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1. Stirring The Plot: Physical Obstacles

Physical obstacles prevent movement, communication, access to a person, the retrieval of an object, and necessary exchanges. 

Physical distance prevents access which increases tension.

Time limits put the tension level at full throttle.

These are the types of action scenes that leave your readers biting their nails. The harder the task, the greater the anxiety level for the reader.

1. A physical barrier, like having to break into a safe or out of a cell.


This is a key tool in every genre from thriller t0 romance. Yes, romance. In the Outlander series, there are numerous times when Jamie and Claire must rescue one another from captors. And what is a heist movie without obstacles to the theft?

2. A situational barrier, such as trying to enter an area that is off limits.

Whether you character succeeds through sweet talk or stealth, waiting for them to get past this barrier can be funny, thrilling, or heartbreaking.

3. Physical restraints, like being stuck inside a car, plane, or train. 


Or trying to break free from handcuffs or a straight jacket. Your character does not have to be a magician to use this tool. They can be tied up or boxed in. Everyone can relate to the need to escape.

4. Missing the target whether it is a boat, train, airplane, or opportunity.


This is another situation your audience can relate to. The nearer the miss, the higher the tension. Will they get another chance or have to find another way?

5. Limited mobility due to a temporary or permanent physical disability.


Self-healing thriller characters aside, when your character is shot, stabbed, or otherwise hobbled, they will have difficulty doing what comes next.

6. Misunderstanding the time frame involved or being given an impossible timeline.


The ticking clock is arguably the most intense tool in the tension toolkit. There must be an "or else" for it to work properly. Nothing is worse than setting a ticking time bomb that doesn't go off.

7. Physical distances that make accomplishing the task difficult or impossible.


Whether you character has to traverse a hall, a flight of stairs, an eighty-story building, or rush from country to country, your readers feed on the the adrenaline rush your character experiences as he tries to accomplish the impossible.

8. Being misled about the correct destination.


Friend or foe, antagonist or love interest, missing the bus gives your readers a feeling of let down. They can relate to that moment when you realize you've taken the wrong turn, the wrong plane, or walked into the wrong bar.

9. Not being able to touch.


Truly, nothing is more agonizing than watching characters who desperately want to touch each other being kept apart. It can be lovers who are forbidden to love, or a mother reaching for a child who is slipping through her hands, literally or figurative. It can be the grieving loved one trying to reach the dead or dying. This tool can gut your reader or fill them with longing.

10. Different places or times.

This tool works best in the science fiction and fantasy realms where characters are literally worlds or time periods apart. From Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series to the movie Somewhere in Time, nothing keeps people apart more effectively than being in different eras. Your characters can be placed in different planets, starships, or fairy realms. Your readers will hang on to find out how they resolve these great distances.

For more about how to craft plots using conflict check out, Story Building Blocks: The Four Layers of conflict available in print and e-book and check out the free tools and information about the series on my website.

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2. Sabotage: The Mission to Destroy Hitler's Atomic Bomb by Neal Bascomb


While WW II was waging furiously in Europe, some countries didn't see as much action. But it didn't mean that pivotal moments didn't occur in those countries.  Switzerland declared itself neutral, but Norway didn't.  And there was one place in Norway that became very VERY interesting to the Nazis.  It was a place so obscure and rare, they would do anything to make sure they could control it. 

An interesting fact - the science behind the nuclear bomb was being explored before and during World War II.  Everyone knew that whomever developed it first would win the war.  And the race was on.  Different physicists and scientists came up with various ways to create one and there were many elements that had to be used.  One of them was called heavy water.  Hydrogen has been replaced by deuterium, which made it essential for bomb making. The unfortunate thing was that heavy water was difficult to produce and there wasn't much of it.

But there was one place in Europe where heavy water was produced.  The Vemork Hydroelectric Plant in Norway.  Difficult to access, it was the perfect Nazi situation, making it hard to infiltrate.  It was to be a huge Nazi secret that gave them the extra incentive to win the nuclear race. 

