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1. Preview: Aim Higher Blog Series

A preview of our new blog series

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2. MMGM Links (1/26/15)

Okay first--mark your calendars for tomorrow (yes, TOMORROW--1/27/15) because the cover for NEVERSEEN is getting revealed (right here on this blog, like I always do. It's tradition). :)

And now, here's your  MMGM links! *hopes they're right* *is still VERY much in the deadline cave* *is never going to be free* *flails*

- Rcubed is rooting for THORA Click HERE to see what she thought. 
- The Bookworm Blog wants to go to SPY SCHOOL. Click HERE to see why. 
- Rachel at What Rachel Wrote is gushing about A SINGLE SHARD. Click HERE to see her review.
- Sher A. Hart is spreading the love for THE TWISTED OAK AMATEUR DETECTIVE series--with a WHOLE SERIES GIVEAWAY. Click HERE for details. 
- Greg Pattridge is teaching us THE WAY TO STAY IN DESTINY. Click HERE to read his feature.
- Dorine White is cheering for MADDY WEST AND THE TONGUE TAKER. Click HERE to see what they are.
- Rosi Hollinbeck is reviewing--and GIVING AWAY--MY COUSIN'S KEEPER. Click HERE for details.   
- Susan Olson is feeling loyal for THE ONLY ONES. Click HERE to see why. 
- Suzanne Warr is giving a shoutout to THE CANDY SHOP WAR. Click HERE to see her quick thoughts. 
-Sally's Bookshelf is STEERING TOWARD NORMAL. Click HERE to read her review. 
- Andrea Mack is raving about RAIN REIGN. Click HERE to see why.  
- Jenni Enzor is feeling CLOSE TO FAMOUS. Click HERE to see her review.
- Karen Yingling also always has some awesome MMGM recommendations for you. Click HERE to which ones she picked this time! 
- Deb Marshall is a MMGM regular. Click HERE to see what she's featuring this week.    
- Pam Torres always has an MMGM up on her blog. Click HERE to see what she's spotlighting this week.  
- Joanne Fritz always has an MMGM for you. Click HERE to see what she's talking about this week. 
- The Mundie Moms are always part of the MMGM fun (YAY!). Click HERE to see their newest recommendations. And if you aren't also following their Mundie Kids site, get thee over THERE and check out all the awesome! 
- The lovely Shannon O'Donnell always has an MMGM ready for you! Click HERE to see what she's featuring this week.



If you would like to join in the MMGM fun, all you have to do is blog about a middle grade book you love (contests, author interviews and whatnot also count--but are most definitely not required) and email me the title of the book you're featuring and a link to your blog at SWMessenger (at) hotmail (dot) com. (Make sure you put MMGM or Marvelous Middle Grade Monday in the subject line so it gets sorted accurately) You MUST email me your link by Sunday evening in order to be included in the list of links. (usually before 11pm PST is safe--but if I'm traveling it can vary. When in doubt, send early!)

If you miss the cutoff, you are welcome to add your link in the comments on this post so people can find you, but I will not have time to update the post. Same goes for typos/errors on my part. I do my best to build the links correctly, but sometimes deadline-brain gets the best of me, and I'm sorry if it does. For those wondering why I don't use a Linky-widget instead, it's a simple matter of internet safety. The only way I can ensure that all the links lead to safe, appropriate places for someone of any age is if I build them myself. It's not a perfect system, but it allows me to keep better control.

Thank you so much for being a part of this awesome meme, and spreading the middle grade love!


*Please note: these posts are not a reflection of my own opinions on the books featured. Each blogger is responsible for their own MMGM content and I do not pre-screen reviews ahead of time, nor do I control what books they choose. I simply assemble the list based on the links that are emailed to me.

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3. Books and stuff

It’s that time of year again. Book fair time.

“Miss Hewes! Look at the figurines I bought! Aren’t the polar bear and the penguin so cute?”

I’ll be honest – yes, little rubberized figurines in the likenesses of polar bears are cute. I understand the appeal of such items to young children. However, I am less sure that these proclamations should follow a trip to our school’s book fair.

Without fail, however, my students bound into my room following their trip to the library (home base of our commercial book fair) eager to show off their novelty erasers, pencils, figurines, and posters.

“Those are nice,” I always reply. “But what books did you see that excited you? What book did you choose to take home with you?”

Then, my students usually get quiet. “Well, I couldn’t get this eraser shaped like a cell phone and a book. I ran out of money.”

And there’s the rub. At the school where I teach, the bi-annual book fair is a big deal. My students get all jazzed up when they see the rolling metal carts and book boxes start to accumulate in our hallway prior to one of the sales. Their parents, many of whom feel a financial crunch, work hard to ensure that their children have a small amount of money to spend at the book fair. And yet, despite this excitement and noble intentions, too many students are leaving my school’s book fair with nothing but cell phone erasers and penguin figurines.

Despite the potential arguments that could be raised about school-sanctioned consumerism and the stress that this event may cause for already cash-strapped families, I am generally in favor of the book fair. I teach in a very rural area and the book fair is one of the only affordable alternatives to purchasing books at Walmart or the grocery store — and the titles available there are likely not the ones receiving rave reviews from The Horn Book.

This is not to say, however, that the offerings at the book fair are necessarily any better than those at Walmart. Publishers like Scholastic do publish extraordinarily rich, engaging, and substantial titles. But often, at our school’s book fair, even if kids look beyond the staggering assortment of novelties, their eyes land on a book about the latest pre-teen celebrity icon or the latest series that has more to do with the economics of churning out multiple volumes than about substance or quality.

I don’t think it has to be this way. Yes, commercial book fairs do raise money for schools, and yes, molded plastic does sell. But I think kids would still nag their parents to buy them things even if the book fair didn’t have the novelty items spilling over near the register. As educators, parents, and community members, we should demand more — particularly in communities where the budget for and access to books can restrict the quality of reading materials that kids have to explore.

I optimistically imagine a day when the engrossing and constructive books aren’t lurking in the shadows of a book fair and when the opportunities these events could provide are more fully leveraged to benefit children and their positive reading development.

 

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The post Books and stuff appeared first on The Horn Book.

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4. The Sound of Things to Come

Last week at the book festival was so much fun. The venue was gorgeous – one of the best libraries I’ve ever visited – and the organizers were so thoughtful and generous. It was definitely my favorite festival so far. Plus, I got to meet some awesome authors who’ve written some great books. Thanks to […]

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5. Which health messages work?

Is it better to be positive or negative? Many of the most vivid public health appeals have been negative – “Smoking Kills” or “Drive, Drive, and Die” – but do these negative messages work when it comes to changing eating behavior?

Past literature reviews of positive- or gain-framed versus negative or loss-based health messages have been inconsistent. In our content analysis of 63 nutrition education studies, we discovered four key questions which can resolve these inconsistencies and help predict which type of health message will work best for a particular target audience. The more questions are answered with a “Yes,” the more a negative- or loss-based health message will be effective.

Is the target audience highly involved in this issue?

The more knowledgeable or involved a target audience, the more strongly they’ll be motivated by a negative- or loss-based message. In contrast, those who are less involved may not believe the message or may simply wish to avoid bad news. Less involved consumers generally respond better to positive messages that provide a clear, actionable step that leaves them feeling positive and motivated. For instance, telling them to “eat more sweet potatoes to help your skin look younger” is more effective than telling them “your skin will age faster if you don’t eat sweet potatoes.” The former doesn’t require them to know why or to link sweet potatoes to Vitamin A.

Is the target audience detail-oriented?

