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1. "Someone has to decide something...."


Saturday, an earthquake hit Nepal, causing massive destruction and loss of life. An avalanche at Everest added to to the death toll, which will not be fully realized until relief help gets to outlining remote villages and recovery efforts in Kathmandu conclude their work. My heart and prayers go out to the people of Nepal.

Oddly, just a day before, on the TED Radio Hour on NPR, the subject was organization after natural disasters and other things and one of the interviews was that of Morgan and Caitria O'Neill, who after a "never happens in Massachusetts" tornado almost leveled their small town, they put their unique skill sets together to organize their community's recovery efforts...



I've talked before about my experience when my grandmother was in the Big Thompson Canyon's 100 year flood, the illustration above was inspired by that and have shared my frustration of being far away when less than forty years later in 2013 the canyons of North Central Colorado experienced a 1000 year flood and here over on the West Slope, I was glued to my laptop to get news of the places and people from my childhood. 

Not that long ago, we were evacuated when a fire burned in the canyon beside our homestead... 

We, along with our neighbors were advise in a briefing at a command post when and if we would have homes to return to and what  support and assistance was available in the meantime.Two years later, driving along the road, or walking in our forest we still will find plastic water bottles, donated along with snicker bars and such from the community, carried by the hotshots in the smoke and heat and dropped to the ground  when empty, Fire fighter and disaster workers are the only ones who I think should not be looked down upon for littering. 

The subject of the last weeks TED Radio Hour, wasn't about Disasters, but about Organizing and something one of the O'Neill's sisters said in the NPR interview hit a chord with me...

"Someone has to decide something..."

In their case, it was two barely twenty year old girls who rushed back to their hometown to help, ended up being "mostly" in charge because, they opened their mouths.

I have that problem too, I often am the one to, well, open my mouth and not be guarded and that trait, good or bad is why now, not even two years on, I'm the head cook of a soup kitchen...



 Caitria and Morgan talked of having to make quick decisions about a variety of things and that is something I often have to do...




What recipe will get rid of the most of our parishable items before they go bad? Based on the weather, the time of month, the time of year, how many patrons will show up today? What to do with the three large boxes of not trimmed and dirty produce which was starting to "bolt" that a local farm brought in a half an hour before lunch has to be ready to serve? How long are we going to stand at the counter and clean and trim the produce before we declare enough and toss the rest and go home and put our feet up after making lunch for a 100 people.
I burned out a $100 plus Cuisinart food processor trying to prep free sweet potatoes to put in the freezer. It is a constant struggle to balance what we have, both that is donated and bought, with the resources and time we have and often I get it wrong... 
I thing therein lies the trait that marks those of us who do start deciding things. We aren't afraid of the sky falling, the world falling off it's axis, or tossing a box of sweet potatoes if we get it wrong. We just move on, well sometime after a silent rant, but  keep making decisions, ready to factor in our mistakes the next time something similar comes along....




And like the O'Neill sisters who were amazed that someone would question if they were even out of high school but than take their orders as gospel, I have been amazed at how willing people, on the average fifteen years older than me, want someone else to make the decisions, even after I try and poll all who are involved, getting the response often that they do not want that responsibility, even if that responsibility is if we should have corn or green beans as a side. 
Now, the opinions and sometimes criticism does come after the fact or during, once the plan is committed to about why we are doing something a certain way. I try to be pleasant and patient but all that depends on how close to noon it is, how long the line is outside and how ready I am to be off my feet. 

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2. Book Review: Homemakers by Brit Morin

From Goodreads:
Over the past three generations, the rules of homemaking and our very notions of what a homemaker is and does have radically changed. We are still a nation of makers, but we are crafting and creating beyond the home, in both the analog and digital worlds. And in the next ten years, "making" and "homemaking" will evolve further. Tomorrow's women will find themselves actually manufacturing everything from decor to clothing, from right inside their homes.

In Homemakers, Brit Morin, founder of the wildly popular lifestyle brand and website Brit + Co., reimagines homemaking for the twenty-first century. While today's generation thrives in the virtual world, they like to work and create in the physical world. Morin inspires you to combine the best of analog and digital, to help you reconnect with your inner creative child-the one who used to love to draw, to build, and to play-to make your home a more creative, functional, and beautiful place.
Writing
The writing here is fine, although, to be honest, there's not that much of it.  Or at least that much of it to judge as far as quality goes.  That's not a criticism, because it's exactly what you'd expect from this kind of book - heavy on pictures, how-tos, and infographics.  Pretty to look at and fun to experience, but not a lot of text, with the exception of captions and lists.

Entertainment Value
This has a lot of valuable information on the basics of homemaking and is presented beautifully with lots of images and graphics, rather than blocks of text.  I especially the list of recommended apps included with each chapter and the look at upcoming technology that will change how we live, work, and play.  If there's a downside, it's that most of this information can honestly be found online without the purchase of the book.  It's nice to have and I'm still debating whether or not to keep my copy as a reference or pass it on to the library.  It's super pretty and I love all of the information, but it's a chunky book and, like I said, doesn't have anything in it that I couldn't easily find on Pintrest.

Overall
I thoroughly enjoyed the read, but I think this may be one that I'd recommend you check out from the library rather than buy - unless you have a particular spot in your heart for pretty Pintrest-like style images.  It would make a nice coffee table book, or if you collect home-decor/fashion books.  While I'm not sure it's a must-own, it did inspire me to follow Brit + Co online and gave me some great ideas for my house.

Thanks to Harper Collins for providing me with a copy to review!

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3. Binc Seeks Donors to Help Support Booksellers

The Book Industry Charitable (Binc) Foundation is looking for 50 new sustaining donors to give ongoing support to bookseller assistance programs which help provide a safety net to booksellers.

The program help booksellers that suffer medical expenses, domestic violence, homelessness or other issues in their time of need. The Campaign to Sustain is encouraging donors to commit to $40 a month in celebration of SIBA’s 40th Anniversary. In 2014, the organization saw an increase in grant requests with requests coming about once a week, which is the main driver behind the campaign.

To donate, follow this link.

