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Apologies for not posting last Friday--my daughter and my two grandchildren came for a visit and I was happily wrapped up in family. I'm not sorry, just apologetic. Now, on to the flog!
Many of the folks who utilize BookBub are self-published, and because we hear over and over the need for self-published authors to have their work edited, It seemed to me that it could be educational to take a hard look at their first pages. If you don’t know about BookBub, it’s a pretty nifty way to try to build interest in your work. The website is here.
I’m mostly sampling books that are offered for free—BookBub says that readers are 10x more likely to click on a book that’s offered for free than a discounted book. Following is the first page and a poll. Then my comments follow, along with the book cover, the author’s name, and a link so you can take a look for yourself if you wish. At Amazon you can click on the Read More feature to get more of the chapter if you’re interested. There’s a second poll concerning the need for an editor.
Should this author have hired an editor? Here’s the prologue for a novel by Tod Borg.
The big rotary snowblower was parked in the dark at the side of the road where the shoulder had been cleared of snow. The unusual snow removal machine was one of the huge ones, built on a double-engine chassis, designed for clearing highways.
The drive engine was idling quietly despite its size. The much larger blower engine was off. Because that engine made so much noise, the operator would fire it up at the last moment.
Three kills. Maybe four or five.
That’s all it would take to get rich.
Three people who were in the way. People who deserved to die.
The money involved was the kind no one could ignore.
Not even a priest.
Not even a saint.
There was some footwork involved, some financial maneuvering, a disguise, a little bit of persuasion. If the killings weren’t all done in the same way, there would be no consistent M.O. to track. If a victim or two couldn’t even be found, better still.
The rotary driver knew from research that most murderers aren’t that careful, yet many are never caught. Which made a careful killer almost impossible to find.
It had taken a week to prepare for the first kill.
Did this writer need an editor? My notes and a poll follow.
I’m delighted to see a prologue that works. It works because it immerses me into the midst of something happening, a real scene, and it also takes me into the mind of a character. And this character plans to do murder. Coupled with clean, strong writing and voice, how can you resist wanting to know what happens next? I’m downloading this for my Kindle—and it’s free. One little thing—unless using the character’s name would spoil the mystery ahead, I would go ahead and name him. Even killers need to have some aspect of humanity, and names help give that. You can turn the page for more here.
wiki commons search – author Stephan Brunet Macphreak
It seems amazing to think that I have been blogging over here at the ALSC blog for 8 years now. But like all good things, it’s time for my regularly scheduled blogging here to come to an end. It has been a wonderful experience that has led to great connections among other librarians and educators, as well as an opportunity to reflect on my own practice.
I just wanted to take a moment to thank all of the folks who work on the back end as well as my fellow bloggers. The ALSC blog is a fantastic resource that has truly grown over the years. I know that I look forward to checking it everyday, and even more often during conference time.
I’d also like to encourage readers to take the opportunity to become regular posters. Reflections of everyday practice, sharing out of program successes and challenges, talking up favorite books/apps/authors/sites, and writing about the joys and frustrations of our work is helpful not only to readers, but to our own work as well.
With Marvel Studios Civil War just around the corner, Lego Marvel’s Avengers game released their own versions of the characters we’ll see in the film. This add on content is free for fans who own the game. Included in the pack are new versions of Captain America, Iron Man, War Machine, Winter Soldier, Scarlet Witch, […]
speaking of PRINTS, i'm in the middle of opening up a S6 (Society 6) shop which will feature my paintings on cool products from tote bags to tapestries, clocks to (duvet) covers. i'll post the link as soon as i get around to finishing setting up shop. meanwhile, click on over to the S6 homepage and check out some other really wonderful artists. always awesome to see hard working, talented people have their masterpieces transformed onto products we can buy for ourselves to give away as gifts.
In May DC is reimagining your beloved Hanna Barbera cartoons with books like Future Quest and Scooby Apocalypse. While that latter title sounds like a late night Tumblr parody, it isn't. And here are the variant covers by Steve Rude, Bill Sienkiewicz, Howard Porter and Neal Adams to prove it.
Last year, Lionsgate and the San Diego Comic-Con announced a joint venture to launch a SVOD (subscription video-on-demand) channel themed to all things nerd and con. Now they've just announced that a free beta of the service, named Comic-Con HQ, will roll out on May 7th (Free Comic Book Day).
Plans for programing include including original scripted and unscripted programming, such as Kings of Con, a show based on the Her Universe fashion line, and an interview series with Adam Sessler, The ad-free service will also offer programming from Comic-Con's archives, and that should be an eye opener for comics historians.
