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Station Eleven. Emily St. John Mandel. 2014. Knopf Doubleday. 352 pages. [Source: Library]
The King stood in a pool of blue light, unmoored. This was act 4 of King Lear, a winter night at the Elgin Theatre in Toronto.
Did I love Station Eleven? Yes. Did I love, love, love it? I'm almost sure of it. Only rereading it a year or so from now will answer that question definitively. But regardless of if it was love or LOVE, Station Eleven is a fascinating, absorbing read. It isn't exactly chronological in its storytelling, yet, I found it easy enough to follow. Its storytelling--the form of it, almost reminds me of LOST. It tells both the story of civilization's collapse and civilization's rebuilding. Readers meet a handful of characters then and now.
The "then" sections perhaps center around the character of Arthur Leander, an actor, a celebrity. Chapters focus in on significant, dramatic moments of his life. Not necessarily in chronological order. And not always from his point of view. Readers meet two of his three ex-wives, his son, his (former) best friend, his lawyer, etc. The novel actually opens with Arthur's death on stage. One young witness to his death is a young girl, Kirsten. Another is a former paparazzi turned paramedic.
The "now" sections center on the Traveling Symphony. Kirsten is one of the actors/performers in The Traveling Symphony. The group travels--horses pulling trucks, I believe--from place to place (town to town) performing. They perform music. They perform Shakespeare.
As I said, the focus is on the collapse of society and civilization. What life might be like if 98% of the population died from a terrible plague/disease within a few weeks. In this book, it's the "Georgian flu." What would life be like without modern conveniences--gas and fuel, electricity, telephones, television, internet, etc.
The book is beautifully written. I liked the world-building. I especially liked Miranda's creation of the graphic novels Station Eleven. I liked what little description we get of Dr. Eleven and his situation. I wouldn't have minded more. It actually would be a graphic novel that I'd want to read if it existed. I liked what the two graphic novels meant to Kirsten.
Today we published the 2014 Bookfinder.com Report which features the 100 most sought after out-of-print books in America. The big surprise this year annual report was that after years on the throne the Queen of Pop (Madonna)’s photographic escapade "Sex" was finally knocked off the top of the list, and the book(s) that took its place may surprise you. There were in fact two, and you can read about them here. What I wanted to talk about on the blog, however, are some of the usual suspects there were some interesting additions and subtractions to this year’s list.
Avid readers will notice that A.C.H Smith’s Labyrinth novelization is noticeably missing from the top end of the report; the book has been a part of the BookFinder report since 2010 and was finally re-published in April as Jim Henson’s Labyrinth and contains updated cover art. I’m not sure the books target age group would have any idea who David Bowie is anyway. According to reviews the books both stay quite close to the movie’s plot line however the novel replaces Bowie’s musical interludes with additional dialogue; and Smith also draws out the dialogue in a number of scenes.
Another graduation was In A Dark Place: The Story of a True Haunting by Ray Garton who’s book has been on the BookFinder.com Report since 2008. The fact that it was republished December 31st 2014 left me on the fence as to whether I should remove it from this year’s list, but considering precious few of you would have gotten to read an in-print copy in 2014 I decided to leave it on this year. In 2009 the book became the basis for the hit film The Haunting in Connecticut (starring Virginia Madsen).
Another new, and timely, entry to the list was Margin of Safety by Seth Klarman. The books author, who has been singled out by Forbes as one of the most successful hedge fund managers of recent years, was quoted numerous times this year after his 2013 year end investor letter was leaked online. In the letter he preaches caution and warns of today’s stock markets being too bubbly, and that today's investors should take warning. The fact that his track record for posting huge growth has remained in tact all these years has lead to his 1991 out-of-print value investing opus to fetch four figures, when you can find it.
Every year I find stories about these books buried within the list, and every year I also miss some amazing stories. Read the full list and let us know any of your interesting stories about the books within.
