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<<November 2014>>
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26. A Moment with the Art of Lisbeth Zwerger


I’ve got some art here at 7-Imp today from Austrian illustrator Lisbeth Zwerger.

First up are Zwerger’s illustrations—originally created in 2009, I believe—from The Pied Piper of Hamelin, an edition of the story retold by Renate Raecke and translated by Anthea Bell. This was just released in September by Michael Neugebauer Publishing, a.k.a. Minedition. The Kirkus review writes: “This strange and unsettling tale is made all the stranger and more unsettling by Zwerger’s spare, isolated figures in their pale interiors and landscapes.” Today feels like a good day to share such a story, as it seems the entirety of the U.S. feels unsettled — given the news, that is, leaving us heavy-hearted.

Also from Minedition is Zwerger’s vision of The Night Before Christmas. This was released last month, a book with a small, cozy trim size and Zwerger’s take on Clement Clark Moore’s famous poem, first published in the 1800s. Zwerger’s illustrations were originally created in 2005. Pictured above are Dasher, Dancer, and part of the rest of St. Nick’s crew. Pictured right is the man himself, trying to cheer us up.

I’m glad, in both cases, that Minedition has released these new editions. I’m always pleased to see Zwerger’s artwork. She’s one of those illustrators who made me want to study children’s literature. In fact, if you’re a fan too, you may be happy to know this has been released. The copy I ordered finally arrived. In the Foreword, Peter Sís writes: “Her art flows and shines.” Yes, what he said.



From The Pied Piper of Hamelin:


“At first only a few rats came, enticed by all the delicious things to eat in the houses
of Hamelin, but soon there were more and more of them.”

“One day in the year 1284—so the old legend says—a strange man appeared in Hamelin. He was a striking figure, wearing a parti-colored or ‘pied’ robe
such as the townspeople had never seen before.”

“All over town he went, up streets and down alleys, and wherever his music was heard the rats came scurrying out of kitchen and cellars, storerooms and stables,
to follow the Pied Piper.”

“The sorrowful parents hurried out of town to search for their lost children.
All the mothers and fathers were weeping and wailing. …”


From The Night Before Christmas:


“The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow /
Gave a luster of mid-day to objects below …”

“He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot …”

“He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work …”



* * * * * * *

THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS. North American edition published 2014 by Michael Neugebauer Publishing Ltd., Hong Kong. Illustrations reproduced by permission of the publisher.

THE PIED PIPER OF HAMELIN. North American edition published 2014 by Michael Neugebauer Publishing Ltd., Hong Kong. Illustrations reproduced by permission of the publisher.

3 Comments on A Moment with the Art of Lisbeth Zwerger, last added: 11/25/2014
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27. Giveaway: ARC of Wish Girl by Nikki Loftin

By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

Enter to win a signed advanced reader copy of Wish Girl by Nikki Loftin (Razorbill, 2015). Author sponsored. Eligibility: North America. From the promotional copy:

...this lyrical novel that will break your heart and lift your spirit.

Peter Stone’s parents and siblings are extroverts, musicians, and yellers—and the louder they get, the less Peter talks, or even moves, until he practically fits his last name. When his family moves to the Texas Hill Country, though, Peter finds a tranquil, natural valley where he can, at last, hear himself think.

There, he meets a girl his age: Annie Blythe. Annie tells Peter she’s a “wish girl.” But Annie isn’t just any wish girl; she’s a “Make-A-Wish Girl.” And in two weeks she will begin a dangerous treatment to try and stop her cancer from spreading. Left alone, the disease will kill her. But the treatment may cause serious, lasting damage to her brain.

Annie and Peter hatch a plan to escape into the valley, which they begin to think is magical. But the pair soon discovers that the valley—and life—may have other plans for them. And sometimes wishes come true in ways they would never expect.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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28. GraphicAudio Adapts a ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ Prose Novel

GraphicAudio has adapted Guardians of the Galaxy: Rocket Raccoon and Groot – Steal The Galaxy! We’ve embedded a SoundCloud trailer above—what do you think?

This project is based on a Marvel Entertainment prose novel written by Dan Abnett. It features a cast of more than 40 voice actors, original music, and sound effects. Follow this link to listen to a sample snippet.

Here’s more from the press release: “They are not Captain America, Iron Man or Spider-Man, however Rocket Raccoon and the faithful Groot are the baddest heroes in the cosmos, and they’re on the run across the Marvel Universe! During a spaceport brawl, the pair rescues an android Recorder from a pack of alien lizard men. Everyone in the galaxy including the ruthless Kree Empire and the stalwart Nova Corps, seems to want that Recorder for their own power.”

New Career Opportunities Daily: The best jobs in media.

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29. Religion and the paranormal

OUP author Diana Walsh Pasulka recently caught up with fellow scholar of religion Jeffrey J. Kripal, to discuss the study of the supernatural and the paranormal within the university.

Diana Walsh Pasulka: You’ve written about the origin of the term paranormal and its link to the British and American Spiritualist movements. You’ve noted that the paranormal is inextricably linked to the idea of the sacred. How do you see the paranormal as different from the idea of the supernatural, which has traditionally been used to describe events that exceed naturalist explanations, like miracles, for instance?

Jeffrey J. Kripal: As a category or coinage, the paranormal is an attempted secularization of the supernatural. I like to translate it as the “super natural.” This is what the original inventors of the term meant, anyway. They meant to suggest that (a) psychical phenomena were quite real but (b) beyond our present scientific modeling and theorizing. The phenomena in question were thus both “normal” but also “beyond” (para-). Someday, these theorists thought, we would be able to incorporate these phenomena into our understanding of the natural world. So, for example, poltergeist phenomena were read not as the work of “angry ghosts” floating around but as expressions of the “ghosts of anger,” that is, they understood these as exteriorized symbolic expressions of pent-up frustration, conflict or angst. This may have been an advance, but it is still deeply offensive to our rationalisms. How, say, an abused or conflicted adolescent can start the curtains on fire or explode a vase at a distance might still be natural, but this is clearly a nature behaving in some most extraordinary or special ways. This is a kind of supernature.

A 14-year-old domestic servant, Therese Selles, experiences poltergeist / spontaneous PK activity in the home of her employer, the Todeschini family at Cheragas, Algeria, as featured on the cover of the French magazine La Vie Mysterieuse in 1911. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.
A 14-year-old domestic servant, Therese Selles, experiences poltergeist / spontaneous PK activity in the home of her employer, the Todeschini family at Cheragas, Algeria, as featured on the cover of the French magazine La Vie Mysterieuse in 1911. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

Diana Walsh Pasulka: In your most recent work you’ve called for a renewed examination of the supernatural and paranormal aspects of religion. You’ve also noted the irony that scholars of religion have tended to avoid these subjects even as they are presumably at the heart of most religious traditions. Can you say a bit more about how you would like to see this renewed emphasis develop? For example, is this an interdisciplinary project?

