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1. Teaser Tuesday: Release Me by Ann Marie Walker and Amy K Rogers

Chasing Fire #2
Ann Marie Walker & Amy K. Rogers
Releasing July 21st, 2015

The second in the “seriously sexy and sinfully steamy”* Chasing Fire series, about a pain too deep to forgive and a passion too hot to forget…

Alessandra Sinclair knows that Hudson Chase is the last man she should want. The boy from the wrong side of the tracks has grown into a man who would do anything to get ahead, even if it means breaking Allie’s heart. But whenever she’s near him, the attraction between them is undeniable. And now that they’re working together, keeping her distance from Hudson is almost as impossible as keeping her feelings in check…

Hudson already lost Allie once and he refuses to lose her again. He’s determined to use their new business partnership to rekindle the spark he knows is still there. Only the closer he gets to winning her over, the clearer it becomes there are still secrets that could tear them apart for good…

“I hate you,” she whispered. Her words were venom but they lacked conviction. Her hands flattened against his chest and her biceps tensed as if she were going to push him away, but instead her fingers curled around the fine fabric of his suit jacket, holding him in place.

Hudson took a deep breath through his nose. His heart pounded, pumping adrenaline through his body. “You wish you did,” he rasped in her ear, then tugged the lobe between his teeth.

Allie’s head thudded back against the elevator wall. “Bastard,” she breathed.

“I know, baby, I know.”

Though thousands of miles apart, Ann Marie Walker and Amy K. Rogers are in constant contact, plotting story lines and chatting about their love of alpha males, lemon drop martinis and British supermodel, David Gandy. You can find them on twitter as @AnnMarie_Walker and @Amy_KRogers.

Amy K. Rogers
Ann Marie Walker

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2. Spotlight and Giveaway: Making a Comeback by Kristina Mathews

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More Than a Game #3
Kristina Mathews
Releasing July 7th, 2015
Lyrical Press: Shine

With a divorce in the works, Annabelle Jones heads out to Southern California, the land of sun and starting over. She wants to prove to herself and her young daughters that she still has what it takes to turn heads as a swimsuit model—that she doesn’t need a man to take care of her. Until an accident forces her to rely on the hunky, yet mysterious man next door…

Nathan Cooper is trying to revive his own career. Once a top left-handed relief pitcher, he tried to get over a hidden injury with the aid of banned substances. Not only was he caught and suspended, he was traded and missed out on winning the championship. Now he’s a free agent without a contract, and that means life is ready to play ball…

Today was a good day. A glorious day. Sitting at the stoplight in the Southern California sunshine, Annabelle Jones did a drum solo on the steering wheel of her convertible Mercedes. She didn’t care if people stared at her singing along to “Don’t Stop Believing.” She hadn’t stopped believing, and look at her now, fresh off her first modeling job since filing for divorce. So it wasn’t the cover of Sports Illustrated, still, it was a job. Something she could be proud of. Her daughters could be proud of her.

It wasn’t about the money. The income she earned from this modeling job was more about pride. Having something to offer the world, even if it was just her face.

Annabelle wanted to show her daughters that a woman didn’t need a man to take care of her. She could stand on her own two feet, and return to the career she’d given up when she married Clayton Barry. She might not fly off to exotic locations or work with the world’s most famous photographers, but she was working.

She lifted her face to the sun, soaking in its warmth. It was as if the fog of the last few years had finally lifted. Nothing but blue skies ahead for her and her six-year-old twin daughters.

Today’s shoot was just the beginning. Her agent had two more jobs lined up for her before the end of the month. He’d also scheduled her to attend the televised celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue. She hadn’t been able to make the photo shoot last fall in New York for the magazine, but he thought making an appearance on the live show would give her plenty of exposure.

Hopefully, she’d be able to juggle it all. Part of what appealed to her about today’s job was that it was close enough that she’d be able to shoot for a few hours and still get home in time to meet her daughters when they got off the school bus.

Annabelle glanced at the clock. If the light didn’t change soon, she wasn’t going to make it to the bus stop in time.

The song ended and Annabelle turned down the volume. She’d started listening to Journey during the Goliaths’ World Series run. So the song was five years older than she was, the message still rang true. It was about hope. Starting over. Believing.

The traffic light turned green, and she pulled into the intersection. A flash of yellow appeared out of the corner of her eye. She turned in time to see an SUV blow through the stoplight. Before she could react, the vehicle struck her Mercedes just behind the driver’s side door.

Her head slammed into the side window. Glass shattered and she looked down at the blood on her blouse. A thousand black pixels danced before her eyes.

And then nothing.

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Kristina Mathews doesn’t remember a time when she didn’t have a book in her hand. Or in her head. But it wasn’t until she turned forty that she confessed the reason the laundry never made it out of the dryer was because she was busy writing.
While she resigned from teaching with the arrival of her second son, she’s remained an educator in some form. As a volunteer, parent club member or para educator, she finds the most satisfaction working with emergent and developing readers, helping foster confidence and a lifelong love of books.
Kristina lives in Northern California with her husband of more than twenty years, two sons and a black lab. A veteran road tripper, amateur renovator and sports fanatic. She hopes to one day travel all 3,073 miles of Highway 50 from Sacramento, CA to Ocean City, MD, replace her carpet with hardwood floors and serve as a “Ball Dudette” for the San Francisco Giants.


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3. Fare Thee Well

This weekend was the last group performance of the Grateful Dead. My sweet husband offered to get me tickets and fly me out to see it. I said was happy just to drink a toast from home and listen to some tunes and reminisce and something had occurred to me- that time with the Dead as the soundtrack to our lives, that came with a cast of characters- all of whom are strewn across the country/world and some lost. 

That time for us began in the 80's and went through until Jerry Garcia's death and reappeared from time to time with Phil and Friends or other shows, but it was never the same again. That time was a formative one for me. It was all about Joseph Campbell and finding my way- or general direction as it turned out. Without the Dead I don't know if I would have attempted half of the things I have, gone very many places- I don't know if I would have thought it possible to craft this life. Grateful Stephanie. 

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4. Draw Tip Tuesday - Juicy Watercolours!

Welcome to Draw Tip Tuesday!
I’m not sure what the weather is like in your corner of the world, but here in the Netherlands I am enjoying summer. Not just the warm weather, but as a foodie-artist, I love the juicy summer fruit.
So today we’re going to fill a page with some juicy watercolours!


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5. दाने दाने में कैंसर

cartoon cancer by monica gupta

दाने दाने में कैंसर… पान मसाला

तरह तरह के ब्रांड और तरह तरह के स्वाद पर एक बात सभी में समान है और वो है चटखारे ले कर खाने वाले दाने दाने में कैंसर छिपा है.. बेशक विज्ञापन बहुत आकर्षित करते नजर आते हैं, कई बार ऐसा लगता है कि पान मसाला नही खाया तो जिंदगी ही बेकार है … सफलता भी नही मिलेगी.

और उपर से ये टीवी वाले सच पूछो तो मैं इनसे बहुत नाराज हूं … क्यो?? अरे भई .. कैंसर का प्रोग्राम भी दिखाते है और प्रयोजक भी दिखाते है … आधे से ज्यादा विज्ञापन पान मसाले के ही होते हैं अब चाहे अजय देवगण हो, गोविंदा हो , शाहरुख हो ,,, और हम इम्प्रेस हुए जाते हैं.. टीवी हमारी जिंदगी में सीधा असर डालता है इसलिए ऐसे विज्ञापनों को दिखाने पर इन पर केस होना चाहिए… कि ये विज्ञापन हमें भ्रमित कर रहें  है.

