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1. Death of a Schoolgirl (2012)

Death of a Schoolgirl (Jane Eyre Chronicles #1) Joanna Campbell Slan. 2012. Berkley Trade. 340 pages. [Source: Library]

My expectations were low, so I was quite pleasantly surprised by how enjoyable this Jane Eyre mystery was. It may not be perfectly perfect from start to finish. There might be a paragraph or two here and there that bothered me. (For example, I didn't understand why Mrs. Fairfax was pushing Jane Eyre to take the family diamonds with her on her visit to Adele's school. Here she was going to check on the child's welfare, and Mrs. Fairfax is urging her to take jewels so she can dress up for her hosts in London?! I don't know if part of me thought it was foreshadowing--for better or worse--but when she put them in her reticule, I wanted to shout WHY are you traveling with expensive jewelry?!?! Why?! And sure enough--predictably enough--Jane Eyre gets robbed on her way to London. See! I told you not to take the family jewels!) But for the most part, I found the book to be an entertaining read.

Mrs. Rochester (aka Jane Eyre) is a new mother. She loves, loves, loves her new baby boy. But. When she receives a short letter from Adele with a French message included asking--begging--for help, she decides to leave her husband and son behind to check on Adele at her boarding school. If all is well, if it is just Adele being Adele, being childish and wanting her own way, then she may leave her at the school. If the school is less than ideal, if she does not like what she sees--how she sees the children being treated, if she thinks Adele's misery is justifiable, then she may take her out of the school. Because Jane Eyre was beaten up by the thief, because she doesn't particularly look RICH and IMPORTANT, she is initially mistaken as the new German teacher who was supposed to arrive several weeks earlier. That first day Jane Eyre is a bit flabbergasted and too overwhelmed to correct anyone. She has just learned that one of Adele's classmates was murdered. Eventually, one of the teachers convinces Jane that she should continue the deception, that she should resume her teaching duties temporarily and watch over the students herself. She debates what is best. Should she take Adele immediately to safety and let others solve the crime? Or should she become an amateur detective herself and work as a team with others to help solve the case?

Is Jane Eyre the best detective ever? Not really. But to me that almost doesn't matter. I liked spending time in her company. The setting intrigued me. I had never placed Jane Eyre in the Regency time period. But here we have the sequel set during the reign of George IV, and Queen Caroline, the scandalous Queen Caroline has not died yet. This places the book within a specific time frame. The sprinkling of historical details may not speak to all readers. Little details can be easily dismissed or ignored. But to me it's the little things that help ground a book. The book does deal with prejudices and judgments: how the lower classes feel about the upper classes, how the poor feel about the rich, how the rich feel about the poor, do they see them as human, are they compassionate and kind, or, haughty or cruel. One of the characters is VERY prejudiced against French people. Again and again we see characters making judgments or being judged. Sometimes the people that are being judged in certain situations are making judgments about others just a chapter or two later.

There were places I loved this one. There were places I merely liked it. But at times it just felt RIGHT. Maybe it didn't feel RIGHT cover to cover. But I read it quickly and enjoyed it very much.
© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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2. One Shot

The click of the pistol’s hammer wakes you. A velvety voice lilts out of your vision, “Give me a good one liner and I just may let you live.” You can see two of your friends hiding outside the door, signaling to you that they are working on saving you. What do you tell the nice lady? Write this scene.

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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3. Review of The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place

berry scandalous sisterhood of prickwillow place Review of The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow PlaceThe Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place
by Julie Berry
Middle School    Roaring Brook    354 pp.
9/14    978-1-59634-956-6    $15.99    g

This airy confection could not be more different from Berry’s most recent (and pitch-black) novel All the Truth That’s in Me (rev. 11/13). Part murder mystery, part girls’-school story, part dark drawing-room comedy (think Edwin Drood, Arsenic and Old Lace, or the 1980s movie Clue), the novel opens in 1890 England at Saint Etheldreda’s School for Young Ladies. The seven students — our heroines — are known throughout the book as Dear Roberta, Disgraceful Mary Jane, Dull Martha, Stout Alice, Smooth Kitty, Pocked Louise, and Dour Elinor. Their headmistress is Mrs. Plackett, but she’s dispatched in the second paragraph (by poison), followed soon afterward by her ne’er-do-well brother, Aldous. The young ladies spend the rest of the book trying to figure out whodunit while also concealing the deaths (burying the bodies in the vegetable garden; having Stout Alice impersonate Mrs. Plackett; bilking their parents for tuition) in order to remain together at the school. Berry takes her madcap seriously, never breaking character when it comes to the old-timey setting or details (a Strawberry Social is the unlikely occasion of a late-in-the-story death). The young ladies, too, are products of their time: each one’s burgeoning independence and coming-into-her-own — largely gained through the murder investigation and/or cover-up, some also through snagging a beau — is satisfying without being too anachronistic. An immensely entertaining, smart, and frothy diversion.

From the September/October 2014 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

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The post Review of The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place appeared first on The Horn Book.

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4. WomanSpeak, A Journal of Writing and Art by Caribbean Women, Vol.7,



WomanSpeak, A Journal of Writing and Art by Caribbean Women, Vol.7, 2014, edited by Lynn Sweeting, brings together 30 contemporary women writers and painters of the Caribbean in a new collection especially themed, “Voices of Dissent: Writing and Art to Transform the Culture.”  Includes works by Opal Palmer Adisa, Lelawattee Manoo Rahming, Vahni Capildeo, Althea Romeo-Mark, Marion Bethel, Danielle Boodoo-Fortune, Sonia Farmer, Angelique V. Nixon and more. 


http://www.lulu.com/shop/lynn-sweeting/womanspeak-a-journal-of-writing-and-art-by-caribbean-women-vol72014/paperback/product-21293884.html

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5. "Ten Times Better than Anything"

Last weekend I was up in Silverthorne for my annual writing group retreat. Our group has been meeting together for 22 years. I joined when I moved to Colorado in 1992, when Gregory was just turning 1; next month he will be 23.