Jeffrey J. Kripal: I find it curious that the study of religion has “taken off the table” precisely those anomalous aspects of human experience that lie behind or within some of the most universally distributed religious ideas–say, strikingly real encounters with dead loved ones who carry some empirical information (say, about the means or mode of their death) that in turn give rise to the belief in a surviving “soul.” We are allowed to treat these beliefs as “discourses” or as power-plays, of course, but never as empirical phenomena in their own right. Then we are told that there is nothing essentially “religious” about religion, that it is all just context and construction, which, of course, is perfectly true, since we just took all of the stuff that is not just context and construction off the table. I find this situation circular, inadequate and, above all, depressing. It is not that it is wrong. It is simply that it is half-right. I think it is time to bring the other half back in and re-enchant reason.

Diana Walsh Pasulka: You’ve stated that popular culture has adopted the paranormal elements that have been well documented in the history of religion and folklore. Do you see popular culture, science fiction and superhero movies, for instance, replacing this aspect of religion? Or, perhaps, complimenting it? Or, does this development indicate something entirely different?

Jeffrey J. Kripal: I think the paranormal has migrated into popular culture and entertainment because it has been effectively exiled from both elite intellectual culture (which is more or less controlled now by scientific or Marxist materialism) and, oddly, the religious traditions themselves. But paranormal phenomena are clearly part of our human nature, part of human history. If we will not talk about them either in our public intellectual and scientific lives or in our public religious lives, where are they supposed to go? They will never go away, by the way, not at least as long as we are here, and for one simple reason: they are expressions of us.

Headline image credit: Urach waterfall. CC0 via Pixabay.

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30. 10 more Convergence titles with Wolfman on Titans, Wein on Swamp Thing, etc.

The combination fan wish fulfillment and classic writer comeback that is Convergence—DC’s two month fill in event slated for next March and April while the company moves—have been announced, via The Nerdist and IGN. Once again it’s old  home week with Marv Wolfman writing the Teen titans, Len Wein writing Swamp Thing, and artists including Tim Truman back at DC for one last go round.

This was originally going to be an event that featured a lot of younger creators, and there is one—EGOs artist Gus Storms is drawing the Legion.

BTW this event has gotten less and less attention as the weeks go on. Of course, the timing what with world news, is unfortunate. Also, holiday.

Convergence Adventures of Superman 674x1024 10 more Convergence titles with Wolfman on Titans, Wein on Swamp Thing, etc.

Writer: Marv Wolfman
Artists: Roberto Viacava and Andy Owens
Colorist: Sotocolor
Superman and Supergirl try to escape the city through the Phantom Zone, but they enter a portion they’ve never seen before and learn that Supergirl is destined to die if they return to their proper time and dimension. True story

01 Batman and the Outsiders COLOR 1057x1600 300x454 10 more Convergence titles with Wolfman on Titans, Wein on Swamp Thing, etc.

Writer: Marc Andreyko
Artist: Carlos D’Anda
Colorist: Gabe Eltaeb
After a year under the dome, the Outsiders have gone their separate ways, but when OMAC attacks, Batman must find out if they have what it takes to still be a team.

Convergence Flash 10 more Convergence titles with Wolfman on Titans, Wein on Swamp Thing, etc.

Writer: Dan Abnett
Artist: Federico Dallocchio
Colorist: Veronica Gandini
Trapped in Gotham, Barry Allen has nowhere to run. He fights on, seeking justice as well as a way to save the city. But he faces a Tangent Universe foe that thinks faster than the Flash could ever move.

05 GreenLanternCorps COLOR 1044x1600 10 more Convergence titles with Wolfman on Titans, Wein on Swamp Thing, etc.


Writer: David Gallaher

Artists: Steve Ellis and Ande Parks

Colorist: Hi-Fi
Say the Oath, save the world! If only being the Green Lantern Corps was that easy. Hal has resigned, John is busy, and Guy is pissed. Together for the first time—they’ll save Gotham or die trying.

Convergence Hawkman 615x475 10 more Convergence titles with Wolfman on Titans, Wein on Swamp Thing, etc.


Writer: Jeff Parker

Artists: Tim Truman and Enrique Alcatena

Colorist: John Kalisz
Hawkman and Hawkgirl put their Shadow War on hold as they face the anthropomorphic might of rat-men and bat-men in the deadly land of Kamandi!

06 JLA COLOR 1039x1600 300x461 10 more Convergence titles with Wolfman on Titans, Wein on Swamp Thing, etc.

Writer: Fabian Nicieza
Artist: ChrisCross
Colorist: Snakebite Cortez
With their heavy hitters sidelined, Elongated Man must lead the much-maligned “Detroit Justice League” against the overwhelming power of the heroes from the Tangent Universe!

09 NewTeenTitans COLOR 1041x1600 300x461 10 more Convergence titles with Wolfman on Titans, Wein on Swamp Thing, etc.

Writer: Marv Wolfman
Artists: Nicola Scott and Marc Deering
Colorist: Jeromy Cox
Titans Together! Fighting against the might of the Tangent Universe’s Doom Patrol, we are reminded why this is the greatest Titans team of all.

Convergence Superboy and the Legion of Super Heroes 668x1024 10 more Convergence titles with Wolfman on Titans, Wein on Swamp Thing, etc.


Writer: Stuart Moore

Artists: Gus Storms and Mark Farmer

Colorist: John Rauch
While Brainiac 5 struggles to break through the dome, Superboy tries to keep the Legion of Super-Heroes spirits up—but then the Atomic Knights ride into town.

Convergence Swamp Thing 668x1024 10 more Convergence titles with Wolfman on Titans, Wein on Swamp Thing, etc.

Writer: Len Wein
Artist: Kelley Jones
Colorist: Michelle Madsen
Swamp Thing struggles to survive when the dome cuts off his contact with the Green.

04 WonderWoman COLOR 1006x1528 10 more Convergence titles with Wolfman on Titans, Wein on Swamp Thing, etc.

Writer: Larry Hama
Art and Color: Josh Middleton
White-jumpsuit-clad Diana Prince is in the grips of a Domesday cult when her lover Steve Trevor leaps into the fray to save Etta Candy from vampires of Red Rain.

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31. Holiday mode engage!

ThanksCovs11 Holiday mode engage!

I’m hitting the road for Thanksgiving frolic, so we’re shifting into exciting HOLIDAY mode at the Beat! Oh there will be some news stories, and some GIft Guide suggestions, but also a lot of art and comics recommendations that I’ve been stockpiling for no good reason. Also, Beat contribours will be along with their own gift guide suggestions.

