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1. Writing a Series

When you're writing a series, the subsequent books usually have to be written quickly. 

http://acrowesnest.blogspot.com/2014/06/dianne-writing-series-what-i-didnt-know.html

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2. Squeetus summer book club: Enna Burning, chapter 19

Enna-newpb"silly songs about swimming rabbits and no-tailed squirrels": it occurs to me I should have had my husband write this song! He wrote the "bodiless piglet" song Tegus sings in Book of a Thousand Days. He also expanded the rap I wrote for Humphry in The Storybook of Legends and then wrote new raps for him in The Unfairest of Them All and A Wonderlandiful World. He's my go-to song writer! I should have made him write all those songs in the Princess Academy books. (I think he wrote part of one or two in the upcoming third book, actually.)

The journey south: I mentioned my love of fever dreams. Other things I love: journeys through wilderness. Love it. I feel very disappointed by high fantasy books that don't move, stay in one place. They feel stagnant to me. I want to wander, feel the landscape beneath me and around me, changing and threatening. Writing Book of a Thousand Days felt so risky to me because I knew I wanted to start the book inside the tower and stay there for some time.

"Over there!" After this book, Dean and I used to shout that to each other sometimes. I'd forgotten about that till I read this scene.

Yasid: Looking over my notes, I had so much more info about Yasid than I could use in the story. That's generally the case, I think. You use about 5% of your research. You need to rifle through the other 95% just to discover the 5% that you need. Here are some notes I took: 

"The Magi were the priests of the Persians, kept fire and ash upon an altar and without them no sacrifice could be made. Believed that sun, fire, and light were emblems of Ormuzd and sources of all light and purity. Worshiped fire not as separate being but symbol, embodiment. Worshipped on mountaintops, not in temples. Magi connected with astrology and enchantment. Ancient Zoroastrians forced to give up their religion, some refused and fled to the deserts of Kerman and to Hindustan. Arabs call them Guebers from Arabic word meaning unbelievers. Fire is still adored as the symbol of divinity. “Lalla Rookh” = “Fire Worshippers”.

Audrey asks, "Shannon what is your favorite Bayern book-inspired fan creation? (example: clothing/ cosplay, objects, art)" There are so many wonderful things! Sometimes people will email me photos, Halloween costumes, art. I love the watercolor paintings some have done.

Nicole asks, "I was just thinking that, since my favorite book is Enna Burning, what is your favorite book?" I couldn't choose. They really do feel like my children.

Eliza asks, "In The Storybook of Legends, the Narrator makes a passing reference to "the goose girl's daughter" attending Ever After High a year ahead of Raven. Does this mean...sister for Tusken? At least in your head? Or is it just a nod to your Bayern fans?" Yes! You're the first person to ask me about that. It's really just a nod. The Goose Girl and Ever After High take place in totally different worlds, so I don't think she'd literally be Ani's daughter.

Just two more chapters!

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3. A Foxy Sneak Peek


Here's a sneak peek from my new book.

I liked the storybook feeling that turned out on this page. There's an old fashioned decorative quality somehow. The fabrics are hand made... maybe that's it. 

I think in general the world longs for storybook worlds to live in. I know I do...

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4. Comic Con International Recap

I’ve attended San Diego’s Comic Con International off-and-on since the 1990′s and I’ve watched it grow to become the daddy of all geek conventions. Despite the long airplane flight, long lines and 200k+ crowd, it is a fun four-day ride.

SDCC

I’ve always felt that I am a bit of an odd puzzle piece as a participant in the programming for Comic Con. Compared to other massive conventions, like BookExpo, there are far fewer kid’s lit author/illustrators present–and many that do attend are either current bestsellers or their book is Soon to Become a Major Motion Picture. I suppose my books fall somewhere in this category and I am thankful for that.

LATimes

As Angela and I shuffled past the decorated booths, I was reminded that Comic Con is a grab-bag cross-section of pop culture in media. Film, television, nerdy apparel, toys, games and books were all featured prominently. About the only thing that wasn’t front and center were good ol’ comic books, which seem relegated to the outer fringes of the convention floor.

But, because there was such a mix, I bumped into all sorts of creative types: like fellow artists and writers, sculptors and film-makers.

Allen

Next to me are Vicki and Allen Williams, director Kirk Thatcher, and artist Travis Lewis sits front and center.

GeorgeRR

HBO’s ubiquitous Game of Thrones series dominated the con. Here, I met the book’s author (and the winner of the Game of Thrones) George R.R. Martin at the Weta booth (there’s Weta Workshop founder, Richard Taylor, right behind us). After stalk-chatting with George for several minutes, he had some of his characters remove me from the premises:

GoT1

But I was remembered by my old friend, artist Donato Giancola–who used my likeness as one of the Night’s Watch in the 2015 Game of Thrones calendar. Scratch that one off of my bucket list.

Donato

I participated on a couple of panels, including “Fairy Tale Remix” moderated by the award-winning author, Shannon Hale (who may, or may not, be part of a crime-fighting duo).

Shannon

The conversation on the influence of fairy tales in modern storytelling was lively and the audience’s questions were thought-provoking. (Lytherus.com has a nice, detailed write-up on the panel).

panel

Above are authors aplenty (from left to right): Katherine Harbour, Shannon Hale, Cornelia Funke, Marissa Meyer, Danielle Paige, Ben Tripp, T-Dog and John Peck.

postcards

Friday was “Star Wars Day” at the con (in DiTerlizziland, every day is “Star Wars Day”) and I presented the upcoming picture book The Adventures of Luke Skywalker, Jedi Knight (featuring illustrations by the legendary Ralph McQuarrie). Along with Exec. Editor of Disney Publishing, Michael Siglain, and Lucasfilm historian and author, Jonathan Rinzler, we talked of how this book came to be and offered up inside stories of the development of the first screenplay as well as Ralph’s place in Lucasfilm history as the visual genius who presented the first glimpses into a galaxy far, far away.

