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26. Interview: Stuart Moore and Gus Storms Reclaim EGOs

After a lengthy hiatus, the creative team behind Image Comics’ EGOs is back in action and ready to serve up more interplanetary crime drama with their upcoming fifth issue. Writer Stuart Moore and artist Gus Storms were kind enough to take some time to chat with the Beat about their series, in addition to humoring some ill-fated Beyoncé puns.

EGOsPAGE1 Interview: Stuart Moore and Gus Storms Reclaim EGOs

Comics Beat: So let’s start with the basics. Give us the gist of what’s going on in EGOs for new readers.

Stuart Moore: EGOs is basically about a superhero team in the far future, but what’s it’s really about is a marriage between two of the founding members. They’ve been together a long time, and they’ve had a lot of ups and downs, and it’s kind of a show business marriage because they’re both stars in a way. Deuce, the leader, is a former pretty boy who now uses a thing called an “imager” to make his face look younger than it is whenever he’s on camera. Pixel was very young when she joined the team, and she’s become her own brand and has sponsors and products and stuff like that. So they both basically have their own lives. In the course of the first storyline which is collected in the first trade, Quintessence, Deuce decides to re-form the team. Mostly because of a huge threat to galactic peace, but also because he wants to be relevant again and he kind of feels Pixel slipping away from him, and thinks this could be a way to bring them together again.

CB: And what will be going on in the forthcoming issues?

SM: So having set all that up, in this arc we’re setting up a big galactic conspiracy – a sort of invisible threat to the entire galactic economy. And in the course of investigating that, what happens is we meet a lot of new characters, and it becomes a bit of a mystery. Some combination of these characters are behind this gigantic plot, and it’s up to the two EGOs teams on two different planets to unravel and solve this mystery. So what we’re doing with the two main characters, Deuce and Pixel, they were together in the first story, but now they are completely apart. Deuce is involved in the core of the conspiracy on Earth, while Pixel is leading a stealth team on the remote, lawless planet of Tortuga with a subset of the team. So they’re off in two different places. It’s kind of weird because their relationship is still the heart of the story, it runs through every page of the book, but we’re really seeing them do their jobs here, and we’re seeing them do it separately. So it’s this weird mix of superhero and science fiction and in this story, crime drama.

CB: There’s quite a time gap between the release of the last issue and the date for the upcoming fifth issue. What caused the extended break?

SM: Well, I needed time to rethink the thing. Gus isn’t quite a monthly comics artist, he needs more than a month to do a book. And it ended up being a little longer than we planned because the two of us are doing a two part story for DC as part of their Convergence storyline. So that wound up delaying our return a little bit. But it should work out nicely since Convergence will come out during the middle of this EGOs run, so hopefully people will notice the two things together.

CB: Is there anything different about how you’re approaching the making of the book this time around?

SM: The biggest difference for me is that it’s a much longer, more extended storyline. I had to plot it out in great detail. The first part is sort of a teaser, issue six is almost a little self-contained story within the story, and then it’s full-barrel to the end with a lot of twists and turns for the next three issues.

Gus Storms: I had fun with the art – it’s totally more terrestrial. It’s more location based and there’s nothing I love more than drawing location, as in the people in it and world-building. So I didn’t approach it differently, I just think that art-wise it’s more in my bailiwick and my natural inclinations.

SM: I actually had Gus in mind for Tortuga, which is a former prison planet that’s now sort of a lawless trading world. A lot of the long-time inhabitants are missing limbs and have artificial limbs and I thought that was just right for Gus. “Shankers” are a mass produced sort of artificial limb, and they’re a very important element to the story, as in who has them and what they’re used for.

CB: So does a lot of research go into the writing for this, science and space-wise?

SM: Well, I try and make it a little more plausible than a lot of comics! I have sort of a background in science fiction, and my father was a nuclear physicist, so I don’t come from that side of the family at all. I don’t understand any of that stuff, but I like bashing my head against it every once in awhile. So I try to keep current, but at the same time I’ve written stuff much more hardcore sci-fi than this. This is at core a superhero story with a science background, and when you get down to people’s powers… there is only so plausible it gets. In terms of the story-telling approach, I want to work as drama first, and then make it as plausible as possible, rather than the other way around.

GS: And this one is more cyber-punk than space opera. The first one is really sort of a more space opera, and this one is dystopia noir.

SM: That’s interesting, I hadn’t thought about it as cyber-punk, but it probably seems that way because of the noir influence. There’s a pretty hard edge to issue six when you meet some of the suriviors of the Crunch War. One of the new characters, the Commander, fought it in. What that war did to these people, and these planets, is a crucial part in where the story is going. I’m very fond of an old subset of noir that focuses on damaged WWII veterans and the crimes they committed, and it was something people were writing a lot about in the 1950’s and that influenced this story as well, but in a more futuristic context.

EGOsPAGE2 Interview: Stuart Moore and Gus Storms Reclaim EGOs

CB: So in to your first collected trade, you had an essay on why you took on the mantle of writer/editor and how Gus is also sort of an artist/editor. Are you sticking to those titles this time around?

SM: So what I said, for those who haven’t read it, is that I very purposefully gave myself the title of writer/editor on this book, which I got some criticism for, and I expected. But I did it for a couple of reasons. One was there are projects I do where I need an outside editor, I could absolutely not do without one, and then there’s EGOs where I pretty much know where I’m going. Gus backstops me, he’s absolutely invaluable in story matters, and so does Marie Javins who has been our co-publisher and co-editor all along. But I don’t really need a traditional editor on this book. I’ve been a comics editor myself, I’ve edited a lot of books, so I pretty much know what I’m doing. More than that, it was almost a little tribute to the fact that in the 1970’s and 80’s when I start really reading comics, a lot of people had that title, and a lot of the best comics published were under that title. Howard the Duck, Firestorm, Conan, even things like Spider-Man and the Fantastic Four were done that way for awhile. It fell out of favor partly because most of the major companies don’t work that way anymore, but it’s kind of my way of showing that this can still be a valid way to work on the right project.

GS: We don’t have a lot of continuity stuff to manage, which is a big part of the Big Two editorship. I think [Moore] needs an enforcer, you need someone to hassle the artist more.

CB: So let’s talk about the art. It’s been great seeing it develop across issues and tighten up to where it’s at now. It seems like you draw a lot of inspiration from French comics and the like, so did you have anything in mind when you started creating these designs?

GS: The process of the artist is just trying to shore up your deficiencies. So I’m just trying to occlude my poor drawing as much as possible. As far as inspiration… definitely a lot of the European guys. I like static shots. Not a huge fan of the forced perspective, sort of fish-eye lens type comics bombast you see in American mainstream. Lifetime Moebius devotee, and Darrow and Quitely. I always have trouble with people – with drawing handsome and attractive people. I find them way less interesting than the weird, grotesque side characters. Part of the evolution of EGOs art wise is that EGOs started as my first all-digital thing, working on the Cintiq, and there’s a big learning curve there. The most recent book has a lot of zipitone, and you can just sort of throw it on willy-nilly, so that’s sort of a different look. I like in particular the bar scenes. I would just draw weird back-water bars all day if I could.

SM: When I plotted out the first storyline, Gus wasn’t onboard yet, but I had him much more in mind on this arc.

GS: I found a lot of difficulties in the first one, there was just so much “people floating in space.” I had a hard time making that interesting. And some people can do it so well, like aerial fights. I had to figure out how to do it.

CB: Tell me a little about what it’s like to design such unique characters. Masse, for example, seems like he would have been very difficult to take from concept to execution.

GS: Yeah, that was maybe the most design discussion we had. I had originally wanted to make him more ambulatory – give him sort of malformed arms or something. But I think Stuart guided us in the right direction with that. He was a lot of fun. The other one I really enjoyed was Quark, which is the pink, constantly-shifting, energy dude. And the most high concept design guys come a little later in the story, and they’re an interesting… firm-type thing.

SM: Oh yeah, the Quantum Trust. This story is a little more grounded, as we said, and most of the characters are human or humanoid. But there are some pretty strange looking people coming.

CB: Is there anything you hate drawing that you found yourself having to improve on this series? Maybe something that you’re now good at drawing?

GS: I meannnn, I don’t think I got GOOD at drawing any of the stuff. This is my first job pretty much save for one little comic project I did out of school. And in school, when I was drawing, everyone was just really ugly and monstrous, so I guess I just had to draw allegedly attractive people. You know, Deuce and Pixel are supposed to be good-looking – they’re celebrities. I did have to focus on trying to make people look comely.

SM: I’ll add one other thing – these are not easy scripts. One of the games with EGOs for me was to pack as much into each story as I could without seeming crowded. That was one of the things I really wanted to do. Partly because I think if you’re going to do an original indie comic where people aren’t buying it for Batman, you need to really give people their money’s worth. If people are going to pay three dollars for an issue of this comic, I want them to walk away thinking they really got an experience. And that means there’s a lot of scene-changes, there’s a lot of characters, there’s a lot going on. These scripts are not easy to draw, and Gus has done a beautiful job at every stage.

GS: The best part is design, and it’s just been an option to constantly design little pieces, like Shara’s home world that you see just for a second. That kind of thing is all over the comic, which is a real treat.

EGOsPAGE3 Interview: Stuart Moore and Gus Storms Reclaim EGOs

CB: Anything else you’d like readers to know about what’s to come?

SM: Well, there are a lot of twists and turns. Not all the characters will necessarily survive… Basically what I had wanted to do with this story is do a large-scale epic where the villain is hidden. The villain is not out in plain sight, you don’t know who it is. And kind of bring some of the ways a good police procedural story work into this and see what happens. Hopefully that’ll work, hopefully people will like it…

I’ll just say one more thing. When it came time to decide whether or not to continue this book, and how long to continue it for, I plotted out the story and I sat down and wrote issue five. I know I’m too close to really know, but I think it’s the best script I’ve ever written for comic books. And then issue six is good, but I think issue seven is even better. So if people have read my stuff this is the one I would recommend, because out of all the comics I’ve written, I’m as happy with this one as anything I’ve ever done.

GS: I second that. I love it. It’s been a lot of fun to work on. It’s a great story, it’s exactly the type of thing that I like to read.

EGOs #5 is due out February 4th from Image Comics. Item Code: DEC140641

1 Comments on Interview: Stuart Moore and Gus Storms Reclaim EGOs, last added: 12/17/2014
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27. Bryan Talbot Talks About Grandville Noël

I suspect that I’m not alone in thinking any day that brings new work from Dr Bryan Talbot is a very good day indeed. The fourth of his Grandville books, featuring the adventures of Detective Inspector LeBrock (who is, as the name might suggest to the scholarly, a badger) in an anthropomorphic steampunk Paris, is at least as good as the three previous volumes, if not considerably better. Wherever LeBrock goes, mayhem and a high body-count ensues, and this book is no different. We also have a messianic unicorn, evil criminals, and a Lucky Luke look-a-like, called Lucas Chance. Briefly, if you’re not reading Grandville, you’re missing some of the best fun there is to be had between two covers. I’d interviewed Bryan pretty comprehensively before (here & here), so I got in touch to ask him just a few more questions about Grandville, and his future plans for the character.

grandville noel 733x1028 Bryan Talbot Talks About Grandville NoëlPádraig Ó Méalóid: I had been meaning to ask you, before I started reading this one, if there were going to be any further Grandville books after this, but by the end of it you’ve several trailing story threads that I imagine might take a few more books to sort out. What can you tell me?