We go away on a retreat together every summer. This year we chose a weekend in early fall, as for the first time ever I had the luxury of not having to teach during the autumn semester. So this year, for the first time ever, we were there as the aspen were beginning to turn.

The house we rented had some flaws. It wasn't the one we had signed up to get; there was some confusion over a last-minute switcheroo. The couches weren't comfy, and there were no coffee tables on which we writers could rest our piles of manuscripts, books to share, and abundant snacks and glasses of wine. But resourceful as we are, we re-purposed a couple of our coolers as coffee tables, topping them with extra pillowcases from the linen closet for a lovely effect. And the lack of coffee tables was more than made up for by an extra-relaxing hot hub, stunning views of Lake Dillon, and proximity to dozens of hiking trails. Leslie, pictured here with me, declared our first glimpse of the trails to be "ten times better than anything," and that became our unofficial slogan for the retreat. (Official slogan, chosen ahead of time during our retreat planning: "Break Through to Bliss.")

The heart of the retreat is having unstructured time to write and then sharing what we've written. I try to bring something extra significant each year: the first chapter of a new book or the concluding chapter of a book long in the making. This year, despite my supposedly having all this new free time to write, I had been scrambling before I left to finish up revisions on the second book in the Nora Notebooks series and to deal with the proofs and index for my edited collection, Ethics and Children's Literature. But during the retreat I did get something written on Friday to share on Saturday: chapter 2 of the third and final book in the Nora series. It was sweet to remember that I had shared chapter one of book one at the retreat last year.

We also eat, heaps and heaps and heaps of lovingly prepared food. This is becoming more of a challenge as nowadays everyone has so many special diets. There is always someone who doesn't eat gluten, or soy, or shellfish, or nightshade vegetables, or all of the above. It's hard to break bread together when everyone (except me, it seems!) is swearing off carbs. But once we sit down at the table together, none of this matters. We laugh, we cry, we talk and talk and talk and talk. We remember the years we've shared, toast recent joys, commiserate with ongoing concerns, dream of the future.

Being in a writing group like this one is ten times better than anything.


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6. Painting a Saddle in Watercolor


Yesterday I did a watercolor demo of a Western-style saddle at the SKB Foundation workshop here in Wyoming. (Direct link to YouTube video)

Here are two stages in the hour-long painting. On the left is the painting halfway finished, with the large color areas blocked in.

I then defined the smaller details and textures using water-soluble colored pencils and just a few touches of white gouache for highlights.

The time lapse is shot with a GoPro Black set at a two-second intervals. The GoPro is mounted on a DIY rig that uses two kitchen timers for a compound (pan and tilt) move.
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For 72-minutes of watercolor demos with voiceover, check out my video "Watercolor in the Wild":
HD download: (Credit Card)  from Gumroad
HD download: (Paypal) from Sellfy
BONUS FEATURES (a half hour of additional bite-size inspiration)
DVD: (NTSC, Region 1-North America) 
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If you like painting workshops, the SKB Foundation has an emphasis on landscape and wildlife painting, with a half-dozen instructors in a beautiful setting and a congenial atmosphere.
Thanks to Hunter at the CM Family Ranch in Dubois, Wyoming and to artist Lee Cable for the info about the saddle.

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7. TURNING PAGES: THE EMPRESS CHRONICLES, by Suzy Vitello

I admit that this book put me in a bit of a spin, when I'd finished it. I had no idea how to talk about it. Magical realism? Historical fiction? Problem novel? The line between what was, and what wasn't was... a little shaky. The pacing was very... Read the rest of this post

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8. Publishers Events During Banned Books Week

fafabuttonNext week is Banned Books Week and to help you celebrate, the Associate of American Publishers has put together a list of ways to participate in the celebration of censored book titles. AAP members Hachette, HarperCollins, Macmillan, Penguin Random House, Scholastic and Simon & Schuster have each created a way to help readers engage in the event, whose goal it is to promote the freedom to read.

Hachette is calling readers to share how a banned book has impacted their lives on the HBG Facebook page. HarperCollins is supporting online discussion forums on Epic Reads which will encourage discussions around banned books. Macmillan has created a website dedicated to The Book of Three by Lloyd Alexander and Annie on My Mind by Nancy Garden, two previously banned books. Penguin Young Readers Group is encouraging readers to share selfies of themselves holding up a sign that reads, “I celebrate #BannedBooksWeek because …” and will give away prizes to participants. The publisher will also join in several #BannedBooksWeekTwitter chats during the week. (more…)

New Career Opportunities Daily: The best jobs in media.

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9. Scholastic Publishes the ‘Open a World of Possible’ Anthology as a Free eBook

scholasticlogo082310Scholastic has published a free eBook entitled Open a World of Possible: Real Stories About the Joy and Power of Reading to celebrate the launch of its new literacy initiative.

This anthology contains over 100 stories and essays written by literacy experts and authors. The dedication in this book honors the late Walter Dean Myers and features his quote: “Once I began to read, I began to exist.”

Some of the contributors include bestselling author James Patterson, former National Ambassador of Young People’s Literature Jon Scieska, and education expert Karen L. MappFollow this link to download the digital book.

New Career Opportunities Daily: The best jobs in media.

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10. summer reading challenge: congratulations, everyone!

I've heard so many wonderful things about this year's Summer Reading Challenge, and SO many people took part! I got this message from the kids at Dewsbury Library in Kirklees, who were having a party to celebrate earning this year's medals:



So right here from the studio in London where I make my books, I've made a message back! It's for Kirklees and ALL the people who took part in the Summer Reading Challenge: readers, librarians, volunteers, family members, sponsors... probably even more people were involved than that. Thank you!