SW

I had a moment when Jonathan told me that he thought Ralph would have liked how this book turned out. That meant a lot to this ten-year old kid and I am still beaming from his comment.

The Star Wars fun continued when Ang and I reunited with film effects dungeon master, Phil Tippett, who was not only responsible for bringing to life childhood cinematic moments (like the AT-AT attack in The Empire Strikes Back or the dinosaurs in Jurassic Park) but goblins, trolls and Hogsqueal in The Spiderwick Chronicles.

Phil

After my authorial duties were completed it was time to spend some hard earned royalty money. For many nerd collectors, Comic Con has become a one-stop-shop of the weird and rarefied. In fact, there were one-of-kind props from some of my favorite films, like Marty McFly’s hoverboard from Back to the Future II. (price tag: $30k):

hoverboard

…or one of the puppets from Beetlejuice:

beetlejuide

If your a 70′s kid trapped in a man’s body (like me) then you’ll love these Kenner-styled Alien figures. Sure, they’re about 30 years too late, but you know what they say…(in 1979 no one can hear you scream…for Alien action figures?)

aliens

Speaking of toys, Sideshow toys melted my brain with a new line of incredibly detailed creeptastic ghouls and demons called “Court of the Dead”. If you were a fan of McFarlane Toys or Wayne Barlowe, you’re gonna love these. Take a look:

sideshow

sideshow2

Lastly, I nabbed a few limited edition artist’s sketchbooks. By far, this is my favorite sort of thing to hunt down and purchase at the con. Fortunately, booksellers (like Stuart Ng Books) had many to choose from like this reproduction of Claire Wendling’s sketchbook.

claire

…and, yes, I dropped off a handful of signed The Battle for WondLa: Sketchbook III to Stuart who should have them for sale on his site very soon. I’ll share a link once they’re up. In the meantime, “Stay classy San Diego. I’ll see you next time.”

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5. Comics Illustrator of the Week :: Toni Fejzula

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05 Patio castillo vista frontal

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Serbian born artist Toni Fejzula has worked on many comics, and illustration projects in, and around his current residence of Spain. The new Dark Horse Comics series, Veil, has finally brought him to the attention of American comics fans. His artwork, with it’s unique coloring style, perfectly fits the moody atmosphere of Greg Rucka’s story.

Fejzula has contributed covers to Cthulhu, created the science-fiction album ‘Central Zéro’ at Soleil Productions, and co-created the series ‘Nephilim’ at Delcourt.

Toni Fejzula news, new project updates, and more of his awesome art can be found on his on his facebook page.

For more comics related art, you can follow me on my website comicstavern.com - Andy Yates

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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6. My Summer Blog Tour plus…. meet the family in The Little Kid's Table!

Wow summer is almost done and it seems I've been everywhere but on my blog. To start here's a few guest posts and interviews I did over the summer:

I was profiled on Kid Lit 411. Ya'll this is a terrific site for readers, creators, and lovers of children's literature. I was interviewed by the talented Sylvia Liu, who curates the illustrator's sections.

In May and June I contributed my regular columns to Once Upon A Sketch.com and Word Disco.com:
Both Once Upon a Sketch columns focused on best practices for illustrators. In May I discussed how to deal with a difficult client. In June I wrote about the difference between sampling for a client or working on spec. These are both issues that aspiring illustrators will encounter.

While Once Upon A Sketch is about hardcore, practical advise for illustrators, Word Disco is my fun dance floor. In July I wrote about my summer reading list.

Finally last week, I kicked off Telaina Muir's DOT Drawing Challenge with this post about art, love and fear.

So go catch up on reading and come back when you want to see my characters for The Little Kid's Table….

What's that? Let's see them now? Ok you twisted my arm… BUT I'm going to introduce them in batches. First here's the family portrait:




The family members are Grandma Mable, Grandpa, Mom, Dad, Aunt Nancy and Uncle Bob, Uncle Fred, cousins, Little Brother, Daisy the dog and MC (main character.) Whew, this is a lot of people to keep up with but I decided to create my own backstories for all of them. And because most modern families are colorful these days, The Little Kid's Table has a lot of diversity around it. Here's some more family groups.

Grandma Mable is bringing out the pie… and the real fun is going to start

This is a proposed page layout for one of the final spreads:

Kind of like casting for a movie, determining who each character is as a person helped me illustrate how they would react in a different scene. In this book most of the action takes place in one area - the dining room at Grandma Mable's house. The drama had to be heightened through the characters' personalities. Next week I'll post about building their individual personalities and backstories. 

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7. Summertime, summertime

This summer I've been writing, sketching, painting, playing, and learning.










And I've been attending Nerdy Chicks Rule Summer School 2014, Building Character. You can check it out here. This online class is chock full of goodness and it's FREE! Kami Kinard and Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen have put together a talented faculty and I'm learning so much. Thanks, Ladies :)

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8. ‘Humans of New York’ Blogger Photographs Malcolm Gladwell

Humans of New York blogger Brandon Stanton has photographed David & Goliath author Malcolm Gladwell (pictured, via). Follow this link to see Gladwell’s picture.

Stanton posted the photo on Facebook and it has received more than 131,000 “likes.” When Stanton asked if Gladwell could share a piece of advice, he replied: “Change your mind about something significant every day.”

Some of Stanton’s past subjects from the literary community include editor Yaniv Soha, literary agent Brian DeFiore, and PostSecret book series author Frank Warren. What do you think?

New Career Opportunities Daily: The best jobs in media.

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9. OverDrive Adds EPUB3 Support, Making It Easier to Read Highly Illustrated Files

OverDrive, the largest digital eBook distribution platform for libraries, is now supporting EPUB3 fixed-layout files.

