat off, and Carver tipped her Stetson back in response. Carver was well over ninety years old, but had the energy of someone a third her age, and the wisdom of someone who’d seen the pyramids built.
This is an extremely solid, nay, excellent, nay, nearly flawless first page. The voice is strong, there's some solid wit and humor, the concept is fun, and I enjoyed the descriptions. Very very well done and I want to read more.

I'm going to pick two nits here. The first is a very common mistake, which is over-telling emotion. After Brock stumbles in and yells, "Worst! Day! Ever!” and notes that he doesn't care if he wakes everyone up, it's a bit redundant to then say, "I was upset, and with good reason." It's already apparent.

People often say show-don't-tell, and this is one of those classic cases. Show emotion, don't say what the emotion is. People will get it.

Secondly, people don't generally say each other's names in the middle of a sentence, and it can sometimes break up the flow to include it. I'd remove "Carver" from the second to last paragraph.

But seriously, those are two arguable small changes that are arguable. This is in very good shape. My redline:

Gone, Kitty, Gone: A Brock Rockster Mystery 
Middle-grade mystery/comedy
I smashed my steel-toed loafer through the front door and tumbled in, where I landed face-first on the floor of the large, dark foyer.
“Worst! Day! Ever!” I yelled. I knew everyone in the house was sleeping, but I didn’t care. I had a good reason to be upset.
“Carver!” I picked myself off the ground. “Carver! We need to talk!”
My perfect record had been shattered. When I woke up this morning I had been Brock Rockster, The Boy Who Always Got His Man, the twelve-year-old mustache prodigy and world’s greatest private investigator to the stars. I was untouchable, unstoppable, and undefeated – but not anymore. After today’s calamity, I didn’t know what I was.
I saw a room dimly lit off to the right and stomped toward it, each step echoing through the otherwise silent house. A reading lamp glowed in the room’s far corner over the head of Carver McCarver, who sat at her desk surrounded by stacks of papers and folders.
“Hello, pard,” she said. She finished reading the sheet in front of her before looking up. “Find Mr. Janston’s statue?”
“Janston got his weird little sculpture back just fine, Carver, but it wasn’t me that found it,” I said.
I took my fedora hat off, and Carver tipped her Stetson back in response. Carver was well over ninety years old, but had the energy of someone a third her age, and the wisdom of someone who’d seen the pyramids built.
Nice work!

Art: Sherlock Holmes by Frederic Dorr Steele

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12. "Ten Times Better than Anything"

Last weekend I was up in Silverthorne for my annual writing group retreat. Our group has been meeting together for 22 years. I joined when I moved to Colorado in 1992, when Gregory was just turning 1; next month he will be 23.

We go away on a retreat together every summer. This year we chose a weekend in early fall, as for the first time ever I had the luxury of not having to teach during the autumn semester. So this year, for the first time ever, we were there as the aspen were beginning to turn.

The house we rented had some flaws. It wasn't the one we had signed up to get; there was some confusion over a last-minute switcheroo. The couches weren't comfy, and there were no coffee tables on which we writers could rest our piles of manuscripts, books to share, and abundant snacks and glasses of wine. But resourceful as we are, we re-purposed a couple of our coolers as coffee tables, topping them with extra pillowcases from the linen closet for a lovely effect. And the lack of coffee tables was more than made up for by an extra-relaxing hot hub, stunning views of Lake Dillon, and proximity to dozens of hiking trails. Leslie, pictured here with me, declared our first glimpse of the trails to be "ten times better than anything," and that became our unofficial slogan for the retreat. (Official slogan, chosen ahead of time during our retreat planning: "Break Through to Bliss.")

The heart of the retreat is having unstructured time to write and then sharing what we've written. I try to bring something extra significant each year: the first chapter of a new book or the concluding chapter of a book long in the making. This year, despite my supposedly having all this new free time to write, I had been scrambling before I left to finish up revisions on the second book in the Nora Notebooks series and to deal with the proofs and index for my edited collection, Ethics and Children's Literature. But during the retreat I did get something written on Friday to share on Saturday: chapter 2 of the third and final book in the Nora series. It was sweet to remember that I had shared chapter one of book one at the retreat last year.