And here's the slightly fancier video we made at Leith Library, if you want to see that, too. :)

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11. Quick Comic for Teachers: Math Problems, Charles Schulz

This one has been flying around the internet for years, but it always makes me laugh.

Maybe it will have the same satisfying effect on you.

It’s interesting, I think, that Sally uses the word “hell” here. In the context of Peanuts, it’s almost shocking. And therefore more powerful. And, I think, a little funnier.

Thank you, as always, Charles Schulz.

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12. Shakespeare’s Works To Be Translated Into Mandarin

shakespeareThe British government plans to give £1.5 million (approximately $2.4 million) to the Royal Shakespeare Company. The organization has agreed to translate all of William Shakespeare’s writings into Mandarin.

Here’s more from The New York Times: “The grant, announced by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, will finance a company tour of China in 2016 and allow for select Chinese dramatic works to be translated into English. In bringing Shakespeare’s canon of plays to readers, directors and actors in China, the government hopes to forge ‘stronger links with China,’ according to a statement by Sajid Javid, the British culture secretary.”

Throughout the last four hundred years, Shakespeare’s works have been translated into more than 80 different languages. What do you think?

New Career Opportunities Daily: The best jobs in media.

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13. "Cry to Me": Fatherhood and Domestic Violence


The prevalence of violence, especially domestic violence with Caribbean families, has been one of the themes in my two short story collections, Uncle Obadiah and the Alien and Who's Your Daddy? 

In the short story, "Cry to Me," from Who's Your Daddy, which I've republished as an eBook, I've combined domestic violence with fatherhood in the story of David Hamilton, a respected professor, whose life is disrupted when his daughter become a victim of domestic violence.




I think "Cry to Me" is a precursor to a darker story that I am currently working on in which fatherhood turns ugly. Stay tuned.

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14. Guest Author Interview: Chris Cander on The Word Burglar

By Emma Kate Tsai 
for Cynthia Leitich Smith's Cynsations

Chris Cander happened upon a children’s story by way of her real life as a mom of two kids.

Below, Emma Kate Tsai interviews Chris about how she conceptualized The Word Burglar, illustrated by Katherine Tramonte (Bright Sky, 2013) and her perspective on children’s literature as a writer who’s also a mother of two.

Can you tell the story of how The Word Burglar came to be?

My daughter, who is now eleven, was going to camp for the first time when I wrote it.

At the time, I would tell her a story that I made up on the fly every night. When she went away to camp, it was the first time she wasn’t going to have a story at night. But the camp allowed me to email a letter by 10 a.m. that they would then print and, by bedtime, give to her.

So I would get up and give myself forty-five minutes to write a story. I’d drink coffee while I was doing it and try to keep the baby occupied, then I’d email it.

I really didn’t know if she was liking them, but I started posting them on Facebook every morning. They amassed a bit of a following. People were downloading them and reading them to their kids.

There was some urgency behind it because I only gave myself forty-five minutes. That was how the story made its way to Bright Sky, because a good friend of mine had just published The Storm Wrangler (2011), and he introduced me to the publisher after seeing my stories on Facebook.

Did it come out of your head like that--that forty-five minute exercise—or did you go back and fine-tune after it became popular? 

It was the forty-five minute draft. I’d wake up, and I would grab anything I could think of.

My son was trying to learn how to read.

Now, of course, he didn’t have fourteen brothers and sisters like The Word Burglar, or parents who didn’t know how to teach him. But I immediately thought: Sasha’s gone, he doesn’t have his role model here—she and he would read together in bed—and then it happened.

That was the kernel of the idea and, believe it or not, it’s freeing to have a constraint of time. I wasn’t trying to write for publication. I was trying to write for my eight year old, so she’d have a bedtime story. That internal voice that gets really critical and tells you to over-analyze? It wasn’t there because I had forty-five minutes.

It’s such a great technique if you haven’t tried it. Give yourself either a time constraint or give yourself permission to write the very worst thing that you’ve ever written.

There’s something very liberating about having permission to fail, having permission to do garbage work, because you might actually find something wonderful comes out.

That gatekeeper, that critic, has been turned away.

You used your own illustrator, is that right? 

Was it difficult to convince the publisher to use own illustrator?

My illustrator, who is a very good friend of mine, will say that I strong-armed them, and I kind of did. I had two illustrators in mind, one who did the cover of a novel I author-published this year, 11 Stories. He was one of my top two choices, and he was a friend, too. We went to middle school together.

But his agent said he didn’t have time to do it. Kat is a good friend, and our kids are friends, so when I got the contract from Bright Sky, my contact there asked, “Do you have any kind of illustration style in mind?”

I said, “I’d just really like you to meet my friend.”

Kat had never done any children’s books before. So it was a risk on everybody’s part, but she had great samples and great enthusiasm.

Plus, it was a great story because of the fact that we’d been friends and our kids were the same ages, and so we were able to build the kids into the book. Mine were characters and hers became represented in it: Her son was the model for The Word Burglar, and her daughter’s bunny, Hop, is represented in the bunny on every page.

The publisher got excited about that story aspect. It’s a selling point when we’ve gone to festivals. We go as a pair, and people enjoy hearing the back-story of how we work together.

Most of the time, at the point of the contract being signed, the author has almost no input into the rest of the process, and yet I was able to chat with Kat at five in the morning about sample illustrations. “Do you like this direction?” she’d ask. That part of it was great. I’m glad they gave her a chance.

Could you share with us the story behind your blurb?

50th Anniversary Edition
Leonard Kessler, author of Mr. Pine’s Purple House, which was my favorite book when I was about three, blurbed my first children’s book.

I loved that book when I was little, and I kept it for forever.

At some point, I was inspired to go to my library and curate my own favorite books on my own shelves.

Mr. Pine’s Purple House was there. I thought to myself, I wonder what else he’s done.

He’s published over 250 books for children and young readers, he’s 93 years old, and he lives in Sarasota, Florida.

