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1. The Very Cross Bun cover art


With the cover illustration done, it's now time to hand the baton over to the designer. I didn't expect it to be such a long road to this point. I can still remember the day Jennifer proposed a series of 'fractured fairy-tales' to me on the drive to a children's literature festival.

The agreement with the publisher is pretty open ended, which has meant doing without the sometimes helpful threat of a deadline. My perfectionism was left to run wild. And then as jobs, other projects, and life inevitably interrupted, it turned into a stop-start affair. In the end, I managed to resurrect my momentum each time, and I feel I've produce a series of inspired illustrations. At the very least the best I could do.

I would love to know your thoughts, especially if you get around to reading it.

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2. The unfinished fable of the sparrows

Owls and robots. Nature and computers. It might seem like these two things don’t belong in the same place, but The Unfinished Fable of the Sparrows (in an extract from Nick Bostrom’s Superintelligence) sheds light on a particular problem: what if we used our highly capable brains to build machines that surpassed our general intelligence?

It was the nest-building season, but after days of long hard work, the sparrows sat in the evening glow, relaxing and chirping away.

“We are all so small and weak. Imagine how easy life would be if we had an owl who could help us build our nests!”

“Yes!” said another. “And we could use it to look after our elderly and our young.”

“It could give us advice and keep an eye out for the neighborhood cat,” added a third.

Then Pastus, the elder-bird, spoke: “Let us send out scouts in all directions and try to find an abandoned owlet somewhere, or maybe an egg. A crow chick might also do, or a baby weasel. This could be the best thing that ever happened to us, at least since the opening of the Pavilion of Unlimited Grain in yonder backyard.”

The flock was exhilarated, and sparrows everywhere started chirping at the top of their lungs.

Only Scronkfinkle, a one-eyed sparrow with a fretful temperament, was unconvinced of the wisdom of the endeavor. Quoth he: “This will surely be our undoing. Should we not give some thought to the art of owl-domestication and owl-taming first, before we bring such a creature into our midst?”

Replied Pastus: “Taming an owl sounds like an exceedingly difficult thing to do. It will be difficult enough to find an owl egg. So let us start there. After we have succeeded in raising an owl, then we can think about taking on this other challenge.”

“There is a flaw in that plan!” squeaked Scronkfinkle; but his protests were in vain as the flock had already lifted off to start implementing the directives set out by Pastus.

Just two or three sparrows remained behind. Together they began to try to work out how owls might be tamed or domesticated. They soon realized that Pastus had been right: this was an exceedingly difficult challenge, especially in the absence of an actual owl to practice on. Nevertheless they pressed on as best they could, constantly fearing that the flock might return with an owl egg before a solution to the control problem had been found.

Headline image credit: Chestnut Sparrow by Lip Kee. CC BY 2.0 via Flickr.

The post The unfinished fable of the sparrows appeared first on OUPblog.

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3. Smek for President: Review Haiku

Some prior knowledge
is helpful, but you'll still root
for Tip and J.Lo.

Smek for President by Adam Rex. Disney, 2014, 272 pages.

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4.


Hope that your weekend is MAGICAL!! "ABRACADABRA" Do you know what it means?? "Abracadabra" is a hebrew word meaning, It is so or make it so. So, Abracadabra and have a wonderful weekend people!

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5. not yet!

Trying out new things on vacation!






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6. take me up to the top of the city

So, it's nearly time to say goodbye to August, and summer, and Hello September. I like September. It feels like a month when changes can and will happen and I always welcome that. Plus, autumn is most definitely my favourite season. Even the word 'autumn' is lovely.

September, before it has begun, has a theme to it. I am paying three visits to our capital - which feels exciting and sounds expensive. At the end of the month I am going to see, and I can't quite believe I'm saying this, Kate Bush in concert. I know, how crazy is that? I hope she hasn't had a big strop by then and called the rest of the dates off. You wouldn't put it past her. And, I love her for that.

Mid month I am finally going to see my bookbench. It's been a long time coming, but at last, just days before it retires from the city, I'll get to see it, in situ, on the streets of London. Well, actually, in a churchyard in Greenwich. The photo, below, was taken by, and of, a couple of friends who recently visited.
Then there's next weekend and a rather fabulous opportunity that presented itself to me. You know, sometimes, a little gem of a 'job' pops up in your inbox? Sometimes, you don't even take it seriously because it sounds too good to be true? Yeah, that.

Next weekend, on Saturday 5th of September, I will be drawing for, and representing, MOLESKINE and URBAN SKETCHERS in COVENT GARDEN. It's true! Please come along. We're there all day for a big old sketchathon. Come! Draw! Plus, rumour has it, that there may just be free Moleskines. Oh yes. You'll need to get there early to catch one of those lovely worms.

Oh, oh, and I forgot to mention the rest of the Covent Garden sketching team. I'll only be sketching with, ahem, Urban Sketching correspondents Adebanji Alade, James Hobbs, Olha Pryymak. Eeeeek! I already feel like a fraud.

Full details of the event can be found HERE. Even though our Learning Sessions are sold out still come along. We'll all be hanging out, sketching, all day. Hope to see you there.

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7. Beauty and the Beasts

★★★★/★★★ Dear Reader, This past week, I completed The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker. This is a debut work of historical fiction with a generous serving of dark fantasy. The title characters are mythological beings who display human bodies but retain troublesome superhuman capabilities. The Golem is an animated creature from Jewish mythology. She was formed from clay by a

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8. Reading About Writing, A Mid-Year Update

DSC_0728

I declared 2014 the year to learn about writing and committed to quite the list of non-fiction (which I only can read in small doses). How have I done so far? I’ve read a grand total of two.

Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art – Madeleine L’Engle

Writing Irresistible Kidlit: The Ultimate Guide to Crafting Fiction for Young Adult and Middle Grade Readers– Mary Kole

Of course, I re-read large portions of Second Sight and Novel Metamorphosis  for the Novel Revision class I taught in the spring. I also raced through The War of Art , which didn’t make the list back in January. Same with Advanced Plotting, which I also forgot to add. And I’ve read lots and lots of fiction, which I can’t help but learn from, (two recent titles I picked up to study character — The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian and Okay for Now – completely knocked my socks off).  As for my list, I’m a little behind. It’s time to jump back in!

Any books on writing you’re planning to read this year?

 

The post Reading About Writing, A Mid-Year Update appeared first on Caroline Starr Rose.

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9. Poetry Friday with a review of Super Silly School Poems

For many children school will be starting up in a few days time. Hopefully they are looking forward to school, but if they are feeling anxious about what is to come, they might want to take a look at today's poetry title. The poems in this book are funny and they will certainly chase away their worried feelings.

Super Silly School PoemsSuper Silly School Poems
David Greenberg
Illustrated by Liza Woodruff
Poetry Picture Book
For ages 5 to 7
Scholastic, 2014, 978-0-545-47981-3
For many years children’s lives revolve around their school and the people they meet there. They have wonderful experiences that they treasure, and then there are those incidents that they would like to forget as soon as possible. For this picture book David Greenberg has written seventeen poems that explore school life in creative and amusing ways.
   Every child has days when they realize that they have forgotten something, something that they know they need to take to school that day. In the poem Something you Forgot we meet a boy who has remembered his art project, his new markers and his backpack. He has his video game and his lunch money. He remembers to brush his teeth and yet there is still that something that he has forgotten. He gets “terribly distressed” because he just cannot remember what the something is, and then he looks in the mirror and realizes that he has “forgotten to get dressed.”
   Further along in the book we encounter a poem that will surely resonate with young readers. The poem describes what it is like when you go to the grocery store and see something truly shocking. There is your teacher. Shopping. For food. How can this be? After all, “Teachers live at school,” and that is where they belong. Who is responsible for letting the teacher out?
   Other topics in this book include school lunches, homework issues, show-and-tell, the school bathroom, and the way in which teachers seem to be adept mind readers.

   Throughout the book the humorous poems are paired with illustrations that perfectly capture images that appear in the poems.

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10. The Badger Knight - a review

Erskine, Kathryn. 2014. The Badger Knight. New York: Scholastic.
(Advance Reader Copy)


After the great plague, Adrian's father is overly protective. Having lost his wife and daughter, he is determined to protect his12-year-old son, Adrian.  Small and weak, Adrian has what we now call asthma and albinism. In the rural England of the 1300s, however, his condition is more often considered an unlucky and unholy affliction - rendering him only slightly more popular than Thomas the leper. Though he is quick of mind, skillful with a bow, and able to scribe, he is nonetheless treated as useless and dim-witted.

