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26. Is the Winter Soldier the heart of Agent Carter’s mystery?

carter Is the Winter Soldier the heart of Agent Carters mystery?

“The Blitzkrieg Button,” Agent Carter‘s fourth episode and mid-way point, may have actually been the beginning of the series’ true arc and end game.

After a fairly eventful season premiere, the show has been stuck in a combination of logistical battles and character development. Between episodes two and three, Carter and Jarvis go on a series of fetch-quests and authority ducking missions to track down the “bad babies,” dangerous weapons and inventions that Howard Stark says were stolen from him, and learn vague information about a Russian big-bad known as Leviathan. By the start of episode four, Stark is still suspected of treason against the United States for selling dangerous weapons on the black market; the only difference is that these inventions have been recovered.

This brings us to “The Blitzkrieg Button,” and kicks off what feels like the first glimpse at the show’s most important thread.

Now that Stark’s weapons are back, so is he. Popping in on Carter unexpectedly, he explains that he needs her to retrieve a device from SSR that he refers to as the Blitzkrieg Button, which he says will wipe out an entire city’s power. Though she is frequently underestimated, Carter’s no idiot – she can tell Stark is hiding something and wouldn’t have returned for a light switch. After pumping Jarvis for information (more on this in a minute…) she learns there is more to the device than Stark explained, and activates it herself, finding a vial of Captain America’s blood inside.

Though Agent Carter has shown us all along that our hero will not find respect in her line of work or era, it’s never been clearer than it is here. Agent Thompson tells it to her straight: Carter will never be considered an equal in their office. But outside of the office, she’s trusted Stark up to this point to give her more purpose, only to find out that she’s been used. Carter lashes out at him for lying, leading to the show’s best scene to date. Stark brushes off the lying as a bad habit and claims he’s using the blood to research its medicinal value, like vaccines and cures. Carter’s response buries him: “I think you are a man out for his own gain no matter who you are charging. You are constantly finding holes to slither your way into in the hope of finding loose change, only to cry when you are bitten by another snake.”

And although Stark is unlikely to end up completely in the villain corner, it seems like he’s complicit in a much larger issue. Chief Dooley follows a trail of clues to Nuremburg to speak to a Nazi named Mueller who has information on the Russians working for Leviathan. Dooley learns that the “Battle at Finow,” where the Russian Leviathan agents supposedly died, never took place – the Nazis only found piles of ripped and mauled bodies, already massacred in some other way. The SSR also learns Stark flew into Finow the day after this alleged battle.

OK, so if you’re keeping score – everything important in this episode revolves around one vial of blood. In the Marvel Cinematic Universe, though it was implied that HYDRA was responsible for turning Bucky Barnes into the Winter Soldier, it’s never been explicit. We’re still in theory-only territory here, but I’m hedging my bets on all of these events leading up to either the revelation of the Winter Soldier’s creation or the beginning of it via Leviathan. It would be a nice tie-in to present-day events, and with the involvement of Captain America writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, it would also make sense. We’ll see how that theory pans out over the remaining four episodes.

Some other items to chew on:

– Dottie, Carter’s friendly next-door-neighbor, is apparently an agent of some kind. Not a completely shocking turn, but an interesting one. That reminds me of someone else who had a next-door-neighbor who he thought was just a regular gal, but then it turned out she was an agent…

– Carter tries to get information on the Blitzkrieg Button from Jarvis, and notices that he tugs at his ear every time he states a fact that is untrue. Carter chalks this up to a poker tell, but my initial take on this was that Jarvis was intentionally hinting to her.  The tugging was just so… obvious? Then again, Jarvis isn’t super smooth.

– Agent Thompson is starting to get a little more personality. Some of Carter’s co-workers feel like caricatures, but I think his character might be one of the most realistic. He behaves like a man of the times but also seems to understand and have a bit of empathy for his co-workers, helping them in small and private moments.

– Agent Sousa, on the other hand, is just a little too good to be true. Too good, as in, I feel like he’s probably a double agent kind of too good?

2 Comments on Is the Winter Soldier the heart of Agent Carter’s mystery?, last added: 1/28/2015
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27. *FREE* Printable Valentine's Day card

Hey there, friends! I have a fun, free, printable Valentine's Day card to share with you today. I've been wanting to create something with a vintage typewriter image for awhile now and I finally did it. This card was created as part of a challenge with my awesome blog group, We Love to Illustrate Studio. There are other free downloads available over there, so check those out, too!

By clicking on Download Here, below this image, it will open up in a separate window, with a high res image in a greeting card format. It fits into a A6 envelope.

 

0 Comments on *FREE* Printable Valentine's Day card as of 1/28/2015 12:07:00 PM
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28. New Trailer Unleashed For The DUFF Film Adaptation

A new trailer has been unleashed for The Duff film. The video embedded above offers glimpses of Bella Thorne as Madison, Robbie Amell as Wesley, and Mae Whitman in the titular role.

Author Kody Keplinger made her authorial debut with this young adult novel back in September 2010. CBS Films has scheduled the movie release date for February 2015.

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29. Case of the Velvet Claws (1933)

The Case of the Velvet Claws. (Perry Mason #1) Erle Stanley Gardner. 1933. Random House. 215 pages. [Source: Bought]

AUTUMN SUN BEAT AGAINST THE WINDOW. Perry Mason sat at the big desk. There was about him the attitude of one who is waiting. His face in repose was like the face of a chess player who is studying the board. That face seldom changed expression. Only the eyes changed expression. He gave the impression of being a thinker and a fighter, a man who could work with infinite patience to jockey an adversary into just the right position, and then finish him with one terrific punch.

The Case of the Velvet Claws is the first book in the Perry Mason series by Erle Stanley Gardner. Though it is unlikely that contemporary readers will be unfamiliar with Perry Mason, Paul Drake, and Della Street, this would have been their introduction to the world. There are plenty of establishing details and descriptions about these characters. Especially Perry Mason.

The book opens with a mystery woman seeking Perry Mason's help. She's married, and she was out on the town with another guy. This 'other guy,' whom she claims is just a friend, is a politician, a Congressman, I believe. They were together--at a club, at a restaurant?--when a crime was committed. Neither wants to be known as being there, being a witness, both are seeking to avoid all attention. But she fears that blackmail is certain, almost inevitable. She wants Perry Mason to handle it for her, for them both. The blackmail will come/does come from a tabloid-ish publication with a mystery-secret-owner. It is only after Perry Mason involves himself thus far, that he realizes that this owner is the husband of his client. Murder is inevitable. It is a Perry Mason book, after all. Who will be the victim? Who will be accused? How messy will it get?

I loved this one. I really loved it. It has a very different feel to it in a way. Most of the Perry Mason novels I've read were published a decade or two later. And, of course, I'm most familiar with the television show.

