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Today I have a spotlight and giveaway for Kelli Maine’s Give & Take series. One lucky winner will win the entire series! That might keep you reading until the spring thaw! But first, Kelli has 5 fun facts about her series to share with us.
5 Fun Facts about The Give & Take Series
It’s the end of an era. Okay, not an era, but it feels like one to me. Writing the last novel and novella, GIVEN and TAKE THIS MAN, in the Give & Take Series has been rewarding and bitter-sweet. Here are 5 fun facts about writing the series.
Fun Fact #5!
Kelli Maine is a pen name I came up with for writing TAKEN using the Find Your Stripper Name method. First Pet’s Name + First Road You Lived On. Mine would be Missy Main. That sounded a little too porn star to me, so I used my sister’s first name, Kellie. (Turns out there’s an actual porn star named Kelly Main – I’ve tried to Google her and can’t find her, but people like to tell me she exists! Who knew?) On the cover, my designer, Rachel Marks (who is amazing) asked if I would put the E in Kellie on the end of Main instead for a better balance in the design. I said sure! And that’s how my pen name came about.
Fun Fact #4!
TAKEN was a revision of an urban fantasy novel I wrote five years earlier titled, Taken By Seven. I kept Rachael and Merrick and one plot, her kidnapping. Over the five years between the two versions, I kept thinking about Rachael and Merrick and would joke to friends who loved Taken By Seven that the two of them were on Misfit Character Island until I could rescue them. Turns out Misfit Island was Turtle Tear Island and Rachael and Merrick were waiting for me to come visit and see what they had going on all those years instead of waiting to be rescued.
Fun Fact #3!
TAKEN was inspired by Lucy Christopher’s Stolen, an award winning young adult novel written in second person. I was blown away by this book and wanted to try something similar. Since I already had my own kidnapping story, I dove right in and began writing Taken. Second person POV is always a risk, but in romance it is especially risky since there are very rigid guidelines and expectations in the genre. Not being a romance reader—I’d read a handful before writing Taken—I wasn’t detoured. While the novels in the Give & Take series are erotic romances, I think of the whole as a family saga laced in mystery that could stand on its own without the sex scenes.
Fun Fact #2!
The Give & Take Series has a foundation that could be its own historical romance series. I had an old map of Turtle Tear Island drawn, a historical plantation in Florida identified for inspiration, a family tree going back to the eighteenth century and plotted out lives for the founders of Turtle Tear Island, Ingrid and Archibald Weston, and their children. Ingrid and Archibald are mentioned in every book and I consider them the Romeo and Juliet of the Civil War south. I’ve never written anything historical before, but I’m considering giving it a shot!
Fun Fact #1!
Since writing the prologue for TAKEN, I’ve known how the end of Merrick and Rachael’s story would go in TAKE THIS MAN. Their story has always paralleled that of Archibald and Ingrid, so it only made sense to bring it full circle with their wedding. Without giving too much away, in the story of Archibald and Ingrid, he propped a ladder at her window, climbed up and swept her away!
TAKE THIS MAN (Forever E-Novella; $1.99).
It’s finally here. After many twists and turns and shocking revelations, it’s time for Merrick and Rocha to declare their love for one another in front of their family and friends. And what better place than the historic island where their love first began?
GIVEN (Forever Trade Paperback; $14.00).
For Merrick and Rachael, Turtle Tear Island has become their own private paradise with days of unimaginable bliss and sizzling nights in the bedroom—and beyond. But Rachael and Merrick’s happiness is shattered when his daughter, Nadia, suddenly becomes increasingly demanding of his time and devotion. It soon becomes clear that Merrick will have to make an agonizing choice: the woman whose love saved his tortured soul or the daughter he never knew existed…
Rachel can’t stand the thought of losing Merrick after everything she’s sacrificed to be with him. She had thought she and Merrick were done with secrets, that the passion that burned so brightly between them had forged an unbreakable connection, but she begins to wonder if she ever really knew the man at all. Now the love they’ve fought so desperately to protect may not be enough to save them…
TAKE ME BACK (Forever E-Novella; $1.99)
Rachael DeSalvo is haunted by the past. She’s come home to her beloved Turtle Tear Island, where she looks forward to happy days and bliss-filled nights in the arms of Merrick Rocha. But when she finds a trunk full of old photo albums and handwritten notes, Rachael soon realizes that the island has not given up all its secrets…
For long before Rachael and Merrick made Turtle Tear Resort their home, this historic island was a haven for sensual, forbidden affairs. As Rachael and Merrick work to restore the grand hotel to its former glory, they will be caught in the perfect maelstrom of conflict and desire.
TAKEN BY STORM (Forever Trade Paperback; $14.00)
Maddie Simcoe knows the devastation that comes from keeping secrets. Now, she’s desperate to move on from the heartbreak that almost destroyed her— trading wild passion that once made her knees weak for a life of comfortable stability. But before Maddie can start over, she must return home to put the past behind her once and for all…
When Maddie blows back into MJ Rocha’s life, nothing will stop him from proving to her that walking away from him was the biggest mistake of her life — not even the engagement ring she wears. Her every look, every touch tells MJ that the fire that once raged between them still burns hot, and MJ won’t give up until Maddie gives in to the inferno.
No Take Backs
NO TAKE BACKS (Forever E-Novella; $1.99)
The man Rachael DeSalvo loves more than anything is suffering in silence. The grand opening of Turtle Tear Resort should be a time of celebration for Merrick Rocha. But he’s suddenly intent on selling off the business he built from the ground up-and Rachael’s hell-bent on finding out why. Only one man can give her the answers she seeks, but meeting with him would be the ultimate betrayal to Merrick. Merrick once asked Rachael to trust him against all odds…can he do the same?
TAKEN (Forever Trade Paperback; $13.99)
He steals her away to a deserted island, to the one place she’s dreamed of being-the one place she can’t go. He’s used to buying whatever he wants, but he can’t buy her. How can she resist the magnetism of his body, the longing ache deep inside her? She wants him to take her-on her terms. Every attempt he makes to love her only hurts her. How can they go on like this? This is the story of how she was . . .
About Kelli Maine
USA Today bestselling author of TAKEN and its sequel, No Take Backs, Kelli Maine watches entirely too much reality TV, which led to her compulsion to write dramatic romance novels. Blessed with a unique ability to bond with difficult people, she’s convinced she could win Big Brother. Her deathly fear of heights would keep her from completing half of the detours on The Amazing Race, and she’s shocked nobody has ever penned The Survivor Diet Plan: Eat One Cup of Rice for Thirty-Nine Days and Lose Fifty Pounds! Kelli lives in northeast Ohio with her family and a crazy cat that broke into their attic and refused to leave.
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Excerpt – TAKE THIS MAN -
He slowed to a stop beside the large, dangling frame. There was nothing fancy about it. It was black—and empty other than a white mat. From the right bottom corner of the matting, a black ink tree was sketched, jutting up with branches sprouting over the right top corner. On the tree trunk was drawn a heart, and inside that heart was written Merrick and Rachael Rocha, and the date.
The handwriting was familiar. I couldn’t believe he’d done this. “Merrick… you drew this?”
His dimples and the gleam in his eye couldn’t be contained. “I did. It’s the start of our family tree. We’ll put our wedding photo in it and eventually a family photo and then a photo with our grandkids.” He took me by the chin. “And in fifty years when we’re old and gray, we’ll renew our vows here on the island and have a new wedding photo to frame.”
Merrick kissed me then, a firm kiss, full of confidence, promises that would be kept, a lifetime of adventures to share and a family to love. My heart was on a precipice, ready to fall over the edge and burst with its fullness.
He took my face between his hands and nuzzled my nose with his. “Are you ready to get married now? To become my wife?”
I almost laughed with so much joy inside. “I’ve been ready!”
Then we did laugh and held each other until our giddy excitement was interrupted by the squawk of a walkie-talkie clipped to the visor followed by MJ’s voice. “NBT to Big Papa, what’s your ETA?”
Still chuckling, Merrick closed his eyes and shook his head. “NBT?” I asked. “Big Papa?”
“MJ’s idea,” he said. “He says he’s the NBT—Next Big Thing—and that even though he’s my little brother, he’d always think of me as Big Papa.”
I slid my hand up his thigh. “Big Papa, huh? I’ll have to remember that.”
“I want to hear you scream it tonight.” He shrugged his eyebrows up and down.
“Big Papa,” MJ said into the walkie-talkie. “Come in, Big Papa. Looking for an ETA here. Riley’s got his thong in a knot about putting the cake out too soon.”
“Forget the damn cake.” Beck’s voice now, fainter than MJ’s. “I’ve got a gator fifty yards from the gazebo. Get it gone—now!”
“Fine!” Riley’s voice now. “You fly in the cake from L.A. next time, tough man, and figure out how much defrosting time it needs so it’s not frozen solid or a ball of mush for photos.”
Beck let out a bark of laughter. “Yeah, that will always be all you.”
“Don’t act all muscles and tats with me. You’re in touch with your feminine side, Mr. Cello.”
“Big Papa!” MJ yelled this time. “ETA.”
Merrick and I couldn’t stop laughing. “You put those three stooges in charge of my wedding?” I gave him a playful whack on the arm.
He rolled his eyes. “Trust me, my selection of helpers was limited. Maddie and Shannon are around somewhere, though. Never fear.” He pressed his foot to the accelerator and picked up the walkie-talkie. “Big Papa to NBT. ETA five minutes.”
Five minutes and I’d be walking down the aisle.
Five minutes and this man beside me would be mine forever.
Five minutes and I’d become Mrs. Merrick Rocha.
Ready for your chance to win the full GIVE & TAKE series by Kelli Maine? This includes a mix of e-book and print titles -(US/Canada only)
TAKEN (trade paperback)
NO TAKE BACKS (e-novella)
TAKEN BY STORM (trade paperback)
TAKE ME BACK (e-novella)
GIVEN (trade paperback)
TAKE THIS MAN (e-novella)
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Splash, the mermaid romantic comedy directed by Ron Howard and starring Tom Hanks, Daryl Hannah, and John Candy, was released on 3/9/84.If it has been a while since you’ve seen it, you may have forgotten just how funny it is.In honor of its 30th anniversary, here is the first-ever interview with David Kreps and Shayla MacKarvich Wingfield, the actors who played Hanks and Hannah as kids in the flashback opening scene.
Photos of them today are below.(After conducting this interview, I learned that David grew up living down the street from a friend of mine who currently lives down the street from me.)How old were you when you appeared in Splash?
Shayla: I celebrated my 7th birthday while shooting in the Bahamas! How many 7-year-olds have Tom Hanks, Daryl Hannah, John Candy, and Ron Howard at their birthday party? Well…they didn’t throw me a party, but I celebrated it in their company. I don’t remember what I did for my 6th or 8th birthday, but I sure remember my 7th!
Where were you living at the time?
Shayla: Miami, FL; born and raised.
David: Miami Beach.
How were you cast?