Grandville Title 212x300 Bryan Talbot Talks About Grandville NoëlBryan Talbot: Although the books are stand-alone stories and can be read individually, you will have noticed that each takes place a month after he previous one, and there has been a story arc gradually building that comes to fruition in volume five. I scripted it over two years ago now, though have been polishing it since. It’s much longer that the other stories, about 160 pages, and will probably be the final one. If I write any more stories set in the world of Grandville, they’ll be drawn in a different style. The fifth, although still containing some of the humour of the other books, is definitely the darkest story and features one of the vilest villains in the history of crime fiction. Characters from earlier volumes have cameo roles and we finally meet the execrable Chief Inspector Stoatson, mentioned in all the books since the second one but never seen. We also discover, for the first time, [Detective Inspector] LeBrock‘s backstory and are introduced to his mentor, the great detective who trained him up. I’m currently drawing Mary*’s 3rd graphic novel, but will start work on the 5th Grandville when I finish that, in summer.
[*That’s Dr Mary M Talbot, Bryan Talbot’s wife, with whom he collaborated on Dotter of Her Father’s Eyes, and co-collaborated with on Sally Heathcote: Suffragette, along with Kate Charlesworth, both of which are recommended.]

PÓM: I notice that the human characters – the ‘doughfaces’ in the story – seem to be getting restless, and coming more to the fore, in the 3rd and 4th volumes. Will we be seeing more of them in the last volume, too?

BT: They’ll be reverting to background characters, as in the 1st book. It’s in Grandville Noël where they come centre stage and, by the end, there is some kind of resolution.

PÓM: As I was rereading my way through the Grandville books, I was wondering how many different animals you had included in them. Have you any idea what sort of number you’ve done?

Badger Dublin NHM 188x300 Bryan Talbot Talks About Grandville Noël

A Stuffed Badger in Dublin’s Natural History Museum

BT: No idea, but quite a lot! As well as common animals, there are several many people won’t have heard of, such as an aye aye, an echidna and a star-nosed mole. As well as a computer file containing hundreds of animal photographs that I’ve accumulated on line, I’ve visited the natural history museums of Milan, Helsinki and Dublin, all of which have large collections of stuffed animals that I’ve snapped from different angles. It’s always hard to find pics online of exactly the right angle you need. I also have a collection of plastic animal models to draw from.

PÓM: How do the Grandville books do on the European market, particularly in France, where they’re up against work which they’re sometimes drawn from?

BT: I’m very disappointed with the French Publisher of Grandville, Bragelonne. They are primarily a publisher of horror, SF and fantasy prose and I don’t think they really pushed the books. They don’t even have a booth at Angouleme. The books went into profit (I know as I regularly receive royalty payments from them) but obviously they didn’t make as big a profit as they’d like, as they only published the first two volumes. This, despite Grandville Mon Amour winning the prize given by French railway industry, the Prix SNCF, for best graphic novel, voted for by the rail-traveling public and all the many French reviews of both books, which were universally positive. In Spain and Germany, though, they seem to be quite popular, Noël coming out both places next year. I think a Finnish edition of the first book is forthcoming too. It’s also been published in Serbia, Greece, the Czech Republic and Italy.

PÓM: You mention a third book by your wife, Dr Mary Talbot. Can you tell me anything about this, or is it still under wraps?

BT: As it’s only going to be published in 2016, we’re keeping quiet about it at the moment. Primarily because we think someone else might pinch the idea, research the subject, and produce a graphic novel of their own before then! Suffice to say that it’s another historical story about a strong female protagonist, one that most UK readers will never have heard of.

PÓM: There’s a very brief mention of a cataclysmic event that helped shaped how things are in the Grandville world, in the fourth book. This seems to me to throw you into the same general Wold-Newton Universe concept that Philip José Farmer initiated, and which also informs Alan Moore’s League of Extraordinary Gentlemen books. That, plus the fact that the aircraft that we’re constantly seeing in the air over Paris look very like the ones we see in your Luther Arkwright stories, makes we wonder if there’s a larger ‘Bryan Talbot Universe’ setting behind all your work. Or is this just something I’m over-thinking?

Luther Arkwright 211x300 Bryan Talbot Talks About Grandville NoëlBT: I never actually got around to reading the Farmer books but, yes, the cataclysmic event is basically a reference to Firefrost. In the Arkwright story, where it’s made clear that its arrival on earth sent ripples affecting reality through all the alternative time streams. I did have the intention on doing a story based on it sometime but, as I said earlier, the 5th is now probably going to be the last of the series. The iron flying machines are common to Arkwight and Grandville, though in the former, there is only one type, a military vessel, and only made by one of the countries involved. In Grandville, they are public and private skyships of various designs. Vaguely inspired by Jules Verne and Albert Robida, I use them because every other steampunk story uses airships.

PÓM: Do you have any idea when we can expect to see that fifth and final Grandville volume?

BT: I’m hoping 2017.

PÓM: That’s a long wait! You already mentioned the book with Mary, but is there anything else we need to know about, to fill up the lonely days while we wait – more Luther Arkwright, maybe?

BT: ‘Fraid not. Not many people realise what a long slog it is, producing a graphic novel. These books take a long time, especially in the sort of style I use for Grandville, which takes up to 4 days per page. The fifth volume is going to be 160 pages. That’s nearly two years’ work, more if I’m away a lot. Plus, big publishers like Cape ideally want the finished books up to a year before they publish them, so they sit around for months before being released. One reason for this is so that they meet the scheduled publication dates. Another is so their reps can show the books around to retailers several months in advance to create interest. So it may be an even longer wait than that! I do actually have a folder full of notes for a possible Arkwright story, and have done for several years, but it’s simply not gelled. Perhaps after I finish Grandville.

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28. Origami, Paper Sculpture, and More

Violet and Victor Write the Best-Ever Bookworm Book was released earlier this month, and in its honor, I made a video about creating the images. Prior to V&V, I used pen and ink and watercolor on paper for my illustrations—a style that I adore, but one that also comes with many limitations. V&V used a wide range of traditional and not-so-traditional media, all combined in Photoshop. With this new style, I had almost no limitations. It was both exhilarating and panic inducing, but mostly, it taught me to trust in the process; I spent months working on the individual bits and pieces that would eventually come together to make the images.


To learn more, please check out the (3-minute) video. As usual, I am indebted to my brother for his music.


Artist's statement from the book
"The illustrations in this book began with graphite pencil sketches on paper. Because this story is, in many ways, an homage to the printed page, we wanted to include a variety of books and library materials in the images. I've always loved a good scavenger hunt, and this one proved to be quite gratifying as I hunted down the building blocks for each spread—books with embossed covers, antique maps, and well-worn library cards to name a few. I learned origami, I painted over old book covers, and I made cut paper sculptures. I took photos of the three dimensional elements. I even wrangled my six year old daughter into doing some of the lettering. All of these ingredients were assembled in Adobe Photoshop to create the final illustrations." 

Finally, I leave you with the following news that made me (born in Canada) smile this week—V&V on the Canadian Indies Bestseller list. Happy Holidays!




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29. Naomi Shihab Nye Talks with Roger

naomi shihab nye twr Naomi Shihab Nye Talks with Roger

Talks with Roger is a sponsored supplement to our free monthly e-newsletter, Notes from the Horn Book. To receive Notes, sign up here.


naomi shihab nye Naomi Shihab Nye Talks with RogerBorn of Naomi Shihab Nye’s childhood fascination with Oman and a visit there five years ago, The Turtle of Oman is that rare thing in current children’s book publishing: a deliberately low-key story in which the climax is — well, read below. After Naomi and I swapped sympathies for how old we were now after our many years of acquaintance, we settled in for a good talk about her new novel.

Roger Sutton: How do you keep your enthusiasm?

Naomi Shihab Nye: I think it’s hanging out with kids all these years. I was visiting a school last week, and they were so incredible. Just being with them for the whole day and listening to their questions and looking at their writing and going into their art classes and seeing the pots and photographs they were making, I thought, “It’s okay to get old if you can still hang out with young people and feel that great energy. Because we still have it. It just gets sort of muted.”

RS: What do you think that does to your writing? Or for it?

NSN: We hear a lot of voices every day, but for me the most touching and tender voices continue to be those of kids. They’re the most direct, the most unadorned. It calls forth your own kid voice. It keeps it alive. It nourishes it. I agree with people who say you never lose that kid spirit in yourself no matter what age you are.

RS: Oh, hell, I never had it.

NSN: I think you have it right now.

RS: Making up for lost time. The Turtle of Oman is a story about a boy who’s moving. Was moving a big thing for you as a child?

NSN: It was, but I really did not think of the boy, Aref, as me, ever, when writing the book. Its source was my childhood fascination with the country of Oman. I saw a National Geographic story about it when I was around eight. At the time it was a closed country; no one could visit. I talked to my father. Did he know about it? Had he ever been there? He, too, was interested, so it was a topic we talked about together. And also, as I told kids in Oman when I did go there, my first name, juggled, becomes “Omani.”

RS: Huh.

NSN: As a child, I was always juggling words and names. So a fascination with a place. And then when my father died seven years ago, I remember thinking that I was not only going to miss him so incredibly much, but I was really going to miss the relationship he had with our son. They had a very precious bond. My father could walk in and my son would light up, and they would just take off. I wanted to honor that bond between a boy and his grandfather.

RS: It really made me wish I had known my grandfather.

NSN: That’s touching, Roger. A couple of adults have written to me that this book carried them back to their own relationship with a grandparent. So those were the two impulses. Not moving. Moving just kind of came on. When I was in Oman it was staggering to learn how common it was for Omani kids to do what Aref does in this book. I talked to a bunch of them. They said, “Oh, yeah, I lived in England for two years while my parents got their graduate degrees. I lived in the U.S. for three years. I lived in Australia for two years.” It was interesting because they’d all gone away and come back. Education is highly valued, and they don’t have — or they didn’t have, five years ago when I was there — graduate degrees. You had to leave the country to get one. But Oman has a very fine style of life, a very good economic stratosphere, so people want to go back after their schooling. And it’s a very gracious, hospitable place.

RS: It does seem very gracious and hospitable from your book. When I look at the details in the story, I think, “This is such an alien landscape to what I know.” But they’re so comfortable in it, the boy and his grandfather.

NSN: I’ve sent a few friends to Oman, people who are on their way to India. They’ve all had fascinating reports afterwards.

RS: Oh, I’d love to go. Even before your book, I knew it from childhood stamp collecting.

NSN: So did I! The Tourism Bureau of Oman has a new slogan: “Beauty has an address. Oman.” It really is a beautiful place in a striking and rather odd way, because of the mountains being tones of brown, and the city being pale colors. White, butter yellow, beige buildings; and they’re all low, because the sultan does not like skyscrapers. And then the sea is so intensely turquoise. So you have these three stripes of color, and then sunrise and sunset above that — it’s gorgeous.

