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1. The Problem with Living Forever

The conversation started one late night (or very early morning) in the summer of 1994. I was unemployed, between my freshmen and sophomore year at Kansas State, stuck between art and English education. My best friend and I spent those long summer nights driving aimlessly through our small, sleepy hometown. We played amatuer philosopher during those drives, questioning God, the universe, everything.

"I don't want to live forever," I said.

"Neither do I. Not on Earth, anyway."

"No," I said, "I don't want to go to heaven either. I mean, that's just nuts. Forever is a long time."

My friend laughed. "It's not like heaven's just clouds and harps and shit. I don't think you understand what it would be like."

No, it's not like that at all. I've seen death in my life--death and a lot of change. I remember every one of my grandparents' funerals, my father's, my first wife's. I remember standing in the basement of the Warren-McElwain mortuary in Lawrence, KS deciding on a casket for my wife at age 37.

The funeral director, a relatively young woman herself, stopped in mid sales pitch/product description, and said, "You're too young for this."

Yes, and no. And maybe. 

Death is a part of life. Our mortality is what binds us together, and to rob anyone of death is to steal the very essence of what it means to be human. Death is not the worst thing to come for us. Death is our oldest friend. Death reminds us to live, to enjoy, to laugh and have fun, and to love well. Death taught me well from a young age. This is what is the end to which we all must go. This is what gives value and rarity to your life.

I've carried those lessons with me. I have no desire to live forever--and I fear immortality in world not built for it much more than my own death. Maybe heaven isn't harps and clouds and "shit." Maybe I can't comphrended immortality. I do know this: on Earth, I'm happy my time is limited.

It's much more valuable this way.

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2. What Did You Do This Week, Gail? April 24 Edition

More whining. It's been a rough month with a lot of prepping for family events, three medical appointments during the work week for an elder, and this Annotated Saving the Planet & Stuff promotion I've been doing. That is exhausting. How exhausting? Last week I didn't do a weekly check in on Friday night. I did my nails instead. I kid you not.  And, for the first time, I understood why women like doing it. It's a very zenny experience. I'll have more about this next month.

Goal 1. Mummy Book. I have been revising early chapters in an excruciatingly slow manner. However, some things are coming together that will...should...I hope...maybe...make later work easier. Or at least possible.

Goal 2. Short Pieces. I finished an essay I actually started this year! And I submitted it! This evening, so I just barely made it into this week. And I think I may write a writerly piece about NOT finishing a draft before you start to revise. Everyone says we should do that, and as you can see from what I said in Goal 1, I can't manage it. I have never managed it.

Goal 5. Community Building. The May Connecticut Children's Lit Calendar is ready to go next week. I also found my registration material for the New England Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators Conference tomorrow and now I know what workshops I registered for! Good work, Gail!

Goal 6. Marketing Saving the Planet & Stuff. Ayup. One week left to go.

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3. Lori Goldstein, author of BECOMING JINN, on loving what you write

We're thrilled to have Lori Goldstein with us today because she and her book BECOMING JINN were part of a First Five Pages Workshop in 2013. It's very exciting to see an alum's book go on to be published!

So tell us, Lori, what was your inspiration for writing BECOMING JINN?

Simply a name. A few years ago, there was a horrible earthquake in Turkey. A mother and her infant daughter were pulled from the rubble and both miraculously survived. That baby’s name was Azra, which is my protagonist in Becoming Jinn. It was hearing this beautiful name and picturing this world she would live in that sparked the idea of writing a book featuring Jinn, which for some reason I knew was the term for spirits derived from North African and Middle Eastern lore. A fan of contemporary, I decided to merge the fantasy elements with our modern world and drop Azra and her Jinn family into the world in which I live—quite literally into my home state of Massachusetts.

Was there an AHA! moment along your road to publication where something suddenly sank in and you felt you had the key to writing a novel? What was it?

Yes, there most definitely was. I had written an adult manuscript over the course of three years, give or take, while also working as a freelance copyeditor. I was always in the publishing world in some way but never on the fiction side. As an avid reader and someone trained in writing, I figured writing fiction would come somewhat easily. It didn’t. Writing that first manuscript was how I learned that! While I eventually ended up with a manuscript I was proud of that received some agent requests (including from my current agent, though she signed me for Becoming Jinn), I wanted to start my next project (which was Jinn) in a much more organized way. And so I took a novel planning course at the Grub Street writing center in Boston. It was during this class, taught by author James Scott, that I had my AHA! moment. He was talking about inside story and outside story and referred to what he called “the wound and the want” and how it informs both. That was my eureka moment. While much of what he was saying I’d heard or read in some way before, it was the context and the way he described this particular element that made everything fall into place in a way that I knew from that moment on would change my writing—all my writing—for the better. I wrote more about “the wound and the want” in a series I did on novel planning last year: http://www.lorigoldsteinbooks.com/novel-planning-step-3/

How long did you work on BECOMING JINN?

Following on what I said above, using the tools I learned in the novel planning course, I was able to write Becoming Jinn in two months after one month of planning. My first drafts are more like second drafts because my “first draft” is actually a very long outline/scene-by-scene synopsis, to the tune of 70-80 pages. That outline has summaries as well as full-on scenes with dialogue if the mood strikes while I’m putting it together. In fact, the ending of Becoming Jinn is pretty spot on to what I wrote in its original outline.

I then revised for a month prior to getting my agent. I revised for two months with her before we went on submission. So total time to that point was about six months. I then revised based on my editor’s notes for about three months. Then copyediting and proofing. So pretty close to a full year when you add it all up. And a grand total of having read the book through from beginning to end of, oh, about nine trillion times! You better love what you write!

What advice would you most like to pass along to other writers?

See the above about loving what you write! Seriously, that’s my biggest piece of advice. You will read your book so many times, you will nearly have it memorized. You have to do that and you have to want to do that. You need to know it inside and out so you can see the mistakes and fix them. So you can make it better. If you can’t dedicate yourself to doing that, if you get bored and itchy to move on, you won’t be able to see the manuscript through to publication.

What are you working on now?

The conclusion to the Becoming Jinn series, tentatively titled Circle of Jinn, is in the can, so right now I’m working on a contemporary that, like Jinn, involves a complicated family setup. This one is sans magic, but it has a lot of the flavor of Becoming Jinn, which I think is a contemporary fantasy in the truest sense of those words as Jinn reads very “real world,” or so readers are telling me! I won’t say more about the new project because it’s still early, but I’m really excited about the idea and can’t wait to truly dig in. Though I do still miss writing Azra, I have to admit!


Becoming Jinn

by Lori Goldstein
Feiwel & Friends
Released 4/21/2015

Forget everything you thought you knew about genies!

Azra has just turned sixteen, and overnight her body lengthens, her olive skin deepens, and her eyes glisten gold thanks to the brand-new silver bangle that locks around her wrist. As she always knew it would, her Jinn ancestry brings not just magical powers but the reality of a life of servitude, as her wish granting is controlled by a remote ruling class of Jinn known as the Afrit.

To the humans she lives among, she’s just the girl working at the snack bar at the beach, navigating the fryer and her first crush. But behind closed doors, she’s learning how to harness her powers and fulfill the obligations of her destiny.