Shayla: I had been doing print modeling and TV commercials pretty much my whole life and heard about the casting call through my agent. Well, through my mom from my agent. Having attended many casting calls before from my experience in commercials, I didn’t think much of it. But I vividly remember arriving at the hotel where the casting call was being held and being amazed by how many people were there! I had never seen that many people before for a casting call.
I remember I had an interview in front of the camera, then had to get in the pool and pretend to swim like a mermaid. I would like to think I was cast because of my acting skills, but I actually think it was how well I could swim like a mermaid that sealed the deal.
David: My mom was a stylist so would always drag me to sets and castings. Most of the agencies in Miami knew us, so when Splash was looking for a young Tom Hanks, they called us to try out. I went on a couple auditions and had to show that I could swim.
Shayla and her mom
Do you remember what your reaction was when you were cast?
Shayla: I remember being surprised. There were so many people at the casting that I knew it was a long shot. I was only six at the time, so although I knew being in a movie was a big deal, I don’t think I fully grasped it. I was excited for sure, but I remember my family being really excited. Especially my mom—she had spent so much of her time taking me all over town for casting calls, fittings, photo shoots, etc. while I was modeling and doing commercials, so to get cast in something as big as a feature film was definitely very exciting!
David: Incredibly happy and excited. Especially loved that they picked me over my older brother.
Where was your scene filmed?
Shayla: Nassau, Bahamas (Paradise Island, Nassau, I think).
How long was the shoot?
Shayla: I was there for about a week but the weather was bad so they sent us back to Miami for about another week until the weather cleared. The second shoot was about five more days. What I remember most was that my scenes were actually some of the final ones shot for the whole movie so they wrapped the shoot while I was down there and I got to go to the wrap party! I thought it was cool to get to go to a big party with all the big movie stars, but I was only seven, so I remember mainly just having fun with my co-star (David) while all the adults had fun together!
David: Around a week, but not positive.
How did you feel being a part of the movie?
Shayla: I was definitely very excited and thought it was super fun getting to go to the Bahamas with my mom to shoot the movie, but it mostly just felt like another fun day at the beach with a bunch of people I didn’t know. All of the crew was so nice though and really made me feel special which made the shoot memorable. It did not really hit me how big of a deal it was to actually be in the movie, though, until it was released in theatres.
David: It was awesome. No one was really famous at the time of shooting so it was more about being able to miss school and play around in the Bahamas.
What was the hardest part of the shoot?
Shayla: Definitely being topless! I hated wearing bikinis when I was little. I was even self-conscious of showing my belly button. I knew ahead of time I would have to be topless since I was playing a mermaid and I was terrified!
David: Can’t remember there being any hard parts. It was probably harder on them trying to control me. How were the underwater shots filmed? Not really in the ocean, I presume?
Shayla: Actually, all scenes were filmed in the ocean! We were right off of the beach in Nassau, and they had scuba divers all around us that we could go to for air if we needed to. Just another day at the beach for a Miami native.
David: They shot some of the underwater scenes in the pool as well as the ocean. Being from Miami, I grew up on the water swimming, fishing and diving, so it wasn’t challenging for me.What do you remember about working with Ron Howard? Did you know him from Happy Days?
Shayla: I knew that Ron Howard was in Happy Days and that it was a very big show, but I was too young to really watch the show. I remember being confused why he was the director instead of an actor, but I do remember that he was incredibly nice to work with.
David: I had no idea who he was. He did get upset with me once for not showing enough sadness when the mermaid left. I kept on laughing.
Tom Hanks is on the right (in the blue Speedo).
What do you remember about your interactions with Tom Hanks, John Candy, or any of the other stars who were not in your scene?
Shayla: I met Tom Hanks, John Candy, Daryl Hannah, and Eugene Levy. I knew who Tom and John were, but not Daryl and Eugene. All of them were amazing!
But I will never forget meeting Daryl Hannah. As I mentioned before, I was very self-conscious about not wearing a top, so the crew took me to meet Daryl for the first time while she was in makeup—which was a major process. She actually had to swim in that mermaid tail, and was in makeup for hours to glue all the pieces onto her belly to make it look natural. Then they put gold makeup all over her chest and arms with an elaborate shell necklace.
The first time I met her, I might as well have been meeting a princess! I couldn’t believe it when I saw all that beautiful long blonde hair and that mermaid tail. She also had to be topless, which is why they took me to see her. She was so sweet and showed me the big necklace and all the gold makeup that had been put on her, and told me that I would be getting the same thing. She assured me I would be just as covered up as if I had a bathing suit on, only way prettier! She was so incredibly sweet.
David: I just met Tom and Daryl. Clearly we are on first name basis.
Any funny stories from the shoot?
Shayla: Back to the topless thing again…I was playing on the beach on the set knowing I was about to be called to shoot one of my scenes. I was ready and happy. Then all of the sudden Ron Howard yells into his bullhorn (megaphone…whatever you call it), “Okay, Shayla, we’re ready for your scene. We need you to take your top off now.” I instantly started bawling crying; I was completely terrified.
Next thing I know I was in the water and the camera was shooting me while I was crying the whole time, and all I wanted was my mom! Fast forward to the movie’s release, and everyone remembers me as the little Madison who was crying as Allen was taken away. Everyone complimented me on what a wonderful actress I was because my crying was so believable. Little did they know…
David: One night John Candy and I went out boozing. I wish. Don’t really remember any funny stories worth retelling.
Anything go wrong on the shoot?
Shayla: Just the weather causing delays.
David: Not that I was aware of.
What did you think of the movie?
Shayla: I really and truly absolutely loved it! I remember my family and I being so surprised when it came out. We didn’t realize at the time I filmed just how funny this movie really was. We still laugh when we see it on cable today, and I know we would feel the same even if I wasn’t in it. Truly a timeless film and I am so honored to have been a part of it.
David: I remember going to the theatre to see it with all my friends and family. We waited to see my name in the credits. It was great.
What did your parents think of it?
Shayla: Same as above, but my mom also thinks so fondly of the whole experience since the whole cast and crew were all so great.
David: What parent wouldn’t love seeing their kid on the big screen? They loved it and bragged about to all of their friends.
What did your friends think of it?
Shayla: My close friends absolutely loved it and thought it was so cool I was in it and wanted to know everything about my experience. Unfortunately, later, when I was in about 4th or 5th grade, some kids found a way to tease me about it which actually made me self-conscious about it for a while. Even though they didn’t know me, I was labeled as a snob because I was in a movie. I went through a stage where I didn’t want people to know I was in it because I didn’t want them to think I was a snob. Kids can be so mean sometimes and it is so sad that has to happen.
David: Not many kids get to do this so they thought it was the coolest thing ever. They still bring it up to this day…but more in a teasing manner.
Did you attend the premiere, and if so, what do you remember about it?
Shayla: This part is definitely the most memorable for me. Although I didn’t attend the premiere, I did [go to the movie] opening day at my local theatre, The Falls in Miami. I went with my family super excited to see it, but thought our trip to the movies would otherwise be like every other trip to the movies. When we showed up to the theatre, there was a huge line so my family and I took our place in the back of the line.
My parents asked the people in front of us what movie the long line was for and they said Splash. My parents then told them that I was in the movie and somehow that news ended up making it all the way to the front of the line. Next thing I knew, someone from the theatre came up to us in the line and invited us into the theatre, gave us popcorn and drinks, and let us take our seats.
After the movie, as we were in the lobby, all these people started coming up to me asking me for autographs. I went to the bathroom and literally as I was in the stall, I could hear a girl telling her mom, “Mommy, Madison is in the potty next to me.” I couldn’t believe it! All these people wanted to meet me and it was exciting, but very strange to me at the same time.
David: Didn’t attend a proper premiere. But went to the opening night in the theatre.
Did the movie ever affect your dating life in any way (i.e. when you first told boyfriends you were in it)?
Shayla: Not really. I kind of kept it quiet after some kids had made fun of me for it during my later years in elementary school.
David: The girls loved it. Splash was a serious panty dropper. Ha ha.
Did you receive fan mail? If so, do you still have any of it?
Shayla: I don’t think I ever did. I do not remember any. But I do get people who contact me via Facebook from time to time.
What were you paid?
Shayla: No idea! My mom said I was paid SAG movie scale…whatever that means!
David: I honestly don’t remember exactly what I got but to this day receive residual checks for every time it plays.
Were you ever recognized in public? How often and when last? Any stories about that?
Shayla: I don’t think I have ever really been recognized in public, but people who already knew me but didn’t know I was in the movie would come up to me and ask me because they happened to see my name in the credits.
Did you appear in other movies after that?
Shayla: No—well, not really. I shot a scene for another one, but it was never released and I can’t even remember the name anymore. As a Miami native, I did appear in two segments on Miami Vice. That was pretty cool and it felt like being in another movie.
David: Small part in Police Academy 5. But mostly did commercials.
Did you two keep in touch, and if so, when were you last in touch?
Shayla: We remained friends for several years after the movie as we were both in the modeling and commercial world, and our moms also became friends so we did get together socially from time to time. I think I lost touch with him toward the end of middle school, but I have great memories of him and his family. Would love to reconnect, if even just to be friends on Facebook! He is definitely one of the more memorable friends from my young childhood. I feel like I remember hearing he planned to study film in college?
David: We kept in touch for only a couple years. Growing up, I would always see her at castings. We actually used to do a lot of print work together.
If you went to college, where and what did you study?
Shayla: I thought I was destined to be a University of Florida girl, but moved from Miami to Atlanta during my senior year of high school. Visited the University of Georgia campus and fell in love instantly. I had a great four years in Athens, GA and got my bachelor’s degree in marketing. GO DAWGS!
David: Business at Babson College.
What are you doing these days?
Shayla: I own a children’s store in the Buckhead area of Atlanta called Pretty Please (Instagram: @loveprettyplease). It is an upscale boutique that offers whimsical children’s apparel, décor, accessories, and gifts for newborns through tweens. I own the store with my sister, Keely, who started the store in 2004 in Destin, FL.
There are times when I find my mind drifting thinking of what my life would be like if I had pursued an acting career, then I realize what it means to me to be working with my best friend and be part of a local, family-owned business, and I realize I am doing exactly what I am meant to do!
We both have so much fun with all the whimsy and imagination involved in finding unique products for children. It is our dream to have a TV show about all the ways kids can express their personalities through creative décor and fashion…we are both huge HGTV fans and would love to do something similar that focuses on kids. David: Real estate development.
Where do you live?
If you are/were married, what was your future husband’s reaction when he learned you were in this movie?
Shayla: I married a wonderful man seven years ago. We met when I was working in real estate in my late 20s. It’s funny because he is a huge movie fan, especially ‘80s movies. Shortly after we started dating, I came home only to walk in the door and see my scene from the movie freeze-framed on the TV. He immediately started laughing…“It’s you! On the 20th anniversary edition!” I had no idea it was the 20th anniversary, but he had bought it and surprised me.
David: My wife was impressed and thought it was the coolest thing ever when she was in elementary school (we are old family friends). Now, probably not so much. However, my wife and mom are ready to put our son to work.