RS: Let’s just bag this talk and go.

NSN: Yes, let’s. And we’ll stay at the Chedi Hotel. Look that up.

RS: You did a really good job of letting us know these kid-focused details about that landscape, but in a way that wasn’t touristy. It felt like it was coming from the inside.

NSN: That’s nice. Thank you for saying that.

RS: Do you know how revolutionary this book is?

NSN: No. What do you mean?

RS: Here we have a book about a kid who’s going to move. And by the end of the book he hasn’t even moved yet. It’s so quiet.

NSN: I was speaking about The Turtle of Oman to some kids at the school library a beloved friend runs, and I said to them at the very end, “You realize who the turtle is?” They all just stared at me. And then afterwards my friend said, “Aref’s the turtle! I didn’t realize that.” I said, “Yes, he’s the turtle.”

I really long for the slow time of childhood. I think most of us who live in this era do. I wanted Aref to live in slow time, for the book to feel as if it was almost in slow-motion. Like, oh my God, we’re back to the suitcase and there’s still only two things in it? I wanted it to be weird that way. The head of the Academy of American Poets said, “Poetry is slow art.” To me that poetry of daily life that we yearn for is the slow artfulness of movement. I keep this little German quote on my desk: Weniger, aber besser. “Less, but better.” Less stuff, less clutter, less things in a day, but better relationships with those things. I wanted there to be some sense of that with Aref and Sidi.

RS: How do you think we can convince our publishers and librarians that there is room for this kind of slow book? Everything now is super high-concept.

NSN: Yeah, there’s all this melodrama and vampire stuff. There’s a lonesomeness that human beings exhibit sometimes: I have all this stuff, I have everything at my fingertips, I’m going in all these different directions at once, and I’m lost. Whereas children have a willingness to pause and turn something over and over in their minds. I worry about what happens when you bombard children with too much stuff all the time, too many activities, too many events, too many things. I remember my kid, when he was young — he’s now a professor — coming home from school one day when he was in about fifth grade, and I asked him about a certain friend of his. I said, “Do you want to have so-and-so come over after school tomorrow?” And he looked at me, and he said, “Oh, Mom. He’s ruined.” And I said, “What do you mean, he’s ruined?” And he said, “He’s just scheduled all the time. He has no free time anymore.” I think of that sometimes when I’m feeling frustrated or frazzled, when I haven’t spent enough time with something to make it feel meaningful. That’s something that teachers, librarians, parents know kids need.

RS: The climax of the story is that they catch a fish and throw it back.

NSN: The little things that happen are really little. The threads are delicate, but they’re also strong. I did thirteen drafts, Roger. In the first draft, the baby pillow that Sidi throws into Aref’s suitcase was the star of the book. In my second draft, Aref’s house and Sidi’s house were the stars. Virginia, my editor, told me, “I don’t want a book about a relationship between two houses. They’re not even on the same street.” So I had to bring people into the book.

RS: Oh, God forbid, Naomi.

NSN: In talking to kids at schools I’ve visited, they all seem to have had experiences similar to Aref’s, even in the second and third grade. They’ve moved, their friends have moved, their grandparents have moved, they’ve changed schools. I often do events with refugee resettlement communities. In some cases I ask people to bring a poem from their country, or just a few lines from a story, or to tell us a story and then translate it. So I hope that readers would feel somewhat at home with Aref, somebody who is being challenged to face this whole new culture and who wonders: where do I find my gravity in it?

RS: That gives you a narrative line throughout. He is dealing with anxiety. It’s not just a pleasant little wander with Grandpa. There’s this fear of what the new place will be like, and as a reader you want that to be resolved.

NSN: Right. And the metaphor of going away and coming back, which so many creatures do in their lives. There’s this essential tug of home gravity. Aref is going to come back, but it’s still scary to think about being gone.

RS: Right.

NSN: My favorite line in the book is when Aref asks Sidi: “What if they make fun of my hat?” The hats of Oman are so distinctive, and so beautiful. And Sidi says, “Then you can let them try it on.” Become me, and then you won’t make fun of me.

RS: When you’re writing a novel, do you ever have to say to yourself, “Wait, I’m being too much of a poet”?

NSN: Probably when I overwrite a passage and make it too descriptive. But my poems have always been fairly plain, I would say, and always had a narrative thread in them. My poems enjoy conversation, and they try to incorporate it. But I did end up cutting back a lot of description and then trying to build up conversations or scenes with a little more velocity or energy rather than some kind of dreamy metaphor.

RS: I read poetry so differently from the way I read prose. I read a poem through quickly, then look more closely, then go back, and then look at the thing at the end and the thing at the beginning. It’s a much more singular moment than the chronology that you involve yourself in when you’re reading a piece of fiction.

NSN: Right. I wanted there to be little chunks in every chapter that feel poem-like somehow, that carry your mind in that same way, deeply, into a focus, into a moment, and then kind of drift around and blur. But I try to keep it also moving a little bit, even if it’s slow-moving.

RS: Have you seen any slow TV? It’s my new passion.

NSN: I have never even heard of it. What is it?

RS: It’s from Norway. There are these shows — there’s one I really love. It’s a train. It’s nine hours long. They just mounted a camera on the front of the train.

NSN: Oh my God. This is amazing.

RS: I’ll send you a link.

Your book kept reminding me of Little House in the Big Woods.

NSN: Oh, that’s interesting.

RS: Again, very small dramas, just “here’s what it’s like to live in my little house in the big woods.” And the anxieties of oh, Pa’s gone, is he coming back? That tends to be the climax of a lot of the chapters. It has so much respect for those small moments that do make up a kid’s life. So many books now are trying to distract kids from those moments.

NSN: That’s right. And I think they’re distracted enough, and there’s enough that will distract them. Sometimes kids will say to me, “What is the one thing that made you a poet as a child growing up?” And I would say it was an apprehension that there was so much around us that we could easily overlook, it would just slip by. I felt really haunted by that as a child. And by the way, Roger, did you know I grew up in Ferguson, Missouri?

RS: No, I didn’t know that.

NSN: I was born in inner-city St. Louis, and when I was almost three my parents moved out to Ferguson, because it was a suburb, with more trees and little parks, and a quieter pace. So all of this news and all of these images from Ferguson are very haunting to me, because in the time of childhood where I grew up, the whole town of Ferguson belonged to kids. We rode our bikes everywhere. We were really curious about what this black-white line was. It was very, very invisible, but very well known to adults, and we didn’t understand it at all. Anyway, that’s just a digression. But it has made me think a lot about slow time and that need as a child to be in spots that feel as if they will outlast you, outlive you, be there in some physical way.

RS: I like the way that the end of the book makes us wonder what it’s going to be like for Aref in Michigan. You can carry this story forward in your head because you get to know this boy really well and hope that things will work out. It’s almost as if you can write your own sequel.

NSN: A couple of people have bugged me already about writing a sequel, in first-person, of Aref in Michigan, but I thought, “Wouldn’t that undercut all the possibilities for him?” I don’t know if I would want to do that. People are still bugging me to write a sequel to Habibi.

RS: Get busy, girl. It’s been a while.

NSN: I don’t want to write a sequel. I want you to write a sequel. You figure it out.

RS: I’m really into standalone books these days. There are too many sequels.

NSN: I am too. I’m really into everyone else’s capacity to imagine what happens next. I like standalone books. There’s something intact about them. And I think poems try to trust us in that way too. It’s why poems don’t like explanation. What happens next? Where does it go? Poems have that subtlety of ending in air, hinting, suggesting, but now you take it and you go with it.

RS: And those are the poems you keep going back to. When you find the one that creates that story inside yourself, that won’t let you alone, that’s the poem that speaks to you.

NSN: It keeps living.


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30. The State of eBooks: INFOGRAPHIC

ebookchartData journalist Niall McCarthy has created an infographic which explores the current state of eBooks

Charted by Statista, McCarthy shared the infographic in a post on Forbes. Check it out: “Today, 23 percent of all male adults and 33 percent of all female adults in the United States read e-books. In fact, the global e-book industry is worth a whopping $8.5 billion.”

We’ve embedded the entire graphic after the jump for you to explore further. (more…)

New Career Opportunities Daily: The best jobs in media.

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31. Happy Holidays!

I have been so swamped but there are still a couple more Romania posts to go. I will get to them soon. I am also doing a travelogue.

I hope everyone is having a wonderful holiday! Here are some pictures from our trip to NYC to celebrate my mom's birthday. I got a bit of sketching in and this picture of Grand Central Station seemed to capture the spirit of the season.

Location shot!
Mom had her birthday dinner at the Breslin where we had a whole pig. It was amazing!
I cannot remember a time when the city was more crowded with tourists. The holiday season is the time to be in the city I guess.

We had a lot of wonderful food, drink and company.

Sketching at the Lucky Cat
Troy and I at the Rockefeller Center tree

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32. CDW! - Carpe diem Wednesday!

Poetry and I have never been friends. Although I love to read it and listen to it, writing it is has always been a whole other beast.  That said, I decided today, I would seize the day, and take on that  beast. Good, bad, or indifferent, it felt great to write it and take a stab at something new. 
Carpe diem! 

See You Later, Frustration!

Frustration, Frustration go away
I don’t want to feel you in my body today.
You make my stomach hurt and I feel tight in my chest
Some days it is hard to take you and I need a rest.
My mom says taking deep breaths is the best thing to do
And I try to do that, but frustration, you are making me feel so blue.
My dad tries to tickle it out of me and sometimes that works,
But this time it is not going away, and I still feel it lurks.
Suddenly, my dog licks my foot, and I feel a twinge better
I finally feel able to get dressed and put on my sweater.
My bird on its perch tweets to me a hello
And I take a deep-down belly breath and let that frustration finally go.
Frustration you are not going to get the best of me today

The breath, the tickle, lick and tweet will help me get through this day.

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33. Editorial Submission :: Ola Volo

Post by James

Editorial Submission :: Ola Volo

Editorial Submission :: Ola Volo

Editorial Submission :: Ola Volo

Editorial Submission :: Ola Volo

Meet Ola Volo, a Canadian illustrator from Kazakhstan with a love of nature and folklore. Ola’s illustrations are a complex, whimsical merger of animals, people, history and nature, executed in traditional and digital mediums. As well as doing commissions for a range of international clients, Ola also tries to find time to do gallery artwork, book projects and murals.
See more of Ola Volo’s work at here.

 

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34. Winterfrost (2014)

Winterfrost. Michelle Houts. 2014. Candlewick. 272 pages. [Source: Review copy]

I very much enjoyed Michelle Houts' Winterfrost. This wintery read is set in Denmark. It opens one Christmas Eve. The first chapter starts off with a family celebrating together. That first chapter ends with a phone call and a promise. A promise not to the characters, but, to the readers:
It should have been an ordinary Christmas on the Larsen farm, nestled among the flat, snowy fields of an island called Lolland in the south of Denmark. But it wasn't. And if it had been, well, we wouldn't have much of a story to tell, now, would we?
Bettina, the heroine, is left on the farm with her younger sister, Pia. Every year, her father visits his uncle at this time of year--the week between Christmas and New Year. Her mother is called away unexpectedly with news about a family member's health. (Just who is not mentioned in the first chapter.) So Bettina, aged 12, can take care of a nearly 1 year old and a whole farm, right? Well? Mostly.

