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1. From Bad To Good

Question: Just like I said in my previous question, I'm writing a book that takes place in an apocalyptic era. I have a character question though. How

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2. Review of Sam & Dave Dig a Hole

barnett samanddave Review of Sam & Dave Dig a Hole

star2 Review of Sam & Dave Dig a Hole Sam & Dave Dig a Hole
by Mac Barnett; illus. by Jon Klassen
Primary    Candlewick    40 pp.
10/14    978-0-7636-6229-5    $16.99

This adventure starts innocently enough: “On Monday Sam and Dave dug a hole.” The boys (indistinguishable save the color of their hats and Sam’s ever-present backpack) are fueled by chocolate milk, animal cookies, and a desire to find “something spectacular.” Alas, Sam and Dave unearth nothing, coming close to — but just missing — the precious gems that dot the subterranean landscape, and oblivious all the while. Eventually the chums stop for a rest, whereupon their canine companion, digging for a bone, inadvertently causes a rupture in the dirt floor underground that leaves the explorers falling “down, down, down,” only to land in what appears to be their own yard. But upon closer inspection, this house isn’t quite the same as before; a number of subtle differences go undetected by the hapless duo, but observant viewers will certainly take note. Barnett’s well-chosen words (“Sam and Dave ran out of chocolate milk. / But they kept digging. / They shared the last animal cookie. / But they kept digging”) and plentiful white space support readers. Klassen’s cross-section illustrations provide a mole’s-eye view of the underground proceedings, extending the spare text with visual humor. As in his previous books, Klassen shows an uncanny knack for conveying meaning with the subtlest of eye movements. How fitting that the wordless final spread features a knowing look between the dog and a cat familiar to Klassen fans; all that’s missing from the trippy conclusion is the theme music from The Twilight Zone. Mind-blowing in the best possible way.

From the November/December 2014 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

share save 171 16 Review of Sam & Dave Dig a Hole

The post Review of Sam & Dave Dig a Hole appeared first on The Horn Book.

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3. Of Meadow Muffins, Shamrocks And Arabian Knight. What I'm Reading Right Now!!

Oh dear Gods of Light and Darkness!

Anyone out there old enough to remember the gods awful -and I mean AWFUL- Web of Spider-Man Vol 1 #22, January, 1987?

I can recall buying it along with all my other Marvel comics and reading through it.  I read it again.  I read it again.  Was someone on fecking drugs???

The synopsis from Marvel.wikia:


"As Joy and Pete are driving into Belfast, all they can see is devastation. Pete's spider-sense warns him of danger and he brakes hard across Joy in the car while a petrol bomb flies across their path. Terrorists with guns show up but are eventually fought off my the military police and Pete and Joy manage to drive their way into the middle of the city. Welcome to Northern Ireland, I guess.

Joy is still on the trail of Roxxon and takes Pete off to their HQ. They are also on the looking for the mysterious 'black hoods' gang who the military police warned them about. After stumbling across a fire in a block of flats, Pete and Joy meet a guy called Liam, whose flat it was. He says he's running from the Black Hoods. Liam says the Hoods killed his brother and are now after him.

He takes them to a pub and introduces them as American reporters. One of the patrons tells them that the Hoods have been causing trouble in the area but no-one knows why. Joy thinks Roxxon is involved because the Hoods don't seem like 'traditional' terrorists. As they leave, a gang with rifles surround them - looks like they've been talking a bit too loudly in the pub.

The gang blindfold them and take them to the Roxxon building where they are met by a chap called Ian Forbes. Forbes tells them that the Pentagon terminated a defence contract with Roxxon and so they decided to try and sell their weapons to the British government to use in Ireland. He demonstrates the use of a tank (that has a tendency to overheat) to them. He then introduces 003 - a British secret serviceman.

His plan is to cause unrest through the Black Hoods in Ireland, then some 'well-placed' politicians in London will call for greater force to be used and so Roxxon come in and sell their weapons. As they are locked up, Liam shows up. Pete and Joy want to get more evidence against Roxxon, so split up as they escape. Pete does a quick change to Spidey and does some arse- whupping. He finds out Forbes and 003 are escaping via helicopter on the roof.

On the roof, Liam and Joy have been recaptured. Spidey saves them and manages to get a tracer on the helicopter. Liam shoots one of the gang who is threatening them but finds out it is his brother, called Rory. The last thing we see is the helicopter exploding while a shadowy figure in a Roxxon building says Forbes had been too careless. "

In a post World War 2 like landscape with British troops in -German style?- half-track vehicles and US uniforms the American reader is introduced to Northern Ireland.  The Northern Ireland that exists in the mind of some dope-arsed American writer who, I assume, had never been to Northern Ireland?  It was from this book that the famous Irish swear word came.  What vocal obscenity?  Oh -"meadow muffins!"  I am NOT kidding.   Us Brits discussed this long and hard over peals of laughter at the junk we were reading/seeing.  We could only assume that "meadow muffins" were cow pats?