सिविल जज सीनियर डिविजन सिद्धार्थ ¨सह ने कहा कि तंबाकू का सेवन स्वास्थ्य के लिए हानिकारक है। तंबाकू के सेवन से लोगों में तेजी से कैंसर जैसी खतरनाक बीमारियां हो रहीं हैं। आज की युवा पीढ़ी में यह लत तेजी से बढ़ता दिख रहा है, जो खतरनाक संकेत है। मुख्य चिकित्साधिकारी डा.अखिलेश कुमार ने कहा कि तंबाकू सेवन से प्रतिवर्ष 8 लाख लोग मौत के शिकार हो रहे हैं। जो चिंताजनक है। सीएमओ ने कहा कि तंबाकू से कई बीमारियां फैलती हैं। खैनी, पान, पान मसाला, सिगरेट आदि का सेवन बेहद खतरनाक है। बढ़ते हृदय रोग का एक प्रमुख कारण तंबाकू ही है। Read more…

No Smoking

– पान मसाला, सिगरेट और तंबाकू महंगा होने के बाद बावजूद कम नहीं हुए नशाखोर

ALLAHABAD: आलोक सिंह एक ऑटोमोबाइल कंपनी में फील्ड ऑफिसर हैं. उनकी सैलरी पंद्रह हजार रुपए है. वह स्मोकिंग करते हैं और रोजाना बीस सिगरेट पी जाते हैं. इस तरह से उनकी एक तिहाई सैलरी हर महीने धुएं में उड़ रही है. यह तो महज एग्जाम्पल है. ऐसे लाखों लोग हैं जो रोजाना तंबाकू, सिगरेट, पान मसाला की लत पर बड़ी रकम खर्च कर देते हैं. जिसकी वजह से शहर में तंबाकू उत्पादों की बिक्री का ग्राफ बढ़ता जा रहा है. सरकार द्वारा वैट टैक्स में बढ़ोतरी किए जाने के बाद उत्पाद महंगे हुए लेकिन बिक्री पर बहुत ज्यादा फर्क नहीं पड़ा.

तंबाकू से होने वाले नुकसान को लेकर सरकार भले ही लोगों को लाख जागरुक करने की कोशिश करे लेकिन नशाखोरी कम होने के बजाय बढ़ रही है. केवल शहर में रोजाना आठ से दस लाख रुपए के तंबाकू, सिगरेट और पान मसाला की बिक्री हो रही है. इनमें सबसे ज्यादा डिमांड सिगरेट की है. कुल बिक्री का आधा हिस्सा स्मोकर्स अदा करते हैं. होल सेलर्स बताते हैं कि तंबाकू उत्पादों के मार्केट में सीमित ब्रांड हैं लेकिन इनकी डिमांड बहुत ज्यादा है.

पहले से ज्यादा बढ़ गया पान-मसाले का क्रेज

हाईकोर्ट के निर्देश पर राज्य सरकार ने प्रदेश में गुटखे की बिक्री पर प्रतिबंध लगा दिया था. कंपनियों ने इस आदेश का पालन करते हुए पान मसाले का प्रोडक्शन शुरू कर दिया लेकिन इसके साथ तंबाकू के पाउच फ्री कर दिए. इससे गुटखा प्रेमियों को ऑप्शन मिल गया. अब वह पान मसाले के साथ पहले से ज्यादा तंबाकू का सेवन कर रहे हैं, जो कि सेहत के लिए बहुत ज्यादा हानिकारक है. कंपनियां तंबाकू के पाउच का पैसा पान-मसाले के जरिए वसूल कर रही हैं.

महंगाई भी कम नहीं कर पाई दीवानगी

सरकार द्वारा चालीस फीसदी वैट टैक्स में बढ़ोतरी किए जाने के बाद पान मसाले और सिगरेट के दाम तेजी से बढ़े हैं लेकिन इससे बिक्री पर ज्यादा फर्क नहीं पड़ा है. लोग अपना नशा पूरा करने के लिए बढ़े हुए दाम देने को भी तैयार हैं. पान मसाले में एक तो सिगरेट में तीन रुपए तक की बढ़ोतरी हुई है, जिससे सरकार का रेवेन्यू भी बढ़ा है. दुकानदार कहते हैं कि महंगाई के चलते कुछ लोगों ने जरूर नशा छोड़ा है लेकिन उससे ज्यादा संख्या उन टीन एजर्स की है जो नशे की लत का शिकार हो रहे हैं.

तंबाकू उत्पाद बेचने वाले कीडगंज के दुकानदार विवेक की मानें तो इस धंधे में ग्राहकों को बुलाना नहीं पड़ता है. वह खुद ब खुद चले आते हैं लेकिन चिंता का सबब है टीन एजर्स का नशे का शिकार होना. वह बताते हैं कि क्फ् से क्7 साल की उम्र के बच्चों में सिगरेट की लत तेजी से बढ़ रही है. अपना स्टेटस सिंबल मेंटेन करने और शोऑफ के चक्कर में वह शौकिया स्मोकिंग करते हैं और धीरे-धीरे एडिक्ट होने लगते हैं. शुरुआत में वह दस से पंद्रह रुपए की महंगी सिगरेट पीते हैं लेकिन नशे का शिकार होने के बाद 7 रुपए वाली सस्ती सिगरेट पीने से भी नहीं हिचकते. inextlive.jagran.com

कुछ समय पहले मेरी सहेली दक्षिण धूमने गई. उसे सुपारी पान मसाले का शौक है. रास्ते मॆं खत्म होने पर सोचा कि वहां मार्किट से ले लेगी. वहां जब पता किया तो पता लगा कि पान मसाला , सुपारी बैन है… वो हसंने लगी क्योकि उसे पता था कि हरियाणा जैसी जगह मे बैन का मतलब क्या होता है पर वहां सही मायने मे पता लगा कि बैन का मतलब बैन बैन ही होता है … काश देश भर की सरकार इसे अमल मे लाए … काश काश …

कुल मिला कर जब तक हम खुद से विचार करके इसे नकार न दे हमें समझ नही आएगी या साफ शब्दों में ये कहॆं कि  अक्ल नही आएगी.. अब ये हमारे उपर है कि विज्ञापन देख कर हमे भ्रमित होना है या …. केसर समझ कर इसे चबाते रहना है …

The post दाने दाने में कैंसर appeared first on Monica Gupta.

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6. NEW FABRICS - fabricworm

Today's posts are all about fabrics and my first port of call was online store Fabricworm to see what was new. The first collection to catch my eye was Glitz Garden (above & below) designed in-house at Michael Miller and released this July. I also loved the Fabricworm snaps of Emily Isabella's 'Happy Town' collection. And from Jill McDonald at Windhams they have snapshots of

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7. More good stories from Lorelei Signals (link)

Check out the fascinating variety of fantasy stories featuring strong female characters in the July-September issue of Lorelei Signalshttp://www.loreleisignal.com/CurrentIssue.html

Here's a quote from Which Witch: "only half-joking that if you threw Antigone to the wolves, she would end up leading the pack back to kick your ass."

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8. Photos

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9. Summer Reading Club Check In

Here at my library, we are just about halfway through the summer (hooray!), so I thought it might be a good time to check in and see how Summer Reading is going for everyone.

Our reading program is going like gangbusters with about 1500 kids (plus about 300 in the Daycare Summer Reading Club) registered and lots of finishers coming in (we typically end up with about 2000 kids signed up by the end of the summer). This year, we’re able to give out a FREE BOOK to every finisher, which feels awesome (we typically have about 1000 finishers).