People who like details – such as most of the people designing public health messages – prefer negative- or loss-framed messages. They have a deeper understanding and knowledge base on which to elaborate on the message. In her coverage of the article for the Food Navigator, Elizabeth Crawford, noted that most of the general public is not interested in the details and is more influenced by the more superficial features of the message, including whether it is more positive or attractive relative to the other things vying for their attention at that moment.

Is the target audience risk averse?

When a positive outcome is certain, gain-framed messages work best (“you’ll live 7 years longer if you are a healthy weight”). When a negative outcome is certain, loss-framed messages work best (“you’ll die 7 years earlier if you are obese”). For instance, we found that if it is believed that eating more fruits and vegetables leads to lower obesity, a positive message (“eat broccoli and live longer”) is more effective than a negative message.

Is the outcome uncertain?

When claims appear factual and convincing, positive messages tend to work best. If a person believes that eating soy will extend their life by reducing their risk of heart disease, a positive message stating this is best. If they aren’t as convinced, a more effective message could be “people who don’t eat soy have a higher rate of heart disease.”

These findings show how those who design health messages, such as health care professionals, will be impacted by them differently than the general public. When writing a health message, rather than appealing to the sentiment of the experts, the message will be more effective if it’s presented positively. The general public is more likely to adopt the behavior being promoted if they see that there is a potential positive outcome. Evoking fear may seem like a good way to get your message across but this study shows that, in fact, the opposite is true—telling the public that a behavior will help them be healthier and happier is actually more effective.

Headline image credit: Newspaper. CC0 via Pixabay.

The post Which health messages work? appeared first on OUPblog.

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6. a print designer named Aless Baylis

Post by Alice Palace

Aless has just set up her own studio label called ‘This is gold’. Based in London, she is available for freelance surface pattern, illustration and childrenswear graphics. I love her characters…

Untitled-1AlessBaylis2AlessBaylis3

See her New Website

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7. weather

As millions of us on the east coast wait out the blizzard headed our way, I send out thoughts of safe travel, warm homes, good books at hand.

This is Alaska, this past June, where clouds and fog came in deep and thick, then vanished, leaving skies of radiant blue.

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8. Thoughts in the necropolis

One of Glasgow’s best-known tourist highlights is its Victorian Necropolis, a dramatic complex of Victorian funerary sculpture in all its grandeur and variety. Christian and pagan symbols, obelisks, urns, broken columns and overgrown mortuary chapels in classical, Gothic, and Byzantine styles convey the hope that those who are buried there—the great and the good of 19th century Glasgow—will not be forgotten.

But, of course, they are mostly forgotten and even the conspicuous consumption expressed in this extraordinary array of great and costly monuments has not been enough to keep their names alive. And, of course, we, the living, will soon enough go the same way: ‘As you are now, so once was I’, to recall a once-popular gravestone inscription.

Is this the last word on human life? Religion often claims to offer a different perspective on death since (it is said) the business of religion is not with time, but with eternity. But what, if anything, does this mean?

‘Eternal love’ and ‘eternal memory’ are phrases that spring to the lips of lovers and mourners. Even in secular France, some friends of the recently murdered journalists talked about the ‘immortality’ of their work. But surely that is just a way of talking, a way of expressing our especially high esteem for those described in these terms? And even when talk of eternity and immortality is meant seriously, what would a human life that had ‘put on immortality’ be like? Would it be recognizably human at all? As to God, can we really conceive of what it would be for God (or any other being) to somehow be above or outside of time? Isn’t time the condition for anything at all to be?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Entrance to the Necropolis. Photo by George Pattison. Used with permission.

If we really take seriously the way in which time pervades all our experiences, all our thinking, and (for that matter) the basic structures of the physical universe, won’t it follow that the religious appeal to eternity is really just a primitive attempt to ward off the spectre of transience, whilst declarations of eternal love and eternal memory are little more than gestures of feeble defiance and that if, in the end, there is anything truly ‘eternal’ it is eternal oblivion—annihilation?

Human beings have a strong track record when it comes to denying reality.

One fashionable book of the post-war period was dramatically entitled The Denial of Death and it argued that our entire civilization was built on the inevitably futile attempt to deny the ineluctable reality of death. But if there is nothing we can do about death, must we always think of time in negative terms—the old man with the hour-glass and scythe, so like the figure of the grim reaper?

And instead of thinking of eternity as somehow beyond or above time, might not time itself offer clues as to the presence of eternity, as in the experiences that mystics and meditators say report as being momentary experiences of eternity in, with, and under the conditions of time? But such experiences, valuable as they are to those who have them, remain marginal unless they can be brought into fruitful connection with the weave of past and future.

From the beginnings of philosophy, recollection has been valued as an important clue to finding the tracks of eternity in time, as in Augustine’s search for God in the treasure-house of memory. But the past can only ever give us so much (or so little) eternity.

A recent French philosopher has proposed that time cannot undo our having-been and that the fact that the unknown slave of ancient times or the forgotten victim of the Nazi death-camps really existed means that the tyrants have failed in their attempt to make them non-human. But this is a meagre consolation if we have no hope for the future and for the flourishing of all that is good and true in time to come. Really affirming the enduring value of human lives and loves therefore presupposes the possibility of hope.

One Jewish sage taught that ‘In remembering lies redemption; in forgetfulness lies exile’ but perhaps what we it is most important to remember is the possibility of hope itself and of going on saying ‘Yes’ to the common, shared reality of human life and of reconciling the multiple broken relationships that mortality leaves unresolved.

Pindar, an ancient poet of hope, wrote that ‘modesty befits mortals’ and if we cannot escape time (which we probably cannot), it is maybe time we have to thank for the possibility of hope and for visions of a better and more blessed life. And perhaps this is also the message that a contemporary graffiti-artist has added to one of the Necropolis’s more ruined monuments. ‘Life goes on’, either extreme cynicism or, perhaps, real hope.

Featured image credit: ‘Life goes on.’ Photo by George Pattison. Used with permission.

The post Thoughts in the necropolis appeared first on OUPblog.

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9. Kibbles ‘n’ Bits 1/26/15: What these retailers have to say about Secret Wars is staggering

§ Vaneta Rogers quizzed a bunch of comics retailers about Secret Wars and describes them as wary but hopeful:

“Customers are curious, but as usual, Marvel is being very vague about the whole thing,” said John Robinson, owner of the nine Illinois locations of Graham Crackers Comics. “And I have no answers for [customers] as to any of the specifics on how this is going to be handled.” “On the surface, I think it sounds absolutely awful!” laughed Mike Wellman, co-owner of the Comic Bug in Manhattan Beach, California. But the retailer added, “I tend to lean more positive on these massive events and I’m sure there are some things that Marvel isn’t telling us. Their batting average is pretty high when it comes to these things and I fully trust them to make something awesome.”


As usual, everybody says they hate events, but everybody orders them anyway, and that’s why they keep doing events. A lot of comparisons to the New 52, which was a titanic sales hit, and it’s hard to imagine that Marvel won’t get a lot of attention for whatever it is they’re doing as well. However, sometimes a long memory is no friend:

“Without specifics on how they’ll be handling it, it can go either way obviously,” Robinson said. “Handled well with a clear path and understanding for the customers, then this can be great. Handled like Secret Wars II, then it can be a disaster with unnecessary tie-ins, and event that ends up doing nothing. Marvels ‘soft-reboots’ have only hurt the industry, in my opinion, over the last 10 years.