But it seems that American writers also preferred to see "British occupied Northern Ireland" in some drug orientated way....maybe to ease their consciences I dunno -a lot of weapons were purchased by the IRA with American money so...?

And now I have just read something re-published by Marvel in 2012: Avengers: The Contest but back in the 1980s there was no big movie to spin reprints off of so any comic reader would know this as a compilation of the first Marvel Super Hero Contest Of Champions.

And all those absolutely stupid things that went to show WHY American writers -or Di$ney which has bastardised the folklore and history of many nations for a $-  should stick to just writing American characters.

We have the Irish heroine "Shamrock" (SERIOUSLY????) and Captain Britain.

Shamrock :"You wear the emblem of Great Britain!"
Captain Britain:"And you the Green of Ireland"
Caps:"Shamrock and Captainb Britain, divided by their countries' enmity, eye each other suspiciously."

Script by Bill Mantlo.  Arse.

I remember fighting off the hordes of Irish, black hooded kamikazee waves with their shamrock flags blowing in the wind.  Obviously no idea what-so-ever of Irish national colours -"Hey -shamrocks the national emblem, right?"  I was surprised that Irelands great super hero The Leprachaun wasn't shown. **** this was bad.

But, oh, the un-PC national -racist- stereotyping didn't stop there.  There is an Arabic hero called...I feel soooo dirty writing this...."Arabian Knight" -I have no idea who "Defensor" is/was and the bald-headed "Talisman" of Australia...yes, this book is really making me feel dirty.

Don't get me wrong.  I simply switch of my higher brain functions to read this stuff.  Not sure if it was meant to tie in with toys or not but, oy!

It's good fun but even in the no-computers-to-do-research-by, there is no excuse for some of the stereotyping unless it was "just write it and get the pay cheque!"

I'm sure they could have included Captain Lesbos -hero of the island state of Lesbos?  

I have to say, with all of this, yes, it was enjoyable.

Oh no....I just found this.  Hilarious -I think a bit of pee just came out!

You can read about Arabian Knight -created BY Bill Mantlo so no excuses!- here:

Yes, I have some odd comics in my collection and this is going to join them. Why? Because I am one meadow muffin farmer is why!

ohhh, why am I such a comics slut?

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4. Like every superhero, every book has an origin story...

Pib1-smShe wears glass slippers.
She sleeps in a tower.
She sings to birds.
She is the perfect princess.
And for a monster-fighting heroine, that is the perfect disguise.
Princess Magnolia is...

The Princess in Black

When she was four years old, my daughter Maggie (aka Magnolia) was examining her favorite article of clothing: a multicolored, butterfly-covered skort, the kind of thing that makes her feel pretty and princessy while still allowing her tumble about with ease.

She pointed to each of the butterfly colors.

“Pink is a girl color,” she said. “And purple, and yellow. But not black.”

“Girls can wear black,” I said. "I wear black all the time."

She looked at me as if to say, you're not a girl, you're a mama.

“Well, what about Batgirl?” I said, sure I'd won the argument.

Maggie said, “Mama, princesses don’t wear black.”

It was like being struck by lightning.

All day I couldn't stop thinking about a princess who did wear black. I took inspiration from The Scarlet Pimpernel, Zorro, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. She'd be a seemingly typical princess with a secret. She'd secretly be a superhero, working hard to keep her kingdom free of monsters. And like Superman needs Clark Kent, the Princess in Black would maintain a secret identity. To all the world, she is Princess Magnolia. But when trouble calls, she sheds her fluffy dresses and glass slippers, dons a black mask, leaps onto her valiant pony, and rides off to save the day!

I pulled my husband Dean into writing it with me, because he's awesome. And funny. And clever. And I like working with him. And there would be monsters, so he'd have insight to offer, being of their own kind. LeUyen Pham agreed to lend her bedazzling illustration sorcery to the project, Candlewick published it with aplomb, and the result is something I love dearly. Here are things that are important to me about this book.

1. The kind of book you can read to a four-year-old, because even though it's a longer chapter book (15 chapters, 80+ pages, over 2000 words), there are full-color illustrations every page that will keep their interest.

2. The kind of book a 6-7 year old might be able to read to you, and feel so proud doing it! Because the font is larger, a young reader will be capable of reading a big, thick book in one sitting and feel a surge of self-confidence afterward.