Another big hit has been the Fine Bucks we’re giving out to children and teens. Each SRC finisher gets 10 fine bucks, which can be used to pay fines on late or lost books on children’s or teen cards. I really love any way we can get kids’ cards clear and allow them to check out books. Parents love that our Fine Bucks don’t expire, so they can save them for when they might need them.

Photo by Abby Johnson

Photo by Abby Johnson

My staff and I have been reading, too! We’re slowly filling up our staff “reading log”, which is posted at our Children’s Reference Desk to (we hope!) inspire families to join us in reading all summer long.

Our programs have been going strong, with huge turnouts for our large performers this summer. Because we had such a HUGE increase in our outreach to schools this past school year, we took a little step back from summer programming. Families are still coming in and using their library and checking out tons of books!

It’s almost time to begin the countdown to the new school year. Our schools are changing to more of a year-round schedule and most of our schools start back on July 29!

How’s summer at YOUR library?

— Abby Johnson, Youth Services Manager
New Albany-Floyd County Public Library
New Albany, IN

The post Summer Reading Club Check In appeared first on ALSC Blog.

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10. Caine Prize

       They announced the winner of the Caine Prize yesterday -- not at the official site yet, last I checked, but see, for example, the report at the Books Live weblog -- and the prize whose: 'focus is on the short story, reflecting the contemporary development of the African story-telling tradition' went to The Sack (warning ! dreaded pdf format !) by Berkeley-professor Namwali Serpell (see her faculty page).

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11. Joe Cepeda interviewed by Don Tate: The #LA15SCBWI Pre-Conference Interview

Another great in-depth interview between SCBWI Team Blog's Don Tate and awesome illustrator Joe Cepeda for you at Don's blog here.

They talk about philosophy, diversity, portfolios, so much more. Joe also shares about his breakout workshop at the conference, "Style Versus Voice: An Illustrator’s View."

The 2015 SCBWI Summer Conference is fast approaching! We hope you'll join us.

Registration and details here.

Illustrate and Write On,

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12. Jeremy Phillips speaks to the Oxford Law Vox

In the second of Oxford’s new series of Law Vox podcasts, Jeremy Phillips, editor of Journal of Intellectual Property Law & Practice, describes how the field of intellectual property law looked when he started his illustrious intellectual property law career. Jeremy’s conversation with Law Vox also addresses how intellectual property evolved and grew to encompass many different features. He uses the analogy of Tracey Emin’s bed to explain how intellectual property touches many aspects of our lives without us consciously realising it.

The post Jeremy Phillips speaks to the Oxford Law Vox appeared first on OUPblog.

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13. Top Ten Hyped Books I've Never Read...

From Becs Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke & The Bookish.  This week's topic is Top Ten Hyped Books I've Never Read, which actually wasn't too hard for me, because I honestly have so many books in my TBR (er...on my TBR SHELVES) that I just had to glance at them as I was writing. I don't know if these books are hyped a lot. It feels like they are. I consider hyped to be...what it

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14. FABRICS - tamara kate

And finally today another new Michael Miller collection - The Birds and the Bees by Tamara Kate is a nature themed series of prints featuring bold shapes and bright up. There are two colour groups available for this fun range which was inspired by a ceramic bird ornament Chilean artist Pablo Zabal owned by Tamara's mother. Tamara has also designed a  holiday collection for

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15. A tiny instrument with a tremendous history: the piccolo

Although often overlooked, the piccolo is an important part of the woodwind instrument family. This high-pitched petite woodwind packs a huge punch. Historically, the piccolo had no keys and was an instrument of its own kind.

The post A tiny instrument with a tremendous history: the piccolo appeared first on OUPblog.

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16. Random Item Personality Quiz

Soo random!What random item are you?

  1. It’s the weekend! You’re most looking forward to . . . a) playing kickball with your besties in the park. b) hanging out with your dog. c) putting together an art project like a scrapbook or mural. d) spending quality time on the sofa, reading books and catching up on your favorite movies. e) volunteering!
  2. Your favorite song is . . . a) a catchy pop tune. b) a chill electronic track. c) very rock n’ roll! d) a beautiful ballad. e) at least 20 years old.
  3. You dream of living . . . a) in a fun, funky town. b) by the beach. c) in a tree house. d) on a beautiful farm. e) in an exciting city.
  4. You prefer to drink . . . a) water. b) fruit juice. c) chocolate milk. d) soda. e) tea.
  5. Your favorite kind of cupcake is . . . a) red velvet. b) birthday cake with sprinkles. c) chocolate. d) carrot cake. e) cupcakes aren’t really your thing.
  6. Your favorite book to read at the beach is something . . . a) mysterious but fun. b) super-silly. c) fantastical! d) that you’ve read before and loved. e) non-fiction.
  7. Your dream job would involve . . . a) traveling the world and helping people in need. b) working with animals. c) designing awesome things. d) making music. e) holding an important government position.
  8. You consider yourself a person who likes to . . . a) be prepared for any possible situation. b) go with the flow. c) keep track of important people and dates at all times. d) consider other people’s feelings first. e) take control of situations as a leader.
  9. You prefer to . . . a) hang out in large groups of people, strangers and close friends included. b) hang out with your close friends, but sometimes make new ones. c) hang out with just your close friends. You’re picky about company! d) hang out with whoever’s around. e) constantly make new friends.
  10. For your birthday, you would like to . . . a) go bowling. b) go to a theme park! c) have a sleepover party. d) have an awesome birthday dinner. e) go on a trip to a foreign city.

If you picked mostly A’s, you are a rubber band ball.
Rubber band balls are so underrated! Who doesn’t need rubber bands? From tying hair up to opening tricky jar lids, rubber bands do it all. As do you, bouncy friend! You’re upbeat, a team player, and always willing to help out someone in need. You’ve got so much energy and you can’t wait to use it in fun, productive ways. Yay for rubber bands!

If you picked mostly B’s, you are a pocket dollar.
What’s a pocket dollar, you ask? Why, only the most AWESOME SURPRISE EVER! Finding an unexpected dollar in your pants pocket is the most amazing feeling ever. Like the pocket dollar, you brighten everyone’s day, and help people find joy in the little– and big — things in life. You’re like a billion golden rays of the warmest sunshine, pocket dollar! Keep on shining!

If you picked mostly C’s, you are an old movie ticket.
“Wait . . . a stubby, old ticket? How is that awesome at all?!” Don’t fret, my friend. Old movie tickets are great reminders of the day we went to the movies. Did you go with your best friend, or a new one? Was it a rainy day? What did you do before and after? Whether it was a special day or a regular one, movie tickets have a strange way of making us remember all sorts of little details. You, old movie ticket, have a stellar memory. You never forget a birthday, you always remember everyone’s favorite ice cream flavors. Oh, old movie ticket, you represent the awesome memories! What would your friends do without you?

If you picked mostly D’s, you are an empty shoe box.
The empty shoe box may seem kind of useless, but just wait until it’s time to find a spot to store your seashell collection/lip balm library/pen pal letters. The shoebox is the perfect storage solution! And so are you. Like the empty shoebox, you’re super-versatile, and you’re also super-low-key. You bring out the best in the people around you by being calm, collected, and pleasant always. Don’t underestimate your value, empty shoebox!

If you picked mostly E’s, you are a safety pin.
There is no emergency you cannot handle. You are everyone’s personal cheerleader and speedy problem solver. You take the lead in every situation because you know that you make the best leader. You are always lively and willing to help, and your heart is always in the right place, safety pin!

