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1. Family Dynamics

On the surface, things are fine;
Smiles are filled with teeth,
But you never really know
What's roiling underneath.

Sometimes tiny fissures form
Releasing and revealing
Resentments tucked away that you
Believed were long past healing.

Moving forward there's a choice - 
To deal or to pretend,
But talking is the only way
That there's a chance to mend.

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2. Flogometer for Stacie—are you compelled to turn the page?

Submissions Wanted. . If you’d like a fresh look at your opening chapter or prologue, please email your submission to me re the directions at the bottom of this post.

The Flogometer challenge: can you craft a first page that compels me to turn to the next page? Caveat: Please keep in mind that this is entirely subjective.

Note: all the Flogometer posts are here.

What's a first page in publishingland? In a properly formatted novel manuscript (double-spaced, 1-inch margins, 12-point type, etc.) there should be about 16 or 17 lines on the first page (first pages of chapters/prologues start about 1/3 of the way down the page). Directions for submissions are below—they include a request to post the rest of the chapter, but that’s optional.

A word about the line-editing in these posts: it’s “one-pass” editing, and I don’t try to address everything, which is why I appreciate the comments from the FtQ tribe. In a paid edit, I go through each manuscript three times.

Mastering front 100WshadowBefore you rip into today’s submission, consider this checklist of first-page ingredients from my book, Mastering the Craft of Compelling Storytelling. While it's not a requirement that all of these elements must be on the first page, they can be, and I think you have the best chance of hooking a reader if they are.

Download a free PDF copy here.

Were I you, I'd examine my first page in the light of this list before submitting to the Flogometer. I use it on my own work.

A First-page Checklist

  • It begins connecting the reader with the protagonist
  • Something is happening. On a first page, this does NOT include a character musing about whatever.
  • What happens is dramatized in an immediate scene with action and description plus, if it works, dialogue.
  • What happens moves the story forward.
  • What happens has consequences for the protagonist.
  • The protagonist desires something.
  • The protagonist does something.
  • There’s enough of a setting to orient the reader as to where things are happening.
  • It happens in the NOW of the story.
  • Backstory? What backstory? We’re in the NOW of the story.
  • Set-up? What set-up? We’re in the NOW of the story.
  • What happens raises a story question—what happens next? or why did that happen?

Caveat: a strong first-person voice with the right content can raise powerful story questions and create page turns without doing all of the above. A recent submission worked wonderfully well and didn't deal with five of the things in the checklist.

Stacie sends the first chapter of Royals Revolution. The rest of the chapter is after the break.

The dungeon door closed behind Lorelai. The room reeked of human filth and unclean  bodies. That was a relief. Pain smelled like blood and fire.

Lorelai straightened her gown and pushed her hair over her shoulders. It was distracting to see a flash of red hair every time she turned her head, but she had to have some of it down because she was suppose to be a merchant’s daughter.

First the machines. They didn’t look like they’d been used in a while—a few days or even a few weeks. Hope flared. The blood on the floor was dried nearly to the same color of the stone. The hammers and spikes were quiet. It was too clean to have been used recently. Then again, of the queen’s torturers Kaiank was cleaner and the greater of the two to be feared.

Lorelai pivoted to face the prisoners. Their fingers were round and healthy and their limbs normal length. Kaiank favored the leg screw. She briefly glanced down. Their legs hung normally. Lorelai breathed out in slight victory.

Three prisoners were chained to the walls. Two shackled close to the entrance and one farther back of the room. The two closest kept their eyes averted. Their clothing, though they likely use to fit, hung loose. Each wore smudged shirts and faded trousers.

With all the machines in the room, the third prisoner’s dark hair was all that was visible at the other end of the room. Lorelai glanced away, so he wouldn’t know he was the reason she (snip)

Were you compelled to turn Stacie's first page?

Though the writing could be a little tighter, it’s good, and so is the voice. And the situation, which sparks questions of why is she there. There are small glitches in the rest of the chapter, but it’s a good opening chapter, IMO. Gets a page-turn from me. Notes:

The dungeon door closed behind Lorelai. The room reeked of human filth and unclean bodies. That was a relief. Pain smelled like blood and fire.

Lorelai straightened her gown and pushed her hair over her shoulders. It was distracting to see a flash of red hair every time she turned her head, but she had to have some of it down because she was suppose supposed to be a merchant’s daughter.

First, the machines. They didn’t look like they’d been used in a while—a few days or even a few weeks. Hope flared. The blood on the floor was dried nearly to the same color of the stone. The hammers and spikes were quiet. It was too clean to have been used recently. Then again, of the queen’s torturers Kaiank was cleaner and the greater of the two to be feared. I deleted the line about hammers and spikes being quiet because I didn’t have any idea of what it meant and the topic was cleanliness, which was also the subject of the following sentence. How can hammers and spikes not be quiet?

