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1. Author Sarah Skilton on Choosing a Narrator

Sometimes picking the narrator for our story isn't so cut and dry. Today we have special guest, Author Sarah Skilton, to explain how she chose the narrator for her novel, BRUISED. 

In BRUISED, my contemporary Young Adult novel, the narrator is 16-year-Imogen, a black belt in Tae Kwon Do who freezes up at an armed robbery and is left to wonder if martial arts failed her or she failed it.

To tell this particular story, my narrator couldn't be anyone else. Imogen is defined -- and more importantly, defines herself -- by her all-encompassing love of martial arts. When I'm writing, I ask myself, "What's the worst thing that could happen to this particular person?" If you don't write about the worst thing that could happen, you may lose the chance to push your characters to their limits in terms of drama and storytelling. Who wants to read about an event that doesn't affect the narrator very much, or change him or her in some way? If it doesn't affect the lead character – really affect them – it won't affect the reader, either.

Because Imogen's identity is so wrapped up in her martial arts abilities, her failure to use those abilities when it really matters destroys her in a way it wouldn't destroy someone else, someone who hasn't spent the last six years training four times a week and dreaming of opening her own martial arts school one day.

I also chose a 16-year-old girl for my narrator because at that age the question of identity is especially important. The teenage years are the ones in which we try to figure out what kind of person we want to be. Coming-of-age / Young Adult novels tend to focus on defining moments, first moments, in a way that "adult" novels can't always do.

It was important to me to write the story from the point of view of a young person who still has an idealized view of the world, of herself, and of her place in that world. How will she react when that idealized view is fundamentally challenged? I wanted to pose the question, "If you're not who you thought you were, then who are you?"

Imogen as a narrator gave me the chance to do just that.

Sarah Skilton lives in Southern California with her husband and son. She has studied Tae Kwon Do and Hap Ki Do, both of which came in handy while writing her martial arts-themed debut YA novel, BRUISED, available now from Amulet Books along with her second book, HIGH AND DRY. 

*originally posted on Paranormal Point of View 

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2. Novella Review: Nightingale by Cathy Maxwell

May Contain Spoilers


I am of two minds about Nightingale.  I enjoyed this novella, but I would have enjoyed it better if I liked the heroine a little more. While I was finally able to cut her some slack, most of her misery is of her own making, and while past events are always viewed with 20/20 vision, it’s that murky, uncertain future that needs a lot of trust and faith that things will work out for the best.  They didn’t for Jemma, and instead of a spoiled, willful girl, she’s now a desperate, improvised woman.  Manipulated by her parents since birth, and now willing to trade her soul to save her brother from his own folly, she is forced to turn to the man she rejected years ago with a plea to allow her brother to live.

Now, while I had some issues with Jemma, I loved Dane.  He is dark and broody, still smarting after losing the love of his life.  While he can look back on their childish promises with clearer head, he still aches for what he can’t have.  After Jemma married another man without a word to him when he was away at school, Dane was a shattered soul.  To finally seek some peace for himself, he sets off to make his fortune and to try to forget about the woman who rejected him for a title and all the wealth that accompanied it.  Dane does find his fortune, as well as adventure aplenty, but a part of himself that still belongs to Jemma continues to long for what might have been.

Imagine his twisted emotions when Jemma’s brother challenges him to a duel.  With his pride at stake, Dane accepts the challenge.  If he’s honest with himself, he would even admit that he pushed and prodded so that the insult was given and the duel would be proposed.  What better way to get back at the woman who broke his heart, but to break her heart in return?

I wish the story had been longer, because there is so much angst and so many feelings for both Jemma and Dane to work through.   Jemma realizes that she made a mistake, and after suffering through a loveless, passionless marriage, she wonders how differently things would have turned out if she hadn’t agreed to marry a older, wealthier man.  She soon found herself with nothing, as her husband was not a competent manager of his fortune, and after his death, his family gave her the cold shoulder.  So it’s with a great deal of trepidation that she approaches Dane with a bargain to save her brother from certain death on the point of Dana’s blade.  Now the tables have turned; Dane is one of the wealthiest men in London, he’s been knighted, and he’s has the respectably he lacked when he was younger. With this one duel, he thinks he will retain his pride and finally put Jemma out of his heart.

If you’re looking for a quick read between Labor Day weekend festivities, Nightingale will keep you entertained for an hour or so.  I just wish it had been a little longing, because I felt that the ending wrapped up to quickly, and left me a little nervous about a forever HEA for Dane and Jemma.