Secret Wars II, for the uninitiated, came out in 1985. I know Ralph Macchio was around then, and apparently he’ll be involved in the new Secret Wars in some capacity, but otherwise it’s a whole new ballgame.
§ Meanwhile Steve Morris has some predictions for what will happen, and I like Steve’s version of the future.

§ RK Laxman is a very famous cartoonist in his native India. He’s 95 years old and has been in ill health for quite a while, and is now in very critical condition. He’s best known for a comic strip called The Common Man which ran from 1951 until he become to ill to continue it. You can see some of his cartoons here. It’s hard to get a sense of Laxman’s cultural place, but newspaper give daily updates on his health.

Headline of the day from the Spanish language San Diego Red: ¿Comic-Con International abandonará San Diego?

§ Wizard World Portland was this weekend and D.M. Anderson took many pictures, some of them of cartoonists. Meanwhile, KOIN’s Tyler Dunn had to sit down from time to time from being overhwlemed:

An experience I won’t soon forget, that’s how I would best sum up my time at Wizard World Comic Con. It was my first time at the Portland convention — or any like it, for that matter. I spent all of Sunday there, along with thousands of excited fans ready to celebrate their favorite pop culture icons. My goal was simple: do as much as possible, turn down nothing, get the most out of my time in the hopes that (for those thinking about going next year) I might gather some helpful tips.

§ Another headline of the day: How’d A Cartoonist Sell His First Drawing? It Only Took 610 Tries

§ Todd McFarlane came out on FB and said he would never draw Marvel or Dc corporate characters again, not because of dislike but because of duty:

No… …the reason I don’t and won’t draw for them is that one of the many titles I have, at my various business interests, is that of President of Image Comics. And I take that responsibility very seriously. Image Comics is the THIRD largest comic company in North America, and as such we are in direct competition with both Marvel and DC Comics. As President of Image, I personally think it would be a conflict of interest for me to do work for a direct competitor. And in fact in some states being the President/CEO of a company forbids you to work for a direct competitor (The president of Microsoft won’t/can’t do freelance work for Apple Inc.) So, for me this isn’t any different. In 1992, a handful of us decided to form Image Comics, and ever since then I have not worked at either Marvel or DC Comics, and as long as there is an Image Comics, I will continue to give all of my comic book efforts towards the company I helped form.

§ Here is a sad story about cartoonist Jim Wheelock’s comics being stolen from a storage unit in Vermont.

It looks like my entire collection of several thousand comic books from  the 1950s – 1990s is gone. These were in about twenty white “long boxes” about three feet long and 12 inches by 10 inches or so. The boxes had distinctive handwritten labels by me with titles (Spider-Man, Thor, etc). This includes a collection of underground comics from the ’60s, including Zap Comics and others. There were also comics in shorter and odd-shaped boxes, including at least one reading “Published Work” (I’m an artist and illustrator). This includes multiple copies of the horror trade paperback, Taboo. Most of the comics were in clear plastic bags, and the boxes were lined with plastic trash bags. Some were also labelled by artist’s names (Joe Kubert, Alex Toth and others). The books largely did not have backboards. Some were packed several to a bag, and some were not in bags, As I say, the boxes would be identifiable by me. The books probably also have a distinctive “barn”  odor, making them less valuable, and possibly harder to sell. I had some of my own artwork in portfolios. It’s unclear if any of that is missing. Much of it would have my signature on it. Also some film lobby cards and posters.

INFERNOshadow Kibbles n Bits 1/26/15: What these retailers have to say about Secret Wars is staggering

§ BTW, Wheelock is the artist of a graphic novel called Inferno Los Angeles, which is really quite a thing. Check it out.

32 Kibbles n Bits 1/26/15: What these retailers have to say about Secret Wars is staggering
§ Finally, even in the world filled with cruelty, horrors and intolerance, the story of how Hershey has halted importation of superior Fritish chocolate inspires outrage and disgust. Basically, Hershey successfully sued a company that imported Brit choccies, and you will no longer be able to buy an Aero or Lion bar at a specialty retailer. The infuriating thing is that it’s because Hershey basically admits its chocolate is shit:

What many Britons and British-chocolate lovers are most incensed about is the difference in taste between chocolate made in Britain and chocolate made in the United States.
Chocolate in Britain has a higher fat content; the first ingredient listed on a British Cadbury’s Dairy Milk (plain milk chocolate) is milk. In an American-made Cadbury’s bar, the first ingredient is sugar.
American Cadbury bars also include PGPR and soy lecithin, both emulsifiers that reduce the viscosity of chocolate, giving it a longer shelf life. British Cadbury bars used vegetable fats and different emulsifiers.
An informal blind taste test comparing Cadbury Dairy Milk bars — muddled by this reporter’s garlicky lunch — suggested that Ms. Perry had reason to be upset.
The British Dairy Milk was slightly fudgier, allowing for a creamier taste and texture. The American Dairy Milk bar left a less pleasing coating and somewhat of a stale aftertaste.


Having just finished the last crumbs of a cache of UK Cadbury’s brought home from the holidays, I can attest to the superior smoothness, full flavor and finish of the British versions. There is no comparison. Thanks a lot, America.

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10. Math Monday -- Catchphrases




I'm participating in Math Monday with Mandy Robek at Enjoy and Embrace Learning.




You might think 

ASSESSMENT THAT DRIVES INSTRUCTION

is a trendy catchphrase 
(syn: slogan, motto, catchword, buzzword, mantra)
 that you can afford to ignore because it will eventually go away.

Sorry.
I'm here to tell you that if you are just teaching standards because 
they are in your pacing guide 
or on the next page of your math book 
and you have no idea 
whether or not your students already know those concepts,
then chances are
you will be wasting your time and theirs.

Yes,
it's a pain to give a pretest
and grade it 
AND 
go through the results child by child
to see who does and doesn't know which concepts.

But then your teaching path spreads before you
and you can clearly see 
which students 
need 
which concepts, 
what to teach whole class
and what to teach to just those few.

It's a pain
but it's worth it
and it's good teaching
so it's not going away anytime soon 
and you might as well get on the 
bandwagon*.

(or...in the words of a beloved former curriculum director...*the clue bus)




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11. Review: Montana Darling by Debra Salonen

 

May Contain Spoilers

Review:

Montana is a popular setting for romances lately.  While I would love to visit in summer, a winter in the state, with the snow and the cold and the wind, holds no appeal for me.  Therefore, I choose to complete my travels to the 41st state through books.  Sorry, large, northern state, but Michigan winters are far too long for my liking; I hate to think what a Montana winter would be like!

I typically pick up a romance set in Montana for cowboys.  While Ryker wasn’t a cowboy, he was still an engaging hero.  He’s a prize winning photographer who has lost his way since the death of his fiancée and his unborn child.  Needing some solitude, he’s pitched a tent on the 10 acres that his father left to Ryker and his brother.  The piece of land is the brightest spot of his childhood, the place where he and his father and his brother spent their summers camping, fishing, and hanging out.  After his father’s fatal heart attack when he was a senior in high school, a rift between Ryker and his mother drove him away from home, and he’s been globetrotting since.  Until the accident that robbed his fiancée, he had been blissfully happy.  Now, a year later, he’s still mourning and not ready to deal with people yet.

Imagine his surprise when Mia turns up outside his tent, accusing him of squatting on her land.  She and her ex-husband purchased the property, and after moving back home from Cheyenne, she wants to pour the foundation for  her new house as soon as possible, but Ryker is holding up the show.  Mia is also grieving; her husband cheated on her, she had a battle with cancer that left her scarred and broken, and she just wants to start over with her two kids.  Ryker’s claim that the land belongs to him has put a wrench in her plans, and she’s not going to go down without a fight.