Mentored by her mother and her Zar “sisters,” Azra discovers she may not be quite like the rest of her circle of female Jinn . . . and that her powers could endanger them all. As Azra uncovers the darker world of becoming Jinn, she realizes when genies and wishes are involved, there’s always a trick.
 Purchase Becoming Jinn at Amazon
Purchase Becoming Jinn at IndieBound
View Becoming Jinn on Goodreads


Lori GoldsteinLori Goldstein was born into an Italian-Irish family and raised in a small town on the New Jersey shore. She earned her bachelor’s degree in journalism from Lehigh University and worked as a writer, editor, and graphic designer before becoming a full-time author. She currently lives and writes outside of Boston. Lori is the author of the young adult contemporary fantasy series Becoming Jinn (Feiwel & Friends/Macmillan, April 21, 2015, Spring 2016). You can visit her online at www.lorigoldsteinbooks.com.

What did you think of our interview with Lori Goldstein, author of BECOMING JINN? Let us know in the comments!

Happy reading,

Martina, Jocelyn, Shelly, Jan, Lisa, Susan, and Erin

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4. Estela of Small Damages arrives in the mail, in the form of an antique bookmark

I write YA books; that is true. But I never write strictly and only of teens. I care about the sweep of generations. I think generations are relevant. Some of my very favorite characters are women even older (believe it!) than me. My Mud Angel and physician Katherine of One Thing Stolen. Stefan's East Berlin grandmother in Going Over. Old Carmen, the rugged beachcomber, of This Is the Story of You (due out next spring). And, of course, my Estela, the old Spanish cook in Small Damages—a character I lived with for a decade before she found herself inside that gorgeous cover.

But now look at the silver wing near the right upper edge of that cover. That is Estela herself, who came to me this afternoon by way of my husband's cousin, Myra. Estela in real life was my husband's father's mother—a loved, buoyant, life-affirming General Counsel in the United States who had also served as the Philippine ambassador to Portugal. I wear her ring as my engagement ring. I hear stories. And today I received this bookmark, which once clipped the pages of the books Estela read.

Myra's words (in impeccable handwriting):
This is an antique silver bookmark from El Salvador my grandmother Estela picked up—probably 50 years ago.... I decided it was time to send you this now. I always thought this should go to you—since you are the writer in the family and it came from William's home country.
 I am so in love with this gift. This piece of then. A bookmark shaped like a coffee bean that might as easily mark my third memoir about my marriage to this Salvadoran man, Still Love in Strange Places.

I thank you, Myra.

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5. Stacey Kade, author of THE TRIALS, on the importance of writing to the end

THE TRIALS is the final book in the Project Paper Doll series, and we're thrilled to have author Stacey Kade here to tell us more about her writing process.

Stacey, what did this book teach you about writing or about yourself?

Writing this book was an education in a couple of different ways. After reading 2K to 10K by Rachel Aaron, I decided I wanted to keep track of my daily word count. I'd never done that before. It was uncomfortable at first--I felt like I was telling on myself on the days where I didn't quite make my goal! But it was very eye opening to see the patterns in my productivity and the way that even days with small word count add up quickly. (I wrote about the experience here: http://staceykade.tumblr.com/post/102698100788/how-i-wrote-the-trials-a-post-about-process)

This was also my first book with a new editor, which is always a little scary! You never know if they're going to like your style or your ideas. But working with Tracey was fantastic! I learned a great deal from her about tightening my story and my sentences.

What's your writing ritual like? Do you listen to music? Work at home or at a coffee shop or the library, etc?

If I have to, I can write anywhere. But I prefer working at my local Starbucks at my favorite table, with a hot chocolate (yes, year round) in my hand. And yep, headphones on with my playlist playing.

What advice would you most like to pass along to other writers?

There are two things I wish I'd known earlier, when I first started writing.

1) Your character needs to have a story goal. What is he/she trying to accomplish over the course of the story?

I'm a pantser, so I used to just jump in and start writing. The problem with writing a character without knowing his/her goal is that you may end up sort of wandering all over the place in the story, going off on tangents and taking side trips that have nothing to do with the main part of the story. Knowing your character's goal helps keeps you on track.

2) Write all the way to the end.
I have yet to write a book that I did not HATE with an all-consuming fire at some point during drafting. I'm always convinced that it's terrible, that I should quit now and start revising. Or just scrap it and start over.

Sometimes I'm right, and it's bad. Sometimes it's just that I have no perspective on the story so far. Yeah, maybe the scene I'm working on clashes horribly with the beginning. But it might be because the beginning isn't right and this scene is, rather than the other way around.

Sometimes it's just insecurity screaming really loudly in my brain. :)

I used to follow that instinct to scrap and start over. But when I went back and reread the drafts later, I realized that they weren't as bad as I'd thought. In fact, I'd wasted time and effort by starting over.

So, now I make myself write all the way to "the end," even if it's the crappiest of crappy first drafts. I may end up scrapping it or I may end up using pieces of it or maybe it only will only require a few tweaks. It's impossible for me to know until I get to the end and look at the book as a whole.

What are you working on now?

I'm working on edits for my first New Adult novel, 738 DAYS. It's about Amanda, who was abducted when she was fifteen and held captive for two years. Now, she's nineteen, and two years after her return home, she's still suffering from anxiety and agoraphobia. A publicity stunt throws her together with the former TV heartthrob--Chase Henry--whose poster was her only friend in captivity. And it seems like they might be the only ones who can save each other.

I'm also working on--and very excited about--my 2016 YA release with Simon & Schuster. LIFE, AFTER is the story of the twin sons of a pastor. The boys are in a car accident and only one of them survives, which raises all kinds of questions about faith and fate and the secrets his brother was keeping. I'm the daughter of a pastor so I was able to draw on some real-life experiences for this book, which was really fun.


The Trials
by Stacey Kade
Released 4/21/2015

After being on the run, Ariane Tucker finds herself back where she started—under the cruel control of Dr. Jacobs, head of the research facility that created her. Now she must participate in the upcoming trials; a deadly competition pitting her against other alien hybrids, each representing a rival corporation.

But Ariane is no one’s weapon. She is prepared to die if it means taking down those involved in Project Paper Doll. They destroyed all that she holds dear, including Zane Bradshaw, the one person she trusted and cared for the most—the person she was forced to leave behind, bleeding and alone.

As her plan takes shape Ariane will need to depend on, now more than ever, the other side of her heritage—the cold, calculated instincts born from her alien DNA. With Zane gone she has nothing left to lose.

With heart-pounding action, and plenty of surprises, the gripping conclusion to Stacey Kade's Project Paper Doll series delivers a powerful finish that will keep fans hooked to the very end.

Purchase The Trials at Amazon
Purchase The Trials at IndieBound
View The Trials on Goodreads


As an award-winning corporate copywriter, Stacey Kade has written about everything from backhoe loaders to breast pumps. But she prefers to make things up instead.

She lives in the Chicago suburbs with her husband, Greg, and two retired racing greyhounds, SheWearsThePants (Pansy) and Shutter. When she’s not reading or writing, you’ll likely find her parked in front of the television catching up on her favorite shows (Scandal, The Vampire Diaries, Almost Human, The Walking Dead, and Sherlock, among others.)

Stacey is the author of the The Ghost and the Goth trilogy (THE GHOST AND THE GOTH, QUEEN OF THE DEAD, and BODY & SOUL) and The Project Paper Doll Series (THE RULES and THE HUNT). You can find her (far too often) on Facebook and Twitter as well as http://www.staceykade.com

What did you think of our interview with Stacey Kade, author of THE TRIALS? Let us know in the comments!