Grade:  B / B-

Review copy provided by publisher

From Amazon:

Fate has brought them together—again.

At one time, Jemma meant the world to Dane Pendleton, but then she betrayed their young love.

Now Time has turned the tables. Dane is wealthy, respected, and knighted, while Jemma has nothing but her pride.

His honor for hers …

Dane’s name is on the lips of every beauty in London. They whisper that he learned “tricks” while he was in the Orient. But has he forgotten Jemma and what they once meant to each other?

And will he accept her devil’s bargain?

In every woman’s life, there is that one flame who slipped away. The man who makes her wonder “what if?”

But is this a momentary madness or a chance to rekindle a love that could last a lifetime?

The post Novella Review: Nightingale by Cathy Maxwell appeared first on Manga Maniac Cafe.

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3. Vikings

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4. Andre the Giant: Review Haiku

Fascinating look
at hard life. Now: anybody
want a peanut?

Andre the Giant: Life and Legend by Box Brown. First Second, 2014, 240 pages.

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5. Other people's lives - Lily Hyde

Other people’s lives are our business, as writers.

Tamsyn Murray wrote a lovely and important post a few days ago, about how vital empathy is for writers, readers, and the world. I agree with her entirely. When we stop imagining, and stop trying to understand the way other people (and cats!) think and feel and live, we start wars.

Here are some photographs I’ve come across in the last few months, from other people’s lives. A doorway to imagination, to empathy. What are the stories behind these pictures? Who and what did these people love, hate, fear, desire?

I know some of the stories. Others, I’ll never know. But if all of us can imagine, and do our best to empathise, maybe some of these stories will never be repeated.

Crimean Tatar girls in national costume, Crimea, 1930s
Ukrainian village women in national costume, central Ukraine, 1950s 
Crimean Tatars in exile. Those who managed to take a sewing machine with them when they were deported from Crimea could make a living. Uzbekistan, 1950s 
Photos retrieved by rescue workers from a bombed residential building in Nikolayevka, East Ukraine. Nearly two months later, no one has collected them from the grass outside

Dream Land, a novel about the Crimean Tatars


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6. What can old Europe learn from new Europe’s transition?

Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive
But to be young was very heaven!
– William Wordsworth on the French Revolution

I was not that young when New Europe’s transition began in 1989, but I was there: in Poland at the start of the 1990s and in Russia during its 1998 crisis and after, in both cases as the resident economist for the World Bank. This year is the 25th anniversary of New Europe’s transition and the sixth year of Old Europe’s growth-cum-sovereign debt crisis. Old Europe can learn from New Europe: first, about getting government debt dynamics under control if you want growth. Second, about implementing the policy trio of hard budgets, competition and competitive real exchange rates to keep debt dynamics under control and get growth. The contrasting experiences of Poland and Russia underline these lessons (Andrei Shleifer’s take on the transition lessons can be found here).

Poland started with a big bang in 1990, but ran into political roadblocks on the privatization of large state enterprises. It achieved single-digit inflation only in 1998. Between 1995 and 1998, Russia did the opposite. By early 1998, privatization was done and single-digit inflation achieved. But while Poland started growing in 1992 and has one of the most enviable growth records in Europe, Russia suffered a huge crisis in August 1998 after which it was forced to adopt the same policy agenda as Poland.

The first difference is that Poland quickly established fiscal discipline and capitalized on the debt reduction it received from the Paris and London Clubs to get government debt dynamics under control. Russia lost control over its government debt dynamics even as the central bank obsessively squeezed inflation out.

The second difference is that Poland instantly hardened budgets by slashing subsidies to state-owned enterprises (SOEs) and subsequently restricting bank lending to loss-making SOEs. It summarily increased competition by liberalizing imports, but was careful to avoid a large real appreciation by devaluing the zloty 17 months after the big bang, and then moving to a flexible exchange rate. The first two elements of this micropolicy trio, hard budgets and competition, forced SOEs to raise efficiency even before privatization. The third, competitive real exchange rates, gave them breathing space. Indeed, SOEs were in the forefront of the economic recovery which began in late 1992, ensuring that debt dynamics would remain sustainable. This does not mean privatization was irrelevant: SOE managers were anticipating it and expecting to benefit from it; but the immediate spur was definitely the micropolicy trio.

Economic balance, © denisenko, via iStock Photo.

