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1. BE A CHANGEMAKER by Laurie Thompson - Guest Post and Giveaway

I've got a slightly different sort of book for you to learn about today... It's called BE A CHANGEMAKER by Laurie Thompson and it's about kids taking charge to change their worlds for the better - powerful stuff! And something I fully support, which is why I was thrilled Laurie wanted to stop by to talk about it...

     I started working on Be a Changemaker in 2004. At the time, I was working on another book about ordinary people who had done extraordinary things. This is a common theme in much of my work, probably because I yearn to do extraordinary things despite feeling so very ordinary myself!
      While researching that book, I came across David Bornstein’s How to Change the World: Social Entrepreneurs and the Power of New Ideas, which contains case studies of social entrepreneurs around the world who started innovative programs to solve various kinds of social problems in their local communities. I was so excited by Bornstein’s stories of individuals who had built lasting, meaningful organizations from the ground up and the myriad ways they had directly improved people’s lives. I remember shaking the book at my husband and saying, “You know who needs a book like this? Teenagers! If they knew they were capable of making the changes they care about, the world would be a better place for all of us. Why doesn’t someone write a book like this for them?” Obviously, that was a light bulb moment! I was someone, after all, so I would just have to write the book myself. With a new focus, I turned all my energies toward developing what would become Be a Changemaker.
      The people profiled in How to Change the World were all fellows in an organization called Ashoka, whose slogan is “Everyone a changemaker.” I soon discovered that Ashoka had a division called Youth Venture, which is specifically aimed at empowering young people to make positive changes in their communities, and one of their flagship offices was in Seattle, not far from my home. It felt like it was meant to be!
      Youth Venture invited me to attend a community workshop they were offering. The energy and enthusiasm there was infectious! The teens were thrilled to talk about the problems they saw in their communities and excited to work together to try to find solutions. Seeing them in action validated my ideas for Be a Changemaker. Everyone I met from the Youth Venture staff was supportive, too, despite the fact that I had never even written a book, much less published one! They knew that sometimes passion and persistence can be more important than experience, and their confidence in me was a huge boost.
      I got to work researching, drafting, and revising a proposal. I submitted the proposal for critique, got positive feedback, and kept going. I submitted again, got less positive feedback, and put it away. I learned more. I went back and started over again and again and again, round and round. After six years of this, I felt like I was finally getting somewhere and submitted the proposal to an agent. She liked it but wanted me to address a few issues. Feeling like I only had one chance to get it right, I worked on that revision for an entire year. It worked! Surely the hard part was over, right?
      Anyone who knows publishing knows it’s rarely that easy. It still took a while to find the perfect home for it, and then I had to finish writing it and go through the editorial process under tight deadlines and facing some unexpected medical challenges throughout. After all the initial waiting and painstaking refinement, I worried that the mad dash to the finish might cause me to lose sight of what I had been trying to accomplish and make me miss the mark I’d been shooting for all of those years.
      In the end, though, it turned out even better than I ever imagined. My family was behind me every step of the way. I was fortunate enough to work with a team of people who understood the vision and helped me nurture it all along the way. And, eventually, the process itself ended up coming full circle in the most fulfilling ways: I got to profile Divine Bradley, the inspirational guest speaker at that first Youth Venture workshop, in chapter two of Be a Changemaker; Bill Drayton, the founder of Ashoka, wrote the foreword; and David Bornstein read an advance copy and provided a quote. To an ordinary gal like me, that’s some pretty extraordinary stuff. And looking back on it now, it was worth every minute.

Laurie's favorite writing spot is her Treadmill Desk. Click here to learn more about it.

Blue Slip Media has kindly agreed to give a free copy of BE A CHANGEMAKER to one of my lucky followers. Must live in the US to win - enter below:

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2. Kat Zhang, Author of ECHOES OF US, on Closure and Songs on Repeat.

What is your favorite thing about ECHOES OF US?

The end, haha. And that's not even me being facetious. I've put all my characters, especially Addie and Eva, through so much over the course of this trilogy, and it felt really great to give them an ending. A bit of closure. I can't get into the specifics, of course, without being spoiler-y!

On a more meta level, having worked on this trilogy for years and years, starting when I was 17 years old, it's a bit surreal to be 23 and seeing the final book release. I went through college while writing these books. I grew up with them, in a way. It feels like closure for me, as well, on a part of my life.

How long or hard was your road to publication? How many books did you write before this one, and how many never got published?

I feel like my road to publication was long, mostly because I literally starting dreaming about publishing a book when I was 12 years old, and that's about the time I started writing novels, too. However, I never actually finished a book until I was 17, and that was also the first book I queried. However, I only reached out to about 10 agents, maybe even less, and I never even got a full request! (I was…pretty bad at writing queries)

So I guess if you count from that first querying attempt, things went pretty quickly. I started writing What's Left of Me while querying Book #1, and queried it at age 19. Signed with my agent after about 2 months, and sold the trilogy later that year. :)

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

It really depends. Before this current book, I'd say I never listen to music while writing, but I've found a cover of "I See Fire" that I've listened to over 1000 times now on repeat while drafting! I write all over the place—home, coffee shops, libraries, the mall...

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

Keep writing. Keep reading. :)

Enter to Win a hardcover copy of ECHOES OF US!  


Giveaway ends 9/21/2014 at midnight EST.


Echoes of Us
by Kate Zhang
Released 9/16/2014

To change the world, I may lose everything

All Eva ever wanted was the chance to be herself. But in the Americas, to be hybrid—to share your body with a second soul—is not tolerated past childhood. Now Eva and Addie, her sister soul, are constantly on the move, hiding from the officials who seek to capture them. But the tide is changing. A revolution is brewing, and people are starting to question the hybrids' mistreatment.