3. The kind of a book a mom like me can read to all my kids at the same time--10yo, 7yo, and 4yo--because the slightly more complicated plot interests older readers and high-concept story and ubiquitous illustrations keep the younger readers interested.

4. A book unashamedly about a girl (a princess even!) that any boy can enjoy too. She's a ninja! She fights monsters! There's an awesome goat boy! It's very important to me that from a young age, boys realize they can read and enjoy books about girls. If they start young, they're more likely to keep reading about girls and more likely to develop empathy for that other gender.

5. This is a girl who enjoys wearing the fluffy pink dresses and glass slippers and having tea parties. And this is also a girl who enjoys wearing black combat boots and galloping on horses and waging battle against huge monsters. She's not an either/or, just like my daughters. Girls are more complicated than some characters make us out to be.

6. This is not a traditional early reader. While the sentences are short and manageable and most words are short and manageable, and there's lots of repitition to aid in learning new things, there are also lots of wonderful, fun, big and crunchy words for new readers to sharpen their teeth on, like: "minced," "pranced," and "swished." Like "handkerchiefs," "snuffling," and "hog-tying." Why, there's even "hornswaggle."

7. As a parent, it's hard for me to find those transitional books that can carry a my kids from picture books and early readers to chapter books. This is longer and more complex than Fly Guy, Go, Dog, Go!, etc., but shorter and simpler than Junie B. Jones, Magic Treehouse, etc. I think the best comparison is Kate DiCamillo's Mercy Watson books.

8. There's a unicorn named Frimplepants. (at least, he seems to be a unicorn...but is he reallly?)

9. The Princess in Black's signature battle move is "Twinkle Twinkle Little SMASH!"

10. This is the first of a series. I've seen LeUyen's sketches for book 2, and you are going to die when you meet Princess Sneezewort. Those who have read all of them often love book 3 the most (so funny, Dean worked some magic). And book 4 is going to make fans of book 1 very, very happy. I hope for years to come, Princess Magnolia/the Princess in Black and her pals will be your pals too.

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5. Welcoming We Give Books to the First Book Family

We can’t keep it a secret any longer!

iStock_000024504532LargeAs of today, We Give Books has a new home at First Book. The online platform, which features nearly 300 digitally-optimized children’s books, enables anyone with access to the Internet to put books in WGB-FB-logothe hands of kids in need, simply by reading online.

This generous gift to First Book comes from The Pearson Foundation along with $1.3M in cash to support We Give Books and help First Book deliver new online programs and services to our growing network of 140,000 classrooms and community organizations serving children in need.

You can get involved too!

Children, parents, caretakers and educators can visit www.wegivebooks.org and select books to read together. Reading on the site also triggers donations of new books to programs and classrooms serving children in need. Launched just four years ago, We Give Books has helped deliver more than 3.25 million books to children around the world.

We could not be more thankful to the Pearson Foundation or more thrilled for We Give Books to join the First Book family, helping us provide even more critical reading opportunities to young people across the United States and around the world.

Learn more about We Give Books joining First Book here. Then check out We Give Books and start reading today.

The post Welcoming We Give Books to the First Book Family appeared first on First Book Blog.

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6. It’s not on any chart / You must find it with your heart

345px PP MaryMartin Its not on any chart / You must find it with your heartPlease join me on Saturday the 25th at the Boston Book Festival for “Masters of Fantasy,” a panel discussion with Soman Chainani (A World Without Princes), Holly Black and Cassandra Clare (The Iron Trial), and Gregory Maguire (Egg & Spoon). We’ll be talking about–well, I guess I should get on that right quick, as I’m the moderator–but FANTASY. 1:00-2:00 PM, Emmanuel Church sanctuary, 15 Newbury Street, Boston. FREE.

share save 171 16 Its not on any chart / You must find it with your heart

The post It’s not on any chart / You must find it with your heart appeared first on The Horn Book.

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7. turning point

Question: I've written many published non-fiction narratives with a character turning point but I'm having trouble figuring out the t.pt. for my protagonist.

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8. Terror at Dean Clough!

Luckily for me, it wasn't real terror, but Tales of Terror, a wonderful exhibition of beautifully detailed illustrations by David Roberts, which has just opened in the Illustration Gallery at Dean Clough in Halifax. John and I went along to the opening on Saturday, where we met the absolutely lovely David Roberts in the flesh (I think all children illustrators are lovely to be honest... but then, I am biased). 

I just love David's work and I especially love this series, because of the sinister edge to each illustration. It's often quite subtle but definitely disturbing. Wonderful stuff:

They were created for the Tales of Terror books by Chris Priestly, a Victorianesque series of horror tales for children. David explained that that's why the illustrations are created to look a little like the old etching plates from Victorian novels:

I also met up with my friends and fellow illustrators, Chris Mould and Lydia Monks. It was great to have a good old chin-wag. Chris has a permanent studio at Dean Clough (they do loads to support artists). I went to visit his studio a few years back: take a peek... Chris was also the curator of David's show (well done Chris - nice job).