In contrast, Russia’s privatized manufacturing companies were coddled by budgetary subsidies and large subsidies implicit in the noncash settlements for taxes and energy payments that sprouted as real interest rates rose to astronomical levels. Persistent fiscal deficits and low credibility pushed nominal interest rates sky high even as the exchange rate was fixed in 1995 to bring inflation down. The resulting soft budgets, high real interest rates and real appreciation made asset stripping easier than restructuring enterprises, killing growth. Tax shortfalls became endemic, forcing increasingly expensive borrowing that placed government debt on an explosive trajectory and made the August 1998 devaluation, default and debt restructuring inevitable. But this shut the country out of the capital markets, at last hardening budgets. The real exchange rate depreciated massively, leading to a 5% rebound in real GDP in 1999 (against initial expectations of a huge contraction) as moribund firms became competitive and domestic demand switched from imports to domestic products. This policy mix was maintained after oil prices recovered in 2000, ensuring sustainable debt dynamics.

Old Europe, especially the periphery, can learn a lot from the above. Take Italy. By 2013, its real exchange rate had appreciated over 3% relative to 2007, while real GDP had contracted over 8%. The government’s debt-to-GDP ratio increased by 30 percentage points (and is projected to climb to 135% by the end of this year), while youth unemployment went from 20% to 40% over the same period! Italy has no control over the nominal exchange rate and lowering indebtedness through fiscal austerity will worsen already weak growth prospects. Indeed, Italy has slipped back into recession in spite of interest rates at multi-century lows and forbearance on fiscal austerity.

The counter argument is that indebtedness and competitiveness don’t look that bad for the Eurozone as a whole. However, this argument is vacuous without debt mutualisation, a fiscal union and a banking union with a common fiscal backstop, the latter to prevent individual sovereigns, such as Ireland and Spain, from having to shoulder the costs of fixing their troubled banks; the recent costly bailout of Banco Espirito Santo by Portugal is a timely reminder. Besides, Germany has to be willing to cross-subsidize the periphery. Even then, this would only be a start. As a recent IMF report warns, the Eurozone is at risk of stagnation from insufficient demand (linked to excessive debt), a weak and fragmented banking system and stalled structural reform required for increasing competition and raising productivity. Debtor countries are hamstrung by insufficient relative price adjustment (read “insufficient real depreciation”).

The corrective agenda for the Eurozone has much in common with the “debt restructuring-cum-micro policy trio” agenda emerging from the Polish and Russian transition experience. The question is whether the Eurozone can have meaningful growth prospects based on banking and structural reform without an upfront debt restructuring. The answer from New Europe’s experience is “No.” Debt restructuring will result in a temporary loss of confidence and possibly even a recession; but it will also lead to a large real depreciation and harden budgets, spurring governments to complete structural reform, thereby laying the foundation for a brighter future. The key is not the debt restructuring, but whether government behaviour changes credibly for the better following it. As the IMF report observes, progress “may be prone to reform fatigue” with the rally in financial markets. In other words, the all-time lows in interest rates set in train by ECB President Draghi’s July 2012 pledge to do whatever it takes to save the euro is fuelling procrastination even as indebtedness grows and growth prospects dim. Rising US interest rates as the recovery there takes hold and the growing geopolitical risk over Ukraine, which will hurt the Eurozone more than the US, only worsen the picture. The Eurozone has a stark choice: take the pain now or live with a stagnant future, meaning its youth have fewer jobs today and more debt to pay off tomorrow.

The post What can old Europe learn from new Europe’s transition? appeared first on OUPblog.

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7. Jonathan Franzen Q&A with Daniel Kehlmann

       Jonathan Franzen tries to give his buddy Daniel Kehlmann a helping hand, now that Kehlmann's new novel, F is out (without, so far, having made much of an impression, it would seem) by engaging in a Q & A with him ("an edited transcript of a conversation he and I had by phone last month") at Salon.
       It's of some interest -- first in what Franzen reveals, like that he thinks his books are funny (or at least means them to be):

The first thing I put in every email to my German editor about my own fiction is "try to remember that this is supposed to be funny."
       And that Franzen is a fan of ... Thomas Brussig (Heroes like Us; Am kürzeren Ende der Sonnenallee) and that:
If I had an extra five hours in my day, I'd be translating some of Thomas Brussig's novels into English. He's hilarious and I think it's a tough sell on both sides of the water.
       Meanwhile, Kehlmann reports:
I'm "world famous" only in Germany. But when it comes to the U.S., it is still extremely difficult to be a novelist not writing in English. I'll never forget the radio host who asked me on my American book tour with genuine incredulity: "So is it true that this book was actually not written in English ?"
       Well, it's a nice anecdote, and depressingly has a ring of plausibility.
       He certainly has a point in noting a basic American problem:
Any young writer from Brooklyn who writes about the Holocaust gets a lot of attention, whereas a true genius like Imre Kertész, who even got a Nobel Prize and arguably wrote the best Holocaust novel in the history of literature, doesn't get much attention in the U.S.