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17. Spotlight and Giveaway: Chasing Jillian by Julie Brannagh


This morning I have a spotlight and giveaway for Chasing Jillian.

Chasing Jillian
Love and Football # 5

By: Julie Brannagh

Releasing July 7, 2015

Avon Impulse


Jillian Miller likes her job working in the front office for the Seattle Sharks, but lately being surrounded by a constant parade of perfection only seems to make her own imperfections all the more obvious. She needs a change, which takes her into foreign territory: the Sharks’ workout facility after hours. The last thing she expects is a hot, grumbly god among men to be there as witness.

Star linebacker Seth Taylor had a bad day-well, a series of them recently. When he hits the Sharks’ gym to work out his frustration, he’s startled to find someone there-and even more surprised that it’s Jillian, the team owner’s administrative assistant. When he learns of Jillian’s mission to revamp her lifestyle, he finds himself volunteering to help. Something about Jillian’s beautiful smile and quick wit makes him want to stick around. She may not be like the swimsuit models he usually has on his arm, but the more time Seth spends with Jillian the harder he falls.

And as Jillian discovers that the new her is about so much more than she sees in the mirror, can she discover that happiness and love are oh-so-much better than perfect?

Link to Follow Tour: http://www.tastybooktours.com/2015/06/chasing-jillian-love-and-football-5-by.html

Goodreads Link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/22608144-chasing-jillian?ac=1

Goodreads Series Link: https://www.goodreads.com/series/112833-love-and-football

Buy Links: Amazon | B & N | iTunes | Kobo

Author Info

USA Today Bestselling Author, Julie Brannagh has been writing since she was old enough to hold a pencil. She lives in a small town near Seattle, where she once served as a city council member and owned a yarn shop. She shares her home with a wonderful husband, two uncivilized Maine Coons and a rambunctious chocolate Lab.

When she’s not writing, she’s reading, or armchair-quarterbacking her favorite NFL team from the comfort of the family room couch. Julie is a Golden Heart finalist and the author of contemporary sports romances.

Author Links: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

Website: http://www.juliebrannagh.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/JulieBrannagh
Twitter: https://twitter.com/julieinduvall
GoodReads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7127296.Julie_Brannagh



She hurried over to the laptop on the little desk in the kitchen, pulled up Google, and searched on Seth’s name. She sank into a chair while she read. He was six foot four, and she practically weighed as much as he did. Well, not quite, but still. She let out a long sigh. He was two years younger than she was. It also seemed Seth had been busy: He was single. “Very single,” according to one of the most recent fan websites she looked at. In Google Images, she found a series of photos of him with multiple tall, dark-haired women, each more gorgeous than the last.

Jillian shut the laptop lid with an irritated “click”, got up from her chair, and hurried into the bathroom. She’d stood in front of a full-length mirror so many times, but it always showed her the same thing. She wasn’t unattractive, but she could use a little more self-confidence and a lot more toning.  She wasn’t asking for physical perfection, but she’d like to make some changes. If she made a plan, started slowly and kept at it, she’d see a difference.  The biggest changes needed to start on the inside, though. Maybe if she got out a little more, she might meet a guy that was interested in her. Seth was gorgeous, but he wasn’t really in her universe. Jillian went into the kitchen, grabbed a frozen low-calorie dinner out of the freezer, ripped the cardboard lid off, and shoved it into the microwave. Dinner would taste a whole lot better if it was accompanied by half a bag of chips and some Ranch dip. But that wasn’t an option right now. She opened the refrigerator door to look for a fresh vegetable of some type.

She pushed the fridge door shut after a fruitless search and rummaged around in her apartment’s tiny pantry. She located a can of peas. Peas were good. Plus, there weren’t many calories in peas. Maybe she could fill up on them if the diet dinner didn’t cut it.

Jillian’s love-hate relationship with her body and food had started when she was little.  Most of the time, there wasn’t enough to eat. She ended up in a foster home at three years old after her mother died in a car wreck, and she was moved a few times before she entered elementary school. Things got a little better for Jillian when she was placed in a more permanent foster home, but she was still so hungry. No matter how much she ate, she wanted more.  When she was old enough to make her own money, she made sure there was more than enough, and that’s when the problems began. Even more than a diet or a new workout regime, she needed to focus on the great things in her life. She’d build a healthier lifestyle as a result. Even more than a diet or a new workout regime, change from the inside would last a lot longer. She wanted to build on the goals she’d already achieved and reach out for more of the things she wanted in life: A husband. A family. To belong.

Rafflecopter Giveaway (Digital Bundle of the Love and Football Series Books 1 – 4)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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18. Andye's Favorite Things to do in D.C. {The Fixer Blog Tour & Giveaway}

We recently read and LOVED The Fixer by Jennifer Lynn Barnes, so we jumped at the chance to be on the blog tour, and spread the love a little more! Since The Fixer is set in Washington D.C., and I happen to live in the D.C. area, I was asked to talk about my favorite things to do in D.C. Make sure you enter the Giveaway at the end of the post! Seeing all the sites: The way that I most

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19. Tuesday Slice of Life Story Challenge

It's Tuesday! Join us!

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20. Karen Cushman Cover Reveal (are you ready for a fantasy novel?)

You read that right, folks.  Karen Cushman has a new book coming out (hooray!) and it’s not like her books in the past.  Cushman has embraced her fantastical side in her latest title, Grayling’s Song.  Here’s the plot description:

“When Grayling’s mother, wise woman Hannah Strong, starts turning into a tree, Hannah sends Grayling to call “the others” for help. Shy and accustomed to following her mother in everything, Grayling takes to the road. She manages to summon several “others”—second-string magic makers who have avoided the tree spell—and sets off on a perilous trip to recover Hannah’s grimoire, or recipe book of charms and potions. By default the leader of the group, which includes a weather witch, an enchantress, an aspiring witch, a wizard whose specialty is divination with cheese, and a talking and shape shifting mouse called Pook, Grayling wants nothing more than to go home.

Kidnapping, imprisonment, near drowning, and ordinary obstacles like hunger, fatigue, and foul weather plague the travelers, but they persist and achieve their goal. Returning, Grayling finds herself reluctant to part with her companions—especially Pook. At home she’s no longer content to live with her bossy mother, who can look after herself just fine, and soon sets out on another journey to unfamiliar places . . . possibly to see the young paper maker who warmed her heart.”

To get a sense of the book, I had the honor of asking Ms. Cushman a couple questions about his new direction.

Betsy Bird: It’s always a cause for celebration when a new Karen Cushman book is on the horizon.  This book does feel, to some extent, like a bit of a departure for you.  While it has a historical feel, there’s magic in its bones.  Have you always wanted to write a fantasy?  Or is this a newfound desire?

KarenCushmanKaren Cushman: It is definitely a departure.  After eight historical novels about gutsy girls (and Will), I wanted to try something different. I had an idea for a fantasy.  How difficult could it be?  I would not be bothered by all that pesky history, the rules and boundaries that constrain an author writing about a real time and place.

That shows how much I know about fantasies.  A fantasy world has as much history, as many rules and boundaries and limitations, as historical fiction, but the author has to invent them. For both fantasy and historical fiction authors, our task is to make a world come alive within boundaries.  .

Grayling’s Song takes Grayling reluctantly on a journey to free her mother from a curse. I set myself a difficult task: to write a fantasy in which magic exists but is sometimes harmful and never the answer.  Grayling has to get herself and others out of danger without magic–by being thoughtful, observant, cooperative, persistent, and determined.  In other words, human.  My husband calls it an anti-fantasy.  And that’s the point: magic is not the answer.