Quotes:
Perry Mason continued to speak, slowly and forcefully, yet without raising his voice. “All right,” he said, “I’m different. I get my business because I fight for it, and because I fight for my clients. People that come to me don’t come to me because they like the looks of my eyes, or the way my office is furnished, or because they’ve known me at a club. They come to me because they need me. They come to me because they want to hire me for what I can do.”
Perry Mason made a gesture with his shoulders. “Why should I care if she makes it easy for me?” he asked. “She’s the one that’s paying for my time. Time is all I’m investing.” Della Street said, slowly: “Are you sure that time is all you’re investing?” “Why not?” “I don’t know,” she said, “the woman’s dangerous. She is just the kind of a little minx who would get you into some sort of a jam and leave you to take it, right on the button.” His face didn’t change expression, but his eyes glinted. “That’s one of the chances I have to take,” he told her. “I can’t expect my clients to be loyal to me. They pay me money. That’s all.” She stared at him with a speculative look that held something of a wistful tenderness. “But you insist on being loyal to your clients, no matter how rotten they are.” “Of course,” he told her. “That’s my duty.”
“To your profession?” “No,” he said slowly, “to myself. I’m a paid gladiator. I fight for my clients. Most clients aren’t square shooters. That’s why they’re clients. They’ve got themselves into trouble. It’s up to me to get them out. I have to shoot square with them. I can’t always expect them to shoot square with me.” “It isn’t fair!” she blazed. “Of course not,” he smiled. “It’s business.”
“When you’re representing clients, Della,” he said, “you can’t pick and choose them. You’ve got to take them as they come. There’s only one rule in this game, and that is that when you do take them, you’ve got to give them all you’ve got.”

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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30. WINTER DEER

A few weeks ago Adam and I were driving on the highway during late afternoon the day after a snowstorm. I always love to scan the trees looking for deer while we drive and thanks to the bright white snow, I had no trouble spotting a large female laying comfortably, enjoying the view of passing cars. I kept it in mind to make a piece inspired by that moment. Here is a quick limited palette color block sketch interpretation.


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31. John Adams Creates a Writing Board Game Illustration

first book board gameDid you make a New Year’s resolution to complete your first book this year?

Illustrator Jon Adams has created the “It’s Time to Write Your First Book Board Game.” Adams feels that playing this “game” can really test a person’s resolve.

According to BuzzFeed, hitting milestones like “getting an agent” and sacrificing “social interaction for weeks” can allow one to advice on the board. Just beware that discarding ten drafts and crying in public compels the writer to either lose a turn or take a few steps back. What do you think?

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32. Flogometer for Roo—are you compelled to turn the page?

Submissions Wanted. . If you’d like a fresh look at your opening chapter or prologue, please email your submission to me re the directions at the bottom of this post.


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

Note: all the Flogometer posts are here.

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

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

Mastering front 100WshadowBefore you rip into today’s submission, consider this checklist of first-page ingredients from my book, Mastering the Craft of Compelling Storytelling. While it's not a requirement that all of these elements must be on the first page, they can be, and I think you have the best chance of hooking a reader if they are.

Download a free PDF copy here.

Were I you, I'd examine my first page in the light of this list before submitting to the Flogometer. I use it on my own work.

A First-page Checklist

  • It begins connecting the reader with the protagonist
  • Something is happening. On a first page, this does NOT include a character musing about whatever.
  • What happens is dramatized in an immediate scene with action and description plus, if it works, dialogue.
  • What happens moves the story forward.
  • What happens has consequences for the protagonist.
  • The protagonist desires something.
  • The protagonist does something.
  • There’s enough of a setting to orient the reader as to where things are happening.
  • It happens in the NOW of the story.
  • Backstory? What backstory? We’re in the NOW of the story.
  • Set-up? What set-up? We’re in the NOW of the story.
  • What happens raises a story question—what happens next? or why did that happen?

Caveat: a strong first-person voice with the right content can raise powerful story questions and create page turns without doing all of the above. A recent submission worked wonderfully well and didn't deal with five of the things in the checklist.


Roo sends the first chapter of No More Heros. The rest of the chapter is after the break.

At 3pm the clock on the town hall of Ostere struck four times. No one seemed to notice. The folk present in the town square at the time were battering down against the first chill wind blown directly from the frozen North. Snow had been predicted and people were dreaming of a white Christmas. Bugger their white Christmas. Me and my tatty coat stood no chance of surviving December if snow was dumped on our town.

It was the same icy breath that swept Marvin into the square. Two years, at a guess, since he married the love of my life. I was huddled on my seat, giving the clock on the town hall a dismissive, contemptuous glare when he approached my seat, dragging a long black carry all behind him. I remember looking at the bag and cursing, knowing the luggage was a bag of trouble and I didn’t need it being dumped in my life.

The wind flapped at his grubby trousers. It swept down Smelly Alley sharing the aroma of fish gone past its sell by date. Stall covers flapped, napkins skipped up into the air as a whirlwind of grit invited me to dance. Marvin wore a suit jacket, thinner than my useless summer coat. His hands looked raw and there were issues with mucous leaking from his nose.

I grabbed my bottle of vodka from my bag and took a quick slug.

Walk on by.

Were you compelled to turn Roo's first page?

Some nice phrasing and a voice I liked were inviting, but there was no story question raised on this page. Well, I guess you could say there were a couple—what’s in the bag and why is it trouble for him—but for this reader they didn’t approach compelling. If we had been told the nature of the trouble he anticipated, that might have worked. As it is, there’s no serious hint of jeopardy or a problem for the narrator, at least none with any serious consequences. And he doesn’t seem overly concerned about the trouble the bag brings. Gets an almost from me. Oh, and the plural of "hero" is "heroes." Notes:

At 3pm the clock on the town hall of Ostere struck four times. No one seemed to notice. The folk present in the town square at the time were battering down against the first chill wind blown directly from the frozen North. Snow had been predicted and people were dreaming of a white Christmas. Bugger their white Christmas. Me and my tatty coat stood no chance of surviving December if snow was dumped on our town.

It was the same icy breath that swept Marvin into the square. Two years, at a guess, since he married the love of my life. I was huddled on my seat, giving the clock on the town hall a dismissive, contemptuous glare when he approached my seat, dragging a long black carry all behind him. I remember looking at the bag and cursing, knowing the luggage was a bag of trouble and I didn’t need it being dumped in my life. How does he know it’s trouble? What kind of trouble? This is a chance to add some tension with a specific threat to the character. Also echo/repetition of “my seat.”

The wind flapped at his grubby trousers. It swept down Smelly Alley sharing the aroma of fish gone past its sell by date. Stall covers flapped, napkins skipped up into the air as a whirlwind of grit invited me to dance. Marvin wore a suit jacket, thinner than my useless summer coat. His hands looked raw and there were issues with mucous leaking from his nose. Couple of things: the echo of “flapped” from the first sentence, look for another word. And, while nicely written, the description of the wind’s effect on Smelly Alley could be cut in half or deleted—it takes up space that could be used to create a story question.