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4. I Am Listening: Austin Bunn’s Playlist for The Brink

When I first started writing, I'd give stories to friends and press a mix tape into their hand: when you read this, listen to this. Let me take this moment to apologize to all the friends of my youth for those tapes. I was like that: gushy, curatorial, annoying. It goes without saying that I [...]

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5. Monday Review: The SHADOWFELL Trilogy by Juliet Marillier

Summary: I want my epic fantasy to sweep me away but, at the same time, tantalize me with hints that this is a world that COULD be, a world that is tangible and believable and recognizable even if it isn't quite our own. Juliet Marillier does an... Read the rest of this post

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6. Les Super-Héros à la Française !


I REALLY have to try to get a copy of this!

Bonjour !
A la une de ce numéro de mai, les Super-Héros à la française !


Une riche enquête signée Philippe Peter. 


Au sommaire également : Jano, Edith, Mathieu Sapin, Dominique Rousseau (Vasco), Carole Martinez, Patrick Marty, des travaux inédits d'Albert Uderzo pour l'armée de l'air, les studios Aardman... et l'histoire de Zig & Puce.


Vous découvrirez aussi que François Morel est un passionné de BD et de belles images.
Sans oublier nos actualités, critiques, intégrales et notre sélection jeunesse !


Bonne lecture à tous !

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7. Adventure down the road less traveled

I have had the pleasure over the years of creating special pieces of both art and pottery for various customers. Creating custom artwork can be really fun, challenging and rewarding.  I like taking on custom work, because it often takes me out of my comfort zone or challenges me to do things that I didn't know I could do or to find a new way of looking at something.

 I remember doing special projects for people as far back as high school and feeling so proud that someone would not only trust me with their vision for the thing that they wanted to be created, but that they would give me money to do it.

Most of my artistic life has been spent as a painter using oils and more recently acrylics. Three years ago I became a potter which has been a never ending journey into various techniques for making and glazing. In addition to these areas of experience, I have often been called up to expand my repertoire and create pieces in media that I have little experience with which is especially fun.

My "People on the Couch" series of paintings is always a unique adventure as I create them from a customers candid snapshots  of themselves and/or loved ones on the couch.

I love this painting from a 1960's family snapshot

This one was created without any people in it from a series of snapshots of family pets and favorite items for a special  Graduation couch picture.

See more couch paintings here

A wooden blue hen painted as a fundraiser for the Newark Arts Alliance in Newark, De.

A large hand thrown bowl glazed with my well known colorful cows

A whimsical cat painting featuring a "cat in the beanstalk"

A really neat project. A lineage of piano teachers from Beethoven to my clients husband painted to look like parchment.


A custom  yarn bowl for an Irish shop in Delaware



A little acrylic guitar  and keyboard painting for a teen
Donut shaped Salt and peppers

A door sign for a bake shop

a spoon rest




A whole set of large, colorful cappuccino mugs
      Have an idea for custom art that you would like to see brought to fruition? Feel free to contact me!

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8. Former Cleveland Kidnap Victims Release Book

Amanda Berry and Gina DeJesus, two of three women who were kidnapped and held captive for a decade by bus driver Ariel Castro in Cleveland, OH, have penned a book.

“Hope: A Memoir of Survival in Cleveland” (Viking), which was written in conjunction with Pulitzer Prize–winning Washington Post reporters Mary Jordan and Kevin Sullivan, tells the story of how they were captured, raped and tortured in Castro’s basement.

“The full story behind the headlines—including details never previously released on Castro’s life and motivations—Hope is a harrowing yet inspiring chronicle of two women whose courage, ingenuity, and resourcefulness ultimately delivered them back to their lives and families,” explains the book’s description.

Michelle Knight, the third victim, wrote a memoir called, “Finding Me: A Decade of Darkness, a Life Reclaimed: A Memoir of the Cleveland Kidnappings,” which was published last year by Weinstein Books.

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9. Cover Revealed For New V.E. Schwab Book

A Gathering of Shadows Final

The cover for the U.S. edition of V. E. Schwab’s forthcoming science-fiction book, A Gathering of Shadows, has been unveiled. We’ve embedded the full image above—what do you think?

According to the Tor.com blog, illustrator Will Staehle designed this jacket. This novel, a sequel to A Darker Shade of Magic, will be published in February 2016.

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10. Ty Templeton is home and has some advice for all of us

daredevil-hearts (1).jpg

The Beat has been reporting over the last few weeks on Ty Templeton’s severe heart attack and I’m pleased to report that he’s home and recovering. In Templeton fashion, he made a comic out of it, but he also revealed the severity of his health issues—he was brought back to life three times and wasn’t expected to survive.

My wife updated the internet about what was going on, so folks knew what was happening, but she kept how bad it was a secret so my kids didn’t know how the real details of it all until I was out of danger.   It seems the staff didn’t expect me to survive more than a day or two, and I ended up earning the nickname “Miracle Man” from some of the doctors there when I woke up from the medially induced coma a little earlier than they saw coming.  That’s kind of cool.  My first professional inking job was in the back of a Miracleman comic from Eclipse, back in the day, so it seems only fitting.

Recovery is slower than I expected.  I have to nap every time I climb a set of stairs, and drawing still isn’t back up to speed (hence the stolen panels in the above Bun Toon), but never fear, I’m getting better slowly, and expect to be putting pencil to paper in a week or so, just as soon as I can go more than an hour awake.  There’s probably another Bun Toon or two in the whole experience (you people need to know what it’s like to be awake for an aortic stent operation, science is COOL!)

I’m going to close with this:  For everyone who needs to think about changing their lifestyle, please use me as the poster boy, and don’t wait until your own wake up call.  I’ll take the hit for everyone if they just learn my lesson.  NO PROCESSED FOODS!  Raw veggies, water and fruits, and no meat until after sundown, and it’s a long life for all of us.  Oh, and walk around a bit, not just back and forth to the fridge.