Shayla: I have a beautiful 5-year-old girl. She absolutely loves to perform! She is very drawn to singing and drama. My family is the most amazing blessing and they bring me so much joy.
David: Six-month-old boy.
Shayla, does your daughter know about the movie yet?
Shayla: She gets excited when daddy shows her mommy on TV. She’ll ask me questions about being a mermaid like, “Could you breathe underwater?” or ask me why I was crying, but I’m not sure she fully understands since it doesn’t really look like me.
What did you think when you first heard from me?
Shayla: That you were possibly a stalker. Sorry… Then when I realized you probably weren’t, I actually thought it was odd that you would want to talk to me. I know the movie was a huge hit in the ‘80s but my part was so small, it was hard for me to believe you would want to interview me!
David: Surprised…wasn’t sure many people would be interested, but flattered.
Has anyone else ever interviewed you about this? If so, when and for what publication?
Shayla: Some local newspapers and magazines did shortly after the movie came out, but I really can’t remember what they were.
David: No, but I’ve been waiting 30 years for this. LOL.
How do you look back on the experience?
Shayla: I have to say, answering your questions was very fun and I appreciate you reaching out to me since it helped me stop and think about what an awesome experience the whole thing was. Thirty years is a long time, but taking a moment to really look back on it, I am so grateful that I got to be a part of this fantastic movie!
David: It was a great experience. Can’t believe I played a part in a movie that has turned out to be one of the biggest of the ‘80s.
Anything you’d like to add?
Shayla: I think you pretty much covered it…great questions!
All photos courtesy of David and Shayla; please no reuse without permission.You may also like my interviews with women who starred in iconic 1980s music videos, from a-ha to ZZ Top.
Today I have a spotlight and giveaway for the By Invitation Only series by Kate McKinley! You can enter to win a special bound galley of all three novellas in the series!
A DUCHESS IN THE DARK (Forever Yours E-Novella; $0.99)
Miss Daphne Hayward is on the hunt for a safe, honorable husband and she has set her sights on the perfect target. She plans a full-scale seduction that will bring him to his knees, and have him begging for her hand in marriage. But when she mistakenly slips into another man’s bed, the passions that quickly ignite threaten to send her well-laid plans up in smoke.
Ashton Fitzgerald, Duke of Claymore has never been for want of a willing woman in his bed and his rakish ways have become legend in boudoirs and dark corners all across London. But not even Ashton can account for the powerful desire that surges through him when a mysterious woman pays him a clandestine midnight visit. As dawn breaks, his goddess flees before he can learn her identity. Now Ashton will stop at nothing to unmask the identity of the woman who bewitched him body and soul and make her his . . . Forever.
A COUNTESS BY CHANCE (Forever Yours E-Novella; $0.99)
A gambler’s daughter, Sophia Weatherby knows her way around a deck of cards. So when her family estate becomes threatened, she has no choice but to use her skills at the gaming tables to save herself from ruin. A lavish house party affords her the perfect opportunity-until the newly minted Earl of Huntington arrives. Adam Greyson has never forgotten the day Sophia rejected his proposal. Now to even the score, he challenges her to a shocking wager-his two thousand pounds against the one valuable commodity she has left: her virtue.
A NIGHT WITH THE BRIDE (Forever Yours E-Novella; $0.99)
While at a lavish house party, Gabriella Weatherfield confidently bets her friends that she can convince the “unseducable” Duke of Somerset to kiss her. But Gabriella’s innocent wager turns wicked when faced with the duke’s intense blue eyes and talented hands. Nicholas Montgomery usually strives to stay away from society, yet there’s no denying Gabriella’s wild beauty or the way she makes him want to lose control for once. Will the fire between them burn out when Gabriella uncovers the inner demons haunting Nicholas?
About Kate McKinley: KATE MCKINLEY writes Regency and Fantasy Romance. When she’s not staring at her screen, dreaming up delicious heroes, she’s a wife, mother and part-time assistant.
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Excerpts from the BY INVITATION ONLY series by Kate McKinley
A DUCHESS IN THE DARK
The memory of their first meeting was still vivid in his mind, and it swirled to life more often than he cared to admit. He could still remember the emerald gown she’d worn to James’s wedding, the delicate, slightly breathless look about her when James had introduced them. She was beautiful, with wide blue eyes and fiery red curls, and a smile that had stricken him silent. If she were any other woman, he’d have pursued her relentlessly, but her innocence and her connection as James’s sister-in-law had placed her far beyond his reach.
“You can’t possibly mean that.” She scrunched her face in disbelief. “Now let me go before someone catches us.”
“The door is locked. We are quite safe. Unless you wish for someone to happen upon us.” He flashed her a wicked smile.
“Of course not!” Shock looked rather fetching on her. Cheeks flushed, eyes brightened, she was a prime article indeed. Marrying her might not be quite the trial he’d feared. In fact, he rather liked the idea her filling the role as Duchess of Claymore. More than that, he liked the idea of claiming her in every way imaginable.
“Then I’d advise you to lower your voice. The whole house is liable to hear you.”
She pressed her lips together and glared.
“Now,” he said, “where were we?”
He’d had enough women to know what desire looked like and Daphne had it written all over her pretty face—she was just too afraid to admit it. The way she trembled, the way her gaze licked him from head to toe, the way her breath hitched when he drew in close. Oh yes, she was hungry for him indeed.
“I don’t believe you are unaffected by me.” He had her pressed against the bed, so she scrambled atop the mattress and faced him on her knees. “Perhaps I shall prove just how affected you are.”
“Completely unnecessary, Ashton, I assure you,” she said. “I’m perfectly willing to admit you have a certain…appeal, but it’s Edward I intend to…” Her words trailed off as he reached out and brushed a silky tendril of hair off her shoulder, exposing the mark on her neck again. His mark.
“Do you want me to leave? Say the word and I’ll go.”
Boldly, her gaze raked down his bare chest, down to his straining erection. He needed to be inside her, filling her, taking her to the very edge of ecstasy. She licked her lips and shook her head, just a slight movement, but it was all he needed. Triumph shot through him. She wanted him; she was just too frightened to admit it.
“What do you need, Daphne? Tell me.” He needed to ease her into this, seduce her with his words, his tongue, and then perhaps she’d be willing to admit the truth.
Their eyes met and held, before her gaze suddenly flicked away. “I don’t know.”
He advanced, pushing her back against the pillows. Her lips were red, plump, ripe for his kiss. He itched to tear at the fabric of her nightgown and push into her tight, welcoming heat. To bury himself inside her so deeply he’d be a part of her forever.
“Let me show you.”
A COUNTESS BY CHANCE
“Why on earth would you consent to such an outing when you clearly have no talent for riding? You would have done better to stay home.”
She stiffened, indignant. “I ride exceptionally well, thank you kindly.”
He smiled, flashing that damnable dimple in the side of his cheek. “I think we both know you can ride only marginally well. I wouldn’t even venture to call your
skills on a horse sufficient. Certainly not well enough to be traipsing through muddy fields alone.”
Her cheeks heated. How dare he! The truth of his statement was of little consequence. Her pride flared, and before she could think better of it, she said, “My skills can hardly be measured while riding such an impossible creature. This horse is unnaturally ornery. I venture to say that even you, my lord, couldn’t command her.”
“You are wrong about that, Miss Dewhurst. I can be quite persuasive when the mood strikes.” His hot gaze raked down her body, briefly stopping at her breasts, then meandering down to the V between her thighs. His lips twisted into a delicious, knowing smile. “Or don’t you remember?”
Heat surged through her like a cresting wave. Of course she remembered. One didn’t easily forget passion so potent, so unyieldingly intense.
Swallowing, she glanced away. “You seem quite sure of yourself.”
He shrugged. “I’m capable enough.”
She licked her lips. “In that case, how about a little friendly wager?”
Her father, a retired gambler, had taught his only child a great many things. First among them, strike quickly when you have the advantage. Huntington would be fortunate to get Chocolate to move, let alone run.
His lips twisted into that arrogant smirk that had never failed to annoy her. “That all depends on the prize, Miss Dewhurst.”
“Two hundred pounds says you cannot outrun me with this horse.”
With his sleek gelding, she was sure to win. And two hundred pounds would be enough to pay for her father’s medicine, and a little extra besides. She smiled sweetly.
He leaned in, his big, imposing body impossibly close. “Two thousand.”
Her breath caught. She had no hope of paying him two hundred pounds if she lost, let alone two thousand. “You know I don’t have two thousand pounds.”
It was no secret. While she and her father struggled to conceal the true desperation
of their situation, all of England knew the money—everything—was gone. Only the family estate remained, derelict and neglected, but untouched by creditors.
Boldly, he reached out and traced her lips with the tip of his finger, a barely there touch that sent shivers of awareness skipping down her spine. She should push him away. It was the proper thing to do. Instead, her eyelids fluttered closed as she absorbed his touch. It took every drop of self-control not to reach out and pull him into a deep, delicious kiss. She still remembered the feel of his lips against hers, the fierce, unrelenting need that followed in the wake of his touch.
“As it happens, you do have something I want.” His voice was low, seductive, and it reminded her of the warm afternoons they’d spent together, talking, laughing, kissing…
His hand fell away and she opened her eyes, blinking. That she had something he wanted seemed impossible. She was destitute, on the brink of ruin. She had nothing.
He leaned in closer, his warm breath brushing over her cheek, and whispered in her ear. “Two thousand pounds if you win.”
She swallowed. “And if I lose?”
“I get you.”
A NIGHT WITH THE BRIDE
“There is rumor that you are looking for a wife. Is that true?”
His gaze turned wicked. “Indeed, I am. Are you volunteering, Miss Weatherfield?”
Oh! Is that what he thought—that she had designs to become his wife? “No, no,” she said quickly. “No.” She shook her head. “I am most certainly not volunteering. No.”
He lifted a brow. “You follow me out onto the terrace, alone, your gown enticingly tight, and ask me if I am in the market for a wife.”
She glanced down at her gown and frowned. It was perhaps a little tight, but not improperly so. She looked up at him. “I am not in want of a husband, I can assure you—”
“Then what is it you want?”
She stepped forward, her gaze fixed on his mouth, mesmerized by the perfection of his lips. “A kiss.” The words slipped out, a whisper, and she blinked.
Oh, dear God, she’d said that out loud. She hadn’t meant to blurt it out so abruptly.
“Young women don’t make such admissions, and certainly not to men they’ve just met.” He laughed and the rich, heady sound made her heart flutter wildly. “Miss Weatherfield, you are playing a dangerous game.”
She swallowed. “You’re a duke of the realm and trustworthy, by all accounts.” Rumored to be mad as well, but it seemed unwise to mention that just now. “Surely I have nothing to fear from you.”
Again, not entirely true, but she was perfectly safe on a terrace, outside a house
that was filled to the brim with people. No harm would come to her, she was sure of it.
“You seem so certain, yet you know nothing of my character.” With every word, he inched closer. She took a step back, then another, until she was pressed up against the granite banister with nowhere to go. “Do you?”