In her parents' rush, the entire family, it seems, forgot to put out the traditional bowl of Christmas rice pudding for the nisse. The Larsen family's nisse, Klakke, is NOT happy. Klakke isn't necessarily "bad," just in a bit of a bad mood. But even in a horrible mood, he'd never do anything to hurt any human.

Winterfrost is about what happens when her parents are away. It's about one girl's adventure with nearby nisse. Though traditionally, nisse are not supposed to show themselves to humans, to interact with them, rules are broken in Winterfrost.

It is a fun fantasy. Bettina is a lovely heroine. It is a quick read that I enjoyed very much.


© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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35. Ruby Barnhill Cast as Sophie in The BFG Movie

Roald Dahl BFGRuby Barnhill, a newcomer English actress, will play Sophie in The BFG. This project marks the first time Barnhill will take on a feature part.

Steven Spielberg will take the helm of this Roald Dahl film adaptation as the director. Mark Rylance, a British theatre actor, has been cast in the titular role.

Here’s more from Deadline: “Published in 1982, The BFG is the story of a young London girl and the world’s only benevolent giant who introduces her to the beauty and peril of Giant Country. The two set off on an adventure (with the aid of the Queen of England) to capture the evil, man-eating giants who have been invading the human world. Spielberg is beginning production early in the New Year and Disney releases on July 1, 2016 in the U.S. EOne will bring it to the UK on July 22, 2016.”

New Career Opportunities Daily: The best jobs in media.

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36. Flogometer for Fran—are you compelled to turn the page?

Submissions Wanted. Nothing in the queue for Friday, though I will be posting a third pass at a first page for my vampire kitty story then--I hope you'll tune in. If you’d like a fresh look at your opening chapter or prologue, please email your submission to me re the directions at the bottom of this post.


The Flogometer challenge: can you craft a first page that compels me to turn to the next page? Caveat: Please keep in mind that this is entirely subjective.

Note: all the Flogometer posts are here.

What's a first page in publishingland? In a properly formatted novel manuscript (double-spaced, 1-inch margins, 12-point type, etc.) there should be about 16 or 17 lines on the first page (first pages of chapters/prologues start about 1/3 of the way down the page). Directions for submissions are below—they include a request to post the rest of the chapter, but that’s optional.

A word about the line-editing in these posts: it’s “one-pass” editing, and I don’t try to address everything, which is why I appreciate the comments from the FtQ tribe. In a paid edit, I go through each manuscript three times.

Mastering front 100WshadowBefore you rip into today’s submission, consider this checklist of first-page ingredients from my book, Mastering the Craft of Compelling Storytelling. While it's not a requirement that all of these elements must be on the first page, they can be, and I think you have the best chance of hooking a reader if they are.

Were I you, I'd examine my first page in the light of this list before submitting to the Flogometer.

A First-page Checklist

  • It begins connecting the reader with the protagonist
  • Something is happening. On a first page, this does NOT include a character musing about whatever.
  • What happens is dramatized in an immediate scene with action and description plus, if it works, dialogue.
  • What happens moves the story forward.
  • What happens has consequences for the protagonist.
  • The protagonist desires something.
  • The protagonist does something.
  • There’s enough of a setting to orient the reader as to where things are happening.
  • It happens in the NOW of the story.
  • Backstory? What backstory? We’re in the NOW of the story.
  • Set-up? What set-up? We’re in the NOW of the story.
  • What happens raises a story question—what happens next? or why did that happen?

Fran sends a first chapter of Low Flying Dirtbags. The rest of the chapter follows the break.

A coppery metallic smell roused him. He blinked, coughed and gagged. The contents of his stomach churned and rose up his throat. He swallowed the burning bile and willed himself not to vomit. He shivered. He was cold. He tried to lift a hand to his mouth but discovered he couldn't move his arms or legs. He looked down towards his feet. He was naked and appeared to be strapped to a metal table. His legs were raw and oozing a faintly pinkish liquid onto the table. He suddenly felt the pain. His nausea increased. He swallowed rapidly to calm his churning stomach. He closed watery eyes as the fear rose. He quickly wrestled it down. Now was not the time to panic. Was it the middle of the day or night, he couldn't tell? Where was he? What had happened? Think back. Where was he last?

He'd been at his birthday celebration. It had been a glittering, exciting affair, and he'd been happy. There'd been lots of alcohol – so much so, he'd lost count of the number of refills. How had he gone from such a magical moment to this cold, dark place that smelled of copper?

He marked off the evenings events.

Alcohol.

Music.

Singing.

A bite or two of food. Somebody had offered him cocaine, but he'd turned it down, (snip)

Were you compelled to turn Fran's first page?

A scary opening, at least for the protagonist, and story questions are raised. Yet I waffled, which leads to not turning the page. I think the problem is two-fold. First is the good old anonymous pronoun person—why not give a name, which tends to make him more of a human than an object? Secondly, I felt the narrative didn’t deliver the intensity of the moment that the character is experiencing. Terrible things have happened to him yet all is calm and thoughtful. Notes:

A coppery metallic smell roused him. He blinked, coughed and gagged. The contents of his stomach churned and rose up his throat. He swallowed the burning bile and willed himself not to vomit. He shivered. He was cold. He tried to lift a hand to his mouth but discovered he couldn't move his arms or legs. He looked down towards his feet. He was naked and appeared to be strapped to a metal table. His legs were raw and oozing a faintly pinkish liquid onto the table. He suddenly felt the pain. His nausea increased. He swallowed rapidly to calm his churning stomach. He closed watery eyes as the fear rose. He quickly wrestled it down. Now was not the time to panic. Was it the middle of the day or night, he couldn't tell? Where was he? What had happened? Think back. Where was he last? We learn later that his arms and legs have “long, deep cuts and blistered, seared skin.” I don’t find it credible that incredible pain wouldn’t be the first thing he’d feel. If fact, I think it would be the intense pain would be what roused him, not the smell of blood. If it did, I also don’t think thoughts of nausea and bile would then be the first thing on his mind. With the nature of the wounds, I think he would wake screaming. Nor do I think he’d settle right down. He later “tentatively” queries if anyone is there. I think he’d scream it.

He'd been at his birthday celebration. It had been a glittering, exciting affair, and he'd been happy. There'd been lots of alcohol – so much so, he'd lost count of the number of refills. How had he gone from such a magical moment to this cold, dark place that smelled of copper?

He marked off the evenings events.

Alcohol.

Music.

Singing.

A bite or two of food. Somebody had offered him cocaine, but he'd turned it down, (snip) I cut the remainder because a list is hardly compelling content for the first page. Get on with what’s happening, with him dealing with the NOW of what’s happening—I just don’t believe that, with the injuries and pain he has and awakening strapped to a table that he’d begin calmly reconstructing events. Writhing and screaming is mostly what I think he’d do. I’d have the bad guy interrupt the writhing and screaming on the first page and get on with that dialogue. I’d also like just a touch more scene-setting in the opening page as things aren’t clear as to the nature of where he is and what he sees. He can see injury to his legs, so there must be light. Yet later fluorescents are turned on to light the room. So what is it like, what does he see when he awakens?

Comments, please?

For what it’s worth.

Ray

Submitting to the Flogometer:

Email the following in an attachment (.doc, .docx, or .rtf preferred, no PDFs):

  1. your title
  2. your complete 1st chapter or prologue plus 1st chapter
  3. Please include in your email permission to post it on FtQ.
  4. Note: I’m adding a copyright notice for the writer at the end of the post. I’ll use just the first name unless I’m told I can use the full name.
  5. Also, please tell me if it’s okay to post the rest of the chapter so people can turn the page.
  6. And, optionally, include your permission to use it as an example in a book on writing craft if that's okay.
  7. If you’re in a hurry, I’ve done “private floggings,” $50 for a first chapter.
  8. If you rewrite while you wait for your turn, it’s okay with me to update the submission.

Were I you, I'd examine my first page in the light of the first-page checklist before submitting to the Flogometer.

Flogging the Quill © 2014 Ray Rhamey, story © 2014 Fran

 

(continued)

knowing it'd keep him wired too tightly. Had someone slipped him something anyway?

Thoughts blurred. He couldn't cut through the misty memories. All he had was the party and then it was dark. Everything in the middle was gone.

It really didn't matter how he got here. What was important was escaping. If there was one thing he was good at, it was cutting his losses. He needed to get free!

As much as he strained against the straps holding him, he couldn't loosen them. He couldn't see anything either, he couldn't make out the room's details. It was quiet except for the sound of water trickling.

"Hello? Is anyone here?'" He tentatively queried.

No answer.

The panic returned. He turned his head, the room spun, and his stomach threatened to spew. He gulped and forced himself to calm down. Tears filled his eyes and rolled down his cheeks. It would be so easy to surrender. No! He'd never been a quitter. Ever!

Summoning his most arrogant tone, he said, "Answer me. I know someone is here."

The shadows remained mutinously silent and unmoved by his practiced sternness. His only answer was the soft trickle of water.

"I shouldn't be here," he said. "This is a mistake. People are expecting me. They'll call the cops if I don't show. I can pay you whatever you want. I'm rich. You don't need to do this. We can make a deal. I demand to know where I am."

A shadow shifted. He caught the slight movement from the corner of his eye.

 "You demand? If I were you, I wouldn't demand, I'd start begging." The whispered words echoed in the dark chamber. He couldn't tell if the voice was male or female.

"What do I need to beg for?"

"Your life would be a good start." The voice remained silky soft and gentle. For a moment, it sounded familiar. Where had he heard the voice before?

"I'm not afraid."

A soft chuckle snaked through the gloom, unsettling him more than a hurled threat.

"You really should be afraid."

"Why?"

"Why? Why are you here? Why what?"

"Why me?"

He heard the clip-clop of shoes on concrete as they moved away. He panicked. Was the person leaving him alone in this awful place strapped naked to this table?

Overhead florescent lights clicked on, flooding the room, forcing him to wince from the burning glare. Carefully he cracked his lids allowing the light to leak into his pupils. When his eyes finally focused on his captor, he saw nothing but a pair of blue eyes looking at him with curiosity. The person had draped itself in a loose-fitting, long sleeved, blue hospital gown. Its face, obscured by a surgical mask and cap covering its brows and hair made it impossible to distinguish any feature or tell if it was male or female. Its hands were encased in surgical gloves. Height average.

"Do I know you?"

"Doesn't matter," the voice whispered.

The lightness of its voice told him it was truly enjoying this moment. "Well, we better get started. We've got work to do."

"Work, what work? Where are we?"

"We are far from anyone who might hear your screams of agony or your pleas for help."

He started to tremble. He couldn't control it.

"Where are we?" he stuttered.

"This is where I do some of my best work, my art."

"What kind of art?"

"Body art…look at you." The gloved hands came up holding a long-bladed straight razor with a bloody blade and a small portable table torch. He realized why his legs burned and looked filleted. Now, as he looked closer, his arms, though strapped down, had long, deep cuts and blistered, seared skin. His face burned too.