I really liked this story.  Both Ryker and Mia are hurting and they need each other to heal and become whole again.  After undergoing invasive surgeries and chemo, Mia is understandably struggling with her sense of self.  The thought of being intimate with  anyone is a no-go, and she can’t believe that Ryker would really be attracted to an older woman.  Ryker, on the other hand, is easy going, but he never wants to be hurt again, so he’s vowed to never put himself in that position again.  So, no falling in love.  Of course, both Ryker and Mia break every one of their rules and rediscover the power and strength of love.

I enjoyed the author’s writing style, and am thrilled that she has a large back list.  I liked the supporting cast of her Big Sky Mavericks series, and would like to get to know the characters better.  All in all, Montana Darling is a sweet romance with two likable protagonists.

Grade:  B

Review copy provided by publisher

From Amazon:

Mia Zabrinski’s lost enough– her marriage. Her job. Her body image. Mia is ready to rebuild her life in her hometown of Marietta,Montana, and she’s damned if she’ll let some stranger camp on her land and claim squatter’s rights.

Ryker Bensen doesn’t have much– and that suits him fine. Less than a year ago, he had everything: a beautiful girlfriend, a baby on the way, a career that earned him fame and a very comfortable living…until he didn’t. When beautiful Mia shows up and orders him off what she says is her land, Ryker realizes she might be the spark he needed to jumpstart his interest in living again.

The Big Sky Mavericks series
Book 1: Montana Cowgirl
Book 2: Montana Cowboy
Book 3: Montana Darling

The post Review: Montana Darling by Debra Salonen appeared first on Manga Maniac Cafe.

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12. Video Marketing – Hosted or Self-Hosted

Video marketing is a must today. It should be a part of your content marketing strategy. Using video is a great way to generate visibility and motivate visitors to take action. And, almost just as important, video keeps visitors on your site longer. Why does this matter? Google and other search engines keep tract of this website metric. The longer a visitor stays on your site, the better. But

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13. Giveaway winner... and some Newbery love

First, I have a winner to announce...

According to randomizer, the winner of the signed hardcover of The Inquisitor's Mark (The Eighth Day Book 2) by Dianne K. Salerni is...



JESS HAIGHT


Congratulations, Jess! Expect an email from me asking for your mailing address. I'll be attending Dianne's book launch this Saturday, January 31st and will buy your copy then.



_______________________________________________________________

Now for some Newbery talk in honor of the 2015 ALA Youth Media Awards, which will be announced one week from today, at 8 am Central Time on Monday February 2nd. 


Back in October, I mentioned in this post that I had read 60 Newbery medal winners. (Here's a link to the Buzzfeed Newbery test if you haven't taken it).

Well, I'm happy to report that I can update that total once again. Thanks to my local library, I've now read 67. I believe Ms. Yingling has read all 93 of them (Congrats, Karen!), though I don't know how she did it, because some of those older books are, um, a bit slow (I tried to read Hitty, The First 100 Years. I really did. I think the cramped font put me off too).

Here's a brief look at some favorites from the seven Newbery medal winners I read in the last few months, all highly recommended:





Kira-Kira by Cynthia Kadohata (Atheneum, 2004, for ages 10 and up, winner of the 2005 Newbery Medal)

Katie Takeshima's big sister, Lynn, makes everything seem kira-kira, or glittering, shining. It's the 1950s and the family moves from Iowa to rural Georgia, where Katie's parents work long hours in a poultry plant and hatchery. This isn't so much a book about prejudice (although that's a big part of it) as it is a haunting and achingly beautiful look at how the death of a loved one tears apart an entire family. It's up to Katie to remind her family there is still kira-kira in the future.




I, Juan de Pareja by Elizabeth Borton de Trevino (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1965, for ages 10 and up, winner of the 1966 Newbery Medal)

I'd always put off reading this because I was afraid it would be dry and boring. I was wrong. Told in first person, this novel is based on the life of the painter Velasquez and his slave, Juan de Pareja, who became a respected artist in his own right. In seventeenth-century Spain it was forbidden for slaves to practice the arts, so Juan resorts to stealing colors and painting in secret, despite knowing he could be killed for it. A great novel about the injustice of slavery. I also loved the richness of the writing, with a tapestry of colorful details that brought Juan's world vividly to life.




Shiloh by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor (Atheneum, 1991, ages 8 to 12, winner of the 1992 Newbery Medal) 

According to Wikipedia, Phyllis Reynolds Naylor completed the first draft of this novel in a mere eight weeks! Yet it's become a modern classic. Published in 1991 and set in West Virginia, this touching story of Marty and the dog he rescues must be one of the first MG books to talk about animal abuse (unless you can think of another?). And don't worry, it has a happy ending.  


What book do you hope will win this year's Newbery medal?

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson is getting a lot of Newbery buzz, so I won't be at all surprised if it wins. I've only predicted the gold correctly one time (the year When You Reach Me won). Maybe I'd have better luck trying to predict honor books. This year, I'm hoping the Newbery committee gives some love to Hope is a Ferris Wheel by Robin Herrera, The Secret Hum of a Daisy by Tracy Holczer, and El Deafo by Cece Bell. 



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14. Query Question: "next work" subject line


I queried a project that resulted in several requests for my full manuscript. Ultimately, the requesting agents passed, but several were generous in the rejection--they detailed their reasons, complimented my writing, and ended with an invitation to submit future projects if I didn't find representation through the current manuscript. I did not. Now, I have a new project and would like to query these same agents.

Barbara Poelle fielded a similar question in her recent Writers Digest column. She outline what the author should include in the body of the query, but didn't address the subject line. Is there etiquette for this? Or does it remain a standard Query: Project Name, Author Name?

One of the agents I want to revisit is currently closed to submissions, so I suspect any query sent to her would merely be deleted unless there is some clue in the subject line that she has asked to see subsequent work.

Or am I merely a poor deluded soul who didn't recognize a polite boilerplate statement to ease a rejection?


no no no, you are not deluded, you will have to try harder to be clueless, sorry.

If an agent asks to see the next work, that's something you want to keep track of.

Your question about the subject line is timely as well, given how many agents now read queries on their phones.

Here's how you do that:

Re: Query for TITLE (the next project from) AUTHOR

The FIRST line of your query is:

On DATE you were kind enough to say you'd like to see future work. This is the query for my next novel.

Then you begin your query as you normally.

Standard querying calls for starting the query with all the housekeeping stuff at the bottom, but this is the exception to that.  Let the agent know right away that she's seen and liked your work.

I can track all my email conversations with queriers going back years so when I get a query like this, I look up the previous project and re-read my notes.  There's a LOT more leeway for someone querying a project if I've already seen and liked previous work.  Leeway means I'm much more likely to read something including all the pages even if I don't think it's a good fit.


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15. Swiss franc/Swiss publishers

       The recent, abrupt pull-back by the Swiss National Bank, allowing the Swiss franc to float freely (and appreciate most dramatically) -- see, for example, Edward Harrison at Foreign Policy on What the Wild Swiss Franc Appreciation Really Means -- has ripple effects far and wide (including in a lot of eastern European countries, where way too many folks somehow got themselves talked into franc-denominated mortgages ...).
       Much of Switzerland's economy is, of course, affected -- including the publishing industry. As Jürg Altwegg reports in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Der Schweizer Buchmarkt schwächelt. Local German-language publishers enjoy most of their sales abroad (Diogenes and Kein & Aber: about ninety per cent, he writes), and that suddenly doesn't work out to nearly as much profit domestically. Worse: Swiss book buyers now have even more of an incentive to purchase via Amazon Germany, paying the euro price (and avoiding any import-duty if they don't buy too much at one time) -- a disaster for local booksellers.
       Canada has faced similar issues in recent years, when the loonie was strong, but the current Swiss situation seems considerably more extreme.

