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1. Integrated


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2.

 Illustration
M&S Taste Buds

Earlier this year Marks and Spencer launched a brand new baby food range-Tiny Taste Buds. I was really thrilled to be chosen to illustrate the range. M&S then decided they would like to redesign the existing Kids Ready Meal packaging so that it would work along side the Baby Range.

Cottage Pie
We looked at different ideas. First thoughts were to include children on the packaging but we felt this wasn't working. We then decided to look at vegetable characters illustrating them in the same line/colour style as the babies on the Tiny Taste Buds packs.

I was really pleased to go with this concept. It was great fun thinking of personalities for the vegetables and seeing how they could interact with each other.
Fish Pie and Juicy Peas.

 Sausage and Mash (with swede and carrot)

There are around 25 products in the Taste Buds range.

 A favourite was the swede with fluffy pigtails.

Some vegetables were a real doddle to translate in to characters. Others....you know who you are (French Fries) weren't!

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3. Novella Review: No Match for Love by Carol Cox

 

May Contain Spoilers

Review:

I enjoyed Cowboy Unmatched, another A Match Made in Texas novella, so when I was browsing around on Scribd, I was delighted to see other stories from the same anthology on the site.  I quickly added No Match for Love to my library and read it Sunday night.  This is a cute story and now I want to read the all of A Match Made in Texas novellas.

Lucy’s father left her penniless after his death, and she’s relying on the charity of her friend’s family to keep a roof over her head.  Overindulged by her father, she has never learned useful skills; she can’t even make a pot of tea, let alone find employment to give her some independence.  Her only option is to marry Walter, a man who makes her uneasy and who she doubts she could ever develop feelings for.  Her friend is marrying soon, however, and she knows that she can’t live with her parents forever, so Lucy is desperate for any opportunity to present itself.

When she’s offered a job far away from Dry Gulch, she jumps at the chance to escape Walter and being a burden to her benefactors.  All she has to do is care for Andrew Simms’ elderly aunt.  Martha refuses to sell her ranch, the Diamond S, but Andrew has concerns about her mental health.  She firmly believes she saw a cow leaping over the moon, in addition to other impossibly odd occurrences at the ranch, and now Andrew is worried about her living by herself.

Lucy expects to find a doddering old woman, but instead she is introduced to an intelligent, capable woman.  One who doesn’t want a stranger living with her on her ranch.  Andrew convinces Martha that she’ll enjoy the company, and a thankful Lucy has a place to stay, at least for a while.

I enjoyed the friendship that develops between the women.  Lucy is hopeless in the kitchen, and she doesn’t know the first thing about running a household.  Gruff Martha teaches her all she knows, and the two become friends.  The only sticky point? Every full moon, something weird does happen at the ranch.  With Martha hollering into the night, brandishing her shotgun, Lucy fears for the woman’s sanity, too.  It quickly becomes clear that something, or someone, is responsible for the disturbances plaguing the ranch, and Lucy is determined to discover the reason behind them.

I thought that the romance was secondary to the mystery.  The mystery was solved a little too easily, too, but I still enjoyed the interactions between the characters, especially between Lucy and Martha.  This is a quick, satisfying read with a very sweet romance, so if you’re looking to fill a short period of time, No Match for Love is an entertaining choice.

Grade:  B

Review copy read on Scribd

From Amazon:

Andrew can’t fathom how refined Lucy ended up as the caretaker to his dotty aunt, and somehow her arrival has prompted even more bizarre occurrences around the ranch. When they join forces to unearth the truth, will the attraction between Andrew and Lucy develop into more?

The post Novella Review: No Match for Love by Carol Cox appeared first on Manga Maniac Cafe.

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4. Critique Group Check-In

How is your critique group going? See what others are saying!

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5. I'm My Own Dog - I love it!

Stein, David Ezra. 2014. I'm My Own Dog. Somerville, MA: Candlewick.


I've got a few deadlines to meet so this will be short, but I couldn't let another day go by without shouting out to the virtual world, "I love this book!"

Funny, inventive, clever and touching, this book will work its way into your heart even as it has you laughing out loud.

This is no ordinary dog.  No one owns him, no sir!

Every morning when I look
in the mirror, I lick my own
face because I am so happy
to see me.
I say, "GOOD DOG.
I AM A GOOD DOG."
You'll think so, too!

Don't just take my word for it.  See more great reviews at

From the end papers,
The illustrations' line work was created using pen as well as a kids' marker hacked to dispense India Ink; it was then photocopied onto watercolor paper.  The painting was done in liquid watercolor, with a hint of crayon on the dog's muzzle.
Ingeniously childish - a perfect presentation of a delightfully independent dog with a soft spot as big as his heart.

Click here to see an inside spread from I'm My Own Dog.

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6. Mortal Danger, by Ann Aguirre | Book Review

When unpopular, ugly Edie steps out on the ledge, the last person she expects to stop her from jumping is the most beautiful guy she's ever seen.

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7. No, Freelance Writers, You DON’T Need a Blog

blogfaceSay you’re a new freelance writer. (Sound familiar?) You ask someone with more experience whether you should start a blog to help attract clients and let you use blog posts as clips.

Chances are, the other writer will tell you it’s absolutely, totally imperative that you have a blog. I even heard one freelance writer tell a poor newbie, “You only have a website? But that’s so STATIC!”

I’m here to tell you that if you’re asking whether you should start a blog, the answer is No.

And if you’re wondering what topic to start you blog on, the answer is that you shouldn’t.

If you start a blog, it need to be because you already have something you really, really want to say. Something you’re so passionate about that you can’t hold it back. Something that you can envision yourself writing about regularly for the indefinite future.

For example, Diana and I have written over 1,000 posts since 2006! That’s the kind of commitment you need. If you don’t feel inclined to write 1,000 posts on a particular topic, a blog may not be right for you.