This means that the platform will now be able to properly display highly-illustrated eBooks including such titles as Ancient Rome and Star Wars Jedi Battles, as well as the children’s titles Corduroy and Armadilly Chili.

“OverDrive further extends our leadership with open industry standards utilizing HTML5 along with EPUB3 to open the door to a new world of content for our library and school partners,” stated Alexis Petric-Black, Manager of Publisher Account Services at OverDrive. “The materials and solutions OverDrive partners invest in have long-term compatibility due to this use of open industry standards.”

New Career Opportunities Daily: The best jobs in media.

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10. Growing Bookworms Newsletter: July 30

JRBPlogo-smallToday I will be sending out a new issue of the Growing Bookworms email newsletter. (If you would like to subscribe, you can find a sign-up form here.) The Growing Bookworms newsletter contains content from my blog focused on children's and young adult books and raising readers. I currenty send the newsletter out every two weeks.

Newsletter Update: In this issue I have four book reviews (picture book to adult), two posts with links that I shared on Twitter recently, and an summary post about the status of KidLitCon planning

Reading Update: In the last three weeks I read four middle grade books and one adult book. I read:

I'm currently reading Rose and the Lost Princess by Holly Webb on Kindle, and Memory Maze (The Hypnotists, Book 2) by Gordon Korman in print. I'm listening to Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. I am quite enjoying listening to the Harry Potter series (for the first time). 

As always, you can see the list of books that we've been reading to Baby Bookworm here. She has been developing more of an appreciation for humor lately. She especially likes Plants vs. Zombies: Brains and the Beanstalk and Wedgieman: A Hero Is Born. She also likes to peruse the back covers of the Berenstain Bears books, where they display some 20 or so pictures of other books in the series, and make requests. 

What are you and your family reading these days? Thanks for reading the newsletter, and for growing bookworms. 

© 2014 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook

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11. Black & White Wildlife Prints

I have released a collection of eight new black & white wildlife prints. Each print is limited to just 25 editions. Below are three preview images from this new collection.

Print I: “Lion”

Black & White Fine Art Wildlife Prints
Photographed with BeetleCam in Kenya.

Print III: “Elephants in Rain”

Black & White Fine Art Wildlife Prints
This image was taken during an almighty downpour in the Serengeti. I achieved the charcoal-sketch effect in-camera by focusing in front of the elephants and using a slow shutter speed to blur the raindrops.

Print VIII: “African Wild Dog”

Black & White Fine Art Wildlife Prints
An African wild dog running through the undergrowth. I used a slow shutter-speed and panned with the moving animal to blur the background.

Subscribers to my newsletter may download a document showing all eight images that make up this new collection:

Click here to view the full collection!

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12. Comedy Central Teases 1980s Crime Parody ‘Moonbeam City’

Scheduled to debut in 2015, Comedy Central's "Moonbeam City" is described as an absurdist take on the sex-drenched crime dramas of the 1980s.

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13. Digital Drawing on Photographs

Allium artwork

I have a little more to share about our trip to France, but for now, here’s a little artwork.

On a recent flight from Boston to Charlotte, I took a break from reading and started fiddling around with an app (Adobe Ideas), drawing on some of my photographs. If you follow me on Instagram, you may have seen some of these before, both pre and post-drawing.

Floral Arrangement

Fun, eh? Have a favorite?

Floral Artwork

Just finished watching the BBC adaptation of Dickens’ Bleak House. Really enjoyed it. Currently reading Call the Midwife by Jennifer Worth (it’s the memoir upon which the show is based). Now watching Bletchley Circle. I seem to be in a BBC/ British kind of mood.

For more posts about  my artwork and others’, click here.


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14. YO HO YO HO a pirates life 4 me

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15. 5 mins quickies


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16. Working with Dream Themes: Signs of Endangering Creative Potential

Dreams are like blooms in a garden.

A Pick from the Healing Dream Garden

After working with dreams for nearly forty years, I know that even the worst nightmares contain a kernel of hope or healing.  The following nightmare took me a long time to understand.  I had several repeats until it finally “hit” me what this dream offered as its healing insight.   The dream took a while to sink in perhaps because it chose as the motif of one of my greatest fears: hitting a person while driving.  To make things worse, in the dream the feeling of hitting a person was so realistic—as if it really did happen.

Dream

I am driving very slowly because I sense some danger.  Then, a group of kids surges in from the left.  I see a young boy of 4 or 5 years old either fall or lunge into the left front of my car.  Although I slam on the breaks, I hear the thud of something hitting my car.   A shock wave of raw realization explodes from my chest as the force of emergency breaking flips the car on its side, throwing me on to the ground.  

Stunned, I jump up and grab the child my car struck, looking for injuries.  He has a little welt on the right side of his forehead, but otherwise seems well.  A huge sigh of relief surges through me and I embrace him in my arms.  I see his mother, the other kids and his father at a distance.  Oddly enough, they just look at me and smile.  They do not seem to be worried so much about the child as about me.  Somehow, I know that they won’t take this matter to the police.  

On waking the first impulse was huge relief from the realization that this was just a dream!  Then, the fear arose that this might be an event which will happen in the future because so many of my dreams, especially the realistic ones, often manifest in the material world just as I dreamed them.  I reviewed the dream, looking for clues to indicate this wasn’t such a prophetic dream.   While the dream was extremely realistic, especially the feeling I had when hitting the child, there were elements that seemed symbolic.  For example, I noticed that in the dream my car was red.  I don’t own a red car and probably wouldn’t buy one since I find the color too intense to look at for long periods of time.  So I decided that this dream wasn’t prophetic of actually hitting a real child and left the dream alone.

