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<<August 2014>>
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1. Ferguson: Ten Bloggers Speak Out

Many details about the violent death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, remain unclear. What is beyond doubt is the intensity of reactions to this story — in the media and in neighborhoods all over the US (and beyond). Here are ten personal perspectives on this event and its aftermath, from writers representing a diverse cross-section of the WordPress.com community.



Writer and scholar Keguro Macharia reacts with his usual incisiveness to one of the signature chants of post-Ferguson protests :

If “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” is an expression of “humanity,” as one tweet has it, we must ask for whom that humanity is available. In fact, the insistent repetition of “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” by black bodies across the U.S. might offer a less promising narrative: it might suggest the banality with which black life forms can never gain access to the vernaculars of the human.

hands up, don’t shoot


Many commentators on the violence in Ferguson have focused on the dangers of using a militarized police force to contain civilian protests. But how militarized is law enforcement in Ferguson? In a comprehensive, illustrated piece in The NationLyle Jeremy Rubin, a political blogger and former Marine, guides the uninitiated through what he calls “the arsenal of racial oppression.”


Michael W. Twitty usually blogs about food cultures — especially those of African American communities. The events in Ferguson have prompted him to write a moving personal piece, “#Ferguson: My Thoughts on an American Flashpoint,” where he recounts his own experiences of discrimination and racial profiling.


Dissonant Winston Smith

A blog by an anonymous police officer currently on duty in Ferguson, Dissonant Winston Smith reports on the challenges of wearing the very uniform that has come to represent violence and discrimination to many in that community. He writes, for example, on being the object of media scrutiny:

If police try to clear the media out before using gas they’re accused of trying to suppress the media’s freedom of the press. If police let them stay, they’re gassing the media which is apparently also evidence of media suppression.

In reference to media suppression

Dan Gillmor

Writing from the other side of the police/press divide is journalist and media expert Dan Gillmor. He has recently published a piece in The Guardian about the power of citizen-journalists, in Ferguson and beyond, to expose inaccuracies (and, at times, outright lies) in official narratives by law enforcement agencies.

Two Point Ommen

One of the biggest stories coming out of Missouri is the central role of social media — especially Twitter — in keeping the world informed of the violent clashes between protesters and police. In “The Digital Mosaic Public: Twitter and Ferguson,” blogger Brett Ommen takes a more skeptical position, pointing to the limitations of social media in bringing about change on the ground.



Atlanta-based sociologist Tressie McMillan Cottom offers a more affirmative angle on grassroots media and their potential to empower members of marginalized communities:

Digital media appealed to blackfolks for the same reasons that any innovation appeals to us. It is a chance to up-end legacy structures and institutions that have shut us out.  We are early adopters not to be cool but to survive.

“What Is Left to Say?”


Language and the way it can camouflage bigotry — both conscious and not — is a topic that blogger beccyjoy addresses head on:

By saying, “you do not have all of the facts” we are essentially saying “I don’t believe that you are smart enough to know what is happening right in front of your face.”

By saying, “this isn’t a race issue” we are saying “I know more than black people about what it feels like to be black.”

You might want to rethink that comment you are about to post about Ferguson, MO

Being Shadoan

How do notions of complicity and privilege play into tragedies like the one unfolding in Ferguson? In her provocatively-titled post, “I am racist, and so are you,” writer Rachel Shadoan offers a panoramic view of the history of institutional racism in the US, and tries to find ways for individuals to help dismantle its heritage.



The violence in Missouri caps a summer full of bad news, from the Middle East to Ukraine and beyond. Feeling deflated and powerless, writer Bree Ervin has consciously decided to disconnect from events over which she has little influence.

In a thoughtful piece, “Retreating toward Happiness,” Bree explains that her decision doesn’t mean she no longer cares, but rather that her energy is better spent within her local sphere:

I know it seems like the world is burning, and some of us are in places where we can help put those fires out, but for the rest of us, maybe the best thing we can do is stop adding fuel to the fires, maybe the best thing we can do is practice peace.

We wish you all a safe, sane weekend — and if you have another story related to Ferguson you’d like to share, please feel free to leave a comment.

Filed under: Community, Freshly Pressed

2 Comments on Ferguson: Ten Bloggers Speak Out, last added: 8/22/2014
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2. Flogometer for Terry—are you compelled to turn the page?

Submissions Needed—just one for next week in the queue. If you’d like a fresh look at your opening chapter or prologue, please email your submission to me re the directions at the bottom of this post.

The Flogometer challenge: can you craft a first page that compels me to turn to the next page? Caveat: Please keep in mind that this is entirely subjective.

Note: all the Flogometer posts are here.

What's a first page in publishingland? In a properly formatted novel manuscript (double-spaced, 1-inch margins, 12-point type, etc.) there should be about 16 or 17 lines on the first page (first pages of chapters/prologues start about 1/3 of the way down the page). Directions for submissions are below--new: I've added a request to post the rest of the chapter.

A word about the line-editing in these posts: it’s “one-pass” editing, and I don’t try to address everything, which is why I appreciate the comments from the FtQ tribe. In a paid edit, I go through each manuscript three times.

Storytelling Checklist

Before you rip into today’s submission, consider this list of 6 vital storytelling ingredients from my book, Flogging the Quill, Crafting a Novel that Sells. While it's not a requirement that all of these elements must be on the first page, they can be, and I think you have the best chance of hooking a reader if they are.