Blogs are not an easy clip. If you start a blog, you will need to keep it updated, because nothing looks sadder to prospective clients than a blog that hasn’t been updated in six months.

Also, you’ll need to promote your blog if you want to get comments — so you don’t feel like you’re just writing to yourself all the time. Blogs are meant to be read.

And…what happens when you start getting some real published clips and no longer need the blog? Will you just let it die? Will all that work be for nothing?

It’s way easier to just start pitching clients based on your experience — for example, if you have a foodservice background you would pitch businesses in that industry — or to do a free assignment or two just to get the samples.

And don’t forget that your (static!) website works as a clip. If you have some kick-ass copy on there, prospects will be able to see you can write.

There is the issue that fresh content will push your website up in the search engine results, and blogs are of course perfect for that. But you can get a similar effect by updating your portfolio as you garner new clips.

If you have plans to monetize your blog and a topic you’re passionate about, go for it. And if you want to offer blogging as one of your services, you’ll want to show prospects that you can do that. But if you feel you need to blog just for the clip — there are better, easier ways to do that. Ways that won’t have you on the hook for the rest of your working career.

How about you: Have you wrestled with whether to start a blog? How did it end up? Or did you start a blog for the clips and later felt burdened with it? Let us know in the Comments below!

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8. No Teeth but an Eye for Art


I spent last Sunday painting in Sheffield with my Urban Sketchers Yorkshire chums. I ought to say right up front that, as far as I am aware, they all have plenty of teeth. It was our unexpected companions for the first draw of the day, in Fitzalan Square, who were dentally-challenged. I was warned that the area was wino-land, but I wanted to have a go at sketching the old, disused Post Office building:


To be fair, all three of the men were friendly, possibly too friendly. I was forcefully engaged in a very hands-on critique session with a man with matted dredlocks, beer-breath and, for some reason, wearing a paper hula-garland. I'd just finished the painting of the Post Office and the sketch was very wet. My new friend kept poking it, pointing out places in the sky where I should add in some birds, while I, in typical British style, tried subtly to wrest the sketchbook from him, without seeming rude.


We moved round the corner for sketch number two and left our companions behind. I loved this view from the traffic island, looking across the road to the tram stop. I was surprised though, it being Sunday, how many trams came through. And they stopped for annoyingly long periods, entirely blotting out my view. As soon as one going downhill had moved on, another coming uphill would arrive. I spent an hour doing the painting, but was only actually painting for 30 minutes, gritting my teeth and muttering for the other 30.


It was quite chilly (oh to be back in Brazil...), so we were all grateful for a lunch break at Zooby's cafe in the Winter Gardens. I was looking forward to a nice, hot coffee, but it was then that I discovered I had left my purse at home. There was an outside chance I had remembered it, but had it stolen, so I texted John at home and asked him to check. Being the sweetie that he is, he came all the way into town to bring it for me, so I wouldn't have to go without lunch.

For the next sketch-site we sat outside the Crucible Theatre. I was interested in the jumble of spires over this lovely old building:


It was getting pretty cold though. Various people peeled off. The remaining knot of us decided to go the the pub to draw and walked down to The Sheffield Tap at the station. It's an amazing pub. We've been sketching there before. It has one room with a really high-ceilinged and lovely, Victorian tiles, not to mention the massive mirrors, and the chandeliers, as well as all the shiny, copper, micro-brewing kit on display. You can even watch trains out of the windows - a visual feast.


I was experimenting with paint, trying to keep things wet and loose: lots of water and not too many colours - stuff I learned from sketching alongside people like Liz Steel in Paraty. No pre-drawing, no line at all. Quite a challenge, but I was pleased with the results, which seemed to conjure the atmosphere. 

We stayed quite a while in the pub (only drinking tea, honest...), sketching until nearly 5 o'clock so, when it came to the sharing at the end, we were whittled down to just 4 of us. I think we had at least 12 at lunch.


It was another fun day and actually dry for once. All that concentration takes it out of you though - by the time I got home, I was exhausted. 

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9. My tweets

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10. Book Giveaway & Writing Workout for Rosh Hashanah--What Writing Sins Will YOU Cast Away?

.
The post below is refreshed and reprised from September 2013...the book giveaway of Barbara's picture book (about a slice of Golda Meir's childhood--and what an amazing leader she was even then) is NEW and ends September 26, 2014.

Howdy, Campers!

It's not Saint Patrick's Day, but we're lucky, lucky, lucky to open our doors and welcome Guest TeachingAuthor Barbara Krasner, who I interviewed last Friday, and who offers us her NEW picture book, Goldie Takes a Stand! A Tale of Young Golda Meir, to give away and a dynamite Wednesday Writing Workout for the New Year.


Feeling lucky? Enter our latest book giveaway!
Details on this post.
Here's Barbara...

...and here's the Writing Workout she's cooked up for us:

Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, comes early this year and I’m glad. It gives me the opportunity to reflect on the past year and think about the coming year even before the leaves fall. I’m giving you a Rosh Hashanah challenge in three parts.

Part One: Rosh Hashanah, literally translated as head of the year, is a perfect time to think about the beginning of your manuscript. How many times do we hear that if we can’t grab the agent/editor/reader within just a few seconds, he or she will just move on to something else?

Ask yourself the following questions:

•    Do you have a compelling title?
•    Does your first line grab the reader? (My all-time favorites are from M.T. Anderson, “The woods were silent except for the screaming,” and from Kate DiCamillo, “My name is Opal Buloni, and last summer my daddy, the preacher, sent me to the store for a box of macaroni-and-cheese, some white rice, and two tomatoes and I came back with a dog.”)
•    Have you presented the main character on the first page?
•    Have you presented the problem within the first page, the first chapter?

These questions apply to fiction and nonfiction alike.