We also eat, heaps and heaps and heaps of lovingly prepared food. This is becoming more of a challenge as nowadays everyone has so many special diets. There is always someone who doesn't eat gluten, or soy, or shellfish, or nightshade vegetables, or all of the above. It's hard to break bread together when everyone (except me, it seems!) is swearing off carbs. But once we sit down at the table together, none of this matters. We laugh, we cry, we talk and talk and talk and talk. We remember the years we've shared, toast recent joys, commiserate with ongoing concerns, dream of the future.

Being in a writing group like this one is ten times better than anything.


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13. Darlene Beck-Jacobson: Bringing Stories to Life

darlenebeckjacobson:

We’re about one third of the way through the blog tour for WHEELS OF CHANGE. Hope you’re enjoying the posts as much as I am being part of it.

Originally posted on Robin Newman Books:

I am thrilled to interview my friend and fellow Creston Books author, Darlene Beck-Jacobson.

blog tour photo

Teacher, speech therapist, and freelance writer, Darlene’s stories have appeared in Cicada, Cricket, and other magazines. Her debut historic middle grade novel, Wheels of Change (Creston Books), hits bookstores on September 22, 2014. She has also been working on another historic middle grade novel, A Sparrow in the Hand, exploring the coming of age of two sisters growing up in the coal mining area of Pennsylvania during the 1920’s. A chapter from this novel appeared in the March 2001 issue of Cricket magazine. You can also read this story on her website: http://www.darlenebeckjacobson.com 

Here’s what Kirkus has to say about Wheels of Change:

Changes fomenting both locally and nationally during the final year of Theodore Roosevelt’s presidency are seen through the eyes of feisty, bighearted Emily Soper, daughter of a carriage maker in…

View original 1,481 more words


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14. Happy Book Birthday, Little Author




















LITTLE AUTHOR IN THE BIG WOODS is officially out in the world today!

Working on this book brought back so many good memories from childhood. (Yes, I wanted to be Laura.**) I was a huge fan of the Little House books and the TV show, of course. (Who wasn't, growing up in the 70's?!)

Here are some very early rough sketches, and a few pieces from the book. Also, there's still time to enter the Goodreads giveaway here.) Enjoy!






































































































































(**Me, circa 1976, in a skirt and bonnet made especially for our annual street picnic by my grandmother.)

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15. Broken Promise is now available for Pre-order!

orderpreorderBPR

Broken Promise is now available for pre-order on Amazon!

Release date Oct. 7th.

Pre-order now to have it delivered to your kindle on release day!


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16. Quick Comic for Teachers: Math Problems, Charles Schulz

This one has been flying around the internet for years, but it always makes me laugh.

Maybe it will have the same satisfying effect on you.

It’s interesting, I think, that Sally uses the word “hell” here. In the context of Peanuts, it’s almost shocking. And therefore more powerful. And, I think, a little funnier.

Thank you, as always, Charles Schulz.

1471167_744964882198624_1804958162_n

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17. Worlds End now available at the following stores


New stockists
Hi Folks,

Great news as we announce that the following retail outlets have begun to stock our products. If you live in the North West of England you can now purchase the Worlds End graphic novels from the following stores:

Travelling Man - Leeds
32 Central Road, LS1 6DE
Tel: 0113 243 6461
Opening Hours:
Mon - Fri: 10am - 6pm
Sat: 10am - 5:30pm
Sun: 11am - 5pm

Travelling Man - Manchester
4 Dale Street, M1 1JW
Tel: 0161 237 1877
Opening Hours:
Mon - Sat: 10am - 6pm
Sun: 11am - 4:30pm

Travelling Man - Newcastle
43 Grainger Street, NE1 5JE
Tel: 0191 261 4993
Opening Hours:
Mon - Sat: 10am - 6pm
Sun: 11am - 4:30pm

Travelling Man - York
54 Goodramgate
YO1 7LF
Tel: 01904 628 787
Opening Hours:
Mon - Sat: 10am - 6pm
Sun: 11am - 5pm

OK Comics
19, Thornton’s Arcade
Briggate
Leeds
West Yorkshire
LS1 6LQ
Tel: 0113 246 9366
Opening Hours
Mon - Sat: 9am - 6pm
Sun: 11am - 4pm

The Batcave
3-5 Lower Cockcroft
Northgate
Blackburn
Lancashire
BB2 1JD
Tel: 01254 667488
Opening Hours
Mon - Sat: 10:30am - 5:30pm

 
 One of the best things about all these shops – and there are lots of very positive things to say about each of them – is that as well as stocking the bigger publishers like Marvel, DC, Dark Horse and the like, they also support smaller publishers such as ourselves here at Wizards Keep Publishing.