One thing they didn't count on was the patriotism of the Norwegians.  There were underground resistance groups that sprung up and when the Nazis found them out, they used scare and death tactics to contain them.  It only bolstered them to fight back even more.  Several Norwegians went to England to train with the secret intelligence service to become infiltrators, spies and saboteurs.  They were to go back to Norway and create new resistance groups and sabotage any Nazi effort.

The top priority was to destroy Vemork....but could they without getting caught or putting the small town of Rjukan in jeopardy for their lives? Even worse, their mission was to take place in winter across a vast frozen area where survival would be severely tested.

Young adult non-fiction is fascinating for one very simple reason - these are the events that aren't usually written about in history books. Neal Bascomb hit it out of the park with his newest book. Narrative in nature, Bascomb tells a riveting story as well as providing images and photographs of the main players and sites.  In hindsight, readers will see how one mistake could have changed the outcome of the war. This is the invisible part of WWII teens will find fascinating.

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3. Presidential Polar Bear Post Card Project No. 210 - 8.24.16


Happy 100th birthday to the National Park Service! And the polar bear rangers are ready to go for any further expansions or additions to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and Alaska's coastal plain.

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4. Let's go Nude!



  Or  actually maybe leave it to the professionals....
This week life drawing- an improvement on last week/getting back on track
but far worse on the arriving on time front  :(
Still not too bad for no warmup/sitting behind everyone etc.











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5. Comedy in Picture Books

There are several time-honored ways to create a funny picture book.

https://www.theguardian.com/childrens-books-site/gallery/2016/jun/29/comedy-in-picture-books-how-its-done-in-pictures

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6. PAPERCHASE - gift wrap

We have finally reached the end of our marathon Paperchase review. The only thing we haven't covered is Christmas - but I will save that for later as we are still enjoying the hot sun. For this final day we start with a look at some of the current designs and new arrivals in gift wrap at Paperchase.

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7. Active Bodies, Active Minds: Boost Wellness & Learning with Sports Equipment

kid with basketball

Experts say that one way to help your kids get a jump on learning is to help them, well, JUMP!  Boosting students’ physical activity not only supports health and wellness and makes kids feel better, but it turns out that it can help them learn better, too.

That’s why First Book is excited to announce a brand new addition to the First Book Marketplace lineup of resources:  sports and fitness equipment provided through Target.

“Whether it’s dribbling a basketball, playing softball, or maneuvering through an obstacle course, physical activity can improve academic achievement, boost cognitive skills and improve concentration and behavior for kids – both in and out of the classroom,” said Kyle Zimmer, First Book president and CEO.  “Thanks to Target, many more schools and programs serving kids in need will have the resources to encourage healthy activities that also foster learning.”

Through Target funding, First Book will now offer brand new softballs, soccer balls, bean bag toss games, playground balls and more on the First Book Marketplace.

If you’re a teacher serving children in need, you may be able to take advantage of special funding from Target that will provide credits that educators can use to access sports equipment from the First Book Marketplace site. So run – don’t walk – to find the sports and play equipment you need to support learning and wellness for the children you serve. 

The post Active Bodies, Active Minds: Boost Wellness & Learning with Sports Equipment appeared first on First Book Blog.

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8. poetry friday round-up: open house

Yes, indeed, friends--my house is open!  On Friday at 1:30 pm children and their families will crowd around the lists posted in the foyer of the school to see who has which teacher, and then the new 2nd graders will surge up the stairs to the 2nd floor for the first time to find their new classrooms, and then 16 of them will surge through my door looking for a new home away from home.  I hope they find it, and I hope you will find a home away from home here today in the community, in a poem someone has posted.  I almost always find something just right!

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9. The Picture Book in 2016: Social Themes and Lessons

I recently received a very interesting, if puzzling, question.  A friend of mine needed to know, for professional reasons, what I would consider the top themes in picture books these days.  By “themes” I don’t mean trends but rather emotional or social lessons for young readers.  You might even go so far as to call them the morals we’re trying to impart upon our 21st century offspring.