For a long while, and after several repetitive dreams which clearly were begging for attention, I finally summoned the courage to look at this dream.  I chose to use the dreamwork paradigm of everything in the dream as being a part of myself.  The young boy in the dream, because he was male, represented something work related, and because he was young, represented creative potential that was still developing.  The age of the boy indicated a work related project that has gone on 4 or 5 years.  I thought of my creative and meaningful work in teaching dreams which had gone on for about 4 or 5 years.  A sinking feeling in me told me I was hitting on the correct interpretation.  At the time, I indeed felt like this child of my creative labors had taken a hit, not by anything deliberate on my part but just because of the choices I felt compelled to make as I tried to earn a living. Each time I had this dream of hitting a child, I was considering putting my major efforts and energy into taking a well-paying but less than desirable job that would meet my financial needs.  However, in doing so, I would endanger the growth of this child.  The guilt, grief, and horror were rising to consciousness.  Fortunately, the kid’s parents, perhaps representing my higher self, were telling me not worry.  They understood.  Indeed, when reflecting on this dream while still in bed, a voice from my intuition said in a gentle but informative way, “Don’t make a big deal of this!”  Just getting this message provided an odd counter balance to the guilt, grief and horror.

While the child took a minor hit, it was OK.  After I felt the child was safe and comforted, I wondered how I would upturn my car to get on my way again.  Now, the real problem was how to get back on track after such a near disaster.

Since then, I noticed that every time I considered taking a paying job rather than taking the financial risk of continuing to do the creative but less financially reliable work of writing, teaching and life coaching, this dream of either hitting or nearly hitting a child would repeat itself.  My dreams were telling to trust more and continue to nourish and not endanger the creativity within me. Later, as if to confirm my interpretation, I dreamed of three children telling me they want to take me some place I considered special.  It gave me hope and made me realize that failing to nurture my creative endeavors would be as traumatic as hitting a child.


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17. चित्रकार


बना रहा था मैं एक चित्र,
गहराईयो में थोड़ा डूब कर,
तन्हाइयो से थोड़ा ऊब कर,
हाथो को आड़ा तिरछा हिला कर,
रंगो में सपना सुनहरा मिला कर,     
किसी के ख़यालो में यू खो कर,
आँसुओं से चेहरे को यू धो कर,
मस्ती में कुछ ऐसा झूम कर,
दृढ़ता को जज्बातो से चूम कर,
मुस्कुरहटो को पानी में पिघला कर,
गमो को समय की आग से जला कर,
दोस्ती का तज़ुर्बा अपना कर,
हर दर्द को कही अंदर दबा कर,
विचारो का युध यू छोड़ कर,
वक़्त की रफ़्तार कुछ यू मोड़ कर,
आँखो को उनसे यू चार कर,
उत्सुकता को मन में सवार कर,
कर्कष्ता को यू हवा कर,
मौसम को कुछ यू जवा कर,
पसीने को बिल्कुल भूल कर,
रास्ते के पत्थरो को यू धूल कर,
फूलो का बगीचा सा बना कर,
खुद को खुद में ही फ़ना कर,
बना रहा था मैं एक चित्र.

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18. Wordless Wednesday

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19. Summer Doldrums

It's hard to keep up our writing routines this time of year. Kids are home. The outdoors beckons. We take vacations. The heat makes us lazy. There's a lot of yard work, and we have to deal with all that stuff from our gardens and fruit trees. We have add things like summer camps and similar scouting and church activities. It's a wonder we can get any writing done at all, if we do.

So what can we do about it? How do we keep from destroying our writing habits? Here are a few ideas.

Reset Expectations

Maybe you can't write for an hour every day. How about twenty minutes three times a week? Whatever your schedule allows, try to do it. You might keep up your usual routine, but any kind of routine at all is better than a summer of no writing at all.

Mini Retreats

Do you have friends who write? Are you part of a writing group? Sometimes you can jump start your writing by getting together with other writers. Meet wherever you can, even if only for a couple hours, and write away. You can spend some of the time socializing or discussing writing problems, but make sure you leave plenty of time to write. One tip: don't get together in somebody's home. That's not going to work for the host. Unless, of course, there's nobody else at home and so it's quiet and comfortable with minimal distractions.

Prioritize Your Writing Days

Set regular writing days and decide that you won't do anything else until you've written to your goal, whatever that is. Make sure your family knows that you are unavailable for that time, but that you'll do whatever they want and whatever else needs to be done when you've finished. This works best, of course, if you don't have small children and you have a somewhat private writing area. You might have to start early or stay up late, whatever works best for you, to avoid all those other things you need to do. You might not be able to do this every day during, but if you have scheduled writing days and your family understands that you need that writing time and that it's your time, it can work.

Just Accept It

Finally, you might just have to accept that summer is not a good time for you to write. If you have young kids who are out of school or other summertime distractions, you might have to take the summer off, or accept that your production will take a nose dive. If you're in this situation, just accept it. Don't feel guilty. You have priorities, and some of those might be higher than writing. There's no shame in that. You haven't failed. You're doing what's most important to you during those months. It's OK. It can actually be a good thing. Sometimes it helps your story if you can set it aside for a while and let it simmer. Your brain is still working, and you'll come back to the work with fresh eyes when school starts. Those fresh eyes will help you identify weak places you didn't see when you were in the heat of creativity.

*

These are just a few suggestions. Maybe something else works for you. The point is, if you need a different routine in the summer, or if you're not able to write as much, it might just be the way things are for the life you want to live. Summer won't last forever.

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20. SDCC ’14: Dysart, Kindt, Simons, and Venditti on Valiant’s Current Direction

By Alexander Jones

AH_003_COVER_BRAITHWAITE

Valiant is an incredibly dynamic and interesting superhero publisher that isn’t afraid to take risk after risk with their properties. Comics Beat had the opportunity to sit down with some of the brightest minds working at the comics company including Joshua Dysart (Harbinger: Armor Hunters & Harbinger: Omegas), Robert Venditti (X-O Manowar & Armor Hunters), Matt Kindt (Unity, Rai, & The Valiant), & Valiant Editor-in-Chief Warren Simons.