While thankful for Templeton’s survival. it’s worth heeding his closing thoughts as well. As someone who makes her living sitting down for 12 hours a day I can tell you that is extremely unhealthy and I’m not alone. No sleep deadlines backed up by caffeine and nicotine and performance enhancing energy drinks are an industry norm. It’s a good idea to take care of yourself in some way. A couple of ideas:

WillbergNOPAINcvr-372x482.jpg
I’d like to recommend this book, No Pain: Injury Prevention for Cartoonists by Kriota Wilberg which has important information on how to sit if you’ve got to do it. (And just a few minutes ago we reported on one well known cartoonist’s arm injury, so this is a real thing.)

WillbergNOPAINp49.jpg

Everyone wants to lsoe weight but there’s love handles and there’s a serious issue. For those who are thinking “I’ve tried and this is impossible” I’d like to point out this inspiring public post by Action Labs’ Jamal Igle who has instituted a lifestyle change that has yielded incredible results for him:

Weight loss update..This is a big one.*I just want to add something. Someone said that “looks don’t matter” and they’re…

Posted by Jamal Yaseem Igle on Thursday, April 23, 2015

I’ve recently made some health changes myself, going from a diet that was high in sugar and carbs to cutting out bread and sweets about 95% of the time and reintroducing more weight resistance exercise into my life style. Finding the time for all this is hard, but my discovery was that feeling better makes me MORE productive as opposed to sitting and fretting and chugging more and more coffee as a hedge against time. I have a ways to go, but something is better than nothing.

Reporting on health issues for cartoonists is a once a week feature of this site and others. Some of it is chance, but some of it is preventable. Take a few moments to think about yourself and what changes you can make that are achievable to improve your health—if not for you, for the people you love. They’ll be glad you did and so will you.

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11. Conductor Paul Phillips


Yesterday we heard a performance by the Brown University Orchestra, led by Conductor and Music Director, Paul Phillips.

I drew the overall silhouette with two brush pens, one filled with clear water and the other with black ink. While that was still wet, I used a black water-soluble colored pencil to define some of the smaller forms.

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12.



A couple more reviews of Black Static #45 and my story The Drop of Light and the Rise of Dark.


"...standing out from the other fiction in the magazine in that it's set at a pitch of full-blooded, heart-stopping terror almost from the outset." Tom Johnstone

"Gardner amps the creep factor up to 11 in this claustrophobic fever dream that ends in a way I hadn't expected." Nick Cato, The Horror Fiction Review



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13. Charlie Hebdo Causes Controversy: Writers Back Out of PEN America Event in NYC

PEN American Center is holding its Freedom of Expression Courage Award ceremony in New York next week their decision to honor the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo is causing a stir.

A number of writers have backed out of the event questioning if Charlie Hebdo is truly a shining example of pushing freedom of expression suggesting that the publication was less focused on free speech an more on picking on a minority group. The New York Times has the scoop:

The novelists Peter Carey, Michael Ondaatje, Francine Prose, Teju Cole, Rachel Kushner and Taiye Selasi have withdrawn from the gala, at the American Museum of Natural History in Manhattan. Gerard Biard, Charlie Hebdo’s editor in chief, and Jean-Baptiste Thoret, a Charlie Hebdo staff member who arrived late for work on Jan. 7 and missed the attack by Islamic extremists that killed 12 people, are scheduled to accept the award.

PEN America has stood by its decision, saying that you don’t have to agree with the publication in order to stand by its principles. Salman Rushdie, a former president of PEN, stood by the nomination. \"If PEN as a free speech organization can’t defend and celebrate people who have been murdered for drawing pictures, then frankly the organization is not worth the name,” he told The Times.

 

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14. Cougar Bay Osprey

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15. Walkthrough: How I paint

via Muddy Colors http://ift.tt/1b60YUy

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16. Alfred

 

The comic project my sister, Emily, and I have been collaborating on is ready to go. We're excited to share Alfred -- we've had a blast working on this and hope you like it, too. You can read weekly updates every Monday over here.

The back story? Over the holidays a coffeeshop conversation ended up evolving into Emily's idea for a comic. Many months, several late nights and a couple weekends later, we're ready to go. Alfred is equal parts sci-fi, fantasy and mystery, with a healthy dose of Maine thrown in. And let's not forget, lots and lots of salt water.

Enjoy!

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17. Don M. Mankiewicz Has Died

Pen and PaperDon M. Mankiewicz has died. He was 93 years old.

As a writer, Mankiewicz specialized in creating novels and screenplays. The Los Angeles Times reports that his first novel, entitled The Trial, was published in 1954 and later adapted into a film featuring Dorothy McGuire and Glenn Ford.

According to Deadline.com, Mankiewicz “received an Oscar nomination in for his screenplay adaptation of I Want to Live!, a 1958 film about a prostitute falsely accused of murder. It was loosely based on the true story of Barbara Graham, who was put to death in California’s gas chamber three years earlier.”

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18. Squirrels

Tourists gathered ‘round a tree,
With cell phone cameras out,
Are not impressed by daffodils
Or tulips soon to sprout.

They’re focused on a squirrel
Which, to jaded local eyes,
Wouldn’t rate a second glance
But somehow seems to tantalize.

For in many other places,
Squirrels simply don’t exist;
With their bushy tails and antics,
How could visitors resist?

Back when I was just a child,
An acquaintance pulled one’s tail
And was bitten rather badly;
Now a scar he could unveil.

Squirrels also raid the feeders
And deprive the birds of seed.
They’ll outsmart all the deterrents
With their cleverness and greed.

So let tourists take their photos
Of these rodents oh, so cute.
To New Yorkers, their attraction
Is a subject of dispute.

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19. Oblong Books, Romantic Times, and BEA/BookCon

I’m doing three events in May: an appearance at Oblong Books in Rhinebeck, NY; several panels and a signing at the Romantic Times Conference in Dallas, TX; and a few things around Book Expo America here in New York City.

Oblong Books
Sunday, May 10, 2015

4:00pm
6422 Montgomery Street
Rhinebeck, NY 12572

Justine and I will be talking about our new books, Razorhurst and Afterworlds, and of course signing whatever you want us to sign.

Here’s a link to the event.