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16. I Must Say: Review Haiku

I had a crush on
Ed Grimly and I'm not
ashamed to admit it.

I Must Say: My Life as a Humble Comedy Legend by Martin Short. Harper, 2014, 336 pages.

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17. Outrage: A Negative Emotion that Works In Your Novel


PB&J: Picture Books and All That Jazz: A Highlights Foundation Workshop

Join Leslie Helakoski and Darcy Pattison in Honesdale PA for a spring workshop, April 23-26, 2015. Full info here.
COMMENTS FROM THE 2014 WORKSHOP:
  • "This conference was great! A perfect mix of learning and practicing our craft."Peggy Campbell-Rush, 2014 attendee, Washington, NJ
  • "Darcy and Leslie were extremely accessible for advice, critique and casual conversation."Perri Hogan, 2014 attendee, Syracuse,NY


As 2014 events unfolded in Ferguson, Missouri and in New York City over race relations, I watched with a storyteller’s eye. That’s not to make light of the events–which have sparked massive debates and outrage. Rather, I put on my writer’s glasses and tried to evaluate the news reports AS A WRITER.

Conflict on Every Page: What Kind of Conflict?

Many writing teachers drum it into their students heads: conflict on every page.

What they mean is that something has to happen on every page that makes the situation worse for the characters. Storytelling is about the problems of life, not the happy moments. Happiness is only possible when thrown into relief by contrast with the bad stuff.

This can easily go wrong: after a writing class where conflict was encouraged, one writer added “conflict” by having a wild creature attack a main character; but in the next scene, the character easily escapes and nothing was different. That’s adding in conflict just for the sake of conflict and that’s off-target. Instead, conflict should be integral to the story and make the characters’ lives different in some way.

contagiousRecently, I found insight into this from a surprising source. In his book, Contagious: Why Things Catch On, Jonah Berger says that things go viral easier when people are met with moments of high arousal. That sounded suspiciously like “conflict on every page.” Berger backs up his claims with various psychological studies (you should read his book for details). The high arousal moments included positive emotions: excitement, awe, inspirations, humor. But they also included negative emotions: anger, disgust, anxiety, and especially outrage.

In his book, Berger gives examples of Outrage, including one about mothers who carry babies in a special sling. In 2008, the practice was celebrated with the inaugural International Babywearing Week. McNeil Consumer Healthcare, the company who makes Motrin pain medication wanted to support the event. According to Berger, they figured that carrying babies in a sling was great for the mother-child relationship; however, they also thought that it would cause strain on mother’s backs and they would need pain-relief. The advertisement they created, however, caused outrage!

The advertisement implied that mothers wore babies as “a fashion statement,” and it implied that babywearing looked “crazy.”

Outrage swept through the mommy-bloggers. And of course, OUTRAGE brings us back to Ferguson and the problems of racial relations in the U.S. Outrage–as a storytelling element–has been evident in almost every report I saw on the incident.

It’s not redundant to say this: the events in Ferguson were outrageous; the outrage at the events made the news stories successful. So successful that I later heard a radio interview with protestors in Hong Kong who were asked about relations with the police there in Hong Kong. The protestor answered that the relations were just as strained as those between police and citizens in Ferguson. In other words, the outrage–the negative emotional response to events–has been so strong that it has been reported worldwide and has become a symbol of difficult police reactions. That’s the power of outrage in storytelling.

In your story, can you find a place to add outrage? If you can, your story will be stronger.

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18. PAPERCHASE - geek kitty

Today we are looking at some of the new spring arrivals at Paperchase. The first new range of stationery featured is the colourful and fun 'Geek Kitty'. The design is a mixture of digital photo collage and neon flouro colours. The cute kitten wearing oversized glasses is the main motif but there are also further cats created from chopping cat pictures and textures and re-assembling them into

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19. The Role of a Writer…

Recently, my son-in-law (SIL) told me about this documentary he watched in his university course about the penal system in the 1950s. He’s studying law enforcement and this documentary was a case study where they took students to live in a prison-like setting. Half the students were told that they were the prisoners and the other half were the guards. The take home message from this case study was that ALL the students fell into their roles and didn’t veer from them. If they were prisoners, then they were stuck in character. If guards, that’s who they became. This got me thinking. Our thoughts are so powerful. If we BELIEVE we’re writers, and practice this ROLE, then by God, we begin to FEEL like writers.

Sometimes it’s a matter of unplugging from the hard-wiring we’ve had growing up. As children, we fall into roles quite easily and sometimes are stuck in these roles for the rest of our lives. An ‘A’ student will always be the smart one. The ‘C’ student won’t. When I began the journey to be a published author, at first I thought only teachers or people with masters in English or in creative writing were good enough to be authors. It was a huge obstacle to overcome for me mentally, but overcome I did. I broke the mold that I was stuck in for years.

Once I retrained my mind, I developed a positive mental attitude, and I found that I started to feel free from the limitations I grew up with. It really didn’t matter if I didn’t possess an English degree or MFA, I knew I could learn to become a published author by sheer determination, perseverance, patience, and practice. I had the time to invest in following my heart, and I did.

I made a commitment. I scheduled my time. And I asked for support from my family or friends when I needed it. Remember the only thing holding you back from your writing aspirations is YOU. Break out of the role that’s keeping you from your dreams. You’ll be happier and healthier in the long run.

Thanks a heap for reading my blog. If you have time, please leave a comment and share what YOU do to create the role of writer for yourself. Cheers!

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20. Living next to a Superfund site


We don't really hear much about Superfund sites anymore but they haven't gone away. From last month's National Geographic Magazine:

Money remains a constant problem. The Superfund program once had two pillars: rules that held past polluters liable for cleanup and a "Superfund"--financed by taxes on crude oil and chemicals--that gave the EPA the resources to clean up sites when it could not extract payment from the responsible parties. Congress let those taxes expire in 1995; the program is now funded by taxes collected from all Americans. It's low on staff. The Superfund itself is nearly empty.

Superfund sites have entered a mostly benign but lingering state, dwarfed in the public's eye by issues like climate change, says William Suk, who has directed the National Institutes of Health's Superfund Research Program since its inception in the 1980s. "It's not happening in my backyard, therefore it must be OK," is how Suk sees the prevailing attitude. "Everything must be just fine--there's no more Love Canals."

Check out the full photo gallery here.

[Post pic by Fritz Hoffman via Nat Geo: "The municipal water supply in Hastings was contaminated by landfills--and by the FAR-MAR-CO grain elevator. Fumigants sprayed to control rodents and insects leached into the ground. The city closed some wells, but cleaning the groundwater will take decades."]

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21. Win WOVEN or CUT ME FREE plus New YALit Releases 1/26 - 2/1

We're back again this week with the weekly roundup of new releases plus giveaways of WOVEN by Michael Jensen and David Powers King and CUT ME FREE by J. R. Johansson. What are you reading this week?

~The ladies of AYAP
Martina, Alyssa, Lisa, Susan, Shelly, Jocelyn, Becca, and Jan

YA BOOK GIVEAWAYS THIS WEEK


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Woven
by Michael Jensen and David Powers King
Signed Hardcover Giveaway
U.S. Only

Scholastic Press
Released 1/27/2015

Two unlikely allies must journey across a kingdom in the hopes of thwarting death itself.