She swallowed. He was so close she could smell the mint leaf on his breath, feel the intense heat of his body. “I have nothing to fear from you,” she repeated, infusing her tone with confidence she didn’t feel.
Something dark flickered in his eyes, and she felt a moment of apprehension. His gaze was intent, predatory, and her body hummed with anticipation.
He brushed a gloved finger down her bare arm, causing tingles to spread in its wake. “Don’t you?”
Yes, perhaps she did. This man was quite dangerous, in all the most tantalizing ways. Those intense blue eyes, that smooth, enigmatic charm, did things to her—wicked, delicious things.
With one step closer, he pressed against her intimately, his lower half pinning her to the banister. He stretched an arm out on either side of her, caging her in. He was all warmth and decadence, all powerful male virility.
In that moment, she realized what had been missing with all those other gentlemen—why she’d never felt compelled to accept their proposals. It was this. Unlike the other men, Somerset made her feel vibrant, unrestrained. He made her feel alive.
“If you want a kiss, Miss Weatherfield, you’ll have to earn it.”
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This week my son was in his basketball playoffs – five games in four days. And since it was the play-offs, these games weren’t at the elementary school gym. Oh no, we were traveling 20 minutes to the “big” gym at the high school. So we logged a lot of car time and passed the time posing questions to each other. One of my son’s questions was: If you could have any wish, what would it be? My answer was three months of uninterrupted writing time. No job, no laundry, no walking the dog. Oh, the luxury!
In light of my wish, when I received an email from Louisa Stephens of the Associates of the Boston Public Library about their Writer-in-Resident program I couldn’t resist learning more about it. According to Stephens, the fellowship provides a $20,000 stipend, an office in the library and nine months of writing time to a children’s writer. Now, the commute from Pennsylvania to Boston would be a bear for me but for another WOW reader out there it could be a possibility. If you could see yourself as the eleventh Children’s Writer-in-Resident, applications are open until April 1. You can find the application here. And if not, why not start searching for writing fellowships in your state? I know I am!
To learn a little more about what it’s like to be a Writer-in-Resident, I interviewed Annie Hartnett, the current Writer-in-Residence and Elaine Dimopoulus, a former Writer-in-Residence.
WOW: Tell us a little about what you were doing before winning the Writer-in-Residence award with the Associates of the Boston Public Library?
ANNIE: Before the fellowship, I was studying for my MFA in fiction at the University of Alabama. Before
Alabama, I got a MA in English literature from Middlebury College's Bread Loaf School of English, and I worked several odds jobs, including one at the Franklin Park Zoo in Boston, which ended up being a big inspiration for my novel.ELAINE:
I had earned my MFA in Writing for Children from Simmons College, and I was teaching children's literature as an adjunct professor at Boston University and Simmons.WOW: How did you come to apply for the Associates of the Boston Public Library Children's Writer-in-Residence appointment?ANNIE:
During my thesis defense at Alabama last spring, there was some talk by the professors on my committee as to whether my novel-in-progress, Rabbit Cake, was for a young adult audience or not. My MFA program was not targeted at writers of young adult literature, so it was an interesting conversation, one I hadn't had before. Then I saw the fellowship with the Associates of the BPL posted on Erika Dreifus's blog and thought: why not throw my hat in? Let someone else tell me whether it's a young adult book! (And actually Rabbit Cake probably isn't going to end up as a young adult novel, but more on that in a moment…) I'd also been to a psychic who told me there was a big creative opportunity coming my way soon, which I know makes me sound totally nuts. Still, it would only be really nuts if she'd been wrong...right?ELAINE:
I had previously earned an emerging artist grant from the St. Botolph Club in Boston. My writing teacher and mentor at Simmons, Hannah Barnaby, was the inaugural writer-in-residence at the Boston Public Library. She encouraged me to apply to the residency and recommended me. I owe her a huge debt of gratitude!WOW: Walk us through your average day as the Writer-in-Residence.ANNIE:
The fellowship requires me to spend nineteen hours of the week in the office at the library, divided however I choose. I'm also a bookseller at Newtonville Books, so I work around my schedule there.
The office is magical. It's a quiet, beautiful room, with a marble staircase and mahogany panels. And a window! Plus a computer and a desk. The resident before me (Hollis Shore) kept a bean bag in the corner, but I can't imagine bring a bean bag on the subway with me, so I just sit at the desk. No one can see me working, which is how I like it. I need absolute quiet to work. I don't even listen to music. I never write in public spaces, because I hate talking to people when I'm in the fog of my own world. Before you think I'm a big grouch, I do go into the main library often, but only to read.
As for community outreach, I am going to be holding a free workshop for teens at the library during the month of June. (if you or someone you know would like to participate, please email me: firstname.lastname@example.org
). I am also teaching some classes this spring at Grub Street, including a six-hour course called "The Adult in Young Adult: Writing Sex and Violence for Teens." I'm excited about that one! I'm trying to incorporate more teaching into my writing life.ELAINE:
I would take the train in after rush hour -- usually around 10 a.m. -- and write until 3 or 4 p.m. I usually ate lunch in the BPL's Map Room Cafe. It's quite delicious! I changed offices midway through the year, but both were fairly secluded. I did participate in outreach, though: I met with the head YA librarian and conducted some college essay writing workshops for teens, at the main branch and at a Roxbury branch. I also held "office hours" in the teen room, so I could chat with some of the kids.WOW: How do you feel the award has helped with your novel? Was it mainly having the financial aid or did having that title give you additional motivation to finish your novel?ANNIE:
The financial aid was great, I'm not going to lie. It's given me a lot of time to write that I would not have otherwise been able to afford. But the title of writer-in-residence was motivating, and very validating. It gave me hope that someday people other than my own mother would want to read my book. The welcome reception the Associates of the BPL held for me in October was so wonderful too. It was so fun to hear people laugh at all the parts of the book I read that I wanted them to laugh at.ELAINE:
The title was amazing -- I felt like Miss America for the year. The accountability piece, having to hand over a completed manuscript at the end of the residency, applied a gentle pressure, but the most valuable way in which the residency helped my novel was making me come in every day to get it done.WOW: What is your novel about? Can you tell us how the idea for this novel evolved?ANNIE:
Rabbit Cake is a darkly comic coming-of-age novel. It is narrated by Elvis Babbitt, a very precocious ten-year-old girl obsessed with animals. The book begins as the Babbitt family copes with the strange and tragic death of the mother, who recently drowned while sleepwalking. Elvis’s older sister, fifteen-year-old Lizzie, is a sleepwalker as well, with tendencies towards nighttime violence. When the father sends Lizzie away to a mental hospital, Elvis find solace at the zoo where she volunteers. Lizzie is released from the hospital three months later, her wild spirit seeming broken. With Lizzie on the couch all day, Elvis tries on the “bad sister” role, until the day Lizzie reawakens, emerging badder than ever. The novel ends two years after the mother’s death, when Elvis is twelve. It is a novel that plays with the concept of a “normal grieving period” after a loss.
Some of the novel came from my own obsessions, with animals, and with Elvis Presley. When I was little I used to say my prayers to Elvis. I don't know why my mother didn't have me locked up then.ELAINE:
Eco Chic is told from the points of view of two characters – Ivy Wilde, a Miley Cyrus-type manufactured pop star, and Marla Klein, a talented fashionista who has been elevated to being an arbiter of taste and trends for the masses – the story explores high fashion and the cult of celebrity, in a world where staying young and trendy are the keys to success.
The novel's title is now Material Girls. The idea originated observing fashion trends at a private girls school in Pennsylvania where I taught... and watching a lot of Project Runway!WOW: Was your novel started before you began the writer-in-residence program? Where are you in the writing process? ANNIE:
Rabbit Cake was my MFA thesis at Alabama, and when I defended last April, I had 40,000 words completed, and a rough narrative arch. Last year it was a finalist for the McSweeney's Amanda Davis novel-in-progress award, which was another big motivator for me to keep working on the book. As it stands now, the novel is 80,000 words, and it's been rewritten and overhauled several times. I signed with an agent this January--Katie Grimm at Don Congdon Associates--and she helped me revise again and now the book is nearly ready for submission. I feel a little sheepish about this, but my agent hopes to sell Rabbit Cake as literary fiction, and not as a young adult novel. I trust she knows what she's doing, of course, but I certainly am hoping it will have crossover appeal to teens. I think I would have loved this book when I was sixteen, and I hope other sixteen-year-olds that share my weird, dark, sense of humor will love it too. Rabbit Cake is sort of similar in some ways to Carol Rifka Brunt's "Tell the Wolves I'm Home," which is a great novel for either teens or adults. I think teens should read adult books, and adults should read young adult books. The categories are not exact prescriptions, just a shelving category in the bookstore.
Truly, one of the best things the fellowship has done for me is that I've read so much young adult fiction this year, which I wasn't doing during my MFA. One of my favorite recent reads was "No One Else Can Have You" by Kathleen Hale. It's so dark and funny and smart. It's about the murder of a teenager girl in Friendship, Wisconsin. Five stars.
Oh and as for the question if would I be at the same place in my writing process without the fellowship? No way! Finding an agent in itself was a full time job. Anyone who is querying agents right now, my heart is with you.ELAINE:
I had written six chapters before I started the residency. I finished the draft in March or April of my term, revised it, and submitted it to agents. I was offered representation, and the novel went through two further rounds of revision before being picked up by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for publication in Spring 2015. I'm thrilled. It's hard to say whether I'd be in the same place had I not earned the residency, but the confidence of knowing that esteemed writers and editors believed in the project was a huge boost.
Now I’m preparing for my book launch! And writing and teaching, still. I primarily teach courses in writing for children and young adults at Grub Street, Boston's nonprofit creative writing center. I'm working on a picture book and a middle grade novel, which I'm hoping will be published after Material Girls!WOW: What did you learn during the writer-in-residence program? ANNIE:
I can write a book! That was a great surprise!ELAINE:
I would say the best benefit was that the award taught me how to be a writer. I had to come in and write even if I wasn't in the mood, even if I had no idea how to begin a scene, even if I would rather have stayed in bed. Because of this training, I don't fear writing the way I used to, and I don't procrastinate as much. I know if I sit down in front of my computer, I can find my way around problems in my writing projects, and I know that I will, eventually, finish them. It's empowering.Jodi Webb is still toiling away at her writing in between a full-time job, a full-time family and work as a blog tour manager for WOW-Women on Writing. You can contact her at email@example.com. For Jodi's take on reading and writing (no 'rithmetic please!) stop by her blog Words by Webb.
By: Mark Myers,
Spring seems to have found us here in Georgia this weekend. While it is a simple fact that God smiles on The South sooner than the northern regions, I hold no illusions that spring is here for good. But yesterday found me in shorts cleaning up the yard. We live on a couple of wooded acres and green is beginning to peek through the gloomy brown – in my neighbor’s yard. I however was cursed with a dreaded black thumb. I follow some photography blogs displaying the most beautiful flowers from tropical locations, so I thought I would give you my best effort.