Romantic Times
Dallas, TX
May 12-17

I’m on three panels:

YA: From Magic to Gadgets to Alternate Worlds, A YA Fantasy Primer for Writers
Thursday, May 14, 2015 – 1:30pm to 2:30pm
Atrium Level (2nd Floor)
Room: Bryan-Beeman B

Uplifting Service
(Justine and I are special guests in this librarian-focused event.)
Thursday, May 14, 2015 – 2:45pm to 3:45pm
Atrium Level
Room: Cotton Bowl

Humble Beginnings: Your Favorite YA Authors Share Their Teen Writing
Saturday, May 16, 2015 – 4:30pm to 5:45pm
Atrium Level
Room: Gaston

Also, I’ll be at the huge Book Fair signing on May 16. Several of my books will be available for sale there.

Note that you have to get admission to the RT Convention to attend an of these events.

And finally, I’ll be at several events around Book Expo America and Book Con here in NYC.

Book Expo
Javits Convention Center
Friday, May 29th
10:30 – 11:30 am, Zeroes signing (in signing area)
3:30 – 4:45 pm, CBC Tea (room TK)

BookCon
Javits Convention Center
Sunday, May 31st
2:00-3:00 pm, Afterworlds signing
3:30-4:30 pm, The Big Bad Theory
(Sci Fi Panel, moderated by CharlieJane Anders)

More details to come!

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20. Social Media Etiquette

What not to do when using social media.


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21. Batman: Arkham Knight, Now With More Nightwing, Robin, and Azrael?

Here it is:

Batman: Arkham Knight developer, Rocksteady are ending their Arkham series with a nuke. Today’s trailer shows off a new feature for the series. This time around players will have the ability to switch between characters from the Bat-family. The trailer shows Nightwing and Robin executing co-op attacks on enemies. Previously these characters have only appeared as DLC for the game’s challenge maps, but now their going to be a part of the campaign narrative.

In addition comic fans will recognize the character known as Azrael. No word on if this version is Jean Paul Valley, who took over the mantle of the bat during the Knightfall storyline in the comics. So far all the marketing materials points to a bold move from the developer that may spell the demise of Batman.

Batman: Arkham Knight comes to the PS4, Xbox One, and PC June 23.

We’ll talk more about this latest trailer and the Silent Hill cancelation this evening, in the meantime what are your thoughts about this new Batman trailer?

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22. New Adult Fiction Genre - Contemporary Romance - #WriteTip



There is a new genre emerging..."New Adult" fiction for older teens aka college-aged readers. You never stop growing up, but little in the market seems to address the coming-of-age that also happens between the ages of Nineteen to Twenty-six. Life changes drastically once high school is over, you have college, first jobs, first internships, first adult relationships…

Part of the appeal of NA is that the storylines are about characters who are taking on adult responsibilities for the first time without guidance from their parents. And the storylines generally have a heavy romance element. 

Keep this in mind as you revise your wonderful story, New Adult books are mostly about that specific time in every person's life—the time when the apron strings are cut from your parents, you no longer have a curfew, you're experiencing the world for the very first time, in most cases, with innocent eyes. New Adult is this section of your life where you discover who you want to be, what you want to be, and what type of person you will become. This time defines you. This is the time of firsts, the time where you can't blame your parents for your own bad choices. 


An NA character has to take responsibility for their own choices and live with the consequences. Most storylines are about twenty-something (18 to 26) characters living their own lives without any parents breathing down their necks, and learning to solve things on their own as they would in real life. New Adult fiction focuses on switching gears, from depending on our parents to becoming full-fledged, independent adults.

I am a firm believer that if you’re going to write a certain genre that you should read it, too. So I’m going to recommend that you start devouring NA novels to get a real sense and understanding of the genre before you write one.

Here are some great recommendations: https://www.goodreads.com/genres/new-adult-romance and http://www.goodreads.com/genres/new-adult and https://www.goodreads.com/shelf/show/new-adult-romance
 

Just as YA is fiction about teens discovering who they are as a person, New Adult (NA) is fiction about building your own life as an actual adult. As older teen readers discover the joy of the Young Adult genres, the New Adult—demand may increase. This, in turn, would give writers the chance to explore the freedom of a slightly older protagonist (over the age of 18 and out of high school, like the brilliant novel, "BEAUTIFUL DISASTER" by the amazing talents of author, Jamie McGuire) while addressing more adult issues that early 20-year-olds must face.

Older protagonists (basically, college students) are surprisingly rare; in a panel on YA literature at Harvard’s 2008 Vericon, City of Bones author talked about pitching her novel, then about twenty-somethings, as adult fiction. After several conversations, Clare realized she had to choose between adults and teens. She went with teens.

Quote from the publisher, St. Martin’s Press: We are actively looking for great, new, cutting edge fiction with protagonists who are slightly older than YA and can appeal to an adult audience. Since twenty-somethings are devouring YA, St. Martin’s Press is seeking fiction similar to YA that can be published and marketed as adult—a sort of an “older YA” or “new adult.” In this category, they are looking for spunky but not stupid, serious but not dull, cutting-edge, supernatural stories.

Quote from Georgia McBride, author (Praefatio) and founder of #YALitChat and publisher at Month9Books: "New Adult is a fabulous idea in theory, and authors seem to be excited about it. But in a world where bookstores shelf by category, to them, it is either  Adult or Young Adult. Some booksellers even call their YA section “teen.” And when you have a character who is over a certain age (19 seems to be the age most consider the start of New Adult), it is received as Adult. In some cases, the designation by publishers causes more confusion than not.
Let’s face it, YA is associated with teens, and at 19, most no longer consider themselves teens. So, it would support the theory of placing these “New Adult” titles in the Adult section. However, with the prevalence of eBook content, it would seem that the powers that be could easily create a New Adult category if they really wanted to...."

There’s also a list on goodreads of New Adult book titles. These books focus on college age characters, late teens to early twenties, transitioning into the adult world.

Some popular authors of the NA category include:
  • Jamie McGuire
  • Jessica Park
  • Tammara Webber
  • Steph Campbell
  • Liz Reinhardt
  • Abbi Glines
  • Colleen Hoover 
  • Sherry Soule
http://www.wattpad.com/story/29486760-irresistible-mistake-new-adult-romantic-suspense


Would you buy New Adult books? 
Does the genre appeal to you? 

Does it sound better than YA (teen novels)? 
 