I grabbed my bottle of vodka from my bag and took a quick slug.

Walk on by.

Comments, please?

For what it’s worth.

Ray

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Submitting to the Flogometer:

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

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

Were I you, I'd examine my first page in the light of the first-page checklist before submitting to the Flogometer.

Flogging the Quill © 2015 Ray Rhamey, story © 2015 Roo

Continued

But Marvin wasn’t hearing my thoughts.

‘What do you want?’ I said, wiping the dribble of alcohol from my chin.

He wasn’t offended by my greeting. He released his grip on the canvas bag and kicked it beneath the bench I was warming. He went to sit next to me, but I refused to move my backpack. Instead he turned and pointed at the large screen dominating the town square. ‘Penguins are cool,’ he said.

‘What?’ I said, shaking my head as if I hadn’t heard him right. Two years as number one on my hate list and he opens with a line about penguins. He’d gone mad. She’d kicked him out and he’d gone mad. For sure. Maybe it was going to be a good Christmas.

‘They can fight, penguins can.’ The damn fool was pointing with his arm fully extended. People, vendors, punters and god knows who else had begun to notice our presence in the square. I couldn’t have people notice me. Next thing you know the army are involved and guns are drawn, your hands are shackled, and you’re never seen again.

I replaced my vodka and pushed my backpack to the ground. ‘Sit down. No one cares about the bloody penguins.’

He sat to the side of the wooden seat, his long, thin legs crossed away from me and stared at a short dark man sprinkling strands of saffron into his large flat pan. A rich aroma of chicken and chorizo had banished the smell of rotten fish from my nostrils and my stomach was beginning to grumble. The man looked up from his work and scowled at Marvin as he wiped his hands on a cloth strung from his apron cord.

‘What a grump,’ Marvin said, he said turning away, his eyes looking for a new target.

Sam the snake charmer sat against the pale trunk of a naked tree to our far right. I nodded to Sam as he retrieved a battered flute from his pocket. He smiled, waved and pointed the flute at the large cane basket sat in the cold dirt. He began to play a lively, but flat tune. I cringed at the off notes fearing his snake might not be happy to sway to the syncopated song.

‘They steal from each other,’ Marvin said. He was talking about Sam, but was looking back at the screen and the damn penguins. ‘Oh yeah, they’re right old thieves penguins are. And if one of the eggs roll free from their pebbled nest no one’s bothered. I mean you’d expect uproar, but penguins don’t give a damn. Except the parent, obviously, who’s meant to be nursing the damn thing? And they can’t pick it up because they haven’t got hands so they have to watch it freeze and die. And have you seen what they do to a lost penguin. A baby one, I mean.’

He looked at me waiting for an answer, but I couldn’t help him. I didn’t care. To be honest I was only half listening. Sam and his inept efforts on the flute were making me feel uneasy. I turned my back on Marvin and watched a group of old boy’s huddled by the betting shack wondering why Bob the bookie hadn’t opened. I’d never known him to close. If there was a horse or a dog circling a track anywhere in the world Bob wanted to offer odds on which number crossed the line first.

‘It’s not like the other penguins point out the way back home,’ he said, nudging my back. ‘No way. They peck at the wee tyke and kick and ruck and give the fluffy fellow right old grief.’

All afternoon they’d been stood there waiting for Bob to open. Every so often a hunched figure deserted the group, pulled his coat tight about his body and approached the rickety wooden door to the shack. Hands and face were pressed to the small dark window before the handle was tugged then pushed and tugged again. The shop remained closed and the body returned to the group, worming deep inside the tight mass.

‘But when it’s cold,’ Marvin continued, turning to face me. ‘They take turns suffering the full force of the cold blizzard. Blizzards are bad where penguins live.’ He looked at me like he’d made a point of importance. I was beginning to tire of his intrusion on my day.

‘Who are those blokes?’ Marvin was pulling at his tie, rolling the end up and letting it fall down all curled up. ‘Why are they standing there?’ Again he pointed. ‘And what is it with that wreck of a shop?’ He wanted an answer from me but I wasn’t interested in getting deep with what was wrong with the day. The hour was ticking by and I was fearful the town hall clock was going to get it wrong again. And no one was going to care. ‘It’s obviously closed, so why do they keep trying to get in?’

‘They’re gamblers.’ I sighed as I said the words. Marvin come from Upper Ostere and had no right to be asking questions of folk in Ostere town centre. People didn’t like questions. ‘They want to lay a bet. Or play the machines. Or just get out of the cold.’

‘But it’s fucking closed.’

‘What are the odds on that, eh?’

Marvin was pacing again. He couldn’t help himself. And he’d started to scratch. Like all over. At least he’d stopped pointing.

‘So why don’t they move on?’ He stopped in front of me and stared at them.

‘Where?’ I asked.

He looked at me as if I was daft. He body flopped down on the seat, pushing his hands beneath his thighs for warmth. He looked at me shaking his head. ‘What is going on with today?’ he said. His voice was whiny and every word over-emphasized. ‘Everything’s closed.’

We both looked about the square where close on thirty food vendors were in the process of prepping and cooking for the nights trade. The big screen, the penguins and their traumas were replaced by still pictures of missing children and the tearful pleas from their parents. Marvin was up off the seat again horrified at the plight of the wee brats. I pulled my thin coat tight about my body and attempted to concentrate on the small band to our left warming up with a slow ponderous tune.

Another man joined the group by the betting shop. He had a limp. Lots of blokes had limps or walked with sticks or worse. The war was taking the piss out of able bodied folk. The man had to swing his right leg. His right hand aided the process by gripping his trousers and pulling with each step. His ginger hair was buzz cut short. He wore a mid-length, aged, black leather jacket and faded combat trousers of campaigns long forgotten. His old boots were polished to reflect the grey day. He accepted a cigarette and turned to look at the betting shop.

Up on the screen a journalist was reporting on the recent casualties in a war far, far away. Soldiers pushed their faces onto the screen with ‘V’ signs before the cameras panned across children in rags huddled amongst the rubble, hiding from the guns and the bombs.

‘There was trouble earlier,’ I said.

Marvin wasn’t listening. He’d forgotten about his question and was focusing on the group of men by the betting shack. He’d gone quiet on me.

‘The man in the Hi-Vis yellow jacket didn’t show,’ I continued. ‘He doles out the day’s work to the lad’s on community service. No yellow jacket meant zero work and that was a disaster ‘cause the lad’s in their orange overalls had a day to fill without adult supervision. Vodka, dope and desperation and the day went tits up in a hurry.’

I looked up at the video screen as images of war had turned to a lecture on the vibrant state of our economy. ‘Good Times’ was the refrain.