BB: Can you tell us a little bit about the origins of the book itself?

KC: The book began with the image of Grayling’s mother rooted to the ground.  I’m not a big fantasy reader and had never before thought about writing a fantasy, but that image appeared in my head and I wanted to find out more, so I had to make it up and write it down.

BB: What are some of the children’s fantasy novels that you yourself have enjoyed reading (either when you were a child or now as an adult)?  Have they influenced this book in any way?

BookThreeKC: I don’t remember fantasy being popular when I was young.  Science fiction, yes, but I wasn’t interested.  The first fantasy I recall reading is Peter Beagle’s wondrous The Last Unicorn, and I was all grown up and married before that.  Since then I have found several fantasies to love:  Lloyd Alexander’s five Chronicles of Prydain books, which I read over and over with my daughter, The Hobbit, The Once and Future King, Ella Enchanted, The Princess Bride, Plain Kate, Seraphina, The Goblin Emperor.

I think their influence is mostly in their wide spectrum.  There is no  one right way to write fantasy, they told me, no correct kind of character, no approved method of magic.  And several of them gave me permission to be funny, ironic, and  downright silly at times.

BB: So many authors have difficulty writing standalone books.  Which is to say, books that don’t require sequels.  Looking at your titles, I don’t know that you’ve ever done a sequel.  Is there a particular reason for this?  Do you think you might try one in the future?  I’m sure your fans have asked you to

KC: Stories seem to come to me all of a piece–a beginning, middle, and end, all in one book.  I had thought about writing a sequel to Catherine Called Birdy for my second book  but my editor didn’t like sequels and urged me to try something else.  So I did.  That something else was The Midwife’s Apprentice, which won the Newbery Medal in 1996.  Good call, Dinah.

I still think about that Birdy sequel.  I have a plot and characters, but I’m not sure I could recapture that voice.  Birdy’s voice is so distinctive and pretty well known. But maybe, maybe…

CatherineBirdyBB: Speaking of which, recently you were a bit in the news when Lena Dunham announced that she was adapting Catherine Called Birdy, one of her favorite books, to the silver screen. I assume that you’ve had interest from Hollywood in the past, but this felt a bit more serious.  Did it catch you off-guard?

KC: Off-guard is an understatement.  Several people had sent me the comment Lena made stating that Catherine Called Birdy and Lolita were the two best books for girls.  That’s pretty rare company but I thought no more about it until a contract for an option appeared from Lena’s company.

I’ve met with Lena, who is bright and lovely and sweet, much smarter and nicer than Hannah from Girls.  Lena is excited about the project and determined to make it happen so I have my fingers crossed.

BB: Well finally, what are you working on next?

KC: Too many ideas are swimming around in my head.  I’m working on a short story set in Elizabethan Bath, which may also be a novel.  And there is Millie McGonigal waiting for me in San Diego in 1941.  And a book about a pilgrimage to Rome, and, oh yes, something about thieving orphans in medieval Oxford.  Probably my next book will be one of those.  Probably.

BB:  A million thanks to you, Karen, for agreeing to speak with me!  Just as a side note, Lena Dunham also has a tattoo of Richard Peck’s Fair Weather.  Probably the only one in known existence, so her motives are certainly pure.

And now folks . . . the very first Karen Cushman fantasy novel!


Karen Cushman’s acclaimed historical novels include Catherine, Called Birdy, a Newbery Honor winner, and The Midwife’s Apprentice, which received the Newbery Medal. She lives on Vashon Island in Washington State. Her website is www.karencushmanbooks.com.


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21. FABRICS - cotton + steel

The very latest collections from Cotton + Steel have just arrived in stock at Fabricworm. There a five colourful new collections from some fabulous designers. Here are the new ranges to look out for : The first is 'Honeymoon' by Sarah Watts a collection inspired by a tropical honeymoon with lounging sloths, tweeting songbirds, and wild horses. Next we have 'Paper Bandana' by Alexia

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22. Is It Important to Teach American History?

by Sally Matheny

Is It Important to Teach American History?
I love history, especially American history. I love reading about some interesting part of history I’ve never read about before, then researching primary documents to see if it’s true. So many fascinating facts never make the cut to be included in school textbooks. Perhaps if more of them were incorporated, a greater interest in American history would result. Is it important to teach the history of our country?

Read more »

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23. The Millions' 'Second-Half 2015 Book Preview'

       The Millions' Most Anticipated: The Great Second-Half 2015 Book Preview is now up -- "at 9,100 words strong and encompassing 82 titles, this is the only second-half 2015 book preview you will ever need" they claim .....
       It's a nice overview of (mainly) the bigger titles due out over the next ... eight months (it actually goes through February 2016 ...) but far from comprehensive -- and it's particularly disappointing regarding fiction-in-translation, with almost none that's not published by the big(gest) houses included; a rare exception is Krasznahorkai's 'reportage', Destruction and Sorrow Beneath the Heavens (see the Seagull Books(' distributor's) publicity page, or pre-order your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk).

       (Especially for those interested in books in translation, Typographical Era's The 2015 Visual Guide to Translated Fiction and the 2015 Translation Database at Three Percent (latest version here) are far more useful. Caveat and warning: the visual guide really is visual -- arranged by book covers -- rendering it enervatingly busy/near-unusable for some of us (all I want/can bear is text !), while the Translation Database is an 'Excel Worksheet' which, sigh, has to be downloaded (i.e. you can't open it directly in your browser).)

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24. Our One Stop Adventure: Sharing Lessons Along The Way

OSBanner_high_WHWRecently Becca and I announced we are bringing something new to WHW–the One Stop For Writers brainstorming software. While doing something not book-related is new territory for us, making the decision to create software was an easy choice, because we are passionate about helping writers, be it through books, our blog or something else.

As writers ourselves, we know that to be successful in this industry, we all must do more, be more, and juggle more. The problem isn’t that writers aren’t up to the challenge, it’s that tackling these things requires a shrinking commodity: time.  And while all of our books, tools and blog lists are geared towards giving you the information you need to brainstorm and create efficiently, they are stored in different places, and in different formats. This means a bit of a scavenger hunt at times. Hopefully our One Stop library will change this, and truly become a one-stop destination for anyone needing help with the process of story creation.

Now I did say the easiest part was deciding to drop the hammer, especially as our partner in crime, Lee Powell, is a talented developer who also works on Scrivener, is a writer himself, and fits in with Becca and I like the proverbial third pea in a pod. The harder part came after our euphoric decision…following through on all the many details.

becca and AngelaBecause of our books, Becca and I already share a company. It’s quite simple and straight-forward, all told. But creating a new one, from scratch, to house an entity like One Stop? Completely different animal. It took significant research (all Becca–she’s a superhero!) to find a way to set up a new company when all three partners live in different countries.

(And the business set up was just the beginning–there’s also the actual building of our One Stop framework, the content creation, formatting, account management set up, finding and testing a payment engine, dealing with trademarks, copyrights, logos, design, branding, deadlines…and so much more!)

Lee, Becca and I have had to really stretch ourselves to plan and set everything up. Most importantly, we had to come together as a team. And as we move forward with implementation, I can’t help but think of all we have learned so far. Becca and I have grown so much during this process, and gained new skill sets, so we thought maybe we could share some of what we’ve learned with you.