When the Middle March is threatened by war with the Scots, Adrian sees a chance to prove his mettle,

"Soon I hear the blacksmith's voice in my head: Nock! Mark! Draw! Loose! I spread some dirt under my eyes to counteract the bright sun, close my left eye, ready  my bow, and take aim at a single leaf fifty feet away.  On my second shot I split the leaf in two.  As I practice more, I can hit a leaf on my first try, even when it sways in the breeze.  I lose all sense of time and feel like I'm in another world.
Until I hear someone approach through the woods, and I grab my arrows, stowing them quickly with my bow inside the tree trunk.  For years I haven't been discovered and I don't intend for anyone to find me out now.  When the time is right, I will shock them all.  So I stand and look up at the branches to divert attention away from the trunk and to show that I'm simply addlepated Adrian looking at birds."

The Badger Knight is a historical fiction adventure that touches upon many common themes (bullying, friendship, gender bias, coming of age, survival, the nature of good and evil) as Adrian goes off to war and becomes a man - not by might, but by right.

 "... I'm reminded of Nigel and his search for the truth.  I think of what I always believed to be truths — Scots are pagans, thieves are bad, knights are noble, girls are weak, war is glorious — and how these "truths" aren't real at all.  They're things I was taught or everyone believes, just as all people who look like me are supposedly angels or, more often, devils.  I didn't believe Nigel when he said that scribing was power, that seeking the truth and sharing it is mightier than being a soldier.
     Now I see what he means."

The Knight Badger is rich in historical details - from the minor particulars of everyday life and the societal hierarchy of medieval England to the gruesome manner of medieval warfare. Erskine offers an unvarnished look into the lives of serfs, tradesmen, religious leaders, free lances, city street urchins, and robber barons. The author's thoughts on the nature of war are on display throughout, but readers are encouraged to come to their own conclusions and examine their own biases.

A solid adventure story that should appeal to boys and girls.  There is room for a sequel.

On shelves 8/26/14.   Target audience: ages 8-12, Gr 3-7
352 pages

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11. Beginning a Year of Teaching Writing with Reflection

What goals will you set for your practice this year? Here are a few suggestions.

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12. Stuff You

Isn't it marvellous how, when you get a blog that is successful, all those people in comics who treated you like raw crap want to be added to your networks on things like Face Book or Linkedin?

Oh, cynics might say that way these people get their posts seen more easily.  Surely not?

Their chances of being added to my "networks"?  The same as Obama and Putin being caught out in a gay sex scandal.

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13. Macro Photos of Compound Eyes

 Yudy Sauw takes amazing photos of the faces of insects and other tiny creatures.

The ring light diffuser around the black lens give the appearance of a "pupil." On some of them there appears to be some Photoshop enhancement, as with the one above called "Flood." 

You can buy the images as computer wallpaper or canvas prints. Via BoingBoing

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14. Poetry Friday -- Retro Post


I'M YOUR MOM

I'm your mom when you're in school.
I mom you sharply when you're cruel.
I mom you gently when you're hurt.
I mom the buttons on your shirt!

(I mom the music teacher's tie.)
I always mom you when you cry.
(I mom the plants on the windowsill.)
I mom you when you're feeling ill.

I'll never be your mom at home.
I'll never see what you'll become.
I'll never tuck you into bed,
Never hold your feverish head.

But I'm your mom when you're in school
And I'll mom you into shape with rules
Because I love you like you're mine...
I hope your real mom doesn't mind!

©Mary Lee Hahn, 2011


This poem first appeared on the blog in April of 2011, but besides linking to it in a post this week, and sharing it with my current students, I have connected with several students from former classes this week, and my heart is filled with joy that they carry good memories of being in my 5th grade class. As I set out on the year's journey with a group who won't be sharing memories or stories of influence for 7+ years, it's good to be hearing from these former students!

Jone has the Poetry Friday roundup this week at Check it Out.


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15. Pen Center USA Unveils 24th Annual Literary Award Winners

PEN Center USA has unveiled some of the winners of the 24th annual literary awards. Each writer will receive a one thousand dollar cash prize.

At this point in time, the Graphic Literature Award winner and the recipient of the organization’s Award of Honor have not yet been revealed. The group will be honored at the 24th annual literary awards festival. Check out the list of winners below.

(more…)

New Career Opportunities Daily: The best jobs in media.

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16. What The Hale! By Elizabeth Langston and Lisa Amowitz

What The Hale! By Elizabeth Langston and Lisa Amowitz

Elizabeth: Last winter, my editor sent me a suggestion that has since changed my life. I had three books releasing in 2014 and no book covers. The publisher, Spencer Hill Press, had another author—Lisa Amowitz—who also designed books covers. Did I have time to work with her?

I couldn’t say “yes” quickly enough. I’d seen other covers that she’d designed and coveted them! Within days, Lisa and I were messaging feverishly, tossing out ideas, zeroing in on concepts, agreeing (and disagreeing) in a burst of creative energy that felt amazingly natural.

Lisa: First let me say that working for a small publisher, I often get the chance to work directly with authors. Elizabeth and I clicked immediately and what started as a professional relationship quickly evolved into a friendship. We found that despite being polar opposites in temperament and background, we somehow connected on a deeper level.

Elizabeth: Unexpected but true! Even though we’d ended our collaboration with the book covers, Lisa and I enjoyed our budding friendship so much that we just had to stay in touch.

Fast forward to March. After I’d spent a long weekend doing historical research in Williamsburg, Virginia, I came home and messaged to Lisa that I’d visited one of the film locations for the TV series TURN. Immediately, she started gushing about Revolutionary War spies and, in particular, Nathan Hale. Yeah, yeah, whatever. I love history, but I rarely obsess over guys who’ve been dead since the 1700s. (I reserve my obsessions for alive-but-inaccessible guys, like Michael Fassbender.)

Lisa: I also shared my (then secret but now totally out in the open) insane and immature crush for actor Benedict Cumberbatch, and after a conversation about the show TURN, I was amazed when Elizabeth did not laugh about my odd fascination for Nathan Hale. (Yes--between Cumberbatch and Hale, I’m used to plenty of eyerolls and blank stares from friends and family--though more with Nathan. Benedict seems to be quite popular these days.) When Elizabeth did not laugh in my face, I popped the question: “Do you want to co-write a YA story about Nathan Hale?”

I’d already read her writing and knew our styles would mesh beautifully. But the main thing is that I knew that Elizabeth had something important that I lacked—Elizabeth knew how to do historical research, something I’d tried, but had only gotten so far with before I’d given up in despair.

Given the complete lack of enthusiasm for my Nathan Hale fixation from everyone but my mother, I was stunned by her answer.

Yes, she, said--when do we start?

Elizabeth: I was really excited about the idea. Although I’d never vacationed before with a friend, here I was, agreeing to fly up to New York for five days to hang out with Lisa and see if this passionate interest in colonial history and Nathan Hale could result in a book. Even more, we had to discover if we had the personalities, skills, and time to make this project happen.

We held our writing retreat in July—and here are three of the lessons we learned.

Process. Your writing processes can be different—but you have to respect that and find a way to make them compatible. Lisa likes to write in chronological order. I like to jump around. At our retreat, we created a detailed synopsis of the whole book. Lisa uses it to write in order. I can still jump around.

Contribution. You both have to feel like you can contribute some unique and important to the project. For me, it’s my understanding of the colonial American world. For Lisa, it’s her deep knowledge of Nathan Hale and New York.

Voice. Your voices have to complement each other. I have a lighter voice with an old-fashioned feel. I’ll be writing mostly in the POV of our colonial heroine, a girl who begins our story at age 16. Lisa has the darker, edgier voice. She’ll channel Nathan Hale—a guy who always suspected that his life would be short—although maybe not even he would’ve guessed it would end at age 21.

Lisa: I’ll wrap this up by saying that the thing I feared most about our visit would be that I would prove to be “too much” for Elizabeth. At Spencer Hill Press, my nickname is The Squirrel on Crack, given my extroverted New Yorkie personality, my tendency to talk very fast and a LOT, and my frenetic multi-tasking. I was nervous. I thought Elizabeth would have the need to hide from me for many hours out of the day.

What I found instead, was that while she’s a more laid back and soft spoken Southern lady, her energy level is just as intense and hard-driving as mine. We worked relentlessly for ten to twelve hours a day, like two bloodhounds tracking down a trail. We had to make a special time each day for “playtime” in which we ended up plotting each other’s OTHER books (and drinking some very sweet wine).