What are YOUR first lines?

Part Two: The Rosh Hashanah holiday includes a practice called Tashlich, casting off our sins. The practice is exemplified in April Halprin Wayland’s New Year at the Pier (Dial, 2009), winner of the Sydney Taylor Gold Award for Younger Readers,  and the mother-daughter team of Susan Schnur and Anna Schnur-Fishman’s Tashlich at Turtle Rock (Kar-Ben, 2010).

My question to you: What writing sins will you cast off this year?

When I think about this for myself, I think about:
•    I will cast off my lack of organization – I will organize all those papers into folders with easy-to-read tabs and file the folders
•    I will cast off watching reality TV (TCM movies only) – I need more time to write
•    I will cast off working on a gazillion projects at once – I will focus on one genre at a time, and right now, that’s poetry, and okay, picture books
•    I will cast off reading several books at once – I commit to reading a book fully before moving on to another.

You get the idea. What will you cast off?

Part Three: Here’s a prompt you can write to: Recall a Rosh Hashanah (or New Year) scene from your childhood and write about it. Who was there? Where were you? What action and dialogue took place?

Thank you so much for your three-part Rosh Hashanah writing challenge, Barbara, and for mentioning my book (blush)... shana tovah!

posted by April Halprin Wayland

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11. World Water Monitoring Day 2014

World Water Monitoring Day is an annual celebration reaching out to the global community to build awareness and increase involvement in the protection of water resources around the world. The hope is that individuals will feel motivated and empowered to investigate basic water monitoring in their local area. Championed by the Water Environment Federation, a broader challenge has arisen out of the awareness day, celebrated on September 18th each year. Simple water testing kits are available, and individuals are encouraged to go out and test the quality of local waterways.

Water monitoring can refer to anything from the suitability for drinking from a particular water source, to taking more responsibility for our own consumption of water as an energy source, to the technology needed for alternative energies. Discover more about water issues from around the world using the map below.

Image credit: Ocean beach at low tide against the sun, by Brocken Inaglory. CC-BY-3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

The post World Water Monitoring Day 2014 appeared first on OUPblog.

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12. Color for Baby: Four board books for baby featuring more than forty famous works by contemporary artists, Curated by Yana Peel

I'm not sure how much parents are thinking about cultural literacy when they are purchasing board books for toddlers. If this is something that matters to you or if you appreciate contemporary art, then you will seek out Color for Baby: Four board books for baby featuring more than forty famous works by contemporary artists, Curated by Yana Peel. If not, and you are fortunate enough to be

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13. Guest Post and Giveaway: Bec McMaster, Author of Forged by Desire

I know you are dying of curiosity, so this morning Bec McMaster joins us to give us a glimpse of her office essentials.  Check it out!

Writing can be a lot of hard work. There’s the hour or two each day that’s spent staring out the window, daydreaming about sexy and dangerous heroes; the hours poring over my hero and heroine’s Goals, Motivation and Conflict – or plotting just how much torture I can dish out on my poor hero – heh, heh, heh…

So, a writer needs to be fully supported by her office essentials, in order to work at peak performance. Here’s a list of my top five desk/office essentials when I’m writing:

1. Pinterest. The go-to place for heroes galore. Whether you prefer them covered in tatts, or beards, or clean-cut and ripped, there’s a hero for you. This is a vital part of the casting process when you’re working out who your hero is.

2. My ergonomic cushion support system. My boyfriend bought me the best ergonomic chair on the market – and I hate using it. Instead I prefer my much more sophisticated cushion-at-the-back to support my spine, and one tucked between the table and my hips. It keeps me upright and comfortable, and when you’re spending 9-10 hours a day in that chair, it’s a definite necessity.

3. Tea. I think I’m presenting a strong case for sponsorship by Twining’s, with all of the product placement at my desk (AKA empty cups, random spills, half-drank cups of tea). See also: the tea towel next to my desk for errant spills.

4. Notebook and pad, to jot down ideas, and random notes to myself. Often incomprehensible.

5. My word count journal. Absolutely essential for tracking progress.

Bonus essential: A pile of my books, just to give me inspiration and prove, yay-I-did-it!

FORGED BY DESIRE

BY BEC MCMASTER – IN STORES SEPTEMBER 2014

“You’re my breath when I feel like I can’t catch my own.”

Captain Garrett Reed of the Nighthawk guard has a deadly mission: capture a steel-jawed monster preying on women. He hates to put his partner, Perry, in jeopardy, but she’s the best bait he has. Little does he realize, he’s about to be caught in his own trap.

Perry has been half in love with Garrett for years, but this is not exactly the best time to start a relationship—especially when their investigation leads them directly into the clutches of the madman she thought she’d escaped…

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Award-winning author Bec McMaster lives in a small town in Australia and grew up with her nose in a book. A member of RWA, she writes sexy, dark paranormals and steampunk romance. When not writing, reading, or poring over travel brochures, she loves spending time with her very own hero or daydreaming about new worlds. Read more about her at www.becmcmaster.com or follow her on Twitter, @BecMcMaster.

To purchase Forged By Desire:

ORDER TRADE PAPERBACK

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

B-A-M

Chapters

Indiebound

Powell’s

The Book Depository

Sourcebooks

ORDER EBOOK

Kindle

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IBooks

a Rafflecopter giveaway

The post Guest Post and Giveaway: Bec McMaster, Author of Forged by Desire appeared first on Manga Maniac Cafe.

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14. Question: so, how do you do it?

My question is, hopefully, simple. How do you do it? The daily posts on your blog, Facebook, and other outlets? How do you manage the torrential downpour of queries *(let alone dealing with the ones who don't read the QueryShark forums and responding to the ones who do)? How do you manage to do all that and maintain connections with your clientele while shopping their books around to publishing houses/editors who also require a certain depth of connection with you? Even on vacation, you put SOMETHING on for us to look at, completely flying in my smug little face when I thought for sure you'd not put up anything while on vacation or at ThrillerFest. All the while, I cringe at having a definite daily word count!