Happy reading,

Martina, Jocelyn, Shelly, Jan, Lisa, Susan, and Erin

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6. Heart-warming ANZAC Picture Books

ROLY the Anzac Donkey, by Glyn Harper illustrated by Jenny Cooper (Puffin)

If you've read 'Simpson and his Donkey' you'll know about an Australian soldier's work rescuing the wounded with the aid of his donkey in Gallipoli.  It's a gorgeous tale and now considered a classic. There have been several versions - the latest being Mark Greenwood's book published by Walker Books in 2009. Over the years I had heard that New Zealand stretcher bearers used donkeys too.  Military Historian Glyn Harper has uncovered one of those stories and we now have a true New Zealand story about a soldier and his donkey.

Glyn tells the story in Roly, the donkey's voice.  On the opening page we're introduced to Roly and he tells us he hasn't always worked on a farm (shown in the background illustrations), he once worked in Gallipoli helping rescue soldiers who had been hurt in battle.  Glyn most likely started the story this way to reassure young children - the donkey makes it.  This will help sensitive children not feel anxious for the donkey while they're listening to the story being read to them. It's a gentle opening for the story. It's needed because the following pages jump into a hard time for the donkey.

Through words and pictures we find out that Roly grew up on a Greek farm until English soldiers captured and loaded him onto a ship destined for Gallipoli. Unfortunately for Roly his first driver was cruel. He made Rory work long hours carrying heavy loads, gave him little food and water, and beat him. One day Roly escaped but returns when he's hungry and misses the other donkeys. On his journey back he meets a man who changes his life for the better.

Glyn does not try to romanticise Rory's work in Gallipoli. He carries soldiers whose blood sometimes trickles down his back, and they have to run for it when there is fire charging back and forth. It's important children grow up realising war is not one big adventure and shooting guns is fun. But juxtaposed with this realistic story are the warm illustrations that show the love between animal and human. If you've owned a dog you'd recognise the look that Rory shows for Richard - it's utter adoration, and Jenny Cooper has captured it so expertly.

Rory and Richard's heart warming tale, Glyn's excellent storytelling abilities, and Jenny's stunning illustrations make this a winner for children (and adults). It's a story that won't just come out during ANZAC celebrations, it will be read all year round. Highly recommended for home, school and public libraries.

ISBN: 9780143506638 RRP $19.99

Other Glyn Harper ANZAC stories illustrated by Jenny Cooper you will also want to read are:

Le Quesnoy: The Story of the Town New Zealand Saved (Puffin)

Jim's Letters (Puffin)

Other ANZAC stories:

The ANZAC Puppy by Peter Millett, illustrated by Trish Bowles (Scholastic)

The Red Poppy by David Hill, illustrated by Fifi Colston (Scholastic)

Caesar the ANZAC Dog by Patricia Stroud, illustrated by Bruce Potter (Scholastic)

ANZAC Day - The New Zealand Story by Philippa Werry (New Holland)

Best Mates by Philippa Werry, illustrated by Bob Kerr (New Holland)

The Last ANZAC by Gordon Winch, illustrated by Harriet Bailey

Meet the ANZACs by Claire Saxby, illustrated by Max Berry (Random House)

Meet Werry Dunlop by Claire Saxby, illustrated by Jeremy Lord (Random House)

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7. Baby Foxes Nursing

(Link to YouTube video) A few days ago, I filmed this family of red foxes at the edge of the wild woods behind my house. The male fox greets the vixen as she nurses five new kits. The mother's lactation lasts for about six weeks.

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8. Haven't I seen you someplace before? Dueling covers of running silhouettes


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9. GIVEAWAY: A Pocket Star EBook Kentucky Derb-E Treat! The Aspen Valley Series by Colette Auclair


A Pocket Star EBook

Kentucky Derb-E Treat!

The Aspen Valley Series:

To gear up for the Derby, and to celebrate the start of the horse show season, I have a giveaway for Colette Auclair’s Aspen Valley series, thanks to Pocket Books!   I loved Thrown, so I’m excited to share this giveaway with you!

The Kentucky Derby is just one week away and we are giving away promo codes for the EBooks Thrown, Jumped, and Branded in Colette Auclair’s award-winning Aspen Valley series!

THROWN (December 2013; $5.99) is the first book in The Aspen Valley Series.  Professional horse trainer Amanda Vogel dreams of riding jumpers in the Olympics, but after seeing her best friend die in a riding accident, she’s so traumatized she can’t compete. Broke and desperate, she takes a summer job in Aspen teaching some big-shot widowed movie star’s spoiled daughters to ride—and braces herself for three miserable months. But the movie star is funny, down-to-earth, and gorgeous—and his spoiled daughters are just desperate for a mother figure. By Labor Day, she has to choose between capturing a gold medal…and the man who has captured her heart.


JUMPED (August 2014; $5.99), the second book in The Aspen Valley Series, is Colette Auclair’s steamy sequel to her “page-turning debut” (Library Journal), Thrown. A young woman in the equestrian fashion business finds herself head over heels for her ex-husband.  Thoroughly enjoying herself at her best friend Amanda’s wedding, Beth is shocked when she is seated next to her ex-husband, Finn, at the reception. Determined to not let this fluster her, Beth strikes up a conversation only to learn Finn isn’t the same man she walked away from. 

Relieved the reception is over, Beth is looking forward to a relaxing weekend against the beautiful backdrop of sunny Aspen at Amanda and Grady’s estate.  Little does she know Finn will be partaking in the weekend activities.  But just as Beth decides to keep as much distance between her and Finn as possible, Finn has a terrible accident and Beth is stuck being his bedside nurse.  Over the course of the weekend, Beth and Finn discover that the wounds of their failed marriage are not all that’s left. There are sparks…and hope. But just as they decide to give it another try, Finn confesses a huge secret that could destroy everything he’s fought to get back—Beth, their relationship, and another chance at love.  Will Beth turn away, or will she take a leap of faith and say “I do” once (again) and for all? 

BRANDED (December 2014; $5.99), the third book in The Aspen Valley Series, will take readers on a wild and dreamy ride through the beautiful valleys and mountains of Colorado.  Professional, polite, and pearl-wearing, dressage rider and resort consultant Cordy Sims is the last person anyone would expect to initiate a weekend of debauchery. And yet, that’s exactly what she does after meeting a handsome stranger at an Aspen resort. Agreeing that they’ll leave personal details at the door, they indulge in a memorable weekend of carnal recreation. On Sunday night, Cordy doesn’t want to leave this charming, seductive man, but she must play by her own rules.
On Monday, Cordy sits in a meeting at the ad agency that’s hired her as a freelancer, and her professional and personal worlds collide. Turns out agency owner Jack Cormier looks just as good in the boardroom as he did in the bedroom. Forced to work together, Cordy and Jack can’t ignore the chemistry that crackles between them, or the deeper feelings that have developed. But secrets and scars from their pasts may prove too formidable, even for a love that’s as powerful as it is unexpected. 

Praise for The Aspen Valley Series:

“The story portrays two convincingly flawed but likeable characters who find each other’s aults both provocative and exciting, as they try to decide whether a second chance at marriage is worth the risk.”