‘The screen went live,’ I said. ‘Camera’s zoomed onto the lads giving attitude to the day time vendors and their customers.’

‘What?’ Marvin said. He pushed his hand through the thin brown hair on his head before he turned back to the men by the shed. ‘What did you say?’ he muttered.

‘The screen showed the lads pissing about, nicking stuff and pissing off the vendors. The weed had been smoked and the vodka guzzled and they didn’t like the screen showing them at play.’

‘I don’t think I’d like it myself.’

‘The ‘Man’ likes to remind us he’s watching. Me,’ I laughed. ‘Couldn’t get away quick enough. I didn’t need my mug up on the screen. I decided my grandmother’s grave needed attention and got out before the army were called.’

Marvin was back up and pacing. Twice he’d stumbled blindly into the vendor setting up his pork spit for the evening’s trade. Twice I’d watched the half roasted pig dive for the ground before the vendor caught and repositioned the beast on the rotisserie.

‘As I left the square chaos had erupted. The vendors were abusing the guys in the orange community service garb. The punters were running about screaming as they were pelted with stolen veg and fruit and slapped with the odd skinned rabbit. The screen was all over the place trying to track the mayhem. Squashed veg as far as you could see. It was bizarre. And then the stall holders struck back. Don’t ever take on a man with a paring knife or a meat cleaver or a supply of fruit to launch. It isn’t pretty.

‘And then the army arrived. I was well gone.’

The screen changed to a weather map with animated dark clouds covering our part of the small island. Yellow lighting flashes promised a storm. An advertisement for umbrellas followed before the screen went local, zooming down on the square with images of the vendors setting up and citizens strolling about with drinks waiting for a feed.

‘I’ve heard,’ I said kicking at Marvin’s leg to get his attention. ‘The cameras have got facial recognition, eh?’

‘Jesus no,’ Marvin said. ‘That’s definitely wrong. You got to be wrong about that.’

He pulled his jacket collar up about his ears and hunched his shoulders. We both looked about the square noting the many cameras craning outward from their high vantage points on several of the buildings. ‘Yeah, but we’re okay here. We like this seat.’

Marvin sat down, lit up a cigarette and sighed. I failed to mention the drones. He didn’t need to know there were drones up there above the clouds making sure we were all behaving.

‘What do you care, eh?’ I said. He shrugged and began to look about him, staring up at the closest camera. ‘I’ve got the bloody army chasing me. You did your time.’

Marvin turned to face me. His hand touched my arm. It felt creepy having him touch me. ‘Stuff’s going down, Ben.’

Like that was news. The army, a rag, tag bunch of conscripts including the long-term unemployed and the serial criminal, ruled our streets. And the ‘Man’ had grown tired of the unrest. He was desperate to stop the rioting and the looting. The Scarlet Scum were being shot on sight and he’d increased the price on the heads of the urban guerrillas from the Projects to a tidy sum. ‘Wanted’ posters for Jackie John, the leader of the Projects had replaced the posters of missing children plastered all over our town. ‘Dead or Alive,’ they said. The ‘Man’ was getting tough on his rebellious citizens and he wasn’t keen on taking prisoners.

I grabbed my backpack and fished my bottle of vodka from its depths. A large serrated bread knife clattered to the pavement.

‘Jesus Ben, that’s a serious knife.’

I pulled two switchblades from my right leg trouser pocket and a rusty cutthroat and a hunting knife from my left, smiling as Marvin sat back and edged away from me. I held the flick knife up as an exhibit. ‘I took this off a child,’ I said. ‘Seriously he was wee, and tried to take me for a fool. He was playing this stupid card trick, ripping the tourists off down Smelly Alley, but I showed up and got it right like five times in a row and was holding his money in my hand when he pulled this knife on me. I thought taking money off him was easy, but I had the knife to his neck before he realized I’d moved. I should’ve gutted him, but he started crying, eh?’

I fingered the rusty cut throat and smiled. ‘This nasty mother,’ I said pointing the knife at Marvin. ‘Had been held to my throat while I was robbed. By a bloody wino from the back lots near Blacky’s shed by the overpass. He thought we were asleep. A bloke called Billy Two Guns smacked him over the head with the pointy end of a half brick. He’s small, is Billy, but he can employ a brick better than most.’

I returned the knives to their hiding places in my black combat trousers. He was looking at the bread knife sitting on my lap.

‘And that one?’

It had massive serrations and chips out of the blade. ‘This one’s just for bread, but it cuts good.’ I put it back in my bag. ‘Well armed, eh?’

‘Against what?’

I showed him the half loaf of bread wrapped in brown paper and the pack of ham. ‘Folk are hungry. You live up in the posh clouds in Upper Ostere. And you’ve been away, haven’t you? If you haven’t got the coins then you have to fight for the crumbs. And if you don’t fight you die.’

Marvin sat back, wrapping his jacket tight to his body. People were arriving for the night-times trade. A couple had sat down on our seat pushing Marvin closer to me. ‘You’ve changed,’ he said. ‘You’re all cynical and bitter.’

‘Fuck you.’

He turned away from me as the man led his lady from our seat. I still didn’t know why Marvin was sitting with me in the square. He looked like shit. His dark woollen trousers had a cut across the knees and his shoes were scuffed and muddy. The jacket was dusty, the left breast pocket ripped and his white shirt was creased and grubby. A tie clung to his throat and he appeared to have lost weight. I mean he was a skinny kid when we hung out, but now he was like a hunger victim with a wasting disease.

I knew he was no rebel or criminal. Marvin fought for his country. He probably received medals. I’d heard he’d finished his tour and been offered a serious job. But something was bothering the boy and when you lived the dirty life on the streets you weren’t so keen on dealing with other folks ‘bother.’

‘I need a favour,’ he said.

‘After two years out of my life, you ask me for a favour.’

‘I need you to look after this bag.’

I grabbed the vodka and drank long and hard. I wanted to get drunk. Something felt wrong. A clock who that can’t tell the time. Betting shop closed. No work. And a childhood mate turning up had me shackles up and itching. Marvin’s arrival in my life after two years missing didn’t feel right. He had no business dumping his baggage on me.

 

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33. Time Management Tips For Illustrators

In this video I share my strategies for getting it all done! I hope some of it might help you in your quest to take over the world with your art...or at least get more finished.

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34. Magic Tree House Super Edition #1: Danger in the Darkest Hour by Mary Pope Osborne, illustrated by Sal Murdocca

One warm June day, Jack and Annie, siblings living in Frog Creek, PA, receive a message via carrier pigeon.  The message is from their friend Teddy, asking them to come to Glastonbury, England immediately, their help is needed.

When Jack and Annie arrive in Glastonbury, they are met by Teddy who tells them they have arrived on June 4, 1944, two days before the D-Day invasion at Normandy, France by the Allies forces and the beginning of the end for the Nazis.