One day, I pick up the phone—because that’s how intrepid I am—and I looked him up.

I called and said, “I would love to talk to Mr. Kessler. Would you give him my email and pass on a message?”

And the woman that answered the phone said, “Oh no, I’ll just give you his phone number.”

And she did.

So I called him on the phone and we had a lovely, amazing talk that ended in tears, because it was the most satisfying, full-circle of my life.

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15. Happy Release Day, TUT!

Happy Release Day to
Tut: The Story of My Immortal Life!
     

Hi! P. J. Hoover here, and I am thrilled that after 7-1/2 long years, the book of my heart is finally being released! In some ways it feels like just yesterday that I started writing Tut, but when I look at how much time has gone by, I can't believe it. 7-1/2 years! That is a crazy long time!

Just so you know, I adore my re-imagining of the boy king, and I am thrilled to share him with you all. Tut is immortal, fourteen, and has an infectiously fun attitude. His humor and his need to do the right thing pulled me in from the first words I wrote.

Please consider sharing 
Tut: The Story of My Immortal Life with those in your life who love adventure, humor, and mythology. It's a great choice for those who love Harry Potter and The Lightning Thief or fantasy of any kind.

Thank you all so much for your support! It means everything!

 

About Tut: The Story of My Immortal Life:

You'd think it would be great being an Egyptian demigod, but if King Tut has to sit through eighth grade one more time, he'll mummify himself.

Granted the gift of immortality by the gods-or is it a curse?-Tut has been stuck in middle school for ages. Even worse, evil General Horemheb, the man who killed Tut's father and whom Tut imprisoned in a tomb for three thousand years, is out and after him. The general is in league with the Cult of Set, a bunch of guys who worship one of the scariest gods of the Egyptian pantheon-Set, the god of Chaos.

The General and the Cult of Set have plans for Tut... and if Tut doesn't find a way to keep out of their clutches, he'll never make it to the afterworld alive.


For more information about me or any of my books, please visit my website

For information on school visits or speaking engagements, please visit my author visits and schedule pages.




Buy Tut: The Story of My Immortal Life!   

 
Tut is now available anywhere books are sold. If you'd like to buy a copy of  Tut, I would be eternally (or immortally?) grateful! I hope you'll love Tut as much as I do!



  

  
If you are interested in purchasing a signed/personalized copy of Tut: The Story of My Immortal Lifeplease click here for more information.

 
# ISBN-13 (hardcover): 978-0765334688
# ISBN-13 (ebook): 978-1466814752


FUN EXTRAS for Tut: The Story of My Immortal Life!   

I've had an absolute blast coming up with some amazing extras to go along with Tut: The Story of My Immortal Life! What kind of extras you might ask? Well, let me take a minute and tell you about them!


 
First, there's the King Tut MINECRAFT world! Yes, readers can visit the world of King Tut, from his tomb back in Egypt to his townhouse in Washington, D.C.. They can conquer the MINECRAFT scavenger hunt and unlock clues as to what Tut's future may have in store. Please check it out on my MINECRAFT page!

 

Next, there is the "Escape from King Tut's Tomb" video game to go along with the book! For those who don't know, I used to be an electrical engineer before I started writing books, so I programmed a video game using SCRATCH (a great platform developed by MIT to help kids learn to program). The game has 10 levels, codes to decipher, puzzles to decode, and patterns to recognize. You can find the game and more about SCRATCH on my video game page!





Finally, there is the Tut PICK YOUR OWN QUEST Adventure! Readers can travel through Egypt, playing the role of King Tut, Pharaoh of Egypt. They make choices that determine not only their own fate, but the fate of Egypt itself. I used to adore those Choose Your Own Adventure books back in the day, and I wanted to create something as fun for TUT. Try your hand at saving Egypt on my PICK YOUR OWN QUEST page!

 

 
You can watch the book trailer for
Tut: The Story of My Immortal Life below!


 


 
 
Thank you all so much for all your support! 

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16. Beyond #WhyIStayed and #WhyILeft

#WhyIStayed and #WhyILeft are great steps toward an improved public response to domestic violence. There are many, many risks and obstacles that make “Why didn’t she just leave?” at best an ignorant question and at worst the beginning of a victim-blaming spiral that can be as traumatizing as the violence.

Sympathy is a good start and it is truly amazing to see the media and the general public open their eyes to some of the challenges women face when their relationships turn violent. However, there are still many other stereotypes and old ways of thinking that are getting repeated even today. Here are a few items on my wishlist for beyond #WhyIStayed:

(1)   Starting asking what is going on with the perpetrators. Batterers create domestic violence and yet we still turn to the victims of domestic violence and ask what they can or should do. Where are the batterers? Where are the men? When a burglar breaks into a house, we do not spend all of our time trying to understand the homeowner. We do not expect an explanation about why they decided to stay in their home or need an analysis of why they purchased that flat-screen TV. We try to catch the burglar and understand that the victims are just going about their lives, trying to get their needs met like the rest of us.

(2)   Do not stereotype anyone or any institution. In the last several days there have particularly been numerous negative comments about churches and other religious organizations. Yes, some religious leaders send bad, blaming messages about domestic violence and encourage victims to stay for the sake of the marriage. However, many religious leaders and religious institutions are important parts of the solution to domestic violence in many communities. Many religious leaders stand by victims with years of support, both tangible and intangible, often long after social service benefits are tapped out. We know that many family members sometimes pressure victims to stay too, but we do not start describing families in a negative light. Do not assume that every religious organization is part of the problem.

(3)   Awareness is not enough. We need to follow up with better services. The first and most obvious step is to do a better job with safety planning and risk assessment. Risk assessment needs to include all of the reasons people have shared with #WhyIStayed. The Victim Inventory of Goals, Options, and Risks, called The VIGOR, offers a big-picture, holistic approach for risk assessment. The VIGOR allows victims to report all of the risks and obstacles they might be facing, including not only the violence to them, but also threats to loved ones, housing needs, financial needs, legal needs, and issues related to the rejection by family or community members. The VIGOR is also unique in that it asks victims to describe their strengths and resources and helps them brainstorm about their options.