With Squirrel Girl, Marvel is proving just how strong the Marvel brand is—so strong that it can do a 180 and it’s still part of the fun. Written by Ryan North (Adventure Time, Dinosaur Comics) and drawn by Erica Henderson (Atomic Robo, Marceline and the Scream Queens) this book is as “indie” and charming as comics can get. It even has lovely flat colors by Rico Renzi. Squirrel Girl is Doreen Green a typical college student except that she also has the proportionate speed and strength of a squirrel….and a big bushy squirrel tail, which she stuffs into her pants to keep her secret identity secret. Squirrel Girl was created in 1992 by writer Will Murray and Steve Ditko (!) and the gimmick is that even with powers that sound less than a-list, she can defeat anyone —and so far she’s defeated Doctor Doom, MODOK, Terrax, and Thanos, all with the help of her squirrel sidekick Tippy-Toe.
In the first issue of her book she (spoiler) defeated Kraven the Hunter while negotiating coed life and singing a theme song that sounded a lot like maybe it was like the Spider-Man theme song…like Kamala Khan, Doreen Green takes the classic Marvel “young adult with a problem” formula and updates it for a world that’s not grim and gritty, but chipper and hopeful.
Perhaps anxious to make sure that Squirrel Girl gets her licks in before Secret Wars, the second issue goes all the way to the top and features none other than Galactus. Here’s a preview of the issue, which takes place at…a comics convention. The main cover is by Henderson and the variant by Joe Quinones.
The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #2 goes on sale next week, February 4th.
While we’re still knee-deep in winter, it helps to have something GREAT to look forward to. Here’s what I high-as-a-snowbank highly recommend . . .
Children’s book author Darcy Pattison and children’s book author/illustrator Leslie Helakoski will co-lead a unique workshop, PB&J: Picture Books and All That Jazz at Highlight’s Foundation in Honesdale, PA on April 23-26, 2015. Join them and learn how to make your story rise above the fierce competition.
For a taste of what’s to come at the PB&J workshop, here’s a wisdom-filled article written by Darcy and Leslie . . .
When people think about writing a children’s picture book, clichéd topics pop up. These classic themes are based on universal childhood experiences. It’s not that these topics are taboo. Instead, they are so common that competition is fierce. As they say, children’s publishing is a bunny-eat-bunny world.
Here are the top 9 topics to avoid. Also listed is a children’s book, published within the last 5 years, that is a fresh take on the topic. If you are considering writing a picture book about one of these topics, it will be a harder sale unless you can find an original way to approach it.
1. First Day of School. Everyone wants to get kids ready for the first day of school, and it’s hard to find a fresh approach.
Updated title that works:
Dad’s First Day (July, 2015), written and illustrated by Mike Wohnoutka.
2. Tooth fairy. People have 32 teeth, and losing baby teeth in early elementary school is a universal experience. The tooth fairy often has a place in a family story, which makes it a perennial topic for a children’s book.
Updated title that works:
The Dinosaur Tooth Fairy (2013) by Martha Brockenbrough, illustrated by Israel Sanchez.
3. Christmas/Halloween. Major holidays are often the focus on children’s books.
Updated Titles that Work:
Christmas Parade (2012) written and illustrated by Sandra Boynton.
Smudge and the Book of Mistakes: A Christmas Story (2013), by Gloria Whelan, illustrated by Stephen Costanza.
4. Wanting a pet. From gerbils to dogs, cats to chinchillas—humans love their pets. It’s a natural topic for a children’s book.
Updated titles that work:
I Want a Dog: My Opinion Essay (2015) by Darcy Pattison, illustrated by Ewa O’Neill.
I Want a Cat: My Opinion Essay (2015) by Darcy Pattison, illustrated by Ewa O’Neill.
5. Dealing with a disability. With today’s cultural emphasis on diversity (#WeNeedDiversity), libraries are looking for stories with disabled characters.
Updated title that works:
My Three Best Friends and Me, Zulay (2015) by Cari Best, illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton.
6. Visiting Grandma and Grandpa. Who buys books for children? Grandparents! And of course, grandparents want to encourage a close relationship with their grandchildren. Do this topic with humor and honest emotion and you’ll have a winner.
Updated titles that work:
How to Babysit a Grandpa (2012) by Jean Reagan, illustrated by Lee Wildish.
How to Babysit a Grandma (2014) by Jean Reagan, illustrated by Lee Wildish.