Here we all are in the Dean Clough restaurant, after I had just finished scoffing down a rather yummy lunch (I was a little worried about my grin, visualising bits of rocket between my teeth and am very relieved to see that, if it's there, it doesn't show).

There are several galleries at Dean Clough, and all the exhibitions were opening at the same time, so we had a lovely afternoon, mooching around them all. I particularly liked Jo Brown's abstract paintings

Go take a look yourself. the exhibitions are up until January 3rd.

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9. REPOST: A Hallowed Tradition . . . Falls Into the Gutter

UPDATE: I originally posted this three years ago.


I’ve previously documented our Halloween scarecrow tradition. It’s something we enjoy, keeping it alive for at least 60 years now.

Well, this year, I don’t know what to say . . .

Here’s the view from the other side (and yes, he’s doughy) . . .

And now the backside again, the view from the street . . .

It’s either the most awesome Preller scarecrow ever, or a serious lapse in taste.

As for the old days, here’s a snap from 1953. My father built these every year . . .

This is about 20 years later, from the 70′s. It’s amazing, but most of our family photos are cropped this way. It’s hard to imagine why, or what was so difficult about keeping everybody in the frame, but there it is . . .

This is a more recent example, 35 years after that, from my own front yard, thanks to a little (and I mean, a very little) help from my kids . . .

Last year we experimented with the pillowcase head and gratuitous gore . . .

But this year, 2011, I’m afraid we’ve finally cracked. Wait, wrong word. Butt . . . you know what I mean. I guess you could say it’s a living tradition, we’re not slaves to the old ways of doing things. Or maybe, in my mother’s old expression, “We’re all going to hell in a hand basket!”


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10. Weekend sketches

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11. 3 Steps to Pre-Plot for NaNoWriMo -- Part One

Begin pre-plotting your story for NaNoWriMo with the 1st exercise in The Plot Whisperer Workbook: Step-by-step Exercises to Help You Create Compelling Stories.

1) Brainstorm how all three major plot lines in your story will evolve from the beginning into the middle and all the way to the end of the story

2) Imagine how your protagonist's traits change / transform over the course of your novel as a result of the dramatic action. Use that to create a transformation summary for the protagonist of your story

3) Jot your notes on a Plot Plannerfor a bird's eye view of your story

Strive for story ideas that keep the suspense and curiosity high with clearly defined goals and ticking clocks. Scenes linked by cause and effect. Provocative themes explored. Historical details / exotic locales and unusual lifestyles and breath-taking occupations.

Terrific! Right?

Though the dramatic action plot stays true to the structure of the Universal story, the character emotional development plot is devoid of its most important element = no character transformation in the end. None. Not one character. All the characters are exactly the same at the end of the story as they started out in the beginning.

Don't let this problem befall your story.

Begin pre-plotting for NaNoWriMo, with the ultimate character transformation in mind. Start there. 

For more pre-plotting tips and tricks and how to write a novel in a month, check out my Plot Whisperer books: 

1)  The Plot Whisperer Workbook: Step-by-step Exercises to Help You Create Compelling Stories
2)  The Plot Whisperer: Secrets of Story Structure Any Writer Can Master
3)  The Plot Whisperer Book of Writing Prompts: Easy Exercises to Get You Writing.

Today I write! Rather, today I pre-plot for NaNo!
To continue writing and revising:

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12. Animals Everywhere!

Animals Everywhere!
Author & Illustrator: Simon Abbott
Publisher: Ticktock Books
Genre: Children / Animals
ISBN: 978-1-78325-077-6
Pages: 24
Price: $8.99

Author’s website
Downloadable fun activities – coming soon!
Buy it at Amazon

There are many kinds of habitats, and each supports certain animal populations. Animals Everywhere! is an illustrated guide which provides some interesting information about them.

Habitats such as the rain forest, mountains, desert, and ocean are each presented in a two-page spread. In these pages, various animals that live in the habitat are illustrated in cartoon style, along with fun facts about them.

Kids will be fascinated to learn about the goliath bird-eating spider, which is as big as a pizza, or the male narwhal, which is also called the “unicorn of the sea” because it has a long, spiral tusk. These and other fascinating creatures fill the pages of this fun and colorful book.

Reviewer: Alice Berger

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13. It's Old News But New To Me: Artist Mimi Yoon Scrapped ‘Powerpuff Girls’ Variant Cover

Thanks to Twoheadedboy for mentioning this story. It's eight months old now but, following my Powerpuff Girls posting yesterday, it all fits nicely in place.