Research with the VIGOR backs up this newly empowered view of victims of domestic violence. The women who participated came up with over 150 different coping strategies for domestic violence. This is far more than any existing safety plan. This can also be the legacy of #WhyIStayed—more comprehensive safety planning that recognizes the complexities and also the many strengths of battered women.

Headline image credit: Blue door by Ana_J. CC0 Public Domain via Pixabay.

The post Beyond #WhyIStayed and #WhyILeft appeared first on OUPblog.

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17. Alphabet Trail & Tales 2014

Thank you Le & Nancy of Citiparks for inviting me to perform in Pittsburgh’s Frick Park once again this year—at the wreck of the old Salty Carrot.

We added some panels to the interior of our dear old barky. Here they are in progress as I painted them at the Farmhouse in Highland Park.

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18. Happy Book Birthday, Little Author




















LITTLE AUTHOR IN THE BIG WOODS is officially out in the world today!

Working on this book brought back so many good memories from childhood. (Yes, I wanted to be Laura.**) I was a huge fan of the Little House books and the TV show, of course. (Who wasn't, growing up in the 70's?!)

Here are some very early rough sketches, and a few pieces from the book. Also, there's still time to enter the Goodreads giveaway here.) Enjoy!






































































































































(**Me, circa 1976, in a skirt and bonnet made especially for our annual street picnic by my grandmother.)

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19. Defining Moment

You know the one.
It's the moment where you realize you don't have to defend yourself.
That revelation split second in time when you ask yourself the question,
"Why did I ever think I did?"

A smack your forehead kind of time in life.

The Bible speaks repeatedly about God being our judge and counselor. Now I am not talking about going out on Saturday nights and partying and then coming to church on Sunday morning hung over. I am talking about making decisions to do something that is in the best interest of an innocent even when it doesn't make sense to others. Even when it offends them.

The Bible also speaks about standing up for truth. I am not going to stay somewhere that His word is compromised, sugar coated, or twisted. I'm not even talking about a church right now. I am talking about anywhere I go.

People are going to sin. It's human nature. But to live with your head in the sand for the sake of appearing tolerant is something completely different. I am going to tell the truth. And I am not going to add sparkly wings to it.
When it comes down to it-
I don't allow magick wands in my presence.
Deception.

If I am unaware of it, I pray for God to make me aware. It takes a while sometimes, but then God will do something amazing like give me scripture about dusting my feet. I know then I had better act.

If we don't listen in those moments my darlings- we will be sorry later.

I don't like offending people. But every time I have ever tried to be subtle about something, it ends horribly. So I have to be who God made me to be.
Imperfect. Determined. Strong. Loud. Alarming. Honest.  Creative.
Weird.
Strange.
Different.
Flowery.
Poetic.

Who has God created you to be? Do you know for sure? Are you seeking His face in order to know? Whoever HE has made you to be, be that person. And nothing else. Please. It will not end well. If you are meant to be a sweet and quiet example- be that. If you are called to be the loud one who climbs on tops of buildings and yells down to the masses, then do so. If you are told to be still, then be still. But know His voice. Know it well. Don't listen to other voices. Block the noise from your ears and heart.

Sometimes if I am running around in circles- I will stop somewhere at a stop sign and suddenly someone will pull up next to me with a license plate.

Saturday it said JAE (that would be my name) 9213. Saturday was 9/13... Just saying.
What about the two? Perhaps something happened at two o'clock that day that I will never know about. But it slowed me down to take the time to listen to my Father. And I had peace about what is coming for us. In that moment I hadn't been sure I was headed in the right direction, and too many other voices were trying to speak to me (children, spouse, parents, friends). I had to know whether to head up that mountain and take the tiny place that was offered to me- or to stay here and wait for the farm to come. I know now. And now I am moving.

Moving to a tiny place now forces me to get rid of all the unimportant things in my life. To clear out the clutter. At one time nine people lived in this five bedroom home (my five kids, us, and a couple of extra teenagers). The mess was easily hidden in closets. But you see, God has been revealing things in the natural as much as in the spiritual. Although I had gotten rid of half my belongings months ago, I needed to get rid of more. Moving to my tiny place before the farm causes me not to carry all this clutter with me to a farm. My promised land. It's up that mountain. I am going there. I will sit and wait. Prepare many stories for publication, and instead of wasting time finding the perfect place to try and put those stories- The Lion's Roar will do so for me...

If the Lord tells you to do something my lovelies, no matter how badly it hurts, do it. You won't be sorry. Know it's Him before you act. And then ACT. Please.

I love you all. Have a blessed week. If you don't hear from me for a little while, it's not because I have forgotten you. It's because I am embracing a life on TOP of the mountain.

Selah.





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20. KidLit Events September 16-23

We have a lot of exciting events this we, from early readers to young adult, authors and illustrators. There is also a free writing workshop, so take notes and mark your calendars. While you’ve got your calendar out, be sure to put a big circle around September 27th for Tweens Read 2014!

September 17, Wednesday, 5:00 PM  LOUISE LOVES ART by Kelly Light
Blue Willow Bookshop
Kelly Light, Author/Illustrator

Kelly will also be appearing at Barnes & Noble, The Woodlands, September 18, Thursday, at 7:00 PM

For fans of Olivia and Eloise, this stunning debut from Kelly Light is an irresistible story about the importance of creativity in all its forms.

Meet Louise. Louise loves art more than anything. It’s her imagination on the outside. She is determined to create a masterpiece–her piece de resistance!

Louise also loves Art, her little brother. This is their story.