We know you haven’t seen One Stop yet, and it’s still a ways from being complete, but maybe some of our insights during this experience will be useful as you go forward and brand yourselves as authors, set up small businesses and even tackle similar challenges of your own. So, we’re going to blog about our journey a bit and hope you’ll stay tuned.

If you have any specific questions or areas you’d like us to cover, just ask!

Heads up: The One Stop library is slowly entering the Social Media sphere….find your favorite librarians on Pinterest, Twitter and Facebook!


The post Our One Stop Adventure: Sharing Lessons Along The Way appeared first on WRITERS HELPING WRITERS™.

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25. Seven Questions Over Breakfast with Michael Emberley


Well, dear readers, it’s been a while since I’ve done a breakfast interview. Since I’ve been teaching this summer, it takes me longer to get to these more time-intensive Q&As. My visitor today, illustrator Michael Emberley, deserves an award (or a free breakfast perhaps) for his patience with me. We started talking last year about doing this interview.

And I’m really glad we got around to it. I enjoy seeing his illustration work, and I really enjoyed chatting with him and hearing his responses to these questions. Emberley, the son of legendary illustrator Ed Emberley, has been illustrating since 1979. He was born and raised in Massachusetts but now makes his home in Ireland, near Dublin. (I highly recommend taking time to read this page of his site, where he talks about why he started illustrating and why he decided to stick with it: “I began illustrating because I needed money, but now I truly appreciate what I do. I can keep myself from being bored by doing a variety of book projects and using different techniques. This is more difficult than mastering one style but it is the only way for me.”)

His work has been described as “an unassuming wonder” and “a playful masterclass in using the page.” His vivid characters leap off the page, and his loose-line watercolors communicate a spontaneity and energy that is infectious. His artwork also communicates the great warmth of family and friends; pictured at the top of this post is but one example of this, an illustration from 2008’s Mail Harry to the Moon, written by Robie Harris. And Emberley’s never been one to let gender stereotypes get in the way of his boy and girl protagonists; he had that covered well before it became PC to let such a thing happen.

When I asked him about breakfast, I got a hearty response:

Hey! My favorite meal of the day! Okay. If writing early morning, good coffee and pastry in a café. If heading off cycling, add granola yoghurt and fruit or a ‘fry,’ if I need something extra. (A “fry” here in Ireland means [vegetarians, read no further]: sausage, rashers (thick bacon), eggs, black and white pudding (blood sausage), grilled tomato (pronounced toe-mah-toe), and a farl (potatoe pancake) if you’re up north. All on the same plate.)

A fry it is then. (Hey! If I don’t like it, well … it’s only a pretend cyber-breakfast.) And lots of coffee, of course.

Oh, and guess what? Michael shares below something he’s been thinking about doing for a while — a complete, single-scrolling image of all the sketches for one book. They are from Barbara Bottner’s Miss Brooks’ Story Nook, published last year. “I didn’t dare count them,” he told me. “Hundreds. It’s never been on any of my blogs or Facebook.” That is at the very bottom of this post.

I thank him for visiting 7-Imp.

* * * * * * *

Jules: Are you an illustrator or author/illustrator?

Michael: Definitely both. I’m an illustrator first, but I’m trying to get better at writing more “books without pictures.” But even when writing a novel, my mind is full of images — a theatre with sets and scenes, costumes and colored lights, players and performances. As I draw a picture book character, I hear them speaking. As I write about a middle grade character, I see their eyes. They’re real to me.

Pictured below: Sketch pages of different early ideas for Miss Brooks’ Story Nook (Knopf, 2014). See even more sketches in this 2014 7-Imp post.


Pictured below: More sketches for Miss Brooks’ Story Nook, followed by a piece of final art. These were Michael’s “wish for a gruesome end to Billy by a Missy-conjured snake. None were accepted for final art. Notice even the final composition in the scene of the snake confronting Billy. I played around with different morphs of Missy into her imaginary snake. My idea of her turning into her creation can be seen in the sequential scene in the final book art where a close-up of her face/eyes is clearly becoming reptile, and then the snake becomes more a morph of her scarf (look at the color stripes and tail), but my original idea—using a half-Missy, half-snake head, though a more logical extension of the “snake eyes” sequence—was ultimately rejected. It’s all subjective in fantasy.”

” … which is exasperating boys like YOU.”
(Click to enlarge)


Pictured below: “Development of another hard-to-visualize concept of Billy being a yoke on Missy’s neck. Some things come out first draft with very little change in final art.”


Pictured below: An unused concept for the neighbor’s basement:



Pictured below: Lion sketches:



Pictured below: Ideas for Missy in her raincoat. Not used. “Note the skull pattern, expressing her less than stereotypical ‘girlie’ nature.”



Pictured below: Some final art from the book:


(Click second image to see spread in its entirety)


(Click second image to see spread in its entirety)


(Click second image to see spread in its entirety)


Jules: Can you list your books-to-date? (If there are too many books to list here, please list your five most recent illustrated titles or the ones that are most prominent in your mind, for whatever reason.)

Michael: Yikes. Lots. I could list them, but it’s not nearly as impressive a list compared to what others have done. You can look at my website.

Unfortunately, I like to live life rather than spend it all in the studio. This will ultimately limit the number of books I finish, I guess. You can only do so much. I try not to be too hard on myself, but I usually feel I’m not working hard enough. The question is: What do I want to do with the finite time I’ve got?



Jules: What is your usual medium?

Michael: Line, as I said, first and foremost. Preferably pencil. Sometimes pen. Occasionally brush and ink. [As for] color: Mostly liquid watercolor, but also dry pastel. If I could get away with just a pencil, I’d be happy. I’m experimenting with using digital color.


(Click each to enlarge)


Jules: If you have illustrated for various age ranges (such as, both picture books and early reader books OR, say, picture books and chapter books), can you briefly discuss the differences, if any, in illustrating for one age group to another?

Michael: I’ve illustrated for young and old. Fiction and non-fiction. I love all ages. I wish I could draw for everyone. I do as much drawing making cards and notes for adults as I do for kids. I do a comic strip for my local coffee shop. It’s fun seeing people smile. I rarely get that from the book industry. I work so remotely from that whole world.


(Click to enlarge)


Jules: Where are your stompin’ grounds?

Michael I’ve lived on the east coast and west coast of the USA (Boston, Oakland, San Diego) but now live in a small village on the east coast of Ireland, near the Irish Sea. We’re just south of Dublin, so we’re in the city a lot, too. It’s a beautiful spot for cycling (my other life) and close to trains and an airport shuttle. It’s getting too pricey, though, so my lovely Irish wife Mel and I may be forced to move soon. An artist is always being chased away by gentrification. My life has been pretty nomadic — at least 20 pillows so far.


(Click each to enlarge)


Jules: Can you briefly tell me about your road to publication?

Michael: Short story: My father was/is in the biz (Ed Emberley). He worked at home. I did odd stuff for him when I still lived there. A series of sketches I did for a drawing book he was working on was a failure, because it looked less like his work than he wanted, but instead of throwing it out, he suggested I take it away and make it into a stand-alone book for myself. Clever way of getting me to pay my way I took it in to my father’s editor, the kindly John Keller, and he said, “Let’s go!” I was 19 and never looked back. [That was] Dinosaurs! A Drawing Book, 1979.



Jules: Can you please point readers to your web site and/or blog?

Michael: http://www.michaelemberley.com/.


(Click each to enlarge)


Jules: If you do school visits, tell me what they’re like.

Dan: They’re less about me and all about the prep that the school, teachers, librarians, and parents put into the visit. The more they put in, the better the kids are prepared, and the better it goes for everyone. I’m pretty good with the kids. I’m a kid myself. I can be very silly. I draw a lot. Most people like that.