These are my gardenias. Are implies a current state of being, so I suppose I should say these were my gardenias. I don’t know what happened to them, they just shriveled up and turned brown like everything else I put in the ground. Our once vibrant hydrangeas look more like flaking twigs than actual plants. My grass – brown in every season unless you include moss and weeds. Every time I go to the orange store, I tell my friend Lou the dilemma and he recommends a plant that can’t be killed. I used to take them back with their return policy, but I’ve become embarrassed to do so anymore.
You know how God builds a perfect union from two dissimilar parts? One member of the marriage might be outgoing and the other shy, or one might be cognitive while the other is emotional. Then they join together like pieces of a puzzle and complete each other perfectly (sorry for the cheesy Jerry Maguire reference, but while I’m at it, enjoy…)
In a cruel twist of fate for botanists everywhere, my lovely bride has a matching black thumb. Potted plants seem to be a popular thank you gift here and she’s received a number of them over the years. All we have left is a bunch of pots filled with what I call soil of death. She kills indoor plants while I slay the jungle outside. Nothing is safe in our homestead. Thank you, God that we have a supermarket and don’t rely on subsistence farming. We’d all starve for sure.
So while my friends up north are mired in snow, we are seeing the sun in our little slice of heaven. Maybe it likes us because we don’t need it for photosynthesis. I don’t know, I just like wearing shorts again.
The London Review of Books is certainly among the more interesting literary periodicals appearing in print in English -- certainly always worth a look (I have been an occasional subscriber, though I am not currently one) -- but Elizabeth Day's rather fawning profile in The Observer seems to be reaching in asking Is the LRB one of the best magazines in the world ?
For all the impressive writing they've published, it's still hard to overlook one of the basic bottom lines; Day decorously notes: "For all its success, the London Review of Books struggles to make money", which is a rather strong bit of English understatement: as she then admits: "in January 2010, the magazine was estimated to be £27m in debt" (to the trust which generously supports it -- though if it: "never has to worry about paying back its loans" I would/imagine hope the tax authorities have something to say about what sounds like a bit too dodgy a tax dodge).
LRB publisher Nicholas Spice is also quoted:
"It loses a lot of money," he continues cheerfully.
The most important thing is that it has always had very generous support from its shareholders.
There is, of course, nothing wrong with such vanity-publishing: any number of fine publications -- especially those with a focus on the arts -- are generously subsidized and supported (though admittedly few have anywhere near this cushy an arrangement) and admirably, in the case of the LRB
, that benefits their writers (paid: "at a base-rate of 30p a word (rising by a considerable margin if the article is longer than average")) and, to some extent, subscribers (cheap subscription rates).
Still, given this very uneven playing field, one wonders how the unsubsidized The New York Review of Books
and the Times Literary Supplement
manage what the LRB
Read the rest of this post
As a child, I was in awe of Helen Keller. She overcame so many difficulties, but kept persevering, learning and reaching out to people. At my school, children are still drawn to her story. I love sharing Doreen Rappaport and Matt Tavares's stirring biography with them.
Helen's Big World:
The Life of Helen Keller
by Doreen Rappaport
illustrated by Matt Tavares
Disney / Hyperion, 2012
ages 5 - 9
available at your local library and on Amazon
Doreen Rappaport gives readers a clear sense of Helen's whole life, from the illness that left her blind and deaf as a child, to her years with Annie, and then her accomplishments as an adult.
Throughout it, Rappaport highlights Keller's own inspiring words in large, bold print. Young readers will be inspired not only by how Helen overcame her own disabilities, but how she used her voice to speak up for justice and equality for all.
From the Author’s Note
I remember when I went to the theater and saw the play The Miracle Worker, which focuses on the early relationship between Helen and her teacher Annie Sullivan. The most electrifying moment in the play, and in the biographies of Helen Keller, was always the moment at the water pump, when Helen connected the water flowing over her hand with the word that Annie was spelling into her other hand.
That moment reminds us of how we learn, and the power of learning; the more we understand things, the larger our world becomes. Annie Sullivan opened up Helen Keller’s limited, dark, silent world; it grew and grew until it truly became a big world.
Kids will enjoy checking out the American Foundation for the Blind's Helen Keller Kids' Museum Online
, full of pictures and short paragraphs of information.
The review copy came from our school library. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books (at no cost to you!). Thank you for your support.©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books
This weekend's The New York Times Book Review-Q & A features Teju Cole: By the Book.
Among the questions he's asked is: "What books are you embarrassed not to have read yet ?" to which he responds:
I have not read most of the big 19th-century novels that people consider "essential," nor most of the 20th-century ones for that matter.
But this does not embarrass me.
He's right not to be embarrassed by that of course -- life is, indeed, too short, and time is easily filled with any number of worthwhile things; not having read book X or Y is hardly shameful.
On the other hand, it does throw into a different light an earlier statement he makes, claiming that:
"the novel" is overrated, and the writers I find most interesting find ways to escape it
Since he goes on to admit he's actually not engaged with what are considered the exemplary novels of the 19th and
20th century, surely his dismissal comes far too rashly .....
Maybe it's a good idea to read what are considered the 'essential' novels, to see what all the fuss is about, and only then make a grand pronouncement as to whether or not the genre as a whole is over-rated .....
(As someone who considers 'the novel' -- in all its many forms -- the be-all and end-all of literature, art, human thought, and human experience, I am, of course, biased.
But even I am careful about dismissing any specific (other) form as over-rated.)
And at least he does give a shout-out to what is a very fine novel indeed (though, yes, one for which he wrote the Introduction): Ivan Vladislavić's Double Negative
posted by Neil Gaiman
Yesterday I got up early, left the new house I'd barely settled into, and hit the road with the kind of overstuffed suitcase you pack when you'll be on the road for a couple of weeks and you aren't quite sure what you'll need to wear, and you'll be in three completely different climates during that time.
I flew to Philadelphia and went to Rowan University in southern New Jersey, where I met photographer Kyle Cassidy
(aka my friend Kyle Cassidy). We did a Master Class together, answering questions, talking about what we do and how we do it, and, at one point, reading stories and showing photographs from Who Killed Amanda Palmer
. Then I gave a talk that was also a reading as part of the Rowan University Presidents' Lecture Series, that was as much fun as the talk/readings I did in Billings and Calgary, and the audience seemed to like it, and I loved how comfortable I'm starting to feel on stages in universities and such. I no longer feel, when I'm out on the stage, like I'm faking it, or that I'm there under false pretenses.
As Kyle and I were walking through the campus he pulled out a camera and took these photos...
It was windy. My hair does not normally try to escape.
I look like I was living out in the frozen wilderness, where I was panning for adjectives or something else that wild writers do.
If you go to http://thedeanblog.com/kyle-cassidy-and-neil-gaiman-bring-the-creative-to-ccca/
and read about the day from the Dean's point of view, you'll see a photo she took of Kyle taking the bottom photograph. How unusually recursive.
(The first question to be asked at the talk was "What's up with the beard?" and I expained it was my hiding out and being anonymous beard, but has survived because Amanda wanted to see it when she returns from Australia.)
Then I flew to San Francisco (I finished Monica Byrne's lovely THE GIRL IN THE ROAD on the plane and also proofread the second GRAVEYARD BOOK graphic novel, and went over J. H. Williams' breakdowns for the third part of SANDMAN: OVERTURE.) It was a mostly quiet flight, although it was also the first time I've ever seen the pilot of a plane come out and explain to drunk and unpleasant passengers that if they didn't stop being unpleasant he would have them arrested.
Let's see. Important things... apologies to Detcon 1, I'd wanted to post about their nomination process for their YA and Middle Grade Fiction Award, but I missed the deadline.
I very nearly missed the deadline to tell you that the Coraline
ebook is an Amazon US GoldBox special tomorrow (Sunday), and it will be Very Cheap Indeed. (I think the link is http://amzn.to/1fO9R5X
but that might possibly be the wrong ebook edition.)
The folk making the Wayward Manor
video game have let me know that the pre-order site, http://whohauntsneil.com
, is coming down in a week. So if you want to pre-order the game, the t-shirt, or even attend the pricy and exclusive but incredibly cool haunted Magic Castle dinner with me, you should click over to http://whohauntsneil.com/welcome/#shop
and buy all the things with alacrity.Wayward Manor
has just gone up on the Humble Store,
where you can also preorder it, and it will remain there for the couple of months until its actual release.
The Guardian has a photoset of the 26 Characters for the Story Museum. You've already seen me as Badger here on the blog, but this is your chance to see Hanuman and Till Eulenspiegel and the Wicked Witch of the West
On April 4th, cartoonist, designer, artist, writer and teacher Art Spiegelman and I will be in conversation at Bard College, NY state. We will talk about comics and MAUS and music and art and being Jewish and life and everything I have ever wanted to ask Art. (Or he will ask anything he's ever wanted to ask me.) Tickets are available now
. Please come: It's a big hall and we will be lonely if it echoes.
By: George Collingwood,
Time is a funny old thing. It catches you out. Memories come back whenever they please and sometimes they surprise you. They never go away, they only seem to. Take yesterday. I was at work, getting ready to go home, and suddenly, out of nowhere, I wasn’t there at all, I was something like eight years old and the school bell was ringing and it was time to go home for tea. Alleycat says that time’s like a long dark corridor with a bright light up ahead. If you look back you can see the past, the places you’ve already been, because the light is shining towards those things, but if you look ahead the light’s too bright and you can’t see anything because you’re blinded. He’s full of wise sayings like that. Sometimes he acts like an ordinary moggie, other times he acts like a sage. Pink doesn’t act much at all, except like herself. She’s very happy at the moment because spring has sprung, seemingly, and instead of basking under the reptile lamp on the kitchen table she can start to wander at large from hot spot to hot spot in the house.
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In her latest addition to the fun and educational series “If You Were Me and Lived In …,” award-winning author and former social studies teacher Carole P. Roman introduces young readers to the country of India.
Shamus Award-winning author John Straley returns with another mystery set in the Southeast Alaska region he calls home with the delightful and witty "Cold Storage, Alaska." Straley, an investigator for the public defender's office who lives in Sitka, is widely known for his Cecil Younger series which includes "The Woman Who Married the Bear" and "The Curious Eat Themselves." His new novel is funnier but no less spot-on with its depictions of the colorful characters who populate the small, isolated town of Cold Storage.
(Did I just write "colorful"? Please forgive me. I need to turn in my proof of Alaska residency right now before a reality TV producer calls and asks if I can recommend anyone for a new show.)
The plot is straightforward: Former bad boy Clive McCahon is on his way home to Cold Storage after serving seven years in prison Outside for dealing cocaine. He smartly put some money away before his arrest and now recovers it, believing that by keeping his mouth shut and protecting his employers he has earned some goodwill. Along with newly acquired former guard dog "Little Brother," he sews his cash into his new parka and heads north.