Evaluate the submission—and your own first page—in terms of whether or not it includes each of these ingredients, and how well it executes them. The one vital ingredient not listed is professional-caliber writing because that is a must for every page, a given.

  • Story questions
  • Tension (in the reader, not just the characters)
  • Voice
  • Clarity
  • Scene-setting
  • Character

Terry sends the first chapter of The Ramsay Drug. The rest of the chapter is after the break.

Istanbul, Turkey

Inspector Suleyman lied about the sniper.

"There is a pastry shop at the far end of the square." He put his finger on the map. "Above the shop are three small apartments. The shooter will be in the middle one."

Michael Chance took a sip of his thick, scalding coffee and made no comment. Instead, he leaned over the table and looked more closely at the map, although he had studied and memorized a more detailed one of the area, as well as architectural drawings and engineering plans for all the buildings on the square. He knew where the sniper would be.

Now, he felt Suleyman’s stare and forced his thoughts away from the sniper and the Inspector's deception. Chance looked up and asked, "Do you think Ataly will show up?"

"Why not?"

"Paranoia. He has a reputation."

"A reputation?" Suleyman waved his hand in a dismissive gesture. "Greed will overcome any fear. He can't trust anyone else with the information. He will be there."

"I hope."

"You should be more concerned about Khadr. For all we know, he is still hiding in Pakistan."

"He arrived in Istanbul last night."

Were you compelled to turn Terry's first page?

Good clean writing, scene-setting, and a hint of tension in the first line. But, for me, the tension soon faded and not much of a story question appeared. So no page turn for me. However, as you’ll see if you read on, there’s plenty of good action and tension to come. This is an example of set-up that isn’t needed that buries a good hook. While this opening goes to character, it doesn’t really do much to engage me in a story. So I lifted 17 lines from what follows that I think would make a better opening—a poll follows.

Chance took an indirect route from his hotel to the square, the believable ramble of a tourist.

Occasionally, he checked his reflection in a store window. He looked like any of the scores of American academics in Istanbul for the conference. His clothes fit in, no problem there, but it was the bag slung over his shoulder, not his appearance, that he studied. A beat-up leather satchel, like a dozen similar ones at the conference. It was supposed to look and move like a bag crammed with books and papers, not like a mini-armory crammed, as it was, with a SigSauer, two spare magazines, night goggles and a Fairbairn-Sykes knife.

The bag would not be a problem. No one was following him.

He stopped when he reached the square and watched the mid-afternoon shadows falling across the cafe's terrace. Then he looked to the far end of the square and saw the pastry shop and saw it raked with brilliant sunshine. What competent sniper would face into the sun while picking out a target?

Big mistake.

Chance turned his attention to the people on the terrace, mostly locals, but a few tourists enjoying the modest adventure of an out-of-the-way Turkish cafe. All unaware that they would be caught up in the executions of a drug lord and a terrorist. He worked out the deadly geometry (snip)

Would you turn the page with this opening?

Comments, please?

For what it’s worth.


Submitting to the Flogometer:

Email the following in an attachment (.doc, .docx, or .rtf preferred, no PDFs):

  1. your title
  2. your complete 1st chapter or prologue plus 1st chapter
  3. Please include in your email permission to post it on FtQ.
  4. Note: I’m adding a copyright notice for the writer at the end of the post. I’ll use just the first name unless I’m told I can use the full name.
  5. Also, please tell me if it’s okay to post the rest of the chapter so people can turn the page.
  6. And, optionally, include your permission to use it as an example in a book on writing craft if that's okay.
  7. If you’re in a hurry, I’ve done “private floggings,” $50 for a first chapter.
  8. If you rewrite while you wait for your turn, it’s okay with me to update the submission.

Flogging the Quill © 2014 Ray Rhamey, story © 2014 Terry



"You know that for a fact?"

"We know that for a fact."

Suleyman nodded, as if impressed and pleased, but he must have been worried, aware that this American group had much better intelligence than he did. Then he seemed to discard those thoughts.

"They are both mad dogs, you know."

"They are certainly mad dogs."

Suleyman put the map away, and both men finished their coffee. When Chance rose to leave, Suleyman shook hands, almost formally, and said, "Good luck to you."

"And to you."


Later that day, Chance took an indirect route from his hotel to the square, the believable ramble of a tourist.

Occasionally, he checked his reflection in a store window. He looked like any of the scores of American academics in Istanbul for the conference. His clothes fit in, no problem there, but it was the bag slung over his shoulder, not his appearance, that he studied. A beat-up leather satchel, like a dozen similar ones at the conference. It was supposed to look and move like a bag crammed with books and papers, not like a mini-armory crammed, as it was, with a SigSauer, two spare magazines, night goggles and a Fairbairn-Sykes knife.

The bag would not be a problem. No one was following him.

He stopped when he reached the square and watched the mid-afternoon shadows falling across the cafe's terrace. Then he looked to the far end of the square and saw the pastry shop and saw it raked with brilliant sunshine. What competent sniper would face into the sun while picking out a target?

Big mistake.

Chance turned his attention to the people on the terrace, mostly locals, but a few tourists enjoying the modest adventure of an out-of-the-way Turkish cafe. All unaware that they would be caught up in the executions of a drug lord and a terrorist. He worked out the deadly geometry of the fields of fire, knowing all about innocents caught in a crossfire. At least he would be in a position to make a difference this time.