We aren't even talking about reading or how you manage home life *(which I have a growing suspicion that you must live in a hovel under your desk at the office).

Lastly, as a fun little tid-bit, what kind of shark are you anyways? Keep ripping up the seas!


How do I do it?
Time goblins. I buy the minutes you squander from a team of traveling goblins who steal those extra minutes and resell them. I don't have 24 hours in a day; I have 36.  Every time you come to your senses after drifting off into some sort of vacant stare, well, thank you. Those are now my minutes, and I intend to use them to torment you.


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15. E is for Esoteric: 2014 Alphabet Books Get Creative

What is it about the alphabet that gives artists the license to get weird?  Historically, the alphabet book is one of the earliest American children’s book forms.  You know.  “In Adam’s fall, we sinned all.”  That kind of thing.  I’m certain someone has already written, or is in the process of writing, the full-blooded history of American abecedarian outings for the young, so I won’t delve into such matters to any great length.

Now every year we get some wacky alphabet titles in the mix.  The usual art books.  Coffee table picture books, if you will.  I’m used to seeing one of them, two max, in a given year.  So you’ll forgive me for being so surprised when I saw not one, not two, but a whopping FIVE esoteric picture books come out in 2014 to varying degrees of artsy fartsyness. They’re also rather hugely enjoyable in their own odd little ways.

With that in mind we’ll begin with the most accessible and work our way out from there.

Once Upon an Alphabet by Oliver Jeffers

OnceUponAlphabet E is for Esoteric: 2014 Alphabet Books Get Creative

You may have heard me mention this Jeffers title in my recent Newbery/Caldecott prediction list for the fall.  The book creates one short story per letter of the alphabet, making it a devilishly clever creation.  Definitely falls into the older kid category of picture bookdom, but I’d argue that the stories and art are so much fun that it won’t have a hard time maintaining a child’s attention.

Take Away the A by Michaël Escoffier, illustrated by Kris Di Giacomo

TakeAwayA E is for Esoteric: 2014 Alphabet Books Get Creative

And you thought they couldn’t come up with an original concept for a picture book anymore?  Ha!  Check this puppy out.  In it the book goes through the alphabet, taking away a single letter from each word so as to produce a new one. The text reads:

“Without the A
the BEAST is BEST.

Without the B
the BRIDE goes for a RIDE.

Without the C
the CHAIR has HAIR.”

Back me up on this when I say no one’s ever done this before.  They haven’t, right?  Just brilliant.

Work: An Occupational Alphabet by Kellen Hatanaka

Work E is for Esoteric: 2014 Alphabet Books Get Creative

Now we’re getting a little more design-y.  The book is ostensibly a listing of different jobs by letter (though, as my husband pointed out, just try and make a living as an “explorer” or “mountaineer” these days).  Hatanaka has this smooth digital style that’s easy on the eyes.  I did actually attempt this one with my three-year-old, thinking (for some reason) that the lure of the jobs would hold her attention.  It didn’t but that could just mean it’s for older children.  Certainly there are a lot of visual gags in here that will appeal primarily to them.

Alphabetics: An Aesthetically Awesome Alliterated Alphabet Anthology

by Patrick and Traci Concepcion, ill. Dawid Ryski

Alphabetics E is for Esoteric: 2014 Alphabet Books Get Creative

And here we go.  Your first clue that kids may or may not be the primary audience for this book?  Well, it contains a zombie smoking a cigarette (recall the recent cigar brouhaha with The Scarecrow’s Wedding?), a “sultry seafaring sailor” by the name of Stella, and a “hellacious Harley hog”.  On the other hand it had an entry on “Gus the gregarious giant with geek-chic glasses” which definitely appeals to the Portlandia in me.  This is sort of an Urban Outfitters alphabet book.  Looks nice in a small studio apartment.  Children need not necessarily apply.

Alphabetabum: An Album of Rare Photographs and Medium Verses by Chris Raschka and Vladimir Radunsky

Alphabetabum E is for Esoteric: 2014 Alphabet Books Get Creative
(Not to be confused with the other Chris Raschka alphabet book Talk to Me About the Alphabet)

Apparently these photos are from Radunsky’s personal collection with Raschka providing three line verses per letter.  They primarily feature West European, white kids and Kirkus was down on the book because it found it too snarky.  Not a problem I particularly had, though again I question whether or not an actual child would want to have anything to do with this book.  Rather, I would hand this to teen fans of Edward Gorey that buy old photos in antique stores for fun (which is to say, myself circa age 15).

Any others I may have missed that are in the same vein?  Surely there’s another one out there sporting a 2014 publication date.  Surely.

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16. Scots wha play: an English Shakespikedian Scottish independence referendum mashup

THE DATE: 18 September 2014, Fateful Day of Scotland’s Independence Referendum

THE PLACE: A Sceptred Isle

DRAMATIS PERSONAE:
Alexander the Great, First Minister of Scotland
Daveheart, Prime Minister of the Britons
Assorted Other Ministers, Attendant Lords, Lordlings, Politicos, and Camp Followers
Three Witches
A Botnet of Midges
The Internet (A Sprite)
A Helicopter
Dame Scotia
St George of Osborne
Boris de Balliol, Mayor of Londres
UKIP (An Acronym)
Chorus

ACT I: A Blasted Heath.

Enter THREE WITCHES

When shall we three meet again,
In thunder, lightning, or in rain?

When the referendum’s done,
When the battle’s lost and won.

That will be when Salmond’s gone.

Where the place?

Hampstead Heath.

Better Together unto death!

Is that your phone?