This is not as easy a question. While I attempt to take meticulous notes on every picture book I read, it’s far easier to keep track of, say, movie cameos in 2016 books than overarching societal anxieties.  Still, I managed to whip up a list and then thought, why not share it widely?

Here then are the top themes I’m detecting in picture books this year.


 

  • It’s Okay to Make Mistakes – Particularly as it applies to girls in science or math, but also to how kids do their own art.  I’ve seen a lot of books where a kid is making art, messes it up in some way, and then learns how to turn it into something new.  By the same token, a lot of books are about how you have to make mistakes to get better at something.  And it’s not about failing once or twice but a LOT.  Not mention asking as many questions as possible!  Hopefully those books where someone tries something three times and gets it done perfectly on the third will be a thing of the past soon.

A Good Example Would Be:

Ada Twist, Scientist by Andrea Beaty, ill. David Roberts

adatwistscientist

Though you might just as easily apply this to Ada’s predecessor Rosie Revere, Engineer.


 

  • Gender Roles – Most notably when it comes to boys in dresses (though no girls identifying as boys) as well as just how kids interact with one another.  Kids learn gender roles VERY early and enforce those roles with one another.  There’s a great book call NutureShock for adults that talks a lot about this.  Picture books have always liked this theme (William’s Doll came out in the 1970s, after all) but now it’s ramping up again.

A Good Example Would Be:

I’m a Girl by Yasmeen Ismail

ImGirl

I was initially going to go with the new James Howe picture book Big Bob, Little Bob, but I already mentioned that one in an earlier post.  There are remarkably few books where gender stereotypes for girls are as thoroughly knocked to the floor and trampled upon than what you’ll find here.  It even saves space to kick to the curb some male gender stereotypes as well at the end.  I’m a fan.


 

  • Economic Disparity – We’re finally seeing some books that acknowledge that not all kids have the same resources at home.  Some kids have parents who lose their jobs.  Others have single family homes.  And not every kid you know has parents who can afford to buy them a bike.

A Good Example Would Be:

A Bike Like Sergio’s by Maribeth Boelts, ill. Noa Z. Jones

BikeLikeSergios

I think what I love so much about this is the easy breezy ignorance of Sergio.  He simply cannot conceive of a world where a boy’s parents wouldn’t be able to buy their son a bike if they wanted to.  Meanwhile the character of Ruben is placed in the awkward position of having to hide his family’s economic situation from his best friend.  And this is a picture book!  We’re finally seeing this topic handled in something other than a Charlie Bucket kind of way.  I’m very pleased.


 

  • Unplug – Possibly the MOST popular theme in the past three to four years.  Very Willy Wonka in the moralizing sometimes (imagine what Mike TeeVee could have done with a personal device), but important to adults. Many is the picture book where someone turns off all their devices and discovers the wide and wonderful world.

A Good Example Would Be:

Tek, the Modern Cave Boy by Patrick McDonnell

Tek

What I like about this book is that since you’ve got a caveperson with a cell phone, adding dinos to the mix really isn’t going to upset anyone.  You’ve already gone beyond the pale.


 

  • Try to See It Their Way (or, Everyone’s a Person – Even Mean People) – Picture books where you have to see it from another person’s point of view are becoming very sophisticated these days.  Some of them will also show that bullies sometimes have problems at home or at school that cause them to act out.  Though, if we’re going to get technical about it, even The Berenstain Bears and the Bully discussed this decades ago.

A Good Example Would Be:

Eddie the Bully by Henry Cole

EddieBully

Bully books aren’t going away anytime soon.  Nuanced bully books?  That might mark the second wave of titles.


 

  • Apologize When You’re Wrong – Oddly popular as a theme.  Owning up to your own mistakes is hard.  Books are making that infinitely clear, but also show the right way to do it.