I’m also rounding up Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals, so ping me with those.

Also if you have any suggestions for webcomics to read, gifts to buy, or cranberry sauce recipes, feel free to share in the comments!

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32. Ferguson. Power.

Ferguson, Missouri. Nov. 24, 2014. (Photo by Adrees Latif/Reuters)

from "Power" by Audre Lorde:

I am trapped on a desert of raw gunshot wounds
and a dead child dragging his shattered black
face off the edge of my sleep
blood from his punctured cheeks and shoulders
is the only liquid for miles
and my stomach
churns at the imagined taste while
my mouth splits into dry lips
without loyalty or reason
thirsting for the wetness of his blood
as it sinks into the whiteness
of the desert where I am lost
without imagery or magic
trying to make power out of hatred and destruction
trying to heal my dying son with kisses
only the sun will bleach his bones quicker.

(photo by Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

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33. Mortal Heart (2014)

Mortal Heart. Robin LaFevers. 2014. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 464 pages. [Source: Review copy]

I liked it. I did. I really did. But I'm not sure I LOVED it. I do think it met my expectations, however. I expected it to focus on Annith. I expected it to uniquely tell her story, reveal more of who she is, and what makes her strong. And readers definitely get that. How did Annith come to the convict? What was it like for her to spend her entire life at the convent, to not know what life outside was like? What was it like for her to train all those years, to see others come and go? Has she had an easier time of it than Ismae and Sybella? Why is Annith never the one chosen to go on assignment, long-term or short-term assignment? Does not being chosen mean she's too weak or not trustworthy enough in the Abbess' mind? How does she cope with waiting? These questions are all answered in the third book of the trilogy. If you've dared to find Annith boring or obedient in previous books, you'll be challenged.

I did come to like Annith, to appreciate her story. (Sybella's story, I believe, remains my favorite.) And I did like the romance. I don't think I can say one word about the romance. If you haven't read it, then that might make no sense since usually, I don't consider naming a potential love interest a spoiler. But if you have read it, you probably can guess why I'm afraid of spoiling things. I will say I thought it was well done. I wasn't disappointed by it. (I think Sybella and Beast remain my favorite couple, however.)

I also really liked that half the book brings us back into company with Ismae and Duval and Sybella and the Beast. The first half of the book covers almost the same time period as Grave Mercy and Dark Triumph. The last half is more of a sequel, the plot progresses forward. Readers spend time with Duchess Anne and those close to her. What does Brittany's future look like? Will Anne ever have enough military support to hold onto Brittany's independence? Will the French be successful? How many will lose their lives in war to fight for the country they love?

While all three books have teased readers with mythology, with world-building, this one I think does so even more. I solidly like it. I do. I would definitely recommend people finish the series if they've enjoyed the previous books.

© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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34. Some people smarter than I

baby foot in mouth 200px Some people smarter than IWhile putting my thoughts back in to fully bake–just kidding, I’ve ditched that recipe–I wanted to share some of the valuable links people provided in the comments to my last post and on Facebook. And let me say again how grateful I am for your bearing with me. I think a lot about what it means to be a man in children’s books (why, for example, do so many of us talk about book awards like they are sports?) but my post of last Friday was not only half-baked, it was clueless as to what was happening in the kitchen and the nation.

So here’s some reality. Jackie Woodson has issued a statement in which she is definitely taking the high road:

“I’d rather continue to move the dialogue forward in a positive light rather than a negative one. This is a moment when our country can grow and learn and better understand each other. It would be nice to put the energy back where it should be — on the books and what the books are saying and doing – Redeployment is an astounding novel, Glück is nothing short of an amazing poet. I don’t know Osnos’ book yet but I plan to read it. Brown Girl Dreaming is about writing and about the history of this country. But more than that, it’s about what this conversation should be — a coming to understanding across lines of race.”

Here is a link to Nikky Finney’s “Choking on a Watermelon.” And David Perry’s post, which was one of the first critiques I saw. Laura Ruby shared this beautiful post from Ashley Ford; and Sarah Hamburg provided some historical context with Ta-Nehisi Coates’ thoughts on Forest Whittaker’s encounter with racism in an UWS deli. And I am very grateful to have found a comparison-gainer, thanks to Kate Messner, in a Princeton freshman who has “checked his privilege and apologizes for nothing.”

Please also see relevant Horn Book resources, which Elissa and Katie began curating after we published Christopher Myers’s “Young Dreamers,” one of the most important essays I’ve seen come through this office and for which I will be forever grateful to Christopher for sending it our way.

That’s it for today–I am now off to engage in the annual bloody battle also known as the Fanfare discussion.



share save 171 16 Some people smarter than I

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35. Dragon Stew Class 4

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36. My First Author/Illustrator Skype Visit: What I Learned, What I'd Do Differently Next Time

Skyping with 115 first-graders at A. Blair McPherson School in Edmonton, Alberta

Although I've used Skype before, I resisted doing Skype classroom visits until recently because I wasn't confident about the technology working properly. Since I first tried Skype, however, broadband services have improved and more schools are starting to do Skype visits with authors and illustrators.

Other reasons I decided to explore visiting schools via Skype:

- I lack the time and finances to visit schools outside of the Toronto area. I also don't drive, which makes transportation more of a hassle and time-consuming.

- I had so much fun talking to young readers during my NAKED! book tour (thanks, Simon & Schuster!) that I want to do more often than I have in the past, but am limited by the reasons mentioned above.

- Although I know it can't replace in-person visits, virtual school visits enable me to use more props in my presentations, a wider range of art supplies, show students around my home office, be able to pull out musical instruments (I have many) on whim.

- I know some schools can't afford a full school visit, so I decided to offer a 15-20 minute quickie visit. Those who want a longer visit can pay my regular fee. I'm also relatively new to school visits, so this also gives schools an idea of what I'm like in person. When I do my next book tour, whether sponsored by one of my publishers or funded on my own, hopefully some of these schools will be interested in having me visit.

What I did before my first Skype visit:

- I researched a TON, searching online for blog posts by children's book authors and illustrators who have done Skype visits, as well as posts by teachers and librarians about Skype visits. I was especially interested in posts by children's book illustrators, since we have the advantage of being able to do drawing demos. :-)

- I talked to my friend Lee Wardlaw, who was also my first children's book writing mentor. Lee has a huge amount of experience presenting at schools and bookstores in person as well as via Skype. Do check out her Presentations page as well as her Secrets To A Successful Skype Visit for educators.