Daveheart calls: anon! –
Fair is foul, and foul is fair:
Hover through the plebs and filthy air.

[WITCHES vanish.]

ACT II: The Scottish Camp (Voters at Dawn)

Enter a SMALL FOLKS’ CHORUS, Botnet Midges,
Who flap their wings, and then commence this chant:

See here assembled in the Scottish Camp
The Thane of Yes, Lord Naw-Naw, Doctor Spin.
Old folk forget; yet all shall be forgot,
But we’ll remember, with advantages,
This Referendum Day. Then shall that name
And date, familiar as our household words –
Alex the Great, the eighteenth of September –
And many, many here who cast their votes,
A true sorority, a band of brothers,
Long be remembered — long as “Auld Lang Syne” –
For she or he who votes along with me
Shall be my sibling; be they curt or harsh
This day shall gentle their condition:
Scots students down in England now a-bed
Shall think themselves accursed, they were not here,
Casting their votes in this our referendum.

ACT III: On Arthur’s Seat, a Mount Olympus
Near the Scots’ Parliament at Holyrood

Proud Edward Milibrand, Daveheart, Nicholas Clegg,
And Anthony a Blair perch on the crags
With English Exiles. Now Lord Devomax speaks:

Stands England where it did? Alas, poor country,
Almost afraid to know itself, a stateless
Nation, post-imperial, undevolved;
Still sadly lacking its own Parliament,
It commandeers to deal with its affairs
The British Parliament, whose time it wastes
With talk of what pertains to England only,
And so abuses that quaint institution
As if it were its own, not for these islands
Set in a silver sea from Sark to Shetland.

[Exit, pursued by A. Blair]

ACT IV: The Archipelago (High Noon)

Enter THE INTERNET, A Sprite, who sings:

Full fathom five Westminster lies;
Democracy begins to fade;
Stout, undevolved, John Bull still eyes
Imperial power so long mislaid;
England must suffer a sea-change
Into something small and strange,
MPs hourly clang Big Ben:

DING-DONG!

Come, John Bull, and toll Big Ben.

ACT V: South London: top floor of the Shard

Boris de Balliol, St George of Osborne,
Attendant Lords, and Chorus Bankerorum,
Et Nympharum Tamesis et Parliamentorum

Sheet lightnings flash offstage while clashing cymbals
Crescendo in a thunderous night’s farrage.

ST GEORGE: Blow, winds, and crack your cheeks! Rage! Blow!
Ye exit polls and hurricanoes spout!
Come, Boris, here’s the place. Stand still.

How fearful

And dizzy ’tis, to cast one’s eyes so low!
The crows and choughs, that wing the midway air
Seem gross as bankers’ apps: here from this Shard
See floors of smug short-sellers, dreadful traders
Inside a giant gherkin, and the City
Fraternity of inegalite
Spread out around us while its denizens
Appear like lice.

ATTENDANT LORDS: Scotia and Boris, hail!

BORIS: O Bella, Bella Caledonia,
Hic Boris Maior, Londinii Imperator,
Ego –

Fanfare of hautboys, bagpipes, and a tucket.

ST GEORGE: A tucket!

BORIS:                             Tempus fugit.

CHORUS:                                                    Fuckaduckit!

Pipers, desist! Your music from this height
Has calmed the storm, and, blithely, while we wait
For the result to come from Holyrood,
So charms the ear that, clad in English tartans –
The Hunting Cholmondesley, the Royal Agincourt,
And chic crisscrosses of the National Trust –
Our city here, ravished by this fair sound
Of tweeted pibroch, YouTubed from the Shard
To Wapping, Westminster, and Heathrow’s tarmac,
While gazing up from bingo and Big Macs,
Brooding upon our disunited kingdom,
Stands all agog to hear Dame Scotia speak.

Scotia descends, ex machina helecopteris

HELICOPTER: Bzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

SCOTIA: O England, England, your tight cabinet’s
Sly Oxbridge public-schoolboy millionaires
Fight while your country sinks beneath their yoke;
It weeps, it bleeds; and each new day a gash
Is added to those wounds: new Europhiles
Repulsed, the world repelled; England whose riots
Failed to stop students’ fees for your own folk
Or to contain their escalating cost.
Sad, catastrophic, calculating drones
Miscalculating loans, kicking the arts,
England betrayed by Scoto-Anglish Blair
Into wrong wars and then to Gordon Brown,
Jowled lord of loss and light-touch regulation.
O England, England! Rise and be a nation
United under your own Parliament!
Methinks I am a prophet now inspired
And thus, inspiring, do foretell of you:
Your Europhobia must not endure,
For violent fires must soon burn out themselves;
Small showers last long, but sudden storms are short.
Learn from the Scots: plant windfarms, make yourself
A Saudi Arabia of tidal power,
Though not of gender; learn, too, from the French,
There is no need to stay a sceptred isle,
Scuffed other Eden, demi-paradise;
No fortress, built by UKIP for themselves,
Against infection in their Brussels wars;
Be happy as a nation on an island
That’s not England’s alone, a little world,
This precious stone set in a silver sea,
Which serves to link it now with all the globe,
Or as the front door to a happy home,
Be, still, the envy of less happier lands,
And set up soon an English Parliament,
Maybe in London, Britain’s other eye,
Maybe in Yorkshire, so you may become
A better friend to Scotland whose folk love
This blessed plot, this earth, and independence.

She zooms northwards.