 

September 18, Thursday, 5:00 PM THE ODD SQUAD, KING KARL by Michael Fry
Blue Willow Bookshop
Michael Fry, Cartoonist/MG Author

Michael Fry will discuss and sign KING KARL (Disney-Hyperion), his newest novel in the ODD SQUAD series for kids. Nick, Molly, and Karl have nowhere to turn but to each other in KING KARL, the latest Odd Squad adventure, and they’ll need every ounce of wit, resourcefulness, and help they can get in order to rise above their biggest challenge yet.

Visit Michael Fry’s website to read the first four chapters of KING KARL.

September 18, Thursday, 6:30 PM MADE FOR YOU by Melissa Marr
Murder By The Book
Melissa Marr, MG, YA & Adult Author

Melissa Marr will sign and discuss MADE FOR YOU (Harper Collins). Eva Tilling wakes up in the hospital to discover an attempt has been made on her life. But who in her sleepy little North Carolina town could have hit her with their car? And why? Before she can consider the question, she finds that she’s awoken with a strange new skill: the ability to foresee people’s deaths when they touch her. While she is recovering from the hit-and-run, Nate, an old flame, reappears, and the two must traverse their rocky past as they figure out how to use Eva’s power to keep her friends—and themselves—alive.

Visit Melissa Marr’s website to read an excerpt of MADE FOR YOU.

September 20, Saturday, 10:00 AM
Writespace
The Houston YA/MG Writers
Writing Workshop: “More Than Words: Crafting Dialogue with Impact”

Join the Houston YA/MG Writers and YA author Kathleen Bagley for this free workshop! Dialogue is the backbone of character, but it is also notoriously hard to get right. It can be too long, too short, too wordy, too sparse, and, worst of all–sometimes dialogue just doesn’t work. But how does one know if one’s dialogue is working? In this hands-on workshop/lecture, Kathleen will show you several examples of dialogue that DOES work, and we’ll focus on what is done right. I’ll also show you how to cut out lengthy, unnecessary dialogue, and, most importantly of all, how to work with the most important aspect of dialogue: what is left unsaid. (Bring a writing utensil, because you’ll definitely be writing and sharing.)

September 20, Saturday, 1:00 PM SHATTERED by Mari Mancusi
Blue Willow Bookshop
Mari Mancusi, YA Author

Mari Mancusi will discuss and sign SHATTERED ( Sourcebooks Fire), her newest novel for young adults. Trinity, Connor, and Caleb are holed up in an abandoned West Texas farmhouse. Their only problem is Emmy, a baby dragon who is growing like crazy. When Emmy is caught on tape and the video goes viral, they find themselves on the run again. Their only hope comes from an old map leading to a man who has come from the future to help them.

September 23, Tuesday, 5:00 PMHALF A WORLD AWAY by Cynthia Kadonata
Blue Willow Bookshop
Cynthia Kadohata, MG Author

 Cynthia Kadohata—author of the Newbery Medal–winning book KIRA-KIRA, the National Book Award winner THE THING ABOUT LUCK, the Jane Addams Peace Award and Pen USA Award winner WEEDFLOWER—will discuss and sign new novel for children HALF A WORLD AWAY. (Atheneum Books for Young Readers).

Eleven-year-old Jaden is adopted, and he knows he’s an “epic fail.” He’s sure that’s why his family is traveling to Kazakhstan to adopt a new baby—to replace him. And he gets it. He is incapable of stopping his stealing, hoarding, lighting fires, aggressive running, and obsession with electricity. He knows his parents love him, but he feels…nothing.

But when they get to Kazakhstan, it turns out the infant they’ve chosen has already been adopted, and literally, within minutes, they are faced with having to choose from among six other babies. While his parents agonize, Jaden is more interested in the toddlers. One, a little guy named Dimash, spies Jaden and barrels over to him every time he sees him. Jaden finds himself increasingly intrigued by and worried about Dimash. Already three years old and barely able to speak, Dimash will soon age out of the orphanage, and then his life will be as hopeless as Jaden feels now. For the first time in his life, Jaden actually feels something that isn’t pure blinding fury, and there’s no way to control it, or its power.

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21. Sisters

Sisters Raina Telgemeier

Raina, her sister Amara, her brother Will, and her mother are road-tripping to Colorado (her dad has to work and will fly out and meet them there.) Of course, Raina’s siblings drive her crazy and if she didn’t have her Walkman to drown them out, she’d go insane. The story alternates between the car trip and what happened before (Raina wishing for a sister, she and her sister fighting, the arrival of her brother, life in general in their cramped 2-bedroom apartment.)

As always, I love Telgemeier’s art and storytelling. I think the frame of the road trip works well. It’s also interesting because this focuses exclusively on her family, and as such, gives a different, more complex picture than the glimpses we saw in Smile. The other thing I liked was, when Raina and Amara reached their inevitable detente, they didn’t immediately become BFF. They gained a bit of understanding, but you know their relationship still wasn’t perfect.

Hilariously, I read this one a bit out-of-order. When I got it, I flipped to the middle just to kinda flip through it and I started reading. And then I got to the end, having only read the second half of the book. Then I had to go and read it again, but this time starting at the beginning.

It’s not my favorite of Telgemeier’s (she’s going to have a hard time topping Smile in my heart) but it’s still a great read.