7. New baby in the family. Young children often have to move over and make room for a new sibling. Books helps them work through the complicated emotions when a new baby arrives
Updated title that works:
You Were the First (2013) by Patricia MacLachlan, illustrated by Stephanie Graegin.
8. Barnyard stories/rural nostalgia. The rural roots of America are ever-present in children’s books. One of the first things kids learn is the sounds made by farm animals. From there, chickens and pigs rule!
Updated title that works:
Big Pigs (2014), written and illustrated by Leslie Helakoski.
9. Bedtime stories. Kids who are read to become better readers. What better time to read than bedtime? And if the story ends on a quiet note that encourages the kids to go to sleep faster, parents will love you.
Updated title that works:
Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site (2012) by Sherry Duskey Rinker, illustrated by Tom Lictenheld.
Not convinced that you should avoid these topics? Then put on your A-Game! Because the competition for children’s picture books about these topics is fierce. Yet, if you write a fantastic story about one of these topics, it might just become a classic.
Melville House plans to publish the U.S. edition of Owen Jones’The Establishment: And How They Get Away With It.
A release date has been scheduled for May 2015. The book originally came out in the United Kingdom back in September 2014.
According to the press release, “the book, which details the rise of the far right and the leftist backlash and its impact on power structures in British and European politics, has gotten blanket coverage in UK media and made numerous ‘best books of the year’ lists…being published in the U.S. just days before the most consequential UK elections in decades, The Establishment is a sweeping, controversial, and hugely acclaimed account of wealth and political power from one of the UK’s brightest media stars.”
Back in the early 1990s I wrote single gags to go into European newspapers and magazines for, amongst others, the German Baaske Agency. Got paid once and heard no more since -these could be in constant reprint and I'd never know it!
Anyway, I scanned some on the old 1990s computer so quality ain't great but here -see if they give you a smile!
Living in our rental house is not the only change we’ve been making in Roy’s life – we’ve been teaching him Christianity 101.
He’s been going to church with first his mom (Kevin’s grandmother) and then with Kevin’s parents all his life. And I’m not knocking church – it’s great if you’re getting something out of it. And by that I mean, you’re studying God’s word and learning how, and why, God wants you to live a certain way. It’s a great place to fellowship with other Christians and to make life-long friends. God wants us to fellowship with other Christians.
However. If you dread Church, or you’re not getting anything out of the lectures pastors give, then perhaps it’s time to step back and re-evaluate why you’re going or why you’re not receiving God’s wonderful messages.
That’s where we are with Roy. Roy’s churches have continued to use the King’s James version of the bible. And there’s nothing wrong with the King’s James version, it’s just an antiquated language that is not used anymore. It’s hard for people to understand because we don’t use that language anymore. And because people don’t understand the language (or the culture in which the Bible was written), then people just assume that the Bible is not meant for us to understand.
AND THAT’S BULL HOCKEY.
God WANTS us to know how to read the Bible. He wants us to live our lives by rules laid out in the Bible. He gives us examples of how to live our lives and what can happen if we choose NOT to live by his rules. If we don’t live our lives by His rules, then he is unable to protect us against Satan’s tricks. And of course, it’s Satan’s goals to trick people into thinking they are incapable of understanding the Bible because then he will swoop in and create havoc in our lives.
So. Roy has made the decision of NOT going to church for a while and sitting with us when we have Bible study at our house every Sunday evening after dinner. We watch a few videos from the Truth or Tradition YouTube channel and then we all take turns reading out of the New International Version of the Bible. He made the decision to not go to church because he never felt like he understood anything that was taught. Too many churches focus on the hell and damnation of the Bible and though that is part of God’s word, it’s a VERY SMALL part of God’s word. Or worse, pastors will pick and choose verses out of the Bible, taking them completely out of context, and use them to their own advantage. The first time I realized that was happening was the last time I set foot in a church. I have NO INTENTIONS of going back to church – ever.
God is about love and teaching us humility, compassion, forgiveness and HOW TO LOVE OTHERS. How is anyone expected to be inspired or moved into helping others when all they are fed every Sunday is scary crap about Satan and being fried alive in hell?
Think about it.