Lorelai pivoted to face faced the three prisoners chained to the walls. Their fingers were round and healthy and their limbs normal length. Kaiank favored the leg screw. She briefly glanced down. Their legs hung normally. Lorelai breathed out in slight victory. the first edit is for a bit of overwriting—no need to mention pivoting. the second is because a glance is already a brief thing, excess use of adverb. Moved the image of the prisoners here so the reader can "see" right away where they are.

Three prisoners were chained to the walls. Two of them were shackled close to the entrance and one farther back of the room. The two closest kept their eyes averted. Their clothing, though they likely use to once fit, hung loose. Each wore smudged shirts and faded trousers. I’m sure you meant “used to,” but I think “once” is a better choice.

With all the machines in the room, the The third prisoner’s dark hair was all that was visible at the other end of the room. Lorelai glanced away, so he wouldn’t know he was the reason she (snip) I don’t see how machines in the room would affect the visibility of his hair, or do you mean they blocked it? If so, say so. But it’s still overwriting. Just get to him, and soon. The end of the sentence that was cut off for length would have meant a stronger first page.

Comments, please?

For what it’s worth.


Submitting to the Flogometer:

Email the following in an attachment (.doc, .docx, or .rtf preferred, no PDFs):

  1. your title
  2. your complete 1st chapter or prologue plus 1st chapter
  3. Please include in your email permission to post it on FtQ.
  4. Note: I’m adding a copyright notice for the writer at the end of the post. I’ll use just the first name unless I’m told I can use the full name.
  5. Also, please tell me if it’s okay to post the rest of the chapter so people can turn the page.
  6. And, optionally, include your permission to use it as an example in a book on writing craft if that's okay.
  7. If you’re in a hurry, I’ve done “private floggings,” $50 for a first chapter.
  8. If you rewrite while you wait for your turn, it’s okay with me to update the submission.

Were I you, I'd examine my first page in the light of the first-page checklist before submitting to the Flogometer.

Flogging the Quill © 2015 Ray Rhamey, story © 2015 Stacie



was there.

The two prisoners near her kept their eyes averted. One was more father age and the other more of an age for trouble.They had chains on every limb. One arm was extended above them painfully with no give in the chain. Poor souls.

Other than the older man’s racking cough, they were healthy. And likely hungry. Drawing aside her cloak she pulled out two of the biscuits she’d saved from her tray.

She extended one in each hand to the men. They refused to look up.

“How long have you been here?”

Nothing. “Your names?” She kept the biscuits extended. “Your crimes?” she said.

They were likely even innocent. Lorelai closed her eyes slowly.

Since her hands were still extended and they made no move to take the food or even meet her gaze, she brought the biscuits close until they brushed the men’s hands. The older man closed his hand around the biscuit first and nodded his thanks. He had one eye that didn’t follow the other. The younger man had a thin frame and thick eyebrows. After seeing his companion take one, he yanked the other biscuit away and stuffed it in his mouth.

Lorelai turned and made a show of examining the lift and then moved slowly down the room looking at evil’s tools. She forced herself to keep her face expressionless.

At last she allowed herself to turn to the prisoner at the back. A quick survey revealed all parts were intact and unmaimed. He was observing her closely. The man was about the same height as Aydrik, but much larger with darker hair. His nose had been broken. His eyes were brown not hazel like Aydrik’s.

What was he doing in Aydrik’s place? Did he know anything of Damien’s death? Could she help him? Dared she?

Lorelai took the last biscuit from inside her sash. He lifted his eyebrows and slowly took it. “My thanks lady.” His words were clear.

She smiled briefly at him and nodded. “The others do not speak.”

“They’re scared,” he said.

“But you speak.”

He shrugged, “I’m curious.”

“How long have you been here?”

“This is the second day,” he said.

“Where are you from?”


“What is your name?” Lorelai said.

“Denorin,” he said without hesitation.

“Indeed.” This time Lorelai allowed a real smile. He did not speak like a man with the poor name Denorin. He was educated. “Indeed.”

His looked away and bit into the biscuit.

“Why are you here?”

He met her eyes. “I don’t know.”

Lorelai tilted her head to one side. “No inkling? Truly?” When he didn’t answer she pressed, “Perhaps you were fighting. Fought a man too powerful?” She eyed the dark bruise over his eye.

He shook his head. “I was not brought here for fighting.”

Lorelai nodded. “Of course. Perhaps you’re friends got you into some trouble?”

He didn’t answer.

Lorelai had just calculated her next question when the banging started. She whirled around to face the only door in the room. It was the warning signal. Soldiers were coming. It was too soon for them to be coming around with dinner slop or whatever they fed prisoners.

She considered possible reasons she could give for being there and ways she could have got in and the people that were going to be hurt by her miscalculation.

“What’s wrong?” Denorin said.

Lorelai looked at him. Glared at him, as if he were the reason people were going to die. Glared at him as she wanted to glare at the soldiers, but she was shaking.

Denorin pointed. “Hide there. The soldiers always come around that way last. I’ll cover for  you.” He shook his head.

It was what she needed, but it would be terrible for him. She had to salvage this as best she could. “Do this and I will help you Denorin,” Lorelai said as she hurried toward the rack. She’d figure out the details later.