Publishers Weekly on Jumped

“Harris, the Brunswicks’ chef, is a clairvoyant Cupid, full of honest evaluations of people and their love lives. He adds a spark to the story as Auclair continues to build her cast of series characters and develop their varied personalities.”

—Library Journal on Jumped

In JUMPED, the author returns to the Aspen area with many of the same characters that were in her well–received debut novel, THROWN…Major and minor characters are interesting and likable, and the friendships add to the primary romance. There will be at least one more book in the series. Look for BRANDED to release in December. If you like horses, a tangled relationship, and a series that flows from one book to the next, check out these titles.”

—Romance Reviews Today on Jumped

“If you’re looking for a highly entertaining, fast-paced, horsey beach read, Jumped should fill the bill.”

—Horse Nation on Jumped

“There is enough tension among all the forces at play to keep the pages turning. Debut novelist Auclair is a 2012 Romance Writers of America Golden Heart Finalist, winner of the 2011 Winter Rose Contest, and a finalist in the 2011 Cleveland Rocks Romance Contest.  Recommended for most romance fans.”

—Library Journal on Thrown

“Romantic fiction with an equestrian theme gets a fun new twist in this novel which follows trainer Amanda Vogel… the star is single, handsome, and has the hots for Amanda. But both characters are carrying hefty loads of their own baggage, and as they navigate through various dramas and horse-related mishaps, the layers (both physical and psychological) start to come off. Thrown weaves horses into the story with a practiced tone, and the accuracy of equine knowledge and horse people adds to the plot. For a fun, entertaining read, be sure to pick up this debut novel by Colette Auclair.”

Horse & Style on Thrown

“Totally accurate, as far as HorseGirls go…Colette Auclair nails the horse stuff…whether it’s describing Amanda’s selection of appropriate mounts for Grady’s beginner daughters, or setting up a human cross-country course for the girls to play Olympics over, or accurately detailing an episode of colic (including the joy when the horse finally poops), or explaining the feeling of connecting with a once-in-a-lifetime horse…my favorite part about the book, aside from the discussions of how horse training prepares just about anyone for human training…is the humor…Aside from getting the horse stuff right, the characters are also well-developed…The story is quite a page-turner, so be prepared to be completely unable to stop–like a runaway horse except actually fun.  And the book does have one pretty detailed sex scene and multiple explicit make out sessions, so it’s not for kids. Bottom line: if you like romantic comedies, you’ll definitely enjoy Thrown.”

Horse Nation on Thrown

Colette Auclair has been a copywriter for more than twenty years.  She’s ridden and shown horses since she was ten and owns a lovely twenty-year-old Thoroughbred mare.  Thrown, her first novel, was a 2012 Golden Heart finalist in the single-title contemporary romance category.  It also won the 2011 Winter Rose Contest (Yellow Rose Romance Writers) and finaled in the 2011 Cleveland Rocks Romance Contest (NE Ohio Romance Writers Assoc.)  Jumped is second and Branded is third in the Aspen Valley series.  Please visit coletteauclair.com.

One Winner will win all three ebooks!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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10. For Those Grieving

When mum died in December last year, I thought I would be broken forever. I tore through the house shouting and screaming, howling, begging for her back and making several million deals with the Devil and threatening to kick God in the nuts*. I thought I would never be able to cope with the pain of her loss.

I turned to the internet googling marvellous things like 'mum died' and 'when does grieving end' and found an awful lot of despair. The main theme seemed to be that even a year later the grief was still as strong, that these poor people broke down every day and couldn't cope with their lives. My reaction to reading these posts was that my grief would not lessen, that I would be that desperate forever. Those posts did not help me at all.

I couldn't have lived like that. I wanted to read that people were desperate at the time but that it got easier, not that it stayed the same. No one was telling me that it got better and that's all I wanted to hear.

You will get through this. It will not be this painful forever. Those words would have helped immensely.

At the time, I wanted to climb into my brother's house and not leave. I wanted to be with my family all the time, only I couldn't be. They had their lives. I felt I'd lost mine. My boyfriend was amazing, so understanding, and he spoke so much sense. I don't know if his counselling training helped or if he's just naturally awesome like that. He'll tell you the latter. He told me it would get easier.

He was right.

I still miss her. I still cry at times, but nowhere near as much, and the times that I do are short and I manage to shrug them off, although I don't think shrug is the right word. I cope and I can smile and look forward again. There are moments. Last night I heard of someone who had just lost their mum. It brought it back. The difference was, four months on, I shed a few quiet tears but then I fell asleep and when I woke up, I carried on living my life. I didn't rage at the ceiling and send the neighbours cowering under their beds thinking I was going to tear through the walls.

This new life is different, it's the same, it's a million different things, and I'm okay. My hope for this post is that if someone grieving finds it they might find a tiny bit of hope that they will be okay to.

*and I'm supposed to be agnostic.

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11. An Early Start

I love to get an early start
When all the world’s in bed,
So roads where traffic plagues me
Will have empty lanes instead.

I’ll get to stores just opening
And saunter through the aisles.
The checkout folk, not grumpy yet,
Will ring me up with smiles.

My chores complete, I’ll have the day
Where hours still await.
I’d better wrap this poem before
My early start is late!

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12. OSCAR Needs a Friend - a Tasmanian Devel with a SECRET.

OSCAR Needs a Friend
Is my latest Picture Book

 It is my FIRST PB that is NOT in rhyme!

Wonderfully talented Ioana Zdralea is again working
on the fun illustrations.

Oscar has a SECRET. . . Can you guess what it is?

Below are some illustrations that might help
you guess what his secret is about.

Illo #1 sketches--plus the finished illo.


 Illo  #3 - full page spread

 ILLO #5 - full page spread


I only hope you love the story as much as I know you
will love Ioana's delightful art work

There will be 12 illustrations + the cover.

I am excited about launching this book in a few months--
when the illos are completed.

It will be in Soft Cover and Kindle Pop-Up
  (the same as Dreamtime Man)

Kindle Kids POP-UP  Books
are a great way to add extra fun or information.
Just tap the screen, and a small information screen pops up--
like Magic!


Books for Kids - FREE Skype Author Visits
Manuscript Critiques


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13. V is for Value ~ A to Z 2015 Challenge

V is for Value...



relative worth, merit, or importance
Have you ever taken the time out to value yourself? Our self worth is immense in taking stock of our value not only for ourselves, but to our loved ones. For if we value ourselves and what's important to us our loved ones will follow suit in valuing you and themselves as well.

A dare you, take the time out to value yourself and talents and watch them explode.


Best wishes,
Donna M. McDine
Multi Award-winning Children's Author

Ignite curiosity in your child through reading!