He began running through his tasks, visualizing what he would soon have to do.

Then Jan Nordstrum appeared on the other side of the square, walking out of shadow into the sun. For a split-second, and for no good reason, he saw his late wife, Elizabeth, as a student coming towards him. He blinked, and it was Jan waving at him.

He took a quick breath, smiled his practiced smile and waved back.

Jan swept across the square in an Indian skirt, a gypsy blouse with loose sleeves and, despite the warm weather, a colorful quilted vest, complementing Chance’s academic look. Maybe a graduate student, maybe a young assistant professor.

Every man on the terrace found some excuse for staring at the woman.

Chance chose a shady table on the terrace of the café, one directly in a line of fire from the pastry shop but one obscured from the supposedly unoccupied building being restored behind scaffolding.

Jan glanced around the café and the square, smiling, wide-eyed, and enjoying the exotic sights of Istanbul. While the waiter stood by, she inhaled the delicious smells of grilled lamb and spices and convinced Chance that they needed more than just coffee. The waiter approved with a waiter’s repertoire of nods and smiles when they added a Turkish-style pizza and baklava to the order.

The couple sat and gossiped about friends and colleagues, talked about tourist attractions they had seen or were about to, laughed at an embarrassing incident at the conference that had brought them to Istanbul. Overarching the entire conversation was some serious flirting. Everything had been well-scripted and well-rehearsed.

Chance played his part. He smiled a lot, contributed about a third of the talk, maybe less, and watched her the way men have watched women forever. He had a habit of punctuating what he said by waving his mirrored sunglasses.

Within five minutes they had spotted everyone in the vicinity, and dismissed all but one. The grabber was at the next table. He nursed a coffee and pretended he didn't have a nasty weapon under his jacket. Chance guessed Uzi, but it could be a clone.

Then the bodyguards arrived.

Atalay's thugs and Khadr's fanatics were more concerned with each other than with the locals and tourists in the area, although they scowled and squinted and moved their heads back and forth and up and down the way bodyguards did in movies. They noticed that the café had two new windows and a new awning and that the workmen hadn't got around to cleaning up all the mess. But the mess posed no threat, so they gave it only a cursory glance.

One of Atalay's men showed a flicker of surprise that Chance was sitting where he was. Chance caught a reflection of that surprise and knew that he would shoot the man -- probably before he shot the grabber.

Most of the guards left. Two -- one from each camp -- remained, taking up positions at opposite corners of the terrace. Atalay's man was the one who had spotted him.

Moments later, the two leaders appeared, walking together from the cafe's kitchen, but wary of each other. They took a table two away from Chance. Khadr looked with contempt at Chance and the woman, decadent American tourists, the woman flaunting herself, the man pretending to be cool but hugging his satchel as if terrified of pickpockets.

Atalay glanced in the same direction, with concern bordering on fear, but that soon softened to a mild wariness. Chance and the woman noticed none of this attention, of course, as they were caught up in each other.

Chance’s breathing became slow and controlled. His heartbeat rose, but not much above its resting rate. He began depending on his peripheral vision more than his mirrored sunglasses. He laughed spontaneously at a quip he had heard and practiced laughing at a dozen of times before. Soon, he thought.

Khadr reached into his tunic and pulled out a small packet. Wrapped in soft leather, it was the size of a business envelope. He dropped it on the table.

And then he collapsed on his chair, dead.


As soon as Chance registered the assassination, he slid his hand through a false seam in his satchel and turned so he was aiming at Atalay’s thug. That man had also expected the killing and, using it as a signal, had drawn his pistol and was moving his arm toward Chance.

Chance was quicker and shot him in the head.

The grabber must also have known the killing was coming, but his nerves overwhelmed his planning and froze him. Khadr’s man was more alert. He shouted something and aimed his automatic pistol in Atalay’s direction. Chance shot him at the exact moment the sniper took out Atalay.

Chance stepped forward and kicked the table in front of him so violently that it flew up and over the table with the two bodies. As he kicked, he moved his pistol hand in the grabber’s direction and shot as the man finally drew his weapon. The Uzi landed on top of the body.

The innocents on the terrace were now scattered on the ground, most under their tables, praying to various gods. The woman with Chance sat, waiting calmly, out of Chance’s probable lines of fire, and focused on Khadr’s packet. She sat still until Chance kicked the table and shouted, "Go."

As he shouted, Chance took a step to his left, stood upright and fired several rounds in the direction of the sniper. By the time he finished -- a second or two -- she had grabbed the packet, turned and rushed past him. When she reached the mess from the cafe's renovations, she yanked at something. As she did, she glanced over her shoulder at Chance, wasting the briefest of scowls on him. Then she rushed for the cafe's front door.

Chance jerked his head and caught the scowl. Then he turned back to the scaffolded building. He zeroed in on the sniper's window and fired three rounds.


Hasan Buruk found killing Atalay more difficult, and more satisfying, than killing Khadr. The Pakistani had been a sitting target, Atalay had been a challenge. The drug lord spun away from the table and jumped sideways, almost at the moment Khadr caught the bullet in his chest. Atalay was a moving, twisting target, an animal flushed from its lair.

Buruk shot him through the spine.

After that shot, he blinked to broaden his focus. He saw the table fly, and the woman rush and grab the packet. The man with her stood upright and moved to the side, almost as if offering himself as the next victim.