Heading image: Macbeth by John Martin (1789–1854). Scottish National Gallery. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

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17. Recent Hacking - This Time 5 Million Gmail Addresses and Passwords Compromised

Last week hackers got into Gmail addresses and passwords. This is just another in frequent hacking occurrences. It's getting pretty scary out there in cyberspace lately. Luckily for those affected by this hack, Google took care of it - no fuss, no mess. The hack was, if I understand correctly, a result of a hack of WordPress.com. The Gmail addresses and passwords from WordPress made Gmail

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18. cakes in space: a peek at the illustration process

Some of my illustration in my new book with Philip Reeve, Cakes in Space, are quite complicated, so here's a breakdown of how I've made one of them. This scene shows a battle between a strange, black-spaghetti-like alien, astronaut Astra, Pilbeam the robot and a host of mutant killer cakes. (Such a traditional children's book scene, right? I love being able to dream up this stuff with Philip.)



Thumbnails: First I start by making rough 'thumbnail sketches' of possible scenes in the book. They're called thumbnails because they're tiny, just large enough to give our designer at Oxford University Press an idea of where things might go on the page, so she can figure out where the text could fit in. You can spot these two pages in the middle of the bottom row. (I drew lots of thumbnails all on one page together.)




'Who was your designer?', you may ask. Well, here she is, the lovely and talented Jo Cameron, on the left, in her wonderful colour-coordinated orange and black dress. The other two people are Liz Cross, our publisher (in the centre), and our editor, Clare Whitston, on the right (wearing the fascinators Jo made).



Back to work.... I added a bit of blackness on the stretched-out spaghetti alien to show Jo that I didn't want the text to go on its body. And she e-mailed it back like this, with text.



Pencil roughs: Then I made a more detailed version in pencil (called a 'pencil rough'). It's still scratchy and full of mistakes, but I have a much better idea of what's going to go on the page. (This is the version that a lot of reviewers saw, in the 'Uncorrected Proof Copy', a printed version of the book with only about half of my artwork completed.)



Going to INK: This is my favourite bit, the inking. I love it because I've already made the big stressful decisions about where everything will go, and I can have fun with the details and focus on making the line look nice. I dip an old-fashioned metal nib into India ink and trace over the pencil on a lightbox. I like doing it this way because I don't have to go back and erase the pencil, and risk smudging the ink.

A good tip, if you're drawing with a nib and India ink: the ink clogs the nib very quickly, so have a little jar of water nearby. Every few minutes, you can dip the nib into the water and wipe off the extra ink and water on a cloth or some kitchen roll. If you let the ink dry on the nib, you'll need to boil the kettle and swish the nib around in your teacup with a toothpick, until the ink comes off.



This is a different page, but it's a closeup of me inking some of the mutant cakes. They were super-fun to draw! I didn't use expensive paper, just cheap drawing cartridge. If the paper was too thick, I wouldn't have been able to see through it clearly enough to trace.



And here's what the page looks like, all inked up. (Feel free to try colouring it yourself, if you like.)



Next, I scanned the inked page into my computer.

Scanning breakdown: For this one, I scanned it in 'Bitmap', which is total black and white, no gray areas. That makes it very, very clean. And I think I scanned it at 1200 dots per inch, which is probably a higher resolution than I needed (600 dpi would have been fine), but I wanted to make sure I didn't lose any line quality. I then opened it in Photoshop, converted it to Grayscale and shrunk it down to 600 dpi, so it wouldn't be so big that it would crash my computer.

I don't have a photo of myself, working on exactly that page, but here I am with my laptop and the Wacom mouse pen that I use for colouring. (Note the scarf: it was the dead of winter and very cold!)



Here's a coloured-up version! When I coloured the previous book, Oliver and the Seawigs, I only let myself use blue and light blue. And in this book, I tried to stick to just orange, but I struggled with that; light orange isn't orange anymore, it's peach. I didn't want a whole book full of peach colour, it might look like some horrible old bathroom. So I also used gray in this book, and then added a few extra colours just for the human skin tones, so Astra's mum could have a rich chocolatey-colour skin, and Astra could be a little bit darker than peach.

Limited palette: Even though the book was printed using a full-colour technique (so I could have had ALL the colours of the rainbow!), I was still very strict with myself about keeping a very limited colour palette. I just like the look of limited colours, and that decision gives the artwork a slight retro feel, like space stories from the Sixties. Philip and I liked that era's positive spin on things, how people were still optimistic about building new worlds and new societies, and we wanted to capture that feeling.



Adding texture: I was looking at that coloured scene and I thought, Hmm, this is a big cakey, crumbly battle... it still looks too tidy. So I added texture. I had already scanned in a bit of texture for some of the cakes, but the splotchy background texture comes from a big piece of watercolour paper with stains all over it that I made with over-brewed tea. After the tea had dried, I scanned in the sheet (full colour, I think, so I could use it with other things), turned it gray in Photoshop, then added it to the digital image, as a layer all over everything.

That's the thing about digital artwork, I always have to make sure it doesn't look bland because everything's a bit too tidy and clean, so I'm constantly scanning in handmade textures. People ask me if I draw by hand or work digitally, and you can see that it's really a mixture of both.



Here's a little peek at the rest of the book, and I've included several How-to-draw Activity sheets on the Cakes in Space page on my website, so do go over and have a look!

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19. Illustrator Interview – Rebecca Emberley

I discovered Rebecca’s work through participating in her crowd-funding for her ITSY BITSY SPIDER book. By the way, as of two weeks ago, in addition to its print format, this story is is now an interactive book app for the iPad … Continue reading

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20. China’s economic foes

China has all but overtaken the United States based on GDP at newly-computed purchasing power parity (PPP) exchange rates, twenty years after Paul Krugman predicted: “Although China is still a very poor country, its population is so huge that it will become a major economic power if it achieves even a fraction of Western productivity levels.” But will it eclipse the United States, as Arvind Subramanian has claimed, with the yuan eventually vying with the dollar for international reserve currency status?