"You're demented."

The blue eyes blazed with anger. "To each his own."

"Please don't do this to me."

"Too late now."

"It's never too late. I won't tell anyone."

"Shhh," it whispered. "This won't take long." As the pain scorched through his body, he embraced it. The pain was proof of life. Without the pain, he feared he'd be lost.

"I want to live."

Gently, it smoothed it's fingertips over his forehead. "Shhh…we can't do that." The gentle touch set off an explosion of tremors. His body shook uncontrollably. His tormentor quickly and efficiently duct taped his mouth shut. Daggett wondered why since it had mentioned no one would hear him if he yelled. Daggett struggled harder and watched as it laid the sharp blade against his genitals while lighting the portable torch.

His tormentor watched the panic grow in his eyes. "I wouldn't shake so much if I were you. I might burn more than your sac." It whispered as searing agony shot through his body while the smell of scorched flesh reached his nostrils. It continued, "My blade might accidently slide… like this… and slice right through your manhood. Oops! Look what you've made me do, Daggett!”

The pain was agonizing. Daggett tasted blood as he bit through his tongue. He couldn't scream. All he managed was a muffled sound of agony. It stared at him as if he was some kind of lab experiment to evaluate as it methodically snapped photos of his reaction.

"Almost done... It won't be long now. How are you feeling, Daggett? Can you relate at all to the agony you caused others all these years? Do you feel remorse, any regrets? Nope… doesn't look like it to me. All I see is anger, pleading for a chance to talk yourself out of your current situation. Too bad! So sad!"

Daggett’s tormentor dragged the sharp knife blade over the tender flesh of his neck. The pain was sudden and searing. Warm blood and a renewed coppery smell drained quickly from the wound. He inhaled, but his lungs refused to respond. He tried to pull in another breath. Nothing! Panic exploded as he directed his energy inward towards his lungs.

Breathe! Air!

A gurgling sound rose in his chest as the air already in his lungs seeped out through the wound. More blood began to pool around his shoulders. He struggled to cling to his final hold on life.

His tormentor smoothed its fingers through his hair. "Don't fight this. Fighting only makes it worse. It won't be much longer, it'll be over soon."

Daggett’s vision blurred. His lungs and body burned while gentle fingers continued to stroke his brow.

"So pretty. I think you are my best work yet, Daggett." Delight danced in its blue eyes. The more Daggett struggled to breathe the greater his tormentors’ enjoyment. Blackness leaked into the edges of his vision, and as the seconds counted down, his constricting pupils seeped out more light, leaving only darkness behind. The darkness won.

It stared down at Daggett's empty shell. This killing was a treat, a well-deserved reward. Dirk Daggett had begged in the end. It was always enjoyable to bring the arrogant, know-it-all ones down a peg. It clicked on a portable light and studied Daggett's face. As it gazed at Daggett's remains, it felt no remorse, just unfulfilled. It was tired of living in the shadows, tired of hiding behind someone's protection, tired of wanting things and not being able to have them, weary of denying it's true self. It wanted the cops to know what it could do. It wanted to be feared and to be that terrifying bedtime story the kids told each other when they needed to feel dread.

Soon they would know. Daggett’s tormentor would alter the game and force them to pay attention. Maybe it was foolish to poke a stick at the cops. It had been quietly killing for many years…why the need for attention now? It paced its workroom while considering its sudden need for more. Why was the mutilation no longer satisfying? Why did it need to taunt authority and risk exposure?

The seconds ticked by as it contemplated its options. There was no sense of panic just a residue of excitement. As it paced and moved about the small room, anticipation grew and grew until it overwhelmed the killer completely.

Should it rethink this game plan? No. It needed this. It needed recognition. It had been hiding for too many years. It was always careful. There would be no trace of its presence on Daggett's body, no evidence to link his remains back to the killer. There would be no more hiding in the shadows, no more living in the background. It would forge new ground and become a household name.

The cops, once they found Daggett's empty shell, would eventually put a name and face to the remains. They'd learn what they could about him. They'd ask his family and friends who could have done such a horrible thing. But, in the end… they'd come up empty-handed. No one would link Daggett to its other self. No one had seen them together in a very long time. There were no emails, faxes, or texts exchanged.

It thought about the cops running around in circles like rabid dogs trying to figure out which end was up. They'd growl and foam at the mouth, but in the end they'd find nothing but their own tails. The notion that the detectives assigned would have another unsolved case – another blot on their records – had some appeal. It chuckled deeply while contemplating the consequences of moving forward with this new plan.

Later, it would add Daggett's pictures to the ever-growing album. The stories the album provided were something to reminisce about while sitting in a cozy chair, in front of a warm fire, sipping hot chocolate, on a cold winter's night.

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37. Illustration Friday~Sea

So here we are just 8 days before Christmas with a full work schedule ahead and barely a present to be had, and my creative juices decide to kick in full steam ahead! 

I have to say this last year I’ve had my doubts if art was still a part of my life. I have not had an ounce of desire to create anything, from pen to paper to tossing paint around, NOTHING! Not even a quick sketch on a napkin!  I’ve never had this long of a dry spell.


And then I took a moment to look back...


Dream come true
It's been a long busy year with movement and change and maybe even some growth? I've been pulled in many different directions and most of the changes have been good. Much of my creativity went into house and yard projects. And then there’s always extra hours at my library. Also my daughter got her drivers licence! Yay! Add in more house projects. Worked on losing lots of debt! Another Yay! My husband got his classic car he's always wanted So we cruised, him more than I.
And lot’s of time spent with friends…"Life stuff"


Container garden--and they got red!


Mickey

I also took on a second job last April working for Saint Ann's Shrine. Although I no longer have that job it was a blessing to work there for the short time I did. Again looking back I believe it helped me to cope with the loss of my brother who just recently passed away. Mickey was diagnosed with colon cancer a little over a year ago. I was fortunate to have been able to spend a good amount of time with him this past year, whether it was just hanging out with him or taking him to his treatments, it was special to be able to have had that time. It also warmed my heart to see how many people were touched by his life. I can’t help but think that part of my muse kicking in has been a way of coping with this loss, or maybe it’s Mick giving me a little push. I think I’d like to believe that.

I guess I’ve been a binge artist long enough to not question the creative process, or lack of it too much. I’m just happy it’s back!



For Illustration Friday’s word of the week “Sea” let’s kick back to the days of the Yellow Submarine!



Hope the fish like it!
This piece is a background for my fish tank. I do hope my fish appreciate the effort :)

Here is the process along with the whole image below.










 







 



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38. Chronicle Books Shares Holiday Video

Chronicle Books has sent out its fifth annual holiday video. The holiday greeting was created by the publisher in-house. For this year’s video, they built the Little Free Library. It will be given away during National Library Week next year.

We’ve embedded the video above for you to enjoy.

New Career Opportunities Daily: The best jobs in media.

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39. The Farmer and the Clown

9781442497443 f3568 300x243 The Farmer and the ClownThings are beginning to heat up. Mock Caldecotts are being decided; best-of-year lists continue to be released; over at Fuse #8, Betsy Bird has made her final predictions.

It’s time to talk about a book that’s been one of my favorites all fall: Marla Frazee’s The Farmer and the Clown.

I find it difficult not to gush over this book. It is so simple and yet so profound: the classic “stranger comes to town” story brilliantly re-imagined and re-visioned. It works for me on both an intellectual and emotional level, so much so that I can start out discussing the composition of a particular page, say, and end up talking instead about the definition of family; love and loss. The search for belonging. What happens when we reveal our true selves to others. You know, the whole human condition.

So to prevent me going off the deep end, I’ll stick to bullet points and simply highlight some of the strengths of the book; some of the things that make it worthy of Caldecott consideration. I hope you will help me fill in the gaps in the comments.

  • THE EXPRESSIVENESS of the characters, through body language and facial expressions. To quote the Horn Book “Fanfare” citation: ”Rarely has posture been used so well in a picture book, here used to wordlessly portray the kindness of strangers who are thrown (literally!) together by happenstance but then changed forever.”
  • THE TENSION. The story itself has built-in tension — how are these seemingly opposite characters going to get along? will the farmer be able to comfort the child? will this be the child’s new home, or will the circus train come back? — so does the visual storytelling. As a reader/viewer I am pulled in two directions. I want both to linger over each spread to catch every nuance AND to turn the page to see what happens next. The picture book storytelling is perfectly balanced here.
  • THE LANDSCAPE. This has got to be one of the sparest landscapes ever depicted in a picture book. The horizon stretches unendingly beneath vast skies. There is no vegetation aside from the one tree on the one knoll. There aren’t even any haystacks to break up the emptiness (though there seems to be plenty of hay to make them with). The color palette is equally austere: brown, sere, desert-like. Does the empty landscape echo and make manifest the heart of the farmer? Or does it serve to keep the viewer’s focus on the characters, their interactions and emotions? I would say both.
  • THE ENDING. It is just open-ended enough. You close the book satisfied but also with a little room to fill in details yourself. It’s not the mind-blowing, drop-the-reader-off-a-cliff ending of Sam and Dave Dig a Hole. But the questions asked by the ending can be answered by a the story you’ve just finished reading. It’s a very organic, very satisfying kind of open-endedness. The answers are all in the spot illustration on the last page: in the farmer’s posture (relaxed, upright, hands in pocket — he’s contemplative, but not unhappy), in the hat he’s wearing, the hat HE chose to swap with the little clown; and of course in the presence of the circus monkey, the same size and shape and dressed the same way as the departed little clown.
  • THE MULTILAYEREDNESS of the wordless narrative. One of the most brilliant parts of the book is the very first page where Frazee uses a clean white background rather than that mottled sere brown — the page just after the little clown has been jettisoned from the train. Read it one way (with makeup in place): a little clown seeks to entertain an audience. He does a little dive move, he doffs his cap, he takes a bow. All part of a performance. BUT. Read it another way (if one could see through the makeup to the scared baby/toddler beneath): he points desperately to where he came from; he mimics how he fell from the train, he bends over in despair; he runs to the farmer to plead for help. I’m not sure I know of another picture book that accomplishes this layered interpretation.
  • THE VISUAL LINKS BETWEEN THE CHARACTERS. There are many. Even when they look like complete opposites — tall skinny old farmer all dressed in black; short round young child all dressed in red — there is a relationship between them. Note the reverse symmetry of the small clown and the tall farmer: the clown’s tall pointy hat is the farmer’s long pointy beard, in reverse; the clowns horizontal ruffle around his neck is the farmer’s flat hat on his head. Then when the truth comes out and the little clown’s true self is revealed, the link becomes closer and nearer: we see their equally bald heads, and the farmer’s red long johns match the child’s red clown suit. And at the very very end, the link between them is cemented when the farmer swaps their hats, placing his black hat on the toddler’s head and donning the tall red cone hat himself.
  • THE STORY’S DEPTH. This would have been just a sweet little story of friendship and love/loss/love…but the addition of the painted-on smile of the little clown asks SUCH deeper questions and adds so many deeper layers. And so by the end of the book, this reader, anyway, is entirely emotionally invested. Look at that oversized arm on the final double-page spread (the long horizontal arm balanced compositionally by the long horizontal train, by the way). Is the farmer’s arm waving goodbye? or reaching out, trying to hold on? There’s a phenomenal amount of feeling in that disembodied arm. I am not sure many other artists could invest so much emotion in an ARM.