Teddy and Kathleen, who iare really young enchanters from Camelot, have been made agents in the Special Operations Executive (SOE) by Winston Churchill to do undercover work in countries occupied by the Nazis.  But now, Kathleen is still in Normandy, France and needs to be rescued, but they only clues to her whereabouts is a coded riddle she sent Teddy by carrier pigeon.

Jack and Annie's job is to parachute into France and find Kathleen within 24 hours - they need to be gone by the time the invasion begins.  Jack and Annie are told to try to find members of the French Resistance to help them, but to avoid the Nazis, who are everywhere.  But when they land in a French field, they are spotted and chased by Nazis using a dog.  Jack and Annie hide in a barn, calm the dog down and are found by a man and his wife, whose sons were members of the Resistance.

The couple feeds them, and help to figure out the riddle from Kathleen, then they give Jack and Annie two bikes and some money, and send them on their way.  The road to Kathleen is fraught with both friend and foe, but eventually the two find her and now, they must figure out how to get her back to England. It seems Teddy forgot to give them the magic wand Kathleen needs, since her innate magic seems to have disappeared.  Not only that, but Kathleen has acquired some fellow travelers she is determined to get out of France, a group of very young Jewish orphans, which means a bigger, more noticeable plane will be needed for the rescue.  Oh yes, and a large vehicle to get all of them to the pickup point.  And there is only a few hours left before the invasion begins, with all its bombing and shooting.

Can everyone be rescued in time and will Jack and Annie find their way back to Frog Creek?

This is an interesting chapter book.  It is longer than the previous Magic Tree House books and the subject matter is much darker.  And since the magic wand was forgotten, Jack, Annie and Kathleen have to rely on their own skills to solve problems and figure out how to escape France before the invasion.

Osborne gently introduces the reader to Hitler and the Nazis, and though she never uses the word Holocaust, Teddy does tell Jack and Annie that "[the Nazis] have killed countless innocent civilians, including millions of Jewish people." (pg 25)  This may sound a little watered down, but consider the age of the reader and that for many this may very well be an introduction to that "darkest hour" of modern history.

i didn't expect to really like this book, but I did.  With a willing suspension of disbelief, I found the story compelling and exciting, and I felt it was very clear that Osborne is comfortable with her characters and knows her audience.  Things do work out nicely in the end, which is OK when you have magic on your side (and yes, there was some surprising magic used in the end).

At the back of the book, there is a "Track the Facts Behind Jack and Annie's Mission" that includes lots of information ranging from the use of pigeons in war, the German Enigma machine, and other interesting facts, all age appropriately described.

Besides the colorful cover illustration, showing Jack, in all his fear, and sister Annie parachuting into France, there are some wonderful black and white double page illustrations throughout the book, all done by Magic Tree House illustrator Sal Murdocca.

I have to confess, I have never read a Magic Tree House book before this.  Sure, my Kiddo and all her cousins read and loved them when they were in elementary school.  So did the kids in my classes, which made me happy since most of them were not yet reading at grade level.  But I did hear Mary Pope Osborne speak at a BEA Children's Author Breakfast one year, so I knew that author Mary Pope Obsorne is a very generous donor of her books to kids who might not otherwise get copies of them.  And I could help but wonder how many kids have become readers thanks to the Magic Tree House books?

You can read a two chapter sample of Danger in the Darkest Hour HERE

This book is recommended for readers age 7+
This book was borrowed from the NYPL

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35. Del campo socio-urbano al visual: La periferia como espacio simbólico-cultural

Eder Castillo: Mecánica Nacional (vista exterior) Artistas/Videos: Jason Mena: Fault Line (línea de falla), Eder Castillo: Mecanica Nacional, Karmelo Bermejo: -X, Guillermo Vargas “Habacuc”: Persona sin educación formal caminando con zancos hechos de libros apilados, Nadia Granados “la Fulminante”: La Fulminante Detonando Montreal / Cabaret Callejero, Victor Hugo Rodriguez “Crack”: Planas, Andrea Mármol: Otros Paramos / Julia, Jorge Linares: Trafico Aéreo Las [...]

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36. Hang Dai Editions to publish via Alternative Comics

3569a055 ac17 4f12 8d3c 5e94d3158733 Hang Dai Editions to publish via Alternative Comics2015, the year of the team up. Brooklyn’s Hang Dai Editions, a studio whose members include Gregory Benton, Dean Haspiel, Seth Kushner, and Josh Neufeld, will team up with Alternative Comics for distribution and some publishing in 2015.

Haspiel and Neufeld were previously published by Alternative during the early aughts when Geoffrey Mason ran the line. Current publisher Marc Arsenault is happy to welcome them back to the fold. “Josh and Dean were a big part of Alternative in the past—not just as creators. It’s nice to have that continuity. I’m looking forward to everything that comes out of their studio.”

The line-up includes the long awaited SCHMUCK by Kushner, delayed by his illness and now happily back on track following his miraculous recovery. And new work by Haspiel, Benton and Neufeld is always welcome. Here’s the lineup:

SCHMUCK by Seth Kushner and various artists

September 2015
184-pages. Full color.

SCHMUCK is a graphic novel memoir about one man’s awkward coming-of-age-quest to find love in New York City, written by SETH KUSHNER, with design by ERIC SKILLMAN and a forward by JONATHAN AMES. SCHMUCK is an anthology featuring art by 23 great cartoonists, including; Nick Bertozzi, Gregory Benton, Dean Haspiel, Josh Neufeld, Noah Van Sciver, Leland Purvis, Sean Pryor, Bobby Timony, Shamus Beyale, Ryan Alexander-Tanner, George Schall, Nathan Schreiber, Stephen Destefano, Jon Allen, Christa Cassano, Kevin Colden, Tony Salmons, George Jurard, Omar Angulo, Pierce Hargan,  Skuds Mckinley, James O Smith, Tim Ogline and cover by Joseph Remnant.

SMOKE by Gregory Benton

September 2015

64-pages. Full color.

After an accident on an industrial farm unhinges two young brothers from reality, they are guided through a weird and wonderful journey by Xolo, the mythological protector of souls.

BEEF WITH TOMATO by Dean Haspiel

September 201

5
96-pages. B+W comix and essays. (published by Alternative Comics)

A native New York bruiser is fed up with life in the dregs of a drug-addled Alphabet City where his neighbors are shut-ins and his bicycle is always getting stolen. He escapes from Manhattan to make a fresh start in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn, only to face a new strain of street logic — where most everything he encounters is not as it seems. Emmy Award-winning artist Dean Haspiel returns to his semi-autobiographical roots with BEEF WITH TOMATO, where he explores the emotional truths between prime and primate.

THE VAGABONDS #4 by Josh Neufeld

March 2015

24-pages. Full color.