“My name is Gregory,” the prisoner said.

Perhaps he thought he was going to die and wanted to do so by his own name. He could be right.

The soldiers came in vulgar and loud. Lorelai scooted as far under the rack as she could. Holding a wheel with one hand she balanced in a squat.

The soldiers poured some slop into a bowl and gave it to the two prisoners near the door. One of the soldiers, the shorter one, slapped the older man. “Think you’ll live through tomorrow?”

The other soldier had darker olive colored skin. He spat into the young man’s bowl. “Not if the torturers visit them first.”

“But give the men a little hope,” the shorter soldier said. “I’ve heard strange things are happening at the castle though. Quiet things. Maybe you’ll get a miracle too and live through the week.”

They rounded toward Gregory. One of the soldiers dumped the slop on the floor next to the bowl.

“Want to start something again?” the olive colored soldier said.

“I didn’t start it,” Gregory said.

The shorter soldier hit Gregory. He had crooked teeth. “That eye almost makes you look tough.”

The darker soldier whistled.

The prisoner’s teeth were clenched. He didn’t look at the soldiers.      

Then the prisoner, Gregory, flicked his arm sending one soldier flying into the other as he extended his shackled leg as far as he could. Both soldiers tripped. The soldiers scrambled up howling and laid into the man.

Lorelai used the noise as cover as she scrambled from under the machines. She bent low to scape open the door. It groaned loudly. The noise from across the room ceased except for heavy breathing. Lorelai swept out the room and ran knowing the soldiers would be coming to investigate the movement. That was no concern. She only had to make it a few more steps without being seen.

She turned deftly in the dark and pushed open the stone wall. A small door opened where none should be and smoothly shut behind her, Now the prisoner. That was a problem. The soldiers would be back to take care of him because of her. That would be ugly.

And now, whether she liked it or not, Gregory was a part of this too.

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3. How to Excavate the Treasure of a Deep Conversation

by Sally Matheny
How to Excavate a Deep Conversation

Is there someone you love, but haven’t ever had a conversation with that scratched below the surface? 

Some people open up and their core beliefs abundantly flow out. Others keep their spiritual thoughts in the vault.

Many Christians become distressed about their aging parents. Their love runs deep and they don’t like seeing their parents suffer. Yet, many times, we realize it’s the pain of not having had deeper conversations with them and now time is running short.

Or perhaps other family relationships are merely cordial formalities. You long for something more but conversations seem awkward.

People who go forty, fifty, or sixty years not talking about their relationship with Jesus Christ camouflage the entrance of beautiful and precious relationships. It’s imperative you prune back whatever is stifling these important talks so you can excavate the treasures.

Most likely, the root cause is fear.

Fear of:
Giving misinformation
Being misunderstood
Lack of experience
Inadequate words
Being judged

We must remind ourselves we serve a God who casts out fear. Who enables and empowers us to do difficult things.

If we long to have a deep and thriving relationship with family members then we must dig deeper in our conversations. How do we begin excavating after years of neglecting spiritual topics? 

The talking terrain may be plush with love, but difficult to dig beneath the surface. For others, talking grounds may have hardened or been covered in Astroturf.  

Some talking terrains are difficult to dig beneath the surface.

Gather Your Tools
Before you attempt to turn untilled soil, gather your tools.
You’ll need a powerful machete of prayer. Ask God to help you cut through any obstacles with which the enemy tries to entangle you.

Tote along a shovel strengthened with courage and discernment. Ask God for opportunities to break into conversations of the soul. Pray for strength for the task. Seek wisdom for word choice and timing.

Remember the tiny brush of gentleness. Once you penetrate the surface, it’s essential you use tenderness as you dust away the layers.

Start Small
You can start small, but start somewhere. Begin with snippets of blessings. During your next conversation, share a specific experience of how God has blessed you that day. Mention God’s name and be sure to give him the glory—not “luck”.

If necessary, begin by writing a letter, forwarding a devotional, or treating them to a faith-based movie. Think of ways to soften the soil for initiating a conversation.

Sweat and Tears
As you sweat through difficult situations in your own life, share how God is helping you through them. Confess your own inadequacies in understanding it all but, tell why you still cling to Christ, trusting him with all things.
Even through tears of sorrow, tell about the glimmers of joy and hope you still see.

Recall with your loved one memories of times when exhaustion set in, mentally, physically, or emotionally.  Reveal your struggles. But also share why you persevered. What prize has God set before you that is worth enduring the trials of this world?

Tell them how you see God working through the struggles to strengthen you and prepare you for something better. Can you imagine your life without God in control? Share that.

Discovering the Treasure
Even though it seems the best route, it’s often difficult to unearth the treasure of a deeper relationship with your relative, if you use a bulldozer of sermons. While sermons have their place, they’re not conducive for two-way interactions.
Intentional, thoughtful, and gentle conversations are worth every effort. 

Regardless of the results you receive, don’t give up. Fear not. Maintain or upgrade your tools. Trust God to continue working through you.

