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1. Our Five Favorite Books for April

Our five favorite books for April will help kids celebrate each other’s unique differences, process with the emotions of moving, learn about the culture of Haiti — even teach them a few magic tricks!

For Pre-K – K (Ages 3-6):

bad_bye_good_bye“Bad Bye, Good Bye”by Deborah Underwood

In very few words, this warm and reassuring picture book captures the emotions kids experience in the process of moving. Over the course of the story, a boy goes from sadness to joy as his family moves from the country to the city, saying goodbye to old friends and hello to new ones.

For  1st & 2nd grade (Ages 6-8):

not_typical_dragon_1“Not Your Typical Dragon” (First Book Marketplace Special Edition) by Dan Bar-el

Kids will laugh out loud at this funny, lovable story about a young dragon who can breathe everything but fire. A terrific lesson in recognizing and appreciating everyone’s unique talents!

For 3rd & 4th grade (Ages 8-10):

vanishing_coin“Magic Shop Series #1: The Vanishing Coin” by Kate Egan

This engaging chapter book series hooks kids with a fun plot and a great bonus – lessons for performing magic tricks! Kids with attention issues or those struggling with bullies will especially relate.

5th & 6th grade (Ages 10-12):

stella_by_starlight“Stella by Starlight” by Sharon Draper

Through the eyes of a quirky, relatable 12-year-old, readers are transported to 1932 when the Klu Klux Klan resurfaces and unsettles a close-knit community. Kids will root for Stella as they witness her inspiring determination to face her biggest fears head on.

7th & up (Ages 13+):

“Hold Tight, Don’t Let Go”hold_tight by Laura Rose Wagner

This deeply affecting novel provides a rich exploration of Haiti’s culture through the experiences of Magdalie, a teenage survivor of the 2010 earthquake. Magdalie’s resolve to make a better life for herself makes this an empowering story for anyone who is suffering a loss or coping with tragedy.



The post Our Five Favorite Books for April appeared first on First Book Blog.

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2. Check out the Chun-Li Artist Series Card I made for Fangamer:...

Check out the Chun-Li Artist Series Card I made for Fangamer: Also, don’t forget to take a peek at the other cards, they all turned out awesome!  goo.gl/0aUSNm

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3. Baking Day at Grandma's-some early character development

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4. Social Media Etiquette

What not to do when using social media.

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5. How to Be Your Own Primary Research Source

A month ago I made a rash decision. To shave my head to raise money for Roswell Park Cancer Institute. "Bald For Bucks" sounded fun at the time (my husband was going to do it too), and I definitely wanted to "pay it forward" for the great care he received and continues to receive at Roswell. It seemed like the least I could do.

Now, I'm two days away from getting buzzed and I'm anxious. Not that I'd back out or anything. I'm ready. So what am I nervous about?  Those are the feelings I want to get down on paper before the clippers strip me of these emotions and I'm faced with new ones.

As a nonfiction writer, the greatest primary source you have is yourself. You may be going to do something foolish like I am, or maybe you witnessed sea turtles hatching, or you have great knitting tips for beginners.  All of your experiences are viable and valuable research materials -- especially if you document it. Being able to pull out a journal and read -- "Sunday, July 7 -- We climbed the guano-covered steps up to the cave entrance and the Buddha inside. Bats flapped overhead.... It smelled of old wine." -- is like finding gold. It's been three years since I was in that cave. I didn't remember what it smelled like and would not have been able to write about it accurately if I hadn't have written it down.

When you want to write about a personal experience, and you know a head of time, it is just as important to nail down your BEFORE as it is the event itself or what comes after. You can rely on memory, but as I just proved, memory doesn't capture everything. So, that is what I'm doing today. What is my before experience with hair?

I've never been in love with my hair. It's poker straight, and the length rises and falls to the whim of my hairdresser who I love, but (Sorry Tim) has good days and bad. Now that it is graying, I find myself contemplating color, although I swore I never would. A buzz cut should be, and in some respects is a welcome challenge. I already went out and bought two scarves. One is black so I can wear it to perform in a choral concert without the lights glinting off my naked bean like a giant spotlight announcing that the 2016 Hondas are in.

My big concern is that I don't want anyone to think I am mocking them, or diminishing the agony of cancer and chemo and its effects. Will people ask me if I have cancer?  What will they say when I tell them no?