I do have to admit that it might work if the characters were supposed to be teens but WTF were IDW thinking?  I guess it's all those US TV shows and events where moms and dads "paint up their daughters of 5, 6 and 7 years of age like street whores" -NOT my words.

I guess some pervert enjoyed the art! The characters in the comics are 5-6 years old and no amount of getting on a high horse nor publishing a photo of her accuser in a strip club -I'm sorry, the artists get high and mighty about how she drew little girls in this way and a photo of a guy in a strip joint smashes his arguement???  I'd be asking "how long did it take you to find a photo of him in a strip club? to defend yourself?"

Comics gone nutty.

I wrote porno comics at one point.  Never do it again but I know that men AND women go to strip joints.....sigh.

I really, really am growing tired of stupidity in comics.

Posted 8 months ago by  
Powerpuff Girls

Publisher IDW just announced that it would not go forward with a variant cover some found objectionable of ‘Powerpuff Girls’ #6 illustrated by female artist Mimi Yoon.  We previously reported that comic shop owner Dennis Barger took to Facebook to vent “Are we seriously sexualizing pre-teen girls like perverted fan fiction writers on the Internet???? Is that what this s*** has gotten to?  DISGUSTED!”  He further went to add, “taking grade school girls and sexualizing them as way older… they are wearing latex bondage wear mini dresses, which on an adult would be fine but on the effigies of children is very wrong… especially on an ALL AGES kids book marketed for children. These characters are supposed to be 6-7 years old, aren’t they?”  (Actually they’re in kindergarten so more like 5-6.)

‘The Powerpuff Girls’ comic is presumably aimed at children along with IDW’s other licensed properties such as ‘My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic’.  IDW’s VP of Marketing Dirk Wood stated that the variant cover was intended as a collectible for adult fans and that Cartoon Network itself had requested the variant and selected Mimi Yoon as the artist.  (The regular cover features artwork that emulates the normal style of the original cartoons.)  The publisher then announced that it would not publish the racy variant.

Some have defended the cover by pointing out that should the characters exist in real time, they would be in their late teens or early twenties now.  (Feel old?)

Yoon has since taken to Facebook herself to defend her illustration, stating “I find all of the accusations for my Powerpuff Girls image sexualizing minors not only ridiculous but also embarrassing for the accusers… When any girl who has interest in Powerpuff Girls (sees the controversial IDW cover) and grows up to be like the ‘ladies’ in the pictures… That would be one serious tragedy, wouldn’t it?… I’m curious to know why are all the arguments about trying to keep the image away from the girls? What about the boys?”  She then followed up by posting photographs of her accuser, Dennis Barger, at a strip club.  Zing!

Powerpuff Girls 6 Regular
The Regular Cover For ‘Powerpuff Girls’ #6

Fans have also rallied around Yoon and have posted encouraging messages to the artist.  Someone going by the nickname “Holly Golightly” posted “I’ve been defending your Beautiful Artwork from the Ridiculousness of Men (who) tell us Gals what we should be offended by or what is appropriate for us…Nutty and Silly- your work is hauntingly feminine and sly…I love it!”

Fellow comic artist Jenny Frison posted, “Just wanted to say that I thought your PPG cover was super cute and fun and sassy and totally appropriate for youngsters! Sorry some people’s negative opinions totally overshadowed how much hard work and love you put into that cover. Don’t let this make you second guess yourself. You are very talented and did a beautiful job!”

Yoon responded by posting “I promise this will no way deter me from doing what I love doing or change my views and ways, and I will always and forever passionately despise perverted, corrupted, and twisted minds and acts.”

Clearly neither party is willing to “agree to disagree.”  Is Yoon’s image inappropriate?  Or is it cheeky fun with a female empowerment message?  Yoon obviously aged the characters, so it’s not like she depicted them as five year olds in sexy clothing.  But considering that this book is aimed at a younger audience, is the Yoon variant cover too much?

Feel free to sound off below in the comments!

Source: GMA Network

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14. Penguin and Pumpkin by Salina Yoon

Penguin and PumpkinJust in time for autumn and Halloween, Penguin is back. This time Penguin is off on an adventure to find out what fall is like. Unfortunately, her little brother, Pumpkin, is too small to make the journey. But Penguin doesn’t forget about him and brings him back a little bit of fall.

Not only is this a story about the season but of sibling relationships as well. The cute illustrations share some of the joys of autumn. While Penguin and Pinecone is still my favorite in this series, I love the ending image of snowing leaves in this title.

Posted by: Liz

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15. Feedback Request

The query featured in Face-Lift 1107 has been revised. You'll find the new version in the comments there, awaiting your feedback.