In short, like in a good relationship, opposites attract. We have found that our opposite temperaments and capabilities are actually our strengths, and that the one area in which we are similar--DRIVE, PASSION and COMMITMENT (and love of a good yarn) was just the impetus we’ll rely upon to bring this project to its completion.

Here I am with the plot map we produced on one of our more intense worksessions.

What the Hale!

Elizabeth: Last winter, my editor sent me a suggestion that has since changed my life. I had three books releasing in 2014 and no book covers. The publisher, Spencer Hill Press, had another author—Lisa Amowitz—who also designed books covers. Did I have time to work with her?

I couldn’t say “yes” quickly enough. I’d seen other covers that she’d designed and coveted them! Within days, Lisa and I were messaging feverishly, tossing out ideas, zeroing in on concepts, agreeing (and disagreeing) in a burst of creative energy that felt amazingly natural.

Lisa: First let me say that working for a small publisher, I often get the chance to work directly with authors. Elizabeth and I clicked immediately and what started as a professional relationship quickly evolved into a friendship. We found that despite being polar opposites in temperament and background, we somehow connected on a deeper level.

Elizabeth: Unexpected but true! Even though we’d ended our collaboration with the book covers, Lisa and I enjoyed our budding friendship so much that we just had to stay in touch.

Fast forward to March. After I’d spent a long weekend doing historical research in Williamsburg, Virginia, I came home and messaged to Lisa that I’d visited one of the film locations for the TV series TURN. Immediately, she started gushing about Revolutionary War spies and, in particular, Nathan Hale. Yeah, yeah, whatever. I love history, but I rarely obsess over guys who’ve been dead since the 1700s. (I reserve my obsessions for alive-but-inaccessible guys, like Michael Fassbender.)

Lisa: I also shared my (then secret but now totally out in the open) insane and immature crush for actor Benedict Cumberbatch, and after a conversation about the show TURN, I was amazed when Elizabeth did not laugh about my odd fascination for Nathan Hale. (Yes--between Cumberbatch and Hale, I’m used to plenty of eyerolls and blank stares from friends and family--though more with Nathan. Benedict seems to be quite popular these days.) When Elizabeth did not laugh in my face, I popped the question: “Do you want to co-write a YA story about Nathan Hale?”

I’d already read her writing and knew our styles would mesh beautifully. But the main thing is that I knew that Elizabeth had something important that I lacked—Elizabeth knew how to do historical research, something I’d tried, but had only gotten so far with before I’d given up in despair.

Given the complete lack of enthusiasm for my Nathan Hale fixation from everyone but my mother, I was stunned by her answer.

Yes, she, said--when do we start?

Elizabeth: I was really excited about the idea. Although I’d never vacationed before with a friend, here I was, agreeing to fly up to New York for five days to hang out with Lisa and see if this passionate interest in colonial history and Nathan Hale could result in a book. Even more, we had to discover if we had the personalities, skills, and time to make this project happen.

We held our writing retreat in July—and here are three of the lessons we learned.

Process. Your writing processes can be different—but you have to respect that and find a way to make them compatible. Lisa likes to write in chronological order. I like to jump around. At our retreat, we created a detailed synopsis of the whole book. Lisa uses it to write in order. I can still jump around.

Contribution. You both have to feel like you can contribute some unique and important to the project. For me, it’s my understanding of the colonial American world. For Lisa, it’s her deep knowledge of Nathan Hale and New York.

Voice. Your voices have to complement each other. I have a lighter voice with an old-fashioned feel. I’ll be writing mostly in the POV of our colonial heroine, a girl who begins our story at age 16. Lisa has the darker, edgier voice. She’ll channel Nathan Hale—a guy who always suspected that his life would be short—although maybe not even he would’ve guessed it would end at age 21.

Lisa: I’ll wrap this up by saying that the thing I feared most about our visit would be that I would prove to be “too much” for Elizabeth. At Spencer Hill Press, my nickname is The Squirrel on Crack, given my extroverted New Yorkie personality, my tendency to talk very fast and a LOT, and my frenetic multi-tasking. I was nervous. I thought Elizabeth would have the need to hide from me for many hours out of the day.

What I found instead, was that while she’s a more laid back and soft spoken Southern lady, her energy level is just as intense and hard-driving as mine. We worked relentlessly for ten to twelve hours a day, like two bloodhounds tracking down a trail. We had to make a special time each day for “playtime” in which we ended up plotting each other’s OTHER books (and drinking some very sweet wine).

In short, like in a good relationship, opposites attract. We have found that our opposite temperaments and capabilities are actually our strengths, and that the one area in which we are similar--DRIVE, PASSION and COMMITMENT (and love of a good yarn) was just the impetus we’ll rely upon to bring this project to its completion.

Here I am with the plot map we produced on one of our more intense worksessions.



About The Authors

Elizabeth Langston lives in North Carolina, halfway between the beaches and the mountains. She has two daughters in college and one husband at home. When she's not writing software or stories, Elizabeth loves to travel with her family, watch shows on dance or Sherlock, and dream about which restaurant ought to get her business that night.

WHISPERS FROM THE PAST, the 3rd book in Elizabeth's WHISPER FALLS YA time travel series, releases in October. I WISH, the 1st book in her new YA magical realism series, releases in November. Learn more about Elizabeth at http://www.elizabethLangston.net .


blog | twitter | facebook | website

About Her Book

Lacey Linden is hiding the truth of her life—a depressed mom, a crumbling house, and bills too big to pay. While her high school classmates see a girl with a ready smile and good grades, Lacey spends her evenings seeking ways to save her family. On a get-cash-quick trip to the flea market, Lacey stumbles over a music box that seemingly begs her to take it home. She does, only to find it is inhabited by a gorgeous "genie." He offers her a month of wishes, one per day, but there's a catch. Each wish must be humanly possible.

Grant belongs to a league of supernatural beings, dedicated to serving humans in need. After two years of fulfilling the boring wishes of conventional teens, he is one assignment away from promotion to a challenging new role with more daring cases. Yet his month with Lacey is everything that he expects and nothing like he imagines. Lacey and Grant soon discover that the most difficult task of all might be saying goodbye.

Amazon | IndieBound | Goodreads





LISA AMOWITZ was born in Queens and raised in the wilds of Long Island, New York where she climbed trees, thought small creatures lived under rocks and studied ant hills. And drew. A lot. She is a professor of Graphic Design at her beloved Bronx Community College where she has been tormenting and cajoling students for nearly seventeen years. She started writing eight years ago because she wanted something to illustrate, but somehow, instead ended up writing YA–probably because her mind is too dark and twisted for small children.

Her first book, Breaking Glass, was released by Spencer Hill Press in 2013, and she has three more novels scheduled for release: Vision, the first of the Finder series in May 2014, its unnamed sequel in 2015, and Until Beth in Spring of 2015.


blog | twitter | facebook

About Her Book

The light is darker than you think…

High school student Bobby Pendell already has his hands full—he works almost every night to support his disabled-vet father and gifted little brother. Then he meets the beautiful new girl in town, who just happens to be his boss’s daughter. Bobby has rules about that kind of thing. Nothing matters more than keeping his job.

When Bobby starts to get blinding migraines that come with scary, violent hallucinations, his livelihood is on the line. Soon, he must face the stunning possibility that the visions of murder are actually real. With his world going dark, Bobby is set on the trail of the serial killer terrorizing his small town. With everyone else convinced he’s the prime suspect, Bobby realizes that he, or the girl he loves, might be killer's next victim.

Amazon | IndieBound | Goodreads

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17. Music (Twin Etheree)


Hear,
Clear,

That note,
Lone boat,

Parody,
Melody,

That soothes your mind,
That makes you blind,

Take you to heaven,
All above seven,

Makes you to fly so high,
As if you own whole sky,

Leaves you in full ecstasy
Changes your reality,

Let you feel the essence of life,
Erasing the presence of strife,

That is power of music so pure,
Like a natural and herbal cure,

It makes you forget anything tragic,
Touches your soul to create magic.

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18. Spotlight and Giveaway: Heroes are My Weakness by Susan Elizabeth Phillips

 

Heroes Are My Weakness by: Susan Elizabeth Phillips

Releasing August 26th, 2014

Avon Romance

New York Times bestselling author Susan Elizabeth Phillips is back with a delightful novel filled with her sassy wit and dazzling charm

The dead of winter.
An isolated island off the coast of Maine.
A man.
A woman.
A sinister house looming over the sea …
He’s a reclusive writer whose macabre imagination creates chilling horror novels. She’s a down-on-her-luck actress reduced to staging kids’ puppet shows. He knows a dozen ways to kill with his bare hands. She knows a dozen ways to kill with laughs.
But she’s not laughing now. When she was a teenager, he terrified her. Now they’re trapped together on a snowy island off the coast of Maine. Is he the villain she remembers or has he changed? Her head says no. Her heart says yes.
It’s going to be a long, hot winter.