Then Marion, an ambitious reporter, offers Eva and Addie a daring proposal: If they go undercover and film the wretched conditions of a hybrid institution, she will not only rescue them, she'll find a way to free Jackson, the boy Addie loves. It's risky, and Eva will have to leave Ryan and her friends behind, but if she succeeds, it could also tip the scales forever and lead to hybrid freedom.

As Eva and Addie walk into danger, they cling to each other and the hope of a better future. But the price they might pay is higher than they ever could have imagined.

Purchase Echoes of Us at Amazon
Purchase Echoes of Us at IndieBound
View Echoes of Us on Goodreads


Kat Zhang spent most of her childhood tramping through a world weaved from her favorite stories and games. When she and her best friend weren't riding magic horses or talking to trees, they were writing adaptations of plays for their stuffed animals (what would The Wizard of Oz have been like if the Cowardly Lion were replaced by a Loquacious Lamb?). This may or may not explain many of Kat's quirks today.

By the age of twelve, Kat had started her first novel and begun plans for her life as a Real Live Author (she was rather more confident at twelve than she is even now). Said plans didn't come into fruition until seven years later, when her agent sold her trilogy, The Hybrid Chronicles, to HarperCollins. The first book, WHAT'S LEFT OF ME–about a girl with two souls–will released September 18, 2012. Book 2 in the series, ONCE WE WERE, will be released September 17, 2013.

Kat is represented by Emmanuelle Morgen of Stonesong. She also performs as a Spoken Word poet and contributes to Pub(lishing) Crawl, a site for aspiring writers to talk about books, storytelling craft, and the publishing process. Kat has also had the pleasure of remote interning for a literary agent, specializing in Young Adult fiction.

When she is not exploring the world of her characters, she is exploring her own. To date, she's had the pleasure of visiting five countries, including more than half of the United States. She hopes to always keep writing and traveling.

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3. Bristol International Book Fair & Comic Expo -an exclusive look at the panels!

Get yours today!!!
Exhibitor Tables


"What editors do, what they're looking for, and how to make their
lives so much easier."
Alternative Realities will be hosting an informal panel discussing what editors do, what they're looking for and how to make their lives so much easier. In other words, how to improve your chances of not being rejected even before they've even started reading your submission and how to rise to the top once they do.

"Fear, Uncertainty, and DRM"
In 2012, sales of eBooks overtook sales of physical books, but are consumers getting what they bargained for? Whether you are a publisher, writer, or reader, the new rules that govern who really owns and controls the digital content that you pay for affect us all. Join novelist, technologist, comics writer, and nerd Chris Lynch for a whistle-stop tour through the dark side of "Digital Rights Management" (DRM) and find out just how much power Apple, Google, Amazon, and Microsoft have over our books, music, games, and more in the digital millennium
Poetry workshop
Open to adults with little or no experience of writing, as well as those people who have been writing for sometime. Somerset poet Paul Tobin will be running a 90 minute poetry workshop. Paul is an experienced facilitator, who has run many workshops across the south west, and at festivals for the past six years.
Paul facilitates Taunton's popular poetry group Juncture 25, where he runs
a poetry workshop once a month.

Why not come along and let the muse speak to you.

The Changing Face of Horror

Horror, as a genre, is constantly evolving. Found-footage and torture-porn films are becoming increasingly popular, and in recent years there has been a resurgence in zombie and vampire fiction. This informal panel will look at the ever-changing face of horror. Are we becoming more difficult to scare? Whatever happened to the humble ghost story? When will the zombie trend end? What's next for horror? Featuring Adam Millard, Simon Marshall Jones, A.S. Chambers, and Scot Stanford.


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4. Fiona Wood, author of WILDLIFE, talks about rewrites and the trouble with coffee shops.

What was your inspiration for writing WILDLIFE?

There were a few points of departure. One was the idea of a character, Sibylla, who’s not quite sure who she is, navigating her first romantic and sexual relationship, and testing her ideas against some realities. The concept of what constitutes good and bad friendship interested me, too. Why do we sometimes settle for mean friends? In what circumstances might we fail as friends? The setting was also something I wanted to explore – we have a number of schools in Melbourne that also have dedicated campuses out of the city where groups of students board for a whole term, and combine outdoor education with the usual academic curriculum. My husband went to one of these schools, and I was always intrigued about the extra pressure – and extra fun – that accompanies this experience, away from many of the usual support structures. I was looking at themes of jealousy and betrayal, and so Othello was an inspiration and a reference point for me, too. The character, Holly, is loosely based on Iago. Death and grieving are explored in the character Lou’s story. So, I had all those things – and the loops and links between them – in mind.

How long did you work on the book?

About three years. There was some overlap with the books on either side of it.

How long or hard was your road to publication? How many books did you write before this one, and how many never got published?

My first book, Six Impossible Things, was published. I’ve only written three books – one still in progress. So, no rejections so far. I wrote TV scripts for twelve years, so I had a lot of writing experience before writing and submitting SIT. Even so, I spent a long time on it, five drafts, at least, over more than three years. And big drafts – story structure changes, and things like changing it from past tense to present tense – all before I submitted it. The other thing is that I do a lot of planning, so I do plenty of my own rejecting at that stage. 

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

For years I worked at home, but for the last seven years I’ve had a small office away from home, which I really appreciate. I need a quiet atmosphere for working. I could never even do my school homework if I had music playing. I don’t know how people work in a coffee shop. The distractions! I’d feel self-conscious sitting with my laptop – as though I were trying to look like a writer. Then if I were staring into space for minutes at a time – which I do half the day – I’d imagine people judging me: wow, she’s not doing much writing, for a writer. And I’d be worried about how much coffee I should be drinking. How many coffees per hour would justify my space in the room? Also, when you really do a lot of writing, your workstation has to be set up properly, or you hurt your back, neck, shoulders, wrists. When I’m writing a first draft I don’t let myself leave work until I’ve written my word count for the day. I write down the daily, accumulating word count, a page per month. It’s surprisingly encouraging seeing it there, growing a little bit at a time. 