In a way this is me getting as ugly as I can -- 54, overweight (although I'm working on it), and bald. Can I, will I, still love myself? Did I before? Hell, I'm still trying to wrangle woolly eyebrows!

The best I can hope for is that this experience will be freeing.  At the very least?  It gives me something to write about.

Lesson -- Write it down! What you did, what it looked like, what it smelled like, felt like, tasted like, and especially how you felt about it.

**If you want to donate to Bald for Bucks click here.

Thank You!!

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6. Simon & Schuster to Launch Caitlyn Dlouhy Books Imprint

Simon & Schuster LogoThe executives at Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing will launch an eponymous imprint for editorial director and vice president Caitlyn Dlouhy. Caitlyn Dlouhy Books will be under the Atheneum Books for Young Readers division.

This new imprint will publish approximately 20 titles per year. The inaugural list will kick off in Spring 2016.

Dlouhy gave this statement in the press release: “The strength of voice in characters is what I believe most helps kids as they find their own voices. I’m thrilled and deeply grateful that Simon & Schuster continues to emphatically support my quest to find those voices, those stories that speak to the hearts of young readers.”

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7. It's live!! Cover Reveal: Perdita by Faith Gardner + Giveaway (US/Canada)

Welcome, everyone!

Today we're super excited to celebrate the cover reveal for PERDITA by Faith Gardner, releasing August 18, 2015 from Merit Press. Before we get to the cover, here's a note from Faith:

Hello YABC readers! My name is Faith Gardner and I’m thrilled to be here for the cover reveal of my debut novel PERDITA. Truthfully, I had no idea what the cover was going to be like. The design process was left up to the smart people at Merit Press, who know a lot more about book covers than I do. But I have to say I was delighted with what they chose. The cover captures the book’s darkness and mystery perfectly, and I’m a fan of the emerald green in contrast to the black and the lovely lotus flower. Personally, I prefer book covers without stock photos of people in them so that was the big thing that I was relieved to see (or rather not see) here. The process of someone else interpreting my story into a visual format was so exciting, and I’m incredibly grateful to the designer and my editor at Merit Press for the work they put into this.
~ Faith Gardner (PERDITA, Merit Press)



Ready to see?

Scroll, YABCers! Scroll!


































Here it is!



*** If you choose to share this image elsewhere, please include a courtesy link back to this page so others can enter Faith's giveaway. Thank you! ***



by Faith Gardner
Release date: August 18, 2015
Publisher: Merit Press
ISBN: 9781440588112
About the Book
Sure, Arielle won't deny that she has a vivid, even wild, imagination. Sure, it sometimes runs away with her. And yes, it's true that she never recovered from the drowning death of her older brother, Justin, ten years ago, when Arielle was a little child. She almost hopes that ghosts are real, so that she might see Justin again. But ever since the misty morning when Arielle stumbles on the macabre sight of the body of her sister Casey's best friend, Perdita, being lifted from a nearby pond, ghostly images begin to appear to Arielle. Can they be Perdita, reaching out as speculation about her death ramps up from suicide to foul play? Perdita's younger brother, Tex, is back from private school, and Arielle can't get him off her mind, although he's a beautiful boy with scary secrets. Worse yet, there's no one to tell: big sister Casey's off to college, and Arielle discovers her own sister's cache of secret writings, along with a bizarre note from Perdita. What's real? What's fantasy? In a compelling tale that hurtles toward a stunning conclusion, the imprint of grief and the boundaries of human imagination are.
To learn more about this book and see our review, go HERE

b2ap3_thumbnail_Faith_Headshot.jpgAbout the Author

Faith's short fiction has been featured in literary journals, online magazines and anthologies. Her YA novel Perdita will be published by Merit Press in 2015. She lives in Berkeley, California and plays guitar and sings in the bad Dark Beach.

Twitter | Web | Goodreads | Facebook | Pre-order Amazon | Pre-order Barnes & Noble


Giveaway Details

3 winners will each receive a copy of PERDITA. 

Entering is simple, just fill out the entry form below. Winners will be announced on this site and in our monthly newsletter (sign up now!) within 30 days after the giveaway ends.

During each giveaway, we ask entrants a question pertaining to the book. Here is the question they'll be answering in the comments below for extra entries:

What do you think about the cover and synopsis?

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8. Box Brown Inks Graphic Novel Deal

Box BrownCartoonist Box Brown has landed a deal with First Second Books, a Macmillan imprint.