Comics Beat: The Valiant Universe is in a big place of transition right now with Armor Hunters. How do each of you manage to keep the tone of your own books, while still involving the individual characters in the event space? For instance, Harbinger still feels like Harbinger with or without Armor Hunters.

Joshua Dysart: I mean I just don’t read Rob’s scripts. It allows me to really keep my tone [laughs].AH_003_003

Warren Simons: They’re too intimidating for him.

Robert Venditti: You will paralyze in fear if you read my scripts.

Dysart: No, I actually think it’s because we all work together. We have a central vision and editorial team. I think that we are all valued for our voices and effort that we put in towards making these titles unique.

Venditti: It was never about we’re going to do this story, and he’s going to have to be in it. We’re going to do a story in other ways that your books are going to tie in and if so, what are your ways and let’s talk about them.

Dysart: Yeah, and you know when Rob and Warren came to me, they didn’t come to me with anything that I had to do. They were like ‘these are the parameters we have to keep in places, and there are some pieces in play here that are interesting’. That helps a lot, that’s a great way to work.

Venditti: When we came up with the premise for Armor Hunters, we were curious how these books were going to react to each other.

Dysart: And, I think that the truth of the matter is that conceivably, it would be exhausting to us and it would stretch the marketplace; but we have such a tightly integrated universe right now. We could conceivably make every storyline a crossover–it would be exhausting and terrible. I think our books could easily respond to each other right now in that way without it being forced.

Simons: I think that I have tried to make sure that the guys are all in clear and close contact with each other about what’s coming up. Rob just did a great job on the Armor Hunters: Aftermath issue, and that’s going to have and that’s going to cross into what’s happening with the Unity team. We want to make sure that nobody is stepping on one another’s toes. So that as Josh said, we are preserving their voice that we hired them for instead of forcing everyone to write a certain way.

Comics Beat: The next thing that I wanted to do was try to get a question for each of you. Rob I want to know with Armor Hunters,is Aric’s empire crippling? Or, is his time with the Visigoth people is coming to an end, or perhaps, is there a status quo shift coming up for the book? AH_AFTERMATH_001_COVER_BERNARD

Venditti: Yeah, I mean I think we have done status quo shifts almost every four issues since the series started. It’s something we have always tried to do. As far as him being a leader of the Visigoth people, when he came back with Rome, they got hit pretty badly after that fight–this is very long form story that we started with from the first issue. He comes from a group of about 40,000 people that were traveling around Europe. As he travels back to Earth with a suit of armor in the modern day and see’s what the world has become now, I think we start to see Aric evolve as a character that bears witness to the planet in a much different way now. The transition from him as being the leader of a small group of people to him being a leader of the globe. This is a global community now. Even the idea of the globe is a concept that is completely foreign to him.

Comic Beat: Now, Warren, as Valiant’s Editor-in-Chief, have your tasks changed at all?

Simons: A little bit. The company is growing, we are expanding. We just hired another Editor, Kyle Andrukiewicz.

Simons: Everything is heading in the right direction. I am still going to continue to edit and work on the books with the guys. Josh Johnson is an Editor up there working on Archer & Armstrong and The Delinquents. Associate Editor Alejandro Arbona is working on The Death-Defying Dr. Mirage, he’s just killing it, and he’s working on a bunch of other titles as well. We’re getting bigger, but I am continuing to edit many of the books that we are putting out.

Comics Beat: We just saw Bloodshot join Unity, how is that going to affect the greater team?

Kindt: Not that much really, we just have a killing machine on the team now. He’s going to come in handy I think at the end. I thought the interesting thing about having him join the ranks, was seeing his interactions with Livewire. Especially when keeping in mind the fact that she can talk to machines. She is the only person that can really stand up to X-O. Livewire can take control of his armor as well. This is especially interesting when keeping in mind that Bloodshot is a machine. Seeing them interact is going to make the comic engaging. They have tonal similarities as well. Livewire is continuing to question his humanity. Even though they are opposite in many ways, they have a lot of similarities.

Simons: The first eleven pages of Unity #10 are absolutely awesome. It’s extraordinary stuff!

Comics Beat: One of the things that I wanted to clarify for your books….

Dysart: And for Josh, I needed some clarification!

Comics Beat: So we have Armor Hunters: Harbinger, but how does it line-up with the Harbinger title proper, and Harbinger: Omegas coming up?

Dysart: The Armor Hunters: Harbinger book is primarily for the Generation Zero kids. If anyone is caught up on Harbinger, they moved from being lifelong prisoners of rising spirit to being prisoner to Harada, Now they are free. They are the protagonists of the Armor Hunters series. Their last big moment in the sun was Harbinger Wars, our last big crossover. Omegas is predominantly concerned with and Harada not necessarily that they come into contact with each other. Harbinger #25 happened, and these two series are sort of happening at the same time after Harbinger #25.

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Comics Beat: After the announcement of the Archer & Armstrong movie, how do all of you feel about the prospect of having these different Valiant characters that may be coming up on screen one day?

Simons: I think it’s great. I think that first and foremost we are a comic book publishing company; and we are really concentrating on the comics themselves and making the books as a good as possible, and not necessarily worrying about whether or not this will play into a movie, or whether or not this particular character will translate to the big screen. As you can probably confirm by reading the first 11 pages of Unity #10. [laughs] That said, I think it’s great. I think it provides us with the opportunity to expose our characters to a wider audience which is always important with a young company like ours.