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8. Aspirin the wonder drug: some food for thought

So far it has been an unusually warm and sunny summer in the United Kingdom, but unfortunately this clement weather has not been matched by the news coverage of world events, which for months has been overcast and stormy as war and tragedy have stalked Europe and the Middle East. But there was a break in the cloud — the combined British broadcast and print media rejoiced in the news (reported in Annals of Oncology) that an international group of academics have shown that consuming low doses of aspirin from middle age onwards can reduce the risk of dying of cancer, heart attack, or stroke. This is certainly not the first time that aspirin as a prophylactic wonder-drug has taken centre stage, but, a curious thing, amongst all of the coverage there has been no consideration of what aspirin is, or indeed why it might have these beneficial effects.

Aspirin, or acetylsalicylic acid to give it its more formal name, is the acetylated form of salicylic acid — the acetylation simply serves to help the compound bypass the stomach before it is absorbed in the small intestine. Salicylic acid itself is an intriguing molecule. It’s found across all plants where it acts as a hormone, making a major contribution to the hormonal cross-talk that dictates the plant’s response to environmental stresses and attacks by other organisms. The plant’s primary defensive hormones are the ‘jasmonates’, and one key role of salicylic acid is to try to reduce the cellular effects of the jasmonate hormones. In effect, salicylic acid tries to switch the plant’s response from one suited to abiotic stressors and defence against herbivores toward a longer-term “immune” response suited to resisting biotrophic and viral pathogens.

The fascinating thing is that the jasmonate system is a genetically-conserved ortholog of the mammalian prostaglandin system. Both were inherited from a distant common unicellular ancestor of plants and humans. Jasmonates and prostaglandins are therefore closely related structurally and they trigger similar cellular responses in their respective taxa, with the exception that the mammalian response includes multiple inflammatory cascades whereas the plant manufactures a palette of chemicals that help it deal with the stressors. One key activity of salicylic acid when consumed by humans is the antagonism of the prostaglandin system in the same manner that it would have targeted the plant’s jasmonate system. It’s this property which gives aspirin the celebrated anti-inflammatory and blood thinning effects that contribute to its cardiovascular benefits. Similarly, salicylic acid’s potential anti-cancer effects are liable to be predicated on it inducing programmed cell death in tumour cells in a process that closely resembles the ‘hypersensitive response’ that it coordinates in plants in response to microbial pathogens.

Whilst this ‘cross-kingdom’ transfer of salicylic acid’s cellular effects is fascinating, the more important point is that salicylic acid, as a ubiquitous plant chemical, is also a natural part of our diet. Research shows that humans exhibit circulating levels of salicylic acid that correlate with their consumption of plant derived foods, and that the highest concentrations achieved via this natural route can be greater than the concentrations seen in individuals that regularly take aspirin. This is nothing new; we and our prostaglandin system have evolved in the continuous presence of salicylic acid, probably at much greater concentrations than seen in modern man. Taken in this context the exhortation of medical practitioners for us to take aspirin looks like yet another case of the unnecessary medicalization (as also seen recently with regards sterols) of an issue that can be tackled simply by modifying the poor diets now enjoyed by the populations of developed nations. Surely it would be much better if we simply shifted our consumption of fruit and vegetables towards the levels enjoyed by our distant ancestors and took advantage of dietary salicylic acid’s natural properties?

Headline image credit: Pills (cropped). Original photo by Jill Watson. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 via jillwatson Flickr.

The post Aspirin the wonder drug: some food for thought appeared first on OUPblog.

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9. Special events and the dynamical statistics of Twitter

A large variety of complex systems in ecology, climate science, biomedicine, and engineering have been observed to exhibit so-called tipping points, where the dynamical state of the system abruptly changes. Typical examples are the rapid transition in lakes from clear to turbid conditions or the sudden extinction of species after a slightly change of environmental conditions. Data and models suggest that detectable warning signs may precede some, though clearly not all, of these drastic events. This view is also corroborated by recently developed abstract mathematical theory for systems, where processes evolve at different rates and are subject to internal and/or external stochastic perturbations.

One main idea to derive warning signs is to monitor the fluctuations of the dynamical process by calculating the variance of a suitable monitoring variable. When the tipping point is approached via a slowly-drifting parameter, the stabilizing effects of the system slowly diminish and the noisy fluctuations increase via certain well-defined scaling laws.