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

The best writing advice I ever got was from a screenwriting teacher: finish it. You can’t even begin to make something work until the rewriting starts. Lots people have good ideas, and can write good sample chapters – but it’s a much smaller number who persevere with the hard slog of draft after draft after draft that might result in a well-written manuscript, and lead to publication. And the other thing is that I think characters and story ideas are more likely to wander into a quiet mind. So, the advice that relates to that is to give yourself some quiet time when you can. (Easier said than done.)

What are you working on now?

The second draft of my third book, Cloudwish.

Enter to Win a hardcover copy of WILDLIFE!  


Giveaway ends 9/21/2014 at midnight EST.


by Fiona Wood
Released 9/16/2014

During a semester in the wilderness, sixteen-year-old Sib expects the tough outdoor education program and the horrors of dorm life, but friendship drama and an unexpected romance with popular Ben Capaldi? That will take some navigating.

New girl Lou has zero interest in fitting in, or joining in. Still reeling from a loss that occurred almost a year ago, she just wants to be left alone. But as she witnesses a betrayal unfolding around Sib and her best friend Holly, Lou can't help but be drawn back into the land of the living.

Fans of Melina Marchetta, Rainbow Rowell, and E. Lockhart will adore this endearing and poignant story of first love, true friendship, and going a little bit wild.

Purchase Wildlife at Amazon
Purchase Wildlife at IndieBound
View Wildlife on Goodreads

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5. Stefanie Gaither, author of FALLS THE SHADOW, explains the importance of playlists and falling in love.

What is your favorite thing about FALLS THE SHADOW?

Besides the fact that it's an actual, real life book that I can now hold in my hands, lol? :) Hmm, I'd have to say it's the relationship between my protagonist, Cate, and her sister's clone, Violet. These two were so explosive anytime they ended up on the page together, and I loved bringing their complicated history and unconventional bond to life.

What was your inspiration for writing this book?

I've always loved science-fiction, and I've always loved stories that center around family, so I wanted to write something that combined the two in what I hope is an intriguing way. 

How long did you work on the book? 

The initial draft took about two and a half months, then after that snagged me an awesome agent, we did a round of revisions that took about a month, and then once we sold it to Simon and Schuster, it went through a few more rounds of edits that took a combined total of about three months. So, six, seven months, all together? Though it felt like a lot longer! And there was plenty of brainstorming in-between edit rounds not included in that, too.

How long or hard was your road to publication? How many books did you write before this one, and how many never got published?

FALLS was my fourth completed book, and it will be my first published. It took me about four years between my first declaration of "I'm going to write a complete novel!" (and actually following through with that!) before I got an agent and then went on to sell FALLS. So, medium length and difficulty? :) I know people who have taken way more time and people who have taken way less time. I like to think it was enough time and rejection for me to build up a thick skin, but not so much time and so many rejections that I ended up going insane (well, not completely at least...) 

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

I usually have to have music, and each of my projects has its own playlist. True story: I can usually tell how serious I am about a book by how many songs I'm adding to its Spotify playlist. When like every song I hear is starting to remind me of a book I'm writing, and I have to add it to said book's playlist, then I know stuff's getting real. 

As for where I write, I have an office space at home, but I'm most productive in coffee shops, far away from my cozy bed and all those seasons of Doctor Who waiting to be re-watched on Netflix. 

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

"Fall in love with as many things as possible." I totally stole that from a pin I saw on Pinterest, but yeah, I sort of love it. Live widely and experience widely, because you never know what random lovely new thing might inspire your writing. And also? Stop comparing your writing journey to others'. Every writer I know does this during weak moments (myself included), but seriously, it's just poison to a writing career. And most of the time you're only seeing the good stuff that's happening to these other authors, so of course their successes look shinier than whatever you're currently slogging through.

Enter to Win a signed hardcover copy of FALLS THE SHADOW!  


Giveaway ends 9/21/2014 at midnight EST.


Falls the Shadow
by Stefanie Gaither
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Released 9/16/2014

When Cate Benson was a kid, her sister, Violet, died. Two hours after the funeral, Cate’s family picked up Violet’s replacement. Like nothing had happened. Because Cate’s parents are among those who decided to give their children a sort of immortality—by cloning them at birth—which means this new Violet has the same smile. The same perfect face. Thanks to advancements in mind-uploading technology, she even has all of the same memories as the girl she replaced.

She also might have murdered the most popular girl in school.

At least, that’s what the paparazzi and the anti-cloning protestors want everyone to think: that clones are violent, unpredictable monsters. Cate is used to hearing all that. She’s used to defending her sister, too. But Violet has vanished, and when Cate sets out to find her, she ends up in the line of fire instead. Because Cate is getting dangerously close to secrets that will rock the foundation of everything she thought was true.

In a thrilling debut, Stefanie Gaither takes readers on a nail-biting ride through a future that looks frighteningly similar to our own time and asks: how far are you willing to go to keep your family together?

Purchase Falls the Shadow at Amazon
Purchase Falls the Shadow at IndieBound
View Falls the Shadow on Goodreads

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6. Gretchen McNeil, author of GET EVEN, wears her 80's influences on her sleeve.

What is your favorite thing about GET EVEN?

I think my favorite thing about the book is the mix of comedy and suspense.  I was definitely influenced by Heathers, a movie that manages to be menacing and hilarious at the same time, and I worked really hard to gain the right balance between the two.  I had so much fun with the humor, especially with some of the secondary characters like Ed the Head and Peanut, and I think it heightens the suspense to have moments of terror juxtaposed against moments of hilarity.

At least, I hope it is!

What was your inspiration for writing this book?

I started off with a revenge plot, kind of like The Count of Monte Cristo set in high school.  But I realized early on that I preferred an A-Team style group of revengers working unselfishly to avenge others.  But I wanted it to have a light tone, in the same way that John Hughes used difficult issues like class struggle and bullying, but in a humorous way.  That's when the pitch solidified in my head: The Breakfast Club with a body count.  And I went from there!