Comics Beat: What new layers do X-O Manowar #0 and Unity #0 add to the mythology of both books?  UNITY_ZERO_COVER_ALLEN

Simons: You should tell them the story. It’s freaking awesome, a little bit of it.

Venditti: In the Armor Hunters X-O Manowar tie-in issues we are seeing the armor from the opponents’ perspective. We’ve gotten a lot of information about the armor recently in the X-O Manowar #0 Issues, I thought it would be a good time to focus on Aric as a character and what his origins were being a Visigoth. Which we got a sense of with X-O Manowar #1 in Rome with 402 A.D. Aric rallies armies behind him and he’s fierce, and he’s killing the Romans like crazy. What was the character like before all of that? We dealt some of that information in the earlier issues of X-O. The idea is that he is just a boy. We were all just kids at some point in our lives. We aren’t born amazing swordsman. The upcoming issue opens with a page one, panel one image of a 16 year old Aric throwing up behind a tree. Then you pull back and see that a huge battle has just taken place. All the Roman bodies are on the ground from the battle. The Visigoths are taken away to be buried, but the Romans are still there. His job, and the job of his friend Gafti, is to kill the mortally wounded Romans and put them out of their misery. Aric is struck by the violence of it, and so horrified, that he is actually throwing up. He doesn’t want his friend to see it. Like he had something bad to eat, but he doesn’t want his friend to see that he’s barfing his guts out.  It’s so horrific to him because he wasn’t born as that type of warrior. The book looks at him from that perspective. How do you get tested by battle, and how does this really hard conflict reveal things about you that you didn’t really know were even there–both for him and for Gafti?

Comics Beat: What about Unity #0?

Dysart: It starts with Livewire vomiting behind a tree.

Kindt: She is upset about everything that Aric did. (The room laughs.) Unity #0 is basically the first iteration of a super team set during WW1 lots of great parallels between that team and modern Unity. It’s interesting to see what events would happen to see making a modern Unity team necessary. I think we are going to do something interesting with the beginning and the end. We are going to do some of the inside cover stuff. There is a letter between the President of the United States and the Prime Minister that grounds the story in reality and sort of shows the politics behind getting this team together. There is also the idea of how this team is being assembled within the issue. In that era, the baseball cards were like little tobacco cards. I am going to have a little portrait of them in their backgrounds. I am going to do portrait cards for each member of the Unity team. It has information on them in the background. These are going to be giveaways for the comics.

Venditti: Are you going to put on the monkey suit?

Kindt: I used to wear a sock monkey suit.

Venditti: I have known Matt for ten years at least now. I was working for Top Shelf packing boxes for years. He was one of the creators. His first book, Pistol Whip was brand new when I started working there. Over the years, I would see him all the time at conventions as he was going through doing more books. He always did World War Two -era stories back then so he had this merchandising idea back where he created a cigarette case called Red Heine cigarettes, and the little logo was like a monkey. He had a cigarette tray that he wore around his waist, and he actually wore this to Wizard World Chicago and gave it away. The cigarette cases contained artwork. His face was cut out, but the rest of his outfit was the Big Heine monkey.

Kindt: The funny thing is, is that book is a really sad World War One story.

Comics Beat: Are any of your books tying into The Valiant?VALIANT_001_COVER_RIVERA

Simons: That’s a great question. I think that Armor Hunters will be a bit of a delineating point in the way that we, the universe operates with the giant aliens who basically have come down and attacked the earth. We have superheroes in our universe, so our response to what I have talked about with Matt and Josh with what the trajectory of the universe will be after that, I have seen a lot of it expanded with the Armor Hunters: Aftermath title that Rob is working on–Unity #12, #13, and #14 and another book with Josh that we haven’t announced yet.

Dysart: That and the world is in a really interesting place. It’s not just a mass scale invasion that happened right on the tail end of the outing of the pilot, so there’s this whole sub-group of human beings that have been manipulating markets and essentially controlling human affairs since World War II. It’s a bit of a shell shocked world–it’s not just the alien invasion, it’s not just out there anymore, it’s also in here. Everything has changed. So humanity is in a pretty frail interesting place.

Simons: How would our fictional Valiant Universe respond to something along these lines? The Valiant will be four issues, it will be in-continuity, and it will have a direct impact on the world after the story ends. It will have massive reparations for the universe.

Comics Beat: Is it safe to classify The Valiant as an event series?

Kindt: If it’s an event, it can only be classified as such because the scope is so big. It’s going to involve the entire Valiant Universe you know. So we are basically taking this small story as a mine cart that we are going to ride through the entire Valiant Universe and you are going to see everything–you are going to see it’s a great place to start if you have never read a Valiant book. You are not going to see the origin of every character, you are not going to know what Ninjak is all about; but you are going to see him, and you are going to be like that guy is awesome you know for like the little bit he is in, it’s a small story with a large scope

Simons: It will be accessible, it will be an entry point, but it will take a look at really the entire universe and wit will have bloodshot eternal warrior Armstrong, Kay, The Geomancer. They will come out of this changed for the most part.

Comics Beat: Because it is billed as a prestige format, do you think it could even last longer than the typical event if it has an era of nuance about it like something in the style of Kingdom Come?

Simons: Possibly, but we try to bill all our books like that to be honest with you. I hope Josh’s run on Harbinger is the defining run on Harbinger that’s on the shelf in 25 years. I hope the same thing about the first run of X-O or the first 12 issues of Unity. I really want all the books to feel special. We aren’t treating this one to feel more special. We want all the books to kind of have that feel that this will be the defining run. The scope of this along with Paolo’s extraordinary art that’s coming the pages just looks absolutely amazing. It will be something that will stand the test of time, but I am not walking into this project thinking that we are absolutely going to hit grand slam and that this will be on the shelves in 25 years’ time. I just want it to be as good as Unity, Harbinger, and X-O Manowar and that’s where we are starting at.