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16. starred review

Happy Monday all! I'm going to  start the week with a couple of black and white Illustrations from my upcoming (first!) chapter book Audrey (Cow)

We're celebrating a starred review in Publishers weekly, hurray!

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17. Book Review: A Brief History of Seven Killings

When New York Times critic Michiko Kakutani described A Brief History of Seven Killings as “epic in every sense of that word,” I thought my reaction would be similar to Dr. Johnson’s response to another epic, Paradise Lost: “None could have wished it a word longer.” Coming in at just under seven hundred pages with a cast of at least seventy-six named characters from the laconic Josey Wales to the inscrutable Nina Burgess, A Brief History of Seven Killings spans three decades of Jamaican history during the post-independence era.

While A Brief History of Seven Killings could be reduced to the chronicle of Rolling Stone journalist, Alex Pierce, who stumbles on to information about the assassination of Bob Marley, which puts his own life in danger, that would be only one of the plots. And such a reductionist view would be a grave injustice to this monumental work. For Marlon James is updating many of the questions raised in Jamaican classics such as Brother Man, an exploration of the influence of Rastafari; Voices Under the Window, which captured the race, class, and colour conflicts of Jamaican culture, and The Children of Sisyphus, a Dantesque vision of a Jamaican ghetto. 

James is also asking questions that affect the life of every Jamaican at home and abroad: Why was the CIA involved in the destabilization of the Jamaican government from 1972-79? Why did the peace movement fall apart? Why would anyone try to kill the famed prophet of reggae and Rastafari? Only a writer with the prodigious talent and assiduous attention to the craft of storytelling that Mr. James possesses could have attempted such an ambitious project and created this spellbinding narrative. As someone who lived through those turbulent times and who is knowledgeable about many of the facts, rumors, and half-truths about the attempted assassination, I was impressed not only by James’s approach, but also with his treatment of the events surrounding December 3, 1976.

Perhaps, the most intriguing aspect of this novel is the shift in perspectives. Just when I thought I knew a character such as Josey Wales, the brutal leader of the Storm posse, I found myself in the middle of a tender scene between him and his son: “I smile with the boy so that he don’t feel like I threatening him too much, but he is sixteen now, and I still remember sixteen, so I know the hunger growing in him. All this talking back is moving from a little cute to a little threat. Part of it sweet me, seeing this little shit puff him chest out.” Or another killer, Weeper, who reads books such as Bertrand Russell’s The Problems of Philosophy and will not hesitate to murder and maim, yet still finds time to enjoy moments with his lover: “He thinking I going to be the one to look away first, but I not going look away and I not going to even blink.”

A Brief History of Seven Killings, which was dubbed the “Great Jamaican Novel” by Fader, has rightly earned this title. For even after six hundred and eighty eight pages, I was still concerned about the fates of Alex Pierce and the enigmatic changeling, Nina Burgess. Or whatever she calls herself these days.

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Thinking about getting a tablet or pressure sensitive monitor like Cintiq? I go over my thoughts on what worked for me and what didn't and what I'm using now...

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19. Doctor Who

Probably my favorite Doctor Who for #Inktober day 20

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20. Breaking: Disney Sets ‘Moana’ For Late-2016 Release

Disney announced this afternoon that Moana, their 56th animated feature, will be released into theaters in late-2016. The film will mark the CGI directing debut of Disney stalwarts Ron Clements and John Musker, who have helmed many of the studio’s beloved hand-drawn films of the last 30 years. “John and I have partnered on so many films—from The Little Mermaid to Aladdin to The Princess & the Frog,” said Clements. “Creating Moana is one of the great thrills of our career. It’s a big adventure set in this beautiful world of Oceania.” The studio offered the following film description on their Disney Insider blog: In the ancient South Pacific world of Oceania, Moana, a born navigator, sets sail in search of a fabled island. During her incredible journey, she teams up with her hero, the legendary demi-god Maui, to traverse the open ocean on an action-packed voyage, encountering enormous sea creatures, breathtaking underworlds and ancient folklore. “Moana is indomitable, passionate and a dreamer with a unique connection to the ocean itself,” Musker said. “She’s the kind of character we all root for, and we can’t wait to introduce her to audiences.”

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21. Inktober Day 20 #inktober #inktober2014

Inktober 20


Micron Brush pen black, graphite, watercolor

Some of you may recognize these two characters. Piggy and Chicken have danced before, however it was in the ballet. This is ballroom :)


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22. I’m excited!

Mastering front 250WI’m only a proof and a couple of weeks away from publishing Mastering the Craft of Compelling Storytelling, a sorta-new writing craft book.