How long did you work on the book? 

I wrote the first draft in about three months, then spent a long time in revisions with my editor.  This book is significantly more complicated than my previous books, and we worked long and hard to get it right!

What are you working on now? 

I just finished the sequel GET DIRTY which will be out in June 2015.  My first series!

Enter to Win a signed hardcover copy of GET EVEN!  


Giveaway ends 9/21/2014 at midnight EST.

Get Even
by Gretchen McNeil
Signed Hardcover Giveaway
Balzer + Bray; Original edition
Released 9/16/2014

The Breakfast Club meets Pretty Little Liars in Gretchen McNeil’s witty and suspenseful novel about four disparate girls who join forces to take revenge on high school bullies and create dangerous enemies for themselves in the process.

Bree, Olivia, Kitty, and Margot have nothing in common—at least that’s what they’d like the students and administrators of their elite private school to think. The girls have different goals, different friends, and different lives, but they share one very big secret: They’re all members of Don’t Get Mad, a secret society that anonymously takes revenge on the school’s bullies, mean girls, and tyrannical teachers.

When their latest target ends up dead with a blood-soaked “DGM” card in his hands, the girls realize that they’re not as anonymous as they thought—and that someone now wants revenge on them. Soon the clues are piling up, the police are closing in . . . and everyone has something to lose.

Purchase Get Even at Amazon
Purchase Get Even at IndieBound
View Get Even on Goodreads


Gretchen McNeil is an opera singer, writer and clown. Her YA horror POSSESS about a teen exorcist debuted with Balzer + Bray for HarperCollins in 2011. Her follow up TEN – YA horror/suspense about ten teens trapped on a remote island with a serial killer – was a 2013 YALSA Top Ten Quick Pick for Reluctant Young Adult Readers, a Romantic Times Top Pick, a Booklist Top Ten Horror Fiction for Youth, a finalist for the 2015 Evergreen Young Adult Book Award, and was nominated for "Best Young Adult Contemporary Novel of 2012" by Romantic Times. Gretchen's 2013 release is 3:59, a sci-fi doppelganger horror about two girls who are the same girl in parallel dimensions who decide to switch places. Gretchen's novels have been optioned by Hollywood production companies, and have sold internationally in Chinese, Spanish, and Turkish.

In 2014, Gretchen debuts her first series, Don't Get Mad (pitched as "John Hughes with a body count") about four very different girls who form a secret society where they get revenge on bullies and mean girls at their elite prep school. The Don't Get Mad series begins September 16, 2014 with GET EVEN, followed by the sequel GET DIRTY in the summer of 2015, also with Balzer + Bray. In addition, Gretchen has contributed an essay to the Dear Teen Me anthology from Zest Books.

Gretchen is a former coloratura soprano, the voice of Mary on G4's Code Monkeys and she sings with the LA-based circus troupe Cirque Berzerk. Gretchen blogs with The Enchanted Inkpot and was a founding member of the vlog group the YARebels. She is repped by Ginger Clark of Curtis Brown, Ltd.

You can find Gretchen on Twitter, Facebook, and on her blog.

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7. Spotlight and Giveaway: The Rake’s Handbook (Including Field Guide) by Sally Orr

The Rake’s Handbook sounds like a cute read!  Check out the excerpt and enter the giveaway below!

The Rake’s Handbook (Including Field Guide) by Sally Orr (Historical Romance; The Rake’s Handbook, Book 1; ISBN: 9781492602118)


The definitive guide to seduction…

The Rake’s Handbook was written on a dare, and soon took the ton by storm. Now its author, Ross Thornbury, is publicly reviled by the ladies—who are, of course, forbidden to read the handbook—but privately revered by the gentlemen. Unfortunately, Ross’s notoriety is working against him and he flees London painfully aware of the shortcomings of his own jaded heart.

Spirited young widow Elinor Colton lives next to Ross’s country estate. She’s appalled not only by his rakish reputation, but also by his progressive industrial plans. Elinor is sure she is immune to Ross’s seductive ways. But he keeps coming around…impressing her with his vision for England’s future and stunning her with his smiles.

How does one resist the man who wrote the manual on love?

About the Author:

Sally Orr worked for thirty years in medical research, specializing in the discovery of gene function. After joining an English history message board, she posted many, many examples of absolute tomfoolery. As a result, a cyber-friend challenged her to write a novel. Since she is a hopeless Anglophile, it’s not surprising that her first book is a Regency romance. Sally lives with her husband in San Diego, surrounded by too many nerdy books and not enough old English cars. 

Social Media:

Website | @OrrSally | Facebook | Goodreads


Amazon | Barnes & Noble | BAM | !ndigo | IndieBound | iBooks



“You really are a rake,” she whispered, the sight and feel of their joined hands warming her cheeks. “A proper gentleman would never hold a lady thus. I have been warned about your charms. Perhaps I too should write everything down. Pen a handbook to instruct my widowed sisters what to expect upon attempted seduction and how to fight it.”

“Factual or satirical?”

She bit her lower lip to stop an indelicate reply.

“I could write that handbook too.”

His boast made her smile. “I seem to have found another trait of a rake.”

“Humph. I’d be delighted to show you all of my traits. Perhaps start with chapter one?” The determination in his voice indicated he was quite willing to comply.

“Please do, sir,” she replied in a facetious tone, tugging her hand free. “But I can already tell that I’ll stop reading your book after the table of contents. You know, all of those funny pages in the front of the book numbered v and i.”

He chuckled softly, then stared at her until he captured her gaze. “My handbook starts with fine eyes.” He reached up and swept back a ringlet that had fallen over her eye and carefully tucked the curl under her bonnet.

Her heartbeat raced.

“The eyes are followed by a notable vee.” His gaze lowered to the upper edge of her bodice and lingered in the center.

“Oh my, if that’s the table of contents, I don’t dare read chapter one.”