Book Provided by... my local library

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22. Jason Segel, we love you, man

segel nightmares Jason Segel, we love you, manOn Friday Cindy and I went to see actor Jason Segel discuss his new middle-grade novel (cowritten with Kirsten Miller) Nightmares! The sold-out event was sponsored by the Harvard Book Store and the nonprofit writing organization 826 Boston (program coordinator Karen Sama led the conversation with Segel). Cindy loves How I Met Your Mother (even the ending!), I love Freaks & Geeks, and we both love The Muppets. Segel is also the guy you may have seen naked in the very funny Saving Sarah Marshall (which he also wrote), and he was one of the bromantic leads in I Love You, Man.

segel kids Jason Segel, we love you, man

Photo: Cynthia K. Ritter

Nightmares! is his first children’s book, and he kicked off the event by asking everyone in the audience under age fourteen to raise their hands (there were a few). Later on he asked for kid volunteers to come up and read aloud from the book, instead of reading himself, which could have backfired but was awesome. “I’m like the Pied Piper,” Segel quipped as a girl named Tessa, two boys named Sam, and a cutie little one named Lucas came up onstage to read. Afterward he told them, appreciatively, “You’re so much braver than I would have been at that age.”

segel Jason Segel, we love you, man

Photo: Cynthia K. Ritter

The audience participation didn’t stop there. He asked people to share their nightmares; his as a kid involved a witch nibbling his toes (“because I have delectable toes”) and being chased around Dracula’s castle (“it was more Rococo than I would have thought”) which happened so frequently that he discovered a secret room where he could hang out and play video games. (Side note, and there were a lot of those: as a kid, Segel wore a Superman cape under his clothes “just in case” and carried the MYST game book around with him. Also? He’s been 6’4” since age 12 and the other kids used to jump on his back and chant “Ride the oaf!”)

And then there was the singing. During the Q&A a woman nervously asked: “What’s your favorite show tune?” “It’s gotta be the confrontation from Les Miz. Do you know it?” “Um, yes (giggle giggle).” “Ok, do you want to do it? Which part are you going to sing?” She chose Javert, and Jason sang his heart out as Jean Valjean (here’s how he did it with Neil Patrick Harris). The evening ended on an amazing note for fans with Segel at the piano doing the Dracula song (“‘Die… die… die…’ ‘I cahhn’t'”).

segel critter Jason Segel, we love you, man

Cindy in the signing line

If this guy isn’t the nicest, most genuine-seeming Everydude in Hollywood, well, he must be a truly great actor (slash-master-manipulator), because he seemed really thrilled (“This is so much fun! Seeing those kids read up there, that’s the coolest thing ever”) and humbled to be there — even after a two-hour-plus signing line that Cindy waited on. Any “grown man” (he was in his late twenties at the time) who “burst into tears” upon seeing Kermit the Frog “in person” and who also cried while sitting in “kind of a rough pub in London” after finishing Winnie-the-Pooh is a-ok in my book. I’ll even forgive his publicist for ignoring my Five Questions request *cough cough.* Jason Segel, we love you, man.

Quotable dude

Nightmares! was originally a screenplay I wrote at age 21, after Freaks & Geeks ended and I was unemployed and thinking, “I’m going to have to live with my parents forever.”

When I was a kid, movies like Labyrinth and The Goonies and Roald Dahl’s books made me believe I might find buried treasure. There’s still magic out there. You can catch a kid at the right age to say: don’t forget there’s magic…Kids’ imaginations are so much better than what you can put onscreen.

My mentor Judd Apatow said to me, “You’re kind of a weird dude.” Also [after Segel played him the Dracula song] he said: “Don’t ever play that for anyone else ever again.”

I’m willing to sit through the fear of doing something badly to get to passable. I tell myself: “I’m bad at this… right now”…The only thing I’m afraid of is being unprepared.

Coraline really scared me, and I’m a grown man!

Audience question: Who was your favorite actor growing up? Answer: Kermit. When you’re a kid, Kermit is Tom Hanks, Jimmy Stewart.

I wrote The Muppets when I was in London. With all those double-decker buses and furry hats, it’s a very Muppet-y place…The Muppets are Monty Python to a kid.

I did a Muppets screening at the White House and got to meet Barack Obama. He shook my hand and said, “I love you, man,” and I said, “I love you too, Mr. President!” It gets worse. Then I said, “You should come to the screening. There will be free snacks,” and he said, “Yeah, that’s what I’m missing. Not being able to get free snacks.”

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23. The Official Synopsis for Avengers: Age of Ultron

Yup, just in case you may have forgotten there is an Avengers movie on the way, Disney (yes, Disney NOT Marvel) have sent this release out.
New Promotional Art for Avengers: Age of Ultron Showcases the Team in Action

Marvel Studios presents “Avengers: Age of Ultron,” the epic follow-up to the biggest Super Hero movie of all time. When Tony Stark tries to jumpstart a dormant peacekeeping program, things go awry and Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, including Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, The Incredible Hulk, Black Widow and Hawkeye, are put to the ultimate test as the fate of the planet hangs in the balance. As the villainous Ultron emerges, it is up to The Avengers to stop him from enacting his terrible plans, and soon uneasy alliances and unexpected action pave the way for an epic and unique global adventure.


Marvel’s “Avengers: Age of Ultron” stars Robert Downey Jr., who returns as Iron Man, along with Chris Evans as Captain America, Chris Hemsworth as Thor and Mark Ruffalo as The Hulk. Together with Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow and Jeremy Renner as Hawkeye, and with the additional support of Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury and Cobie Smulders as Agent Maria Hill, the team must reassemble to defeat James Spader as Ultron, a terrifying technological villain hell bent on human extinction. Along the way, they confront two mysterious and powerful newcomers, Wanda Maximoff, played by Elizabeth Olsen, and Pietro Maximoff, played by Aaron Taylor-Johnson, and meet an old friend in a new form when Paul Bettany becomes Vision.

Wow. If I'd been living in a coma for months I'd not already know this.  But it is nice that Marvel Disney thinks about the little folk out in movie land now and then....


As the Wasp said in AVENGERS: EARTH'S MIGHTIEST HEROES: "That's one heck of a feckin lot of feckin Ultrons!"  I may have paraphrased there. And added something.  But it WAS a great scene and animated TV series.

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24. Free Samples of the NBA’s Poetry Longlist

nbaThe National Book Foundation has revealed its Longlist for the 2014 National Book Award for Poetry for the National Book Award (NBA).