- I worked with teacher-librarian Arlene Lipkewich and A. Blair McPherson for my very first school Skype visit. I started with a Skype test call with Arlene and another teacher, then a Skype call with Mrs. Brooke's second grade class. Arlene gave me useful feedback which I used to tweak my setup and presentation before I Skyped with five classes (115 students) of first-graders the following week. Thanks you, Arlene and A. Blair McPherson!

- I collected some of the useful resources I've found on my Skype School Visit Page for teachers and librarians as well as children's book authors and illustrators.

What I learned and what I'd do differently next time:

- It's sooooooo much more fun than I expected!

- I strongly recommend doing a Skype test call in advance of each Skype visit as well as just before the visit itself. I found this a great way of identifying potential problems and fixing them.

- Make sure you leave time for a Q&A, and coordinate with the teacher ahead of time so that he/she is able to have students prepare questions in advance.

- Figure out how to make my own screen bigger so I can see what the kids are seeing. Try to place this screen behind the webcam so I'm looking at the camera, not away.

- If I do painting, I will NOT set the paint cups on my desk where it's way too easy for me to knock them over in the middle of the Skype session (fortunately I didn't have much liquid in each)!

- Figure out how to mute the audio on my computer so I just hear it on my headphones. I found the echo a bit confusing, and was also worried about the echo leaking through into my microphone.

Some useful resources:

Please do check out the resource list I've compiled for teachers/librarians and authors/illustrators to my Skype page; I'll be gradually updating it.

Interested in having me do a Skypevisit with your school or library? Please see the info on DebbieOhi.com/skype. Hope to visit with you soon!



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37. Band Aid (an infographic)

On this day in 1984, musical aficionados from the worlds of pop and rock came together to record the iconic ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas?’ single for Band Aid. The single has gone down in history as an example of the power of music to help right the wrongs in the world. The song leapt to the number one spot over the Christmas of 1984, selling over a million copies in under a week and totalling sales of three million by the end of that year. The Band Aid super-group featured the cream of eighties pop, including David Bowie, Phil Collins, George Michael, Sting, Cliff Richard and Paul McCartney.

The sales target for the single was £70,000, all of which was to be donated to the African famine relief fund. With support from Radio 1 DJs and a Top of the Pops Christmas Special, sales sky-rocketed and Geldof, feeling the strength of public opinion behind him, went toe-to-toe with the conservative government in an attempt to have tax on the single waived. Margaret Thatcher initially refused the plea, but as public outcry grew, Thatcher caved-in to public demands and the tax on sales worth nearly £9 million was donated back to charity.

Bob Geldof and a host of artists old and new have re-recorded the single to help raise funds to stem the Ebola crisis. Our infographic marks the 30th anniversary of the original recording and illustrates the movers and shakers that made this monumental milestone in pop history possible.


To view free articles examining the cause, the people, and the music, you can open the graphic as a PDF.

Headline image credit: Live Aid at JFK Stadium, Philadelphia, 1985. CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

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38. When Your Novel Writing Clicks

January 2015 Writer's Digest Novel WritingLight-bulb moments. Aha moments. Flashes of recognition. Revelations. Call them whatever you like. I like to think of them as clicks.

In the writing life, the best kind of click is that moment something makes you realize exactly what’s been missing from the not-quite-right scene you’ve been working on. Or the instant you put two plot points together and suddenly have a clear view of what’s really beneath your character’s behavior. Or the random tip on plot structure that magically conjures for you a map of how everything in your messy draft might fit together after all.

Clicks. They’re satisfying, exciting, inspiring, invigorating. And they’re the stuff writers live for.

The January 2015 Writer’s Digest—devoted to all things novel writing—releases today, and I’m so excited to finally be able to offer you a preview of what’s inside. We’ve done our best to fill this issue with the types of craft advice and writing techniques that help things click into place. Because whether your own moments of realization are quiet head nods or loud exclamations of triumph, as subtle as the click of a key in a lock or dramatic as a stack of papers launched into the air, we know it’s the bits of advice that resonate that can make all the difference for your novel-in-progress.

First, award-winning novelist David Corbett shares what made his own characters finally click on the page—and how you can paint more effective pictures of the players in your own stories, too. Then, longtime contributor Elizabeth Sims details techniques for mastering one of the most notoriously difficult elements of fiction: dialogue. Bestselling novelist Steven James shows you precisely how to manage the flow of tension and conflict in your story—through multiple plot points, climaxes, subplots and more. Therapist-turned-writer Tracey Barnes Priestley delves into the real reasons “Why So Many Writers Give Up Mid-Novel—and How Not to Be One of Them.” And four bestselling series writers take you behind the scenes with their iconic characters to show you what it is that gives a novel that special something that makes readers want another installment, and another, and another.

We all know that writing a novel isn’t easy. But in those moments that something clicks, suddenly anything seems possible. Here’s to many ahas on the pages—and in the new year—ahead.

Get your copy of our “This Is the Year You Write That Novel!” issue on your favorite newsstand starting today, or download the January 2015 Writer’s Digest and start reading right now.

Happy Writing,
Jessica Strawser
Editor, Writer’s Digest Magazine
Follow me on Twitter @jessicastrawser.

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39. Happy Thanksgiving!

Too Many Turkeys

By Linda White; illustrated by Megan Lloyd


I don’t know about you, but when I sit down to Thanksgiving dinner, there is always a twinge of guilt. My youngest daughter ALWAYS says a prayer for the noble bird that sits glistening on our festive table. Maybe you have young ones that have a similar feeling and if you do, “Too Many Turkeys” is at first glance, a very deceiving title as to where it is headed. But it will make kids feel good about toms in general and the story and illustrations are chock a block with turkeys.

It’s the story of Belle and Fred, their tiny farm and the “added benefits” for gardens that come with a turkey who wanders onto the farm. At first glance Belle is horrified at the thought of her prize garden rampaged by the “infernal mess” the turkey, they name Buford, will make. Well, Buford DOES make a mess, but it is a mess with benefits!

Suddenly Belle’s gardens are the envy of her neighbors. A new ingredient has been added, courtesy of Buford! Belle smile benignly and says when asked, “What’s the secret?”, Belle innocently replies, “My special formula fertilizer. A little of this, a smidge of that.” It’s a smidge all right – a smidge from Buford!

The fly er turkey in the ointment is the allure of Belle’s veggie garden and the tiny farm is soon awash with tons of OTHER turkeys. Tricks of every sort are devised by Fred to fool the tenacious turkeys and get them “off the farm.” Well sir, the jig is up and the only way to see clear of this sea of turkeys is a bit of old fashioned neighborliness.

Fred trades Belle’s secret formula for her lush gardens ( and even a generous portion of her secret, for the help of their neighbors in finding new homes for the pervasive poults!