But the woman had the packet. Buruk sighted on her. Bullets struck the window frame at the side of his head. He was in a familiar killing zone and barely flinched. He saw the woman glance over her shoulder, then sprint to the door of the café. He adjusted for her quickness, which surprised him, targeted on her spine and squeezed the trigger.

Instead of a third body collapsing in death, a sheet of glass shattered and fragments of the woman's reflection fell to the ground. She had vanished. Buruk did not believe in witchcraft or magic. He blinked again, ready to see through the trick and kill her.

But a familiar voice startled him.


Chance adjusted his aim a fraction and put a cluster of shots just above the end of the rifle barrel. But he saw the barrel jerk as he let off the first round, and guessed that the sniper had, for some reason, turned away from the window right before he shot. He wasted no time on trying to figure this out. He sprinted across the open area in front of the building, headed for one section of scaffolding and swung himself through a space framed for a new window.

He landed on a floor covered in the dust and grit of construction and dropped to a kneeling position. He saw no gunmen, although he had expected some, but he did hear gunshots above him. Two quick shots, a pause, then a third.

Chance knew, by a combination of logic and instinct, that Buruk had just been killed -- and that Suleyman had done the shooting. The Inspector could have had others do the dirty work, but he wanted to tie up the loose ends himself. Another big mistake.

Chance rose, replaced the almost-empty magazine with a full one and moved to the staircase to his right. Without thinking, he adjusted the position of his feet until they were a comfortable span apart. He stayed upright but made sure his knees were not locked. He used his left hand to cradle his shooting hand, and aimed his pistol up the stairs, slightly to the right of center.

He did not have to wait long

Suleyman appeared at the top of the stairs. He held his pistol, but it was by his side, not pointing down the stairs. Chance’s presence didn’t seem to register for a fraction of a second. Then Suleyman jerked the pistol up and fired. Too rushed to be effective.

Chance fired three quick, lethal rounds. Suleyman’s collapsed and his body slid down the stairs. An excellent cop who had sold out to drug money. Now, just another dead gangster.

At least it had been a quick death. Chance spent a long time staring at the pistol Suleyman still gripped.


The group’s jet was a converted military transport plane. In addition to a dozen, hand-crafted, soft leather seats, it contained a kitchen and dining area, four private bedrooms, two showers, an exercise room, a comfortable conference area and more communications equipment than Air Force One.

Philip Somerville, the head of the group, sat in the conference area with his communications wizard, Rick Conners, being patched through on secure networks to State Department officials in Washington, Islamabad and Ankara.

Chance had showered and changed his clothes, although he still looked like an academic. He sat near the back of the plane, away from most of the activity on board. Jan Nordstrum, the woman from the café, had also showered and changed clothes, replacing her academic hippy garb with a Max Mara pantsuit. She moved down the aisle from the conference area and chose the seat right next to Chance.

She looked straight ahead for a moment, composing her thoughts.

Chance understood.

"We retrieved the packet and you’re angry?"

"Of course I’m angry. And it has nothing to do with the packet. Or with Atalay. Or with Khadr."

"I guess that leaves me."

Jan shifted in her seat so she was staring at him.

"We were supposed to retrieve the packet and leave together. Remember?"

"The shooter was still active. And Suleyman was still loose."

"You weren’t playing hero, Michael." She stared at him for a moment, then turned away. The conversation was over.

Chance closed his eyes, pretending to nap, and the usual image came to him. It was the only photo of his late wife he kept. It showed Elizabeth and him as students, their heads leaning together and smiling at a private joke or, perhaps, just at life. He wondered when their smiles lost the spontaneity. He wondered how many ways he had failed her. He could have done so much better. But he hadn’t.

Eventually, his pretend sleep became real, although fitful. He was wide awake, brooding, as the plane started its approach to Washington.

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3. David Gregory is Working on a Book

Journalist David Gregory may be out at Meet the Press, but he’s not out of work. According to reports, he is working on a book. Unlike many journalist memoirs, the book will not focus on Gregory’s career. Instead it will focus on his religious life.

TV Newser has more: “Gregory and publisher Simon & Schuster have reportedly been working on the book since 2011 that will focus on his ‘personal faith and the spiritual journey people take in their lives.’”

The book is slated for release in 2015.

New Career Opportunities Daily: The best jobs in media.

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4. Spicing Up Your Prose Part 1 of 6

Variety is the spice of life and these rhetorical devices sound like exotic spices. We know how they taste but have forgotten the names.

These spices should be sprinkled in carefully. They enrich a sentence or paragraph when you want a little punch. You shouldn't overwhelm the reader with them and should be mindful of clichés. You earn a gold star for using them effectively. You earn two gold stars if you remember their names.

Abstraction advances a proposition from generic to specific.

Jane opened the book1, a thick tome2, a collection of poetry3.

Alliteration repeats initial consonants in consecutive or grammatically corresponding words.

Jane opened the diary, the wild, wishful, window to its owner's soul.

Amplification repeats a word or phrase, adding more detail to emphasize a point.

Jane wanted to deny the truth, the truth about the diary1, the truth about the ghost2, the truth about herself3.

Anadiplosis repeats a word that ends a phrase, clause, or sentence at the start of the next.

Jane opened a book. The book was a collection of poetry, poetry that made her blush.