Based upon these observations, it is natural to ask, whether these scaling laws are also present in human social networks and can allow us to make predictions about future events. This is an exciting open problem, to which at present only highly speculative answers can be given. It is indeed to predict a priori unknown events in a social system. Therefore, as an initial step, we try to reduce the problem to a much simpler problem to understand whether the same mechanisms, which have been observed in the context of natural sciences and engineering, could also be present in sociological domains.

Courtesy of Christian Kuehn.
Courtesy of Christian Kuehn.

In our work, we provide a very first step towards tackling a substantially simpler question by focusing on a priori known events. We analyse a social media data set with a focus on classical variance and autocorrelation scaling law warning signs. In particular, we consider a few events, which are known to occur on a specific time of the year, e.g., Christmas, Halloween, and Thanksgiving. Then we consider time series of the frequency of Twitter hashtags related to the considered events a few weeks before the actual event, but excluding the event date itself and some time period before it.

Now suppose we do not know that a dramatic spike in the number of Twitter hashtags, such as #xmas or #thanksgiving, will occur on the actual event date. Are there signs of the same stochastic scaling laws observed in other dynamical systems visible some time before the event? The more fundamental question is: Are there similarities to known warning signs from other areas also present in social media data?

We answer this question affirmatively as we find that the a priori known events mentioned above are preceded by variance and autocorrelation growth (see Figure). Nevertheless, we are still very far from actually using social networks to predict the occurrence of many other drastic events. For example, it can also be shown that many spikes in Twitter activity are not predictable through variance and autocorrelation growth. Hence, a lot more research is needed to distinguish different dynamical processes that lead to large outburst of activity on social media.

The findings suggest that further investigations of dynamical processes in social media would be worthwhile. Currently, a main focus in the research on social networks lies on structural questions, such as: Who connects to whom? How many connections do we have on average? Who are the hubs in social media? However, if one takes dynamical processes on the network, as well as the changing dynamics of the network topology, into account, one may obtain a much clearer picture, how social systems compare and relate to classical problems in physics, chemistry, biology and engineering.

The post Special events and the dynamical statistics of Twitter appeared first on OUPblog.

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10. Query Question: Sequels

At LonCon last week I had a conversation with a published author about sequels. Now, if you were to believe the internet, when unpublished, you shouldn't really write sequels and should instead work on making the first book a stand alone. According to the internet, it's pointless working on sequels because the first book might not sell well, meaning you'll be left with a backlog of books that no one wants.

But during my discussion, I heard of two book contracts where these particular authors were given deadlines to hand in the sequel to their first book...before the first book had even gone on sale.
Now I know the demand for a second book would probably happen with two stand alone books, but both authors expressed a little bit of angst at having to produce something that would have - to some degree - been finished had they just written the sequels in the first place.

So what's the truth? Is it better to finish that trilogy before pitching? Or is it better to just plan the hell out of the second book and move on? Or are these simply isolated cases? And are most debut authors asked to produce a second book regardless of the sales of the first? 

You're missing a key piece of information here: what does the contract say?  Most first time authors that I represent get deals with a contract asking for two or three books.  Not stand alones at all. SERIES.

So yes, it's good to have that second book well underway when you get a deal.

Here's what I think you've heard and misinterpreted: don't say you have a series in a query letter.

What that means is you focus on querying the book you have in hand. Don't mention it's the first of N more books, because if I don't like this one, I don't care how many more you have.

Most publishers want books (at least in the categories I rep) that can be built into series. They want this cause once they've invested in you, they want readers to come back for more, and More means More of the Same stuff we loved in Book One.

Focus on writing the very best book you can. Query that book. While you're waiting for us to get off our slacker asses  read our queries, you work on Book Two.

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11. Fusenews: Avada ke-dairy

  • I have never, in all my livelong days, been so proud of an illustrator.  And Mary Engelbreit at that.  For someone as well-established as she is the decision to create and sell a print with all proceeds going to the Michael Brown Jr. Memorial Fund, which supports the family of Michael Brown, the Missouri teenager who was gunned down by police two weeks ago.  Here’s what it looks like:

mary engelbreit ferguson Fusenews: Avada ke dairy

Next thing you know Ms. Engelbreit is being blasted by haters and trolls for this work.  You can read about the controversy and her measured, intelligent response here.