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Goodreads Link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/19367048-heroes-are-my-weakness?from_search=true

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Author Info

Susan Elizabeth Phillips soars onto the New York Times bestseller list with every new publication. She’s the only four-time recipient of the Romance Writers of America’s prestigious Favorite Book of the Year Award. Susan delights fans by touching hearts as well as funny bones with her wonderfully whimsical and modern fairy tales. A resident of the Chicago suburbs, she is also a wife, and mother of two grown sons.

Author Links

Website: http://susanelizabethphillips.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SusanElizabethPhillipsNovels

Twitter: https://twitter.com/sepauthor

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/41313.Susan_Elizabeth_Phillips

 

Excerpt (Chapter 1):

Annie didn’t usually talk to her suitcase, but she wasn’t exactly herself these days. The high beams of her headlights could barely penetrate the dark, swirling chaos of the winter blizzard, and the windshield wipers on her ancient Kia were no match for the wrath of the storm that had hit the island. “It’s only a little snow,” she told the oversize red suitcase wedged into the passenger seat. “Just because it feels like the end of the world doesn’t mean it is.”

You know I hate the cold, her suitcase replied, in the annoying whine of a child who preferred making a point by stamping her foot. How could you bring me to this awful place?

Because Annie had run out of options.

An icy blast rocked the car, and the branches of the old fir trees hovering over the unpaved road whipped like witches’ hair. Annie decided that anybody who believed in hell as a fiery furnace had it all wrong. Hell was this bleak, hostile winter island.

You’ve never heard of Miami Beach? Crumpet, the spoiled princess in the suitcase retorted. Instead you had to haul us off to a deserted island in the middle of the North Atlantic where we’ll probably get eaten by polar bears!

The gears ground as the Kia struggled up the narrow, slippery island road. Annie’s head ached, her ribs hurt from coughing, and the simple act of craning her neck to peer through a clear spot on the windshield made her dizzy. She was alone in the world with only the imaginary voices of her ventriloquist dummies anchoring her to reality. As sick as she was, she didn’t miss the irony.

She conjured up the more calming voice of Crumpet’s counterpart, the practical Dilly, who was tucked away in the matching red suitcase in the backseat. We’re not the middle of the Atlantic, sensible Dilly said. We’re on an island ten miles off the New England coast, and the last I heard, Maine doesn’t have polar bears. Besides, Peregrine Island isn’t deserted.

It might as well be. If Crumpet had been on Annie’s arm, she would have shot her small nose up in the air. People barely survive here in the middle of the summer let alone winter. I bet they eat their dead for food.

The car fishtailed ever so slightly. Annie corrected the skid, gripping the wheel more tightly through her gloves. The heater barely worked, but she’d begun to perspire under her jacket.

You mustn’t keep complaining, Crumpet, Dilly admonished her peevish counterpart. Peregrine Island is a popular summer resort.

It’s not summer! Crumpet countered. It’s the first week of February, we just drove off a car ferry that made me seasick, and there can’t be more than fifty people left here. Fifty stupid people!

You know Annie had no choice but to come here, Dilly said.

Because she’s a big failure, an unpleasant male voice sneered.

Leo had a bad habit of uttering Annie’s deepest fears, and it was inevitable that he’d intrude into her thoughts. He was her least favorite puppet, but every story needed a villain.

Very unkind, Leo, Dilly said. Even if it is true.

The petulant Crumpet continued to complain. You’re the heroine, Dilly, so everything always turns out fine for you. But not for the rest of us. Not ever. We’re doomed! Doomed, I say! We’re forever¾

Annie’s cough cut off the internal histrionics of her puppet. Sooner or later her body would heal from the lingering aftereffects of pneumonia¾at least she hoped so¾but what about the rest of her? She’d lost faith in herself, lost the sense that, at thirty-three, her best days still lay ahead. She was physically weak, emotionally empty, and more than a little terrified, hardly the best state for someone forced to spend the next two months on an isolated Maine island.

That’s only sixty days, Dilly attempted to point out. Besides, Annie, you don’t have anywhere else to go.

And there it was. The ugly truth. Annie had nowhere else to go. Nothing else to do but search for the legacy her mother might or might not have left her.

The Kia hit a snow-packed rut, and the seat belt seized up. The pressure on Annie’s chest made her cough again. If only she could have stayed in the village for the night, but the Island Inn was closed until May. Not that she could have afforded it anyway.

The car barely crested the hill. She had years of practice transporting her puppets through every kind of weather to perform all over the state, but even a decent snow driver had limited control on a road like this, especially in her Kia. There was a reason the residents of Peregrine Island drove pickups.

Take it slow, another male voice advised from the suitcase in the back. Slow and steady wins the race. Peter, her hero puppet¾her knight in shining armor¾was a voice of encouragement, unlike her former actor-boyfriend-slash-lover, who’d only encouraged himself.

Annie brought the car to a full stop then started her slow descent. Halfway down, it happened.

The apparition came from nowhere.

A man clad in black flew across the bottom of the road on a midnight horse. She’d always had a vivid imagination¾witness her internal conversations with her puppets¾and she thought she was imagining this. But the vision was real. Horse and rider racing through the snow, the man leaning low over the horse’s mane streaming. They were demon creatures, a nightmare horse and lunatic man galloping into the storm’s fury.

They disappeared as quickly as they’d appeared, but her foot automatically hit the brake, and the car began to slide. It skidded across the road and,with a sickening lurch, came to a stop in the snow-filled ditch.

You’re such a loser, Leo the villain sneered.

Tears of exhaustion filled her eyes. Her hands shook. Were the man and horse indeed real or had she conjured them? She needed to focus. She put the car into reverse and attempted to rock it out, but the tires only spun deeper. Her head fell against the back of the seat. If she stayed here long enough, someone would find her. But when? Only the cottage and the main house lay at the end of this road.

She tried to think. Her single contact on the island was the man who took care of the main house and the cottage, but she’d only had an e-mail address to let him know she was arriving and ask him to turn on the cottage’s utilities. Even if she had his phone number¾Will Shaw¾that was his name¾she doubted she could get cell reception out here.

Loser. Leo never spoke in an ordinary voice. He only sneered.

Annie grabbed a tissue from a crumpled pack, but instead of thinking about her dilemma, she thought about the horse and rider. What kind of a crazy took an animal out in this weather? She squeezed her eyes shut and fought a wave of nausea. If only she could curl up and go to sleep. Would it be so terrible to admit that life had gotten the best of her?

Stop it right now, sensible Dilly said.

Annie’s head pounded. She had to find Shaw and get him to pull out the car.

Never mind Shaw, Peter the hero declared. I’ll do it myself.

Buy Peter¾like her ex-boyfriend¾was only good in a fictional crisis.

The cottage was about a mile away, an easy distance for a healthy person in decent weather. But the weather was horrible, and nothing about her was healthy.

Give up, Leo sneered. You know you want to.

Stop being such a douche, Leo. This voice came from Scamp, Dilly’s best friend and Annie’s alter ego. Even though Scamp was responsible for many of the scrapes the puppets got into¾scrapes heroine Dilly and hero Peter had to sort out¾Annie loved her courage and big heart.

Pull yourself together, Scamp ordered. Get out of the car.

Annie wanted to tell her to go to hell, but what was the point? She pushed her flyaway hair inside the collar of her quilted jacket and zipped it. Her knit gloves had a hole in the thumb, and the door handle was icy against her exposed skin. She made herself open it.

The cold slapped her in the face and stole her breath. She had to force her legs out. Her beat-up brown suede city boots sank into the snow, and her jeans were no match for the weather. Ducking her head into the wind, she made her way to the rear of the car to get her heavy coat, only to see that the trunk was wedged so tightly into the hillside that she couldn’t open it. Why should she be surprised? Nothing had gone her way in so long that she’d forgotten what good fortune felt like.

She returned to the driver’s side. Her puppets should be safe in the car overnight, but what if they weren’t? She needed them. They were all she had left, and if she lost them, she might disappear altogether.

Pathetic, Leo sneered.

She wanted to rip him apart.

Babe… You need me more than I need you, he reminded her. Without me, you don’t have a show.