Anyway. After watching a video, I asked Kevin to bring up one of their older videos (we have it set up where we watch YouTube on our TV and Kevin controls it with his phone – TECHNOLOGY RULES!) where they talk about HOW to read and understand the bible. Kevin brought up this video:
We’ve been watching Truth or Tradition videos for as long as they’ve been making them and somehow, we missed this one. What a COOL summary of the Bible!!
And we started talking about buying Roy a Bible that he can understand – more like a children’s bible. I wouldn’t mind having a children’s bible to read the basic stories myself. I’m not even sure I know all of the basic stories, to be perfectly honest.
I think all of us, deep down, are searching for something in our lives. Whether that’s the meaning of life, how to make our marriages successful, how to raise a God-fearing child (and God-fearing is actually, more accurately translated, into RESPECTING GOD), how to seek forgiveness or how to cultivate patience … learning God’s word, living a Godly life, tends to satisfy that hunger and produce peace.
Don’t believe me? Try it. What have you got to lose?
Digital book distribution firm Trajectory has created a new algorithm that aims to make book discovery better online.
The tool users metadata and keywords to scan the texts of eBooks in order to give readers and book buyers book recommendations. Using its “Natural Language Processing Engine,” the tool categorizes books on a complex level with the promise to understand the personality of a book. The engine then uses this three-dimensional understanding of a text to make recommendations for other books that a reader might be interested in. It’s not unlike what you might experience on Netflix or Amazon.
This new service is now available for book retailers, as well as libraries and schools to license.
A few days ago I received a pleasant surprise in the form of a Goodreads message from Shelley. She wanted to know if I would be willing to talk about the food in my story and the significance and story behind it. Immediately I thought of one meal that stands out in The Exile Empire. It took an invasion, thousands of lives, and the formation of an entirely new economy for the new recipe to exist.
One of the primary components in The Exile Empire is obviously the fact that humans have been dispersed from their old area of space. The problem with such diaspora in the vastness of interstellar space filled with hostile enemies is the relative lack of resources, and chief among them food! This had become more than an inconvenience by the time the major events of the story began to unfold and the human exiles were getting quite desperate.
But that was when they found a new system with edible plants and animals a-plenty. There was only one catch. The planet was in a system crawling with hostile enemies that had just conquered the natives on a nearby planet and the humans would have to fight their way to the new food source.
After the initial scouts are attacked the remaining human fleet springs into action, moving to protect both their people and the precious food on the planet below. After the carnage that ensues there is still a major problem in that most of the edibles are either in raw, indigestible form, or spread around the planet in roaming herds that weren’t big enough to feed everyone.
That is when Karen, an economic and business savant from the old civilization, was brought in. Over the course of several chapters she takes the rag-tag remnants of a mixed civilian and military fleet and is able to create a fully functioning economy and foodstuffs supply chain in only a few days. Now, of course such a supply line would be highly limited in what it could produce. The two main foods that resulted from this endeavor are a grain called a sand nut and meat from a creature called an Abe.
The sand nuts had to be refined because in their raw form they contain a powerful laxative (something a few of the initial colonists lacking caution found out in humorous fashion). The Abes were similar to earth cattle and because of this similarity people started calling them Alien Bison when they first encountered them. This lead to the abbreviation ‘A’ ‘B’ which Wen said aloud sounds like “ABE” and after a few rounds of repetition the name stuck. The end result of all these shenanigans was a pita-bread-like wrap around an Abe meat filling.
These resulting Sh’in Wraps (named for the planet) quickly became a staple in the new civilization and they appear in subsequent stories throughout the series. It is amazing how much history and work can go into the simplest of foods, and science fiction, since it involves people and supply chains, should be no exception. I think that the Sh’in Wraps are an excellent example of simple food created by a complex setting.
Thanks for stopping by to share your food for thought, Joshua!
Simon & Schuster has created a new publishing unit called North Star Way which is designed to help authors find audiences and build their profiles.
The unit will work with authors to help them create strategies to expand their readership. The imprint will offer book publishing, as well as help online courses and subscriptions and seminars, workshops and panel discussions. In addition the company will help authors with mobile apps, video creation, audio book building and podcasting.