Not unless China battles three economic foes. One is well-known: diminishing marginal returns to capital. Two others have received less attention. The first is Carlos Diaz-Alejandro. Not the man, but the results uncovered by his research on the Southern Cone following the opening up of its capital account that culminated in a sovereign debt crisis and contributed to Latin America’s lost 1980s. If the capital account is liberalized before the domestic financial system is ready, the country sets itself up for a fall: goodbye financial repression, hello financial crash. The second is the “reality of transition”: rejuvenating growth requires hard budgets and competition to improve resource allocation and stimulate innovation, counterbalanced with a more competitive real exchange rate. This is the principal insight from the transition in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE), which was far simpler than anything China faces.

China was able to raise total factor productivity (TFP) growth as an offset to diminishing marginal returns to capital, especially after joining the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 2001, and faster growth was accompanied by a rising savings rate. But TFP growth is hard to sustain. Any developing country targeting growth above the steady state level given by the sum of human capital growth, TFP growth and population growth (the latter two falling rapidly in China) will find that its investment rates need to continually increase unless it can rejuvenate TFP growth. China’s investment rates have risen from around 42% of GDP over 2005-7 (prior to the global crisis) to 48% in recent years even as growth has dropped from the 12% to the 7.5% range. Savings rates have hovered around 50%, reducing current account surpluses (numbers drawn from IMF 2010 and 2014 Article IV reports).

Hall of Supreme Harmony, Beijing.
Hall of Supreme Harmony, Beijing, by Daniel Case. CC-BY-SA-3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

This configuration has forced China to choose between either investing even more, or lowering growth targets. It has chosen the latter, with its leaders espousing anti-corruption, deleveraging, environmental improvement and structural reform to achieve higher quality growth. The central bank, People’s Bank of China (PBoC), has reaffirmed its goal of internationalizing the yuan and liberalizing the capital account.

China’s proposed antidote is to “rebalance” from investment and exports to domestic consumption. But growth arithmetic would require consumption to grow at unrealistic rates, given the relative shares of investment and private consumption in GDP, even to meet scaled-down growth targets. Besides, households need better social benefits and market interest rates on bank deposits to save less and consume more. Hukou reform alone, or placing social benefits received by rural migrants on a par with their urban counterparts, could easily cost 3% of GDP a year for the next seven years as some 150 million additional people gain access to such benefits—quite apart from the public investment needed to upgrade urban infrastructure, according to calculations shared by Xinxin Li of the Observatory Group. And the failure to liberalize bank deposit rates has led to the rise of “wealth management products” in the shadow banking system. These “WMPs” offer higher returns but are poorly regulated and more risky.

Indeed, total social financing, a broad measure of credit, has soared from 125% to 200% of GDP over the five years 2009-2013 (Figure 2 in the July 2014 IMF Article IV report, with Box 5 warning that such a rapid trajectory usually ends in tears). Local government debt was estimated at 32% of GDP in mid-2013, much of it short-term and used to fund infrastructure projects and social housing with long paybacks. Housing prices show the signs of a bubble, especially away from the four major cities. Corporate credit is 115% of GDP, about half of it collateralized by land or property. While the focus recently has been on risks from shadow banking, it is hard to separate the shadow from the core. Besides, WMPs have become intertwined with the booming real estate market, a major engine of growth yet the centre of a “web of vulnerabilities” (to quote the IMF) encompassing banks, shadow banks, and local government finances. A real estate shock would ripple through the system, lowering growth and forcing bailouts. The gross cost of the bank workout at the end of the 1990s was 15% of GDP in a much simpler world!

2014 began with fears of a hard landing and an impending default by a bankrupt coal mine on a $500 million WMP-funded loan intermediated by a mega-bank. The government eventually intervened rather than let investors take a hit and risk a confidence crisis. And starting in April, stimulus packages were launched to meet the 7.5% growth target, a tacit admission that rebalancing is not working. But concerns persist around real estate. Besides, stimulus will help only temporarily and China is likely to be facing the same questions about growth and financial vulnerability by the end of the year.

With rebalancing infeasible, and investing even more prohibitively costly, virtually the only remaining option is to spur total factor productivity growth: China is still far from the global technological frontier. This calls for a package that cleans up the financial sector and implements hard budgets and genuine competition, especially for the state-owned enterprises (SOEs), while keeping real exchange rates competitive. The real appreciation of the past few years may have been offset by rising productivity, but continued appreciation will make it harder for the domestic economy to restructure and create 12 million jobs a year to absorb new graduates and displaced SOE workers.

In sum, China must heed Diaz-Alejandro. No one knows what the non-performing loans ratio is in China and few believe the official rate of 1%. If the cornerstone of a financial system is confidence and transparency, China is severely deficient. This must first be fixed and market-determined interest rates adopted before entertaining hopes of internationalizing the currency. China must also accept the reality of transition; the formidable remaining agenda in the fiscal, financial, social, and SOE sectors reminds us that China is still in transition to a full-fledged market economy.

The combination of a financial clean up and the policy trio of hard budgets, competition, and a competitive real exchange rate will improve resource allocation and force innovation, boosting total factor productivity growth. But doing this is hard—that’s the essence of the “middle-income trap”. Huge vested interests will be encountered, evoking Raghuram Rajan’s description of the middle-income trap as one “where crony capitalism creates oligarchies that slow down growth”. Dealing with this agenda is the Chinese leadership’s biggest challenge.

The era of cheap China is ending, while the ability of the government to virtually decree the growth rate has fallen victim to diminishing returns to capital. Diaz-Alejandro and the reality of transition are no less important as China seeks a way forward.

Headline image credit: The Great Wall in fall, by Canary Wu. CC-BY-SA-2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

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21. Classroom Connections: ALWAYS, ABIGAIL by Nancy J. Cavanaugh + Giveaway

genre: contemporary fiction
setting: middle school
age range: 9 and up
educator’s guide
read an excerpt
Nancy’s website

Please tell us about your book.