Analogy compares two things that are alike and is more clinical than a simile. It can use: also, and so on, and the like, as if, and like.

Jane was drawn to Dick1 like a humming bird to nectar2.

Anaphora repeats the same word or words at the beginning of each successive clause or sentence. There are at least three or four beats. You can separate the beats with other sentences but they should be in the same paragraph. The last beat should be in the last sentence of the paragraph.

She should have ignored the diary. The truth was too horrible to acknowledge. She should have burned it. She should have escaped while she still had the chance.

Antithesis connects two contrasting propositions, usually in parallel clauses or sentences.

Jane knew he loved her and she knew he hated her.

Assonance repeats similar vowel sounds in successive clauses or sentences.

The rain on the plain drove Jane completely insane.

Next week, we will continue to add spices to your prose shelf.

For the complete list of spices and other revision layers, pick up a copy of: 

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5. New

A new work in progress....more to come.

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6. Back to School Special - Why Lunch Ladies Are Heroes!

Children’s book author Jarrett Krosoczka shares the origins of the Lunch Lady graphic novel series, in which undercover school heroes serve lunch…and justice! His new project, School Lunch Hero Day, reveals how cafeteria lunch staff provide more than food, and illustrates how powerful a thank you can be.

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7. Sketch Dailies Princess Leia

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8. Marvel’s ‘AVENGERS: S.T.A.T.I.O.N.’ Exhibit Opens in New York City

Marvel’s AVENGERS: S.T.A.T.I.O.N. has opened in New York City. Comic book fans will be able to enjoy this interactive exhibition at Discovery Times Square until January 05, 2015.

Visitors go through an “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” recruitment simulation; this allows them access to information files about the superheros that makes up The Avengers. Some of the items on display include Captain America’s Birth Pod, the Tesseract Portal Device, Loki’s Scepter, and a hermetically sealed Chitauri.

Here’s more from the press release: “NASA, the Science & Entertainment Exchange (a program of the National Academy of Sciences), Neuroverse, and Thwacke are all collaborating on the Marvel’s AVENGERS S.T.A.T.I.O.N. Exhibition visitors will get the chance to map out the stars to find Asgard, learn to operate Iron Man’s suit, witness the neurological effects of Bruce Banner’s transformation into the Hulk, and physically test themselves against Captain America.”

New Career Opportunities Daily: The best jobs in media.

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9. Anna Shinoda: ‘Time away from a manuscript always gives me a better perspective for editing.’

Anna Shinoda devoted several years to her debut young adult novel, Learning Not to Drown. The story was influenced by Shinoda’s personal experiences with having an incarcerated sibling. We spoke with Shinoda to learn her thoughts on research, crafting realistic characters, and more. Here are the highlights…

Q: How did you land your book deal?
A: During SCBWI’s annual summer conference, I had manuscripts nominated for their Sue Alexander Most Promising New Work Award in both 2004 and 2006. While those nominations did not directly get me a book deal, they did lead to a connection with Jennie Dunham of Dunham Literary, who became my agent in 2006. In late 2008, after several rejections, Jennie called with the news that Caitlyn Dlouhy at Atheneum was interested. I signed the contract and somewhere between my agent’s office and Caitlyn’s office, the contract got lost. Fortunately, when the mistake was caught a few months later, Caitlyn was still very much wanting to acquire the book.


New Career Opportunities Daily: The best jobs in media.

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10. Tod and Copper for Sketch Dailies

The ice bucket challenge for ALS was easy for Tod and Copper... fur helps.

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11. The Night Gardener, by Jonathan Auxier

Molly and Kip are trying to find the Windsors, their new home of employment, but the locals are not making it easy for them.  Every time Molly asks, they speak of the sour woods and tell Molly that she should stay away.  But it's not like Molly has a choice - she and her brother are far from home and without parents.  When they encounter Hester Kettle on the road, they seem to have found a piece of luck.  She is willing to tell the children how to get to the Windsors for a promise of future stories. Molly agrees and they are soon on their way.

Molly's introduction to the family is a far cry from welcoming.  Hired by the Windsor's solicitor, Constance has no idea Molly is coming and is less than pleased to find her telling stories to her young daughter Penny in the dusty foyer of the house.  Constance and her son Alistair want Molly and Kip to leave immediately, but Molly is able to use her gift of the gab to convince them that they would much rather live in a well tended house, and that she and Kip can provide it for them.

She will soon live to regret this move, as the family and the house seem to be harboring dark secrets.  While she is able to throw herself into the ample work of cleaning up the household during the day, it is at night when Molly is most afraid.  Every night since she's been sleeping in the house, she has been having terrible nightmares.  And it turns out the darkness isn't just in her mind.  She wakes to find her door open, leaves in her hair and mud on the floor.

As it turns out, the Night Gardener Miss Polly has mentioned is real.  He wanders the house and the grounds at night and has his hand in the nightmares of the household.

And he is not the only dark element at the Windsors' place.  The tree, growing much too close to the house, is more than it seems as well, and will soon ensnare Molly as it has the Windsors.

This is a deliciously scary story that will have readers up into the night to finish. Jonathan Auxier is one of those writers who seems like he's been around forever.  Not because there are a plethora of his books lining the shelves, but because he is a craftsman.  His books have a timeless quality to them and are made of the stuff with staying power.  The Windsor's legacy is slowly revealed piece by piece which helps bring the suspense level to that of a slow burn.  He explores the themes of human weakness and greed, family and loyalty with aplomb.  The setting is expertly laid out and even now as I close my eyes I can see the grounds, the stables and the green door.