Or are you happy with YA as it stands?

Do you consider YA to include characters that are over the age of eighteen? 
 

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23. A-Force #1 Preview: Yes, Captain Marvel Punches a Shark…Stop Asking!

Marvel’s A-Force #1 from G. Willow Wilson and Marguerite Bennett with art from Jorge Molina features a stable of the publishers mightiest female heroes — and Captain Marvel punching a shark. The comic takes place during Battleworld in the upcoming Secret Wars event, which see’s nearly every Marvel character converging (haha) on one singular planet. The warriors attempt to defend their section of Battleworld, and Marvel notes that they have to fight off a mysterious horde. Nestled in the preview art is a mysterious woman in the back of the roster (five points to anyone who can figure out who she is in the comments!) The title includes a large roster of characters including familiar faces like She-Hulk, Spider-Woman, Rogue, Dazzler, Phoenix, Pixie, Captain Marvel, Medusa and more. The new comic is set to debut at local comic shops on May 20, 2015 at a $3.99 price point. Cover artists include Jim Cheung, Jorge Molina, Stephanie Hans, Russell Dauterman, Adam Hughes, and more. Thanks to CBR for the preview. More importantly, Captain Marvel punches a shark in this comic…you’re welcome.

A-FORCE #1 (MAR150665)
Written by G. WILLOW WILSON & MARGUERITE BENNETT
Art by JORGE MOLINA
Inhumans 50th Anniversary Variant by ADAM HUGES (MAR150666)
Variant Covers by RUSSELL DAUTERMAN (MAR150667) STEPHANIE HANS (MAR150668)
JORGE MOLINA (MAR150669) and SKOTTIE YOUNG (MAR150670)
Blank Variant Also Available (MAR150671)
FOC – 04/27/15, On-Sale – 05/20/15
As the Secret Wars begin, the Avengers as you know them are no more – and a new team will lead the way! In a secluded corner of Battleworld lies Arcadia, an island nation fiercely protected by a team of Avengers the likes of which has never been seen before!
So who are the Marvel powerhouses taking center stage? “She-Hulk, Dazzler, Medusa, Nico Minoru and other fan favorites, will take charge,” says series co-writer G. Willow Wilson. “We’ve purposefully assembled a team composed of different characters from disparate parts of the Marvel U, with very different power sets, identities and ideologies.”
And there came a day unlike any other, when Earth’s Mightiest Heroines found themselves united against a common threat. Fighting to protect the small sliver of their world that’s left, they stand tall, shoulder-to-shoulder, ready to take on the horde. Ushering in a new day with a rallying cry heard across Battleworld – A-FORCE ASSEMBLE!









A-Force-1-Dauterman-Variant-af093 A-Force-1-Hans-Variant-dfea6 A-Force-1-Hughes-Inhumans-50th-Anniversary-53121 A-Force-1-Molina-Variant-693ae A-Force-1-Preview-1-b7c75 A-Force-1-Preview-2-81b31 A-Force-1-Preview-3-ffa1a

1 Comments on A-Force #1 Preview: Yes, Captain Marvel Punches a Shark…Stop Asking!, last added: 4/27/2015
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24. Taiwan Trip Diary: Days 1 and 2



Taipei from the bus.
<!--[if gte mso 9]> Normal 0 false false false EN-US X-NONE X-NONE MicrosoftInternetExplorer4 <![endif]-->Today I start my "Taiwan Diary" posts, outlining as best I can our 12 days of non-stop fun. 

Day 1 of the trip, a full travel day, might not sound like a thrill-a-minute, but I actually enjoyed it. Starting here at home in Albuquerque: up at 5.00 AM to shower, breakfast, and get to the airport (thankfully just a 20 minute drive away) in time for my flight to San Francisco where I would catch the plane to Taipei.

From Albuquerque to San Francisco I got the surprise of my life: several crates of puppies were packed behind me in the cargo area—aarf, aarf, aarf for the next two hours! At first I thought it was the guy sitting next to me--I was terrified he was making barking noises and I would have to call security.

When I realized he couldn't possibly be barking in three different languages (i.e., chihuahua, poodle, and mutt), I finally arrived in San Francisco: collecting luggage, checking in to EVA Airlines, and meeting up with the rest of the tour group. After a several hour wait, we then boarded our plane for a long (14 hours?) trip made bearable by movies, a much better system than the days when I used to fly back and forth to New Zealand. 

I watched The Theory of Everything (the recent film about Stephen Hawking); Someone to Love (Scandinavian tear-jerker about a selfish rock star who has to raise his grandson when the child's drug addict mother--the mean superstar's daughter--overdoses. It might have been a bit heavy for in-flight entertainment, but I felt I got to see a side of Scandinavian life I would otherwise have missed); and Gemma Bovary, a rather strange and dark French comedy (I think it was a comedy) about a woman whose life mimicked that of Madame Bovary. Which anyone familiar with the story would know is not very comedic!

By the time we arrived in Taipei it was a couple of hours before midnight, but we had yet to get through immigration, a seemingly endless line of night-arriving travelers. Once that was over, we were next into a shuttle van and off to the City Suites Hotel, a clean and comfortable stay perfect for when you have absolutely no idea where you are, what time of night or day it really is, and just need to crawl into bed. 

At first my roommate (who turned out to be the best roommate anyone could ever ask for!!) and I couldn't get the lights to work until we figured out we had to place our room key card in the light switch. And then we couldn’t figure out how to turn them off--I think we slept with the lights on. Until dawn, at least, when I got up and unplugged all the lamps without telling her so that she thought there were no lights at all. Not my smartest moment.

What I do think was a pretty smart move, though, was my idea to throw away my entire airplane outfit! Yep, this had been my plan all along. For traveling I wore my very worst yard clothes and during the rest of the trip I managed to throw out 1 pair of jeans, 4 tops, 2 cardigan sweaters, a pair of shoes, and ALL of my underwear and socks. Talk about traveling light. My "Throw and Go" system was the best travel brainstorm I’ve ever had: months ago I started collecting things that would normally go in the rag bag or trash and decided to wear them one last time on the trip. I will never travel any other way again. "Throw and Go" not only solved the laundry problem, it left plenty of room in my suitcase for shopping.