Deep conversations take time and work. However, the more often you have them, the easier they become to initiate. And once you experience the richness of a deeper relationship, you’ll strive to keep that treasure ever flowing.

Who will you engage with a rich conversation today?

Engage in rich conversations

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4. George RR Martin’s New Book is Not Coming This Year

George Martin‘s latest volume in the Song of Ice and Fire series, The Winds of Winter, will not be published this year.

HarperCollins revealed the news this week. However, they do have plans for an illustrated edition of three previously anthologized novellas coming out in 2015.

The Guardian has more:

A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms takes place nearly a century before the bloody events of the A Song of Ice and Fire series, when the Iron Throne was still held by the Targaryens. Out in October, it is a compilation of the first three official prequel novellas to the series, The Hedge Knight, The Sworn Sword and The Mystery Knight, never before collected, and now set for release in a new illustrated edition.

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5. further explorations of second person POV

Second Person Point-of-View  (archaic)
Perhaps it is getting to be the season to consider writing fiction in second person point-of-view (POV-2).  Our last exploration of POV-2 was October, 2014, and a new article on the topic has just come out in the February issue of Writer's Chronicle, by James Chesbro, titled: "Notes to You--Second Person in Creative Nonfiction."  Chesbro's examples are taken from essay and memoir writers, but the techniques will be the same for fiction writers.  His article is sometimes a bit complex and difficult to follow, but can further an understanding of the effects in using POV-2.  

In many, perhaps most, cases, the persona or real identity of the protagonist addressed by the "you" of POV-2 is actually the narrator of the story.  For example, in the case of a memoir the person "you" addresses is often the narrator himself at some earlier age.  However, intermittently, and sometimes in the same paragraph, the "you" being addressed may be the reader.  This slipperiness might be used to good effect in conflating the tensions felt by the protagonist with those felt by the reader.  When the reader is cast in the role of "you," he or she becomes more intimately associated with the protagonist.  He or she becomes the protagonist.  

Let's look at an example given by Chesbro, from the essay, "Swimming With Canoes," by John McPhee:
The canoe rocks, slaps the lake, moves forward.  Sooner or later, you lose your balance and fall into the water, because the gunwales are slender rails and the stern deck is somewhat smaller than a pennant.  From waters deeper than you were tall, you climbed back into your canoe.  If you think that's easy, try it.
In the early part of the paragraph the narrator's "you" is self referring, in a scene that took place when he was a young boy.  The reader may be gripped by the risks and dangers faced by the boy, but can keep some distance from what is happening.  However, in the last sentence of the paragraph, Chesbro suggests a slippery switch by the author from self address to direct address of the reader:
"(which) can trick the mind of the reader into placing himself on the gunwales of the canoe and slip just as the boy character slips into these complex and elusive aspects of you. We can deduce that the conflation of direct and self address is a purposeful affect of McPhee's multi-faceted utilization of second person construction."
 Fair enough, "If you think that's easy, try it," does indeed have an effect of causing the reader to more directly imagine just what he might have done in that same incident.  

Let's move now to another example from Chesbro, a beautifully straightforward example of POV-2: "If You Should Want Flowers for Your Table (Advice to a Daughter)," a 565 word essay by Marsha McGregor. The second person construction serves here as a direct address to the narrator's daughter.  The mother's voice is part of what makes this undemanding use of second person work so well.  Ostensibly, the mother is advising her daughter on how to care for flowers, but "we can see the metaphors on conduct, morality, and how to live."  In excerpts from McGregor:
"A small garden patch to call your own is lovely, but even a sad, weed-choked spot near the highway will yield plenty...Last week I veered off the road near that custard stand you loved, parked the car on the shoulder and waded into a riotous patch of wild sweet peas, all tangled tendrils and wiry stems, reminding me of the way you looked as a child when you slept...If you pursue the wild things, love, look out for bad drivers and poison ivy.  Be careful."

Gorgeous writing.

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6. Creative Nonfiction

Even though a picture book is nonfiction, it should still have a story arc.


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7. Rod McKuen, 'King of Kitsch', dies aged 81

One of my favourites. Sad news again -bbc news Online

Rod McKuen  
McKuen reached the peak of his popularity in the late '60s and '70s
Populist poet and prolific songwriter Rod McKuen has died at the age of 81.

Known as the 'King of Kitsch', he died in Los Angeles of respiratory arrest after suffering from pneumonia.

A Grammy winner and double Oscar nominee, McKuen worked with a string of household names including Frank Sinatra and Barbra Streisand.

His best-known song was arguably Seasons in the Sun, a number one hit in the US for Terry Jacks. He later wrote for Madonna's Ray of Light album.

The artist was co-credited on Madonna's track Drowned World/Substitute for Love, which borrowed from McKuen's Why I Follow the Tigers.

Seasons in the Sun - like another of his compositions, If You Go Away - was an English-language reworking of a song by McKuen's idol, French artist Jacques Brel.