Connect with

A Sandy Grave ~ January 2014 ~ Guardian Angel Publishing, Inc. ~ 2014 Purple Dragonfly 1st Place Picture Books 6+, Story Monster Approved, Beach Book Festival Honorable Mention 2014, Reader's Favorite Five Star Review

Powder Monkey ~ May 2013 ~ Guardian Angel Publishing, Inc. ~ Story Monster Approved and Reader's Favorite Five Star Review

Hockey Agony ~ January 2013 ~ Guardian Angel Publishing, Inc. ~ New England Book Festival Honorable Mention 2014, Story Monster Approved and Reader's Favorite Five Star Review

The Golden Pathway ~ August 2010 ~ Guardian Angel Publishing, Inc. ~ Literary Classics Silver Award and Seal of Approval, Readers Favorite 2012 International Book Awards Honorable Mention and Dan Poynter's Global e-Book Awards Finalist

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14. 50 States Against Bullying: ALASKA

On my journey up to Alaska, I stopped in Oakland, CA to participate in a heartbreaking yet affirming and inspiring fundraiser called "We Are Here: A Benefit to Raise Hope and Awareness for Suicide Prevention and Mental Health Promotion". The event was prompted by Gayle Forman's novel, I Was Here, which was inspired by the events surrounding Suzy Gonzales, who took her life at age 19. Suzy's parents also shared their story with us that evening.

In between our talks, The Bayonettes played beautiful music.

Early the next morning, I flew up to Alaska, the fiftieth stop on my 50 States Against Bullying campaign.

Hold up! The tour is not over yet. Along with the states, I visited a school in Washington, D.C., but 50 States and 1 District Against Bullying was too much of a mouthful. So there's still one to go!

Before officially adding Alaska to the tour, I gave a workshop to the local SCBWI chapter about adding suspense to their novels. If you've seen me give this talk, you know it requires the help of another author who happens to be terrified of specific types of candy. What does that have to do with suspense? A lot! But I can't tell you unless you attend one of my workshops.

Are you in suspense now? That's because I've got this thing mastered!

In Alaska, I used Jolene Perry's irrational fear of M&M's as my example.

Then I went to the Anchorage Museum, which tells the fascinating and changing story of the people who call this home, and how heavily the environment plays a part in their lives. Miniature scenes depicted how Native Alaskans lived in various regions.

Newspapers proclaiming Alaska's entry into the U.S. were displayed, as well as the compelling history of the Alaska pipeline.

In the children's area, always the most fun area of any museum, I took my first infrared selfie.

Finally, it was school time. I spoke at West Anchorage High School, and was welcomed by a large banner and the school librarian, Stacie Cox.

The students, as usual, were wonderful to speak with. But, the entire time, part of me was freaking out on that stage because there aren't many places to perform in Anchorage, so I was giving my anti-bullying talk in the same place Led Zeppelin played!

All around the school, students had filled out and posted cards describing why they matter. Reading their reasons is one of my favorite parts of visiting schools on this tour.

Their words get me right where it counts.

Then I had lunch with several students who won a "Reasons why I want to have lunch with Jay Asher" contest. One of the students, Ariella, did a project on teen suicide that inspired her to create a club on campus called You Are Not Alone. (When I was in high school, I joined the ski club but didn't know how to ski and didn't learn for another ten years.) The room where we ate, the classroom of Temperance Tinker(!), was so cool. She even had a record player next to the classroom toaster(?), and she let me choose the music.

One student, unbeknownst to me, was sketching me as I answered their questions. She then filled the page with things I said during our conversation. For example, "I wanna form a punk band called The Wet Koalas."

After that came a beautiful drive to Girdwood. I mean, it was so beautiful. Everywhere I looked!

Unfortunately, I never got to see any beluga whales. My 4-year-old would have been so impressed by that.

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15. Lamar Giles, author of ENDANGERED, on the importance of 'The End'

ENDANGERED is the latest thriller by Lamar Giles, and we're excited he's stopped by to share more about it.

Lamar, tell us about your inspiration for writing ENDANGERED.

I was inspired to write this book by a number of cyber-bullying stories that have hit the news in the last decade or so. The most high-profile of these stories tend to culminate in the bullied child’s death, which is horrendous. It occurred to me that the kids who did the bullying likely believed they either weren’t doing something bad when they were accosting their target, or they simply didn’t see the kid they were bullying as a real person. I wanted to explore how that sort of thinking works. How do you self-mythologize to make psychologically torturing another person seem shrug worthy to yourself and your friends? Then, when things go terribly wrong, how do you deal? Do you hang on to the mythology you created? You’re a good person, and it’s not your fault? It’s something worth examining, and I want people who read it to take a harder look in the mirror when they’re done.

What advice would you most like to pass along to other writers?

There are two words that are the most important words for writers, but so many never learn to use them effectively. Those words are “The End”. Train yourself to finish stories. So much of the learning the craft comes in working the beginning, middle, and end of a story. But, it’s no secret that writing the middle of a story can sometimes feel like a drag, particularly with a long form project like a novel (which is why a lot of pros recommend honing craft by writing many, many short stories). If you’re the kind of writer that starts a bunch of projects, but finishes very few of them, break that habit. It’s the most useful skill you’ll develop.

What are you working on now?

Right now, I’m writing a book for Scholastic called OVERTURNED, about a teen card shark in Las Vegas who has to solve her poker player father’s murder. Then, I’ll be writing the follow-up to my first young adult mystery FAKE ID, which I’m super-excited about. The reaction to FAKE ID has been tremendous, and I’ve been longing to return to Nick and his world. Hopefully, all the FAKE ID fans out there feel the same.


by Lamar Giles
Released 4/21/2015

Endangered is a thrilling page-turner perfect for fans of Barry Lyga's I Hunt Killers.

The one secret she cares about keeping—her identity—is about to be exposed. Unless Lauren "Panda" Daniels—an anonymous photoblogger who specializes in busting classmates and teachers in compromising positions—plays along with her blackmailer's little game of Dare or . . . Dare.

But when the game turns deadly, Panda doesn't know what to do. And she may need to step out of the shadows to save herself . . . and everyone else on the Admirer's hit list.

Purchase Endangered at Amazon
Purchase Endangered at IndieBound
View Endangered on Goodreads

LRGiles_Fake ID_Headshot_Color


Lamar "L. R." Giles writes books for teens and adults. FAKE ID, his debut Young Adult Thriller, will be published by HarperCollins in 2014. He is represented by Jamie Weiss Chilton of the Andrea Brown Literary Agency and resides in Chesapeake, VA with his wife.

What did you think of our interview with Lamar Giles, author of ENDANGERED? Let us know in the comments!

Happy reading,

Martina, Jocelyn, Shelly, Jan, Lisa, Susan, and Erin

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16. Confessions of a Former Troll

Troll2At the dawn on the internet, I was kicked off the internet.

I’m guessing it was 1991. I was probably 14. My father was the earliest of early adopters and for years there had been a modem hissing through our phone lines. Email and online forums were new frontiers for us, however. So when we were enticed to give them a try compliments of CompuServe, we jumped at the chance. Oh mighty mighty CompuServe, the only game in town during the George H. W. Bush era. My family signed up for a single account because that’s all we needed. One log-in and email address to access kilobyte-upon-kilobyte of text!

I’m not sure when I found out about the forums, but as a seasoned prank-phone-caller, I immediately saw their appeal. I could chat up strangers. More specifically, I could needle strangers. I could pretend to be someone else, and I didn’t even have to change my voice. I could deceive and outwit people. It was the outwitting that really hooked me. Outwitting was addictive. Because it was a form of winning.

The forums were heavily moderated and had clear policies, even back then. No harassment, no insults, no foul language. In the beginning, I abided by those rules, even while taking on different personas, even though my goal was always to enrage and provoke. To outwit. To win.