I’ve heard that The Farmer and the Clown doesn’t work for two- and three-year-olds. Well, no. Is it supposed to? Do people think that because the clown is a very young child, the book also must be for very young children? The age of the baby/toddler clown does not determine the audience for this book. It’s for reader-viewers who are interested in determining and decoding the situation, reading the postures, the facial expressions, watching the specific yet universal story unfold.

And no, it’s not all that funny. Again, is it supposed to be? I am not sure that all Marla Frazee books have to be laughfests. The book does have small moments of humor (the juggling eggs sequence, for instance), but it’s the kind of humor that might evoke a smile rather than a guffaw. I think readers are too involved in the pathos of the situation, the drama, the tension, to want or need to do a lot of giggling. But since the Caldecott committee is charged with looking only at the books of 2014, a comparison to Frazee’s earlier work should not apply.

Can the Caldecott committee ignore their expectations of what a Marla Frazee picture book should be? Will they see the genius of this book?

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40. New Agency

Newly formed Rising Bear Literary Agency will represent picture book through young adult authors.

http://risingbear.com/about-us/

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41. Best Speculative Fiction of 2014


This one is definitely in my top five overall for the year.  It may even be the best.  I struggled with putting this in adult fiction or in speculative fiction, because it reads more like an adventure/survival book than it does a science fiction book.  But it's also set on the surface of Mars, so I wound up deciding to feature it here.  Basically, an astronaut is trapped on Mars and has to figure out how to survive until NASA figures out a way to rescue him.  

You can also find this one on my list of audiobooks, but it deserves a place here as well.  It's about a terrifying post-apocalyptic world where opening your eyes can drive you to suicide and murder and a mother who wants something better for her children.  

Another post-apocalypse story, this time in a world whose population and culture has been decimated by a plague.  It was particularly harrowing to read this fall during the panic surrounding ebola.  I can't say enough good things about the writing and the plot itself.

I don't usually read straight-up paranormal horror, but this one was absolutely impossible to resist.  The book is designed to resemble an Ikea catalog and features illustrations of progressively disturbing products.  It's worth reading for the design alone, but the story is also compelling.  I'll be so disappointed if I don't get a sequel next year.

Not really a dystopia and not really a post-apocalypse, this is really just a somewhat bleak imagining of our world's future, particularly in the East.  We move from India to Africa and follow a young girl's search for her birth mother.  It's one of the more difficult books I read this year, but also one of the most rewarding.

I'm not even going to try to describe this one because of spoilers, but trust me when I say that it's a must-read if you're fans of post-apocalyptic settings, horror, or suspense.  It fits all three categories quite well.

Another candidate for top five overall, this is probably the most beautiful writing I read this year.  It fits into the speculative category because the main characters are mythical immigrants to New York City (a golem and a jinni), but it would work just as well in literary fiction.  The story is moving but the real star is the writing.

The first in the Southern Reach series, this one is honestly hard to sub-classify within speculative fiction without having finished the series (the second two books are waiting for me at the library right now).  It has adventure and conspiracy and mysterious disappearances from Area X, where our main characters are sent to try to discover why all other expeditions have failed.


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42. Suggestions for the Batchelder Award?

ALSC Personal Members are invited to suggest titles for the 2015 Batchelder Award given to an American publisher for a children’s book considered to be the most outstanding of those books originally published in a foreign language in a foreign country and subsequently published in English in the United States during 2014. Please remember that only books from this publishing year are under consideration for the 2015 award. Publishers, authors and illustrators may not suggest their own books. The deadline for submission is December 31, 2014.

You may send recommendations with full bibliographic information to the Chair, Diane Janoff at diane.janoff@queenslibrary.org.

The  award will be announced at the press conference during the ALA Midwinter Meeting in February 2015.

For more information about the award, visit the ALSC website at http://www.ala.org/alsc/. Click on “Awards and Grants” in the left-hand navigation bar; then click on “ALSC Book & Media Awards.” Scroll down to the “Batchelder Award Page”.

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43. Review: The Hobbit: Battle of the Five CGI Armies (SPOILERS)

IMG 0943 Review: The Hobbit: Battle of the Five CGI Armies (SPOILERS)

There is a tower defense game I love to play on the iPad called Kingdom Rush. Not too long ago they released a new version called Kingdom Rush Frontiers which is the most imaginative and adorable version of the game yet. Like all fantasy games, it’s completely tangled up in the vision of JRR Tolkien, with elves, dwarves, rangers and even in this version an ent. Each stage has many extras like little dragons, gnomes, fairies, magic mushrooms and even a game of Simon. It’s adorable and a great way to pass the time.

I found the first Hobbit movie two years ago to be similar to a tub of Cosy Shack rice pudding in that I never got sick of each and every bite, and I just liked watching people named Thorin and Elrond run around. Since then, while I have yet to tire of Cosy Shack, I have tired of Peter Jackson’s Hobbit movies because they are nothing but a map in Kingdom Rsh blown up to IMAX size and length and noise. Maybe it’s just me being 11 years older than when the Return of the King came out, or Peter Jackson being 11 years older, but The Battle of Five Armies seemed to take as much from Jackson’s fanfic King Kong remake as it did the slim book it was based on. And that is not good.

I’m just going to lay down some thoughts here in no particular order. And yeah MASSIVE MASSIVE MASSIVE

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121573 gal 300x125 Review: The Hobbit: Battle of the Five CGI Armies (SPOILERS)

“Where is my Cozy Shack Rice Pudding for elevenses?”

• The opening sequence with Smaug setting fire to Laketown and Bard shooting him down was easily the best sequence in the movie. It also steeled me for disappointment because Bard’s little speech before he uses his last arrow is one of my most favorite parts of the book:

“Arrow! Black arrow! I have saved you to the last. You have never failed me and always I have recovered you. I had you from my father and he from of old. If ever you came from the forges of the true king under the Mountain, go now and speed well!”

Perhaps saying this would have slowed down an intense action sequence, but I really missed it.

• I’ll admit, this movie did stump me as a Tolkien scholar. When, just before the big battle kicks off about 45 minutes from the end, the orcs employ giant sandworms called were worms that recall nothing so much as the lampreys that took up about three hours of the 8 hour King Kong…I thought “THIS GOES TOO FAR!!!!” But lo and behold, while I knew about stone giants, Queen Beruthiel and the Variags of Khand, I happened to miss the one sentence in the VERY FIRST chapter of the Hobbit that mentioned were-worms:

“Tell me what you want done, and I will try it, if I have to walk from here to the East of East and fight the wild Were-worms in the Last Desert.”

That’s what Bilbo says. It’s clearly a reference to a more primitive fairy tale version of Middle Earth that Tolkien explored in The Hobbit. So you get a pass there, Peter Jackson….but JUST BARELY.

hbt3 066142r Review: The Hobbit: Battle of the Five CGI Armies (SPOILERS)

• Similarly, Thranduil, king of the Sylan elves of Mirkwood rides an Elk into battle. This struck me as…well it looked awesome. And it seemed sort of Tolkienish. But then Radagast has a bunny sled, Dain rides a boar and in the middle of the BoFA, suddenly out of nowhere some ridable mountain goats appear to enable Thorin, Kili, Fili and Balin to go hopping up a mountain. I understand that the mountain goat steeds were introduced in a longer cut of theemovie—Warner Bros insisted Jackson deliver a brisk 2:20 cut of the film and a LOT of stuff was left out. I think if I’m sitting in a movie theater for two hours and 20 minutes of cgi action I’ll take another 10 minutes to explain where dwarves got mountain goats to ride but then…I don’t run a studio. Anyway, one cute animal steed I could take, but three whole movies of them???

• AND YET THEY COULDN’T SHOW BEORN FOR MORE THAN 10 SECONDS???? WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU PEOPLE.

• All that said, Lee Pace as Thranduil astride an elk…OMG. Thranduil was the best thing in the last two movies. He has the only truly funny moment in the whole Battle of Five Armies—I won’t spoil it for you because it is so so precious—and despite being effete and aloof is a total badass in battle.

• Am I the only one who thinks that Thranduil and the only female on screen maybe hooked up after Legolas is sent off to find Strider? Thranduil is a lonely elf who has lost love and now so is Tauriel. The age difference doesn’t matter because ELVES ARE IMMORTAL. If I were Tauriel I would totally go for it.

• Ever since I heard about these films and how the Hobbit was going to be three movies, I was all set up for the scene where the White Council kicks Sauron out of Dol Guldur. Maybe I just built it up in my mind too much because in the movie it seemed like an after thought. Yes we got to see Battle Action Galadriel and Battle Action Saruman and Battle Action Elrond, but…this should have been the ultimate Boss battle and it was…eh.

• ALSO…9 figures of CGI and you couldn’t make it look like Cate Blanchett was not carrying a dummy?

121572 gal Review: The Hobbit: Battle of the Five CGI Armies (SPOILERS)

• Battle of Five Armies carries over one of Jackson’s WORST habits from King Kong: The Subplot Character Who Goes Nowhere. In King Kong it was Tintin, I mean Billy Elliott, I mean Jimmy, who has many long conversation with the ship’s captain about responsibility and duty and something, and you think it’s going somewhere and….it was a lot of wasted time. In BoFA that character is Alfrid, the two-faced assistant to the Master of Lake Town. At first Alfrid is just a slimy Wormtongue like character. But when he attaches himself to Bard after the death of Smaug, we see Bard begin to trust him a little, despite Alfrid being completely inept at everything he tries. At the end of the battle, Alfrid absconds in drag with all the gold he can stuff into his bra. REALLY. Was he merely there for comic relief the whole time? Or did he have an actual story arc? Also, he had really weird shoulders, and at first I just thought he idolized Linda Evans in Dynasty and favored shoulder pads. Then I realized that he was supposed to be a hunchback—yes it’s the deformed, slimy weasel thief trope. I think Alfrid was just around to throw in some comedy and keep the dwarves in battle mode, but it was positively Jar Jar esque.

thehobbitthebattleofthefivearmies0011 Review: The Hobbit: Battle of the Five CGI Armies (SPOILERS)

• The actual main action of the film, such as it is, involves Thorin’s falling prey to the gold lust of the dragon, and how it ultimately destroys him and nearly Dale and Erebor and the free peoples as well. I thought Richard Armitage did a fine job of showing the evolution of the character, even if turning evil only meant wearing a black fur coat for a while (he liked Joan Collins in Dynasty?) Once he throws off the coat, he turns back to his regular self. As you do.

• Bilbo’s story arc is mostly from the book, with his giving the Arkenstone to Thranduil and Bard so they can make Thorin keep his part of the bargain and avoid war. When I was a kid and read The Hobbit this whole part of the book annoyed me greatly. WHY WAS EVERYONE BEING SUCH A DICK??? They killed the dragon, can’t they just have a party and be friends? As an adult, this was more satisfying and realistic

• If you had told me that there would someday be a movie version of Mt. Gundabad, I would have been so excited. But then it is thrown in just so Legolas and Tauriel can go off and…spend some quality spying time together. WHY. The actual amount of the book that this movie adapts is only three or four chapters so they had to throw in all kinds of extra action.