"It was like winning the Nobel and the Lottery on the same afternoon”
Rod McKuen on working with Frank Sinatra
McKuen earned two Oscar nominations, one for the song Jean, from 1969 film The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, and another for the song score of 1970 Peanuts movie A Boy Named Charlie Brown.

He clinched his only Grammy, for best spoken word recording, for his Lonesome Cities album, one of nine albums to chart between 1968 and 1971.

Of his collaboration with Sinatra - on the album A Man Alone - he wrote, in 1999: "You can imagine how excited I was when Frank Sinatra asked me to write an original album for him.

"What could possibly be nicer, more flattering and challenging than being commissioned by the world's most inventive and popular singer to write and compose something, let alone a whole album.

"It was like winning the Nobel and the Lottery on the same afternoon. Scintillating and scary."
The album included one of McKuen's most popular hits, Love's Been Good to Me.

Dolly Parton, Chet Baker, Glen Campbell and Dusty Springfield are among many artists to have recorded his material.
Rod McKuen  
McKuen's song compositions were used in major film and TV productions, including The Borrowers and Cheers
In the US at least, though, he remains best known for his poetry. He published 30 volumes in all, including the best-selling Listen to the Warm.

Born in California in 1933, McKuen ran away from home at 11 to escape an abusive stepfather. He worked as a stuntman, cowboy and DJ before settling in San Francisco, where he began writing poetry.
The St James Encyclopedia of Popular Culture describes McKuen as having been, at his height, "the unofficial poet laureate of America".

In an article in 2008, the Guardian claimed he was the world's most widely-read poet. "It was in that crossover between lyrics and poetry that he flourished," wrote Ben Myers.

"He went from appearing on poetry bills with Kerouac and Ginsberg to being a far greater seller of poetry than either."

"I think it's a reaction people are having against so much insanity in the world," McKuen once said of how his poetry was embraced.

"I mean, people are really all we've got. You know it sounds kind of corny, and I suppose it's a cliche, but it's really true; that's just the way it is."

Time to end on one of my favourite tracks from Rod.....

Tempus fugit

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8. Poetry Friday - A January Dandelion

On this cold January day I am sharing a poem from African-American Poetry of the Nineteenth Century: An Anthology (University of Illinois Press, 1992).

A January Dandelion
by George Marion McClellan

All Nashville is a chill. And everywhere
Like desert sand, when the winds blow,
There is each moment sifted through the air,
A powdered blast of January snow.
O! thoughtless Dandelion, to be misled
By a few warm days to leave thy natural bed,
Was folly growth and blooming over soon.

Read the poem in its entirety.

I do hope you'll take some time to check out all the wonderful poetic things being shared and collected today by Paul at These 4 Corners. Happy poetry Friday friends!

P.S. - Do visit Michelle at Today's Little Ditty to read all the wonderful poems written in this month's challenge, posed by Joyce Sidman. (I have a poem there!)

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9. Interesting blog posts about writing – w/e January 30th 2015

Here’s my selection of interesting (and sometimes amusing) posts about writing from the last week


The Hunt is On! How to Find an Agent (Janice Hardy)


Do Contest Wins Boost Sales? (Maryann Miller)


Red Ink In the Trenches: A Copyeditor’s Perspective (Dario Ciriello)


Your Inner Author Nagging (Mary Keeley)


Is it Time to Quit Your Day Job? (Rachelle Gardner)


How Are You Going To Succeed As a Writer? (Cathy Yardley)


Characters Who Care (Mary Kole)


Working With a Cover Designer: Time-Saving Techniques (Elizabeth Spann Craig)


Why an Agent’s List is Never Full (Janet Kobobel Grant)


How Not to Fumble Your Social Media Presence (James Scott Bell) JON’S PICK OF THE WEEK


Two Red-Flag Sentences in Publishing Contracts (Victoria Strauss)


If you found these useful, you may also like my personal selection of the most interesting blog posts from 2014, and last week’s list.

If you have a particular favorite among these, please let the author know (and me too, if you have time). Also, if you've a link to a great post that isn't here, feel free to share.

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10. Watch: Seth MacFarlane’s ‘Ted 2′ Trailer

Here's the trailer for Seth MacFarlane's "Ted 2," which will be released by Universal on June 26.

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11. Ella: The Hipster Children’s Book

Children’s book author Mallory Kasdan has a new book out that Vogue is calling “a sort of Eloise for the hipster generation.”

Ella, which came out last week from Viking Children’s Books is about a six-year-old who lives at the Local Hotel in Brooklyn, which bears a close resemblance to the Wyeth Hotel. The book features illustrations by Marcos Chin.

Here is more about Ella from Kasdan’s website:

She has a nanny called Manny. He has tattoos for sleeves and he might go in with some guys to buy a grilled cheese truck. Sometimes Ella weaves purses out of Ziploc bags and reclaimed twine. (She is artsy of course.) She has a dog named Stacie and a fish named Rasta and a scooter which is important for getting everywhere she needs to be.