Brown plans to create a new graphic novel about video games. According to Nerdist.com, he intends to explore where games come from through “the lens of Tetris.”

At this point in time, no title or release date have been announced. Click here to view one page from Brown’s book. To help with the wait, follow this link to play a few rounds of this addictive puzzle game.

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When you have police officers who abuse citizens, you erode public confidence in law enforcement. That makes the job of good police officers unsafe” ― Mary Frances Berry

A man injured after being arrested by the Baltimore police died today, according to The Baltimore Sun.

Freddie Gray had to undergo a double surgery on three broken vertebrae and an injured voice box on Tuesday, after he was released by the police.

He died today after days of remaining in a coma.

The 25-year old was arrested last week for an undisclosed violation.

The police said that he was restrained on the ground by an officer during the arrest, but appeared to be fine when he was taken to the district station.

However, a cell phone video shows that the arresting officers used force that some may seen as “brutal.”
Protests have broken out in his neighborhood since Gray was sent to the hospital.
What happened to Freddie was unnecessary and uncalled for,” the Rev. Jamal Harrison Bryant of the Empowerment Temple said to protestors on Saturday.

“All of those police officers involved need to be held accountable and answer for what they did, and need to be terminated from their positions,” he urged.
The case is pending a review by a “blue-ribbon” panel commissioned by the police.


A court document obtained Monday morning by The Baltimore Sun says that Gray “was arrested without force or incident.” He “fled unprovoked upon noticing police presence,” and officers later found the knife in his right pants pocket, according to the authorities.

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10. WordRates on Kickstarter

Author Scott Carney is hoping to raise $6,500 to build a publishing platform for journalists “to share payment structures, rate editors and sell pitches.”

The WordRates platform will give journalists to tools to assess the freelance writing market to identify magazines, blogs and online news sites based on how they work. WordRates users will be able to share Yelp-like ratings of editors and publications. In addition, the site’s Pitch Lab will allow writers to workshop pitches with seasoned journalists and to get agent-level insights into contract negotiations.

Here is more from the Kickstarter page:

Antitrust laws make it illegal for freelancers to unionize so the only practical solution is to rely on the principles of the free market. It is time for a disruptive website that will change the playing field for freelance writers and photographers. By sharing information and promoting a business model that has been successful in both the book publishing and film industries it will be possible to get a bigger piece of the overall publishing revenue.

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11. Review of The Boy in the Black Suit

reynolds_boy-in-the-black-suitThe Boy in the Black Suit
by Jason Reynolds
Middle School, High School   Atheneum   257 pp.
1/15   978-1-4424-5950-2   $17.99
e-book ed. 978-1-4424-5952-6   $10.99

High-school senior Matt wears a black suit because he has a job at Mr. Ray’s funeral home (setting up chairs and food for services), but also — metaphorically — because he himself is in mourning, for the mother who died just before the book begins and the long-on-the-wagon father who has returned to drink. Although his work responsibilities end when the funerals begin, Matt finds himself sticking around to find “the person hurting the most,” hoping that his or her expression of grief will perhaps help him deal with his own. While all this sounds like heavy problem-novel territory, it isn’t. Matt is a good kid with a good best friend, Chris; their Bed-Stuy neighborhood is gritty but also a place of true community. There’s even a sweet romance between Matt and a girl he meets at her grandmother’s funeral. With When I Was the Greatest (rev. 1/14) and now this book, Reynolds writes about urban African American kids in a way, warm and empathetic, that the late Walter Dean Myers would have applauded.

From the March/April 2015 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.


The post Review of The Boy in the Black Suit appeared first on The Horn Book.

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12. X is for Ex-Pats

from Kaleidoscope....

African Christmas in the bush near Bulawayo

The date’s the only recognisable fact for us ex-pats,
as we gather under corrugated roof on the crumbling, concrete stoep.
Pots of poinsettia droop at our feet as we sit under a wing-infested lamp, greeting each other, the compliments of the season, and attempt to make the best of it.

Sweating, we idly watch a small scaly lizard, pop-eyed, panting,
crawl from a crack in the wall, flick a sticky tongue, and scuttle in the dust.  
Someone treads on it, trapping it, breaking off the tail.
No one comments.  Ice clinks in glasses, and bored, we turn to see
a mountain of polished flesh in snowy caftan, his oiled face
beaming with pride, the pudding held aloft by one strong hand.