But if they have no idea who you are or why you’re there, it’s like climbing Everest. Everyone loses. I should do more visits. But no one knows me here in Ireland. Very few of my books are sold here. My publishers claim the Irish don’t want my books. What can you do? I enjoyed visiting a tiny school in Co. Mayo recently. I got them rapping with me to one “You Read to Me” book. They’re so funny.

One thing I can say is I stopped prepping for specific audiences long ago, because I was blind-sided so many times with either a completely different age group or topic than I was told. Or it’s teens and five-year0olds in the same room. You have to think on your feet and read the vibe going on. I’ve done some seriously bad talks — and great ones. Worst was an ALA author breakfast years ago. I bombed. Best was my last U.S. gig – in Rhode Island, I think. The kids were great and, therefore, so was I. We all won.


Illustrations from Barbara Bottner’s Miss Brooks Loves Books!
(and I don’t)
(Knopf, 2010)


Jules: Any new titles/projects you might be working on now that you can tell me about?

Michael: Oh boy. Tons of stuff. I’ve taken time out this past year, making a big lunge back towards writing after mainly illustrating for several years. I’m writing for all ages. I have stuff for YA down to picture books. I have at least 15 manuscripts on the go. Yikes! I know: Focus on one, right? I’m working on that. But I’m too excited. I have so many books I want to do.

And I love all my new characters! Does that sound silly? I sincerely hope I can learn to write well enough so others will “meet” them and enjoy their company as much as I do. That sounds trite, but who cares? It’s true.


Michael: “These are Mom sketches from a book I’m doing now. These were nixed for publication. Only the [Mom at the doorframe] is in the current dummy.”


Mmm. Coffee.Okay, we’ve got more coffee, and it’s time to get a bit more detailed with seven questions over breakfast. I thank Michael again for visiting 7-Imp.

1. Jules: What exactly is your process when you are illustrating a book? You can start wherever you’d like when answering: getting initial ideas, starting to illustrate, or even what it’s like under deadline, etc. Do you outline a great deal of the book before you illustrate or just let your muse lead you on and see where you end up?


: Lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots of sketching. I seem to do more and more as years go by. Loads of it done in coffee shops. I’ll use pencil, but since it smudges if you draw on the opposite page, I only use the right-hand pages. When I get to the end, I turn the sketchbook upside down and draw on those pages in pen. Hey, paper is expensive.

I do quite a bit of direct sketching on type layouts too. Impulsive ideas first — inventing the characters, their clothing, hairdos, and expressions. You know, the cast and performance of the play. I might add a few backgrounds. I only explore color in the finals, unless there is a color idea that dominates the scene.

I did this alphabet book with Barbara Bottner with 26 different kids and one teacher. I created 27 distinct individuals that moved through the book. Then I played them out. That was work. Lots of sketchbooks were filled on that one.


(Click each to enlarge)


2. Jules: Describe your studio or usual work space.


: My workspace is wherever I am. I worked in a classic sixth floor factory building loft studio in Boston for ten years; in second bedrooms; in my own bedroom; in a closet-like space, like the one I’m renting at the moment. I make do. I get on with it.

My fantasy would be a bigger, well-lit, more open space to lay things out. A picture book is a whole, not discrete pieces. It’s great to see it all at once. But I can’t afford that kind of space right now. You make do. I’m writing this interview in my local pub. But maybe that’s an Irish thing.


(Click each to enlarge)


3. Jules: As a book-lover, it interests me: What books or authors and/or illustrators influenced you as an early reader?


: My influences are few as a reader. I did not read much fiction as a kid, sorry to say. Mrs. Bowman read us Dahl in 3rd grade, and I loved it. I was forced to read things beyond my age and hated them, like Melville’s Billy Budd in 5th grade. That said, I loved all of Richard Scarry, Charles Shulz comics, and Charles Harper books.


(Click each to enlarge)


4. Jules: If you could have three (living) authors or illustrators—whom you have not yet met—over for coffee or a glass of rich, red wine, whom would you choose? (Some people cheat and list deceased authors/illustrators. I won’t tell.)

Michael: I like lots of people’s work. But it’s hard to know who would be a good dinner guest if I haven’t met them. A lousy artist might be great craic, and a brilliant one might only be good for, as a friend once described, “a couple of grim pints.” But it is nice to sit down with a fellow book person and not have to explain what you do the whole night.

I admire many people’s work and do occasionally wonder if they are anywhere near as interesting as their art/writing. “My authors” are all good craic. I met author Barbara Bottner at a gig once, and whether she believed me or not, I was a huge fan of her book, Bootsie Barker Bites. And I can tell you, she ain’t boring. It’s great to be doing books with her. Mary Ann Hoberman and her husband Norm are great dinner partners. My friends Robie Harris and her husband Bill are always great around the table.

[Pictured below: Art from Mary Ann Hoberman’s Forget-Me-Nots: Poems to Learn by Heart

(Little, Brown, 2012). Read more about it here.]


– From Theodore Roethke’s “Dinky”


“Nancy Hanks” by Rosemary and Stephen Vincent Benét


“Mary Middling” by Rose Fyleman, “A Frog in a Well Explains the World”
by Alice Schertle, and “Bat Patrol” by Georgia Heard

(Click to enlarge spread and read poems)


If-ing” by Langston Hughes and “Things” by Eloise Greenfield
(Click to enlarge spread and read poems)



I like work I don’t imagine non-artists can truly appreciate to the same degree as another illustrator would. Brian Karas is a quiet genius. Ditto Ana Juan; Frida is a fantastic. I love Raúl Colón, Marla Frazee, and Jon Klasssen’s stuff is gorgeous. That tree house book — wow. Ed Young, the Dillons. Jim Kay’s work in A Monster Calls is one of the best things I’ve ever seen.

I love stuff I’ve seen from Spain, France, Germany, the Netherlands, and eastern Europe. I’m in love with stuff that won’t sell in the U.S. I would love to publish in Poland or someplace like that. France would be impossible to break into, but they have amazing children’s book illustrators. Japan too. Gorgeous stuff. The U.S. book-buyer can be too, uh, American, sometimes. Too limited in their tastes. There is a big world out there beyond the bright lights.

I love the comic/graphic novelists coming out of Europe and the U.S. They might be good for a laugh over a glass.

I want to talk to someone who sees no boundaries between art, science, religion, and philosophy. I like thinkers and dreamers. I like smart — but not at the expense of wonder. I like talking to people who teach me things but don’t lecture. I like people who can skip between genres and genders, fact and fiction, pain and persuasion. Someone who can stay off their phone. Someone funny and kind. If they are an artist, so much the better. But the creative arts is no secret passport to the land of interesting company. (Sounds like a personal ad!)

Writers? Hmmm. Too many. Short list:

Okay. That’s more than three, isn’t it?


(Click to enlarge)


5. Jules: What is currently in rotation on your iPod or loaded in your CD player? Do you listen to music while you create books?

Michael: Tons of stuff. I listen all the time. All styles. Mostly when doing art. Writing is problematic with most music. But I write in noisy coffee shops with background music, so it’s possible. For example, West African is okay, since I don’t speak the lingo. Mainstream stuff — Salif Keita, Youssou N’Dour, etc. Puccini is nice, too, sometimes.