Some of Belle’s seeds, a bunch of the “secret ingredients” plus a turkey each, depart with every helpful neighbor. One hand washes the other, as they say.

All find homes save Buford who, if your young readers peer under the porch on the last page, has found his turkey soul mate and will be “talking turkey” again to Belle and Fred!

Bountiful gardens are no accident and for the agro-interested, this turkey tale is timely for Thanksgiving! Gobble gobble! Happy Thanksgiving Buford!  


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40. Lee James Turnock's Fat A**e -And I'm Not Being Personal!

Lee James Turnock
The Comix Company
32 pages (saddle stitched)

Colour cover/ B&W interior
Sized to 5 ½” x 7 ¼”  (A5/Digest)

UK Prices and ordering: http://thecomixcompany.ecrater.com/p/21025334/fat-arse-lee-james-turnock?keywords=Fat+Arse

Britain's least known Underground cartoonist returns with this seasonal medley of yoks, bitter satire, and tits!!! In addition to his own fantastic comix, Lee welcomes writers Philip Neill and Rob Filth into the fold for some nasty laffs business! Never mind the bollocks, Lee James Turnock's got a FAT ARSE!!!

Well, we do not have a mainstream comics industry in the UK so it's no surprise that we do not have an Underground Comix industry!

And for those who think "Underground Comix" is just a term covering filthy schoolboy humour...well, it isn't but I'm losing my arguement if we're talking Mr Turnock's work -to a degree.

I do know that it m,ay not be everyone's "cup of tea"  but comic books cover all genres.  Live with it. There are some quite funny if "smutty" strips in this book and a few "pin up" pages.  Lots of nice stipling and cross-hatching and you can see that, back when we did have a comics industry, Turnock would probably have earned a good living -the styles are ones that could be used outside Underground Comix quite easily -and often were.

But the art immediately shouts out "LJT" and I'm glad his work is getting printed even if he has to find a publisher outside the UK.

Worth a few quid -oh: don't forget he also has a blog where you can see his artwork at: http://leejamesturnock.blogspot.co.uk/

Support UK talent! 

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41. Submitting to Agents: What Not to Do

Or maybe this post would be better titled, What to Do Proofread and, if necessary, hire a copyeditor.

I've already been very honest about my shortcomings when it comes to grammar and punctuation so when I come across a query where I can see tons of grammar and punctuation problems I know there are problems.

Your query reflects your manuscript in every way and if its riddled with errors I'm going to be fairly certain your manuscript looks the same. Think of your query as the first page of your manuscript. You wouldn't send the book out until its shiny and perfect. Your query is no different.


0 Comments on Submitting to Agents: What Not to Do as of 11/25/2014 10:08:00 AM
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42. Want some valuable comics? Try these rare small press books

Well, sort of. It’s well known that some used book prices on Amazon are just kind of…loony. Take for instance, Monsters Want some valuable comics? Try these rare small press books by Ken Dahl, an excellent book about a guy who thinks he has herpes by Ken Dahl, published by Secret Acres but now out of print. (A new edition is planned for next year.) In the meantime, you can get a used copy for a mere $394.94… or brand new for $11,964.08.


Is this real? I doubt it. I know most of these books mentioned below can be found placidly waiting in bargain boxes at cons. Paging Frank Santoro!

I know a lot of old manga books do legit go for some high prices. For instance, TokyoPop’s Rave Master (4,5,6,7,8,9) Want some valuable comics? Try these rare small press books in a nice set, goes for $168 in library binding (that’s hardcover) and
but $8,038.21 used. And they wonder why people turn to piracy! 

Some other pricey old books: Battle Royale Ultimate Edition Volume 5 (v. 5) Want some valuable comics? Try these rare small press books = $499.00

Julie Doucet & Michel Go W/DVD Want some valuable comics? Try these rare small press books – $173.16

The recent Passion of Gengoroh Tagame Want some valuable comics? Try these rare small press books by now defunct Picturebox is listed at $226.73 used, and $598.77 new. I know this book does have a loyal fetish following so…supply and demand.

Another Picturebox book, C.F.: Powr Mastrs Vol. 1  Want some valuable comics? Try these rare small press books by Fort Thunder alum CF is listed at $134.62 used, $154.47 new. Glad I saved my copies!

TeratoidHeights Want some valuable comics? Try these rare small press books

Digging around some more long gone publishers, I found this from Highwater, Mat Brinkman’s Teratoid Heights Want some valuable comics? Try these rare small press books at $220.00. That was a great book!

And then there’s Buenaventura Press, which published Souvlaki Circus by finnish artist Amanda Vähämäki Want some valuable comics? Try these rare small press books $265.35 used, or $331.68 new/

Oddly, the book that you’d think would be the most valuable, the huge epic Kramers Ergot 7 Want some valuable comics? Try these rare small press books goes for a mere $140.00 used and only $112.50 new! The retail price was $125 so this is a bargain. Some people in the comments mention copies going for $1000 back in the day—the print run was destroyed by mold under mysterious circumstances—but obviously now its just another large, beautiful object to keep around the house.

Not just out of business publishers. I checked Dark Horse and found The Hellboy Collection: The Story So Far Volumes 1-7 Bundle Want some valuable comics? Try these rare small press books going for $2,881.50. I used to have all these but I think I sold them to the Strand for $20. =(

The moral of the story? Never throw anything out! I don’t!

3 Comments on Want some valuable comics? Try these rare small press books, last added: 11/25/2014
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43. Face-Lift 1240

Guess the Plot

Aliens, White Fur and Troubles

1. The eyes of Kaylee's white cat Trouble are different colors--all three of them.

2. Name three things you get with the Kardashians.

3. Natasha Brodski learns the hard way what NOT to declare on her US customs form.

4. Black cat Dagger is assigned the task of training a rookie in the fine art of catjitsu, so that the two of them can guard the extra lives chest from invisible aliens. Trouble arrives when the rookie turns out to be a huge white dog that stinks like . . . a dog.

5. Beau Pontmercy is tracking the legendary Great White Moose across the Canadian wilderness when he sees blue lights and hears an eerie keening. As he loads his trusty flintlock he knows whatever scared off his game is about to find more trouble than they ever expected.

6. White Fur feels a special bond with Leoma, the beautiful Latino who rubs his ears every time she feeds him pellets. When the mean pet store owner steals Leoma's green card, White Fur plots to bring him down. But what can one albino guinea pig do?

7. To save the polar bears and protect their Fall outerwear collection, fashionistas from Unitard IV want to plunge Earth into a new ice age. PETA activitist Acocado Sunshine and supermodel-climatologist Adriana Jaeger have three days to convince the Unitardians that faux is fab... and then save the polar bears.