Half-heartedly we applaud, and through the brandy haze,
the shrivelled artificial holly, think of home. 

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13. School Visits Galore: Trondheim, Norway & Ellensburg, WA!

April is a busy month for author visits, but things were a little more exciting than usual this year with a long-awaited excursion to the Fagerhaug International School (FINT) in Stjørdal, Norway -- followed VERY closely by an excellent 3-day trip to nearby Ellensburg, WA. 

My 11.92 year-old daughter came along to Norway (via Iceland as you will see!), and the entire experience was second-to-none. A little tiring... because of the nine-hour time change and man those Kristoffersen's can stay up late :) but we were so pleased to be guests, teachers, and students for the week that a little sleepiness hardly seemed to matter. I love what I do in my work as a writer/illustrator (sometimes teacher) and experiences with people both near and far make me love it even more. Best wishes to all and please enjoy the following snapshots of our trip. Its not TOTALLY comprehensive, but it'll do!

6:45am in Reykjavik International Airport. Very slick -- and about 20 degree with blowing snow on April 1.

After an excellent 2-hour walking tour, we did some touring on our own including the climb up Hallgrimskirkja Cathedral for this most excellent 360 degree view of the city. 

April 2nd. We have arrived. Two thumbs up!

A few important names in the following shots. 1.) The Kristoffersen house. Our home base in Stjørdal and some most excellent hosts!

2.) The Stjørdal train station. Site of two departures into Trondheim -- the first on a VERY quiet Good Friday afternoon, and the second on a much more bustling Saturday at the end of our school visit week. Two thumbs up, again!!

3.) The Fagerhaug School. Our true destination and reason for the visit. Most of my time was spend with the upper and lower elementary school students at FINT, but the greater Fagerhaug Christian school houses many additional students k-10.

And finally, 4.) Litjfunnsjøvollen -- the original destination for our Easter weekend ski with the Kristoffersen family. As you will see below, even on April 4 the skiing was still excellent. Although reflected here at all, there were MANY people out n' about. Blankets spread on the snow. Little fire pits for warmth. Young. Old. Fast. Slow. All sort of folks. Really great!

About 3k up the trail at Litjfunnsjøvollen was a little warming hut/cabin with pancakes (svella?) and hotdogs for treats.

On Easter Sunday, we expanded out ski horizons just a bit more and spent half of the day on nordic skis and the other half on the downhill slope at Fagerlia. Much thanks to Maria for being our excellent guide and for all of the time she shared with Keeley on the entire trip. Tussen Takk!

Pretty typical of most breakfasts and lunches -- at least in our experience. Lots of open-faced breads with meats and cheeses plus a vegetable or two to snack on...

...and then there was the pretty obvious fascination with all things Salty Licorice. Hard candies, gummy candies, and as seen above, even a Salt Lakris sauce for ice cream. Pretty good actually!

Now for a little work :) Before leaving Winthrop, I had a few of our local elementary classes prepare "postcards from the Methow" so that we could bring along a little glimpse of our life at home to the kids at FINT. Everything from the wildlife that you see in these two examples, to a few recent experiences like last summer's wildfires and favorite seasonal activities (skiing, swimming etc.)

It was fun to share a few thoughts of home in this way...

...to assist in creating a set of Norwegian postcards to bring back home to Winthrop.

...and then to realize in our walking, and talking, and visiting, that certain things are similar and certain things are certainly different :)
On the workshop front, one of my favorite projects was the "alligator emotions" book that we constructed on the final day with the lower PYP (primary years program). After spending several other hours on drawing expressions and writing about a feeling, this final project combined things together AND drops a serious hint about my newest work in progress. Stay tuned for future posts about LATOR GATOR (Sterling Books, 2016)! Below: 1-3rd graders (and teachers) creating their very own "instant books" and alligator emotions.

For an earlier drawing workshop, we practiced some line variety and dressed up some pretty excellent owls!

Very near the school, a church in Skatval. And while we did have a few partly sunny afternoons, this about sums it up for most of our springtime weather near Trondheim. A little grey. Quite damp. Not BRRR! cold, but chilly enough if you didn't dress for it. 

In another "lay of the land" image here -- also just outside of Skatval. A still-frozen lake, a farm house, and the rolling hills and winding roads...