Random thoughts on music that’s sticking in my head recently:

Gillian Welch, “Everything’s Free.” Haunting song. And what better lament for the world of pre-internet/free content. I’m paraphrasing her lyrics here:

Everything is free now / That’s what they say / Everything I’ve ever done, They’re gonna give it away. … If there’s something that you wanna hear / you can sing it yourself.

I also keep listening to this acoustic version of Springsteen’s “Thunder Road.” I never listened to him before, and I’m not a groupie. But these lyrics, though, won’t go away. Paraphrasing again:

… it’s a looong walk from your front porch to my front seat / the door’s open, but the ride, it ain’t free.

I can see that grey wooden porch floor, feel the chasm between the screen door and the open car door. The gulf between what she knows and what could be waiting for her. The tremendous courage it takes to cross that porch, to imagine another future for herself. It kills me every time.

Eddi Reader. Check out the video “What You Do With What You’ve Got”. Amazing. Try to see this Scottish original live, singing her version of Robby Burns’ “Ae Fond Kiss.” And try not to feel it. This verse:

Had we ne’er loved so kindly
Had we ne’er loved so blindly,
Nor ne’er met, Nor ne’er parted,
We would ne’er been so broken-hearted.

Ah, as a Czech friend of mine once said, “Melancholy is best emotion.”

I admit I love Elvis Costello’s lyrics. Random lines I remember (some may be off):

“She threw her hands up, like a tulip…”
“They’re mopping up all the stubborn ones who just refuse to be saved.”
“He’s planting a paperback book for accidental purchase, containing all the secrets of life, and other useless things.”

Canadian Holly Cole has this amazing album of Tom Waits covers. Another great writer. Love the “doorknob” lyric in “Falling Down”:

Everyone knew that old hotel was a goner. … They broke all the windows, and took all the doorknobs, and they hauled it away in a couple of days. …

Also Cole’s other cover album with this song-lyric by Patty Larkin:

He said: ‘I read the Bible every day,
Just to keep the demons at bay,
Thank God when the sun goes down,
I don’t blow away.’

And one more: Lori McKenna‘s “Stealing Kisses.” Poignant “housewife drama”:

I was stealing kisses from a boy,
And now I’m begging affection from a man…
Don’t you know who I am?
I’m standing in your kitchen.


Illustration and covers for two of Emberley’s books
with Robie Harris (read more here)


6. Jules: What’s one thing that most people don’t know about you?

Michael: Well, most people who know me know this, but I am a competitive athlete when I’m not at the desk. Cycle racing has been my ‘thing’ since the late ’70s. It’s unusual in my experience for artists or writers to be athletic or competitive, and vice versa. I actually know no one who is in both worlds. A lot of artists/writers live in their heads all the time, come out at night, and they’re pretty neglectful or out of touch with their bodies.

The racing is a good balance for me. You can think out there. Mostly it’s training on back roads, wandering around, wind in your ears, a Zen thing, shutting down your “busy mind.” But racing itself is different. Aggressive, intense, clawing up hills, screaming down, diving into a sharp bend with people at each elbow. The pain, the exhaustion, the fear. Moving at high speed is an entirely different way of seeing the world than being in a chair.


Michael: “This is the kind of thing I do for books, as well as cards and letters. These self-portraits were done really fast one after the other on the holiday card envelopes of friends, family, etc. (I used to draw the recipient, but that gets you into a lot of trouble. Easier to pan yourself.) This shows how different each take can be. I do this for book characters as well, until I see the one I like. If this were a book,
I have two favorites here. The rest are trash.”


7. Jules: Is there something you wish interviewers would ask you — but never do? Feel free to ask and respond here.

Dan: How does the way artists are perceived in society inform your decision to become an artist? Or: Why are you really doing this? No, I mean, really?

I grew up in a household with a professional artist. That’s my perspective. I saw the great Oz from the back first. Great artists seem to come from both great resistance and great encouragement. But it’s something you learn and earn, not get by faith or are born with. I think there’s too much mystery, awe, and romance surrounding artists and writers that they haven’t earned and, frankly, isn’t good for them. It does us no favors. It sets us apart, instead of bringing us together. Creatives all too often either marginalized or put on a pedestal by society.

Here in Ireland, the attitude is pretty balanced: You’re given a comfortable chair, but no pedestal. That’s good. Pedestals are to knock people off of.

My pet peeve on the topic of the “artist’s life” is people who are writing or drawing so they can just “be the thing,” wrap themselves in the label Artist or Writer. Being an artist is just a name, a part of creating art, not the other way round. The goal is the work, not the label.

There are people who hold onto this thing they imagine an artist to be — some adolescent fantasy born from years of too much dreamy misinformation, like wanting to be a princess as a little child. To be famous—a celebrity—with the added thrill of being photographed, signing a hardbound book with your name on it. Jaysus feck. That’s the pinnacle of an adolescent dream, imagining being asked for their autograph.

Okay, I’d like to see art and writing and creative expression in general as something more acceptable and more readily available to a broader segment of the population. It’s a means of self-exploration and consolation — and generally enhances your life.

But that’s not professional art. There’s a difference. Professional art is work. You need to train for it, learn it, and hopefully get paid for it. It’s not something you do “if you only had the time.”

You wouldn’t expect anyone who likes to spin around in circles and likes how they look in a tutu to join the Bolshoi Ballet.

I think people should be asked more often why are they honestly doing it.

Pictured below: Thumbnails and early sketches from Barbara Bottner’s An Annoying ABC (Knopf, 2011).


Jacket thumbnails


Final sketch for book jacket


(Click to enlarge)


Above: Sketches
(Click each to enlarge)


Color sketches



* * * The Pivot Questionnaire * * *

Jules: What is your favorite word?

Michael: “Balance.”

Jules: What is your least favorite word?

Michael: “Hate.”

Jules: What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally?

Michael: Kindness.

Jules: What turns you off?

Michael: Bullies.

7-Imp: What is your favorite curse word? (optional)

Dan: “Me bollocks!”

Jules: What sound or noise do you love?

Michael: An Irish accent.

Jules: What sound or noise do you hate?

Michael: Loud, mechanical things at 7 a.m.

Jules: What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?

Michael: Theatre.

Jules: What profession would you not like to do?

Michael: Foreclosure.

Jules: If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?

Dan: “Forgive yourself.”


Reminder: Below is a complete, single-scrolling image of all the sketches for Barbara Bottner’s Miss Brooks’ Story Nook, published last year.



All images are used by permission of Michael Emberley.

AN ANNOYING ABC. Copyright © 2011 by Barbara Bottner. Illustration © 2011 Michael Emberley. Published by Alfred A. Knopf, New York. Images reproduced by permission of Michael Emberley.

FORGET-ME-NOTS: POEMS TO LEARN BY HEART. Copyright 2012 by Mary Ann Hoberman. Illustrations copyright 2012 by Michael Emberley. Spreads reproduced with permission of the publisher, Megan Tingley Books/Little, Brown and Co., New York.

MISS BROOKS LOVES BOOKS! (AND I DON’T) Text copyright © 2010 by Barbara Bottner. Illustrations copyright © 2010 by Michael Emberley. Spread reproduced by permission of the publisher, Alfred A. Knopf, New York, NY.

MISS BROOKS’ STORY NOOK (WHERE TALES ARE TOLD AND OGRES ARE WELCOME!). Text copyright © 2014 by Barbara Bottner. Illustrations copyright © 2014 by Michael Emberley. Published by Alfred A. Knopf, New York, NY. Images reproduced by permission of Michael Emberley.

The spiffy and slightly sinister gentleman introducing the Pivot Questionnaire is Alfred, copyright © 2009 Matt Phelan.

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