All his life, Nels has wanted to be a knight of the kingdom of Avërand. Tall and strong, and with a knack for helping those in need, the people of his sleepy little village have even taken to calling him the Knight of Cobblestown.

But that was before Nels died, murdered outside his home by a mysterious figure.

Now the young hero has awoken as a ghost, invisible to all around him save one person—his only hope for understanding what happened to him—the kingdom’s heir, Princess Tyra. At first the spoiled royal wants nothing to do with Nels, but as the mystery of his death unravels, the two find themselves linked by a secret, and an enemy who could be hiding behind any face.

Nels and Tyra have no choice but to abscond from the castle, charting a hidden world of tangled magic and forlorn phantoms. They must seek out an ancient needle with the power to mend what has been torn, and they have to move fast. Because soon Nels will disappear forever.

Author Question: What is your favorite thing about Woven?

WOVEN is a ghost story unlike any other. It has a timeless, symbolic feel to it. There are many great life lessons in WOVEN if you look for them. It’s about reality through the eyes of sewing needles and the threads that go through them. Since there are lots of elements to the art of sewing and weaving, we had plenty of material to work with. Every character has a purpose, even the background characters. There’s so much to love about WOVEN, it’s hard to pin down.

Purchase Woven at Amazon
Purchase Woven at IndieBound
View Woven on Goodreads



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Cut Me Free
by J.R. Johansson
Hardcover Giveaway
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Released 1/27/2015

Seventeen-year-old Charlotte barely escaped from her abusive parents. Her little brother, Sam, wasn't as lucky. Now she's trying to begin the new life she always dreamed of for them, but never thought she'd have to experience alone. She's hired a techie-genius with a knack for forgery to remove the last ties to her old life. But while she can erase her former identity, she can’t rid herself of the memories. And her troubled history won’t let her ignore the little girl she sees one day in the park. The girl with the bruises and burn marks.

That’s when Charlotte begins to receive the messages. Threatening notes left in her apartment--without a trace of entry. And they’re addressed to Piper, her old name. As the messages grow in frequency, she doesn’t just need to uncover who is leaving them; she needs to stop whoever it is before anyone else she loves ends up dead.

Author Question: What is your favorite thing about Cut Me Free?

My favorite thing about CUT ME FREE has to be the heart of this book. It's a thriller, but at it's basis it really is about resiliency of the human spirit and how we are capable of recovering from the most horrifying of circumstances. It's a very character driven book and Piper is my favorite character I've ever written. I'm a fan of strong female characters and she is definitely that.

Purchase Cut Me Free at Amazon
Purchase Cut Me Free at IndieBound
View Cut Me Free on Goodreads


YA BOOK GIVEAWAYS LAST WEEK: WINNERS


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Polaris
by Mindee Arnett
Hardcover
Balzer + Bray
Released 1/20/2015

Winner - Melinda Pratt

Following the events of Avalon, Jeth Seagrave and his crew are on the run. Jeth is desperate to find the resources and funding he needs to rescue his mother from an ITA’s research lab and leave this whole galaxy behind for a new life somewhere else. But the ITA is just as desperate, and soon Jeth finds himself pursued by a mysterious figure hell-bent on capturing Jeth and his crew—dead or alive. In a last-ditch effort to save everyone he holds dear, Jeth enters into a bargain with the last person he ever thought he'd see again: Dax Shepherd, the galaxy’s newest and most fearsome crime lord. And he’s not the only one: upon arriving back at Peltraz spaceport for the first time since he witnessed the death of his old employer, Jeth discovers Dax has a new partner: Jeth’s mother, Marian.

This shocking turn of events is only the first in another breathless, action-packed sci-fi adventure rife with danger, love, and betrayal, as Jeth has to once again ask himself how much he’s willing to invest in a morally bankrupt galaxy in the hopes of saving those he cares for.

Author Question: What is your favorite thing about Polaris?

With POLARIS I learned two critical things, both of them more affirmations than revelations. The first is that even when the writing is hard you have to push through it. That might seem self-evident, but it’s one of those things where you don’t really know what “hard” is until you’ve run smack into. The affirmation aspect of this is that I learned that I can push through it. I was in a very hard place emotionally when I started work on POLARIS, and it didn’t go away throughout the whole process. Some of it was struggles in my personal life and some of it is what I call the post publication blues. All writers get them and they are awful—the mean reds times a thousand. But the great thing is that even when it’s hard, the writing is always worth it. I’m proud of POLARIS, despite all the struggle or maybe because of it.

Secondly, I learned that it’s okay to channel your own emotions into a story. Like I said, I was in a very dark place when I wrote this book, and a lot of that darkness translates to the page. The main character Jeth struggles a lot in this book. I’m downright awful to him at times. But ultimately, I think that emotional struggle has a big payoff in the end, both for me personally and for the reader, I hope.


Purchase Polaris at Amazon
Purchase Polaris at IndieBound
View Polaris on Goodreads

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The Five Stages of Andrew Brawley
by Shaun David Hutchinson
Hardcover
Simon Pulse
Released 1/20/2015

Winner - Alicia Guerrero

Andrew Brawley was supposed to die that night. His parents did, and so did his sister, but he survived.

Now he lives in the hospital. He serves food in the cafeteria, he hangs out with the nurses, and he sleeps in a forgotten supply closet. Drew blends in to near invisibility, hiding from his past, his guilt, and those who are trying to find him.

Then one night Rusty is wheeled into the ER, burned on half his body by hateful classmates. His agony calls out to Drew like a beacon, pulling them both together through all their pain and grief. In Rusty, Drew sees hope, happiness, and a future for both of them. A future outside the hospital, and away from their pasts.

But Drew knows that life is never that simple. Death roams the hospital, searching for Drew, and now Rusty. Drew lost his family, but he refuses to lose Rusty, too, so he’s determined to make things right. He’s determined to bargain, and to settle his debts once and for all.

But Death is not easily placated, and Drew’s life will have to get worse before there is any chance for things to get better.

Author Question: What is your favorite thing about The Five Stages of Andrew Brawley?

Growing up as a gay teen, one of the most difficult things to deal with was always hiding who I was. I spent most of my teenage years feeling like no one really saw me, like I was invisible. We read books in order to connect to characters, to feel like someone sees us. But there aren’t a lot of YA books that feature LGBTQIA characters whose biggest problem isn’t their sexuality. That’s one of the reasons I wrote The Fives Stages of Andrew Brawley. I wanted LGBTQIA teens to know that they are more than their sexuality, I wanted them to know that they are not invisible. That’s my favorite thing about The Five Stages of Andrew Brawley. Also, there’s a freaking graphic novel inside the book!

Purchase The Five Stages of Andrew Brawley at Amazon
Purchase The Five Stages of Andrew Brawley at IndieBound
View The Five Stages of Andrew Brawley on Goodreads


MORE YOUNG ADULT FICTION IN STORES NEXT WEEK WITH AUTHOR INTERVIEWS


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Tear You Apart
by Sarah Cross
Hardcover
EgmontUSA
Released 1/27/2015

An edgy fairy tale retelling of "Snow White" set in the world of Kill Me Softly for fans of Once Upon a Time and Grimm.

Faced with a possible loophole to her "Snow White" curse, Viv goes underground, literally, to find the prince who's fated to rescue her. But is life safe in the Underworld worth the price of sacrficing the love that might kill her?

Author Question: What is your favorite thing about Tear You Apart?