...quite near, in fact, the Kristofferson farm where I was testing out this small tractor in the sheep barn at about 11:45pm. Again, excellent hosts, and not to worry, I didn't have a key.

April 12: A few final shots from our Saturday return to Trondheim. LOVE the color on these old warehouse buildings on the Nidelva riverfront. 

One fine and awesome traveler posing near the Nidarosdomem Cathedral.

And the same said traveler playing detective in a local bookstore. You can't be a children's book author in a foreign country and not visit some local bookstores :)

And last, but not least, our final goodbyes to Niclas, Sarah, and Cherise (taking the photo) at the airport. 



And now MANY fewer images from an terrific three days in ELLENSBURG, WA! With many thanks to Lincoln, Mt. Stuart, and Valley View Elementary schools for being so well-prepared for my visits and for perhaps tolerating a slightly baggy eye or two due to the change in time zones :)

Lunch with the super hero contest winners at Lincoln - photo courtesy of the Daily Record.

Positively PERFECT pajama designs from Mt. Stuart elementary!

And this is great! Also at Mt. Stuart. Each year they select several pieces of student artwork, frame them, and hang them in the halls. Its awesome! A lasting and colorful record of student creativity and art/design across many spectrums and over many years. Seriously, every school should have such a gallery!

The library aide at Valley View made these most excellent Practically Pefect Pajamas inspired sugar cookies too. A first in 15 years of publication :)

And finally, the sunset as I hit the road to return to Winthrop. The schools in Ellensburg really rocked, and I enjoyed meeting everyone who came with a books to sign and questions to ask at Jerrol's Bookstore on the final night as well. Thanks again to all and I look forward to coming back!

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14. The Perfect Bookmark...

What do you use for a bookmark?
Do you grab any old thing, or do you try to find a bookmark to fit the book?
I have tons of bookmarks from being a librarian for years and years.  Someday I will actually give them to kids, but mostly I only do if someone asks.
I do try to match the book I am reading to the bookmark I chose to use--sometimes just matching the color of the cover, sometimes the feel of the book, sometimes the theme of the book.
This is one of my favorites lately because it makes me giggle each time I see it:

I used this one when I was reading READY PLAYER ONE--it has kind of an 80's feel, right?

For all the bookmarks I have to chose from my go-to bookmarks are these paint chips I collected from Home Depot years ago.  They are from a Disney inspired line of paint and the names on them are awesome.  So, for two of the books I am currently reading I picked the PERFECT bookmarks:
The first is for the fairy tale book DEAREST and the paint names are "Princess Tiara" and "Fairytale Pink."  Awesome.  The second is for THE PENDERWICKS IN SPRING and the paints are called "Friendly Frog" and "Springtime Grass."  Perfect! 

What do you use for bookmarks?

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15. Cover Revealed For First Fight Club 2 Comic

Fight Club 2

Who says you can’t talk about Fight Club? Dark Horse Comics has unveiled the cover for the first issue of the Fight Club 2 series. Comics creator David Mack drew this piece.

We’ve embedded the full image above—what do you think? Novelist Chuck Palahniuk wrote the story for this sequel project. In an interview with Maxim.com, Palaniuk revealed that he feels “it’s so much fun to be Tyler Durden, to think like that character.”

Artist Cameron Stewart and colorist Dave Stewart collaborated on the illustrations. The publication date has been set for May 27th. Click on these links to check out variant cover designed by Stewart and illustrator Lee Bermejo.

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16. May Connecticut Children's Literature Calendar

An active month. Not overwhelming, but plenty to do.

Fri., May 1, Joshua Jay, R. J. Julia Booksellers, Madison 4:30 PM

Sun., May 3 Michaela MacColl, Barnes & Noble, Westport 4:00 PM

Sun., May 3, Lynda Mullaly Hunt, Barnes & Noble, Glastonbury 2:00 PM 

Mon., May 4, Neal Shusterman, R. J. Julia Booksellers, Madison 6:00 PM

Tues., May 5, Bob Shea, R. J. Julia Booksellers, Madison 10:30 AM Story Time

Tues., May 5, Dave Barry, R. J. Julia Booksellers, Madison 5:00 PM

Fri., May 8, Tommy Wallach, Westport Public Library event held at Toquet Hall Teen Center, Westport 6:00 to 8:00 PM

Sat. May 9, Janet Lawler, CT Authors and Publishers Association 12th Annual Conference on Writing, Publishing & Marketing, Hartford  11:00 AM Registration and fee

Sat. May 9, Katie Davis, CT Authors ad Publishers Association 12th Annual Conference on Writing, Publishing & Marketing Hartford 11:00 AM Registration and fee

Mon., May 18, Michaela MacColl, Westport Public Library, Westport 5:00 to 6:00 PM

Tues., May 19, Mac Barnett, R. J. Julia Booksellers, Madison 4:00 PM

This calendar is available in a pdf suitable for copying and posting. 