My original book, Flogging the Quill, Crafting a Novel that Sells, is now out of print. I’ve gone through it to polish the content, reorganized it completely, and added new content and examples. It still feels good to me, and it seems I’m in good company: a couple of quotes from Amazon reviewers on the original about what's in my book(s):

“This is one of the outstanding 'how-to' books about writing. I keep it right beside two other favorites, Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Dave King and Renni Browne and On Writing by Stephen King.”

“Ray’s . . . advice on experiential description is on par with Donald Maass's 'micro tension' advice—critical to delivering top-shelf writing.”

Why a new version with a new title and new cover?

By going from 8.5” by 11” to a 5.5” by 8.5” trade paperback, the new size lowers the price—$16.99 versus $21.95—and may make it more convenient for writers to have in their bookshelves. At 320 pages, it should look something like the 3D image at the bottom of this post.

The change in print format also enabled conversion to ebooks, too, so there will be a Kindle edition published at the same time. Maybe an epub too, but I’m focused on Kindle for now.

By the way, did you know that you can get a free Kindle reader for a PC or a Mac that enables you to read a Kindle book on your computer? Same goes for epub (Nook) ebooks, too, with Adobe Digital Editions.

New title? I’m hoping that a more benefit-oriented title will attract more readers.

New cover? I felt the original wasn’t all that good and needed refreshing.

And I’m hoping the new ebook formats will also reach more readers.

Want to receive a free Kindle ebook in return for a review?

On Amazon, the new version won’t be able to bring to its pages all the amazingly positive reviews of the original. While it can point to the old FtQ page, it would be good to have fresh reviews—if, of course, they’re positive. But that’s the chance all authors take.

If you want a free beta Kindle version to read for review purposes, please email me. I’ll let you know when the book is officially published and has a page on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Pass this on?

More anon.

Thanks for your time and consideration,


3D cover400W

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23. Silver Like Dust

Silver Like Dust. Kimi Cunningham Grant. 2012. Pegasus. 288 pages. [Source: Library]

Silver Like Dust focuses on the relationship of a grandmother and granddaughter. The author--the granddaughter--wants to strengthen her relationship with her grandmother. At the start, she feels like she barely knows her. She knows a few things, perhaps, but not in a real-enough way. For example, she knows that her grandmother spent world war 2 in an internment camp. She knows that that is where her grandparents met, and also where her uncle was born. But her grandmother has never talked about the past, about the war, about her growing-up years. In fact, her grandmother has always been a private, quiet person. So she focuses her attention and begins to do things intentionally. She sets out to get to know her grandmother, she sets out to get the story, the real story. The book isn't just telling readers about the grandmother's experiences in the 1940s. The book is telling readers about the process, the journey, to getting to the story. That was unique, I thought. Not every nonfiction book lets readers in behind the scenes. I also thought it kept the book personal. This is very much family history, taking an interest in your family, in the past, of making sense of it all.

I found it an interesting read.

© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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24. Black Speculative Fiction Month

Speculative fiction contains writings of science fiction, fantasy and horror or, those stories the bend what is and ask readers to speculate about what could be. Editors Milton Davis and Balogun Ojetade have set aside October to celebrate works that transport us to new worlds; worlds of adventure; of terror; of war and wonder; of iron and steam and are authored by Black writers. If you’re unable to attend any of the events they’ve planned, do visit the blog page that announces the events so that you can build your background

Chronicles of Harriett by Balogun Ojetade

Chronicles of Harriett by Balogun Ojetade

knowledge in the history, seminal works and authors, both classic and contemporary.

Speculative fiction allows both readers and writings to explore issues such as race in ways other genres do not. At times, these writers create creatures and situations that go beyond race, as do other authors. However, the attraction to spec fic has more to do with the worlds created in the writing. One will read them because they read zombies, sci fi or high fantasy. Milton Davis speaks to this complicated issue.

Scowering my blog, I found a few titles you should consider picking up this month.

Promise of Shadows by Justine Ireland; Simon and Schuster, 2014

The Zero Degree Zombie Zone by Patrick Henry Bass and Jerry Craft; Scholastic, 2014

Love is the Drug by Alaya Dawn Johnson; Arthur A. Levine, 2014

Mesmerize  by Artist Arthur; Kimani Tru, 2009

The Agency 3: Traitor in the Tunnel by Y. S. Lee; Candelwick, 2009

Charm and Strange by Stephanie Kuehn; St. Martin Press 11 2009

The Book of Wonders by Jasmine Richards; HarperCollins, 2012

Ninth Ward by Jewell Parker Rhodes; Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2010