8. The Tribbles are back, this time with white fur and as big [and nasty] as polar bears. Can the crew of the Enterprise MCMLVII overcome, as Tribbles eat and reproduce and take over an entire planet?

9. Roger parked his pickup in front of Home Depot and pointed to the three strongest-looking candidates. He had no idea they were albino werewolves. Now there are blood trails leading to his yard, neighborhood pets gone missing, and the only way he's going to get his garage finished in time to sell the house is to add another shift of cheap labor. Luckily the Home Depot is now open late, and he's found a few men who seem more than happy to work only at night.

10. Polar Bear Krug thought he had enough to worry about with the ice cap shrinking and fish stocks diminishing but that was before those Northern Lights brought strange little green people and their painful probes. Or was that the result of eating tundra moss?

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

Dagger, a black warrior cat of the Feline Guard Corps, is not a team player. He’s order-obeying [obedience?] challenged and prefers fighting vicious lycis –aliens invisible to humans– single-pawed and without backup. After disobeying Captain Slash’s orders once [yet] again, Dagger is punished in a singular way; [:] he has to train a rookie [the newest recruit] or Slash will take fifteen of his [Dagger's] twenty-seven lives. [Is there a good reason this isn't 5 of his 9 lives?] Losing so many lives without fighting is a humiliation Dagger can’t tolerate, but [Luckily,] for the best fighter in town [, training] a rookie is not a big deal. Except that the rookie isn’t a cat but a huge, white dog named Alka.

That’s a tragedy. How is Dagger supposed to teach the fine art of the catjitsu to a dog, who moreover has a white coat? [I'd move that sentence to the end of the previous paragraph.] On top of that, the Cat Intelligence Agency has evidence that the lycis know where the Lives Chest –the container of the guards’ extra lives- is and want to destroy it. Without those extra lives killing the guards will be easier [to kill], and the lycis will have a free hand on Earth, eating everything that moves and doesn’t speak Lyciese. [Including cars and boats?]

As [Of course] the mission to protect the Chest is assigned to Dagger and his rookie [Alka.] To succeed Dagger has [will somehow have] to overcome his prejudice against dogs –especially [big, goofy, slobbery,] white ones– and train Alka. But he’s optimistic. [But hey,] If he can endure a dog’s stench, he can probably do anything.

ALIENS, WHITE FUR AND TROUBLES is a Middle Grade fantasy novel complete at 50.000 words.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Best regards


Sounds like a winner. I see it as a future graphic novel and a Pixar animated feature.

Most of my suggestions are nitpicks. Ignore those you hate.

Did you consider making Dagger a female? Surely cats are enlightened enough to allow women in the military, which would make Dagger a great role model for girls. Besides, cats are girls and dogs are boys.

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44. Let’s get dangerous: Darkwing Duck writing credit kerfuffle

Darkwing Cover by lazesummerstone Lets get dangerous: Darkwing Duck writing credit kerfuffle

This thing is going on with a new publisher called Joe Books, and the credits on Boom! Studio’s long ago (2010) Darkwing Duck series. Yes. The Outhouse has a succinct round-up but as best as I can make out, here’s what happened:

* In 2010 Boom! published a Darkwing Duck comic book, edited by Aaron Sparrow and written by Ian Brill.

* Sparrow left Boom! after three issues were published. Depending on who you ask, he either left notes for Brill or actually wrote most of the subsequent series, leaving Brill’s name as writer on the credits.

* In the intervening years, Sparrow and Brill engaged in an internet kerfuffle over who actually wrote these books. (Links are in the Outhouse piece, and I’m not gonna look them up.)

* In recent days, a new publisher has emerged, Joe Books, led by Adam Fortier, formerly of Speakeasy and Boom and several other places. While they haven’t been making a lot of pr moves, they did announce a Darkwing Duck omnibus in this month’s Previews…with Sparrow rewriting it to bring it closer in line to his vision, as related by artist James Silvana:

Aaron Sparrow, the editor and driving force of the DW comics has gone back and painstakingly rewritten the book to bring it in step with the classic Disney Afternoon series. I also had the opportunity to revisit the art and make this edition the true Terror That Flaps In The Night. This omnibus also features the stellar work of Darkwing creator Tad Stones, artist Sabrina Alberghetti, writer Ian Brill, colorists Andrew Dalhouse and Lisa Moore, letterer Deron Bennett and cover artist Amy Mebberson.

* This led Brill to take to Tumblr to state how hurt he was by all this:

Currently a reprint collection of the Darkwing Duck comic that we worked on in 2010 and 2011 is being offered in Previews. In the announcement of this collection it said to be “painstakingly rewritten” to “bring it in step with the classic Disney Afternoon series.” We believe that this will not be the book that readers enjoyed when the series was originally published. We do not feel it is right to rewrite comics for a reprint collection. Since we feel this book will not reflect our intentions for the material we wish for our names to be removed from the book, and for our names to not be used in the promotion of the book. We have contacted Joe Books and made this request. This is our only and final comment about the situation. 

-Former Darkwing Duck writer Ian Brill and former Darkwing Duck editor Christopher Burns

* So heated was the controversy that former Boom! marketing director Chip Mosher chimed in on the situation with his own timeline, supporting Brill.

Could James, the artist on the book, have communicated with his good friend Aaron about each issue and then incorporated some of Aaron’s comments in future issues even though Aaron wasn’t officially involved in the series? Sure. I expect as much as they are very close. But that’s not “writing” or “co-writing.” Ian sat down at his laptop on every script. He broke down the pages and story beats and wrote the dialogue. That’s what writers do. They write!

It’s always disappointing in comics to see someone take credit for another’s hard work. I give Aaron a ton of credit for getting the series going at BOOM! and keeping the Darkwing Duck flame alive for the past three years. But I have real problems with him taking credit for Ian’s work and I think everyone who has written a comic would find it painful to have their former editor re-write their work without asking them about it first. It’s just a really sad, sad situation.

And there you have it.

What no one has come out and said is….IT’S FREAKING DARKWING DUCK, NOT THE WORKS OF SHAKESPEARE!

I poked around and found…passions running high on this topic! Disney fans seem to have taken up the “Sparrow Is The Original Author” campaign on various forums, which is…just like Disney fans. That is all I will say about that. I also understand that many times Disney proper tinkers with licensed work in various formats, and this may be one of those things.

Still…it’s Darkwing Duck! A character I worked on during my Disney years and loved very much. Gosslyn and Launchpad and Negaduck…it was a pretty good world. I’ve never read these new comics, but I’m sure they’re fine whoever wrote them, but my advice to Sparrow (who I don’t know) and Brill (who used to write for me when he was a journalist) is move on and create something of your own!