I must note: I was a dabbler. Most of my time was still spent on school, the outdoors, TV and video games. I’d only log on when I was hanging out with a friend or my brother, because I viewed this as a spectator sport. Like a prank phone call, it was no fun to perform alone. In fact, doing such things alone seemed more than a little sad. Online anonymity was essential, but at the same time, someone else had to know about my winning.

As far as I recall, nobody used the term “troll” back then. That’s clearly what I was, though. I probably would’ve claimed, “I’m just playing devil’s advocate,” something people still claim with shocking regularity. Of course, playing devil’s advocate in the faceless world of the internet is akin to walking down the street and yelling insults at strangers. Without any context, you can never be some theoretical advocate. You will always be the devil himself.

Thankfully, I wasn’t the devil for long. I was warned by a moderator for pushing the boundaries of their policies, so I pushed them even further by calling someone a “crack baby.” The moderator immediately suspended the account. Now remember, my family had just the one account and CompuServe ran the show. So my actions basically banned us all from the internet.

My parents were not pleased. We had to wait until AOL came onto the scene almost a year later to get back online. By that time, I was either too ashamed or too busy to resume the trolling. Probably the latter.


I finished high school. I went to college. I played devil’s advocate in dark dorm rooms with friends who always knew when I was pushing buttons merely for the sake of pushing buttons. Feelings were rarely hurt and when they were, apologies followed. My online life at that time consisted exclusively of occasional emailing and visits to IMDB. Usenet newsgroups were popular then, but I didn’t bother with them because most of the people I knew didn’t bother with them.

That was about 20 years ago.

These days, I (and most of the people I know) spend an excessive amount of time online. I can excuse some of it as work, but certainly not all of it. Especially the hours I spend in comments sections. Yes, I have read the comments…far too many times. And yes, I have contributed to the comments…and regretted it every time.

Because whenever I comment, I feel myself turning into that 14-year-old boy. Of course, I try not to be a troll. I try to employ logic and compassion. I convince myself that I’m there to pacify the trolls, to reason with them. This is “feeding” them, of course. But it’s also feeding me. That addiction to outwitting–to winning–always surfaces. And it’s all-consuming.

Good ol’ science has proven that if an addiction takes hold of you early in life then it’s harder to beat. I’m lucky. Trolling in my formative years was a brief affair. We can thank that CompuServe moderator who slapped the addictive substance from my hand. And yet, I can’t imagine if I had been born just ten or fifteen years later. I would never have been kicked off the internet. The very notion of that is absolutely laughable now. Odds are, I’d probably be an adult man, lurking online somewhere, fixing to be vile.

Of course, plenty of people can dip in and out of online worlds without consequence. Just like plenty of people can enjoy a glass of wine without downing a bottle or two. But many can’t and like all addictions, trolling can be affected by your environment. If you hang out with smokers, then you are more likely to smoke. If most of your social interactions play out in comment sections and on social media, then you are more likely to troll. No brainer, really.

So what are today’s young trolls-in-making to do? Even for disadvantaged kids, it’s nearly impossible to step away from the online world. They don’t have the luxury that I had.

And yet, they have a perspective I didn’t. They can see the hurt they’ve caused, because people are being more vocal than ever about the hurt. I suspect that many of the trolls are probably ashamed of the hurt. Sure, there are sadists among them who get off on the hurt, but I suspect that most are getting off on the outwitting, on that addiction to winning. The hurt is an unpleasant bi-product, something they try their best to deny.

I don’t know if I hurt someone when I called him/her a “crack baby,” but I realize long ago that I wasn’t particularly witty. I certainly didn’t win anything. So while I’m not going to take sympathy on the trolls out there, particularly the ones who have moved from provocation into the despicable world of harassment, I am going to make a suggestion to the young ones.

Print out some of the very best comments you’ve left anonymously online. Hand them to your parents or to the person you have a crush on. Tell them that these are your trolling masterpieces, the things you are most proud of in your life.

That is, if you are proud of them. If you aren’t, well, then perhaps there are better ways to spend your time.

Comments are, of course, closed.

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17. Earth Quake

CDa9md6UIAAsUyOअचानक फोन घनघना उठे … सभी की राजी खुशी की खबर पूछे जाने लगी … बहुत खुशी है कि भूकम्प को बहुत से फेसबुक मित्र हल्के मे ले रहे हैं और मजाक भी कर रहे हैं. सच पूछो तो इस तरह की प्राकृतिक आपदाए हिला कर रख देती है.. इस पर अपना जोर नही चल सकता बस इतना ही कह सकते है कि … ईश्वर सभी को ठीक रखें …

The post Earth Quake appeared first on Monica Gupta.

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18. Talents and Skills Thesaurus Entry: Musicality

As writers, we want to make our characters as unique and interesting as possible. One way to do this is to give your character a special skill or talent that sets him apart from other people. This might be something small, like having a green thumb or being good with animals, to a larger and more competitive talent like stock car racing or being an award-winning film producer. 

When choosing a talent or skill, think about the personality of your character, his range of experiences and who his role models might have been. Some talents might be genetically imparted while others are created through exposure (such as a character talented at fixing watches from growing up in his father’s watch shop) or grow out of interest (archery, wakeboarding, or magic). Don’t be afraid to be creative and make sure the skill or talent is something that works with the scope of the story. 



Description: having a natural talent for music in one or more of its forms: singing, playing musical instruments, composing, conducting, etc.

Beneficial Strengths or Abilities: having an ear for pitch; being able to hear parts, as opposed to only melodies; being able to recreate a piece of music once it has been heard; having a basic understanding of music theory

Character Traits Suited for this Skill or Talent: analytical, creative, disciplined, focused, industrious, inspirational, meticulous, passionate, sensual, studious, talented, perfectionistic 

Required Resources and Training: When it comes to musicality, many people are born with a bent in that direction; there definitely can be a genetic component. This bent is often developed by frequent exposure to music. 

Formal training in the form of lessons, classes, and schools that specialize in the arts has been proven to improve musicality, though it’s not always necessary. Many people with a knack for music have no formal training but instead hone their gift by studying the greats and surrounding themselves with music. And there are, of course, the rare examples of true prodigies like Mozart, Chopin, and Yo-Yo Ma, whose musical abilities seem to exist and flourish without much instruction at all. Despite these exceptions, whether classically trained or self-taught, disciplined practice is almost always a necessary part of becoming an accomplished musician.

Associated Stereotypes: child prodigies, idiot savants, talented children who are driven by obsessive or controlling stage parents

Associated Perceptions: gifted musicians being socially awkward

Scenarios Where this Skill Might be Useful:

  • When the adult caregiver is unable to work and the family needs money
  • In a culture where the arts are highly valued
  • In a society where musicality is rare
  • When a character is in need of validation and self-confidence
  • In a stressful environment where music can bring solace and hope to others
  • When an oppressed group of people need or want to be reminded of their culture or shared history (as was the case with African-American slaves) 

Resources for Further Information:

Musicality: Instinct or Acquired Skill?

You can brainstorm other possible Skills and Talents your characters might have by checking out our FULL LIST of this Thesaurus Collection. And for more descriptive help for Setting, Symbolism, Character Traits, Physical Attributes, Emotions, Weather and more, check out our Thesaurus Collections page.

The post Talents and Skills Thesaurus Entry: Musicality appeared first on WRITERS HELPING WRITERS™.