  • While we are on the subject of Ferguson, Phil Nel created a list of links and resources for teachers who are teaching their students about the events.  I was happy to see he included the impressive Storify #KidLitForJustice, that was assembled by Ebony Elizabeth Thomas.
  • iNK (Interesting Nonfiction for Kids) that group of thirty authors of nonfiction books for children recently came up with an interesting notion.  Thinking about how to best reach out to teachers and homeschooling parents they’ve come up with  The Nonfiction Minute—a daily posting of  intriguing tidbits of nonfiction designed to stimulate curiosity, with a new one published online every weekday. Say they, “Each Nonfiction Minute website entry will include an audio file of the author reading his or her text, so students can actually hear the author’s voice, making the content accessible to less fluent readers.  The  audio frees us from the constraints of children’s reading vocabulary, which is what makes textbooks and many children’s books designed for the classroom so bland.  We can concentrate on creating a sense of excitement about our subject matter for our young listeners, readers, and future readers.”  Right now they’re in the the early stages of crowdfunding via IndieGoGo so head on over and give them your support if you can.  It’s a neat notion.
  • Did you see this, by the way?

Snicket Fusenews: Avada ke dairy

  • I’m not a Dr. Who fan myself but that’s more because I simply haven’t watched the show rather than any particular dislike or anything.  So I was very amused by the theory posed recently that Willie Wonka is the final regeneration of The Doctor.  And they make a mighty strong case.
  • And speaking of cool, I almost missed it but it looks as though 3-D printers are creating three dimensional books for blind children these days.  The classics are getting an all new look.  Fascinating, yes?  Thanks to Stephanie Whelan for the link.
  • This is a bit of a downer.  I was always very impressed that Britain had taken the time to establish a funny prize for kids.  Now we learn that the Roald Dahl Funny Prize has been put on hold.  It’ll be back in 2016 but still.  Bummer.
  • Daily Image:

You know, I love The Minnesotan State Fair.  I think it’s one of the best State Fairs in the nation.  But even I have to admit that when it comes to butter sculptures, Iowa has Minnesota beat.  The evidence?

butterpotter 500x375 Fusenews: Avada ke dairy

Hard to compete with that. Thanks to Lisa S. Funkenspruherin for the link.



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12. What’s the One Thing Your Character Can’t Live Without?

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Janice Hardy

Janice Hardy small RGB 72There are a myriad of ways to create characters. Problem is, there are so many of them that we can spend all of our time creating characters and never actually write the novel those characters exist in.

I tend to be a minimalist when creating characters, because I like to learn who they are by tossing them into the plot and seeing what they do. But it helps to have a starting point for those characters, otherwise they develop willy nilly and feel completely inconsistent and at odds with themselves. They make decisions based on plot (what I want) and not what they want.

When I first create a character, I like to ask: What is the one thing this character can’t live without?

This pinpoints what matters most to this character, and suggests the type of person he or she might be. Some characters can’t live without an item, such as a prized possession from their dead spouse, others can’t live without something loftier, like the freedom to choose their own destiny. Both of these characters will have unique approaches to how they interact with the story world.

That’s why it’s important to ask next: Why?

People value things for very different reasons, which in turn makes them very different in both personality and motivations. Valuing a possession could suggest a materialistic nature, or profound sentimentality, or even a fear of loss. A desire for freedom at all costs could create an idealistic dreamer or someone who’s afraid to commit to anything that might tie her down.

Once we understand why that character values that “thing” we know more or less how she’ll react in a situation.

This can also lead to some other fun and useful questions to ask, such as:

If this character lost that thing, how would she react?

This can suggest how the character might react to adversity in general. The person who sits down and cries for a week is probably not going to be an in-your-face confrontational type, while the person who seeks revenge on whoever took what she values is likely to react in a much more aggressive fashion.

What would this character do to avoid losing this thing?

This can suggest the lines a character might cross, or how much she’ll endure for something important to her. Can she be pushed beyond her limits? Would she betray her own morals? How far is she willing to go? If she’s willing to break laws or vows for this thing, where else might she be flexible with ethics or morality?

What would this character sacrifice to protect this thing?

This is a great way to determine what choices to throw at the character by forcing her to make such a sacrifice. It also helps with developing what else might be in the character’s life, or what she might not value as much even if she does care about it. Willing to let a tyrant oppresses a village as long as her family is left alone? Willing to give up that family for the greater good if it stops the tyrant? Maybe she’s willing to sacrifice herself for what she values.

Some characters start as wispy outlines, while others leap fully formed from our heads. No matter how they make it to the page, they all care about something more than anything else in their lives. Knowing what matters to them will help us turn them into real and compelling people our readers will remember.