“I’d be pleased to read you all of the chapters. There are a total of . . .” He glanced at her leisurely, from the top of her leghorn bonnet down to her sensible half boots. His focus returned up to her neck—almost. His chest broadened as he inhaled. “Ten.”


He gave her a smoldering look from under heavy lashes. “Ten in volume one,” he continued in a silky baritone. “Let’s start with chapter one.” He leaned forward slowly, staring at her mouth, as if he might take liberties and kiss her. The distance between them shortened to inches. Close enough to feel his warm breath.


a Rafflecopter giveaway

The post Spotlight and Giveaway: The Rake’s Handbook (Including Field Guide) by Sally Orr appeared first on Manga Maniac Cafe.

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8. Wild Things! Review and a Giveaway

I enjoyed this book as a fan of children's literature, but it is also a valuable resource to teachers of literacy.

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9. My tweets

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10. Fantasy League, by Mike Lupica | Book Spotlight

Twelve-year-old Charlie is a fantasy football guru. He may be just a bench warmer for his school's football team, but when it comes to knowing and loving the game, he's first-string.

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11. Knockout Knits


Knockout Knits by Laura Nelkin

ISBN 10: 038534578X
ISBN 13: 978-0385345781

Publication date: 2 September 2014 by Potter Craft

Category: Adult nonfiction

Keywords: Knitting, crafts

Format: Paperback, ebook

Source: Finished paperback copy from publisher

 You guys! This book! I can't contain myself. I can't even right now. It's SO good. 

You have to understand, I love cables. I love lace. I love dropped and elongated stitches. I love twists and wraps... and they're all in here. 

It has not one, but two--TWO!--tams. My favorite kind of hat to knit. 

I even learned something new after 13 years of knitting. I'd never heard of a life line before, but now it makes total sense to string a piece of thread through your work at intervals so that if you have to rip out a few rows, you won't lose too much ground.

There is also a great but somewhat scary section on beading. But don't worry, the book reassures me, "All these designs will be beautiful without beads!" So I can maybe attempt the Laden Cowl without before trying my hand at beading.


Laura Nelkin's book of accessories has everything I look for in a knitting book. Gorgeous photography shows off the designs, almost all of which are something I would not only make for myself (no gifts! all mine!) but also look fun and interesting to knit. it's well-organized and easy to read. It offers helpful information about choosing yarn fibers and colors for each project, and the looks are very modern and wearable. I think the techniques in this book will definitely flex my lace and cable muscles. I can barely believe this is her debut book, though I do recognize her style (my friend Stephanie teaches the Mudra Cuff in one of her Knitting University classes).

I'm not a huge fan of knitted jewelry, but I can definitely see myself knocking out a few of the cuffs and bracelets for holiday gifts. Ditto the tams and the great Folly Cloche (which reminds me of something the fabulous Miss Fisher would wear).

The fabulous Miss Phryne Fisher

The fabulous Miss Phryne Fisher

For more photos from the book, go to nelkindesigns.com

For more photos from the book, go to nelkindesigns.com

For myself, the Laden Cowl and Las Cruces Shawl are high up on my list to cast on. Really, the only project I don't ever see myself making are the Bootsy Boot Toppers (only because I am not a boot-wearer, and not anything to do with the pattern itself).

I would definitely recommend Knockout Knits to an intermediate knitter who knows how to read a pattern and has the basics down pat, maybe someone who is a little bored with the same-old same-old drill. You have to be willing to drop and pick up stitches, a scary trick for a beginning knitter who isn't yet comfortable with tensioning and pattern repeats. 

I received this book for free from Blogging for Books for review purposes.

For photos of the projects, visit nelkindesigns.com.

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12. Top Ten Finalists in the Pitch Plus Five Contest!

I'm sure the last couple of weeks have been stressful for our top 25 finalists! I want you all to remember that if you didn't get in to the top ten that doesn't mean you should quit. Far from it. You should be thrilled and give yourselves a pat on the back for doing so well! It was close for a lot of people, but there were in the end, a clear top ten.


According to our esteemed author judges the ten that will go on to our agent round (in no particular order) are:

  1. The Lost Pearls of Indarnini
  2. The Apothecary of Forbidden Clocks
  3. Twice Dead
  4. Timekeeper
  5. The Troll Diaries
  6. Mash Up
  7. The Blood Rose Rebellion
  8. Noble Virtues
  9. The Past Life of Jase Byrn
  10. Phoenix Rising
Congratulations to our winners!! Please send your revised pitch (remember only the pitch part) and first five pages by midnight EST tomorrow, so that we can post them for our Agent Round on Monday.

Good luck!

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13. Knittin’ Purl


This is Purl | I am beginning to explore what she will look like.

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14. Dark Horse: Alley Oop: The Complete Sundays Volume 2, 1936-1938 HC

Writer/Artist/cover artist  V. T. Hamlin
Full Colour
128 pages
HC, 12” x 16”
Genre: Humor, Fantasy, Action/Adventure
Publication Date:
September 03, 2014

ISBN- 13: 978-1-61655-465-1
Price: $75.00
You can save 10% so the book costs $67.50 by ordering online here:

Presenting the second in a series that collects, in chronological order, all the full color Sunday pages of the classic newspaper strip! Go back in time to the prehistoric kingdom of Moo, and follow the strange, hilarious and outlandish Stone Age antics of V. T. Hamlin’s intrepid caveman, Alley Oop! This oversized volume collects every Alley OopSunday strip from 1936 through 1938!

* After over ninety years, Alley Oop is still in publication!

* The strip has been commemorated in a hit song, a comics award statue, and a US postage stamp!

Whoah! This really is a bigbook and the production on it is superb. Being British I never saw Alley Oop, barring the odd glimpse of a US Army newspaper while in Germany as a kid.  Of course, the song “Alley Oop!” by the Hollywood Argylles is a classic of the Rock ‘n’ Roll era…though thinking through my senility I think I may have mentioned that while reviewing volume 1!