I have been buying from these guys now for a good number of years and can’t tell you how excited we are to get this support.

Please drop in at any of the above stores whilst you are next out shopping in the area. All of them have excellent stock for all ages, are pleasant and easy to look around, and are run by knowledgeable and friendly staff.

And whilst you browse there, please remember to ask to look at our Worlds End books and if you like them, please make a discerning purchase for yourselves and/or for members of your family that like to read an exciting and interesting, visually stunning story… oh, and don’t forget to tell them who sent you.

Thanks in advance for your continued support guys and…

Until next time, have fun!

Tim Perkins…
September 16th 2014

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18. WomanSpeak, A Journal of Writing and Art by Caribbean Women, Vol.7,



WomanSpeak, A Journal of Writing and Art by Caribbean Women, Vol.7, 2014, edited by Lynn Sweeting, brings together 30 contemporary women writers and painters of the Caribbean in a new collection especially themed, “Voices of Dissent: Writing and Art to Transform the Culture.”  Includes works by Opal Palmer Adisa, Lelawattee Manoo Rahming, Vahni Capildeo, Althea Romeo-Mark, Marion Bethel, Danielle Boodoo-Fortune, Sonia Farmer, Angelique V. Nixon and more. 


http://www.lulu.com/shop/lynn-sweeting/womanspeak-a-journal-of-writing-and-art-by-caribbean-women-vol72014/paperback/product-21293884.html

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19. Guest Author Interview: Chris Cander on The Word Burglar

By Emma Kate Tsai 
for Cynthia Leitich Smith's Cynsations

Chris Cander happened upon a children’s story by way of her real life as a mom of two kids.

Below, Emma Kate Tsai interviews Chris about how she conceptualized The Word Burglar, illustrated by Katherine Tramonte (Bright Sky, 2013) and her perspective on children’s literature as a writer who’s also a mother of two.

Can you tell the story of how The Word Burglar came to be?

My daughter, who is now eleven, was going to camp for the first time when I wrote it.

At the time, I would tell her a story that I made up on the fly every night. When she went away to camp, it was the first time she wasn’t going to have a story at night. But the camp allowed me to email a letter by 10 a.m. that they would then print and, by bedtime, give to her.

So I would get up and give myself forty-five minutes to write a story. I’d drink coffee while I was doing it and try to keep the baby occupied, then I’d email it.

I really didn’t know if she was liking them, but I started posting them on Facebook every morning. They amassed a bit of a following. People were downloading them and reading them to their kids.

There was some urgency behind it because I only gave myself forty-five minutes. That was how the story made its way to Bright Sky, because a good friend of mine had just published The Storm Wrangler (2011), and he introduced me to the publisher after seeing my stories on Facebook.

Did it come out of your head like that--that forty-five minute exercise—or did you go back and fine-tune after it became popular? 

It was the forty-five minute draft. I’d wake up, and I would grab anything I could think of.

My son was trying to learn how to read.

Now, of course, he didn’t have fourteen brothers and sisters like The Word Burglar, or parents who didn’t know how to teach him. But I immediately thought: Sasha’s gone, he doesn’t have his role model here—she and he would read together in bed—and then it happened.

That was the kernel of the idea and, believe it or not, it’s freeing to have a constraint of time. I wasn’t trying to write for publication. I was trying to write for my eight year old, so she’d have a bedtime story. That internal voice that gets really critical and tells you to over-analyze? It wasn’t there because I had forty-five minutes.

It’s such a great technique if you haven’t tried it. Give yourself either a time constraint or give yourself permission to write the very worst thing that you’ve ever written.

There’s something very liberating about having permission to fail, having permission to do garbage work, because you might actually find something wonderful comes out.

That gatekeeper, that critic, has been turned away.

You used your own illustrator, is that right? 

Was it difficult to convince the publisher to use own illustrator?

My illustrator, who is a very good friend of mine, will say that I strong-armed them, and I kind of did. I had two illustrators in mind, one who did the cover of a novel I author-published this year, 11 Stories. He was one of my top two choices, and he was a friend, too. We went to middle school together.