Where do you start when you create a character?

Janice Hardy is the author of the teen fantasy trilogy The Healing Wars, where she tapped into her own dark side to create a world where healing was dangerous, and those with the best intentions often made the worst choices. Her novels include The Shifter, Blue Fire, and Darkfall from Balzer+Bray/Harper Collins. The first book in her Foundations of Fiction series, Planning Your Novel: Ideas and Structure is out now. She lives in Georgia with her husband, one yard zombie, three cats, and a very nervous freshwater eel. Find out more about writing at her site, Fiction University, or find her on Twitter @Janice_Hardy.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Indie Bound

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13. Kindergarten Writing Workshop: The First Weeks

What is the breakdown of your first two-three weeks of workshop? Here's a peek into my plans for my kindergarten students.

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14. Wisdom from ONE CAME HOME


Living with uncertainty is like having a rock in your shoe. If you can’t remove the rock, you have to figure out how to walk despite it. There is simply no other choice.

The post Wisdom from ONE CAME HOME appeared first on Caroline Starr Rose.

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15. Bhima review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Malayalam-writing M.T. Vasudevan Nair's Mahabharata-variation, Bhima.
       Glad to see a translation-from-the-Malayalam (hard to come by, hereabouts) -- but I would prefer to see more original work. (And this is the second translation of this work -- another version came out in 1997.)

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16. DailyDoodles now for sale!

If you follow me on FB, Twitter, or Instagram, you might've noticed that for the last few months I've been posting a #dailydoodle. (Well...I don't post one EVERY day. But I post them regularly enough.) They're something I started doing as a writing warm-up--and I know you're probably thinking: how does doodling help your writing? But I swear it does. It gets me in a mindset to not be such a perfectionist.

Drafting is a messy process, and I hate it because of that. I want the words to be lovely and shiny and done as soon as I type them. So if I don't do something to stop myself, I'll start revising way too early. Cue the #dailydoodle, which I always do in ink, because it forces me to live with all my tiny mistakes. Sooner or later I'll draw a line or make a mark I wish wasn't there. But since it's permanent, the only choice I have is to keep going. And the really funny thing is, I always find a way to hide it. Or sometimes, the mistake even ends up making the drawing a whole lot better.

So I'll doodle for an hour or two, remind myself that it's okay to make mistakes, and that's it's better to just keep moving forward and not look back. It's been working really well, and for fun I started posting them on my social media, and the response has been ... well ... pretty surprising.

Here's a few examples, in case you haven't seen them. My style is sort of a mix between Zentangling and line drawing:

And the REALLY surprising thing is that people started asking to buy them. So after many weeks of debating, I decided to make them available.

I sell the originals by request, usually through Facebook, though email works too. You just have to contact me when you see one you want. They're not all that expensive, but there's only one of each, so setting up an Etsy shop and doing individual listings is too much work--especially for how fast they seem to sell.  So for now it's: see one, contact me, and first come first served.

But since a lot of times more than one person wants it, I've also set up a way for people to buy prints. Behold, my Society6 page:

Prints start as low as $16, and they ship worldwide. Even cooler: you can get the doodles on all kinds of cool things like tote bags and pillows and clocks and notecards. (it's kind of embarrassing how tempted I am to buy some).

So if you've been wishing you could get your hands on a doodle, now you have a way. And like I said, I still sell the originals too. You just have to contact me. :)

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17. palaeoplushies: My Kickstarter Campaign for the plushie...

via Jenny Parks Illustration http://ift.tt/1tIEoq0


My Kickstarter Campaign for the plushie velociraptor is live! Click here!

Here’s your chance to get your hands on some Velociraptor-themed goodies!

I’m so excited! Thanks everyone!

Please signal-boost if you like!

Backed. Because I pretty much need that shirt…

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18. Visit me at the ALSC blog

It's Wednesday. I'm blogging for the ALSC Blog today. Stop by and see what you think.

If you're a librarian or book blogger, the Cybils are looking for judges.  Check it out here. I've done it in the past.  It's hard work, but a great opportunity and some fun as well!

Have a great day!