A Good Example Would Be:

What’s Up, Chuck? by Leo Landry

WhatUpChuck

I think this might fall more into the “early reader” category vs. “picture books” but I care not.  The interesting thing about this storyline is that when our main character has acted like a spoiled brat for not winning a contest’s first prize medal for the first time in three years, the person who does win gives Chuck (our hero) an out.  But Chuck doesn’t take it, and apologizes like a pro.  It’s really well executed in a book this simple.  Check it out sometime.


 

  • Try Something New – Whether it’s food or school or new friends or whatever, trying something new is a big time theme.

A Good Example Would Be:

School’s First Day of School by Adam Rex, ill. Christian Robinson

SchoolFirstDay

So my daughter started Kindergarten this week and I figured this book might make a good gift to her Kindergarten teacher.  Turns out, it’s been a HUGE hit in the school, with other teacher vying to borrow it.  What I like about it, though, is that it takes time to acknowledge that when you try something new it isn’t instantaneously fantastic.  Things go wrong.  It takes time to enjoy something you’ve never done before.

And yes, you could argue that these are themes every year, but I feel like they’re particularly prevalent in 2016.  What are you seeing that I’ve missed?

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10.


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11. Monopolists

The Monopolists. Mary Pilon. 2015. Bloomsbury. 320 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: One day during the depths of the Great Depression, an unemployed salesman named Charles Darrow retreated to his basement.

Premise/plot: Love Monopoly? Hate Monopoly? Mary Pilon's The Monopolists is a fascinating read to be sure. Who invented Monopoly? Who did NOT invent Monopoly? Why does it matter?

The Monopolist tells the story of the woman who invented the game, a game with two very different sets of rules. She didn't call her game 'monopoly' but 'The Landlord's Game.' The general game board concept and rules of play were hers. This was in 1904. In her community, it became quite popular, even an obsession of sorts. So much so that it spread across the nation as one person--or one couple--would teach another and another and another and another. People would create their own homemade game boards. The rules were taught but not written down. For decades, people were playing this game, loving this game. It wasn't a game you could buy at the store, though. 'The Landlord's Game' wasn't the only real-estate game that predates Parker Brothers' Monopoly. The game Finance also did. It also being offspring of Lizzie Magie's original game. Though I think perhaps by that time, it had just one set of rules. Charles Darrow, the man whose name would be associated with the game MONOPOLY, was taught the game by friends. He later claimed he invented the game. The couple who taught Darrow spent a lot of time in Atlantic City with the Quakers who LOVED the game and changed their own game boards to reflect their lives. These place names would stay with the game and be the names that we come to associate with Monopoly. The rules, the layout of the game board, the place names, all were essentially handed to Darrow ready-made.

Most of this book focuses on a lawsuit in the 1970s and early 1980s. Parker Brothers was trying to stop one man--Ralph Anspach--from selling his own game, a game called ANTI-MONOPOLY. Anspach was an economics professor, I believe. It would take a lot of time, effort, stamina, and courage to stay in the fight.

My thoughts: I really enjoyed this one. I enjoyed it even more than I thought I would. I don't love playing Monopoly, but, I found the game-playing culture of the twentieth century to be FASCINATING. There is something to be said for people spending time together around a table and actually talking and having fun doing the same thing. This was written in an engaging way. I'd definitely recommend it.

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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12. After Loving You Cover Reveal!

It's finally here! Cover reveal day for After Loving You, my Ashelyn Drake new adult romance. Check it out!


When Mia Thompson and Jared Grande break up before college, they think that’s the end for them. 

But two years later, Mia is stalking Jared’s Facebook page and he’s contacting her every chance he gets. Even though they’re both seeing other people, they can’t seem to say good-bye to the past they shared. 

One way or another, they’ll have to figure out how to love again. Is it time to get back together or time to move on? 

This title will release on October 3, 2016, but you can preorder your copy today here.

I'm going to be hosting some really awesome giveaways coming up soon, but you must be subscribed to my newsletter for one and a member of my street team, Kelly's Coven, for the other. If you're interested, you can sign up for my newsletter here. I only send out newsletters when I have something new to share with you and they almost always include a free book or giveaway for you. If you'd like to be part of my street team, Kelly's Coven, and help me spread the word about my books (as well as get exclusive giveaways, sneak peeks at my upcoming books, and talk to me whenever you'd like), you can join the Facebook group here.