She shut him out. Breathing hard, she pulled the suitcases from the car, retrieved her keys, snapped off the headlights, and closed the door.

She was immediately plunged into thick, swirling darkness. Panic clawed at her chest.

I will rescue you! Peter declared.

Annie gripped the suitcase handles tighter, trying not to let her panic paralyze her.

I can’t see anything! Crumpet squealed. I hate the dark!

Annie had no handy flashlight app on her ancient cell phone, but she did have… She set a suitcase in the snow and dug in her pocket for her car keys and the small LED light attached to the ring. She hadn’t tried to use the light in months, and she didn’t know if it still worked. With her heart in her throat, she turned it on.

A sliver of bright blue light cut a tiny path through the snow, a path so narrow she could easily wander off the road.

Get a grip, Scamp ordered.

Give up, Leo sneered.

Annie took her first steps into the snow. The wind cut through her thin jacket and tore at her hair, whipping the curly strands onto her face. Snow slapped the back of her neck, and she started to cough. Pain compressed her ribs, and the suitcases banged against her legs. Much too soon, she had to set them down to rest her arms.

She hunched into her jacket collar, trying to protect her lungs from the icy air. Her fingers burned from the cold, and as she moved forward again, she called on her puppets’ imaginary voices to keep her company.

Crumpet: If you drop me and ruin my sparkly lavender dress, I’ll sue.

Peter: I’m the bravest! The strongest! I’ll help you.

Leo: (sneering) Do you know how to do anything right?

Dilly: Don’t listen to Leo. Keep moving. We’ll get there.

And Scamp, her useless alter ego: A woman carrying a suitcase walks into a bar…

Icy tears weighed down her eyelashes, blurring what vision she had. Wind caught the suitcases, threatening to snatch them away. They were too big, too heavy. Pulling her arms from their sockets. Stupid to have brought them with her. Stupid, stupid, stupid. But she couldn’t leave her puppets.

Each step felt like a mile, and she’d never been so cold. Here she’d thought her luck had begun to change, all because she’d been able to catch the car ferry over from the mainland. It only ran sporadically, unlike the converted lobster boat that provided the island with weekly service. But the farther the ferry traveled from the Maine coastline, the worse the storm had become.

She trudged on, dragging one foot through the snow after the other, arms screaming, lungs burning as she tried not to succumb to another coughing fit. Why hadn’t she put her warm down coat in the car instead of locking it in the trunk? Why hadn’t she done so many things? Find a stable occupation. Be more circumspect with her money. Date decent men.

So much time had passed since she’d been on the island. The road used to stop at the turnoff that led to the cottage and to Harp House. But what if she missed it? Who knew what might have changed since then?

She stumbled and fell to her knees. The keys slipped from her hand and the light went out. She grabbed one of the suitcases for support. She was frozen. Burning up. She gasped for air and frantically felt around in the snow. If she lost her light…

Her fingers were so numb she nearly missed it. When she finally had the flashlight back in her grasp, she turned it on and saw the stand of trees that had always marked the road’s end. She moved the beam to the right, where it fell on the big granite boulder at the turnoff. She hoisted herself back to her feet, lifted the suitcases, and stumbled through the drifts.

Her temporary relief at having found the turnoff faded. Centuries of harsh Maine weather had stripped this terrain of all but the hardiest of spruce, and without a windbreak, the blasts roaring in from the ocean caught the suitcases like spinnakers. She managed to turn her back to the wind’s force without losing either one. She sank one foot and then another, struggling through the tall snowdrifts, dragging the suitcases, and fighting the urge to lie down and let the cold do what it wanted with her.

She’d bowed so far into the wind that she nearly missed it. Only as the corner of a suitcase bumped against a low snow-shrouded stone wall did she realize that she’d reached Moonraker Cottage.

The small, gray-shingled house was nothing more than an amorphous shape beneath the snow. No shoveled pathway, no welcoming lights. The last time she’d been here, the door had been painted cranberry red, but now it was a cold, periwinkle blue. An unnatural mound of snow under the front window covered a pair of old wooden lobster traps, a nod to the house’s origins as a fisherman’s cottage. She hauled herself through the drifts to the door and set the suitcases down. She fumbled with the key in the lock only to remember that island people seldom locked up.

The door blew open. She dragged the suitcases inside and, with the last of her strength, wrestled it shut again. The air wheezed in her lungs. She collapsed on the closest suitcase, her gasps for breath more like sobs.

Eventually she grew conscious of the musty smell of the icy room. Pressing her nose to her sleeve, she fumbled for the light switch. Nothing happened. Either the caretaker hadn’t gotten her e-mail asking him to have the generator working and the small furnace fired up or he’d ignored it. Every frozen part of her throbbed. She dropped her snow-crusted gloves on the small canvas rug that lay just inside the door but didn’t bother to shake the snow from the wild tangle of her hair. Her jeans were frozen to her legs, but she’d have to pull off her boots to remove them, and she was too cold to do that.

But no matter how miserable she was, she had to get her puppets out of their snow-caked suitcases. She located one of the assorted flashlights her mother always kept near the door. Before school and library budgets were slashed, her puppets had provided a steadier livelihood than her failed acting career or her part-time jobs walking dogs and serving drinks at Coffee, Coffee.

Shaking with cold, she cursed the caretaker, who apparently had no qualms about riding a horse through a storm but couldn’t summon the effort to do his real job. It had to have been Shaw riding the horse. No one else lived at this end of the island during the winter. She unzipped the suitcases and pulled out the five dummies. Leaving them in their protective plastic bags, she stowed them temporarily on the sofa, then, flashlight in hand, stumbled across the frigid wood floor.

The interior of Moonraker Cottage bore no resemblance to anyone’s idea of a traditional New England fishing cottage. Instead her mother’s eccentric stamp was everywhere¾from a creepy bowl of small animal skulls to a silver-gilded Louis XIV chest bearing the words pile driver that Mariah had spray-painted across it in black graffiti. Annie preferred a cozier space, but during Mariah’s glory days, when she’d inspired fashion designers and a generation of young artists, both this cottage and her mother’s Manhattan apartment had been featured in upscale decorating magazines.

Those days had ended years ago when Mariah had fallen out of favor in Manhattan’s increasingly younger artistic circles. Wealthy New Yorkers had begun asking others for help compiling their private art collections, and Mariah had been forced to sell off her valuables to support her lifestyle. By the time she’d gotten sick, everything was gone. Everything except something in this cottage¾something that was supposed to be Annie’s mysterious “legacy.”

“It’s at the cottage. You’ll have… Plenty of money…” Mariah had said those words in the final hours before she’d died, a period in which she’d been barely lucid.

There isn’t any legacy, Leo sneered. Your mother exaggerated everything.

Maybe if Annie had spent more time on the island she’d know whether Mariah had been telling the truth, but she’d hated it here and hadn’t been back since her twenty-second birthday, eleven years ago.

She shone the flashlight around her mother’s bedroom. A life-size mounted photograph of an elaborately carved Italian wooden headboard served as the actual headboard for the double bed. A pair of wall hangings made of boiled wool and what looked like remnants from a hardware store hung next to the closet door. The closet still smelled of her mother’s signature fragrance, a little-known Japanese men’s cologne that had cost a fortune to import. As Annie breathed in the scent, she wished she could feel the grief a daughter should experience following the loss of a parent only five weeks earlier, but she merely felt depleted.

She waited until she’d located Mariah’s old scarlet woolen cloak and a pair of heavy socks before she got rid of her own clothes. After she’d piled every blanket she could find on her mother’s bed, she climbed under the musty sheets, turned out the flashlight, and went to sleep.

***

Annie hadn’t thought she’d ever be warm again, but she was sweating when a coughing fit awakened her sometime around two in the morning. Her ribs felt as if they’d been crushed, her head pounded, and her throat was raw. She also had to pee, another setback in a house with no water. When the coughing finally eased, she struggled out from under the blankets. Wrapped in the scarlet cloak, she turned on the flashlight and, grabbing the wall to support herself, made her way to the bathroom.

She kept the flashlight pointed down so she couldn’t see her reflection in the mirror that hung over the old-fashioned sink. She knew what she’d see. A long, pale face shadowed by illness; a sharply pointed chin; big, hazel eyes; and a runaway mane of light brown hair that kinked and curled wherever it wanted. She had a face children liked, but that most men found quirky instead of seductive. Her hair and face came from her unknown father¾“A married man. He wanted nothing to do with you. Dead now, thank God.” Her shape came from Mariah: tall, thin, with knobby wrists and elbows, big feet, and long-fingered hands.