If you want a REAL Darkwing Duck scandal, read this post by the great Doug Gray on how I, as editor, ruined his marvelous “Darkwing vs. Fluffy Trilogy” stories from 1993! This was one of my favorite stories I got to edit at Disney Adventures, and I don’t remember why I made so many changes but…Doug, I’m sorry. I would do it all differently now.

I haven’t seen much press from Joe Books aside from some stuff on BC. The website is minimal. Piecing all this together it looks like they have the Disney/Pixar comics license for a while, so all I can say is: TALESPIN. IT IS TIME.

1 Comments on Let’s get dangerous: Darkwing Duck writing credit kerfuffle, last added: 11/25/2014
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45. Dragon Stew - a book review

Oh no, don't eat me....please!!

Quote of the day:

"I think being a dragon would be pretty awesome...you get to fly."
                                            -Josh Keaton

Featured book of the day:

Title:  Dragon Stew
Author:  Steve Smallman
Illustrator:  Lee Wildish
Ages:  4-7

Let's look inside shall we?

About the book:

0 Comments on Dragon Stew - a book review as of 11/25/2014 9:30:00 AM
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46. Harper Lodge to Re-Appear in New Archie Comics Project

Harper Lodge ArchieEarlier this year, Archie Comics introduced a new character with a disability named Harper Lodge. She first appeared in Archie issue #656.

Harper will return for another adventure with the Riverdale gang in Archie issue #665. The company will release this new project in 2015.

Here’s more from the press release: “Harper’s latest venture: writing a romance book about the boys in Riverdale, has everybody trying to figure out the big question: Who is Harper writing about? Will the gang be able to solve the mystery?”

New Career Opportunities Daily: The best jobs in media.

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47. Free Gratitude Journal- craft to share with friends!

I am so Thankful for you!

Free Craft

Make your own
"Mini Gratitude Journal"
(note **pictures may vary year to year)

Free Adobe Reader Needed For Downloads
1) Go to my Download link near the bottom on the left

2) click on "Download page"

3)  Find Thankful Journal
(with a Hedgehog image)
Download 1 page of art

Download Adobe Reader Here

4) download art
5) Print Art -  on best setting  .   nice paper is best   * Choose Borderless Printing *
6) Fold as in video
(there should be 8 panels, with one slit ( use scissors) in the middle)
7) Fold to make a book

fold long-wise
fold in half

clip to center as shown
fold both ends in, then fold longwise again.

push both ends toward middle (a kiss!)
make an X,  fold so cover is on top.
Voila!   Your booklet.

 Copyright Becky Kelly
 Please respect copyrightFor personal use only,  please do not resale.
**let me know what you think!

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48. Baby Blues

After an extreme evening of fun you wake up feeling groggy and fall over. The ground greets you much quicker than usual. You waddle over to a low-lying mirror and see that you’re a baby, but remember everything. You parent’s voice is lilting up the stairs. What do you attempt to tell them? How did this happen?

writing-promptsWant more creative writing prompts?

Pick up a copy of A Year of Writing Prompts: 365 Story Ideas for Honing Your Craft and Eliminating Writer’s Block. There’s a prompt for every day of the year and you can start on any day.

Order now from our shop.






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49. Announcing the Winner of the Creative Writing Curriculum!

Rafflecopter randomly selected the winner of the "Ocean Adventures in Writing" curriculum:

Tracy Teague of N.C.

Congratulations, Tracy! The author of the curriculum, Jan May, will be emailing you soon about your prize!

0 Comments on Announcing the Winner of the Creative Writing Curriculum! as of 11/25/2014 12:32:00 PM
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50. 4 Approaches for the First Chapter of Your Novel

How, strategically speaking, should you begin your novel? When a reader reads your first chapter, what should she find?

There are four primary approaches for beginning a successful novel. Probably more, including some highly experimental ones, but these are the classic main four. Run your story idea through the filter of each of these and see if one of them feels right for your book.




Write Your Novel in a MonthThis post is by Jeff Gerke, an award-winning editor of fiction and non-fiction and the author of six novels, five non-fiction books and the co-author or ghostwriter of numerous other books. He is the author of The First 50 Pages and Write Your Novel in a Month, which is excerpted in this piece. Visit him at jeffgerke.com.

1. The Prologue Beginning

A prologue is an episode that pertains to your story but does not include the hero (or includes the hero at a time well before the story proper begins, when he’s a child). It might not be “Chapter 1” per se, but it can serve as a legitimate opening—if it works.

For example, the film Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (I often use film and television examples when I teach because they illustrate so perfectly the concepts of storytelling and are so universal) begins with a prologue in which two of our main heroes first meet each other as children. Our heroes are onstage, but they’re not at the age they’ll be for the story proper.

Mulan begins with a prologue that establishes the villain, the stakes and the ticking time bomb. The action is contemporaneous with the scene that introduces our heroine, but she is not onstage, and she does not become aware of the danger until deeper into the story.

Game of Thrones (the HBO series based on George R.R. Martin’s novels) begins with a prologue showing less-than-minor characters discovering a new danger in the land. Ghostbusters begins with a prologue showing a nonprimary character who sees a ghost, which provides the need for the Ghostbusters to form. The 2009 version of Star Trek begins with the arrival of a terrifying new enemy vessel that can destroy whole fleets, and our heroes haven’t even been born yet.

In these cases, we see some of the ways a prologue-style opening can help your story. These examples also illustrate why it’s one of the most popular ways to open a novel. A prologue can establish why things are as they are in the world of your story, and why the character is the way he is when the main action begins. And a prologue can even hint at or reveal the danger that will soon sweep over the hero’s life.

[Want to land an agent? Here are 4 things to consider when researching literary agents.]

As you probably know, we’re in disputed territory when we talk about prologues. Many fiction experts tell writers never to write a prologue, while others (like me) say prologues are great.

The Anti-Prologuers argue that: 1) No one reads prologues; 2) Prologues are just dumping grounds for backstory; and 3) Prologues prevent you from getting to the main action of the story.

The Pro-Prologuers (Pro-Loguers?) contend that: 1) 95 percent of fiction readers do read prologues; 2) Any portion of a book that is a dumping ground for backstory should be cut—not because it has the word prologue at the top but because telling instead of showing is lazy writing; and 3) Prologues allow you to set the right tone for your novel without having your protagonist onstage doing something heroic.

Can beginning with a prologue engage your reader? Yes. Can it be done so poorly that it disengages the reader? Also yes. It’s not an issue of right or wrong. If your prologue engages the reader, it’s a good thing, and if your prologue disengages the reader, it’s a bad thing.

2. The Hero Action Beginning

In a hero action beginning, the hero is onstage, doing something active and interesting related to the launching of the core story (it need not involve explosions and car chases, but it certainly can).