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13.

A new portfolio for Buttons and Beads on on website! 

 http://cynthia-iannaccone.blogspot.com/p/buttons-beeds.html

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14. PAPERCHASE - store snaps pt.2

And we end our Paperchase coverage with some snapshots from their Tottenham Court Roads shop. The first and second floors of this flagship store are full of gifts, paper goods and crafting materials. Here are some of the things I spotted on the day of the press show. Thanks to everyone who followed along with these posts for the last two weeks - Paperchase is a store who rely on surface pattern

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15. ‘Un Long Baiser’ by Gwendoline Gamboa

Music video for Migou's "Un long baiser."

The post ‘Un Long Baiser’ by Gwendoline Gamboa appeared first on Cartoon Brew.

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16. New Web Site Helps Artists Claim Settlement Money From Wage Theft Lawsuit

The new web site explains how artists will receive the nearly-$19 million settlement fund from Blue Sky and Sony Pictures.

The post New Web Site Helps Artists Claim Settlement Money From Wage Theft Lawsuit appeared first on Cartoon Brew.

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17. स्लोगन स्वच्छ भारत अभियान

स्लोगन स्वच्छ भारत अभियान सफाई अभियान पर नारे – स्लोगन स्वच्छ भारत अभियान – खुले में शौच मुक्त भारत मोदी जी के निर्देशन में आज पूरे भारत में  देश में सम्पूर्ण  स्वच्छता अभियान , जन आंदोलन के रुप में चला हुआ है जहां लोगो ने इसकी महत्ता को समझ रहें हैं  वहां स्वच्छता आ भी […]

The post स्लोगन स्वच्छ भारत अभियान appeared first on Monica Gupta.

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18. Gateway books: Introduction to your favorite genres (link)

What book introduced you to your favorite genre(s)? Here's a list from Tor.com: Five Gateway Books

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19. खबरदार खबरें – ब्रेकिंग न्यूज

खबरदार खबरें – ब्रेकिंग न्यूज खबरें भूकम्प की हो या न हो पर खबरों में भूकम्प earth quake जरुर ले आते हैं हमारे मीडिया वाले !! ब्रेकिंग न्यूज / breaking news .. सावधान !!  बामुलाहिज़ा, होशियार, खबरदार आप खबरें सुन रहे हैं…. वो भी एक दौर था ये भी एक दौर है … जब 24 […]

The post खबरदार खबरें – ब्रेकिंग न्यूज appeared first on Monica Gupta.

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20. Paris party!


Let them eat cake!


Sweetness from Cafe Pray...
 
It's always fun to play with noses
on famous art...
They puzzled over my hand-drawn pieces of  Picasso's Woman & Bird


and then played "Pin the Nose on the Picasso"


After a scavenger hunt, and treats,
we made wee matchboxes des Paris.

Ah the joys of the small things in life!

Paper. Art-making. A clamor of cousins. Laughter. Balloons.
Joyeux anniversaire! Happy birthday!

Here's to finding joy in the small things and the good things, my friends!

Au revoir!
C'est la belle vie!
Swan song!

Books!




Adele and Simon by Barbara McClintock
The Iridescence of Birds by Partricia MacLachlan, illustrated by Hadley Hooper
Henri's Scissors by Jeanette Winter
A Giraffe Comes to Paris by Mary Tavener Holmes and John Harris, ill. by Jon Cannell
Picasso and the Girl with the Ponytail by Laurence D'Anholt
Gaston by Kelly DiPucchio, illustrated by Christian Robinson

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21. FOODFIC: Please Welcome Aubree Lane, Author of Tahoe Blues



The Culinary Delights of Tahoe Blues

From the upscale Jakes on the Lake to Rookies Bar & Grill, the food around Lake Tahoe can’t be beat. Our heroine, Cara Lee Greene, is ready to sample it all. Recently divorced from the city’s most successful casino owner, Cara’s new found freedom is severely hampered when the State of Nevada straps the most unappealing piece of jewelry around her ankle. Under house arrest for a crime she didn’t commit, Cara is forced to rely on her lawyer and private detective, David Crandall, to set her free.