My favorite thing about TEAR YOU APART . . . is that it exists. A sequel or companion novel (TEAR YOU APART is a companion novel to KILL ME SOFTLY) is never a guaranteed thing. But readers supported KILL ME SOFTLY and that made a second book possible. That's why TEAR YOU APART is dedicated to my readers. Without their enthusiasm and support, this book would be a dream, not a reality.

Purchase Tear You Apart at Amazon
Purchase Tear You Apart at IndieBound
View Tear You Apart on Goodreads

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We Can Work It Out
by Elizabeth Eulberg
Hardcover
Point
Released 1/27/2015

A return to the world of THE LONELY HEARTS CLUB -- in a novel that gets to the heart of how hard relationships can be . . . and why they are sometimes worth all the drama and comedy they create.

When Penny Lane started The Lonely Hearts Club, the goal was simple: to show that girls didn’t need to define themselves by how guys looked at them, and didn’t have to value boyfriends over everything else. Penny thought she’d be an outcast for life . . . but then the club became far more popular than she ever imagined it would be.

But what happens when the girl who never thought she’d date a good guy suddenly finds herself dating a great one? She doesn’t need a boyfriend . . . but she wants it to work out with this particular boyfriend. And he wants it to work out with her.

Only, things keep getting in the way. Feelings keep getting hurt. Words keep getting misunderstood.

Penny Lane worked hard to declare her independence. Now she needs to figure out what to do with it -- and how to balance what she wants with what everyone else wants.

Author Question: What is your favorite thing about We Can Work It Out?

I absolutely loved getting to return to the world and characters of my first novel, The Lonely Hearts Club. Ever since I finished writing that book five years ago, I'd been itching to see what was next in store for Penny Lane Bloom and her friends. Plus, I got to listen to the Beatles while writing the book, which is always a fun thing!

Purchase We Can Work It Out at Amazon
Purchase We Can Work It Out at IndieBound
View We Can Work It Out on Goodreads


MORE YOUNG ADULT NOVELS NEW IN STORES NEXT WEEK


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A Cold Legacy
by Megan Shepherd
Hardcover
Balzer + Bray
Released 1/27/2015

After killing the men who tried to steal her father’s research, Juliet—along with Montgomery, Lucy, Balthazar, and a deathly ill Edward—has escaped to a remote estate on the Scottish moors. Owned by the enigmatic Elizabeth von Stein, the mansion is full of mysteries and unexplained oddities: dead bodies in the basement, secret passages, and fortune-tellers who seem to know Juliet’s secrets. Though it appears to be a safe haven, Juliet fears new dangers may be present within the manor’s own walls.

Then Juliet uncovers the truth about the manor’s long history of scientific experimentation—and her own intended role in it—forcing her to determine where the line falls between right and wrong, life and death, magic and science, and promises and secrets. And she must decide if she’ll follow her father’s dark footsteps or her mother’s tragic ones, or whether she’ll make her own.

With inspiration from Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, this breathless conclusion to the Madman’s Daughter trilogy is about the things we’ll sacrifice to save those we love—even our own humanity.

Purchase A Cold Legacy at Amazon
Purchase A Cold Legacy at IndieBound
View A Cold Legacy on Goodreads

* * * *


Burning Nation
by Trent Reedy
Hardcover
Arthur A. Levine Books
Released 1/27/2015

In this wrenching sequel to DIVIDED WE FALL, Danny and friends fight to defend Idaho against a Federal takeover and the ravages of a BURNING NATION.

At the end of DIVIDED WE FALL, Danny Wright's beloved Idaho had been invaded by the federal government, their electricity shut off, their rights suspended. Danny goes into hiding with his friends in order to remain free. But after the state declares itself a Republic, Idaho rises to fight in a second American Civil War, and Danny is right in the center of the action, running guerrilla missions with his fellow soldiers to break the Federal occupation. Yet what at first seems like a straightforward battle against governmental repression quickly grows more complicated, as more states secede, more people die, and Danny discovers the true nature of some of his new allies.

Chilling, powerful, and all too plausible,, BURNING NATION confirms Trent Reedy's place as a provocative new voice in YA fiction.

Purchase Burning Nation at Amazon
Purchase Burning Nation at IndieBound
View Burning Nation on Goodreads

* * * *


Fairest
by Marissa Meyer
Hardcover
Feiwel & Friends
Released 1/27/2015

In this stunning bridge book between Cress and Winter in the bestselling Lunar Chronicles, Queen Levana’s story is finally told.

Mirror, mirror on the wall,
Who is the fairest of them all?

Fans of the Lunar Chronicles know Queen Levana as a ruler who uses her “glamour” to gain power. But long before she crossed paths with Cinder, Scarlet, and Cress, Levana lived a very different story – a story that has never been told . . . until now.

Marissa Meyer spins yet another unforgettable tale about love and war, deceit and death. This extraordinary book includes full-color art and an excerpt from Winter, the next book in the Lunar Chronicles series.

Purchase Fairest at Amazon
Purchase Fairest at IndieBound
View Fairest on Goodreads

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I Was Here
by Gayle Forman
Hardcover
Viking Juvenile
Released 1/27/2015

Cody and Meg were inseparable.
Two peas in a pod.
Until . . . they weren’t anymore.

When her best friend Meg drinks a bottle of industrial-strength cleaner alone in a motel room, Cody is understandably shocked and devastated. She and Meg shared everything—so how was there no warning? But when Cody travels to Meg’s college town to pack up the belongings left behind, she discovers that there’s a lot that Meg never told her. About her old roommates, the sort of people Cody never would have met in her dead-end small town in Washington. About Ben McAllister, the boy with a guitar and a sneer, who broke Meg’s heart. And about an encrypted computer file that Cody can’t open—until she does, and suddenly everything Cody thought she knew about her best friend’s death gets thrown into question.

I Was Here is Gayle Forman at her finest, a taut, emotional, and ultimately redemptive story about redefining the meaning of family and finding a way to move forward even in the face of unspeakable loss.

Purchase I Was Here at Amazon
Purchase I Was Here at IndieBound
View I Was Here on Goodreads

* * * *


I'm Glad I Did
by Cynthia Weil
Hardcover
Soho Teen
Released 1/27/2015

Mad Men meets Nashville in this debut mystery set in 1963, written by Grammy winner and Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Cynthia Weil.

It’s the summer of 1963 and JJ Green is a born songwriter—which is a major problem, considering that her family thinks the music business is a cesspool of lowlifes and hustlers. Defying them, she takes an internship at the Brill Building, the epicenter of a new sound called rock and roll.

JJ is finally living her dream. She even finds herself a writing partner in Luke Silver, a boy with mesmerizing green eyes who seems to connect instantly with her music. Best of all, they’ll be cutting their first demo with legendary singer Dulcie Brown. Though Dulcie is now a custodian in the Brill Building and has fallen on hard times, JJ is convinced that she can shine again.

But Dulcie’s past is a tangle of secrets, and when events take a dark turn, JJ must navigate a web of hidden identities and shattered lives—before it snares her, too.

Purchase I'm Glad I Did at Amazon
Purchase I'm Glad I Did at IndieBound
View I'm Glad I Did on Goodreads

* * * *


Playlist for the Dead
by Michelle Falkoff
Hardcover
HarperTeen
Released 1/27/2015

A teenage boy tries to understand his best friend's suicide by listening to the playlist of songs he left behind in this smart, voice-driven debut novel.

Here's what Sam knows: There was a party. There was a fight. The next morning, his best friend, Hayden, was dead. And all he left Sam was a playlist of songs, and a suicide note: For Sam—listen and you'll understand.