But his agent said he didn’t have time to do it. Kat is a good friend, and our kids are friends, so when I got the contract from Bright Sky, my contact there asked, “Do you have any kind of illustration style in mind?”

I said, “I’d just really like you to meet my friend.”

Kat had never done any children’s books before. So it was a risk on everybody’s part, but she had great samples and great enthusiasm.

Plus, it was a great story because of the fact that we’d been friends and our kids were the same ages, and so we were able to build the kids into the book. Mine were characters and hers became represented in it: Her son was the model for The Word Burglar, and her daughter’s bunny, Hop, is represented in the bunny on every page.

The publisher got excited about that story aspect. It’s a selling point when we’ve gone to festivals. We go as a pair, and people enjoy hearing the back-story of how we work together.

Most of the time, at the point of the contract being signed, the author has almost no input into the rest of the process, and yet I was able to chat with Kat at five in the morning about sample illustrations. “Do you like this direction?” she’d ask. That part of it was great. I’m glad they gave her a chance.

Could you share with us the story behind your blurb?

50th Anniversary Edition
Leonard Kessler, author of Mr. Pine’s Purple House, which was my favorite book when I was about three, blurbed my first children’s book.

I loved that book when I was little, and I kept it for forever.

At some point, I was inspired to go to my library and curate my own favorite books on my own shelves.

Mr. Pine’s Purple House was there. I thought to myself, I wonder what else he’s done.

He’s published over 250 books for children and young readers, he’s 93 years old, and he lives in Sarasota, Florida.

One day, I pick up the phone—because that’s how intrepid I am—and I looked him up.

I called and said, “I would love to talk to Mr. Kessler. Would you give him my email and pass on a message?”

And the woman that answered the phone said, “Oh no, I’ll just give you his phone number.”

And she did.

So I called him on the phone and we had a lovely, amazing talk that ended in tears, because it was the most satisfying, full-circle of my life.

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20. Haze (Blog Tour)

Haze

Written by: Paula Weston

Published by: Tundra Books

Published on: September 9, 2014

Ages: New Adult



Provided by the publisher for review. All opinions are my own. 







Gaby and Rafa are back!!! Last year I fell in love with the Rephaim and Pan Beach residents introduced in Paula Weston's Shadows.  That tale was packed with action and building a fascinating world where the children of fallen angels fight to keep humans safe from demons. The best thing about the book is it was only the first. Now Haze is here to continue this story.

Gaby's journey to unravel the web of deceit and false memories she has fallen into continues. The last memory she has of her brother Jude was of him dying in a car crash. But if the car crash wasn't real for her, maybe it wasn't for him either. In that case, where is her twin??

Luckily, Gaby has the mysterious and attractive Rafa to help her follow Jude's trail and introduce her to the other Rephaim, which might be the most difficult part- she steps right into a world fraught with tension and division and she doesn't know who is her friend and who is her enemy from her past life. How do you work beside others to kill demons when you can't even trust them?

Gaby is lucky that she has her best friend from Pan Beach, Maggie, and she knows Maggie is true. Sadly, she knows Maggie has also been dragged into this demon war mess, and has to make sure Maggie is protected too.

Gaby is such a great central character. Her disconnect between her current self and what people tell her about her past self, and especially her past morals, makes her vulnerable despite her physical strength, and without ever veering into whiny. Will she ever develop back into the Gabe who dated the arrogant Daniel? I hope not, I like to see her with Rafa, despite the fact that Rafa won't tell Gaby what was up with them before she landed in Pan Beach.


One of the fun things the fabulous author, Paula Weston, did for the bloggers on the tour was to tell us which character matched our personality the most! I was afraid I would end up being Daniel, we both have a tendency to know what is best for everyone who is not ourselves. But I was so happy to find out that I am most like Micah!


The easy going guitar playing half-angel was Gabe's best friend in the Sanctuary. He, Jude, Rafa, and Gabe were inseparable before Jude and Gabe disappeared. When Gaby comes back he is quick to reacquaint her with the other Rephaim, and tries to play peacemaker between the Sanctuary Rephaim and Rebel Rephaim. Micah is a stand-up guy and I hope to see more of him in Shimmer and Burn.

This book ends on a cliffhanger, and I cannot wait to see how it is resolved. Shimmer comes out next autumn and I hope the time passes quickly before I am back in Gaby's world.

Visit the other stops on the Haze tour today!