Day 2 found me getting up at 5.00 AM again—I felt completely rested and ready to see the sights. This pattern seemed to follow me the rest of the trip—I didn’t want to miss a thing! 

The day turned out to be cold and overcast, making me grateful to have brought a raincoat with a removable liner and hood. Coming from Albuquerque, I found the light drizzle something of a novelty, providing a mysterious dreamlike atmosphere that only added to my sense of adventure. Our tour guide also informed us that water brings good luck, a statement that proved itself just about every day.

After breakfast (with some of the best coffee I've ever had in my life--another great thing that continued throughout the entire trip) and waiting for everyone to gather for the bus, I took a few minutes to sketch the back view from the hotel lobby where a small canal or stream was flowing past:



My chosen medium was watercolor pencils, and everything was going fine until I went to fill my water brush with water and it broke in two. For anyone not familiar with a water brush, it's a brush that holds water in the tubular barrel and is (usually) great for travel. Except for when it breaks, which had never happened to me before. During the flight it must have developed some kind of airlock from the pressure, finally snapping in two. At first I was totally devastated; my whole "art plan" depended on my water brush. I consoled myself with the fact that we were going to an art supply store in the afternoon where I could buy a new one and I could always add the water at any time, but I wanted to paint now.

Painting woes aside, it was time to get on the bus, and our first tour stop of the day was the residence, now a museum, of Chang Dai-Chien, Taiwan’s most famous splash ink artist. 

The entrance to the neighborhood housing the residence.


The Master's carp pond.


The Master's inner courtyard.


The back of the residence. Bonsai trees, rushing water, mountains, and white butterflies.


The Master's pickle jars!

The residence was definitely well worth the visit, an experience made even more interesting when our guide explained that the reason for all the water (ponds, waterfalls, river) was not only for the visual beauty, but for the sound. Chinese art strives to use, and be inspired by, all the senses, something I want to keep in mind for future artwork.

From the Master's House our next stop was the National Palace Museum—one of the largest collections of Chinese antiquities in the world.

I have no idea who these people are or how they got in my photo.

Before we started exploring the museum though, it was time for lunch. With chopsticks. Here is the sad story of me and chopsticks: despite having watched 3 Youtube videos prior to my departure on the correct usage of these darn little sticks, and practicing at home with knitting needles, I still made a big mess. Everyone else at my table seemed to be genius chopstick users. The thought occurred to me that I  was going to have to solve the problem soon or I might soon be banned from the table. I couldn't eat with my fingers forever!


From the museum steps. (And an exciting view of the backs of people's heads. Sorry!)

Once I was finished throwing my food around the room we were given several free hours on our own to wander and absorb the magnificence of the actual museum. Again I noted in some of the displays that same theme of Chinese art using all the senses, particularly those that help to find  the "chi" of whatever subject is being portrayed. For instance, if the artist was painting an animal, that chi might be found in the way the little creature lifted its paw or angled its head--an excellent starting point for any work of art.




Although the museum was far too big to cover in a single afternoon, I managed to see more floors and exhibitions then I thought I would, but it was tiring work. To recover I decided to get another cup of wonderful Taiwanese coffee and go outside for some more sketching. Another piece of advice I recalled from The Tao of Sketching was to cultivate "visual memory," so I tried to reproduce a Ming vase I saw in one of the exhibitions. I don't think I captured its "chi" exactly, but it makes a nice memory all the same.




My sketch and coffee finished, the chilly weather drove me back inside and surprise, surprise, into the museum gift store. I had wanted some cat art and sure enough, there it were two prints just waiting for me:

Lots of chi here, don't you think?
I'll be framing these soon for my office.

At last it was time to go to the art supply store, an old-world traditional shop up a steep flight of stairs and next to a street vendor making and selling delicious-smelling steamed pork buns (and that's from a vegetarian!). While the others in our group ordered authentic carved name seals (I opted out because I wasn't sure I really had a need for one) I started searching in vain for my water brush. Not only were they nonexistent, no one had a clue what I was talking about (neither in English nor with the help of Chinese translation.) 

Which leads me to this important travel tip: keep the various parts of your brush separated while flying. Better still, take at least two brushes—this was one case where “traveling light” was too light.

However, all was not lost. I ended up purchasing something much, much better: a little Chinese watercolor brush I will treasure forever. The only downside of this brush was having to use a bottle of drinking water for dipping and cleaning it, and then having to constantly remind myself not to drink my paint water . . .  


Such a sweet little brush. Excellent quality. I love it.

Last stop of the day was dinner and bed, all at the spectacular Grand Hotel where we turned into royalty. Sheer heaven. What a way to travel.



I reveled in the abundance of soaps, shampoos and lotions all smelling better than Chanel No. 5. Chinese artistry celebrates the senses for sure.

Highlight of the Day: Rubber stamps! Starting at the National Palace Museum I discovered that most tourist sites and even some hotels provide rubber stamps and ink pads to commemorate your visit with a mini work of art. It was so much fun collecting the various images throughout the country and I think they really enhanced my journal/sketchbook. The one I added to my museum sketch (and after I was able to use my paint brush) was one I found several days later at a Buddhist monastery. I have no idea what it says, or if I have the characters facing the right direction, but I'm glad I found it.

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25. Excerpt: Elephant Don

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An excerpt from Elephant Don: The Politics of a Pachyderm Posse 

by Caitlin O’Connell

“Kissing the Ring”

Sitting in our research tower at the water hole, I sipped my tea and enjoyed the late morning view. A couple of lappet-faced vultures climbed a nearby thermal in the white sky. A small dust devil of sand, dry brush, and elephant dung whirled around the pan, scattering a flock of guinea fowl in its path. It appeared to be just another day for all the denizens of Mushara water hole—except the elephants. For them, a storm of epic proportions was brewing.

It was the beginning of the 2005 season at my field site in Etosha National Park, Namibia—just after the rainy period, when more elephants would be coming to Mushara in search of water—and I was focused on sorting out the dynamics of the resident male elephant society. I was determined to see if male elephants operated under different rules here than in other environments and how this male society compared to other male societies in general. Among the many questions I wanted to answer was how ranking was determined and maintained and for how long the dominant bull could hold his position at the top of the hierarchy.