Below, we’ve collected free samples of all the books on the longlist for your reading pleasure. The finalists will be announced on October 15. Here’s more from the release:

The Longlisted books range in style and content: from a single elegiac narrative poem to a provocative examination of race relations told in an experimental fusion of lyric, prose poems, and image. Among the poets on this year’s Longlist are two former National Book Award Finalists, two former Poets Laureate of the United States, a Pulitzer Prize winner, two Bollingen recipients, a Los Angeles Times Book Award winner, and a Whiting Writers’ Award winner.

(more…)

New Career Opportunities Daily: The best jobs in media.

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25. Welcome, BACKHOE JOE! Long-Time Reader, First-Time Author Lori Alexander (plus a prize pack!)

September should be “giveaway month” here on the blog, since we’ve got a bounty of books ‘n’ stuff. The winner of THE LAKE WHERE LOON LIVES was Carol Nelson, who was notified, and who exclaimed that she never wins anything. I was tickled to prove her wrong!

And today we’ve got yet another giveaway, from a long-time blog reader and PiBoIdMo participant, Lori Alexander. Her debut picture book, BACKHOE JOE, is being released TODAY! A round of applause for Lori! I sat down with her to discuss the making of a debut. (Well, I sat HERE, while she sat THERE. We did not sit together, although I would have loved to. I mean, look at her! Isn’t she adorable?)

Author Photo_Lori AlexanderLori, there are many truck books on the market because they’re so popular with young children. (In fact, once an editor told me not to write a truck book because of others already out there!) Tell us what makes BACKHOE JOE different and special!

You are right, Tara! There are lots of truck books. When my son was younger, he was crazy about construction. He wore truck shirts and slept on truck sheets and had truck birthdays. We pulled the car over for close-up looks at construction equipment (which set an exhausting precedent on cross-country trips, with me wishing my son had been born a dinosaur fanatic instead. No stops!). We also sought out as many construction books as we could get our hands on. After a while, they all seemed similar to me: a bulldozer pushes, a dump truck dumps, an excavator digs. A playground is built at the end. To mix it up, my son and I had lengthy conversations about what we would do with our own backhoe. Our backhoe could scoop Legos into a pile, dump dirty laundry into the washer, and drive all the neighborhood kids to school (that front loader is roomy!). These dreamy discussions led to the kernel of the idea for BACKHOE JOE which is about a boy who tries to adopt a “stray” backhoe. So, like pirate books and dinosaur books and princess books, BACKHOE JOE joins a crowded subject, but I’m hoping he will dig out some space of his own on the bookstore shelves.

backhoejoeI’m sure he will! (I mean, look at him! Isn’t he adorable?)  And that’s what we all have to do, take a common theme and make it unique! I love the idea of a truck as a pet.

Is this the project that landed you an agent? How did you pitch it?

That is something you hear editors ask for…a fresh twist on a common theme! With Backhoe Joe, it took me a few years to get it right. My early drafts were about a boy asking for a backhoe for his birthday, through a series of letters to his parents, à la I Wanna Iguana. I received some positive feedback from a small publisher, who liked the concept, but wasn’t sold on the letter format. Many more months of big-picture revisions as well as tiny tweaks lead to the current version. I received some positive feedback from agent Mary Kole during a webinar critique, and that gave me the boost of confidence I needed to begin querying agents. I queried with BACKHOE JOE but had two other PB manuscripts ready to go, in case an agent was interested. Lucky for me, one was! And you asked how I pitched it. I believe in the cover letter I said something completely cheesy, like “it’s FANCY NANCY for boys!”

Well, that would certainly grab my attention!

What can you share about your debut book experience that’s been most surprising?

While writing BACKHOE JOE, I really tried to nail the page breaks. I studied the page turns in my favorite picture books and read blog posts about layout (Tara’s “Picture Book Dummy, Picture Book Construction: Know Your Layout” is one of my favorites). I submitted BACKHOE JOE to my agent divided into 16 spreads. I thought she might want to remove the breaks and submit it to publishers in paragraph form, but it never came up. I was surprised (in a good way!) when my editor at Harper agreed and the final layout of Joe was exactly how I envisioned it. All that homework paid off!

Another surprise was, although I should have known better, having one sale under your belt doesn’t make it any easier to sell the next book. Rejection—a thing of the past? Not so!

Ha, don’t I know it! They never stop, but they do get easier to swallow. (However, I am not advocating eating your manuscript.)

What’s your favorite line in the book?

My absolute favorite line is on the last page, but I don’t want to spoil anything. I will say Craig Cameron did a fantastic job bringing Joe to life and he set-up the twist ending beautifully.

Aha, I LOVE a twist ending! I think it’s so important for a successful picture book, to surprise your audience, to extend the story beyond the story. Let them imagine what happens next (plus set yourself up for a sequel)!

My second favorite bit is when the main character, Nolan, tries to train Backhoe Joe like he’s a dog. But naughty Joe revs at the mailman, buries his cone in the flowerbed, and digs in the garbage. It was fun to think about the ways a dog and a construction truck might behave similarly.

Sounds hilarious!

OK, one last question. I have a list of fun words I posted recently, which has become quite popular. What’s your favorite word?

This time of year, my favorite word is monsoon.

Yeah, I love ooh sounds!

And now our readers are gonna make ooh sounds (corny segue, Tara) because Lori has a BACKHOE JOE prize pack to give away! Just leave one comment below by September 23rd!

The prize pack includes a signed copy of BACKHOE JOE, bookmarks, stickers, and squishy foam stress “rocks”. (Hey, I could use some of those! Remember, the rejections never cease!)

Thanks, Lori!

backhoejoe prize pack

Lori Alexander lives in Tucson, Arizona, with her husband and two rock-collecting kids. Her family always brakes for road construction so they can admire the dozers and diggers. Lori still secretly hopes a backhoe will follow them home. She is represented by Kathleen Rushall of Marsal Lyon Literary Agency. This is Lori’s first picture book. Visit her at LoriAlexanderBooks.com.


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