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12. Library Book Returned 65 Years Late

What’s the longest you’ve ever held on to a library book? Hopefully less time than Sir Jay Tidmarsh.

The eighty-two year-old UK man checked out a book from his school library 65 years ago and only recently returned it. He paid the library a £1,500 fine to make up for his overdue book.

The Guardian has the scoop:

Sir Jay Tidmarsh, 82, came across the long-forgotten copy of Ashenden by W Somerset Maughan as he cleared out his shelves. The former businessman opened the cover and spotted the stamp of his old school inside, which he had left in 1949.

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13. Water For Elephants to Be Adapted Into a Musical

water for elephantsPeter Schneider and Elisabetta di Mambro, two producers, have picked up the worldwide rights to adapt Sara Gruen’s Water For Elephants into a musical. The production team hopes to have a Broadway run for this show.

Gruen will be involved with the creative process for this theatrical project. She originally wrote the book for National Novel Writing Month; Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill published it in May 2006.

Here’s more from The Hollywood Reporter: “The Depression-era novel, which has been published in 43 countries and has sold more than 10 million copies worldwide, follows aspiring veterinarian Jacob Jankowski as he joins the staff of Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth, working with the circus’ new elephant. He bonds with the show’s equestrian star, who is married to its charismatic but troubled animal superintendent. The love-triangle title was previously adapted into a 2011 film starring Reese Witherspoon, Robert Pattinson and Christoph Waltz.”

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14. Ruff Life Visits East Midlands Retail Outlet


We are so excited.  On Sunday we get to do our biggest show so far; B R Tracey will be there to sign your copy of It's a Ruff Life. We also have some other wonderful Ruff Life merchandise that you can buy.

L & N have been really busy building our first Ruff Life app game - it's really cool with lots of images of ME and Max. You'll be able to try it out and then download it yourself for FREE.

We're also running a FREE book competition for the next few shows; win a signed copy of Diamond in the Ruff.

Come and visit us on 1st February at the East Midlands Designer Outlet Retail Park and join in the fun.

iBella & Max

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15. Prompt: It’s a Hard Life – Yes, I’m Being Sarcastic

Pick a random word and do Google image search on it. Check out the eleventh picture it brings up. Write about whatever that image brings to mind.

eskimo First of all, you’re probably wondering how I came up with the word “Eskimo”. Well. Kevin and I do not sleep together. He uses a sleep apnea machine and sounds like Darth Vader, I’m a fish – I flop constantly because I can never find a comfortable spot.

If we don’t sleep together, then we actually get some sleep.

We switch off between the bed in our bedroom and the futon with an air mattress in the man cave (i.e. the screen-in back porch that Kevin enclosed and made into his office). This week, it’s Kevin’s turn on the futon. So. He’s in there stripping off blankets (because I’m hot throughout the day, but for some reason, when I go to sleep, my body temperature drops and I FREEZE – hence the multiple blankets). And he laughed and said, “What are you, Eskimo?” at about the same time I was looking at this prompt …

The picture of the woman above – the first thing I think of when I look at her is, “ugh – no teeth.” The second thing I think of is “look at those wrinkles. I bet she’s really about 30.”

I’m not trying to be snarky. When I look at her face the one word that comes to mind is “rough.”

She looks like she’s had a rough life. I bet she’s had to work tooth and nail (no pun intended) for every little thing she’s ever acquired or owned in her lifetime. I imagine her to have grown children with three or four grandchildren. I can see her getting up at 4:00 in the morning to begin her day. I bet she spends the majority of her days preparing to survive her day and upcoming night. I bet she makes all of her own breads and comes up with creative ways to cook meals given her harsh environment. I’m sure she can skin a fish faster than I can skin a banana.

And I bet she’s happy. She’s content with her life because she was conditioned to live this harsh life. She has purpose. She’s never idle. There is a reason for everything she does. Sitting down is a luxury.

But laughter comes easily for her. She is respected and she is likely more healthy than 60% of lazy Americans. She has a lot to say and a lot to contribute, but she respects her husband and allows him to make the majority of decisions.

And she doesn’t resent him for it.

I compare my life to my preconceived notions of this woman’s life and I come up short. Way short. I’m lazy and spoiled compared to this woman. I take my life luxuries for granted and though I work hard, my efforts are minuscule in comparison. I can not IMAGINE living my life in such a harsh and unforgiving environment – I like my electricity and fast food restaurants. I like my conveniences and instant entertainment.

Though I can’t imagine my life like this woman’s, I’m quite certain I COULD live my life like her, if I was forced to. I wouldn’t like it, it would be incredibly hard and a huge adjustment, but I could, and would, do it if it meant making a life for myself, or my family.

Life is about surviving, not simply existing.

Filed under: Daily Prompt

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16. Artist of the Day: Lucrèce Andreae

Discover the work of Lucrèce Andreae, Cartoon Brew's Artist of the Day!

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17. How to make an M.C. Escher inspired tessellation in Illustrator

Final MetamorphosisTessellation-01So exactly how do you go about morphing (blending) in order to create a M.C. Escher inspired tessellation.  You need to know how to use the Blend Tool, Live Paint and Symbols.