While observing eight members of the local boys’ club arrive for a drink, I immediately noticed that something was amiss—these bulls weren’t quite up to their usual friendly antics. There was an undeniable edge to the mood of the group.

The two youngest bulls, Osh and Vincent Van Gogh, kept shifting their weight back and forth from shoulder to shoulder, seemingly looking for reassurance from their mid- and high-ranking elders. Occasionally, one or the other held its trunk tentatively outward—as if to gain comfort from a ritualized trunk-to-mouth greeting.

The elders completely ignored these gestures, offering none of the usual reassurances such as a trunk-to-mouth in return or an ear over a youngster’s head or rear. Instead, everyone kept an eye on Greg, the most dominant member of the group. And for whatever reason, Greg was in a foul temper. He moved as if ants were crawling under his skin.

Like many other animals, elephants form a strict hierarchy to reduce conflict over scarce resources, such as water, food, and mates. In this desert environment, it made sense that these bulls would form a pecking order to reduce the amount of conflict surrounding access to water, particularly the cleanest water.

At Mushara water hole, the best water comes up from the outflow of an artesian well, which is funneled into a cement trough at a particular point. As clean water is more palatable to the elephant and as access to the best drinking spot is driven by dominance, scoring of rank in most cases is made fairly simple—based on the number of times one bull wins a contest with another by usurping his position at the water hole, by forcing him to move to a less desirable position in terms of water quality, or by changing trajectory away from better-quality water through physical contact or visual cues.

Cynthia Moss and her colleagues had figured out a great deal about dominance in matriarchal family groups by. Their long-term studies in Amboseli National Park showed that the top position in the family was passed on to the next oldest and wisest female, rather than to the offspring of the most dominant individual. Females formed extended social networks, with the strongest bonds being found within the family group. Then the network branched out into bond groups, and beyond that into associated groups called clans. Branches of these networks were fluid in nature, with some group members coming together and others spreading out to join more distantly related groups in what had been termed a fission-fusion society.

Not as much research had been done on the social lives males, outside the work by Joyce Poole and her colleagues in the context of musth and one-on-one contests. I wanted to understand how male relationships were structured after leaving their maternal family groups as teens, when much of their adult lives was spent away from their female family. In my previous field seasons at Mushara, I’d noticed that male elephants formed much larger and more consistent groups than had been reported elsewhere and that, in dry years, lone bulls were not as common here than were recorded in other research sites.

Bulls of all ages were remarkably affiliative—or friendly—within associated groups at Mushara. This was particularly true of adolescent bulls, which were always touching each other and often maintained body contact for long periods. And it was common to see a gathering of elephant bulls arrive together in one long dusty line of gray boulders that rose from the tree line and slowly morphed into elephants. Most often, they’d leave in a similar manner—just as the family groups of females did.

The dominant bull, Greg, most often at the head of the line, is distinguishable by the two square-shaped notches out of the lower portion of his left ear. But there is something deeper that differentiates him, something that exhibits his character and makes him visible from a long way off. This guy has the confidence of royalty—the way he holds his head, his casual swagger: he is made of kingly stuff. And it is clear that the others acknowledge his royal rank as his position is reinforced every time he struts up to the water hole to drink.

Without fail, when Greg approaches, the other bulls slowly back away, allowing him access to the best, purest water at the head of the trough—the score having been settled at some earlier period, as this deference is triggered without challenge or contest almost every time. The head of the trough is equivalent to the end of the table and is clearly reserved for the top-ranking elephant—the one I can’t help but refer to as the don since his subordinates line up to place their trunks in his mouth as if kissing a Mafioso don’s ring.

As I watched Greg settle in to drink, each bull approached in turn with trunk outstretched, quivering in trepidation, dipping the tip into Greg’s mouth. It was clearly an act of great intent, a symbolic gesture of respect for the highest-ranking male. After performing the ritual, the lesser bulls seemed to relax their shoulder as they shifted to a lower-ranking position within the elephantine equivalent of a social club. Each bull paid their respects and then retreated. It was an event that never failed to impress me—one of those reminders in life that maybe humans are not as special in our social complexity as we sometimes like to think—or at least that other animals may be equally complex. This male culture was steeped in ritual.

Greg takes on Kevin. Both bulls face each other squarely, with ears held out. Greg’s ear cutout pattern in the left ear make him very recognizable

 

But today, no amount of ritual would placate the don. Greg was clearly agitated. He was shifting his weight from one front foot to the other in jerky movements and spinning his head around to watch his back, as if someone had tapped him on the shoulder in a bar, trying to pick a fight.

The midranking bulls were in a state of upheaval in the presence of their pissed-off don. Each seemed to be demonstrating good relations with key higher-ranking individuals through body contact. Osh leaned against Torn Trunk on his one side, and Dave leaned in from the other, placing his trunk in Torn Trunk’s mouth. The most sought-after connection was with Greg himself, of course, who normally allowed lower-ranking individuals like Tim to drink at the dominant position with him.

Greg, however, was in no mood for the brotherly “back slapping” that ordinarily took place. Tim, as a result, didn’t display the confidence that he generally had in Greg’s presence. He stood cowering at the lowest-ranking position at the trough, sucking his trunk, as if uncertain of how to negotiate his place in the hierarchy without the protection of the don.

Finally, the explanation for all of the chaos strode in on four legs. It was Kevin, the third-ranking bull. His wide-splayed tusks, perfect ears, and bald tail made him easy to identify. And he exhibited the telltale sign of musth, as urine was dribbling from his penis sheath. With shoulders high and head up, he was ready to take Greg on.

A bull entering the hormonal state of musth was supposed to experience a kind of “Popeye effect” that trumped established dominance patterns—even the alpha male wouldn’t risk challenging a bull elephant with the testosterone equivalent of a can of spinach on board. In fact, there are reports of musth bulls having on the order of twenty times the normal amount of testosterone circulating in their blood. That’s a lot of spinach.