“To be a successful actress, you need to be either exceptionally beautiful or exceptionally talented,” Mariah had said. “You’re pretty enough, Antoinette, and you’re a talented mimic, but we have to be realistic…”

Your mother wasn’t exactly your cheerleader. Dilly stated the obvious.

I’ll be your cheerleader, Peter proclaimed. I’ll take care of you and love you forever.

Peter’s heroic proclamations usually made Annie smile, but tonight she could think only of the emotional chasm between the men she’d chosen to give her heart to and the fictional heroes she loved.  And the other chasm¾the one between the life she’d imagined for herself and the one she was living.

Despite Mariah’s objections, Annie had gotten her degree in theater arts and spent the next ten years plodding to auditions. She’d done showcases, community theater, and even landed a few character roles in off-off Broadway plays. Too few. Over the past summer, she’d finally faced the truth that Mariah was right. Annie was a better ventriloquist than she’d ever be an actress. Which left her absolutely nowhere.

She found a bottle of ginseng-flavored water that had somehow escaped freezing. It hurt to swallow even a sip. Taking the water with her, she made her way back into the living room. 

Mariah hadn’t been to the cottage since summer, just before her cancer diagnosis, but Annie didn’t see a lot of dust. The caretaker must have done at least part of his job. If only he’d done the rest.

Her dummies lay on the hot pink Victorian sofa. The puppets and her car were all she had left.

Not quite all, Dilly said.

Right. There was the staggering load of debt Annie had no way of repaying, the debt she’d picked up in the last six months of her mother’s life by trying to satisfy Mariah’s every need.

And finally get Mummy’s approval, Leo sneered.

She began removing the puppets’ protective plastic. Each figure was about two and a half feet long, with moveable eyes and mouth and detachable legs. She picked up Peter and slipped her hand under his T-shirt.

“How beautiful you are, my darling Dilly,” he said in his most manly voice. “The woman of my dreams.”

“And you are the best of men.” Dilly sighed. “Brave and fearless.”

“Only in Annie’s imagination,” Scamp said with uncharacteristic rancor. “Otherwise, you’re as useless as her exes.”

“There are only two exes, Scamp,” Dilly admonished her friend. “And you really mustn’t take out your bitterness against men on Peter. I’m sure you don’t mean to, but you’re starting to sound like a bully, and you know how we feel about bullies.”

Annie specialized in issue-oriented puppet shows, several of which focused on bullying. She set Peter down and moved Leo off by himself, where he whispered his sneer inside her head. You’re still afraid of me.

Sometimes it felt as if the puppets had minds of their own.

Pulling the scarlet cloak tighter around her, she wandered to the front bay window. The storm had eased and moonlight shone through the panes. She looked out at the stark winter landscape¾the inky shadows of spruce, the bleak sheet of marsh. Then she lifted her gaze.

Harp House loomed above her in the distance, sitting at the very top of a barren cliff. The murky light of a half moon outlined its angular roofs and dramatic turret. Except for a faint yellow light visible from a room high in the turret, the house was dark. The scene reminded her of the covers on the old paperback gothic novels she could still sometimes find in used bookstores. It didn’t take much imagination for her to envision a barefoot heroine fleeing that ghostly house in nothing more than a filmy negligee, the menacing turret light glowing behind her. Those books were quaint compared to today’s erotically charged vampires, werewolves, and shape-shifters, but she’d always loved them. They’d nourished her daydreams.

Above the jagged roofline of Harp House, storm clouds raced across the moon, their journey as wild as the flight of the horse and rider who’d charged across the road. Her skin turned to gooseflesh, not from the cold but from her own imagination. She turned away from the window and glanced over at Leo.

Heavy lidded eyes… Thin-lipped sneer… The perfect villain. She could have avoided so much pain if she hadn’t romanticized those brooding men she’d fallen in love with, imagining them as fantasy heroes instead of realizing one was a cheater and the other a narcissist. Leo, however, was a different story. She’d created him herself out of cloth and yarn. She controlled him.

That’s what you think, he whispered.

She shivered and retreated to the bedroom. But even as she slipped back under the covers, she couldn’t shake off the dark vision of the house on the cliff.

Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again…

***

She wasn’t hungry when she awakened the next morning, but she made herself eat a handful of stale granola. The cottage was frigid, the day gloomy, and all she wanted to do was go back to bed. But she couldn’t live in the cottage without heat or running water, and the more she thought about her absent caretaker, the angrier she grew. She dug out the only phone number she had, one for the island’s combination town hall, post office, and library, but although her phone was charged, she couldn’t get a signal. She sank down on the pink velvet couch and dropped her head in her hands. She had to go after Will Shaw herself, and that meant making the climb to Harp House. Back to the place she’d sworn she’d never again go near.

She pulled on as many layers of warm clothes as she could find, then wrapped herself in her mother’s red cloak and knotted an ancient Hermès scarf under her chin. Summoning all her energy and willpower, she set out. The day was as gray as her future, the salt air frigid, and the distance between the cottage and the house at the top of the cliff insurmountable.

I’ll carry you every step of the way, Peter announced.

Scamp blew him a raspberry.

It was low tide, but the icy rocks along the shoreline were too hazardous to walk along at this time of year, so she had to take the longer route around the saltwater marsh. But it wasn’t just the distance that filled her with dread.

Dilly tried to give her courage. It’s been eighteen years since you made the climb to Harp House. The ghosts and goblins are long gone.

Annie pressed the edge of the cloak over her nose and mouth.

Don’t worry, Peter said. I’ll watch out for you.

Peter and Dilly were doing their jobs. They were the ones responsible for untangling Scamp’s scrapes and stepping in when Leo bullied. They were the ones who delivered antidrug messages, reminded kids to eat their vegetables, take care of their teeth, and not let anyone touch their private parts.

But it’ll feel so good, Leo sneered, then snickered.

Sometimes she wished she’d never created him, but he was such a perfect villain. He was the bully, the drug pusher, the junk food king, and the stranger who tried to lure children away from playgrounds.

Come with me, little kiddies, and I’ll give you all the candy you want.

Stop it, Annie, Dilly said. No one in the Harp family ever comes to the island until summer. Only the caretaker lives there.

Leo refused to leave Annie alone. I have Skittles, M&M’s, Twizzlers…and reminders of all your failures. How’s that precious acting career working out?

She hunched into her shoulders. She needed to start meditating or practicing yoga, doing something that would teach her to discipline her mind instead of letting it wander wherever it wanted¾or didn’t want¾to go. So what if her acting dreams hadn’t worked out the way she’d wanted.  Kids loved her puppet shows

Her boots crunched in the show. Dead cattails and hollowed reeds poked their battered heads through the frozen crust of the sleeping marsh. In summer, the marsh teemed with life, but now all was bleak, gray, and as quiet as her hopes.

She stopped to rest once again as she neared the bottom of the freshly plowed gravel drive that led up the cliff to Harp House. If Shaw could plow, he could get her car out. She dragged herself on. Before the pneumonia, she could have charged uphill, but by the time she finally reached the top, her lungs were on fire and she’d started to wheeze. Far below, the cottage looked like a neglected toy left to fend for itself against the pounding sea and rugged Maine cliffs. Dragging more fire into her lungs, she made herself lift her head.

Harp House rose before her, silhouetted against the pewter sky. Rooted in granite, exposed to summer squalls and winter gales, it dared the elements to take it down. The island’s other summer homes had been built on the more protected eastern side of the island, but Harp House scorned the easy way. Instead it grew from the rocky western headlands far above the sea, a shingle-sided, forbidding brown wooden fortress with an unwelcoming turret at one end.

Everything was sharp angles: the peaked roofs, shadowed eaves, and foreboding gables. How she’d loved this Gothic gloom when she’d come to live here the summer her mother had married Elliott Harp. She’d imagined herself clad in a mousy gray dress and clutching a portmanteau¾gently born, but penniless and desperate, forced to take the humble position of governess. Chin up and shoulders back, she’d confront the brutish (but exceptionally handsome) master of the house with so much courage that he would eventually fall hopelessly in love with her. They’d marry, and then she’d redecorate.

It hadn’t taken long before the romantic dreams of a homely fifteen-year-old who read too much and experienced too little had met a harsher reality.

Now, the swimming pool was an eerie, empty maw, and the simple sets of wooden stairs that led to the back and side entrances had been replaced with stone steps guarded by gargoyles.