As he listens to song after song, Sam tries to face up to what happened the night Hayden killed himself. But it's only by taking out his earbuds and opening his eyes to the people around him that he will finally be able to piece together his best friend’s story. And maybe have a chance to change his own.

Part mystery, part love story, and part coming-of-age tale in the vein of Stephen Chbosky’s The Perks of Being a Wallflower and Tim Tharp’s The Spectacular Now, Playlist for the Dead is an honest and gut-wrenching first novel about loss, rage, what it feels like to outgrow a friendship that's always defined you—and the struggle to redefine yourself. But above all, it's about finding hope when hope seems like the hardest thing to find.

Purchase Playlist for the Dead at Amazon
Purchase Playlist for the Dead at IndieBound
View Playlist for the Dead on Goodreads


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22. My tweets

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23. American book sales by category, 2014

       In Publishers Weekly Jim Milliot reports on The Hot and Cold Categories of 2014 in the US, looking at the "print book unit sales among adult segments in 2014" ("at outlets that report to Nielsen BookScan").
       On the positive side, "Occult/Psychological/Horror" showed the biggest drop among adult fiction categories (-26%). On the other hand, "Graphic Novels" showed the biggest increase (+13%). (That's in 'adult fiction'! Oddly, this isn't even a category in 'juvenile fiction' ....)
       The only other adult fiction category with any plus ? "Western".
       Amusingly, "Religion" was minus 15% in adult fiction -- but plus 12% in adult non-fiction. (No comment.)

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24. Public health in 2014: a year in review

Last year was an important year in the field of public health. In 2014, West Africa, particularly Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Guinea, experienced the worst outbreak of the Ebola virus in history, and with devastating effects. Debates around e-cigarettes and vaping became central, as more research was published about their health implications. Conversations surrounding nutrition and the spread of disease through travel and migration continued in the media and among experts.

We’ve chosen a selection of articles that discuss public health issues that arose in 2014, their effects on the present and implications for the future.

Header image: US specialist helping Afghan nomads by Sfc. Larry Johns (US Army). Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

The post Public health in 2014: a year in review appeared first on OUPblog.

0 Comments on Public health in 2014: a year in review as of 1/26/2015 7:49:00 AM
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25. GUEST POST: When Friends & Family Read Your Book: Survival Tips

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Today, we have a guest post from debut author (and Entangled Publishing editor!) Kate Brauning

Kate headshot AMy debut novel released in November, and while I was nervous about trade reviews and Goodreads reviews and sales numbers, the thing that made me most nervous was knowing my friends and family were going to be reading my book.

I’m proud of my writing, and what friends and family won’t override what I think is best for a story. However, that doesn’t mean it can’t hurt. When people who are close to us disapprove, or object, or think less of us, it’s usually going to hurt.  And they usually want to participate in what’s going on in our lives. While that can take a toll on us, it can also be encouraging and a positive experience. There are a few survival tips we can use to deal with it when it comes up.

 

1. Realize their reaction might have very little to do with your book. Especially with a debut, when friends and family pick up an author’s book, it’s usually because they have a connection to the author—not because they thought the story sounded interesting or because it was a genre they enjoyed. Most of my family that read How We Fall don’t read YA or don’t enjoy romance. Many of them weren’t familiar with the conventions and devices of the category or the genre, and that can make a big difference in the reader’s experience.

2. Recognize that friends and family aren’t your audience. This has never been so clear to me as when some of my grandparents read my debut. They just aren’t the readers I’m speaking to, and so the language I’m using isn’t going to communicate nearly so well to them. It’s not because of a flaw in me or my books. They’re simply not receiving what I’m sending, and that’s okay.

3. Don’t let them affect what you write in the next book, or regret the choices you made in the previous one. Don’t allow fear of disapproval to affect what you write. Be true to the story, or it won’t be a story you love. And without that, we lose a huge part of the reason that we write.

4. When someone says, “I read your book!” don’t say “what did you think of it?” That almost never turns out well. If they loved it, they will most likely tell you without you having to ask, and if they didn’t love it, you probably don’t want to know. Instead, say “thank you so much for reading!” and divert the discussion.

Great follow-ups can be asking them if they’ve read anything else lately, mentioning something you’ve read and loved, or talking about the publishing journey instead of the book. Friends and family are often curious about it, and talking about the story you wrote is just one way they might try to connect with you over that topic. If you’re getting the feeling they want to talk not just about books in general but about your writing, turn the discussion toward how exciting it was to get your author copies, or how long it’s been a dream of yours to be published, or any detail like that. And when you can, change the topic. Short and sweet is generally less likely to be awkward.

5. Avoid discussions of your choices—most of the time. The more common advice is just to not discuss them, but that can also mean you miss out. The best and worst moments involving friends and family dealing with my book were discussing those hot-button topics. For example, since I write YA, the things that people close to me were bringing up were questions and comments like “I didn’t think the swearing was necessary.” “There are some pretty high heat make-out scenes for a teen book. Do you think that’s appropriate?” or “I just can’t see why you would write a romance since it has all that angst.” “So you let them drink under age?”

Every one of those issues are things I’m passionate about, and they’re areas where I want the people close to me to understand what I’m doing and not think less of me for making choices I strongly believe are positive ones. And that makes any discussion of those things risky. I don’t want to always divert the conversation, because engaging in conversation about why swearing can belong in YA is a great topic and I want to share my beliefs with people who are close to me.

Some of the discussions I’ve had with family over those topics directly concerning my books have been wonderful. Some were incredibly frustrating and discouraging. If it’s not for you, then by all means avoid it, but if you want to bring your family in a little more, the best way I’ve found to deal with it is to be intentional about picking the place, the time, and the people. The family dinner table with a mixed group is likely not the time. A crowded room where people can mishear and others can jump in without having heard the context is likely not the best place. A special event like a signing or launch party is not the time. And there are some people who are more interested in hearing what you have to say in order to respond, not necessarily in order to understand—and that’s where I usually don’t want to discuss the issue. It won’t be productive. Some of my relatives have different beliefs and no matter what explanation I have, it won’t be a productive conversation there, either. If you have family and friends who are up for a genuine discussion, I think it can be great to go for it, in small pieces. It also may help to discuss those issues in general, and not as they relate to your particular book. Some of the best conversations I’ve had with some of my relatives came from that, and I’m closer to them and more open with them now because of it.

6. Keep in mind friends and family can be a fun and positive part of your career. Some of them dislike my book and disapprove of the content, but some of them love it, and have become wonderful fans. My uncle’s parents, even though I’ve only met them twice and they are definitely not the people I expected to enjoy the story, went out of their way to tell me how much they loved it and that they’re eagerly waiting for the next one—and they’re in their seventies. My brother, not at all the guy to read YA romance, not only read it but bought copies for all of his wife’s family for Christmas. Seeing the people close to me enjoy and participate in the process is encouraging and fulfilling and fun.

Especially with a debut, but also with an author’s following books, friends and family may want to be involved and share their opinions. Authors usually dread it. I still dread it. It’s nerve-wracking and stressful, because we care. Since discouragement from family can take a heavy toll on our creativity and energy, boundaries are important. Ultimately, it’s your career, and giving yourself the space to create freely is necessary. Limits, diverting the discussions when it’s not a good time for you, and taking them a small piece at a time can help manage participation from friends and family.

Kate Brauning is an editor at Entangled Publishing and the author of How We Fall, a YA contemporary about a girl who falls in love with her cousin. She grew up in rural Missouri, lives in Iowa, and pursues her lifelong dream of telling stories she’d want to read. Visit her online at www.katebrauning.com or on Twitter at @KateBrauning.

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