121083 gal Review: The Hobbit: Battle of the Five CGI Armies (SPOILERS)

• If you read the book, you knew that Thorin, Kili and Fili, the three most loveable dwarves, are all doomed to die. In the book, they just die in the general battle. Because this is a movie and plotlines must be ended they first have to go to Ravenhill where Azog is flying kites and tooting horns. Legolas and Tauriel must get there because they have to warn Thorin that another army of orcs is coming! Seeing as how HE WAS ALREADY SURROUNDED BY AN ARMY OF ORCS. Ravenhill does appear in the books, but a short trip to my bookshelf to retrieve my childhood copy of The Hobbit reveals that IT IS NOT ACTUALLY ON THE MAP IN THE BOOK AS IT IS IN THE MOVIE MAP. Not that it all has to be like the book, but in the LoTR trilogy when they threw in extra stuff my heart soared with joy at seeing things I had only imagined being acted out on a giant screen. In general in the Hobbit the additions are all to make a giant, bloated movie that will make a lot of money. (I did like the call back to the Battle of Azanulbizar in part one.) Ravenhill is one of the worst examples of that. “Say how can we get all the main characters separated from the fray?” “What about that Ravenhill thing?” “Great idea!” Once on this remote locale, Legolas, Tauriel, Azog, Bolg, Thorin, Kili, Bilbo and anyone else who had a story arc run around and have tumultuous fights. This also leads to the ONE truly creepy and memorable shot in the whole film when Thorin and Azog are having it out. I won’t spoil it!

• I did not hate all the Hobbit movies as the above may indicate. The problem is that with the Lord of the Rings films I had years to think it was going to suck and then they turned out to be better than I had ever dared dream. With The Hobbit I had year to think it was going to be great and…it wasn’t.

• That said, when they announce the inevitable three pack of extended editions, I will pre-order it lickety split.

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44. #BookADay: ALONG A LONG ROAD by Frank Viva (Little, Brown Books For Young Readers)

#bookaday: ALONG A LONG ROAD by fellow Canadian Frank Viva (Little, Brown). Love the simple palette and gorgeous retro-style art as well as the glossy yellow road (you can't help but want to touch the pages) that runs throughout.

More about Frank Viva on his website and you can also find him on Twitter at @VIVAandCO.

More info about ALONG A LONG ROAD on the Little, Brown Books for Young Readers website.

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Find out more about Donalyn Miller's Book-A-Day Challenge on the Nerdy Book Club site, and you can read archives of my #BookADay posts.

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45. Favorite Holiday Recipes by Margot Justes


In many of my baking recipes you will detect an underlying theme-rum-the wonderful aroma of rum adds a festive touch to the baking process, and Myers’s is an excellent dark rum.

Fudge
½ cup of butter (1 stick)
1 large can of evaporated milk
2 oz bitter chocolate (I only use Ghirardelli chocolate)
12 oz semi sweet or dark chocolate chips (I use dark chocolate 70% or higher)
2 lbs sugar (4 ½ cups)
12 oz dark chocolate
½ lb marshmallows
1 ½ tbsp Vanilla
1 cup of chopped walnuts (I use 2 cups)
1 cup of raisins (I soak mine in dark rum overnight, and mix the rum and the raisins.

Combine butter, canned milk and sugar, stir over medium heat until sugar is dissolved, cook to a boil, about 5 minutes.

Turn off heat and add marshmallows, stir until melted, add the 3 types of chocolate, one at a time, stir until each is dissolved. Add vanilla and nuts, raisins with rum and stir.

Line a cookie sheet with saran wrap, extending the edges; pour the fudge into the cookie pan, spread evenly with knife or spatula.

Let dry for 2 days. Invert the fudge unto your counter, remove saran wrap and let dry for another 2 days. Cut into squares and serve.

This recipe makes quite a bit of fudge, I cut it all up and store in a sealed plastic bag, or tin. My family loves the fudge; usually it doesn’t last very long. Makes a great gift too.
Banana-Nut-Rum Bread
½ cup cooking oil
1 cup sugar
2 eggs-beaten
4 or 5 ripe bananas-mashed
2 cups Flour (I use whole wheat)
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup chopped nuts
1 cup of chocolate chips
1 cup of raisins (I soak mine in rum overnight)

Beat oil and sugar together. Add the beaten eggs and banana pulp and beat well. Add the dry ingredients, milk and vanilla. Mix well and stir in nuts, raisins with rum, and chocolate chips. Pour into greased and floured loaf pan (9 x 5 x 3) I use lasagna pan, cooks more evenly.

Bake in preheated oven at 350 F for about an hour. Cool well before cutting.

Rum Balls
2 1/2 cups Vanilla Wafers
5 1/2 cups ground walnuts
1 cup of honey
1 cup of rum
1 cup or as needed confectioner’s sugar
Mix all ingredients, form into small balls and roll in sugar. I usually let them sit on foil paper for a day or so and then arrange on platter. You may need to sprinkle them with additional powdered sugar.

Poppy Seed Cake
This one takes time, but if you like poppy seeds, you’ll love this coffee cake.
1 cup of milk
1 package of active dry yeast
1 tsp sugar
1 cup of butter (2 sticks)
1/3 cup of sugar
1/2 tsp salt
2 eggs
4 1/4 cups of flour
2 tsp vanilla

Scald milk, cool to a warm temp, add yeast and 1 tsp sugar; stir to dissolve yeast. Let stand for about 10 minutes. Yeast should puff up in the milk.
Cream butter, add 1/2 cup of sugar, beat in eggs and salt. Add flour alternating with yeast mixture. Knead on floured surface. Place in greased bowl and cover. Let rise until doubled.
Cut dough in half and roll it out the length of your cookie sheet, spread the poppy seed filling and form into a log, sealing the ends. Put on cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.  The two rolls should fit on cookie sheet. Repeat with the second batch of dough.

Poppy Seed Filling (double the recipe for the two cakes)
1 can of poppy seed filling (I use Solo)
Rind of 1 lemon
3/4 cup of chopped walnuts
11/2 tsp vanilla
3/4 raisins
Mix all ingredients and spread on rolled out dough.
1 egg slightly beaten and 1 tsp of water; mix egg and water and brush on cakes.
Let the cakes rise for a couple of hours, brush again with egg mixture, and then put in pre-heated oven at 350F and bake for an hour. Cool and enjoy.

Hot Chocolate
This is my version, with extra dark chocolate.
1 8 oz glass of milk, I use skim. (I conserve calories wherever I can...she wrote laughingly)
1 Tablespoon dark unsweetened Ghirardelli cocoa (I like the unsweetened cocoa, the flavor is much stronger)
4 squares Ghirardelli 72% dark or 2 tablespoons Ghirardelli dark chocolate chips
(optional)

Heat milk and cocoa, make sure cocoa and milk are well blended, use a small wisk if necessary. When the milk is hot take 4 squares or 2 tablespoons of Ghirardelli dark chocolate chips (to taste) put it in and mix until completely melted. You can sprinkle a bit of shaved chocolate on top. Sweeten to taste, or add a few small marshmallows on top.  

You can of course use sugar or sweetened cocoa, but it's the good cocoa and dark chocolate that gives it the added richness. It is a delicious treat, and easy to make. 

I love hot cocoa, and use the Bialetti machine to speed the process up a little. It heats up and froths the milk at the same time. I even use it to froth a large quantity of milk for cappuccinos, and lattes.

These are among my favorite recipes during the holiday season that starts with Halloween and ends with the New Year.

I wish you much joy and peace.

Cheers,
Margot  Justes

Blood Art
A Fire Within
A Hotel in Paris
A Hotel in Bath
Hot Crimes Cool Chicks
www.mjustes.com

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46. The Long Way Home by Louise Penny

Peter Morrow hadn't returned after the year he and Clara had agreed upon for his return so the search for Peter began. Of course, Armand Gamache was asked to be involved even though he had retired from the police force.

THE LONG WAY HOME has the well-known, well-loved residents of Three Pines we all are familiar with and the residents that make Louise Penny's books ones I enjoy reading.

THE LONG WAY HOME was a bit different from her other books.  Instead of solving a murder, the Three Pines residents were working together to find Peter.


This book was different because of the way the investigation took place.  Gamache actually was not in charge; Clara was.  It discussed muses and different art terms.  It was more about artists than the solving of a regular murder mystery, but the characters as always worked beautifully together.

​I can't say I didn't like THE LONG WAY HOME, but it is quite different from her other books and took a bit of getting used to.  Regardless of the style and plot, though, THE LONG WAY HOME still had the pull all of her books have on you. ​

​Ms. Penny's books usually involve emotions. THE LONG WAY HOME was specifically about happiness, sadness, and finding oneself.​  4/5


This book was given to me free of charge and without compensation by the publisher in return for an honest review.

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47. Fit for a wanna-be king: Stratford Zoo Midnight Review Presents Macbeth (ages 8-12)

Do your kids love graphic novels? Do you know any kid who loves the spotlight or has fun when their friends grab center stage? The Stratford Zoo Midnight Review is a new series of graphic novels that my students are giving a round of applause for the way it combines humor, theatrics, tragedy and puns. It would make a great gift either for comic-book fans or theater fans.
The Stratford Zoo Midnight Review Presents: Macbeth
by Ian Lendler
illustrated by Zack Giallongo
First Second, 2014
Your local library
Amazon
ages 8-12
"Macbeth, the hero of our story, the greatest warrior in the land."
When the zoo shuts for the night, the animals gather together and put on a show. The lion makes a natural mighty Macbeth, full of swagger and a taste for power. My students were easily able to imagine why such a beast would want to be king--and Lender's version shares this classic play in a form that is very kid-friendly. Here's how he adapts the witches' famous song which charms Macbeth, setting the plot in motion:
"Double, double,
toil and trouble,
fire burn and cauldron bubble.
Eat the king,
the plot will thicken,
go on Macbeth,
he tastes like chicken."
Lendler mixes humor and puns throughout Shakespeare's bloody tragedy, giving young readers a real sense of the classic play but making it very age-appropriate. Giallongo's illustrations capture Macbeth's slide into gluttony perfectly, make light of the witches and add plenty of ketchup to keep the tragedy at bay. My students definitely give this version of Shakespeare a hearty round of applause.