Vice President and Publisher Michele Martin will lead North Star Way. The unit will be dedicated to self-improvement and inspiration, mind-body-spirit, motivation, wellness and business inspiration and leadership titles.
It’s almost time for the ALA Midwinter Meetings! Are you #alscleftbehind and unable to make it to Chicago? Are you wondering how you can keep up with all that’s going on? We’ve got you covered! Check the ALSC Blog for photos, videos and information about what’s going on at Midwinter. You can also check in on Twitter; just track the hashtag #alamw15.
Seventeen bloggers have committed to offering short, frequent posts throughout the conference. They are:
Tessa M. Schmidt
Let me be the first to thank this wonderful group of volunteers!
Are there activities you hope we cover? Let us know in the comments below.
More action is going on below decks on the "Scurvy Shark"! Prior to this post the crew of cut throat Dinosaur Pirates waited for Cap'n Crockers' signal to attack, to kidnap King Bronty and Prince Podoee.
Lego has made a Helicarrier. Repeat, LEGO HAS MADE A HELICARRIER. OVER DO YOU COPY? And it comes with Black Widow AND Maria Hill! Oh and HAwkeye, Nick Fury and Captain America. And 3 Quinjets, and and and…It’s not the one from Avengers: Age of Ultron (if there is one) but who cares. It come with:
• Includes 5 minifigures: Nick Fury, Black Widow, Captain America, Hawkeye and Maria Hill, plus an iconic SHIELD eagle stand to display them on
• Features 3 microscale Quinjets, 3 fighter jets, a gasoline truck, 2 forklift trucks, 2 runways, 4 road blockades, armored exterior with translucent elements, detailed interior, plus 12 microfigures (Nick Fury, Hawkeye, Captain America, Iron Man and 8 SHIELD agents)
• Also includes a detailed runway
• Weapons include Hawkeye’s bow, Black Widow’s gun and Captain America’s shield
• SHIELD Agent Maria Hill minifigure is new for spring 2015!
• Includes a plaque with facts about The SHIELD Helicarrier
• Add lights and spinning rotors to the Helicarrier with the 88000, 8883 and 8870 LEGO® Power Functions sets (sold separately)
• Rotors can also be turned manually
• Includes a display stand
• Helicarrier measures over 11” (29cm) high, 31” (80cm) long and 17” (45cm) wide
• Each Quinjet measures over 1” (3cm) high, 2” (7cm) long and 2” (7cm) wide
• Minifigure stand measures over 4” (12cm) high, and 2” (6cm deep) and 6” (16cm wide)
With nearly 3000 pieces, this is not a cheap set. No It will set you back US $349.99 ($399.99 in Canada) but…it’s still pretty awesome.Here’s some pictures for you to dream over.
After years of working in the field of education, Veronica Grech decided to pursue her true calling, illustration. Inspired by her love for folk art and the age of exploration, she creates whimsical works brimming with color and life.
This summer, stop motion film-maker Alba Garcia messaged me on Facebook. Her 7 year old daughter was a fan of my picture book DANGEROUSLY EVER AFTER and had even memorized the whole thing. What did I think about turning the book into a stop-motion film?
Here's the thing -- I'm nuts about stop-motion animation. (If you're not sure what that is, think FANTASTIC MR. FOX, CORALINE, PARANORMAN, NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS). I love how textured, human and intricate it is -- especially in the era of so much slick, computer-generated animation. And I'd always wanted to see certain scenes come alive -- the exploding grenapes, for example.
Not long afterwards, I met with Alba at her studio in New York and we hit it off immediately. She's warm, funny, creative, and yet also very down-to-earth. The more we talked, the more clear it was that we should do this project. We wrote a script. Alba began hiring a crew and building props. Valeria Docampo, the book's illustrator, came to New York, met Alba, and signed on to help.
Now all we need is funding. On January 31, we launch an IndieGoGo campaign to raise the $42,000 needed to make the film a reality. If you'd like to be part of this amazing project, please Like the film's Facebook page to watch it all unfold and find out the moment the campaign goes live. Tell your friends!
Our Next Chapter was the capital campaign program for Unity of Fort Lauderdale.
I designed the 12-page booklet, and miscellaneous collateral pieces. I created all the vector images as well. The photographs were shot by someone else.