Josh Neufeld’s The Vagabonds #4 serves up a spicy blend of journalism, social commentary, memoir, and literary fiction. This issue features Neufeld’s story of racial profiling at the U.S./Canadian border and three collaborations with Neufeld’s wife, writer Sari Wilson. Throw in a couple of light-hearted travel tips, and The Vagabonds #4 is chock-full of the thought-provoking and witty comics Neufeld is known for.

HEART-SHAPED HOLE by Dean Haspiel

April 2015

24-pages. Full color.

Billy Dogma and Jane Legit punch the apocalypse right in the kisser as their eternal war of woo breaks a Trip City-wide hymen.

SECRET SAUCE COMIX Vol.1 by Seth Kushner and various artists

April 2015

28-pages. Full color.

Seth Kushner’s new anthology features a mix of fumetti/cosplay, indie/sci-fi, and Silver-age inspired heroes by way of THE BROOKLYNITE, drawn by Shamus Beyale, COSTUMED CHARACTERS, layouts by Dean Haspiel, and YOUTOPIA, illustrated by Charles Stewart.

Hang Dai’s previous books are also available

SCHMUCK COMIX #1
–Seth Kushner’s semi-autobio webcomic gets a print edition with three stories written by Seth and drawn by Jon Allen, Shamus Beyale and Noah Van Sciver. Cover by Gregory Benton.
PSYCHOTRONIC COMIX is Dean Haspiel’s anthology of memoir and Silver Age inspired genre featuring The Red Hook, Tommy Rocket, A-Okay Cool, and NY Stories.
FORCE OF NATURE by Gregory Benton, follows an artist through a lush forest as he searches for a lost sketchbook.
THE VAGABONDS #3
–After an eight-year hiatus, Josh Neufeld’s The Vagabonds returns with its third issue — now published by Hang Dai! Many things have changed in the interim: Neufeld produced three books, became a father, and won a year-long journalism fellowship. This issue highlights Neufeld’s journalistic work over the past few years, including reportage on Hurricane Sandy, the Arab Spring, the education wars (with writer Adam Bessie), and the life of a “comics journalist.”
STAKE–
A lone woman fights the odds in this no-holds-barred short companion piece to B+F by Gregory Benton.
POCKET BOOK 2 by Gregory Benton
Drawn from life, pages from Gregory Benton’s sketchbooks create a loose narrative. Travel through the NYC subway, take in a concert or two, and wash up on the beach.

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37. Photo: Pause

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Slow down.

Savor the little moments.

Turn off the distractions.

Listen.

What do you hear?

What do you see?

Breathe.

Appreciate.

We took this photo in a Vancouver park while we were waiting to board our cruise ship to Alaska. Kevin took this photo because he’s way better at spotting abstract moments than I am.


Filed under: Cruise 13

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38. Stieg Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy Gets Sequel

Swedish author Stieg Larsson may have passed away in 2004, but that hasn’t stopped his bestselling crime series from living on.

In fact, the Millennium crime trilogy is getting a new book this coming August. Author David Lagercrantz wrote the latest edition, That Which Does Not Kill.

The Guardian has more about the story:

The book will continue the story of the troubled but resourceful heroine Lisbeth Salander first made famous in Larsson’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. But the author remained tight-lipped about the meaning of the title or what direction the action-packed political thriller – 500 pages long in Swedish – will take.

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39. Storytelling

Skip over to the Storytelling Page for news of our Winter events!!!

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40. Sitting on the Stairs in Castleford Library



I took the train to Castleford yesterday, to work in the library for the day, running the drawing workshops I was telling you about, with local, Y4 school children. They did me proud and I'll show you some examples next time, once I've sorted through them all.

In my lunch break, I sat in the glass stairwell and sketched the view from the window, using my favourite Sailor Pen and some watercolour. I'm not much into drawing cars, but I liked the long view right across the car park, across the shopping street, towards a river and distant hills: 


I was using an A5, grey-paper, concertina sketchbook which a fellow member of Urban Sketchers Yorkshire, Lucie Golton, made for me as a present, because I loved my tinted-paper Strathmore so much and she noticed how I've recently been getting into the extendable space of the concertina format. How lovely is that? Concertinas are great for longer views like this, when there's loads to fit in, especially if you don't like drawing small.

Ignore the candlestick by the way: that was part of some sketching I did during a recent SketchCrawl day in Buxton.

I did everything but the white, pastel highlights on the spot, but ran out of time before I could get them added (white chalk really lifts things when you are sketching onto a tinted ground). I added the pastel on the train and so got into a lovely conversation with a young man and his mum who were sitting across the aisle. They had been talking about his baby daughter previously so, with an apology for ear-wigging, I signed him a copy of Baby Goes Baaaaa!, passing on the present vibe:


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41. Self-Published Bestsellers List

Maude by Donna Mabry continues to lead the Self-published Bestsellers List this week.

To help GalleyCat readers discover self-published authors, we compile weekly lists of the top eBooks in three major marketplaces for self-published digital books: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords. You can read all the lists below, complete with links to each book.

If you want more resources as an author, try our Free Sites to Promote Your eBook post, How To Sell Your Self-Published Book in Bookstores post and our How to Pitch Your Book to Online Outlets post.

If you are an independent author looking for support, check out our free directory of people looking for writers groups.

Amazon Self-Published Bestsellers for the Week of January 28, 2015

1. Maude by Donna Mabry: “In 1906, I was barely over fourteen years old, and it was my wedding day. My older sister, Helen, came to my room, took me by the hand, and sat me down on the bed. She opened her mouth to say something, but then her face flushed, and she turned her head to look out the window. After a second, she squeezed my hand and looked back in my eyes.”

2. Stepbrother Untouchable by Colleen Masters: “Calling Nate Thornhill a rich, cocky, arrogant asshole would be an understatement. He also happens to be stunningly handsome, popular, intelligent, and captain of both the Crew and Lacrosse teams at UVA. I hate him for thinking he’s untouchable—not because he’s a narcissistic, privileged, borderline-misogynistic heartbreaker—but because he’s right.”

3. One Night Stand by J.S. Cooper: “It was only supposed to be one night! We met at a wedding. He was hot. And I’d been in a year’s drought.”

4. Departure by A.G. Riddle: “Harper Lane has problems. In a few hours, she’ll have to make a decision that will change her life forever. But when her flight from New York to London crash-lands in the English countryside, she discovers that she’s made of tougher stuff than she ever imagined.”

5. Stepbrother Billionaire by Colleen Masters: “I’ve hated him since middle school. The effortlessly popular, lacrosse superstar, beautiful, blue-eyed nightmare Emerson Sawyer. Funny thing is, he didn’t even know I existed until our senior year, when his mom started hooking up with my dad.”

6. 50 Fitness Tips You Wish You Knew by Derek Doepker: “I wrote “50 Fitness Tips You Wish You Knew” because I’ve seen so many people needlessly struggle to stay healthy and fit because they don’t understand a few simple insights.”