Summer at MissFictional’s World of YA Books
Jillian at Centre of the Universe
Crystal at WinterHaven Books
Lisa at Turning Pages


Don't forget to check out the home of the Blog Tour at Tundra Press to see what other fabulous places Haze is visiting this week, where there will be giveaways, interviews, and more!

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21. Happy Release Day, TUT!

Happy Release Day to
Tut: The Story of My Immortal Life!
     

Hi! P. J. Hoover here, and I am thrilled that after 7-1/2 long years, the book of my heart is finally being released! In some ways it feels like just yesterday that I started writing Tut, but when I look at how much time has gone by, I can't believe it. 7-1/2 years! That is a crazy long time!

Just so you know, I adore my re-imagining of the boy king, and I am thrilled to share him with you all. Tut is immortal, fourteen, and has an infectiously fun attitude. His humor and his need to do the right thing pulled me in from the first words I wrote.

Please consider sharing 
Tut: The Story of My Immortal Life with those in your life who love adventure, humor, and mythology. It's a great choice for those who love Harry Potter and The Lightning Thief or fantasy of any kind.

Thank you all so much for your support! It means everything!

 

About Tut: The Story of My Immortal Life:

You'd think it would be great being an Egyptian demigod, but if King Tut has to sit through eighth grade one more time, he'll mummify himself.

Granted the gift of immortality by the gods-or is it a curse?-Tut has been stuck in middle school for ages. Even worse, evil General Horemheb, the man who killed Tut's father and whom Tut imprisoned in a tomb for three thousand years, is out and after him. The general is in league with the Cult of Set, a bunch of guys who worship one of the scariest gods of the Egyptian pantheon-Set, the god of Chaos.

The General and the Cult of Set have plans for Tut... and if Tut doesn't find a way to keep out of their clutches, he'll never make it to the afterworld alive.


For more information about me or any of my books, please visit my website

For information on school visits or speaking engagements, please visit my author visits and schedule pages.




Buy Tut: The Story of My Immortal Life!   

 
Tut is now available anywhere books are sold. If you'd like to buy a copy of  Tut, I would be eternally (or immortally?) grateful! I hope you'll love Tut as much as I do!



  

  
If you are interested in purchasing a signed/personalized copy of Tut: The Story of My Immortal Lifeplease click here for more information.

 
# ISBN-13 (hardcover): 978-0765334688
# ISBN-13 (ebook): 978-1466814752


FUN EXTRAS for Tut: The Story of My Immortal Life!   

I've had an absolute blast coming up with some amazing extras to go along with Tut: The Story of My Immortal Life! What kind of extras you might ask? Well, let me take a minute and tell you about them!


 
First, there's the King Tut MINECRAFT world! Yes, readers can visit the world of King Tut, from his tomb back in Egypt to his townhouse in Washington, D.C.. They can conquer the MINECRAFT scavenger hunt and unlock clues as to what Tut's future may have in store. Please check it out on my MINECRAFT page!

 

Next, there is the "Escape from King Tut's Tomb" video game to go along with the book! For those who don't know, I used to be an electrical engineer before I started writing books, so I programmed a video game using SCRATCH (a great platform developed by MIT to help kids learn to program). The game has 10 levels, codes to decipher, puzzles to decode, and patterns to recognize. You can find the game and more about SCRATCH on my video game page!





Finally, there is the Tut PICK YOUR OWN QUEST Adventure! Readers can travel through Egypt, playing the role of King Tut, Pharaoh of Egypt. They make choices that determine not only their own fate, but the fate of Egypt itself. I used to adore those Choose Your Own Adventure books back in the day, and I wanted to create something as fun for TUT. Try your hand at saving Egypt on my PICK YOUR OWN QUEST page!

 

 
You can watch the book trailer for
Tut: The Story of My Immortal Life below!


 


 
 
Thank you all so much for all your support! 

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22. Drained

I walked three miles this afternoon;
My energy was sapped.
As soon as I got home, I crashed
And hit the bed and napped.

Though not a napper normally
(Its virtues leave me cold),
Today I couldn’t help succumb,
A sign of getting old.

Where once I’d walk for endless blocks
With energy to spare,
I tap into that reservoir,
But nothing’s waiting there.

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23. "Cry to Me": Fatherhood and Domestic Violence


The prevalence of violence, especially domestic violence with Caribbean families, has been one of the themes in my two short story collections, Uncle Obadiah and the Alien and Who's Your Daddy? 