Awake by Wendy McNair Raven; 2010

Shadow Walker by L A Banks; Sea Lion Books, 2010

47 by Walter Mosley; Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2006

Bayou by Jeremy Love; Zuda, 2009

Sweet Whisper Brother Rush by Virginia Hamilton; Philomel, 1982

Black Powder by Staton Rabin; Margaret McElderry Books, 2005

Ship of souls by Zetta Elliott; AmazonEncore, 28 Feb

Shieldwolf Dawning by Selena Nemorin; CreateSpace, 2014

Do yourself a real favor and visit Twinja Book Reviews. Guinevere and Libertad dedicate their blog to black e0d5adf2356a76ea82d72158eb3b79cc_400x400speculative fiction and are a much better source on that than I am. And, check them out on Twitter, too! @Dos_Twinjas




Filed under: Uncategorized Tagged: Black Speculative Fiction Month

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25. New Voice: David Zeltser on Lug, Dawn Of The Ice Age

Curriculum Resources
By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

David Zeltser is the first-time author of Lug, Dawn Of The Ice Age: How One Small Boy Saved Our Big, Dumb Species (Egmont, 2014). From the promotional copy:

In Lug’s Stone Age clan, a caveboy becomes a caveman by catching a jungle llama and riding it against the rival Boar Rider clan in the Big Game. 

The thing is, Lug has a forbidden, secret art cave and would rather paint than smash skulls. Because Lug is different, his clan’s Big Man is out to get him, he’s got a pair of bullies on his case—oh, and the Ice Age is coming.

When Lug is banished from the clan for failing to catch a jungle llama, he’s forced to team up with Stony, a silent Neanderthal with a very expressive unibrow, and Echo (a Boar Rider girl!). 

In a world experiencing some serious global cooling, these misfits must protect their feuding clans from the impending freeze and a particularly unpleasant pride of migrating saber-toothed tigers. 

It's no help that the elders are cavemen who can't seem to get the concept of climate change through their thick skulls.

Could you tell us the story of "the call" or "the email" when you found out that your book had sold? How did you react? How did you celebrate?

On Friday, December 7, 2012, I got an international call. It was my agent, Catherine Drayton, in Sydney, Australia. She told me that Lug: Dawn of the Ice Age and a sequel was going to be published. I started sobbing--which felt strange, embarrassing, joyful and cathartic all at once.

My daughter was two at the time, so I remember feeling especially happy that she might read the books one day. After the call--thinking I was all cried out--I called my wife. I immediately started bawling. Then I called my parents . . . you get the idea.

We celebrated by going out for dinner. I have no idea where or what we ate, but I’m sure there was dessert involved and that it tasted especially sweet that night.

One of the best memories I do have--my mother-in-law emailed me to say: "Congratulations! Don't let it go to your head."

She’s from Scotland.

As a comedic writer, how do you decide what's funny?

I have a giant stuffed iguana named Pedro next to my computer. I’ve noticed that whenever I write something funny, Pedro winks at me and whispers “Bueno.”

What advice do you have for those interested in either writing comedies or books with a substantial amount of humor in them?

I wouldn’t advise setting out to write in any particular genre or style. I think the key thing is to find a story and characters you love, and then to try various approaches and see what reads best.

Deborah Halverson
Lug started out in third person but--on the advice of the wonderful Deborah Halverson--ended up in first person. It was just more fun to read that way.

More importantly, I would make sure you love the process of creating stories more than anything else. If it’s not your true calling, do the thing you love more.

Be completely honest with yourself--are you doing this more for the love of storytelling, or to ‘become an author’ one day? Are you genuinely enjoying what you’re writing? If the answer is ‘kinda,’ chances are that’s how other people will feel too.

Finally, find writer/reader friends and show them your stories. Listen, learn, and rewrite. Put your story away for a while and look at it again fresh. Then, rinse and repeat. Since you usually only have one shot with a manuscript, only go out to agents after you’ve gone through this process a few times.

Having said all that, I think the funniest books aren’t too focused on the funny. They’re compelling stories with interesting characters who happen to be in comic situations. We’re not going to laugh much if we don’t care about the characters or the story.

Personally, my favorite kind of humor is situational. I like building scenes so that the humor comes from what’s happening to the characters, rather than from the author commenting on what’s happening.

If that’s not enough unwanted advice, I recommend The Complete Guide to the Care and Training of the Writer in Your Life.

Cynsational Notes

David Zeltser emigrated from the Soviet Union as a child, graduated from Harvard, and has worked with all kinds of wild animals, including rhinos, owls, sharks, and ad executives. He has a forthcoming picture book, Ninja Baby, with Caldecott Honor illustrator Diane Goode (Chronicle Books). David lives with his wife and daughter in Santa Cruz, California. He performs improv comedy and loves meeting readers of all ages. His second book about Lug is scheduled to publish in Fall 2015. Follow David on Twitter: @davidzeltser

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