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17. What's On Your Nightstand? (April)

The folks at 5 Minutes For Books host What’s On Your Nightstand? the fourth Tuesday of each month in which we can share about the books we have been reading and/or plan to read.
Infernal Device and Others: A Professor Moriarty Omnibus. Michael Kurland. 2001. St. Martin's Press.  528 pages. [Source: Library]

I've read The Infernal Device and The Paradol Parodox (which was just a very short story). There is one more book in the collection, Death by Gaslight. Overall, I'm enjoying this series!

The Turnip Princess and Other Newly Discovered Fairy Tales. Franz Xaver Von Schonwerth. Translated by Maria Tatar. 2015. Penguin. 288 pages. [Source: Review copy]

I am loving this one so far. The book is divided into sections: "Tales of Magic and Romance," "Enchanted Animals," "Otherworldly Creatures," "Legends," "Tall Tales and Anecdotes," and "Tales About Nature." Each story in the collection is short--very concise! It's just fun to sit down and read this one!

Forgotten Sisters. (Princess Academy #3) Shannon Hale. 2015. Bloomsbury. 336 pages. [Source: Review copy]

I recently reread the first two books in this fantasy series in anticipation of finally getting to this one. I've read the first few chapters so far and am enjoying it.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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18. Time Management Tuesday: Yes, Yes. Another May Days Project Is Coming Up

My May Days Facebook group is powering up again. You remember May Days? I've been talking about it here since 2012. Part of what I like about taking part in this event, as I've said before, is that it gives me an opportunity to indulge in obsession. Sort of the way I did this past month with the Annotated Saving the Planet & Stuff. I think of these blocks of time as set-aside time to work on specific projects. Like the An--you know.

I've written here before about the significance of the beginnings and endings of units of time. I'm really feeling that significance right now. I've been worn out from this STP&S promo month for a while. How much have I been looking forward to the end of this project? A little more than a week ago, I thought the month ended this past weekend, because it was the first weekend I didn't have any family commitments. Commitments done, month done, right? Imagine my disappointment when I realized I had another four days to go.

So while I'm anxious for this April set-aside time to end, I'm also looking forward to the beginning of the next set-aside time, May Days. As far as new work is concerned, this month I've mainly done revising. I'd really like to move forward. That's my plan for May Days.

What I want to move forward with is the mummy book that I worked on last May. And the May before.  I'm not foolish enough to think I can finish it next month. (Though I did meet a writer this weekend who can do a rough draft in six weeks, and I already have five chapters.) But it would be terrific to get it done by fall. Making some serious progress in the next few weeks would go a long way toward getting there.

Note that with both these monthly projects, the Annotated Saving the Planet & Stuff Earth Day Promo and  Mummy for May Days (a name!!), involve two of my six  goals for this year.  I am staying on task!

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Looking forward to when my next picture book comes out. Here's a glance at the cover. The Curvy Tree is written by the amazingly talented Chris Colfer. It's actually a story from within his Land of Stories series. Pretty fun stuff!

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20. Listen!

   I rarely - if ever - email authors.  Today, I emailed Thanha Lai with a suggestion for a spin-off from her book  Listen, Slowly.  Before we go any further, I must apologize for not using diacritical marks in this review.  Diacritical marks are VERY important in Viet Namese, as Lai's book shows.

First, the review.  All the reviews tell you that 12-year-old Mai is a California girl through and through.  When she is chosen to go with her grandmother, or Ba (there should be an accent on that "a", slanting down from left to right, I think.) to Viet Nam to learn what happened to Mai's grandfather in THE WAR, Mai is furious.  She has a life, right there in Laguna, with a BFF and possible boyfriend.  Middle school rants ensue.