In the short story, "Cry to Me," from Who's Your Daddy, which I've republished as an eBook, I've combined domestic violence with fatherhood in the story of David Hamilton, a respected professor, whose life is disrupted when his daughter become a victim of domestic violence.




I think "Cry to Me" is a precursor to a darker story that I am currently working on in which fatherhood turns ugly. Stay tuned.

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24. Skydiving and/or “Why would you jump out of a perfectly good plane?”

skydiving
A friend of mine was a pilot who served his country well. Due to his experience, he never understood why someone would pay to go skydiving. In his words: “Why would you jump out of a perfectly good plane?”

My tandem mate Tod asked me this same question last week at Skydive Phoenix as I prepared to do just that. Why? Why would I choose to jump out of a plane at eight thousand feet? I wish I had a good answer, but as I told Tod’s nifty video camera, “I was bored.”

Now, I realize most so-called “normal human beings” wouldn’t get bored and decide to plummet toward Earth with a bag on their back, but you know me: I’m the girl who swam with sharks in Belize; who loves haunted houses and cemeteries at night. I’m the girl who likes to be scared.

When I arrived at Skydive Phoenix Thursday morning, I felt immediately at home. I was surrounded by people younger than me who seemed to be having a damn fine time just hangin’ together. I met Tod, who reminded me of a rock band roadie mixed with a Southern Florida surfer dude. Turns out he was from Ohio. As I chose my Ohio University “House Beer” t-shirt for my jump, we hit it off immediately.

There was little prep work. Sure, I signed all the paperwork that said Jake couldn’t sue anyone if I ended up a pancake. Then, I put on a harness, and we walked to a plane the size of an SUV. The video camera (strapped to Tod’s wrist) came along, and Tod kept asking, “Nervous yet?” Should I be concerned that I wasn’t?

The itty-bitty plane climbed to eight thousand feet. Tod and I were strapped together as we slid to the open door. My last moment of clarity: With my left foot outside the plane, I stared down at the desert below. Then, we jumped.

I can’t say the free fall is clear. I don’t exactly remember the way my body felt, and my mind was blown blank by adrenaline. I think I was screaming (we’ll see once I get the video tape back). What I can say with assurance: the free fall was over much too fast.

As we swung above the earth, tethered to our parachute, the first thing that came to mind: “I need to do this again.”

I had a perfect landing (thank you very much), and I felt like my spirit was still eight thousand feet high. The cool chick at the Skydive Phoenix office confirmed my belief that after skydiving, there are two things that should happen: a cigarette and sex.

I have to thank the team at Skydive Phoenix for making my experience so easy, enjoyable, and fun (including the guy who said he was going to undertake his hundredth jump nude. Now, that would be something to see!). Tod was the perfect crazy person to be tied to, and I already have intentions to do a thirteen thousand-foot jump in the near future.

There’s something about doing irresponsible things that makes me feel alive. Since my jump, all sorts of people have called me crazy for doing it, but I think they’re just jealous they don’t have the balls to let go. Do something that scares you. Do something that makes you freak. Stop working and wake up for a second. Find your own “plane,” and make the jump.


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25. Painting a Saddle in Watercolor


Yesterday I did a watercolor demo of a Western-style saddle at the SKB Foundation workshop here in Wyoming. (Direct link to YouTube video)

Here are two stages in the hour-long painting. On the left is the painting halfway finished, with the large color areas blocked in.

I then defined the smaller details and textures using water-soluble colored pencils and just a few touches of white gouache for highlights.

The time lapse is shot with a GoPro Black set at a two-second intervals. The GoPro is mounted on a DIY rig that uses two kitchen timers for a compound (pan and tilt) move.
-----
For 72-minutes of watercolor demos with voiceover, check out my video "Watercolor in the Wild":
HD download: (Credit Card)  from Gumroad
HD download: (Paypal) from Sellfy
BONUS FEATURES (a half hour of additional bite-size inspiration)
DVD: (NTSC, Region 1-North America) 
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If you like painting workshops, the SKB Foundation has an emphasis on landscape and wildlife painting, with a half-dozen instructors in a beautiful setting and a congenial atmosphere.
Thanks to Hunter at the CM Family Ranch in Dubois, Wyoming and to artist Lee Cable for the info about the saddle.

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