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Kindt: There are so many superhero comics on the market. What’s the point of putting another in the one world if you aren’t trying to do something different with it? Like I love coming into this universe, and I can come up with a creative way to tell the story maybe you have seen something similar, but you’re not going to see it being told this way with comics. These are things that I have never seen comics do before you know, that’s just what I love most about comics instead of just panel panel panel panel story. It’s more about what makes you think of comics as a medium you know, as much as the story.

Simons: I feel like everyone is bringing their A-game and that everyone is putting their heart into it.

Comics Beat: Thanks!

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21. Secret and Sensational Opportunity for Kidlit Writers Coming in Late August!

Whether you write picture books, chapter books, middle grade or young adult, stay tuned. I have a chance of a lifetime coming in late August. But I'm not ready to spill the beans quite yet. So polish up your favorite manuscript (Oops - now there's a hint!) and hang on. August will be here before you know it.

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22. Street GIFs are awesome. YOure welcome.


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23. McSweeney’s Unveils Inaugural Student Short Story Contest

McSweeney’s is running its first Student Short Story Contest which encourages undergraduate and graduate students to enter their short stories for a $500 prize and the chance to be published in the August 2015 issue of McSweeney’s 51.

The contest will be judged by an author, who has yet to be revealed. Writers must be enrolled students. Stories must be under 7,500 words. Submissions are being accepted from July 30 – August 31, 2014. The entry fee costs $55 which comes with a one year subscription to the McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern.

Here is more from the McSweeney’s website: “Along with your submission, please include a brief cover letter that mentions your hometown, the college or university you attend, and your year in school. Please also include your contact information. To enter the contest online, please go here.”

 

 

New Career Opportunities Daily: The best jobs in media.

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24. Poetry Friday - A review of On the Wing

Douglas Florian is a poet and artist who has created poetry picture books that explore a wide variety of subjects. Over the years I have greatly enjoyed reading these books, and it is interesting to see how he applies his considerable talent to take on a new topic that interests him.

Douglas Florian
Poetry Picture Book
For ages 6 to 8
Harcourt, 1996, 978-0152023669
Birds truly are remarkable animals. They come in a dazzling array of colors, live on every continent, and make their homes in all kinds of places. In this wonderful picture book Douglas Florian pairs short poems with his artwork to give readers a true celebration of birds.
   Over the millennia birds have evolved to suit many kinds of environments. Some birds, like the egret, sail on water and then rest on the beach making it seem as if there is a “feathered hat” lying on the sand. Dippers love to dip and dive in waterfalls. They are so aquatic that one wonders if they would be happy to “trade / Their oily wings for flippers.” They are such good swimmers that it is possible that the little birds might “think that they are fish.”
   Birds come in all shapes and sizes. The spoonbill is tall and thin with a beak that does indeed look like a long-handled spoon. In his poem about this rather odd looking species, Douglas Florian wonders if the spoonbill uses its bill “for stirring tea” or does it “use it as a scoop / For eating peas and drinking soup.”
   The stork has a bill that is perfectly suited for the environment it lives in. Wading through shallow water, the bird uses it rapier like bill to stab frogs and other creatures. Woodpeckers also have beaks that are perfectly adapted so that they can get to their chosen food - insects that live in wood and sap that runs through wood. Not only are these beaks perfect for creating holes, but woodpeckers also use them to communicate.
   With clever touches of humor and insightful descriptions, this collection of poems will give young readers a colorful picture of twenty-one bird speci

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25. How to Sell Your Picture Book

jpegPitching a picture book? Things are looking up. Although the Association of American Publishers reports that book sales in the children’s/young adult segment declined from January to October 2013, many agents observed an uptick in picture book acquisitions throughout 2013 and into 2014. By no means a perfect measure, it’s nonetheless telling that approximately 400 picture book deals were announced in Publishers Marketplace in 2013 compared to approximately 300 in 2012. Still, the market is very competitive, and going head-to-head with the classics as well as new work by high-profile authors can be daunting. It needn’t be. As a literary agent specializing in children’s fiction and nonfiction, I’d like to share some observations about the current picture book market and tips for crafting picture books that sell.

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This guest post is by Lara Perkins, an associate agent and digital manager at Andrea Brown Literary Agency. She represents all categories of children’s literature, from picture books through young adult. 
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Know the market.

Picture books typically hit the shelves two to five years after acquisition, so predicting current acquisition trends from new releases is difficult—as is trying to capitalize on a perceived hot trend. Yet successful new releases can suggest the larger strengths and reader appeal that publishers are seeking. For example, the success of Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site by Sherri Duskey Rinker and Tom Lichtenheld suggests stories that infuse a lulling, dreamy bedtime sweetness into active (building, traveling) daytime play are finding an audience.

The current market also reveals strong interest in character-driven stories that have series potential (Clark the Shark by Bruce Hale and Guy Francis, new classics like Ian Falconer’s Olivia) and capture a universally relatable “kid experience” in a funny, larger-than-life way (Crankenstein by Samantha Berger and Dan Santat, The Dark by Lemony Snicket and Jon Klassen, No Fits, Nilson! by Zachariah OHora). We’re also seeing interest in off-the-wall, kid-friendly humor (Dragons Love Tacos by Adam Rubin and Daniel Salmieri, The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt and Oliver Jeffers); stories that cleverly turn familiar relationships upside down (Nugget and Fang by Tammi Sauer and Michael Slack, Children Make Terrible Pets by Peter Brown, How to Babysit a Grandpa by Jean Reagan and Lee Wildish); and books that are seasonal but work year-round (Creepy Carrots! by Aaron Reynolds and Peter Brown, Bear Has a Story to Tell by Philip C. Stead and Erin Stead).