She passed the stable and followed a roughly shoveled path to the back door. Shaw had better be here instead of galloping off on one of Elliott Harp’s horses. She pressed the bell but couldn’t hear it ring inside. The house was too big. She waited, then rang again, but no one answered. The doormat looked as though it had been recently used to stamp off snow. She rapped hard.

The door creaked open.

She was so cold that she stepped into the mudroom without hesitating. Miscellaneous pieces of outerwear, along with assorted mops and brooms, hung from a set of hooks. She rounded the corner that opened into the main kitchen and stopped.

Everything was different. The kitchen no longer held the walnut cabinets and stainless steel appliances she remembered from eighteen years ago. Instead the place looked as though it had been squeezed back through a time warp to the nineteenth century.

The wall between the kitchen and what had once been a breakfast room was gone, leaving the space twice as large as it had once been. High, horizontal windows let in light, but since the windows were now set at least six feet from the floor, only the tallest person could see through them. Rough plaster covered the top half of the walls, while the bottom was faced with four-inch-square once-white tiles, some chipped at the corners, others cracked with age. The floor was old stone, the fireplace a sooty cavern large enough to roast a wild boar…or a man unwise enough to have been caught poaching on his master’s land.

Instead of kitchen cabinets, rough shelves held stoneware bowls and crocks. Tall, freestanding dark wood cupboards rose on each side of a dull black industrial-size AGA stove. A stone farmhouse sink held a messy stack of dirty dishes. Copper stockpots and saucepans¾not shiny and polished, but dented and worn¾hung above a long, scarred wooden prep table designed to chop off chicken heads, butcher mutton chops, or whip up a syllabub for his lordship’s dinner.

The kitchen had to be a renovation, but what kind of renovation regressed two centuries. And why?

Run! Crumpet shrieked. Something’s very wrong here!

Whenever Crumpet got hysterical, Annie counted on Dilly’s no-nonsense manner to provide perspective, but Dilly remained silent, and not even Scamp could come up with a wisecrack.

“Mr. Shaw?” Annie’s voice lacked its normal powers of projection.

When there was no reply, she moved deeper into the kitchen, leaving wet tracks on the stone floor. But no way was she taking off her boots. If she had to run, she wasn’t doing it in socks. “Will?”

Not a sound.

She passed the pantry, crossed a narrow back hallway, detoured around the dining room, and stepped through the arched entry into the foyer. Only the dimmest gray light penetrated the six square panes above the front door. The heavy mahogany staircase still led to a landing with a murky stained-glass window, but the staircase carpet was now a depressing maroon instead of the multicolored floral from the past. The furniture bore a dusty film, and a cobweb hung in the corner. The walls had been paneled over in heavy, dark wood, and the seascape paintings had been replaced with gloomy oil portraits of prosperous men and women in nineteenth-century dress, none of whom could possibly have been Elliott Harp’s Irish peasant ancestors. All that was missing to make the entryway even more depressing was a suit of armor and a stuffed raven.

She heard footsteps above her and moved closer to the staircase. “Mr. Shaw? It’s Annie Hewitt. The door was open, so I let myself in.” She looked up. “I’m going to need¾” The words died on her tongue.

The master of the house stood at the top of the stairs.

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19. A back-to-school reading list of classic literature

With carefree summer winding to a close, we’ve pulled together some reading recommendations to put you in a studious mood. Check out these Oxford World’s Classics suggestions to get ready for another season of books and papers. Even if you’re no longer a student, there’s something on this list for every literary enthusiast.

Timon of Athens

If you liked Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller, you should read Timon of Athens by William Shakespeare. Like Miller’s Willy Loman, Timon does not enjoy an especially happy life, although from the outside it seems as though he should. Timon once had a good thing going, but creates his own misery after lavishing his considerable wealth on friends. He eventually grows to despise humanity and the play follows his slow demise.

If you liked Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee by Dee Brown, you should read The Souls of Black Folk by W. E. B. DuBois. Many argue that each of these texts should be required reading in all American schools. The Souls of Black Folk sheds light on a dark and shameful chapter of history, and of the achievements, triumphs, and continued struggles of African Americans against various obstacles in post-slavery society.

The IliadIf you liked Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut, you should read The Iliad by Homer. Written 2,700 years ago, The Iliad may just be the original anti-war novel, paving the way for books like Slaughterhouse-Five. Illustrating in poetic form the brutality of war and the many types of conflict that often lead to it, the periodic glimpses of peace and beauty that punctuate the story only serve to bathe the painful realities of battle in an even starker light.

If you liked The Lord of the Flies by William Golding, you should read Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens. This 19th century Victorian novel explores the survival of good, utilizing England’s workhouse system and an orphaned boy as vehicles to navigate its themes. Dickens was considered the most talented among his contemporaries at employing suspense and violence as literary motifs. The result was a classic work of literature that continues to be a favorite for many.

The Scarlet LetterIf you liked The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood you should read The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne. If strong female protagonists are your thing you will probably enjoy Hester Prynne, who endures public scorn after bearing a child out of wedlock, and faces a punishment of wearing a red “A” to designate her offense. Despite the severe sentence, Hester maintains her faith and personal dignity, all while continuing to support herself and her baby—not an easy feat in a 17th century puritan community.

If you liked One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, you should read The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer. A colorful and eclectic assortment of characters make the best of a long and arduous pilgrimage by entertaining each other with tall tales of every genre from comedy to romance to adventure. If you enjoy certain aspects of Garcia Marquez’s writing, namely the fantasy elements and large cast of characters in One Hundred Years, you will probably appreciate those same characteristics in this novel, which was written 600 years ago and is still admired today.

My AntoniaIf you liked The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck, you should read My Antonia by Willa Cather. A similar tale of survival in a harsh new land, My Antonia provides the context for a romance between two mufti-dimensional characters. Cather offers readers a glimpse into settler life in the nascent stages of American history, with vivid landscape descriptions and universal themes of companionship and family as added bonuses.

For over 100 years Oxford World’s Classics has made available the broadest spectrum of literature from around the globe. Each affordable volume reflects Oxford’s commitment to scholarship, providing the most accurate text plus a wealth of other valuable features, including expert introductions by leading authorities, voluminous notes to clarify the text, up-to-date bibliographies for further study, and much more. You can follow Oxford World’s Classics on Twitter, Facebook, or here on the OUPblog. Subscribe to only Oxford World’s Classics articles on the OUPblog via email or RSS. – See more at: http://blog.oup.com/2014/08/daniel-deronda-book-design/#sthash.BydtPSF1.dpuf
For over 100 years Oxford World’s Classics has made available the broadest spectrum of literature from around the globe. Each affordable volume reflects Oxford’s commitment to scholarship, providing the most accurate text plus a wealth of other valuable features, including expert introductions by leading authorities, voluminous notes to clarify the text, up-to-date bibliographies for further study, and much more. You can follow Oxford World’s Classics on Twitter, Facebook, or here on the OUPblog. Subscribe to only Oxford World’s Classics articles on the OUPblog via email or RSS. – See more at: http://blog.oup.com/2014/08/daniel-deronda-book-design/#sthash.BydtPSF1.dpuf

If you liked One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey, you should read The Trial by Franz Kafka. Psychological thrillers don’t get much better than The Trial, a book that incorporates various themes including guilt, responsibility, and power. Josef K. awakens one morning to find himself under arrest for a crime that is never explained to him (or to the reader). As he stands trial, Josef gradually crumbles under the psychological pressure and begins to doubt his own morality and innocence, showing how Kafka used ambiguity brilliantly as a device to create suspense.

Featured image: Timeless books by Lin Kristensen. CC-BY-2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

The post A back-to-school reading list of classic literature appeared first on OUPblog.

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20. Interview with Margot Wood, the Real Fauxtographer

Industry Life

by Adam Silvera

Today we’re VERY excited to be hosting the talented Margot Wood on the blog! In Margot’s The Real Fauxtographer series she takes photos inspired by YA novels – sometimes a cool moment, other times a detail that jumped out as very visual to her, and even characters! It’s all awesome and I’m a big fan. And Margot is also exclusively premiering her latest YA fauxto, which you can find after our interview.

real fauxtographer

ADAM: What’s the genesis story of your fauxto series? Has photography always been a hobby of yours? 