Once Clive reaches Juneau, Straley starts to have a lot of fun with the Alaska way of life. Consider how he describes the flight out of Juneau in a de Havilland Beaver, which begins with the words no passenger ever wants to hear: "We're going to give a try!" After stopping in Pelican, where the pilot unwisely chooses to take on a salmon wrapped in a garbage bag and shoves it under his seat, things take a bit of a negative turn. It should be noted that Little Brother is not in an FAA-approved kennel, because, well, if you've flown in Alaska then you know why:
"Is there a problem?" Tommy yelled over his shoulder.
A rocky ridgeline lay a few hundred feet below them.
"Just a few more minutes and we'll be down," Tommy said. "Can you keep control of that dog?"
"We're doing fine," Clive called. "We're having the time of our lives!"
He tried to wrap his new coat up around Little Brother's shoulders but the dog seemed to be growing. He would soon be the size of a buffalo, Clive thought.
Looking over his shoulder, all Tommy could see was a massive rump of brindled dog pushing against the seat. Above the roar of the engine, he could hear deep growling.
"Just a few more minutes," he said in a weak voice.
Clive pulled against Little Brother's collar, but the dog wasn't interested in calming down. He reached back and with his teeth he grabbed the coat from around his shoulders. He began to furiously tear at the parka; feathers and dog slobber flecked against the windscreen.
Tommy started pumping the flaps and leveling off for a landing but hundred dollar bills were floating up over his shoulder and landing in his lap. He pushed the plane down on the water. Feathers and paper money fluttered through the cabin. The dog snarled, Tommy shrieked and Clive closed his eyes.
That is, of course, what we call an uneventful landing in the Last Frontier.
After safely arriving, Clive sets out to reestablish himself with his war-hero brother Miles, now the town's physician's assistant and sole medical representative. In a fit of civic improvement, he also starts working on a new bar/church -- there must be an equal number of bars and churches in the community, per town ordinance. In the meantime, Straley makes his way around Cold Storage, introducing all the regular characters, from the bored -- and randy -- married school teacher to the completely devoid of humor -- and humanity -- Alaska State Trooper and most warmly, the much-beloved young resident whose religious conversion has led him to set off in a kayak for Seattle and a meeting with the visiting Dalai Lama. The fact that his salvation arrives via cruise ship is a stroke of literary genius.
Clive's money ends up causing some problems, and guns and violence arrive in Cold Storage, although even then the laughs keep coming. But what impressed me the most about what Straley has done here is that unlike so many of the ways that Alaskans are portrayed these days, he writes his characters as colorful and idiosyncratic but also kind, smart and deeply moving. Yes, they live in a place that breeds a bit of zaniness -- how could it not, when it rains all the damn time? -- but that doesn't make them something to be mocked. For all that, "Cold Storage, Alaska" is certainly a wild mystery in the vein of Elmore Leonard's "Get Shorty" years or all of Carl Hiaasen, it is just as much an homage to small towns and the people who fill them. What elevates Straley above so much of the competition is how very much he cares about the people and places he writes about. He gives us Alaska with heart, exposing his own deep love for the state in each and every hilarious word.
Enter to win a full set of the “If You Were Me and Lived in …” series; including the newest title If You Were Me and Lived in … India: A Child’s Introduction to Culture Around the World.
Giveaway begins March 9, 2014, at 12:01 A.M. PST and ends April 8, 2014, at 11:59 P.M. PST.
This is Gossamer, the cat who is looking for that hour we lost this morning. It might be hiding under the fridge.
By: Bruce Luck,
Registration is now open for one of the finest writing conferences in the state. Carol Lynch Williams’ annual WIFYR conference runs the week of June 16. It is one of the best things you can do for yourself as a writer.
Several things happen at WIFYR. If you go for the full package, your mornings are spent with an established author aware of what it takes to move your story through to publication. These talented people share what they know about the craft, dispensing expertise on setting, story arc, character development, dialogue, and much more. The real growth comes in the critique sessions. Your story improves as others point out areas of weakness. By participating in the critique of others, you see examples of excellence in writing to emulate and become aware of pitfalls to avoid. Learning to critique will make you a better writer.
Afternoon sessions offer a smorgasbord of presenters to instruct and inspire. Topics this year include voice, pitching your novel, killer openings, characters, blogging and author websites. Writers with limited time or funds may find just the afternoons a better fit. It is included for morning session participants.
Every year Carol brings in people from the publishing world. This year she has an editor and three agents lined up. Not only do they provide insight to what it takes to get published, but give your their contact info and instructions for submitting. Just your attendance at WIFYR shows them your commitment to writing excellence and places your submissions above those in the slush pile.
But WIFYR is more than critiquing and learning the craft and getting a step closer to publishers. There is a collegial atmosphere at WIFYR that Carol has established. It is as though a hundred other people just like you, stuck with this obsession for writing who are cheering for you to produce your best writing.
There is just something magical in surrounding yourself with other writers for a week.
(This article also posted at http://writetimeluck.blogspot.com)
By: Terry Hooper-Scharf,
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|First successful book! our version|
doesn't have the touchy-feely stuff
I have a tiny grand-daughter who has just started taking an interest in books. She is 12 weeks old. My first success at grabbing her attention with a book came at 10 weeks (have to nurture new customers!) We'd been to the garden centre and looked at the tropical fish. When we came home, I showed her a book by Lucy Cousins with a picture of a fish in it. She loved it. We're on the way.I showed her some picture books and while she can't follow the story she liked looking at the pictures - all vigorously waving arms and legs and gurgling!
|The best of the cot books|
So in town yesterday I looked at board books for small babies. Oh my. There are the usual rather dreary picutres of objects, colours, numbers, etc - and some livelier ones such as the much-favoured Lucy Cousins series about animals. There are 'cot books' which unfold into a strip to fasten up inside the cot so the baby has something to look at. That's great, but not for sharing. Still, it's important for a baby to develop skills in independent reading, so we'll get one of those.
|You can't be too young for Judith Kerr|
Board books for the youngest children don't have a narrative. They are theme-based: animals, vehicles, number, colours, etc. - like our Farm Animals, Pet Animals and Garden Animals titles from Lucy Cousins. But there are some that introduce characters the child will encounter when she starts on stories. These are rather a cunning marketing move - the toddler who recognises Mog from Mog's Family of Cats will want to read the Mog books. No complaints from me - the Mog books are excellent.
On the whole, board-book prequels tend to be of the Peppa Pig &co merchandising category. I'd be wary of buying into something quite so commercial, but I guess if the baby has an older sibling who has Gruffalo and Peppa stuff around it makes sense. Here's a Thomas the Tank Engine title that introduces the engines that will feature in the child's coming Thomas TE experiences.
I think I might get the Moomin introductions to colours and numbers, though. Fostering an interest in moomins is, like fostering a liking for vegetables, a good investment in future health.
Here's the surprise discovery: board books for the children of literary parents. Now, it's one thing to introduce your baby to Peppa and Mog, protagonists of stories they can engage with pretty soon.
|More for the grown-ups than the babies|
But how about Pride and Prejudice? Anna Karenina? Moby Dick? Pride and Prejudice turns out to be a counting book (four stately houses, etc). Not a fan: how to build an interest in the trappings of capitalism and elitism.
|Might well buy this one|
Moby Dick I rather liked. It calls itself an 'ocean primer' and introduces ideas such as whale and anchor. I don't recall there being a harpoon page, fortunately.
|Seriously? Clothes to die for?|
Anna Karenina? Wow. Adultery and suicide for the under-twos. But it's massively disappointing. Look closely. It's the Anna Karenina fashion primer. Can you identify Anna's earring? Where is her hat? FFS. Does her handbag hold a one-way train ticket...?
I can understand that Pride and Prejudice and Moby Dick might appeal to parents who like those novels. It's a bit far-fetched to suggest that they will lead young readers to those titles 14 years later, but if they did there would have been no serious misrepresentation. But if you turned to Anna Karenina expecting fashion to be a big part of it, you'd be in for a shock. (I do remember some referenc to Kitty's striped silk dress; but I don't think fashion was a theme, as such.)
I'm going back to town to look for more boards books - any favourites to suggest? Without a narrative, for now.
By: Julia Callaway,
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, lynne murphy
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, Oxford Dictionaries Online
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By Lynne Murphy
For 20 years, 14 of those in England, I’ve been giving lectures about the social power afforded to dictionaries, exhorting my students to discard the belief that dictionaries are infallible authorities. The students laugh at my stories about nuns who told me that ain’t couldn’t be a word because it wasn’t in the (school) dictionary and about people who talk about the Dictionary in the same way that they talk about the Bible. But after a while I realized that nearly all the examples in the lecture were, like me, American. At first, I could use the excuse that I’d not been in the UK long enough to encounter good examples of dictionary jingoism. But British examples did not present themselves over the next decade, while American ones kept streaming in. Rather than laughing with recognition, were my students simply laughing with amusement at my ridiculous teachers? Is the notion of dictionary-as-Bible less compelling in a culture where only about 17% of the population consider religion to be important to their lives? (Compare the United States, where 3 in 10 people believe that the Bible provides literal truth.) I’ve started to wonder: how different are British and American attitudes toward dictionaries, and to what extent can those differences be attributed to the two nations’ relationships with the written word?
Our constitutions are a case in point. The United States Constitution is a written document that is extremely difficult to change; the most recent amendment took 202 years to ratify. We didn’t inherit this from the British, whose constitution is uncodified — it’s an aggregation of acts, treaties, and tradition. If you want to freak an American out, tell them that you live in a country where ‘[n]o Act of Parliament can be unconstitutional, for the law of the land knows not the word or the idea’. Americans are generally satisfied that their constitution — which is just about seven times longer than this blog post — is as relevant today as it was when first drafted and last amended. We like it so much that a holiday to celebrate it was instituted in 2004.
Dictionaries and the law
But with such importance placed on the written word of law comes the problem of how to interpret those words. And for a culture where the best word is the written word, a written authority on how to interpret words is sought. Between 2000 and 2010, 295 dictionary definitions were cited in 225 US Supreme Court opinions. In contrast, I could find only four UK Supreme court decisions between 2009 and now that mention dictionaries. American judicial reliance on dictionaries leaves lexicographers and law scholars uneasy; most dictionaries aim to describe common usage, rather than prescribe the best interpretation for a word. Furthermore, dictionaries differ; something as slight as the presence or absence of a the or a usually might have a great impact on a literalist’s interpretation of a law. And yet US Supreme Court dictionary citation has risen by about ten times since the 1960s.
No particular dictionary is America’s Bible—but that doesn’t stop the worship of dictionaries, just as the existence of many Bible translations hasn’t stopped people citing scripture in English. The name Webster is not trademarked, and so several publishers use it on their dictionary titles because of its traditional authority. When asked last summer how a single man, Noah Webster, could have such a profound effect on American English, I missed the chance to say: it wasn’t the man; it was the books — the written word. His “Blue-Backed Speller”, a textbook used in American schools for over 100 years, has been called ‘a secular catechism to the nation-state’. At a time when much was unsure, Webster provided standards (not all of which, it must be said, were accepted) for the new English of a new nation.