7. Dare (Brothers of Ink and Steel Book 1) by Allie Juliette Mousseau: “Josh North – a risk-it-all bad boy – sexy dirty talker – bad ass defender and UFC’s Light Heavyweight Champion— is about to meet his match. Sophie Garner is a single mom who’s been raising her daughter on her own, fighting for both of their lives ever since going into hiding to escape her abusive husband.”

8. Kaleidoscope Hearts by Claire Contreras: “He was my older brother’s best friend. He was never supposed to be mine. I thought we would get it out of our system and move on.”

9. Fall by Cora Brent: “I was a lost girl, a child bride. Now, to most people I appear to be just an average college student. They would never guess my strange history. But secretly I’m still held down by my past. I cannot bring myself to trust men.”

10. A Shade of Vampire 9 by Bella Forrest: “Derek will rip Caleb’s heart out the moment he lays eyes on him for what he’s done. Rose is convinced that the vampire is innocent. But my daughter has been fooled. Nobody but Caleb could have stolen away our dear friend.” 

Smashwords Self-Published Bestsellers for the Week of January 28, 2014

1. Health Promotion Pathways: Applied Activities for the Collegiate Classroom By Jennifer J. Edwards, Ph.D.

2. Neuropsychopharmacology By Nicoladie Tam, Ph.D.

3. Research Methods: Functional Skills By James H Cauraugh

4. Strong Brains, Sharp Minds: The Definitive Guide to the MINDRAMP Method For Brain Health & Mental Development By Michael C. Patterson

5. Negotiating for Success: Essential Strategies and Skills By George J. Siedel

6. Digital Media Skills By Donna Eyestone

7. Economics for Smart Citizenship By Mikel Cohick

8. Nonprofit Animal Law By Russ Mead

9. The First Book of Michael By Syl Mortilla

10. Lady Master Pearl – My Teacher By Peter Mt. Shasta

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42. Need outlining help

Question: In my story, I have the beginning and end figured out, but I am needing help putting it all together. Try as I may, it just doesn't seem to work

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43. Comic Cover

via Illustrations and Comic art http://ift.tt/1DaQWtW



Wild Blue Yonder featuring my cover~!

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44. 2D Cloud announces ambitious 2015 slate, adds to staff

Minneapolis based 2D Cloud is an experimental comics publisher that’s looking to grow in 2015. They’ve added Blaise Larmee as Marketing Director and Melissa Carraher as Publicist. Larmee is, of course, a cartoonist of some repute himself. In the past they’ve put out acclaimed works by Anna Bongiovanni, Mark Connery and Noah van Sciver.

“We’re threading an expanding universe,” said 2D Cloud founder Raighne Hogan in a statement. “We’re publishing more books this year than the last five years combined, and looking to 2016 and beyond, our ambitions are equally sizable.”

They’re kicking things off with three new books, all “exploring adult themes around sex and cultural taboos.”

qvietWEBCOVERv2 2D Cloud announces ambitious 2015 slate, adds to staff

Andy Burkholder’s Qviet a “provocative collection of a multi-year series that takes a fearless look at the abstractions of sex, of seeing, and the fluid relations between the two. ”

3b cover 2D Cloud announces ambitious 2015 slate, adds to staff
Blaise Larmee’s 3 Books “comprises three separate, intertwining works, including the highly anticipated Ice Cream Kisses, and features a mix of media: intimate Skype video sessions, bleed-through drawings and monochrome paintings.”
Salz and Pfeffer cover 2D Cloud announces ambitious 2015 slate, adds to staff

Émilie Gleason’s Salz & Pfeffer “brings to life a pageant of abduction, damnation, hell, brainwashing, fart jail, magical kingdoms, and murderous machinations across a set of evocative pencil drawings.”

These three books will be out in the summer, but later in the year 2D Cloud will release graphic novels by Meghan Hogan, Justin Skarhus and Raighne Hogan, Gina Wynbrandt, and MariNaomi, and later on books by Anna Bongiovanni, Austin English, Blaise Larmee, and Lauren Monger.

I had an advance peek at Salz & Pfeffer, and it’s a rollicking adventure in surrealism. 2D Cloud’s books aren’t for everyone, or maybe even casual readers, but they are evocative and boundary pushing, and for people who want to see how far comics can go, they are well worth a look. If you want to check them out, they have a pretty healthy webcomics section up here.

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45. Review: Munchkin#1. Fun Game, Fun Comic

By Davey Nieves

Munchkin #1
Munchkin 001 coverA 195x300 Review: Munchkin#1. Fun Game, Fun Comic

Writers: Jim Zub, Tom Siddell, John Kovalic

Illustrators: Mike Holmes, Rian Sygh, John Kovalic

Colors: Fred Stresing

Letters: Jim Campbell

Publisher: BOOM! Box

 

The world of table top card games is a universe in and of itself. Much like exploring space you have to be willing to come into contact with any life forms you discover. My sea crab nature prevents me from doing so but I can appreciate the cunning and strategy involved in crafting a game like D&D, Magic The Gathering, or Cards Against Humanity. Apparently I’m not the only one; BOOM! Studios BOOM! Box imprint decided to do a comic book series based on the popular card game Munchkin.

Originally a satire of fantasy roleplaying, the game has since taken on non-fantasy and non-gaming elements, and the new comic series is a direct reflection of that. For anyone that’s never played Munchkin; the game is more of a parody take on card gaming, only with a purpose. Kick open the door. Kill the monster. Steal the treasure. Screw over everybody you come in contact with. Welcome to the quirky world of Munchkin. The book features four stories set in and around the world of the game, featuring Spyke, Flower, and all the other characters, monsters, and settings players have come to love.

Let’s just talk about the best and worst of the stories found in this first issue, because there’s a fit for each. Jim Zub writes a great six page story dealing with one of the game’s most prominent themes, betrayal. One experienced character seemingly guides a noob through a dungeon as he’s simply trying to level up. The jokes in the story are sharp enough that you’ll ignore the “saw that one coming” ending. Tom Siddell’s “Humans Got No Class” story definitely lacks the punch that the others in the book capture. The story is about a group of players trying to lure their friend into joining the game only for the rug to be pulled out from under them. While it has its own charm, the punchline of the story just doesn’t make you laugh as much as the other tales did. Tom also writes a three page opening called “What is a Munchkin?” that’s hilarious.

Munchkin 001 PRESS 9 195x300 Review: Munchkin#1. Fun Game, Fun Comic

 

For a book that has three different artist; the style feels universal and not one bit out of place in this cover to cover satire on gaming tropes. Mike Holmes, Rian Sygh, and John Kovalic each illustrate a story (sometimes two) and each capture necessary whimsy the sight gags need to keep the readers attention. While Rian’s work is probably the smoothest of the three none ever feel foreign compared to the others.