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19. Chu's First Day of School by Neil Gaiman & Adam Rex

Earlier this year in a Literary Celebrity Guest Review, Elissa Brent Weissman reviewed the charming Chu's Day, written by Neil Gaiman and brilliantly illustrated by  Adam Rex. Now, just in time for fall, Chu is back and headed to school in Chu's First Day of School! Chu is nervous. School is starting and he worries whether the other students will like him and what will happen. His

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20. Learning is Social

free Public Domain image from pixabay

I started with the big idea: Learning is Social. With that in mind, I knew I would want my students to work in all different kinds of groupings. In the past, saying, "Get together in groups" took valuable time away from the instruction or task, and instead of making all feel included, often resulted in kids being left out until grudgingly accepted into a group, usually with me facilitating.

This year I decided to be more explicit about what I wanted from groups. As I introduced the various groupings in the first days of school, I gave team-building or curriculum-based tasks to the groups to complete. So they practiced making the groups AND working in them.

The biggest group is the whole class. Our family. You don't get to choose your family; you're born into it and you have to make the best of it, even when some family members get on your nerves. I'm the "mom" of our family -- a single mom with a LOT of kids! (It was fun to share my poem "I'm Your Mom" at this point.) We will defend our family members fiercely. We've got each others' backs.

The next group is your "tribe" -- the people with whom you feel most comfortable. I want my kids to know that it's natural, and in my room, acceptable, to want to work with your friends sometimes. Don't we all?

Another grouping is "focus groups." In market research, focus groups are made up of a wide range of consumers so that the researchers can get the most valid results. Our "focus groups" are a mixture of boys and girls, tribe members and non-tribe members.

The smallest unit is partners. Sometimes your partner is a tribe member, and sometimes I ask for mixed gender partnerships. Partners sit knee-to-knee to talk, and side-by-side to look together at a book or the work they are doing.

When we practiced making groups, the one rule was that the groups weren't formed until everyone had been included. We practiced asking to join a group, and we practiced inviting someone to join in.

Yesterday, when it was time to form focus groups for a geography challenge, I was amazed (pleased, relieved) to see how quickly the groups were formed and how no one had to invite themselves into a group -- groups invited singles cheerfully, not grudgingly. Mixed gender groups didn't feel weird or awkward because they are Focus Groups with many perspectives. Just about as quick as I could snap my fingers, the groups were made, and the geography challenge was on.

Life is good.

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21. Guinea Dog 3, by Patrick Jennings | Book Giveaway

Enter to win a copy of Guinea Dog 3, by Patrick Jennings. Giveaway begins August 27, 2014, at 12:01 A.M. PST and ends September 26, 2014, at 11:59 P.M. PST.

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22. “My stylist went out hunting for red leather pants and you would think that in 1981, in New York City, you would have been able to find red leather pants everywhere, but we could only find one pair,” he says over the phone from New Mexico. “So she b

The surprising and tragic story behind the behind on Loverboy’s Get Lucky cover

(Those pants! Get Lucky was in my first batch of tapes from the Columbia Record and Tape Club.)

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23. (Not) reading in ... Pakistan

       Muzaffar Mukhtar reports in The Express Tribune that there's been a Slump in sales: Booksellers going out of business -- an article that could be written about most any place right now but, in this case, is about Pakistan, and specifically Islamabad and Rawalpindi. The problem, of course: "the absence of a book reading culture", the lament:

People are now too occupied with TV channels, social media and the internet to find time for books.
       Good to see that they could find support for that thesis:
Muhammad Ali, a student at the Arid Agriculture University Rawalpindi, said there is no need to buy prints when you have an internet connection. "Reading books is boring in today's fast-paced world. There are other ways available to acquire information."
       (I have to admit I'm tickled at the thought that there's actually an 'Arid Agriculture University', but I'll be damned -- there is. Still, nice touch, getting that quote from someone from a so-named institution.)
       Also interesting:
Umaira Ahmad and Nimra Ahmad are the most popular fiction writers with the youth these days. "Writers such as Intizar Hussain, Saadat Hassan Manto and Ismat Chughtai are not the choice of the people. While most girls like Wasi Shah, hardly anybody knows about Noon Meem Rashid"
       Not sure what it means that Hussain (Basti, etc.), Manto (Bombay Stories; see the Vintage publicity page, and Chughtai (e.g. The Crooked Line; see the Feminist Press publicity page) are the authors that have recently been made available in the US; the Ahmads and Wasi Shah, not so much ..... Read the rest of this post

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24. Automatic repair crew

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25. Content Marketing - Keep the Details Focused (don’t offer too much information)

I read such a helpful article by Will Newman at AWAI. It’s about offering too much information and the unwanted results it can cause. Now, if you’re a marketer there are two camps on the length of copy you should write. One camp says shorter is better because people are in too much of a hurry. They want the gist of what you’re offering along with the benefit and cost. The other camp says

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