But Ba, quiet, peaceful, fragile Ba, how can Mai say no to Ba?  She can't.  The two of them travel to the village where Ong and Ba grew up; where Ong and Ba were betrothed, he only 7, she just 5; where they married and started a family; where Mai finds strangers who think of her as family.  It is all so odd.

The description of village life in North Viet Nam is delightfully confusing, full of details of what people eat, how they socialize, their dress, their formal and consistent good manners, even their fulsome speech.  The village seems to operate with one mind. Everyone is very careful of each other and of the things they use.  And they are curious about the larger world and about strangers and customs. 

This description led to my suggestion.  Lai describes a facial treatment that one of the Aunts forces Mai through and how it restores Mai's skin to beauty.  Then there is the lice treatment; and a potion to thwart intestinal microbes that Mai accidentally swallows.   Although Lai describes what Mai sees as these concoctions are made, wouldn't it be awesome if there was a book about these remedies?  I'd buy it.

Back to the book.  Ba's search takes so much longer than Mai hoped.  Her infrequent forays on the Internet make Mai more homesick than ever. (Is BFF Montana really making a move on the boy that Mai likes????)  One of Mai's big lessons is to learn not to worry about things she can't change.

I want to tell someone the whole plot - the trip to Ha Noi, with her new friend, Ut.; the HUGE frog that Ut totes with her; Anh Minh, the serious, hard-working, teen translator - and the two girls who compete for Anh Minh's attention.  The wordy detective, the reluctant guard, and Ba, strong Ba, who can not be at peace until she knows.  And then... and then...the ending, heart-breaking, calming and true.

Yep.  This book goes on my Best of the Best list for 2015.  Cheers for Mai, who grows so much in this book.  Cheers for Ba, who never wavers in her search for acceptance.  Cheers for the guard and the detective, who did their very best.  Cheers for Mom and Dad.  Cheers for Anh Minh and Ut and the whole village.  And cheers for Thanha Lai for such a wonderful book.

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21. Today;

If ever there were a spring day so perfect,
so uplifted by a warm intermittent breeze

that it made you want to throw
open all the windows in the house

and unlatch the door to the canary's cage,
indeed, rip the little door from its jamb,

a day when the cool brick paths
and the garden bursting with peonies

seemed so etched in sunlight
that you felt like taking

a hammer to the glass paperweight
on the living room end table,

releasing the inhabitants
from their snow-covered cottage

so they could walk out,
holding hands and squinting

into this larger dome of blue and white,
well, today is just that kind of day.

How lovely it is to look out of the window and see trees bursting into life. It’s still cold at night and there has been the odd drop of rain, but it’s generally warm and sunny. The words I've used here are from a poem called Today by Billy Collins.  If you would like to find out more about him there is an excellent biography at The Poetry Foundation.  Most of the photographs are from our garden, although the first one was taken at Barrington Court and the last three while walking around the village where we live. The blackbird is a daily visitor and a very welcome one.   

Some of my favourite online destinations are looking very spring like just now – first up Milly & Dottie’s Emporium a vintage treasure house. 

Lots of cute vintage treasures at Crave Cute

Delightful art prints from Winter Moon at Society6 

Once you've visited Milly & Dottie, Crave Cute and Winter Moon don’t forget to come back and visit me at March House Books where you will find all kinds of vintage things, including this sweet little book about Pookie a white rabbit with wings!

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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

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. Crystal Kite Award nomination!

What a compliment to be in such company!

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24. KidLit Author Events April 28-May 5


Independent Bookstore DayThis Saturday, May 2, we are celebrating Independent Bookstore Day all over the country, all day! If you live in or around Houston, stop by one of these local bookstores and see what’s happening. Tweet at @BookstoreDay

Houston shops participating in special events this day:

Blue Willow Bookshop
14532 Memorial Drive, Houston, 77079
Locally owned by Valerie Koehler (aka, Girl Boss). Here you’ll find an eclectic selection of books (fiction and nonfiction) for adults and children. There’s something for everyone, including puzzles, games, and gifts for the book lover. Join Blue Willow Bookshop’s Independent Bookstore Day with activities, great food, giveaways and some very cool limited edition merchandise!

Brazos Bookstore
2421 Bissonnet, Houston 77005
Locally owned by a group of twenty-seven Houstonians. Celebrate with Brazos Bookstore on Independent Bookstore Day all day, from the special edition story time at 10:00 AM to the Ultimate Literary Showdown at 6:30 PM.