MARGOT
:  I didn’t get into photography until I was a senior in college at Emerson. I had to fill credits with bullshit courses and I thought, oh hey, photography seems like an easy A, I’ll do that. That class was one of the hardest and most challenging classes of my life. My teacher was such a hard ass and really demanding and I think the challenge of trying to create a photograph that she would be pleased with is what really got me into the craft. By the end of the semester I finally came up with a series of photos that she was happy with – a series of photographs of my Dad’s tin windup robot out on human adventures. Looking back on those photos, they aren’t my greatest works of art, but they were definitely the beginnings of my “fauxtography.”
The young adult fauxto series (which still needs a better name, if anyone has any ideas, holler at me) came about a few years after college, after I had moved to New York. I had developed a bit of a following in the city as an urban and graffiti photographer, but I quickly got bored with taking pictures of things that everyone else has taken pictures of. I wanted to find my “thing” that would help define me as a photographer but also continue to challenge me.
In late 2011 I discovered this book called THE HUNGER GAMES and this thing called Young Adult Novels and a new obsession was instantaneous. I was addicted. They became a drug, the bookstore, my opium den. But sadly, my new hobby required a lot of my time and attention and my photo hobby wasn’t doing much. So one day in January, while I was reading THE FOREST OF HANDS AND TEETH by Carrie Ryan, an idea for a photo came to me. It just popped into my head. You know those moments of pure clarity when everything makes sense and the world inside your head lights up like a firework? That’s exactly what the moment was like for me. It wasn’t just the idea for that photo, it was the idea for the series as a whole. I had finally found a way to combine my two favorite hobbies in a never-ending, continuously challenging way.
Forest of Hands and Teeth

Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan

ADAM: Which shoot was the most difficult? And which was the costliest?

MARGOT:
 Every shoot I’ve done has been difficult in one way or another. A lot of the time I’m taking self portraits so the biggest pain in the ass is just getting the camera to focus on the exact spot I want it to, running into place and posing, just in time for the self-timer to go off. Then I’d run back over and review the shot, curse like a sailor because it wasn’t right and then do it all over again. . . for about 50 different takes.
The most expensive one to shoot was CODE NAME VERITY. I bought a $200 vintage French military parachute from the 1960s for that one. I’m not entirely sure how I would write that off on my taxes.
CODE NAME VERITY by Elizabeth Wein.

CODE NAME VERITY by Elizabeth Wein.

ADAM: Okay, own up: which fauxtos are your proudest of? If you say “all of them” expect pure destruction. And cancellation of all your favorite shows and book series. And more destruction.

MARGOT:
  No destruction needed. I actually am not proud of all of them, at least not anymore. I look back on some and think “You fool! This could have been better!” But the ones that stand out for me as my favorites are TIGER LILY, SABRIEL, DOROTHY MUST DIE, BEAUTY QUEENS, CODE NAME VERITY, and ACROSS THE UNIVERSE. To me, those are the ones that tell a story. They aren’t just random photos that may or may not be inspired by something, those are ones that are so specific to either the story of the characters that if you saw them, you’d have to ask what it was about in order to understand them.
DOROTHY MUST DIE by Danielle Paige.

DOROTHY MUST DIE by Danielle Paige.

ADAM: Have you ever considered being a cover designer? 

MARGOT
: HELL YES. But I am like Jon Snow when it comes to actual cover design. I know nothing. I know what I think would look great on a cover, but I haven’t the faintest idea about typography or layouts or any of the actual skill that’s involved with making a book cover.
SABRIEL by Garth Nix.

SABRIEL by Garth Nix.

ADAM: Finally, if money isn’t an issue, which book(s) would you love to do a fauxto for?

MARGOT: 
Your book Adam, obviously. For reals though, I would do ALL OF THEM. If I had unlimited funds, I would travel every weekend to new locations for these photos. I hate shooting indoors (I’m pretty terrible at it) and I’m a nature girl at heart so I would just travel to a different place each time for new fauxtos. I would also hire an assistant and models for these shoots (unless you want to volunteer as tribute, Adam) because there are a lot of shoots I want to do but I can’t be in them. I need someone else to be in them and I need someone else to help me shoot them. And then with my dream funds, I would buy a really fancy camera. I have a nice one now, a Nikon D7000, but that’s not a truly “professional” one. True, you don’t need a fancy camera to take fancy pictures, but you asked me about my dream funds and well, that’s what I want. So gimme it.Thanks for stopping by, Margot!

Now here’s the fauxto for EXQUISITE CAPTIVE by Heather Demetrios! Isn’t it beautiful? The gold! THE GOLD!

Screen Shot 2014-08-28 at 11.35.19 PM
Have you been following Margot’s fauxto series? Which one is your favorite? Let us know in the comments below!
margotwood
Margot Wood hates writing bios but will oblige because it is Adam Silvera asking her to write it. Margot was born and raised in Cincinnati, OH but left for Emerson College in Boston. Since then, she has lived in LA, back in Ohio and finally, currently, New York City. You probably know Margot from EpicReads.com and all those Tea Time and YouTube videos. She has been the Community Manager of Epic Reads since it’s launch in May 2012. She likes candlelit dinners, long walks in lush forests and her favorite donut shop is Peter Pan Bakery in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. You can follow her on Twitter @margotwood.
adamfaceauthor
Adam was born and raised in the Bronx where he wrote fan-fiction in between competitive online gaming and napping. He’s previously worked as a children’s bookseller and a marketing assistant at a literary development company. He  currently reviews children’s and young adult novels for Shelf Awareness. He is tall for no reason.His debut novel, More Happy Than Not, will be available June 16th, 2015 from Soho Teen. Go say stuff to him on Twitter.

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21. Content Marketing – 5 Must Read Articles and Resources

 Every day, I read such informative articles on content marketing - articles that help me in my marketing, and articles that offer great resources for blogging, writing, email marketing, social media marketing, and more. ~~~~~ Today, I have 5 content marketing reads that are sure to help you move forward. 101 Writing Resources That Will Take You From Stuck to Unstoppable 14 Must-Have Free

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22. Viking Children’s Books to Publish New Sarah Dessen YA Novel

Young adult author Sarah Dessen has signed a deal to pen her twelfth novel Saint Anything. The story stars a young girl named Sydney who deals with the despair and consequences that follows from her older brother’s incarceration.

Viking Children’s Books, an imprint at Penguin Young Readers Group, will publish the book on 2015. Publisher Ken Wright negotiated the deal with Writers House literary agent Leigh Feldman. Editor-at-large Regina Hayes will edit the manuscript.

Dessen (pictured, via) had this statement in the press release: “This book has a bit of everything I love to write about: the joy and complications of family, first love and how one friend can sometimes change everything. I’m so excited for next summer, when I can finally share it with my readers. It’s going to be hard to wait!”

New Career Opportunities Daily: The best jobs in media.

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23. In Chicago Tribune: Books with purpose demand urgent reading

Earlier this summer the impeccable Bill Wolfe invited me to write a short piece for his beautiful blog, "Read her Like an Open Book" that focuses on the work of women writers (their methods, their work). I had been thinking a lot about books that matter and the clicking tock, about the world we're in and the role of writers. And so I wrote a quick piece on the topic that began an interesting conversation out there in the virtual world.

A few weeks later urgency was still on my mind, and my dear friends at Chicago Tribune gave me room to expand on the thesis. This time I included books—both fiction and nonfiction—that have lately impressed me as significant.

That piece runs here today.

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24. Spicing Up Your Prose Part 2 of 6

This week, we continue to add delicious rhetorical devices to your prose spice shelf.

Asyndeton omits conjunctions and speeds up the sentence using three or four beats.

Dick ran, laughing, hysterical, howlingfrom the library.

Balance offers two propositions of equal value joined by a comma or semicolon. The second half mirrors the first half but changes a few words.

Dick asked not what Jane could do for him1, but what he could do for her2.

Chiasmus repeats a sentence or clause but reverses the order in the second half.

When the water gets rough, the rough get in the water.

Chronicity moves the sentence backward or forward in time using connectors such as: after, before, during and until.

BeforeDick would agree to enter the library, before he would agree to read the book, he insisted that Jane go home.

Conduplicato repeats a key word from the base clause to start the next sentence or clause.
                
Dick was hard to love, hard tohate.

Consecutive clauses reveal a series of actions or thoughts.

Dick ran through the hall1, up the stairs2, skidding around the corner3, breaking into the library4 in time to hear Jane scream.

Epanelepsis repeats the same word or phrase at the beginning and end of a clause or sentence.

Dayfollowed day, week followed week, and Jane still had no answer.

Epistrophe repeats the same word or phrase at the end of successive phrases, clauses, or sentences. It carries emotion.

Jane charmed him, confused him, and consumed him.


Next week, we will contine adding spices to your prose shelf.

For the complete list of spices and other revision layers, pick up a copy of: 

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25. Wire heraldics


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