With little else to do but eat, it isn’t long before Cara’s cupboards are bare and takeout becomes her mainstay. Isolated from her friends, Chinese food, French bread and her favorite wines from California are more than mere nourishment, they become Cara’s lifeline to a world she is no longer allowed to take part in.

Mrs. Grimes, a neighbor and the baker of the most delectable muffins and cookies Granite Gages Estates has ever seen, is convinced the apartment complex’s new managerial assistant is behind the infamous, Cara caper. Leaving the flour and eggs behind, Mrs. G. ventures out of the kitchen to conduct an investigation of her own.

The case unravels the moment Mrs. Grimes and David Crandall cross paths.

How will it all turn out? You must pick up a copy of Tahoe Blues to find out!



Thanks for stopping by to share your food for thought, Aubree!



You can find Aubree here:







And Tahoe Blues here:                    Amazon US                    Amazon UK

                                                           Amazon Canada             Amazon Australia




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22. Harts Pass No. 312

A fitting ode - I hope - to the final week before starting school!

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23. The Truth About My Unbelievable Summer by Davide Cali and Benjamin Chaud


The premise of David Cali and Benjamin Chaud's trilogy is simple, circular and deeply satisfying. Beginning in 2014 with I Didn't Do My Homework Because . . ., Cali and Chaud have taken readers on one detail packed adventure after another, starring our young hero in his pinstriped suit, red necktie and red socks, and his faithful, bug-eyed dachshund and his bespectacled, clever teacher. 



The Truth About My Unbelievable Summer begins with the inevitable question upon returning to school, "So, what did you do this summer?" Our hero responds, "Well, you may not believe this, but . . . " On a visit to the beach, he finds a message in a bottle and inside it is a treasure map! But, a magpie swoops in and pecks it out of his hands and the adventure begins. There are pirates, submarines and time travel that finds our hero floating down the Seine in his submarine as a bucket of slop is tossed on his head as he passes under the bridge in front of Notre Dame. Turns out he didn't time travel - he just happened onto a movie set.


There are libraries, hot air balloons, the Taj Mahal, mummies, pyramids and the Great Wall. And Yetis. But I don't want to give the whole story away. The final page ends, circling back to the start of the story, with a nice little reveal that brings the teacher back into the story. Three is a nice number, but I wouldn't mind one or two more books featuring our imaginative, well dressed hero and his dog . . . 




The first two books in the trilogy and .  . .



A Doodle Book of Excuses!! How cool is that?




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24. The Taking of Temperature

When Henry's toy thermometer
Was used to check his bear
For fever, I was most surprised
That not the derriere

Nor mouth was where he placed it,
For he made it very clear
That the best place for a reading
Was inside the teddy's ear.

I was poised to thus correct him
But I realized nowadays
That we measure kids for fever
In some unexpected ways.

In my day, things sure were different.
Still, we wouldn't need a push
To insert thermometers
Into the ear and not the tush.

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25. Lot's of Rain, Heat and Watercolors!

The Summer of 2016 has been a great season for watercolor painting of local landmarks and houses in Tyler, Texas. Tyler has about 15 miles of red brick streets constructed in the 1930s and 1940s and I get to enjoy them every day.
Many beautiful churches, houses and public buildings are framed by the brick streets which make a pleasing, colorful foundation for my sketches and paintings.
I've uploaded several images of my paintings, I hope you enjoy them.


Brick Street Village


First Presbyterian Church


Marvin Methodist Church


Marvin Methodist


Christ Episcopal Church


Crescent Laundry


Cotton Belt Depot


First Baptist Church


First Presbyterian


Old Smith County Jail


Chilton House


Charnwood District


Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception


Rick's On The Square


All of these images are Copyright 2016 by John Randall York


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