Katy Budget Books
2450 Fry Rd, Houston, 77084
New and Used Books
On Independent Bookstore Day, Katy Budget Books will be celebrating with exclusive, one-day only merchandise.

If you aren’t near one of the bookstores listed above, you might find one of these locally owned shops closer to you:

Murder By The Book
2342 Bissonnet St., Houston, 77005
One of the nation’s oldest and largest mystery specialty bookstores, stocking new & used, hardbacks & paperbacks, first editions, collectibles, gift items, mystery magazines, and more.

River Oaks Bookstore
3270 Westheimer, Houston, 77098
Locally owned by Jeanne Jard.

Galveston Bookshop
317 23rd Street, Galveston, 77550
Locally owned by Sharan Zwick and Jack Schlossberg. Books Used & New, Vinyl LPs, Comics, with a monthly local authors meet and greet!

Copperfield’s Books
8220 Louetta Rd., Ste. 106, Spring,  77379
Locally owned. New and used books.

Glow Worm New and Used Books
311 Main, Spring, 77373
Locally owned by Nelda Monjure. New and used books and sundries.

Good Books in the Woods
25915 Oak Ridge Drive, Spring, 77380
Locally owned by Jay Rohfritch. New, Used, and Out of Print titles, Fine Bindings, and First Editions.

The Book Nook Sugarland
5022 Hwy 90-A, Sugar Land, 77498
Locally owned by Katrina Chapman. New and used books, plus gifts and gift cards.

The Book Nook Brenham
212 W. Alamo Street, Brenham, 77833
Locally owned by Stefani Snead Kelley. Mostly used, with a smattering of new books.


We also have a two-author YA event happening that day:

May 2, Saturday, 4:30 PMFINDING PARIS by Joy Preble
Murder By The Book
Joy Preble & Meredith Moore, YA Authors

Joy Preble will sign and discuss FINDING PARIS, and Meredith Moore will sign and discuss I AM HER REVENGE.

FINDING PARIS: Sisters Leo and Paris Hollings have only ever had each other to rely on. They can’t trust their mother, who hops from city to city and from guy to guy, or their gambler stepfather, who’s moved them all to Las Vegas. It’s just the two of them: Paris, who’s always been the dreamer, and Leo, who has a real future in mind–going to Stanford, becoming a doctor, falling in love. But Leo isn’t going anywhere right now, except driving around Vegas all night with her sister.

Until Paris ditches Leo at the Heartbreak Hotel Diner, where moments before they had been talking with physics student Max Sullivan. Outside, Leo finds a cryptic note from Paris–a clue. Is it some kind of game? Where is Paris, and why has she disappeared? When Leo reluctantly accepts Max’s offer of help, the two find themselves following a string of clues through Vegas and beyond. But the search for the truth is not a straight line. And neither is the path to secrets Leo and Max hold inside.

I AM HER REVENGE by Meredith MooreI AM HER REVENGE: She can be anyone you want her to be.
Vivian was raised with one purpose in life: to exact revenge on behalf of her mother. Manipulative and cruel, Mother has deprived Vivian not only of a childhood, but of an original identity. With an endless arsenal of enticing personalities at her disposal, Vivian is a veritable weapon of deception.
And she can destroy anyone.
When it’s time to strike, she enrolls in a boarding school on the English moors, where she will zero in on her target: sweet and innocent Ben, the son of the man who broke Mother’s heart twenty years ago.
Anyone…except for the woman who created her.
With every secret she uncovers, Vivian comes one step closer to learning who she really is. But the more she learns about herself, the more dangerous this cat and mouse game becomes. Because Mother will stop at nothing to make sure the truth dies with her.


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25. It Was Back In The Day....but I've no idea which day...

 Here we go again.  "Back in the day", Amazing Heroes was the comics news publication from the United States.  And a lot -a lot- of creators tried to get a mention in it.  I never had to try -I think I was mentioned in three issues.

Once again I hear that...well, more BS from morons who I can only assume are jealous.  But I can only respond with this:


Anyway, in Amazing Heroes #179, May, 1990, Hal Hargit wrote in his Small Press World section, under The UK Invasion Part One, about a certain bearded human dynamo.

As I like to always show certain people up as total arses I am including the piece here.  Oddly, the, uh, "comic personality" spreading the muck was never once mentioned in Amazing Heroes. Ever.

Did you hear that bitch-slap?

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