We were lucky enough to have Ian Lendler visit Emerson last week to share his book with our 4th and 5th graders. He starts out his presentation with a loud bugle calling everyone's attention (see below), just as the young boys did during Shakespeare's time. He shares an overview of the story with students, emphasizing some of the lessons of the story. Our kids highly recommend his visit to other schools, especially for kids who like funny comic books and putting on their own plays.
Ian Lendler at Emerson
Are you looking for a holiday gift to add to the fun? I know my students would love their own stadium horn to call everyone to their performances. They also might want a mighty robe, fit for a king. Check these ideas out:
The review copies were kindly sent by the publishers, First Second. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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48. Asterix a Tintin Newydd i'r Nadolig / New Asterix and Tintin for Christmas



Asterix a Tintin mewn Cymraeg, Cernyweg, Gwyddeleg, Gaeleg a Sgoteg
 
Dalen (Llyfrau) Cyf
 

New Asterix and Tintin Adventures –
in Welsh, Cornish, Irish, Gaelic and Scots
Mae Asterix a Tintin wedi ennill eu plwy ar draws y byd fel ffefrynnau llyfrau straeon stribed, a'u hanturiaethau wedi eu trosi i dros gant o wahanol ieithoedd. Yn eu plith mae'r Gymraeg, Cernyweg, Gwyddeleg, Gaeleg a Sgoteg – gyda dwy antur newydd i Asterix yn Gymraeg yn cael eu cyhoeddi y Nadolig hwn!
Asterix and Tintin are firm comic book favourites all around the world. Both have taught themselves well over a hundred languages. Asterix has two brand new Welsh adventures out for Christmas, and Tintin joins him with appearances in Cornish, Irish, Gaelic and Scots!
Asterix a'r Cryman Aur © Les Editions Albert-René/Goscinny-Uderzo 2014
Asterix a'r Cryman Aur ac Asterix a'r Snichyn yw anturiaethau diweddara'r Galiad bach peniog yn Gymraeg. Mae tipyn o greisis yn taro pentre'r Galiaid yn Asterix a'r Cryman Aur. Ar gyfer paratoi y ddiod hud ryfeddol sy'n cadw'r Rhufeiniaid draw, mae angen i'r derwydd Gwyddoniadix ddefnyddio cryman aur. Ond ar ôl torri llafn yr unig gryman sy ganddo, mae gofyn i Asterix deithio ymhell, a datrys dirgelwch, er mwyn cael gafael ar gryman newydd o safon.
 
Daw pentre'r Galiaid dan fygythiad cyfrwys y Rhufeiniaid yn Asterix a'r Snichyn... mae Iŵl Cesar yn ceisio tanseilio undod y llwyth drwy daenu enllib a drwgdeimlad ymysg y pentrefwyr – ac mae gan ei gynllun gyfle rhagorol i lwyddo, diolch i snichyn bach dan din o'r enw Bacterius Drwgynycaus. Tybed a fydd Asterix a'i gyfeillion yn ddigon hirben i wrthsefyll y bygythiad? Amser a ddengys!
 
 
 
 
The plucky Gaul has two new adventures in Welsh – Asterix a'r Cryman Aur (Asterix and the Golden Sickle) and Asterix a'r Snichyn (Asterix and the Roman Agent). There's a bit of a panic in Asterix a'r Cryman Aur... to prepare the magic potion which keeps the Romans at bay, druid Gwyddoniadix has to use his golden sickle – but when the druid breaks the one and only sickle he possesses, Asterix is given the task of buying a new one. This takes Asterix on a dangerous journey to distant Lutetia where a mystery awaits him before he can find a sickle that meets the druid's exacting standards.
 
In Asterix a'r Snichyn, the Gaulish village is under threat from a cunning Roman plan, as Julius Caesar tries to spread distrust and bad blood throught the Gaulish tribe. Caesar's plan is sure to succeed thanks to his agent provocateur, Bacterius Drwgynycaus. He's a nasty piece of work, and Asterix and his friends will find it hard to resist his wily ploys.
 
Asterix a'r Snichyn © Les Editions Albert-René/Goscinny-Uderzo 2014
    
 
 
 
Tintin: Todóga na bhFarónna (Gwyddeleg / Irish) © Hergé/Moulinsart 2014

Y Bad Rachub yw antur ddiweddara Tintin yn Gymraeg, lle mae Tintin a'i gyfeillion mewn peryg enbyd ar ddyfroedd dyfnion y Môr Coch. Yn gymar i'r gyfres yn Gymraeg mae egin o'r gyfres mewn Cernyweg hefyd. An Ynys Dhu (oes rhaid cyfieithu'r teitl?!) yw stori gynta Tintin mewn Cernyweg, ac am y tro cynta erioed mae'r gohebydd pengoch hefyd wedi dysgu siarad Gwyddeleg gyda chyhoeddi Todóga na bhFarónna (Mwg Drwg y Pharo). Mae'r Gernyweg a'r Wyddeleg yn ychwanegu at ffurfafen Geltaidd Tintin, lle cyhoeddwyd Toit nam Phàro a The Merk o the Pharaoh (sef fersiynau o Mwg Drwg y Pharo) mewn Gaeleg a Sgoteg yn ddiweddar.
 Tintin's latest undertaking in Welsh is Y Bad Rachub (Red Sea Sharks), where Tintin and his companions find themselves in mortal danger aboard a ship on the Red Sea. Joining the Welsh series are the first ever Tintin adventures in Cornish – An Ynys Dhu (The Black Island) – and Irish – Todóga na bhFarónna (Cigars of the Pharaoh). These join the growing series in Gaelic and Scots, with the recent publication of Cigars as Toit nam Phàro and The Merk o the Pharaoh – all available from Dalen!
 
Tintin: An Ynys Dhu (Cernyweg / Cornish) © Hergé/Moulinsart 2014
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Cofiwch hefyd am…
Don’t forget…
 
Derwyddon: Cystudd y Cyfiawn
 
Mae rhan ola cyfres arswyd Y Derwyddon wedi ei chyhoeddi – penllanw'r gyfres ragorol hon ar gyfer oedolion. Yn Cystudd y Cyfiawn, y chweched bennod o'r stori, mae tro annisgwyl yng nghynffon y dirgelwch sy wedi drysu'r derwydd Gwynlan yn ei ymchwil i ganfod y rheswm dros ladd y mynachod yr Eglwys Geltaidd.
 
The final part of the gothic murder-mystery Y Derwyddon is now available. In Cystudd y Cyfiawn, druid sleuth Gwynlan finds an unexpected twist to his long quest to reveal the truth behind a score of vicious ecclesiastical deaths.
 
The series in Welsh is complemented by an English edition. Druids: Voyage of Discovery is also now available!
 
 
Fe gewch chi hyd i holl lyfrau Dalen ar ein gwefan dalenllyfrau.com
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49. J.K. Rowling Confirms That a Jewish Wizard Has Attended Hogwarts

.@benjaminroffman Anthony Goldstein, Ravenclaw, Jewish wizard.

— J.K. Rowling (@jk_rowling) December 16, 2014

Has Hogwarts School of Witchcraft & Wizardry ever admitted a Jewish student? Yesterday, J.K. Rowling confirmed that the answer is “yes.”

In response to a fan’s message on Twitter, the Harry Potter series author revealed that a Jewish wizard named Anthony Goldstein belonged to Ravenclaw house. We’ve embedded the tweets above—what do you think?

In addition to coming to her fans rescue via social media, Rowling has been a busy bee with adding new content on Pottermore. For the past few days, several new details about Potions Master Severus Snape has been unveiled. (via BuzzFeed)

SPOILER ALERT: If you don’t want to know more, you should stop reading now!

(more…)

New Career Opportunities Daily: The best jobs in media.

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50. App of the Week: 2014 Favorites

Throughout the year, YALSA's App of the Week bloggers review what's new and interesting in the app world for teens and the library staff that work with them. In this end of the year App of the Week post, we look at the top four apps that stood out to bloggers in 2014.

Canva
A favorite of YALSA Blogger Jen Scott Willis

canva logoGraphic design is a tricky business, and one that many of us don't realize is part of our job description until we're faced with a blank document and a list of almost-but-not-quite-right font choices. ' Canva, a free, web-based application' that lets you easily produce' professional-looking' designs, made this part' of the' job much easier for me when it debuted over a year ago. ' Now, with the introduction of the iPad app, the possibilities are both endless and mobile.

So far, I've used Canva's web app to design everything from icons for our online calendar to posters for programs and thank you cards for presenters, and I've heard glowing reports from teens of their successes using it for both school projects and social media posts.

The iPad app is not without its bugs --' pics can be slow to upload and there are sometimes hitches in the interface that you don't see in the web version -- however, the developers seem quick to respond to user feedback and offer updates. ' Meanwhile, the ease of use, professional results, and potential for collaboration that the iPad version offers' makes this a go-to for your toolkit.

Monument Valley
A favorite of YALSA Blogger Carli Spina

monument valley logoMy top app this year is the game Monument Valley. Available for iOS, Android, and Kindle Fire devices, this is a beautiful game that was clearly designed with a great deal of thought. Everything from the architecture of the buildings that players must navigate, to the color scheme, to the music playing in the background comes together to create a mesmerizing experience. The puzzles themselves are, for the most part, fairly straightforward, but you will still want to continue playing to see more and more of this gorgeous world. The game was initially released for iOS devices in the spring and has already won a 2014 Apple Design Award and been named the best iPad app of the year.

New levels for the game were released in November, though somewhat controversially they are not included in the price of the original app and instead cost an additional $1.99. Given that these levels almost double the size of the app, fans of the original game will definitely want to download them. Now that Monument Valley is available on more platforms, it will undoubtedly find an increasing audience of devoted fans. I highly recommend giving it a try!

ScratchJr
A favorite of YALSA Blogger Linda Braun

scratch logoThe MIT coding program for kids and teens, Scratch, has been around for a long time. However, ScratchJr, the iPad app was released in the summer and it is a great way for young children to learn about programming and for staff that work with teens to learn that too.

ScratchJr doesn't have as many commands to work with as it's parent product Scratch, but it has plenty to get started with for those who are learning how to program in this way. Users can move characters in all directions, have the character speak, record narration, hide and show characters and more. Users can also add backgrounds and change the look of a character using some simple character editing tools.

Any adult that is wondering what this coding thing that people are talking about as a part of learning for children and teens is all about, should try out ScratchJr as a first step in their own learning. Teens working to help younger kids will do well learning ScratchJr as well. It's worth the time to take a look and think about how ScratchJr does have an impact on the teens and the families that you work with.

YikYak
A favorite of YALSA Blogger Wendy Stephens

yik yak logoIf there is one app that has had an impact on youth culture in our communities in 2014, it would have to be YikYak. The app is designed for users to get a sense of what’s going on locally. YikYak lets you peek at othercommunities or college campuses, where use is huge, but can only post and vote (up or down) for Yaks in your immediate area. It doesn’t require a username, just proximity, though you can insert a “handle” if you wish.

YikYak has great potential for sharing what’s going on nearby – I’ve seen it used to advertise special retailer promotions discounts as well as crowd-source information on traffic conditions -- but in many schools, teens made anonymous threats or become victim of systematic bullying using the anonymity of the app.

It might be the digital version of a bathroom wall, but I wanted to write about YikYak because I think it and others apps of its type offer important opportunities for powerful conversations with teens about digital citizenship. Also, arrests related to content illustrate the need for helping young people understand that digital anonymity is somewhat of an illusion and that content posted through apps like YikYak remains identifiable.

Libraries should be safe spaces, so if cyberbullying in your area is an issue, you might want to investigate the geofencing option that prevents posting to YikYak from school campuses. Also good to know: five down votes will remove a Yak from the feed, so if you see something that slanders an individual, you can help make that content disappear.

Have a suggestion for App of the Week? Let us know. And find more great Apps in the YALSA Blog's App of the Week Archive.

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