Download this .pdf file to see the process I developed: MCEscher morphing in Illustrator

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18. Animation Exhibition in Mexico

"Watch Me Move," an exhibition that explores the art form of animation from its origins to the present day, is currently on display at the Museo Marco in Monterrey, Mexico through March 1. (link to video)

Museo Marco website

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19. Colleen McCullough Has Died

The Thorn BirdsAustralian author Colleen McCullough has died. She was 77 years old.

BBC News reports that McCullough wrote and published 25 novels throughout her career. She became well-known for her 1977 book, The Thorn Birds, which was adapted into a popular television mini-series in 1983.

Here’s more from The Huffington Post: “The paperback rights for The Thorn Birds sold for a then record $1.9 million and was made into one of the most watched miniseries of all time, starring Richard Chamberlain and Rachel Ward. The book sold 30 million copies worldwide.”

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20. Hoshi no Samidare: The Lucifer and the Biscuit Hammer Review

Title: Hoshi no Samidare: The Lucifer and Biscuit Hammer Genre: Action, Drama, Romance, Slice of Life Publisher: Shonen Gahosha (JP), Crunchyroll (US) Story/Artist: Satoshi Mizukami Serialized in: Young King Ours Reviewed: Volume 1 & 2 of 12 Review copy provided by Crunchyroll. The Lucifer and the Biscuit Hammer holds a dubious honor in the US manga publishing world for being licensed ... Read more

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21. ZigZag Style

WFTA 2013 blue

Every year I create a poster for our local Humane Society that promotes their most important fundraising event, The Walk For The Animals. For 2013 they asked me if I would design an image that could be screen-printed onto T-Shirts. I jumped at the opportunity. Then I learned that I could only use the limited colors from the logo, no gradients, and no special effects. I love a challenge.


Also, I love the graphic black and white work of Rockwell Kent. With such a limited palette, he like many of his contemporaries defined form via silhouette shadows and then gave the illusion of 3-D with fine lines and zigzag shapes along the transitional edges between white and black.  

Using Rockwell Kent’s style as my inspiration, I developed a process in Adobe Illustrator that uses flat opaque color but along transitional edges I applied a zigzag pattern. From normal viewing distance, the zigzag “softens” the stark change from dark to light as our human eyes close in the gaps. Close up the zigzags add an almost woodcut feel.

How was this done?

  1. The black lines were created with the Pen Tool and then I adjusted their weights using the Variable Width Tool.
  2. The shadows and highlights were drawn on separate Layers (without zigzags).
  3. I built about four different pattern brushes from triangles.
  4. I applied a pattern brush to a portion of a shadow’s edge (only the portion transitioning from dark to light).
  5. I adjusted the pattern brush with the Variable Width Tool.
  6. I repeated steps 4 and 5 for all the shadow and highlight shapes. When all the shadows and highlights had zigzags and variable widths, I used Expand Appearance to make them permanent.
  7. I used either Unite or Merge from Pathfinder, to finalize the shapes with zigzag edges.
  8. Lastly I recolored the shapes. 

When done the final image has moved past Rockwell Kent’s style into a new derivative. I think that is how it should be. Digital art learns from the past and builds upon it, making imagery that exceeds boundaries.

Close up2 Close up 3

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22. Writers and the Bottle

Why are people so interested in drunk writers? Recently I was sent a very interesting nonfiction book, The Trip to Echo Spring: On Writers and Drinking, by Olivia Laing, for a review. I couldn't review it. It's an anecdotal study of several American writers, including John Berryman, Tennessee Williams, John Cheever, and Raymond Carver (all [...]

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23. M.C. Escher inspired Tessellation

Final MetamorphosisTessellation-01

It seemed to me that if M.C. Escher had Adobe Illustrator that he could have developed his metamorphosis tessellations with a bit more ease. At least that was my initial thought. Once I got into the development of this piece I soon realized that using Illustrator really did not make the process any easier. As with all vector art, the building of the shapes and then the rendering of the shadows took a lot of time.

The effort was worth it. I now have a solid process figured out and look forward to developing more metamorphosis tessellations.


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24. Crazybusy Week

But in a good way. It’s always nice to be busy with work. Especially the paying sort. Of course, I suppose if I didn’t enjoy the non-paying kind, I wouldn’t make time for it. Well, I guess this week I didn’t find time for it (Downton recap is way late, etc), but that’s okay. It all balances out in the long run.