Fans of dark fantasy, Victorians, and well crafted stories will be left shivering with delight.

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12. Yes, But How Are You?

It has been a stressful summer.

Sold a house--very emotional and grief-filled.

Lived with friends--fabulously wonderful! (More on that.)

Bought a house--also very emotional, and a decision that was--and continues to be--faith-stretching.

Trying to get settled in new house--hasn't been easy. We keep getting distracted by house projects--floors, plumbing, kitchen, have to do something about the chimney and the tin roof/balcony--and can't seem to get unpacked. Plus some rooms don't exist yet--where do we put those belongings now?

So how am I doing, really?

And the answer is...

I feel quite well, considering everything. Though I am easily overwhelmed with all there is to do, I can only do what I can do in a day, and the rest can wait till tomorrow. We have the whole church coming over for a house blessing on Sunday afternoon. We still have boxes everywhere, and piles of stuff that I don't know where to put or haven't had time to sort, but it's okay. The house can be blessed, friends can visit and rejoice with us, and I'm not hiding the fact that this is my life right now!

Although the summer's events have been emotionally draining and I am mentally and physically very tired, I am buoyed up by a strong sense of rightness about it all. So many little confirmations make me believe that God is leading us down this path. It's been a rocky, uneven path, with overgrowth that we have to stop and clear away at points, but He keeps beckoning us to keep following, even with the occasional smiling reminder that He never promised it would be an easy path, but that it would be worth it in the end. He's used so many people to confirm and encourage us.

Here's one example--the friends who invited us to live with them while we didn't have a house. It ended up to be about 7 weeks total, and those weeks exactly coincided with the wife's recovery period from a sudden and serious abdominal surgery. She wasn't allowed to drive or go to work, and as a strong extrovert, it would have been a very difficult time for her. In her own words:

Your family's presence saved me from the loneliness and false sense of uselessness that would have hit me hard during my convalescence had it just been [my husband] and me.  You also saved him from being overwhelmed by having to meet all of his wife's needs for socializing.  Although he has never complained of being overwhelmed by me, I think I could have approached the limit.  When I was home on maternity leave with [her son], I became a garrulous maniac that made store clerks run the other way - really!  God was definitely providing for everyone.

For our family, staying with this couple felt like several weeks in a vacation condo with them! They have a beautiful, large, restful home. Our kids loved their dog, their neighborhood, their jokes and their food. They both love to cook, so every day we'd make meal plans early enough for someone to pick up groceries, and then we'd all help chop, prep, bake and/or grill. The husband is a massage therapist, so we took advantage of his conveniently located office (in the next room over from our bedroom), and the wife is a psychologist, which made our mealtime conversations extra-stimulating. The two husbands began most days with morning prayer together, and the wife and I have one of those friendships where we never, ever, run out of things to talk about, so it was fabulous for us both to have so much free time at the same time. Our time there was such a gift, and the timing was a strong confirmation that we had done the right thing to sell our old house when we did.

Another huge stressor this summer has been a situation at church. It has paralleled our move in some ways--emotionally draining, filled with grief, and faith-stretching. It's been the same kind of rocky, uneven, obstacle-ridden path, but God has been continually sending us the encouragements to hang in there. People we've been praying for have started coming to church, have started asking the right questions about their relationship with God, are being transformed in huge ways! Visitors have come--and come back! There has been a new freedom in our worship and in individual expression and gifting. This Sunday, one of our disabled youths is giving the sermon!, in partnership with an elder. There have been so many encouraging things alongside the challenges.

So I am well. Exhausted, but well. 2 Corinthians 4:8-9 comes to mind:  "We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed."

The previous verse also applies:  "But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us."

It is the Lord who is sustaining me, empowering me, working through me and encouraging me!

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13. New! Friday Black and White "KING BRONTY" Raptor's Claw Story line Continues!

Happy Friday!  More from the "Raptor's Claw" story line!  I hope you enjoy it!- JRY

"The Raptor's Claw, Continued Again!"

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Here’s my comment on comments –
Acknowledgement’s nice.
Support with a shout-out
Will more than suffice.

I don’t want corrections,
Though typos are fine.
The words with my moniker
Need to be mine.

A comment on content
Of course is okay,
As long as no nastiness
Comes into play.

In short, with a comment
I know someone’s reading.
As long as I’m posting,
That’s knowledge I’m needing.

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15. Flowering Fan


A flowering vine is always an fun subject. I think about balance and rhythm in constructing the drawing. I started with a random line on the page and just let the drawing happen.

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16. Pick of the Week for JOURNEY and This Week’s Topic



Happy Friday!

We’re excited to announce this week’s topic, but first please enjoy the illustration above by Daniel Guidera, our Pick of the Week for last week’s topic of ‘JOURNEY’. You can also see a gallery of all the other inspiring entries here.

And of course, you can now participate in this week’s topic:


Here’s how:

Step 1: Illustrate your interpretation of the current week’s topic (always viewable on the homepage).

Step 2: Post your image onto your blog / flickr / facebook, etc.

Step 3: Come back to Illustration Friday and submit your illustration (see big “Submit your illustration” button on the homepage).