American dictionaries, regardless of publisher, have continued in that vein. British lexicography from Johnson’s dictionary to the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) has excelled in recording literary language from a historical viewpoint. In more recent decades British lexicography has taken a more international perspective with serious innovations and industry in dictionaries for learners. American lexicographical innovation, in contrast, has largely been in making dictionaries more user-friendly for the average native speaker.
The Oxford English Dictionary, courtesy of Oxford Dictionaries. Do not use without permission.
Local attitudes: marketing dictionaries
By and large, lexicographers on either side of the Atlantic are lovely people who want to describe the language in a way that’s useful to their readers. But a look at the way dictionaries are marketed belies their local histories, the local attitudes toward dictionaries, and assumptions about who is using them. One big general-purpose British dictionary’s cover tells us it is ‘The Language Lover’s Dictionary’. Another is ‘The unrivalled dictionary for word lovers’.
Now compare some hefty American dictionaries, whose covers advertise ‘expert guidance on correct usage’ and ‘The Clearest Advice on Avoiding Offensive Language; The Best Guidance on Grammar and Usage’. One has a badge telling us it is ‘The Official Dictionary of the ASSOCIATED PRESS’. Not one of the British dictionaries comes close to such claims of authority. (The closest is the Oxford tagline ‘The world’s most trusted dictionaries’, which doesn’t make claims about what the dictionary does, but about how it is received.) None of the American dictionary marketers talk about loving words. They think you’re unsure about language and want some help. There may be a story to tell here about social class and dictionaries in the two countries, with the American publishers marketing to the aspirational, and the British ones to the arrived. And maybe it’s aspirationalism and the attendant insecurity that goes with it that makes America the land of the codified rule, the codified meaning. By putting rules and meanings onto paper, we make them available to all. As an American, I kind of like that. As a lexicographer, it worries me that dictionary users don’t always recognize that English is just too big and messy for a dictionary to pin down.
A version of this article originally appeared on the OxfordWords blog.
Lynne Murphy, Reader in Linguistics at the University of Sussex, researches word meaning and use, with special emphasis on antonyms. She blogs at Separated by a Common Language and is on Twitter at @lynneguist.
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Running presents a very simple goal…
Keep pushing through to that other side my Runner Friends. It makes us feel alive!
More Running Motivation Art Posts
More Motivation Posts
Posts with Racing Tips
1) Did you race this weekend?
2) How did you stay mentally tough in your last race or workout?
3) The last time you weren’t so mentally tough, why, and what are you going to do to be tougher next time?
By: Terry Hooper-Scharf,
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Writer Kieron Gillen art by Caanan White
1 April, 2014
Über, is a collection of issues #0–5 from the best new horror series of last year from Avatar. This graphic novel re-imagines the super-soldier in a stark new bloody vision…
April 24, 1945, the world holds its breath as the war is only days away from ending. Russian troops move through Germany to the final objective…Hitler himself. As those around the mad dictator crumble, the much ridiculed threats of the “Wunderwafen” materialize. A new weapon is delivered, one with unstoppable power – a weapon like no other and with a madman pulling the trigger. The Ubers change the direction of World War II providing a dark and uncompromising alternative history in a way that you’ve never seen.
Well, how much longer can comic creators (or anyone for that matter) churn out more Nazi crap?
I have to say that I sat down expecting a good read but this left me totally cold. I had forgotten how Avatar like to hide so-so books behind gory violence. "Hey -look: his head exploded all over the place in a really childishly imagined 'how a guy's head explodes' way!" By the time I was half-way through I'd lost interest. However, I had to continue. When I finished reading the book I just "huffed". That was the reaction it had on me.
"...re-imagines the super-soldier in a stark new bloody vision..." pftt.
As for the artwork. Can I point out to who-ever is in charge of editing that if you do a colour book featuring Soviet era soldiers then you need to remember that those BIG stars on their helmets are red and not white. Seriously -it's like drawing Swastikas and colouring them in yellow. Rape, killing.....all par for the course in today's comics (where rape seems to be entertainment) but I just did not like the art style. I try never to be too hard on the artist as the colourist is to blame for the white star and the artist is drawing to the best of his/her ability.
This was the best new horror (horror?) series of 2013? I hope it improves.
But when it comes down to it my opinion as a reviewer does not count greatly. It's the people buying comics who put the money in those store tills. And I know that there ARE a lot of comic fans who just love this type of thing. So, if you see it in a store check it out and see what you think.
Inspired by Pop Culture Junkie and The Story Siren, Stacked
is our sister-site's weekly post where we share with you the books that we've bought, borrowed or received for the week.
This is actually an Unstacked post since the ratio for books bought to books given away was 1:50 this week. As you may have read recently, my mom had a stroke and I went home to the Philippines to help out. My dad, brother, and aunt all work during the day, and my little sister isn't 100% capable of watching over our mom and doing all the chores etc. (Though she is a hero, since she figured out how to call for help when Mama passed out in the hallway. For someone who is considered to be fundamentally a toddler all her life, she's one smart cookie.)
Anyway, I was checking on my mom when I happened to open my dad's closet and notice that there were a ton of dusty, moldy books in the back. The closet had been built on top of a bookshelf in my mom's signature, just put it on top of everything else style of interior decorating.
I was really sad to see lots of my favorite books pretty much begrimed and crumbly due to the terrible sun/air conditions in Manila, as well as my family's low-level hoarding tendencies, but what can you do? Keep them in plastic tubs? (Actually, that's a good idea, but plastic tubs weren't exactly common when I left the books here.)
Anyway, I figured now is as good a time as any to let some stuff go. You can see some of my favorites in the Unstacked image above. My uncle has a school in the province, and my aunt is coming by tomorrow and will be passing the school, so I'm sending them away. There's some great stuff in there: classics like P.G. Wodehouse, James Thurber, Douglas Adams, and Chinua Achebe; the occasional anthology, random old ARCs. I saved one book from the pile: A Woman Named Smith
by Marie Conway Oemler
. It's so old that the cover has long since disintegrated. It's a fun romance and it used to belong to my grandfather, so I'm hoping it's not too far gone to repair, or reproduce in some way. If you're curious, you can get the Kindle copy
for free. (Yes, it's that
The one book I picked up was actually an eBook, The Shadow Society
by Marie Rutkoski
. The Kindle edition
was on sale for $2.99. Marie's new YA novel, The Winner's Curse
, is out now. I didn't particularly enjoy it, but I recognize that there will probably be quite a few people who will like it a lot better than I did. I like her writing style, but I didn't care for the plot and characters in The Winner's Curse
. I'm hoping that The Shadow Society
will be a bit more like my cup of tea.
It looks like I will be here a while, so I'll keep you posted regarding further hoard management and possibly a YA author event
I will be attending. Anyway, that's it for me and book acquisitions/donations this week. If you want to catch up with what I've been doing in the Philippines, follow @frootjoos
Last but not least, Pasadena Teen Book Festival
is coming up! We are now on Facebook
, and you can still get free tickets at Eventbrite
. Blogger friends, more info on the upcoming blog tour is on the way, I promise! I was just really hard at work to get the tote bag design done so we can order them from the screen printers. The first 100 people to arrive at the event will get the tote for free :)
By: Colleen Mondor,
Blog: Chasing Ray
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Winter is sucking the happy out of all us with either too much snow in the Midwest and New England, too little rain in California or too much heat in Alaska. Everything is crazy outside, so why not disappear awhile in a rip-roaring adventure? Sometimes, escapist reading truly is the best kind of reading there is.
George Mann's intrepid steampunk "supernatural specialists" Sir Maurice Newbury and Miss Veronica Hobbes return in a quite diabolical serial killer investigation with The Executioner's Heart. The Newbury and Hobbes mysteries have always done a great job of showcasing both of its protagonists without leaving Hobbes in a subservient literary position, but this go-round is especially well done. Things get complicated quickly and all sorts of supporting characters step up to help unsort the web of clues and political intrigue the detectives uncover. At the center is still a killer who must be stopped and that, as usual, is where Newbury and Hobbes truly shine.
Newbury has some Holmesian issues to deal with and struggles with addiction that might strike a Baker Street chord. However, he also wrestles with the supernatural and is risking his life battling a spiritual entity on behalf of Hobbes' sister. The paranormal is to be expected of course, as this is an England where Queen Victoria is kept alive through machinery of a most unnatural kind, and don't even get me started on what our heroes find on display at the Crystal Palace exhibition.
But around all the wonderful world building is still murder and greed and lies. Bloody death is popping up all over the drawing rooms of London and the victims appear to be connected in only the most tenuous of ways. As Newbury and Hobbes get on the case, they find themselves considering some most unexpected suspects, and while the killer must be stopped, soon enough the killer is the least terrifying part of the plot. Readers in search of a modern take on classic adventure and Holmesian hijinks that move at a rapid pace will find The Executioner's Heart to be right up their alley. I don't know which one of these characters I love more, only that I heartily look forward to what happens with them next.
For a somewhat creepier detective novel, look no further than The Aylesford Skull by James P. Blaylock. Langdon St. Ives has anchored several Blaylock novellas, but this is his first full-length title. Now semi-retired and enjoying life in the country, in this go-round the intrepid detective is joined by his stalwart companions Tubby Frobisher and Jack Owlesby, a doctor from Edinburgh named Arthur Doyle, and a young former circus aerialist, Finn Conrad. The villain is, as usual, the nefarious Dr. Ignacio Narbondo although others scatter about. Most dangerously, there is the "Aylesford Skull," the ghost that comes with it and the paranormal nightmare that it is capable of unleashing.
I'd like to think that true Victorian England never looked so grim, except the grave robbing and serial murders that Blaylock describes are right out of late nineteenth-century London. Narbondo himself is so unsettling perhaps because his evil is so common and with his backstory fleshed out here (courtesy his mother), he becomes a villain that readers can understand although certainly never sympathize. (Which actually makes him a lot worse.)
In The Aylesford Skull, St. Ives faces down an attack on his family, the return of a "dead" friend, foes willing to shed the blood of anyone in order to increase their personal power and an increasingly insane Narbondo. There is also some fishing, bird watching, talk of elephants, a flying machine and pirates. Blaylock does his usual talented blend of fantastic and science-possible and the interplay between the supporting cast makes for a fast-paced plot. It's a dark tale that manages to be a fun read and happily, gives the author to space to indulge all of his literary whims with this always enjoyable character.
Charles de Lint's Jack in the Green, out this month from Subterranean Press, is a contemporary tale that transports Robin Hood and his Merry Men into the modern gang culture of the American southwest. Fans of de Lint will have some idea of what to expect here: teenagers trapped in grim circumstances who encounter elements of myth and folklore and embrace them to effect great personal change. This time the stakes are incredibly high but the legend is no slouch either and what happens to Maria when she spies old friend Luz breaking into a house with a new "gang" of her own is something magical.