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19. Story/plot is too boring perhaps

Question: I'm planning on writing a little fiction story revolving around senior high school students. It's basic gist is that a new girl transfers to

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20. Article … Suicide of a News

एक खबर की खुदकुशी ….


जंतर मंतर पर किसान रैली चल रही थी और मैं अन्य दर्शकों की तरह टीवी पर  खबर देख रही थी. बेशक, बीच बीच में चैनल भी बदल रही थी कि अचानक कुछ ऐसा दिखाया जाने लगा कि रिमोट एक तरफ रख कर मैं नाखून चबाते हुए रैली का प्रसारण लगातार देखने लगी. यकीनन  नजरे मेरी  थी पर मीडिया की आखों से देख रही थी जो दिखाया जा रहा था वही देख रही थी  और देखते देखते मेरे मन मे सिर्फ एक ही बात आ रही थी प्लीज केजरीवाल जी, भाषण बंद कीजिए और उस किसान के साथ अस्तपाल जाईए… और फिर बार बार बार बार कुमार विश्वास का सीन दिखाना लटक गया के बाद उनका इशारा करना … दिमाग खराब हो चुका था कि यह सब आम आदमी पार्टी कर रही है फिर आशुतोष का यह कहना कि अगली बार ऐसा होगा तो … बार बार दिखाए जाने पर मेरा मन आम आदमी पार्टी के प्रति बिल्कुल बदल चुका था. खुद भी पत्रकार रही हूं इसलिए हर बात को गौण करते हुए एक ही बात बार बार मन मे आ रही थी कि केजरीवाल जी को उस समय पेड के पास चले जाना चाहिए था या भाषण रोक कर  मंच से ही अपील करनी चाहिए थी जैसाकि मोदी जी ने एक रैली के दौरान दो युवको से की थी (ये भी मैने एक खबर में देखा था) पर पता नही उस समय मंच पर क्या चल रहा था क्या नही पर जो हुआ ठीक नही हुआ और मन में कडवाहट् भर गई.

सारे चैनल आप पार्टी को दोष देने लगे और उनका  लगातार  इसी खबर पर फोकस रहा. फिर धीरे धीरे पता चला कि मृतक व्यक्ति आर्थैक रुप से कमजोर नही थे जो उनकी आत्महत्या की वजह बनता. जो पर्ची चैनल वाले को  मिली उस पर यही लिखा था कि उनके पिता ने उन्हें घर से निकाल दिया था. खेती उजड गई है. तीन बच्चे हैं अब वो घर वापिस कैसे जाए.  अब यह बात भी सामने आ रही है कि वो लिखावट उनकी नही थी. तो पत्र किसने लिखा ??? एक अंग्रेजी  अखबार के मुताबिक मरने से कुछ देर पहले तक उन्होने पेड पर से बहुत पोज दिए. पेड पर बैठे बैठे चिल्ला भी रहे थे अपना ध्यान लोगो की तरफ करने के लिए उन्होनें गले मे गमछा  लपेट कर दूसरा सिरा  टहनी से कस दिया ताकि वो फोकस मे आ जाए पर इस बीच उनका दाया पैर फिसल गया. और जो हुआ हमारे सामने है. निसंदेह जो हुआ बहुत दुखद था.

घटना से कुछ देर पहले उन्होनें फोन करके अपने घर यह भी सूचना दी थी कि वो रैली वाली खबर पर टीवी पर आएगें. अब बात आती है मंच पर बैठे लोगो की. जिनके अनुसार पेड पर क्या हो रहा है दिखाई नही दे रहा था पर हलचल जरुर हो रही थी. लगातार मृतक व्यक्ति पोज दे देकर फोटो भी खिंचवा रहा था जोकि हम सभी ने टीवी पर देखा. मेरा प्रश्न आप सभी से ये है कि जो लोग उस समय उस व्यक्ति के पास खडे थे जो उसे देख रहे थे चाहे पब्लिक हो, पुलिस हो क्या उनका कुछ फर्ज नही था. क्या मीडिया वाले  उसे नीचे लाने की अपील नही कर सकते थे … कि सभी को चटपटी खबर मिल रही थी इसलिए मजा ले रहे थे. मेरे विचार से ,मंच पर बैठे लोगो से पहले गुनहगार वो लोग हैं जो उस व्यक्ति को देख कर फोटो ले रहे थे, देख रहे थे  और मसालेदार खबर बना कर पेश करे जा रहे थे.

जाने माने पत्रकार राहुल कंवल ने टवीट किया कि जो पत्रकार नेताओ पर आरोप लगा रहे हैं वो जरा देर रुके और खुद से पूछे कि हममें से कोई उस वक्त कोई मदद के लिए आगे क्यों नही आया.

मात्र एक पार्टी को निशाना बना कर राजनीति करना सही नही है आप पार्टी अपनी गलती मान रही है और रो भी रही है पर इससे भी चैनल वाले संतुष्ट नही. कल फिर एक चैनल वाला साईट पर खडा होकर बता रहा था कि मंच से ये पेड बहुत दूर था. कुछ दिखाई देन असम्भव नही था. क्या ये बात वो पहले दर्शको तक नही पंहुंचा सकते थे इतना ही नही एक चैनल वाले ने बताया कि वो वसुंधरा राजे , भाजपा के खिलाफ नारे बाजी कर रहा था. जिस बात को उछाला नही गया पर वही आज तक पर आशुतोष फफक कर रो पडे और अंजना संवेदनहीन होकर प्रश्न पूछती रही. बार बार बार बार  यही दिखाया गया. वही कांग्रेस और भाजपा की प्रसन्नता मन ही मन छिपाए नही छिप रही क्योकि अब खुले आम उन्हें आप पर ऊंगली उठाने का मौका मिल गया.

कुछ देर पहले एक बहुत छोटी से खबर दिखाई कि मृतक  के परिवार वाले कह रहे थे हमे जबसे ये खबर दिखाई है कि आप पार्टी बार बार पेड पर चढे व्यक्ति कि उतारने की अपील कर रही थी. पुलिस को बोल रही थी. अब हमे लग रहा है कि उनका कसूर नही है…

बताईए … क्या कहेंगें… क्या न्यूज चैंल को दोनो तरफ के पक्ष रख कर खबर नही दिखानी चाहिए क्या खुद ही वकील और जज बन कर सारे फैसले सुनाएगी. एक खबर की असलियत कही दफन हो गई और राजनीति जबरद्स्त रुप से हावी हो गई … अफसोस !!! एक बार फिर एक खबर की आत्महत्या हो गई.


The post Article … Suicide of a News appeared first on Monica Gupta.

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21. Review: The Whites by Harry Brandt

It has been seven years since Richard Price last published a novel and it has been worth the wait. Writing under the transparent pseudonym Harry Brandt, Richard Price again demonstrates he truly is a master when it comes to crime and American life. Price delivers a multi-layered, slow-burning portrayal of friendship, justice and revenge and […]

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22. Social Media Etiquette

What not to do when using social media.

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23. Into the Sun

Driving the car when the sun starts to sink
Is blindingly glaringly tough.
You pull down the visor with Ray-Bans in place
But it really is never enough.

The traffic starts crawling and everyone brakes
‘Cause they can’t see the road up ahead,
So you stop and you start as you stare at a stream
Of the brake lights of cars gleaming red.