The puzzle theme was exciting to figure out. I am especially thrilled to now know how to take any image and map it to interlocking jigsaw puzzle pieces. Most puzzle graphics I see sort of cheat by not having the image flow across the puzzle pieces. I know the secret to making this happen
In what is not a shock but is a break with tradition, Katsuhiro Otomo, creator of Akira and Domu, has been awarded the Grand Prix at the 42nd annual Festival d’Angoulême which is taking place as we speak.
Otomo beat out beloved Belgian cartoonist Hermann (the safe choice) and Alan Moore, who probably would have just chucked it into his garden and forgotten about.
This caps off several years of unrest for the prize, which is awarded for a body of work and voted on by participating cartoonists (just how you participate isn’t always clear, but I think attending a past Angouleme qualifies you.) Traditionally the prize has been given to Franco-Belgian cartoonists—all strong but many of them better known for being popular with their peers than for making a mark on world cartooning. In 2013 a younger, more international group of cartoonists wanted to give the prize to Akira Toriyama, but Willem, a Dutch cartoonists who makes his home in Paris, was selected, with Toriyama being given a special prize.
In 2014, Otomo was once again a finalist, along with Alan Moore and Bill Watterson, who weren’t very likely to actually make the trip to pick up the prize and attend the festival, as if the Gran prix winner’s duty. In the event, Watterson won out and he’s represented at the festival by a gorgeous art exhibit.
This time, the influence of manga has finally been recognized officially and a new day is dawning for the world culture of comics.
Otomo is of course one of the world’s greatest living cartoonists and animators, whose visionary work has influenced countless creators around the globe. Akira, a darkly futuristic tale of bikers racing across a neon Tokyo, helped create the entrée look of cyperpunk and video games. He’s world class and highly deserving of the win.
Also, if I’m not mistaken, the prize is usually given out on Sunday night…so not sure why the news was released on the first day of the festival. Maybe it was just leaked. Hope here’s his acceptance speech:
The award recognizes “the very best in political writing and publishing.” The awards include ten categories chosen by a panel of political celebrity judges and the prizes were donated by Lord Ashcroft KCMG PC.
When I found this article on Bette Lee Crosby's Site, I just had to share. What type are you? Find out here. I think I qualify as The Quiet Kind. I read every book but don't have much to say. I just listen. :)
Yesterday we learned Miles Morales and the rest of the Ultimate universe would enter Secret Wars Battleworld in Ultimate End. Today Marvel announced superstar writer Charles Soule would bring the Inhumans into Battleworld with the new ongoing series Inhumans: Attilan Rising. The scribe will be joined by artist John Timms for what Marvel calls “a tale of romance and intrigue” that affects the entire Marvel U.
Inhumans: Attilan Rising joins the current Inhuman and recently announced Uncanny Inhumans ongoings to total three core Inhuman books Marvel will be publishing come May along side solo Inhuman characters like Ms.Marvel. Attilan Rising is poised as a sweeping war epic that puts the royal couple Blackbolt and Medusa front and center. What’s most exciting for Soule about launching this book in the coming mega-event Secret War is being able to give these characters a new context. In Soule’s words, “Things don’t have to be the way we’re used to seeing them.” No other major story details were revealed as Marvel continues to keep the shroud of secrecy looming over Secret Wars.
Both the Dave Johnson and W. Scott Forbes covers for issue one were shown today, check them out below.
It is developing into A Year of Somethings. That is, a year made up of many "read something", "write something", "make something" and "share something" bits. I'm still leaning into a more sustainable way of doing the sharing part, at least when it comes to this blog. Here are some patterns I created in my sketchbook this month:
Dan Brereton broke into the comics scene in the late 80’s/early 90’s with books like The Black Terror from Eclipse, and The Psycho from DC Comics. His distinct painted art style stood out among the other comics being published at that time. In 1995 Brereton introduced his creator-owned series The Nocturnals to the world. The Nocturnals is a pulp style horror series about a bunch of supernatural crime fighters, starring a cast of colorful characters like Doc Horror, his daughter Evening AKA Halloween Girl, Firelion(a revived victim of spontaneous human combustion), and many, many more.