Something I did do this week—and had a blast at—was give a talk on poetry to a group of mothers from my local homeschooling group. My friend Erica invited me, and our friend Lisa hosted the gathering, and I got to talk about poetry nonstop for 90 minutes! Which is pretty much heaven. I shared my approach to the poetry workshops I do with kids. Their kids, actually—the talk came about after one of our Poetry Club meetings, when I was filling the moms in on what we’d discussed, and someone joked that she could use a refresher course in this stuff herself. :)

So we set aside an evening and had ourselves a nice long chat about types of meter, literary tropes, and poetry analysis. Did close readings of a couple of poems, including my favorite of Shakespeare’s sonnets: #29,

When, in disgrace with fortune and men’s eyes,
I all alone beweep my outcast state,
And trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries,
And look upon myself and curse my fate,
Wishing me like to one more rich in hope,
Featured like him, like him with friends possessed,
Desiring this man’s art and that man’s scope,
With what I most enjoy contented least;
Yet in these thoughts myself almost despising,
Haply I think on thee, and then my state,
(Like to the lark at break of day arising
From sullen earth) sings hymns at heaven’s gate;
       For thy sweet love remembered such wealth brings
       That then I scorn to change my state with kings.
I adore this one because first of all, it sounds like something Scott would say (in slightly more contemporary language, mayhap*). And also because I find it hilarious—and absolutely true to form—that Shakespeare of all people is bemoaning his own talent, wishing he could write like some other guy. Nearly every writer and artist I know feels that same way. You always wish you were better, faster, more lyrical, more succinct, more visionary, something.
*”Slightly” because we do seem to have a taste for archaic language in this household. “Mayhap,” for example. A total Scott word.
 And tonight I’m off to a fun event: the Local Authors Reception at the San Diego Public Library. Every year the library organizes a display of books published in the past year by authors who live in the area. Last time around, a stomach bug hit my gang on the day, and I had to miss the event. So tonight will be my first time. Looking forward to it! Have no idea what to wear.
Posts look weird in readers now if you don’t include an image, so here’s a picture of some color therapy I indulged in last night after the week’s deadline was met. Paint = magic.
Bad lighting but swoony colors nonetheless. The stripes at the bottom are mixes I was playing with. I find I’m most enchanted by the grey at top right, a blend of Burnt Sienna and Phthalo Blue. On the page it separates out in places to tiny swirls of rose or blue. Swoony. I quite like the leaf green in that right column, too, a mix of Hansa Yellow Medium and Phthalo Green (blue shade).
But all those “FU” abbreviations are making me giggle. French Ultramarine, of course.
Sheesh, I’d better get going or I will have to show up at the reception tonight in ripped jeans and dripping hair. Offscreen life takes so much effort!

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25. Upcoming Book Events for February and March 2015 Domestic & International

United States Upcoming Book Events for February and March 2015

American Library Association (ALA) Midwinter Meeting
Where: Chicago, IL
When: Jan. 30th – Feb. 3rd 2015
Web site: http://exhibitors.ala.org/

Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators
Where: NY, NY
When: Feb. 6-8, 2015
Web site: http://www.scbwi.org/2015-annual-winter-conference-in-new-york/

San Francisco Writers Conference
Where: San Francisco
When: February 12-15, 2015
Web site: https://sfwriters.org/

West Coast Writers Conference – The Big Story
Where: Van Nuys, Calif.
When: February 20-22, 2015
Web site: www.wcwriters.com/genrela/index.html

SleuthFest 2015
Where: Orlando, Fla.
When: Feb. 26–Mar. 1, 2015
Web site: http://sleuthfest.com/

International Upcoming Book Events for February and March 2015

Cairo International Book Fair, 
Where: Cairo, Egypt
When: January - February 2015
Web site: http://www.cairobookfair.org/

Kolkata Book Fair
Where: Kolkata, India
When: January 28 –February 8, 2015
Web site: http://www.kolkatabookfair.net/information15.php

Jerusalem International Book Fair,
Where: Jerusalem, Israel
When: February 8-12, 2015
Web site: http://www.jerusalembookfair.com/

Taipei International Book Exhibition (TIBE),
Where: Taipei, Taiwan
When: February 11-16, 2015
Web site: http://www.tibe.org.tw/enhtml

San Miguel Writers Conference
Where: San Miguel de Allende, Mexico
When: Feb. 11–15, 2015
Web site: sanmiguelwritersconference2014.org

New Delhi World Book Fair
Where: New Delhi, India
When: Feb. 14–22, 2015
Web site: www.newdelhiworldbookfair.gov.in/

Vilnius Book Fair
Where: Vilnius, Lithuania
When: Feb. 19–22
Web site: http://www.eventseye.com/fairs/f-vilnius-book-fair-4062-1.html

Brussels Book Fair
Where: Brussels, Belgium
When: Feb. 26- MARCH 2, 2015
Web site: flb.be/

Dublin Book Festival
Where: Dublin, Ireland
When: Mar. 4-6, 2015
Web site: http://joobili.com/dublin_book_festival_dublin_12850/

Leipzig Book Fair
Where: Leipzig, Germany
When: Mar. 12–15, 2015
Web site: www.leipziger-buchmesse.de/

Paris Book Fair (Salon du Livre)
Where: Paris, France
When: Mar. 20–23, 2015
Web site: www.salondulivreparis.com/

Bologna Children’s Book Fair
Where: Bologna, Italy
When: Mar. 30–April 2, 2015
Web site: www.bookfair.bolognafiere.it/home/878.html

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