Step 4: Your illustration will then be added to the participant gallery where it will be viewable along with everyone else’s from the IF community!

Also be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter and subscribe to our weekly email newsletter to keep up with our exciting community updates!


The post Pick of the Week for JOURNEY and This Week’s Topic appeared first on Illustration Friday.

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17. New words, new dialogues

In August 2014, OxfordDictionaries.com added numerous new words and definitions to their database, and we invited a few experts to comment on the new entries. Below, Janet Gilsdorf, President-elect of Pediatric Infectious Diseases Society, discusses anti-vax and anti-vaxxer. The views expressed do not necessarily reflect the opinions or positions of Oxford Dictionaries or Oxford University Press.

It’s beautiful, our English language — fluid and expressive, colorful and lively. And it’s changeable. New words appear all the time. Consider “selfie” (a noun), “problematical” (an adjective), and “Google” (a noun that turned into verbs.) Now we have two more: “anti-vax” and “anti-vaxxer.” (Typical of our flexible vernacular, “anti-vaxxer” is sometimes spelled with just one “x.”) I guess inventing these words was inevitable; a specific, snappy short-cut was needed when speaking about something as powerful and almost cult-like as the anti-vaccine movement and its disciples.

When we string our words together, either new ones or the old reliables, we find avenues for telling others of our joys and disappointments, our loves and hates, our passions and indifferences, our trusts and distrusts, and our fears. The words we choose are windows into our minds. Searching for the best terms to use helps us refine our thinking, decide what, exactly, we are contemplating, and what we intend to say.

Embedded in the force of the new words “anti-vax” and “anti-vaxxer” are many of the tales we like to tell: our joy in our children, our disappointment with the world; our love of independence and autonomy, our hate of things that hurt us or those important to us; our passion for coming together in groups, our indifference to the worries of strangers; our trust, fueled by hope rather than evidence, in whatever nutty things may sooth our anxieties, our distrust in our sometimes hard-to-understand scientific, medical, and public health systems; and, of course, our fears.

Fear is usually a one-sided view. It is blinding, so that in the heat of the moment we aren’t distracted by nonsense (the muddy foot prints on the floor, the lawn that needs mowing) and can focus on the crisis at hand. Unfortunately, fear may also prevent us from seeing useful things just beyond the most immediate (the helping hands that may look like claws, the alternatives that, in the end, are better).

Image credit: Vaccination. © Sage78 via iStockphoto. - See more at: http://blog.oup.com/2014/04/vaccines-world-immunization-week/#sthash.9VlGEhJM.dpuf
Image credit: Vaccination. © Sage78 via iStockphoto.

For the anti-vax group, fear is the gripping terror that awful things will happen from a jab (aka shot, stick, poke). Of course, it isn’t the jab that’s the problem. Needles through the skin, after all, deliver medicines to cure all manner of illnesses. For anti-vaxxers, the fear is about the immunization materials delivered by the jab. They dread the vaccine antigens, the molecules (i.e. pieces of microbes-made-safe) that cause our bodies to think we have encountered a bad germ so we will mount a strong immune response designed to neutralize that bad germ. What happens after a person receives a vaccine is, in effect, identical to what happens after we recover from a cold or the flu — or anthrax, smallpox, or possibly ebola (if they don’t kill us first). Our blood is subsequently armed with protective immune cells and antibodies so we don’t get infected with that specific virus or bacterium again. Same for measles, polio, or chicken-pox. If we either get those diseases (which can be bad) or the vaccines to prevent them (which is good), our immune system can effectively combat these viruses in future encounters and prevent infections.

So what should we do with our new words? We can use them to express our thoughts about people who haven’t yet seen the value of vaccines. Hopefully, these new words will lead to constructive dialogues rather than attacks. Besides being incredibly valuable, words are among the most vicious weapons we have and we must find ways to use them responsibly.

The post New words, new dialogues appeared first on OUPblog.

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18. Interesting blog posts about writing – w/e August 22nd, 2014

Here’s my selection of interesting (and sometimes amusing) posts about writing from the last week:

Who Can Effectively Challenge Amazon in the Book Business? (Jane Friedman)

The Perfect Title (Mary Keeley)

Narrowing the Gap (Terry Odell)

In obscurity, butterflies (Jennifer R. Hubbard aka writerjenn)

How Technology Affects the Way We Write (Dean Fetzer)

Dealing with Reader Expectations (Stina Lindenblatt)

You’ve Got the Power (Rachelle Gardner)

Finding Your Voice (Clare Langley-Hawthorne)

Kill Your Darlings? (Elle Carter Neal)

The Six Archetypes Every Novel Needs (Bill Ferris)

Back It Up (Joe Hartlaub)

If you found these useful, you may also like my personal selection of the most interesting blog posts from 2013, and last week’s list.

If you have a particular favorite among these, please let the author know (and me too, if you have time).  Also, if you've a link to a great post that isn't here, feel free to share.

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19. Nora

 Look who's turned up.

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20. Maine Mountains

Sorry for the slow updates. It's been busy here at the moment with work and I'm also trying my darndest to soak up every last bit of Summer. Here's a pattern I drew a few weeks back, inspired by childhood's spent camping up in Northern Maine. I miss listening to loon cries and campfires more than you can possibly imagine.