Abigail and her two best friends are poised for a life of pom-poms and popularity. But not only does Abigail end up in a different homeroom, the pom squad doesn’t turn out exactly as she planned. Then everyone’s least favorite teacher pairs Abigail up with the school’s biggest outcast, Gabby Marco, for a year-long “Friendly Letter Assignment.” Abigail can hardly believe her bad luck. As her so-called best friends and entire future of popularity seem to be slipping away, Abigail has to choose between the little bit of fame she has left or letting it go to be a true friend.

Could you tell readers a little about your writing process?

My story ideas always come by way of a character.  Usually along with that character there is some type of premise for the story.  The part that is difficult for me is the plot.  As I write my first draft, I discover the “possibilities” for my plot and those discoveries lead to lots of revision.  It’s in the midst of those many revisions where I uncover what the plot of my story is really supposed to be.  This leads to even further revision to make the writing and the plot as strong as they can be.

What are some challenges associated with writing middle grade fiction?

I think resisting the urge to preach to readers is always a challenge.  I’m a former teacher, and I’m used to guiding young people and helping them learn.  Books do teach lessons, but the lessons readers take from books shouldn’t come from a preachy author but rather from the story itself and from the reader’s own discovery.  Young readers will learn a lot from the books they read, as long as we let them learn those things on their own.

What topics does your book touch upon that would make it a perfect fit for the classroom?

One of the themes in AWLAYS, ABIGAIL is bullying.  Abigail has to make some really tough choices in the book, and ultimately, she has to decide if she will sacrifice her own reputation to be a true friend to the school’s biggest outcast.  Young people make choices like that in classrooms all over the country every day, and I think as educators we often spend too much time telling young people what the right choice is, but we don’t spend enough time talking about how difficult it is to make that right choice.  ALWAYS, ABIGAIL is all about finding the kind of courage it takes to make that right choice.

Giveaway:

One advance reader copy of ALWAYS, ABIGAIL is up for grabs. To enter, please leave a comment about why you’d like to read Nancy’s book below. Contest closes Sunday, 9/21. US residents only, please.

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22. Circle, Square, Moose



Circle, Square, Moose
by Kelly Bingham
illustrated by Paul O. Zelinsky
Greenwillow Books, September 23, 2014
review copy provided by the publisher

Did you love Z is for Moose? Moose disrupted Zebra's presentation of the alphabet in that book. He's back, this time causing problems in a shape book.

Zebra comes to the rescue to extract Moose from the shape book, but that doesn't go so well.

Leave it to Moose to patch up his friendship with Zebra AND end the book with a rhyme.

Want to hear Paul O. Zelinsky speak? Come to the Dublin Literacy Conference on February 21, 2015! Consider presenting about your literacy best practices!


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23. Honesty Has a Smell

A relaxing morning, cooler temperatures, a good run, and a mystery to be solved. That’s what greeted me on Sunday. What started off as an excellent day devolved into a conspiracy against me! The evidence piled up early until I had no other option but to come to the conclusion that I am not trusted in my home when it comes to selecting fragrances.cp

No one would tell me this shocking news, of course. I had to figure it out on my own. Since my littlest’s sickness means my wife stays with her most of the time, I must do a good portion of the shopping. I am up to the task. I have now purchased things I didn’t know we used, needed, or even existed. One of those things is fragrance products. Did you know there is a whole store that just sells that? I knew about air fresheners, baking soda, and odor-eaters, but do we really need a store.

The aforementioned little one currently loves bubble bath – which apparently, they only sell at the smell store. So I volunteered the previous day to go and get her more. When I did so, I noticed a few sneers and strange looks around the room. Never did I think they would stoop so low as to plot an underhanded way to keep me from helping. But that’s just what they did.

I believe in honesty! If someone has an issue with me, tell me. I would much rather someone tell me that my pants are too tight and my shirt too puffy than let me walk around all day looking like a foolish pirate. I guess this is a value I have been lax in instilling in my children…

On our way home from church, we passed the smell store. When I suggested to the two daughters present that we stop in, I got fumbling excuses about homework and hunger. I should have known something was amiss right then. I mean, when do they ever want to do homework?

Arriving at home, pizza appeared from nowhere along with cold Dr. Pepper. I was ushered to the TV where the Falcons game was already cued up on the DVR. Hmmmm….

Lulled into a football coma, three hours passed as my team got pushed around by their opponent. Likewise, I got manhandled by five delicate females. Angry about the game, I grabbed my keys to go – only to find that the purchases had already been made.

I was going to get something exotic, tropical… something that would have let her float away to an island retreat… Whatever scent I picked would have soothed her beyond all her troubles. It would have uplifted her mood and spirits just to reflect on its glorious scent. My choices were as endless as a box a crayons:

Warm Vanilla Sugar

Peace, Love & Daisies

Pure Paradise

Endless Weekend

 

Why wouldn’t they let me? Why?

None would make eye contact with me as I probed for an answer, leaving me:

Hurt

Disappointed

Rejected

Betrayed

 

Finally the little one said, “Dad, you like the smell of your farts.”

And there it is! Honesty! That’s all I’m asking for.                  Wait… Huh?


Filed under: Dad stuff

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24. Giant Vehicles by Rod Green, illustrated by Stephen Biesty

Giant Vehicles is the fantastic new book by Rod Green, illustrated by the master of cross-sections, Stephen Biesty. Eight enormous, real-life vehicles. From the Super Train to the Airbus A380 to the biggest helicopter, rocket, cruise ship, submarine, container ship and, of course, the massive dump truck on the cover, a Caterpillar 797F. Although this is a board book with flaps to

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25. The Meaning of Maggie: Review Haiku

You'll catch on before
Maggie does, but you'll love her
for her ignorance.

The Meaning of Maggie by Megan Jean Sovern. Chronicle, 2014, 220 pages.

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