Overall Munchkin is a fun read for fans and non-fans alike, but any lasting appeal will only land with hardcore fans. Bonus, there’s even an exclusive Up A Level card for players that ships with the first print of every issue. BOOM! Box knows who they’re selling this book to and have designed it that way. If you already know and enjoy the world of Munchkin go pick this up.

 


If you remember the word munchkin as something uncle Jesse called Michelle on Full House then follow Dave on twitter@bouncingsoul217

 

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46. Hand lettering Artist :: Linzie Hunter

Posted by Jeanine

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UK based artist Linzie Hunter’s typographic illustrations are so fun to look at! Her bright and playful work often has a vintage flair, and she mixes unique type styles with color and pattern to create whimsical pieces from often complicated, text-heavy content. Linzie’s started 2015 with a very cool personal project—she’s been accepting new years resolution submissions from folks around the internet and illustrating one per day throughout the month of January. The full series can bee seen on her website, Twitter, and Instagram.

Linzie’s work can be seen on book covers, magazines, and in ad campaigns, and clients include Time magazine, The Guardian, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, Hallmark, Nike, VH1, Gillette, The BBC,Penguin Random House, and Chronicle Books. Her work has also been featured in Communication Arts, 3×3, and How magazine.

 

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47. Review: The Dying & The Dead Confounds and Amazes With Dense First Issue

by Zachary Clemente

TheDyingandDead 01 1 Review: The Dying & The Dead Confounds and Amazes With Dense First Issue

Writer: Jonathan Hickman

Artist: Ryan Bodenheim

Colors: Michael Garland

Letters: Rus Wooton

Publisher: Image Comics

 
 
 
 
 

Leave it to a project helmed by Jonathan Hickman (East of WestManhattan ProjectsThe Nightly News) to be impeccably designed. The first issue of The Dying & The Dead brings together long-time collaborator Ryan Bodenheim as artist, colorist Michael Garland from Hickman and Bodenheim’s most recent Image series Secret, and lettering duties by Rus Wooton who currently works on both East of West and Manhattan Projects for a whopping 60-page issue; and the sheer amount of information conveyed is akin to a freight train dropping from the sky at terminal velocity. In a good way, I assure you.

Screen Shot 2015 01 27 at 9.45.36 PM Review: The Dying & The Dead Confounds and Amazes With Dense First Issue

Something I’ve always loved about Hickman’s stories is the extraordinary depth of interconnectedness represented in his work; there’s an undying theme that plays out in iterations, each a microcosm of the previous. This is very present in the first issue of The Dying & The Dead as context and story filter together through different points of view with tiered indicators of how far you’ve plumbed. Each story beat is accompanied by a new setting complete with new a new color set, each reflecting on the past, present, and future both in the narrative as well as what the reader has seen, is seeing, and will see. Despite this, I never really felt lost in way I was uncomfortable with – an important distinction I need to make. These first 60 pages gave us at least 5 locations, a dozen characters to track; each with hints of their own sprawling allegiances and feuds. With the wrong team, this would be a massively unpleasant hot mess, thankfully everyone on the book appears to be more than up to the task.

I want to delve into the colors of the book; as it’s a trend I noticed in Secret, but found less narratively successful than in The Dying & The Dead. This very well may be because it was initially a stylistic choice on part of Garland born from Hickman’s own proclivities and design background and with how well it works with Bodenheim’s strong character lines; but this time around it plays an indispensable role with how characters represent their part of the story and their connection to each other. Each “chapter” of the issue utilizes only 2 or 3 colors, leaning heavily into the representations achieved by contrast, saturation, and highlighting. I’d gander that with a normal coloring technique – this book would be considerably harder to follow and ultimately less successful.

Screen Shot 2015 01 27 at 9.29.10 PM Review: The Dying & The Dead Confounds and Amazes With Dense First Issue

Here’s the thing about this issue in relation to Hickman’s other work, especially that of his other Image titles; it doesn’t feel too big for its britches. Hear me out, that’s not meant to sound like a criticism, it’s actually kind of a compliment. Perhaps this is because of the more than double-sized nature of the issue, but it feels more comprehensive and that makes the overall scope feel smaller than one of his usual titles. I personally find this a great thing, especially as someone who sometimes has trouble getting friends interested in books. His worlds are huge and heavily mired with realistic linkages that affect the fascinating and varied characters in ways that, if not mirror, properly represent the way it seems to happen in reality.

It doesn’t feel like a huge leap, which is something I’m mostly thankful for as a huge leap from the likes of this team would probably be something akin to a new method of delivering single issues to readers by shooting them from the Moon. What it does feel like is a spectacularly crafted beginning to a promising series that will nestle very comfortably in the part of the brain slowing being re-written to fully appreciate Hickman’s work. The more that comes out, the more we’ll understand; just the way it was planned all along.

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48. TURNING PAGES: I'LL MEET YOU THERE, by HEATHER DEMITRIOS

out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I’ll meet you there.When the soul lies down in that grass, the world is too full to talk about. Ideas, language, even the phrase each otherdoesn’t make any sense. - RumiThere's a... Read the rest of this post

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49. BoB

I went away.  Internet was expensive and spotty.   I am back.

So, it seems, is Battle of the Kids Books.   Here are this year's contenders.  I have only read FOUR of them.  Oh MY!  I must get some eye drops and those clips that keep your eyes open and hire a house minder so that I can read, read, read.

What I Read While I Was Away:

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson - best book of the batch!
Islands of Chaldea by Diana Wynne Jones and Ursula Jones - so good, sigh!
The Whispering Skull by Jonathan Stroud - can NOT wait for the next book in this outstandingly fun and creepy series

Three adult mysteries - one set in Singapore (Aunty Lee's Delights), another featuring crossword puzzles (The Crossworder's Delight) and a short story starring Hercule Poirot.  All a lot of fun.

The Boundless by Kenneth Oppel - surprisingly good and suspenseful

The Accidental Highwayman by Ben Tripp - galloping adventure

I started The Carpet People by Terry Pratchett.  Not quite done with it yet.  Considering that the first version was written - and published - when Sir Terry was 17, it's pretty darn good.  I am, I confess, a Pratchett fan.

Still in pjs - retirement is awesome! - now I must get moving or the day will be done before I know it.


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50. Wiley Now Licensing For Dummies Brand

Wiley’s bestselling reference series For Dummies is licensing its branding as part of a new business services unit.

Essentially now companies can create their own digital products, from eBooks to white papers, with the For Dummies branding.

The idea is that companies can take advantage of the For Dummies brand to promote their own message. Coca-Cola and Google have already partnered with Wiley on similar initiatives and this new offering opens it up to any company.

In addition to eBooks and white papers, companies can use the branding on digital products including: videos, infographics and mobile apps.

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