If you’re lucky a building will block out the rays
Or the sun will eventually set,
But it’s going to take you a much longer time
To arrive where you’re trying to get.

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24. Claire LaZebnik, author of WRONG ABOUT THE GUY, on talking back to the negative voices in your head

We're delighted to have Claire LaZebnik join us to share more about WRONG ABOUT THE GUY, her fourth book to be loosely based on a Jane Austen novel.

Claire, what was your inspiration for writing WRONG ABOUT THE GUY?

Like my three previous YA novels, WRONG ABOUT THE GUY was inspired by Jane Austen—more specifically in this case by her novel EMMA, which is one of the great literary works of all time. Wait—that makes it sound stuffy—it’s not! It’s a wonderful read, romantic and funny and frustrating and satisfying all at once. I was also inspired by the Amy Heckerling movie CLUELESS, which took Emma’s story and updated it and made it relevant and modern and approachable. I didn’t want to reinvent the same old wheel, so I took my novel in a very different direction—instead of following the original beat by beat, I just borrowed elements of the plot--but my dream is to succeed in keeping the spirit of Emma alive as well as Heckerling did.

What scene was really hard for you to write and why, and is that the one of which you are most proud? Or is there another scene you particularly love?

Having just gone on and on about how this book was inspired by Jane Austen, I now have to admit that the part of the book I’m most proud of is the part that has nothing to do with Austen. I added my own subplot about Ellie’s little brother, who isn’t talking yet and has some unusual behaviors. Ellie’s mother is worried about him, but her stepfather isn’t, and Ellie is torn: she adores Jacob just the way he is, but she also wants to be supportive of her mother. It’s always a struggle for families to tease out what’s really concerning about a child and what’s just overly-hysterical parenting, and I tried not to weigh the argument too much on one side or the other. And it dovetailed nicely with the romantic plot--we can all occasionally be wrong about the little guys too! Sibling love can be as complicated as romantic love.

What do you hope readers will take away from WRONG ABOUT THE GUY?

So for the most part, this book is just supposed to be FUN-- it’s romantic and written to bubble along entertainingly. You want to take it to the beach? It’s ready to get sandy. But I don’t think there’s an author in the world who doesn’t try to sneak in a little meaning along with all the fun. As I mentioned earlier, I worked in a storyline that’s near and dear to my heart, about the family trying to figure out whether the little brother is just a late talker or actually has special needs. And I’d like to think that anyone reading it would see that the goal isn’t to label anyone or leap to conclusions, but to be a supportive family in every sense of the word and to pull together instead of apart when a situation is both challenging and complicated.

What's your writing ritual like? Do you listen to music? Work at home or at a coffee shop or the library, etc?

I’m so all over the place! A lot of my work is done standing up with my computer on top of this closed cabinet in our dining room—the height is perfect for me to type while standing. If I sit down at a table or desk to work, my little dog will jump in my lap and fall asleep on my arms and it gets hard to type or to get up again—so I stand when I can. But I’m most efficient when I leave the house to work, which usually means a coffee shop. I like to walk to my local Starbucks—it’s a good half hour walk from my house, so I get exercise and a good work environment with just the right amount of white noise—and of course a nice hot Americano. I used to go to Krispy Kreme a lot but I can’t walk there, so it’s not as good. But . . . donuts!

What advice would you most like to pass along to other writers?

Keep moving forward, like a shark. The biggest problem in writing is getting bogged down, both in the creative process and in the waiting-to-be-discovered phase (there’s a lot of waiting in this business—agents and editors take a while to read).

Years ago, I learned to talk back to the voices in my head that like to tell me that what I’m writing sucks. I respond politely to them that while they may be right, I can always go back and edit later, and right now I just want to get to the end of the rough draft, thank you very much. I know that sounds insane—I mean, here I am admitting not only that I Hear Voices, but also that I Have Conversations with Them, but most writers I know wrestle with self-defeating self-criticism and this is how I deal with mine. It keeps me from giving up or slowing down and I DO get through a rough draft eventually as a result.

And as far as the waiting process goes, the best advice I have is don’t sit around waiting to hear back from the people who are reading the thing you just finished—always start something new. It’s the best feeling in the world to say to yourself, “What’s next? I’m freed up to work on anything I want!” Don’t deny yourself that high just because you don’t know what’s happening with your previous work. Best case scenario, someone wants to represent or publish the finished product and you have two projects on your desk; worst case, no one says yes to that one, but you’re already invested in something new and thrilling and feeling hopeful about that one. Being creative keeps you going.


Wrong About the Guy
by Claire LaZebnik
Released 4/21/2015

Claire LaZebnik's latest twist on a beloved classic asks the age old question: Could the girl who knows everything be wrong about the guy?

As the stepdaughter of a TV star, Ellie Withers has it all: an amazing house in LA, a devoted friend who loved her before she even knew who Ellie’s stepfather was, and a burgeoning romance with handsome Aaron Marquand. But Ellie isn't the kind of person who’s content with simply having it all—the people in her life have to be equally happy. And, of course, she knows exactly what they need.

When Ellie’s plans for her family, her friends, and even her love life don’t turn out the way she imagined, she begins to wonder if maybe she could stand to learn a thing or two after all. Most surprising, though, is that the perfect person to teach her is the last person she'd expect.

With her signature witty narration and swoon-worthy romance, Claire LaZebnik (the author of fan favorites Epic Fail, The Trouble with Flirting, and The Last Best Kiss) once again breathes new life into a perennially popular love story: Jane Austen’s Emma.

Purchase Wrong About the Guy at Amazon
Purchase Wrong About the Guy at IndieBound
View Wrong About the Guy on Goodreads


Claire LaZebnikClaire LaZebnik grew up in Newton, Massachusetts, went to Harvard and moved to LA. (Her name was Claire Scovell for a large part of all that.) She's written five novels for adults, Same as It Never Was, Knitting under the Influence, The Smart One and the Pretty One, If You Lived Here, You’d Be Home Now, and Families and Other Nonreturnable Gifts. She's also published two YA novels with Harper Collins: Epic Fail and The Trouble with Flirting (due out in winter, 2012/3). With Lynn Koegel (who’s absolutely brilliant), she co-wrote Overcoming Autism: Finding the Answers, Strategies and Hope That Can Transform a Child’s Life and Growing up on the Spectrum: A guide to life, love and learning for young adults with autism and Asperger’s. She contributed to an anthology play called Motherhood Out Loud, and have been published in The New York Times, Self, Vogue and other magazines.

She lives in the Pacific Palisades with my husband Rob (who writes for “The Simpsons”), her four kids (Max, Johnny, Annie and Will) and too many pets to keep track of.

What did you think of our interview with Claire LaZebnik, author of WRONG ABOUT THE GUY? Let us know in the comments!

Happy reading,

Martina, Jocelyn, Shelly, Jan, Lisa, Susan, and Erin

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25. PrIncess KIM- Announcing NJ Show!

 Mile Square Theatre and Hoboken Children's Theater Presents
Princess K.I.M The Musical  
(TYA 1 hour Storybook Version)
Saturdays  May 16 thru June 27  10:00AM and 1:00PM
14th and Clinton St.  Hoboken, NJ  07030
(Online tickets to be posted soon.)
See Information on BOTH SPRING SHOWS 
New Jersey and California

by clicking the SHOWS LINK above.

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