This is not a super hero book and for that reason, no doubt, some are going to ask “why” they should be interested.  Well, if that’s what you are asking right now please leave.


As I’ve noted, I never saw these Alley Oop strips though, after my review of volume 1, I did ask a couple of people I know who are true comickers and collect newspaper strips.  They scanned (without cleaning up) pages for me so that I could see the quality of the source as it were.  Oh boy, grubby (we’re talking 1930s newsprint) and very –VERY- “brittle” I was told.  The pages were, coincidentally, the same as some of those reproduced in this book.  What a difference –crisp and clean!


The problem is that if you are a pop culture collector or just a newspaper strip collector getting hold of original samples is going to cost you a lot of money! If you are a comic fan/collector the same applies.  What the Dark Horse team has done is gather all the parts of the strip, cleaned them to a near new quality and put them in a big volume that ought to take pride of place in any collection.  Added to the first volume this has already become indispensible to comic culture historians and $75.00 comes to around £46.00 so it might seem a bit pricy but look at what you get!


Adding an extra shelf with the space to put these is at your own expense –you can argue with your wife or mum about where the shelf can go!


I’d highly recommend this (and volume 1) to any collector.

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15. Sherry Thomas, author of THE PERILOUS SEA, on running with no memory.

What was your inspiration for writing this book?

I've always wanted the middle book of the Elemental trilogy to have a sort of The Bourne Identity feel, i.e., protagonist with no memory, not sure why he is being chased, except that I want it to be the girl who is being chased.

What are you working on now?

Book 3 of the Elemental trilogy, for which I am going for a Return of the King vibe--but probably only in my head. 


The Perilous Sea
by Sherry Thomas
Balzer + Bray
Released 9/16/2014

From acclaimed author Sherry Thomas comes the striking sequel to The Burning Sky, book two in the Elemental Trilogy, for fans of Cinda Williams Chima, Rae Carson, and Kristin Cashore.

After spending the summer away from each other, Titus and Iolanthe (still disguised as Archer Fairfax) are eager to return to Eton College to resume their training to fight the Bane. Although no longer bound to Titus by a blood oath, Iolanthe is more committed than ever to fulfilling her destiny—especially with the agents of Atlantis quickly closing in.

Soon after arriving at school, though, Titus makes a shocking discovery, one that makes him question everything he previously believed about their mission. Faced with this devastating realization, Iolanthe is forced to come to terms with her new role, while Titus must choose between following his mother's prophecies—and forging a divergent path to an unknowable future.

Sherry Thomas brings her trademark blend of dazzling magic, heartbreaking romance, and exciting action in this striking sequel to The Burning Sky.

Purchase The Perilous Sea at Amazon
Purchase The Perilous Sea at IndieBound
View The Perilous Sea on Goodreads


Sherry Thomas writes both historical romance and young adult fantasy.

On the romance side, she is one of the most acclaimed authors working in the genre today, her books regularly receiving starred reviews and best-of-the-year honors from trade publications. She is also a two-time winner of Romance Writers of America’s prestigious RITA® Award.

On the young adult fantasy side, there isn't much to say yet, as her debut book is not scheduled for publication until September 2013.

Sherry writes in her second language. She learned English by reading lots of romance and science fiction--every word Isaac Asimov ever wrote, in fact. She is proud to say that her son is her biggest fanboy--for the YA fantasy, not the romances. At least, not yet...

"Sherry Thomas is the most powerfully original historical romance author writing today."Lisa Kleypas, New York Times bestselling author

“Thomas weaves a lush, intricate fantasy world around a gorgeous romance that kept me riveted until the very last page. What a breathtaking journey!” (Marie Lu, New York Times bestselling author of the Legend series )

Visit Sherry at her website

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16. Amazing Progress

I was really touched and impressed by a letter I received a couple days ago from blog reader Edward Morris, who was kind enough to allow me to share it with you. He says:

Edward Morris, before and after

"I discovered you a few years ago while reading an article in an art magazine about the color of the sky that you penned. I wound up buying your book Color and Light. When I started reading your blog two years ago, I discovered sketching. I tracked down your book you coauthored many years ago and learned that sketching is really more than just sketching!"
 "Since then, I have found that the more I sketch, the better my paintings get. But, I also found that my volume of finished paintings also went way up...go figure. Thought you might like to see a "before" 2012 sketch compared to the sketches I do now. For the past 6 months, I usually work from sketches now for my studio work which seems to be more painterly and artistic to me. All of this is due to your blog and books. I recently branched out into color as well for my sketches."
"I look forward to my daily dose of you everyday to see what's on your mind. Thanks again, Ed."

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17. Figure Friday -

After our summer hiatus, life drawing has started up again.
Trying to get the rust scraped off my creaky brain and hand....

Long-pose day today. In 20 minute segments...

So, this is where I got... Not too horrific, but will certainly look forward to ramping back up again.

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18. Victoria Strauss, author of COLOR SONG, discusses fascinating old maps and ingenious young women.

What is your favorite thing about COLOR SONG?

Without a doubt, being able to set a novel in 15th century Venice. I visited Venice just once, but it made an indelible impression on me (as it has on so many people) and it was wonderful to become a time traveler for a little while, and imagine the glorious city as my heroine, Giulia, would have experienced it.

Researching COLOR SONG was so much fun--there are so many wonderful resources, including an amazing (and huge) map of the city created in 1500, which shows every street, square, canal, and building in Venice, and is so detailed that you can count the windows of the houses and see the wellheads in the squares. It was invaluable in helping me and Giulia find our way around. Giulia's experiences also reflect my own memories of Venice--from the magnificent yet crumbling palazzos, to the bustle of the Rialto, to the maze of squares and alleyways and canals in which it's incredibly easy to get completely lost. I'd love to set another book there some day.

What was your inspiration for writing this book?