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21. Ubuntu, the facts and the heart


scan0143 - Version 2August 26 is a bittersweet day.  My fifth book will publish (sweet) but 18 years ago to the day I lost my mother.  She was warm and wise, witty and fun, brave and beautiful.  And she’s the one who inspired me to pursue a writing career although she never knew it.  While she was proud that I became a lawyer and would always be able to take care of myself, I think she would’ve loved to read my books (whose mother doesn’t?) and been a proud supporter (like my sister, who has already ordered 30 copies of The Badger Knight for friends, whether they want it or not).

My mother was an excellent writer herself and I think dreamed of writing the Great American Novel but ran out of time.  Growing up, homework was our responsibility but she couldn’t help looking at papers we wrote with a critical eye.  Like a reporter, she wanted to see the facts supporting the argument but like the novelist and woman with heart that she was, she also wanted to know the “why” of everything.  I can still see her … “Yes, but why?”  “This is lovely but why is it important?”  Or simply, “Mmm-hmm”– the paper handed back — “and why?”  In fact, we heard “and why?” so often that my sister and I would tease her with, “AND why!” in all sorts of situations.  But she was right.  And it made me a better writer — both the facts and the heart.


She encouraged us to find what inspired us and do it the best we could.  Go after whatever you want, she said, work hard, study hard, do whatever it is to achieve your dream and don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do it.  You can.  She got her pilot’s license at age 15, even before her driver’s license.  But — and this part was important because I can still see the seriousness in her face — pursuing your dream is never at the expense of others.  In fact, you should be helping others at all times. In her words, the world is our community and we are put on this earth to help each other; otherwise, really, what is the purpose?   It’s the African concept of ubuntu.  Maybe she learned it while we were living in South Africa but I suspect she was just born that way.  Of course she gave much money and even more time to charitable causes, but what I remember most is her sitting with an elderly or disabled person and just talking, smiling, laughing until they did, too, or stepping into a situation to diffuse the tension, or standing up for someone or something even when it wasn’t popular.  Everyone deserved equal treatment and kindness.

Here’s Nelson Mandela explaining ubuntu:

scan0059 - Version 2

When she finally had a chance to retire, she battled cancer and ran out of time, on this earth, at least.  It made me realize that writing, which I’d planned to do when I retired, couldn’t wait.  I had to start.  And I had to do it well as a tribute to her and to my community.  So I try always to get the facts right, check my sources, do the research.  And then I think about the why, which takes a lot longer because it’s at the heart of every story.  Why did something happen?  Why did someone act that way?  Why are we here?

And that’s why I write.  To bring meaning to my life and to try help young people make sense of this world.  Sure, people can laugh that I gave up a job as a lawyer to write for kids (“Can’t she even write for adults?”) but for me it’s the right choice.  It’s not hard when you boil it down to the essence, to the why.  It’s to try to bring something good into the world.

Thanks, Mom.  Thanks for teaching and embodying ubuntu.  Thanks for making me think of the why.

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scan0118 - Version 2

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22. Exclusive Marvel Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. Photo You Will Be Astounded By...well, not really...

Crusher Creel to Menace Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

Get your first look at Brian Patrick Wade as Creel with an exclusive new image form Season 2!


  Image From Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.  

Carl "Crusher" Creel, known to Marvel fans as the Absorbing Man in the comics, will bring his unique power set to "Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." with the season premiere Tuesday, September 23 at 9:00 p.m. ET on ABC!

With the news we've also got your EXCLUSIVE first look at Brian Patrick Wade ("Generation Kill," "Teen Wolf") as Creel directly below! With his ability to absorb the properties of anything he touches, Creel will put Coulson and his team through their paces when their second season kicks off...but you'll have to wait until then to see how their battle turns out!

Yep, folks, that was the panty-wetting exclusive. A bald guy. But you get the reminder:

 Wade joins a number of new characters and guest stars on the series' second season, including the previously announced Adrianne Palicki (Bobbi Morse, a.k.a. Mockingbird), Lucy Lawless (Agent Isabelle Hartley), Reed Diamond (Daniel Whitehall), Nick Blood (Lance Hunter), Henry Simmons (Alphonso "Mack" Mackenzie), and Kyle MacLachlan (Skye's father), alongside the returning cast of Clark Gregg (Director Coulson), Ming-Na Wen (Agent May), Brett Dalton (Grant Ward), Elizabeth Henstridge (Agent Simmons), Iain De Caestecker (Agent Fitz), and Chloe Bennet (Agent Skye).

I bet you are looking at that photo in awe, right?  Cannot believe your eyes?  Well, it is true: bald man with knee pads (under trousers) strikes a pose.  And Marvel just casually throws this at us!!

Okay, its a TV series and they don't want to give too much away but, really?  That's it?


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23. How Martha Saved Her Parents From Green Beans: A Video Read-Aloud

[There is a video that cannot be displayed in this feed. Visit the blog entry to see the video.]

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24. Mystery Photo Competition

First woman to identify that its me under the hood gets a date....in Bristol of course.

No clues.

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25. Poetry Friday: An American Girl by Brander Matthews

She does not care for meditation;
Within her bonnet are no bees;
She has a gentle animation,
She joins in singing simple glees.

- from the poem An American Girl by Brander Matthews

Read the poem in its entirety.

View all posts tagged as Poetry Friday at Bildungsroman.

View the roundup schedule at A Year of Reading.

Learn more about Poetry Friday.

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