Musth manifests itself in a suite of exaggerated aggressive displays, including curling the trunk across the brow with ears waving—presumably to facilitate the wafting of a musthy secretion from glands in the temporal region—all the while dribbling urine. The message is the elephant equivalent of “don’t even think about messing with me ’cause I’m so crazy-mad that I’ll tear your frickin’ head off”—a kind of Dennis Hopper approach to negotiating space.

Musth—a Hindi word derived from the Persian and Urdu word “mast,” meaning intoxicated—was first noted in the Asian elephant. In Sufi philosophy, a mast (pronounced “must”) was someone so overcome with love for God that in their ecstasy they appeared to be disoriented. The testosterone-heightened state of musth is similar to the phenomenon of rutting in antelopes, in which all adult males compete for access to females under the influence of a similar surge of testosterone that lasts throughout a discrete season. During the rutting season, roaring red deer and bugling elk, for example, aggressively fight off other males in rut and do their best to corral and defend their harems in order to mate with as many does as possible.

The curious thing about elephants, however, is that only a few bulls go into musth at any one time throughout the year. This means that there is no discrete season when all bulls are simultaneously vying for mates. The prevailing theory is that this staggering of bulls entering musth allows lower-ranking males to gain a temporary competitive advantage over others of higher rank by becoming so acutely agitated that dominant bulls wouldn’t want to contend with such a challenge, even in the presence of an estrus female who is ready to mate. This serves to spread the wealth in terms of gene pool variation, in that the dominant bull won’t then be the only father in the region.

Given what was known about musth, I fully expected Greg to get the daylights beaten out of him. Everything I had read suggested that when a top-ranking bull went up against a rival that was in musth, the rival would win.

What makes the stakes especially high for elephant bulls is the fact that estrus is so infrequent among elephant cows. Since gestation lasts twenty-two months, and calves are only weaned after two years, estrus cycles are spaced at least four and as many as six years apart. Because of this unusually long interval, relatively few female elephants are ovulating in any one season. The competition for access to cows is stiffer than in most other mammalian societies, where almost all mature females would be available to mate in any one year. To complicate matters, sexually mature bulls don’t live within matriarchal family groups and elephants range widely in search of water and forage, sofinding an estrus female is that much more of a challenge for a bull.

Long-term studies in Amboseli indicated that the more dominant bulls still had an advantage, in that they tended to come into musth when more females were likely to be in estrus. Moreover, these bulls were able to maintain their musth period for a longer time than the younger, less dominant bulls. Although estrus was not supposed to be synchronous in females, more females tended to come into estrus at the end of the wet season, with babies appearing toward the middle of the wet season, twenty-two months later. So being in musth in this prime period was clearly an advantage.

Even if Greg enjoyed the luxury of being in musth during the peak of estrus females, this was not his season. According to the prevailing theory, and in this situation, Greg would back down to Kevin.

As Kevin sauntered up to the water hole, the rest of the bulls backed away like a crowd avoiding a street fight. Except for Greg. Not only did Greg not back down, he marched clear around the pan with his head held to its fullest height, back arched, heading straight for Kevin. Even more surprising, when Kevin saw Greg approach him with this aggressive posture, he immediately started to back up.

Backing up is rarely a graceful procedure for any animal, and I had certainly never seen an elephant back up so sure-footedly. But there was Kevin, keeping his same even and wide gait, only in the reverse direction—like a four-legged Michael Jackson doing the moon walk. He walked backward with such purpose and poise that I couldn’t help but feel that I was watching a videotape playing in reverse—that Nordic-track style gait, fluidly moving in the opposite direction, first the legs on the one side, then on the other, always hind foot first.

Greg stepped up his game a notch as Kevin readied himself in his now fifty-yard retreat, squaring off to face his assailant head on. Greg puffed up like a bruiser and picked up his pace, kicking dust in all directions. Just before reaching Kevin, Greg lifted his head even higher and made a full frontal attack, lunging at the offending beast, thrusting his head forward, ready to come to blows.

In another instant, two mighty heads collided in a dusty clash. Tusks met in an explosive crack, with trunks tucked under bellies to stay clear of the collisions. Greg’s ears were pinched in the horizontal position—an extremely aggressive posture. And using the full weight of his body, he raised his head again and slammed at Kevin with his broken tusks. Dust flew as the musth bull now went in full backward retreat.

Amazingly, this third-ranking bull, doped up with the elephant equivalent of PCP, was getting his hide kicked. That wasn’t supposed to happen.

At first, it looked as if it would be over without much of a fight. Then, Kevin made his move and went from retreat to confrontation and approached Greg, holding his head high. With heads now aligned and only inches apart, the two bulls locked eyes and squared up again, muscles tense. It was like watching two cowboys face off in a western.

There were a lot of false starts, mock charges from inches away, and all manner of insults cast through stiff trunks and arched backs. For a while, these two seemed equally matched, and the fight turned into a stalemate.

But after holding his own for half an hour, Kevin’s strength, or confidence, visibly waned—a change that did not go unnoticed by Greg, who took full advantage of the situation. Aggressively dragging his trunk on the ground as he stomped forward, Greg continued to threaten Kevin with body language until finally the lesser bull was able to put a man-made structure between them, a cement bunker that we used for ground-level observations. Now, the two cowboys seemed more like sumo wrestlers, feet stamping in a sideways dance, thrusting their jaws out at each other in threat.

The two bulls faced each other over the cement bunker and postured back and forth, Greg tossing his trunk across the three-meter divide in frustration, until he was at last able to break the standoff, getting Kevin out in the open again. Without the obstacle between them, Kevin couldn’t turn sideways to retreat, as that would have left his body vulnerable to Greg’s formidable tusks. He eventually walked backward until he was driven out of the clearing, defeated.

In less than an hour, Greg, the dominant bull displaced a high-ranking bull in musth. Kevin’s hormonal state not only failed to intimidate Greg but in fact just the opposite occurred: Kevin’s state appeared to fuel Greg into a fit of violence. Greg would not tolerate a usurpation of his power.

Did Greg have a superpower that somehow trumped musth? Or could he only achieve this feat as the most dominant individual within his bonded band of brothers? Perhaps paying respects to the don was a little more expensive than a kiss of the ring.

***

To read more about Elephant Don, click here.

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