I wanted to continue Giulia's story (begun in PASSION BLUE), and show how it might be authentically possible, even within the narrow conventions of 15th century Italy, for a woman of talent to transcend strict gender roles and follow her passion. I'm also fascinated by stories of women who disguise themselves as men (such as the surprisingly large number of women who fought as men during the Civil War), and COLOR SONG gave me the chance to incorporate that interest into a book.

How long did you work on the book?

Including research, about a year and a half.

How long or hard was your road to publication? How many books did you write before this one, and how many never got published?

COLOR SONG is my ninth published book. I've lucky in that I've never completed a book that hasn't been published (though I've started and abandoned several).

It took me a very long time to sell my first novel, a YA historical called THE LADY OF RHUDDESMERE. I wrote it when I was 17, during a year off between high school and college, and queried sporadically over the next few years without success (my query letter was really awful; that may have had something to do with it!). By sheer luck, my manuscript landed on the desk of an editor who was in the process of switching careers to become an agent, and she took me on as one of her first clients. Initially she wasn't any more successful than I had been, but she never gave up, and six years after she took me on--and nearly ten years after I wrote the novel--LADY was finally published (in much-revised form).

I'm still with the agency, and LADY, which has been out of print for many years, is about to be be re-published.

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

My writing ritual mainly consists of procrastinating until guilt forces me to my computer...But seriously, I start work in the morning, take a break for lunch and exercise, and continue until dinner. I work at my laptop in the dining room (my office, with its reminders of bills to be paid and emails to be answered, is too distracting) and I use a little program called Freedom that shuts off the Internet for whatever amount of time I plan to be writing. I prefer silence--music is also too distracting--and solitude, except for my two cats, who love to help me by lying on my keyboard.

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

Educate yourself! Take the time to learn about publishing and self-publishing before you take steps to get your work published. There are so many pitfalls for writers--writing scams, unqualified editors and literary agents, amateur publishers, bad contracts. The more you know, the better you'll be able to protect yourself, and the better decisions you'll be able to make.

What are you working on now?

For the past few months I really haven't been working on anything--there's an illness in my family and it's taking up a lot of my time and energy. But I'm trying to carve out space to plan another YA project, including doing preliminary research. I have two ideas in mind--now I just have to choose!

Enter to win a signed copy of COLOR SONG and PASSION BLUE!


Giveaway ends on 9/22/2014 at midnight EST.


Color Song
by Victoria Strauss
Released 9/16/2014

By the author of the acclaimed "Passion Blue," a "Kirkus Reviews" Best Teen Book of 2012 and "a rare, rewarding, sumptuous exploration of artistic passion," comes a fascinating companion novel.

Artistically brilliant, Giulia is blessed?or cursed?with a spirit's gift: she can hear the mysterious singing of the colors as she creates them in the convent workshop of Maestra Humilit?. It's here that Giulia, forced into the convent against her will, has found unexpected happiness and rekindled her passion to become a painter?an impossible dream for any woman in 15th century Italy.

But when a dying Humilit? bequeaths Giulia her most prized possession?the secret formula for the luminously beautiful paint called Passion blue?Giulia realizes she's in danger from those who have long coveted the famous color. Faced with the prospect of a life in the convent barred from painting as punishment for keeping Humilit s secret, Giulia is struck by a desperate idea: What if she disguises herself as a boy? Could she make her way to Venice and find work as an artist's apprentice?

Along with the truth of who she is, Giulia carries more dangerous secrets: the exquisite voices of her paint colors and the formula for Humilit s Passion blue. And Venice, she discovers, with its gilded palazzos and masked balls, has secrets of its own. Trapped in her false identity in this dream-like place where reality and reflection are easily confused, and where art and ambition, love and deception hover like dense fog, can Giulia find her way?

This stunning, compelling novel explores timeless themes of love and illusion, gender and identity as it asks the question: what does it mean to risk everything to pursue your passion?

Purchase Color Song at Amazon
Purchase Color Song at IndieBound
View Color Song on Goodreads


I'm the author of nine novels for adults and young adults, including the Stone duology ("The Arm of the Stone" and "The Garden of the Stone"); the Way of Arata duology ("The Burning Land" and "The Awakened City"); and "Passion Blue" and "Color Song," a pair of historical novels for teens. I've reviewed books for SF Site, Black Gate, and Fantasy magazine, and my articles on writing and how to get published have appeared in Writer’s Digest and elsewhere. In 2006, I served as a judge for the World Fantasy Awards.

I'm an active member of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA), and co-founder, with Ann Crispin, of Writer Beware, a publishing industry watchdog group that warns about literary schemes and scams. I maintain the Writer Beware website, blog, and Facebook pages, and I was honored with the SFWA Service Award in 2009.

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19. Prix Médicis longlists

       They've announced the longlists for the prix Médicis -- interesting because they also have a foreign-fiction category. Among the titles to make the best foreign book longlist were the ubiquitous Evie Wyld's, Vladimir Lorchenkov's The Good Life Elsewhere, and Mohsin Hamid's How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia.
       Among the authors placing books on the French longlist are Antoine Volodine and Christine Montalbetti.

       (I will also take this opportunity to note yet again how horrific the French-prize sites (or closest approximations thereto) are. For years one could at least rely on the invaluable Prix-littéraires.net for all necessary French literary prize information, so it didn't matter what the official and quasi-official sites looked like, but since that site is no longer being updated the situation has gotten near-hopeless. Get your acts together, folks !)

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20. What Charlotte Did - Joan Lennon

I've just finished reading a wonderful blog by Penny Dolan over on The History Girls, about a series of connections that lead her from a randomly-chosen book from her shelves, right through a whole string of 19th century names, fictional characters and relationships, all linked by a wooden-legged chap called W.E. Henley.  Which made me think of Charlotte Bronte.  Recently, she's been my W.E. Henley. 