Groundhog Day begins with Phil Connors onstage giving a (sarcastic) weather report. WALL-E begins with WALL-E onstage doing his daily routine of garbage collecting and compacting. Juno begins with Juno walking through the neighborhood, drinking SunnyD, on her way to the corner store to buy a pregnancy test. Nearly every James Bond story begins with 007 performing some amazing derring-do. What About Bob? begins with Bob going through his neurotic morning rituals.

The hero action beginning is the other most common way to begin a story. Only the rarest of story ideas can’t manage a hero action beginning. Unless your hero is catatonic or incarcerated in a hole or the like, I’m certain you can come up with something interesting for him to do at the start of the novel.

[Did you know there are 7 reasons writing a novel makes you a badass? Read about them here.]

But remember to ask yourself how much of a stretch is it to show that action. And would a prologue (or some other approach) help you more than a hero action beginning? Now you’re thinking strategically about your story—an excellent and essential thing to do.

Some books lend themselves naturally to a hero action beginning. If the protagonist is a superhero when the story begins, you can start the novel by having her save the earth. If he’s a football player, show him on the field in a big game. If she’s a karate champion, show her winning a tournament.

But if your hero isn’t a hero yet or isn’t yet in a position to show it—or if you simply prefer to establish your villain and time bomb in a prologue—perhaps the hero action beginning isn’t right for your book. Mulan begins with a prologue because the protagonist isn’t yet in any kind of heroic capacity. Mulan is feeding chickens on the family farm—not necessarily an interesting introduction. The writers could’ve invented a way for her to be heroic at the outset, but they chose not to, and I agree with their choice.

Don’t force a hero action beginning. We all could make up something for our heroes to do as the book begins. But if it feels like a stretch or a cliché, choose another approach.

3. The In Medias Res Beginning

In medias res is a Latin phrase meaning “in the middle of things.” It’s one of the less common ways to begin a novel, but it can definitely be effective.

With in medias res, you start at a point deep in the story, show a bit of activity to intrigue the reader, and then jump back to an earlier, quieter part in the story. It’s the opposite of the prologue beginnings that show an early episode from the hero’s life. In this case, you show a later episode, and then you hit the rewind button and spend some or all of the rest of the book catching up to that moment.

Battle: Los Angeles begins with U.S. military helicopters flying over a Los Angeles under attack from alien beasties. We see the faces of some soldiers in the helicopters, but we don’t know who these people are. We’re just getting the uh-oh feeling about what we’re seeing, and then the movie skips back 24 hours. It’s a good distance into the plot before we get back to that helicopter moment. And when we do, this time we know what’s going on and who those people are. That’s an in medias res beginning.

The film version of One Day (based on David Nicholls’ novel of the same name), starring Anne Hathaway, uses the in medias res beginning. It opens with Anne’s character happily riding a bicycle through the streets of Paris. Then we jump back about 20 years. It’s a long time before we catch up to her joyride.

Why isn’t in medias res used more often? Part of the reason is because it can be perceived as a gimmick. Sometimes it gives readers that same ripped-off feeling they get when they read a novel that begins with a dream. It can also sacrifice suspense for that whole portion of the story until you catch up with the first moment.

Think about it: If you see the main character alive and well in what you now realize is a future moment, how nervous are you going to be when she gets into danger? I mean, you know she lives, right, at least up to the in medias res moment? An in medias res opening can deflate the tension the way a hole deflates a tire.

One benefit, however, of in medias res is that once you do catch up with that opening moment, especially if it’s taken a long time to get there, the reader is given an injection of fictive adrenaline. Before now, everything has been relatively safe. It’s been within the protective confines of story time when you know the hero is fine. But when you get to that moment, and especially when you surpass it, everything changes. Dramatically.

[Understanding Book Contracts: Learn what’s negotiable and what’s not.]

Now that you know these soldiers and see what’s been happening on the ground, all of a sudden you don’t know if you want them flying in to attack. Now that you care about that Parisian bicyclist, you’re concerned about what’s going to happen to her when she rounds that corner.

The payoff of the in medias res beginning is that thrilling moment of angst you give your reader when you reach that point and go beyond it. The tension shoots through the roof.

Consider your story: Is that the sort of risk/payoff pathway you’d love to send your novel and your readers on? The risk is that you may bore your readers if things are too slow before you catch up to that opening moment. The payoff is that breathless feeling of performing without a net that you give readers who stay with you. The choice is yours.

4. The Frame Device

The final major way of beginning your first chapter is to use a frame device. In this, your story is bookended on the front and back (and usually a few instances in the middle) by a story that is outside the main story. The primary tale is framed by this other story.

The Princess Bride (the novel and the film, both of which were written by William Goldman) is a frame-device story. The movie begins with a kid playing a video game. He’s staying home from school because he’s sick. His grandfather comes over and offers to read the boy a book to pass the time. Whenever he reads the book, the movie switches over to the main story, a fantasy swashbuckling adventure. Throughout the story, we cut back to the grandfather and boy, where we get commentary on the story and see a bond developing between them. Then it’s back to the fantasy world. The movie ends in the modern day as well.

Another example of a film that uses the frame device is Titanic. The story the audience cares most about is the historical tale of Rose and Jack and Cal onboard the doomed ocean liner. But we access that story through the device of an old woman (Rose) in the present. There’s a minor story going on in the modern day—they’re searching for a jewel she had while on the ship—but the real drama is the historical part. Now and then during the story we cut back to Old Rose, and the movie also ends with her, but our interest is in the other set of circumstances.

Would a frame device work for your story? One reason to consider a frame device is that you’re concerned a modern reader simply wouldn’t care deeply enough about your primary topic. If it’s too far removed from where they are in their lives, you might use a frame device to show someone very much like the reader (a kid playing a video game, for instance) coming to enjoy the main tale. Show someone like us getting involved in the story, and maybe we’ll go with you as well.

Another great thing about the frame device is that you can use it to make large jumps in time in your primary story. If you need to jump 10 years, just cut back to the frame story and have the narrator say, “It went pretty much like that for the next 10 years. Until finally …” and then return to the story. The frame device can act like a DJ transitioning between songs.

Why don’t authors use a frame device more often? I think it’s because it sometimes involves people who are out of danger and out of the action, which isn’t especially engaging. The instinct of most writers is to skip the frame and go straight to what’s inside it, and I agree. But there are good reasons to use a frame device in certain situations, and if you show movement or growth in the frame story, too, you can achieve something special.

Consider your choices, and then choose the beginning that fits naturally with the story you want to tell. If you approach your first chapter from a strategic standpoint, you have a better chance of maximizing your novel’s potential—and engaging the reader from the very beginning.


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