Maria and Luz hoped to find some magic when they were young, and miraculously, it looks like it might have happened. Jack Green and his friends may not understand how things work in Santo del Vado Viejo, where the 66 Banda gang rules the streets and the cops are more concerned about protecting the gated communities, but standing up for the downtrodden is written into their DNA. Class consciousness is always part of de Lint's titles and it is front and center here as Green robs from the rich to help the poor. When Maria finds herself falling hard for the mysterious hero while getting caught in the middle of a turf war, de Lint raises the stakes and forces his characters into an impossible situation. Then he pulls it all out with the kind of ending readers have learned to expect. With such engaging young characters, a theme that will resonate with any teen reader and Robin Hood to boot, Jack in the Green (with illustrations by Charles Vess), is an excellent YA choice.
Unexpectedly, I found a thread of Nikola Tesla running through a couple of the books I read for this column. Tesla is enjoying a renaissance these days and finding him in books for middle-grade and teen readers is an excellent way to build curiosity about this brilliant inventor.
Nick and Tesla's High-Voltage Danger Lab by "Science Bob" Pflugfelder and Steve Hockensmith is a throwback to classic 1950s style adventure stories (The Mad Scientists Club, anyone?). Siblings Nick and Tesla Holt have been sent for the summer to stay with their unorthodox Uncle Newt in Half Moon Bay while their scientist parents look into soybean growth in Uzbekistan. In short order they discover he is the very definition of eccentric, and while soaking in all the scientific awesomeness of his home lab (not to mention his home, period), the kids put together a fun rocket experiment and accidentally end up launching Tesla's necklace into the yard of the forbidding, sort-of-abandoned mansion down the street. The necklace must be retrieved, very big guard dogs thwarted, mysterious girl in the upstairs window rescued and lots of bad guys stopped. To accomplish all this, the brother and sister enlist the help of some bicycling neighborhood kids and more than a few things from Uncle Newt's basement. In the end a nefarious plot is stopped and the good guys win with lots of clues laid out for future adventures including figuring out just what Nick and Tesla's parents are really doing.
What elevates Nick and Tesla's High-Voltage Danger Lab above standard MG hijinks is the unique book design, which incorporates not only blueprints and schematics on every page but also illustrations throughout. On top of that, the authors include step-by-step instructions for every experiment that Nick and Tesla conduct so readers can give them a go as well. The directions are basic and easy to follow, the components accessible from your own home or local hardware store and the results a lot of fun -- rockets! "robo-cat dog distractor"! electromagnet! The narrative provides a standard page-turner but the experiments are an extra kick that shows the sort of fun that can be had when science leaves the lab. The second book in the series, Nick and Tesla's Robot Army Rampage, is out now and a third, Nick and Tesla's Secret Agent Gadget Battle, is due shortly.
Tesla's Attic by Neal Shusterman and Eric Elman is billed as a middle-grade title, but I think it actually works best for teens. The only thing it is missing from standard YA fare is romance and frankly, sometimes teen readers don't want romance in their mystery-adventures. For those interested in what strange things could be lurking in an inherited house and how they tie into a potential "Men In Black" conspiracy, then, Tesla's Attic fits the bill. Make the heroes a smart and fearless group of Super 8 level teens who are not superpowered, not magical and not on the cusp of finding some mystical object that will make them superpowered or magical, and you have a great start to what is billed as the Accelerati Trilogy.
Fourteen-year-old Nick, his younger brother and father have moved into his great aunt's house large rambling Victorian house, which was left to them in her will. Still reeling from the recent death of his mother in a fire, Nick is struggling to hold his family together as they make their way in a new town, new school, and new family reality. Cleaning out the attic for a garage sale seems like a good idea, as Aunt Greta was knee-deep in a lot of who looks like junk. Unfortunately there are some bizarre side effects to the seemingly innocuous toasters, vacuums, tape recorders, and other items that make their way into the community at the surprisingly successful sale. After some strange occurrences at home, Nick realizes he has to get all the stuff back and enlists the help of some classmates who have been freaked out by their purchases. In the meantime, the group tries to figure out just how these things got to be so powerful and who might have built them.
Tesla fans will already know that there are plenty of connections between the inventor and Colorado, so the idea that he might have stashed a few things in an old friend's house for safekeeping is not beyond the realm of possibility. Just what the inventor was up to with all this stuff is another thing however, and when a group of deadly physicists appears who really wants the stuff, (and is willing to do whatever it takes to get it), then the stakes increase exponentially. It's one thing to save a neighbor from a wild toaster but quite another to face down folks who are as likely to kill you as negotiate. Nick has to get a grip on what he has unwittingly loosed on the town and also be mindful of his family, who don't know what's going on and are facing their own demons as well.
The chemistry between Nick and his friends, Mitch, Caitlin, and Vincent, is really fantastic. They are a complicated group, not all necessarily likable, and hiding their own secrets as most of us do. They come together first because of circumstance -- each has one of the attic objects -- but slowly, as they work on solving the mystery, they become friends. It's a lot of fun to see them form a team and the way Shusterman and Elfman have written them, as teenage "everymen," readers will easily be able to project themselves into the story. Tesla's Attic was a very fun read for me, one of the more engaging and surprising titles for teens I've come across in a while.
If these novels sound appealing then consider Elizabeth Rusch's picture book biography of Tesla, Electrical Wizard: How Nikola Tesla Lit Up the World. There is a wealth of information in here about Tesla's childhood, his emigration to the U.S. and his infamous problematic relationship with Thomas Edison. Rusch shows how he was thwarted more than once by people who doubted his ideas and eccentric thinking but never backed down. It's a very inspiring story, and Oliver Dominguez's full color illustrations bring to life the inventor and the times he lived in. While Electrical Wizard: How Nikola Tesla Lit Up the World was clearly published for elementary school-aged children, I would not hesitate to recommend it for older readers. This is a great literary dip into the waters of Tesla's life and not to be overlooked simply because it is a picture book. I relished every page.
COOL READ: While I have become quite accustomed to the Scientists in the Field series taking me to unexpected places in the company of interesting people, The Tapir Scientist: Saving South America's Largest Mammal by Sy Montgomery is a trip way off the tracks. Likely few readers will have ever come across a tapir, even in the local zoo, and books about them are few and far between. But Montgomery excels at trips into the unexpected corners of the wild and she succeeds brilliantly here, in the company of field scientist Pati Medici and her associates. Along with photographer Nic Bishop (familiar to readers of the series), Montgomery went into Brazil's wetland territory to find the tapir. In the midst of some serious insect attacks and heat that makes a Florida summer seem downright Arctic in comparison, Montgomery and Bishop were witness to the work of this dedicated group who are trying to save the tapirs and the forests that depend on them.
There are some fascinating facts here, such as that tapirs are most directly related to horses and rhinos and have changed little in the last 12 million years. The pictures are, as usual for the series, clear, compelling and dynamic. The Scientists in the Field books never get old and with its unique subject, The Tapir Scientist is one of my all-time favorite entries.
This is the final installment of the Bookslut in Training column. I hope you have enjoyed reading it every month as much as I have enjoyed writing it. I am still writing, still reviewing, and can be always found online at my website, chasingray.com, and via Twitter (@chasingray).
By: Olga Garcia Echeverria,
Blog: La Bloga
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Olga Garcia EcheverriaReal, old-fashioned mail can brighten even the gloomiest of days. The parcel that arrives is the size of a record album, the weight of a sturdy book. It’s traveled all the way from Mexico City to Lincoln Heights. It’s littered with cool rows of orange Día de Muertos stamps and numerous black postal seals, faded and smeared. The envelope is made of brown paper bag, its edges beaten and gnawed. It's obviously been "manhandled" on both sides of the border. The calendars inside, though, are remarkably unscathed.
This is Rotmi Enciso and Ina Riaskov’s 2014 calendar project, VIVAS, where women who love women and women who love words are featured in every month of the year. The cover of the calendar is a lucha-libre-masked mujer running in a blur. She's zooming by in a white nightie, hot pink fishnet stocking, a black and gold cape, matching botas and fingerless arm-length gloves. Me gusta. Run, Lucha Libre Mujer, Run!
I open up the calendar to February. A black and white profile of an older woman stares back. There is some kind of fierceness in her face. No Botox. No airbrush. No commercial standards of youth and beauty. Yet, she’s beautiful, her skin weathered and sculptured by time--the same way wind and sun carve out the face of the earth.
When I turn to March, I see that my friends in Mexico have gifted one of my poems a page, “Vuelo.” It’s a poem close to my heart, about my maternal grandmother, who many moons ago in Mexico is said to have lost her mind. “Perdió la razón” is how the story goes. I like to envision it as a wondrous flight instead of madness. Vuela, abuelita, vuela!
In August, cumulous clouds and a poem by tatiana de la tierra greet me, “Prisionera de tu perro.” My heart warms and I laugh aloud, remembering this querida amiga, bloguera, escritora. It’s a true story, the poem. tatiana once got dumped for a dog. She was indignant when it happened. “Can you fucking believe it? A dog! A cat maybe, pero un perro comemerida?” Her revenge was to write a poem-song (with a loud barking chorus) to the ex-lover. “You don’t seem too heartbroken,” I said to her once while she was practicing the poem with a yowling gusto. She barked, and then kept on singing.
Gracias Ina and Rotmi. Your international parcel is greatly appreciated. Las mujeres en este calendario están VIVAS.
Calendario de mujeres opportunity: I have two extra VIVAS calendars to share. It's bilingual queer word and mujer visual art to hang on a wall porque every day is a good day to celebrate International Women's Day. If you'd like a calendar, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I'll send the first two people who respond a cool parcel in the mail.
Rotmi Enciso & Ina Riaskov: Artistas, Activistas, Femenistas, Revolucionistas, Lesbianistas, Internacionalistas.
To learn more about VIVAS contact Rotmi and Ina via Producciones Y Milagros Agrupacion Femenista, A.C. email@example.com or on twitter: @prodymil
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The Sunday Post is hosted by Kimba of The Caffeinated Book Reviewer. This is a weekly meme where we can share news of the week and highlight new books received.
This polar bear is enjoying the snow. I am not. At least the temps were above freezing for a few days, so the dreaded stuff of my nightmares is starting to melt.
We had a thankfully uneventful week. Bumble’s intestinal woes seem to be improving – he was diagnosed with IBS. He is currently on a prescription dog food, probiotics, and medication to keep his condition under control, and so far, he is doing much better.
Check out my current contests! See the Contest Widget on the Sidebar to enter!
Stacking the Shelves is a weekly meme hosted by Tynga’s Reviews to share new additions to our library. Click here to learn more about it.
New Arrivals at the Café:
Kindle Paperwhite – I bought this because we are going out of town in a few weeks, and the light weight and long battery life finally made me click the buy button. Well, that, and it was $20 off last week! I’ll have a review soon – so far, I like this!
Omega Days – ZOMBIES!
Blood and Iron
The Garden of Darkness
Deadman Wonderland V1
Phantom Thief Jeanne V1
Wish You Were Italian
A great big thanks to the publishers for their continued support!
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