It started with a Facebook post - which sent me to the Harvard Library online site where they have been working on restoring the tiny books Charlotte and Branwell Bronte made when they were children - which led to my own History Girl post Tiny Bronte Books.  (Please, if you go to have a look, scroll down to the bottom and watch the Brontesaurus video - you won't regret it.)

I'm in the midst of editing an anthology of East Perthshire writers called Place Settings and was delighted to read in one of the entries the author's interest in the Brontes, and how "... every night, the sisters paraded round the table reading aloud from their day's writings."

Then I got involved in a project run by 26, the writers' collective, in which writers were paired with design studios taking part in this year's London Design Show, and asked to write a response to one of their objects.  I was given Dare Studio who were putting forward, among other lovely things, a new design - the Bronte Alcove.

The alcove is meant to be a private space within public places, blocking out the surrounding bustle and noise.  Which made me think of bonnets.  Which led me back to the internet, which led me, by way of images of hats, to the passage below, written by Elizabeth Gaskell on her visit to Charlotte at the parsonage:

I asked her whether she had ever taken opium, as the description given of its effects in Villette was so exactly like what I had experienced, - vivid and exaggerated presence of objects, of which the outlines were indistinct, or lost in golden mist, etc. She replied, that she had never, to her knowledge, taken a grain of it in any shape, but that she had followed the process she always adopted when she had to describe anything which had not fallen within her own experience; she had thought intently on it for many and many a night before falling to sleep, - wondering what it was like, or how it would be, - till at length, sometimes after the progress of her story had been arrested at this one point for weeks, she wakened up in the morning with all clear before her, as if she had in reality gone through the experience, and then could describe it, word for word, as it had happened. I cannot account for this psychologically; I only am sure that it was so, because she said it.

Which led me to wonder ... my own practice has always been to try not to think about work when I'm courting sleep.  And I have rarely, if ever walked round my table of an evening, reading aloud from my day's work.  But have I been losing out here?  Do you do as Charlotte did?  I would be most interested to know.

Meantime, I wait for the next popping up of my very own W.E. Henley.

Joan Lennon's website.
Joan Lennon's blog.

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21. Pig Smile – Drawing A Day

A Pig character with a Big Smile. His body color is different than his head. He looks like he’s wearing some sort of clothes. The detail in the eyes were fun to do. Drew naturally with my custom brush, color blocked it, added shading, then added texture. Drawn on Corel Painter X3 with custom brush […]

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Have you been on the fence about whether or not you're interested in KidlitCon? Have plans changed for you, but you thought you'd run out of time? You're in luck: we've been able to extend registration for one more week. The Citizen Hotel has... Read the rest of this post

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23. Frog Smile – Drawing A Day

While on the topic of non kosher animals. Here’s a blue frog.  There is a fat green frog at the Aquarium of the Pacific that I based this off of.  Speaking of which: Near the Aquarium at Shoreline Village there is a Pirate Festival. My wife and kids are going there with some moms. Yes. […]

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24. Caragh M. O'brien, author of THE VAULT OF DREAMERS, on writing what fascinates you and 13 drafts!

What is your favorite thing about THE VAULT OF DREAMERS?

My favorite thing about The Vault of Dreamers is likely to be its most controversial aspect, too, and that’s the ending. I can’t explain it without spoilers, but I can say that Rosie’s story is really a novel of ideas. The characters are artists at an arts school where creativity is highly prized, and they are urged to take risks and experiment. To be true to that premise, I felt that I needed to take risks, too, and since my art form is the novel, I played with the book itself. I wrote what fascinated me, even when that involved exploring unknown dimensions, and it became intense. So, my favorite thing is the last chapter. It’s the perfect ending for this particular book.

How long did you work on the book?

It’s hard to say exactly how long I worked on The Vault of Dreamers because I had interruptions to the process while my first editor was on a leave of absence, and then later I started working with a second editor when my first editor left Roaring Brook.  These kinds of shifts are part of the business, so we made it work, and I definitely benefited from having input from two great editors, Nancy Mercado and Kate Jacobs.  Altogether, I’d say it took me about a year and a half to write this novel.  It went through 13 drafts.

How long or hard was your road to publication? How many books did you write before this one, and how many never got published?

My road to publication was initially quite short because I published a romance novel soon after I finished college, but then it took me another decade to publish again, and still another decade before I published Birthmarked, which was the beginning of my YA writing work.  I honestly can’t count how many novels are in my attic.  Half a dozen?  I’ve always written, even when I’ve had other work or when I’ve been discouraged.  I would have stopped if I possibly could have, to be honest, but I kept returning to it.  When writing becomes a version of being alive, a state unlike anything else, a person craves it.

Enter to Win a hardcover copy of THE VAULT OF DREAMERS!  


Giveaway ends 9/21/2014 at midnight EST.


The Vault of Dreamers
by Caragh M. O'Brien
Roaring Brook Press
Released 9/16/2014

From the author of the Birthmarked trilogy comes a fast-paced, psychologically thrilling novel about what happens when your dreams are not your own.

The Forge School is the most prestigious arts school in the country. The secret to its success:  every moment of the students' lives is televised as part of the insanely popular Forge Show, and the students' schedule includes twelve hours of induced sleep meant to enhance creativity. But when first year student Rosie Sinclair skips her sleeping pill, she discovers there is something off about Forge. In fact, she suspects that there are sinister things going on deep below the reaches of the cameras in the school. What's worse is, she starts to notice that the edges of her consciousness do not feel quite right. And soon, she unearths the ghastly secret that the Forge School is hiding—and what it truly means to dream there.

Purchase The Vault of Dreamers at Amazon
Purchase The Vault of Dreamers at IndieBound
View The Vault of Dreamers on Goodreads

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25. Royal Society Winton Prize for Science Books shortlist

       They've announced the shortlist for this year's Royal Society Winton Prize for Science Books -- looks like interesting stuff (and I hope to get around to reviewing the Philip Ball).
       The winner will be announced 10 November.

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