There’s significant interest in beautiful nonfiction picture books, biographies and others (On a Beam of Light: A Story of Albert Einstein by Jennifer Berne and Vladimir Radunsky and Nelson Mandela by Kadir Nelson).

Lovely, lyrical picture books with a hook for parents as well as kids are sought after (Once Upon a Memory by Nina Laden and Renata Liwska)—particularly for the younger set—as are innovative storytelling formats that take witty, fun narrative risks (Battle Bunny by Jon Scieszka, Mac Barnett and Matthew Myers). Many of these titles could fit more than one description as well.

Ideally, a new manuscript should share some proven strengths with recent successful picture books, while giving readers something new and fresh.

Begin with a strong idea.

Every picture book needs a plot and story structure. Even young picture books like Hervé Tullet’s Press Here, concept books, and picture books with cumulative structures like Oliver Jeffers’ Stuck or unusual formats like Battle Bunny must have tension, rising and falling action, and a satisfying final resolution.

Any story for young readers must tap into a universal childhood experience, no matter how wacky the premise. With Dragons Love Tacos, for example, hosting taco parties for dragons may not be a universal experience of childhood, but avoiding certain foods and attending parties where shenanigans ensue are. Similarly, John Rocco’s Blackout transforms a commonplace neighborhood blackout into something magical and resonant. This universality is key to winning the hearts of parents, librarians and teachers—the gatekeepers who will share your book with kids.

Childhood experiences like bedtime rituals or the first day of school are evergreen, but a fresh angle with strong kid appeal is a must. For example, many picture books deal with fear of the dark, but The Dark takes an inventive approach, personifying the dark and following the relationship arc between housemates Laszlo and the dark.

To give your story that all-important kid appeal, tell it from a child’s-eye point of view, even if your main character is a shark or President Obama. This is true even for the youngest picture books and nonfiction picture books. For example, Susan B. Katz’s and Alicia Padrón’s board book ABC Baby Me! brings readers directly into the perspective of a baby, and On a Beam of Light focuses on imagination, wonder and curiosity to bring Albert Einstein and his work to life for kids. Your main character or characters must be relatable and approach the world in a way that is recognizable to your audience.

If you’re tackling a more serious subject such as loss or grief, be honest in your treatment of the subject but keep the mood positive and reassuring for this age group. For example, the final phrase in Once Upon a Memory, “Will you remember you once were a child?” is a beautiful nod to the passage of time and inevitable end of childhood, but framed in a gentle and child-friendly way.

Keep in mind that beloved picture books are read again and again by parents and kids. For that reason, successful picture books are filled with pitch-perfect character details that readers can continue to enjoy on the 10th or 20th or 100th reading. For example, every time I read Oliver Jeffers’ This Moose Belongs to Me, I’m newly charmed by another hilarious character detail.

Craft stories that sell.

How you choose to tell your story is as important as the story you tell. Picture book texts must be lean and mean, with exceptionally tight pacing. Although word counts can soar up to 1,200–1,300 words, most picture book texts for ages 3–8 are around 250–600 words. Infant/toddler board books will be even shorter, often with just a few words per page. With no words to spare, picture books must begin in media res, with the central tension and stakes of the story or the central concept clearly evident from the opening page. For example, the first line of This Moose Belongs to Me is “Wilfred owned a moose,” which immediately establishes the central conflict and misunderstanding that drives the story.

Rhyme is understandably a hot-button issue in the picture book world, as it’s no secret that rhyming texts can be a more difficult sell in today’s market. However, skilled, creative rhyme can still sell very well (see Rinker and Lichtenheld’s Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site or Steam Train, Dream Train), and even editors and agents who are hesitant about rhyme may often be swayed by terrific, well-executed stanzas coupled with a strong story and characters.

Unfortunately, rhyme all too often masks larger issues with story, character or voice. If you write in rhyme, I re-commend also composing in prose to make sure the story and characters are compelling and fully drawn independent of the rhyming structure.

Whether you write in prose or rhyme, be thoughtful about rhythm and cadence, the musicality of language and the resulting effect on mood and tone. Picture books are meant to be read aloud, and Once Upon a Memory is just one example of how rhythm and cadence can enhance the mood of a story.

Similarly, because kids have an experimental, whole-hearted way of interacting with the world, having a child’s-eye-view approach to storytelling means employing a creative and playful use of language. For example, in Mostly Monsterly by Tammi Sauer and Scott Magoon, Sauer has fun using the most “monsterly” words possible: lurched, growled and especially the neologism monsterly!

Nothing is more fun for kids than getting the joke and being part of the story, so repeating jokes and phrases makes young readers feel like “insiders” in the best way. The key however is repetition with a difference, so the story remains surprising and forward moving. For example, in The Day the Crayons Quit, each crayon’s letter of complaint follows a similar format but has a different voice and delightfully surprising variations that keep readers hooked and the joke fresh.

Finally, picture books are like jazz collaborations. If the author does her best work and invites the illustrator to do the same, then the whole will be stronger, more surprising and more satisfying than the sum of its parts. For example, in The Dark, the dark gives Laszlo a gift that is never specified in the text, but the glowing illustration says it all. Making a dummy of your work can help you judge the illustration potential and visual rhythm of your story as a whole.

Know the competition—then submit.

If you’ve followed the advice above and done your best to craft a story that sells, look once again at successful new releases. Make sure you (and your beta readers) can articulate both why your picture book is likely to find an audience based on successful recent picture books and how you’re doing something new and different that still has major kid appeal. If you can, then chances are you’ve written a picture book that can sell in today’s upward-moving market.

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brian-klems-2013Brian A. Klems is the online editor of Writer’s Digest and author of the popular gift book Oh Boy, You’re Having a Girl: A Dad’s Survival Guide to Raising Daughters.

Follow Brian on Twitter: @BrianKlems
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