Number of Blog post views for February total 30,250 which goes to further prove points I've been making. Also shows WHY it's a good idea to promote your stuff on CBO.
Interesting that the sales I got from lulu.com in 2015 total $28.25 (so say around £12). I got paperwork from them today pertaining to Foreign Person's U.S. Source Income Subject to Withholding. Those lovely people at the Internal Revenue Service stopped $8.47 so the money I made was so low it can't be counted.
The printers used by lulu.com are based in the UK so I am being taxed for money lulu makes out of me using them as an intermediary.
See? Business dead in the water.
In brighter news my doctor tells me I'm "living on stress". Wait....I'm (not) publishing and working in comics...of course there is stress!
Did I say that was the brighter news?
Hmm. Maybe I ought to post girly pin-up photos every day....? Save working on the blog.
I'm just kicking back today and it's sunny but cold outside so why not? Also re-assessing everything. I will be going to the new Bristol one day Expo (eventually, someone told me it was taking place) but not as a trader. Nope. For the first time since 1984 I am going to an event as a punter. A member of the public.
I'm avoiding all contact with comic people and as a private person attending an event certain comic trouble makers think they can "give me a rough time" PLEASE try because I will deal with you on the spot, no messing about. You have no reason to talk to me or approach me.
Yes, folks, that's UK comics for you. I'm going to fill a few gaps in my collection and feck you. Now I need to sit back, listen to some music and up-date my comic catalogue.
Despite finally having one excessively heavy downpour of rain, here in the tropics of North Queensland it continues to be drier and hotter than any other season on record! It has been getting to 38 degrees more often than ever. My beloved Fur Babies have been feeling the horrendous and humid heat, so they tend to spend many lazy hours indoors where it is so pleasant for us all! Even the water from the COLD water taps feels warm! I haven't even needed to turn the hot tap on when having a shower! It’s quite unbelievable and very unusual indeed!
Gum tree after the rain
My neighbor was here at 7.30 this morning as if he had left it any later to mow the lawn, he would never have been able to manage even a quarter of it!! Even that early, it was already 30 degrees! I was enthralled, at that hour, watching and listening to the huge black cockatoo's squabbling for all they were worth in the enormous New Guinea Almond tree down towards the corner of the street. These amazing birds just LOVE the fabulous nuts which form on these trees and they are the only birds I have seen around here which can actually crack them open with their tremendously strong beaks! Some of the other, even larger native cockatoos are also strong enough to do so, but they don't venture from their homes in the rainforests!
Gum Tree Brownie and other Faerie Folk of the Never-Never
This situation has meant that I have been able to thoroughly enjoy the artwork in many of my precious old books, as well as finding new delight in acquisitions recently received from overseas!! One of these is Tarella Quin's first story book, Gum Tree Brownie which was illustrated by the then just 19-year-old Ida Sherbourne Rentoul some years before she met and married Grenbry Outhwaite and took the name we all recognise so well these days!
Gum tree Brownie illustrated by Ida Rentoul.
I have longed for a copy of this very special and lovely book, completely illustrated in black and white, for as long as I can recall. When I won my treasure for a ridiculously low price which made it akin to winning the lottery for me, I truly could NOT believe it. I kept checking it, over and over and OVER again, just to be certain that a mistake hadn't been made! When it arrived back in the country of its creation, packed along with an almost mint volume of the exquisitely decoratively bound Penrose's Annual for 1907-8, I literally trembled with the knowledge of what I would very soon be looking at!!! Oh my goodness, I could have cried with the absolute joy of it! And let me assure you, I was not disappointed with EITHER of these books which I have now added to my library! These very early Australian Golden Age children's books are like Holy Grails for any collectors and I do know how extremely fortunate I am.
Apart from these, I also have had a fabulous time buying a collection of Margaret Evans Price book treasures from a lady in America!! Well, actually there are five of MEP's plus four other stunning old early American (Volland) books!
My many (almost 50!) beautiful old annuals which I ordered from UK last Oct/Nov have been keeping me smiling from ear to ear as I enjoy the contents of them;
The Oxford Annual for Tiny Folks and Penrose's Pictorial Annual
The wonderful Oxford Annual for Tiny Folks featuring a chubby little toddler pushing his even chubbier little sister in a green barrow is simply filled with surprise treasures. Just a few pages in I saw a poem titled 'If You Have A Persian Cat' illustrated by the fabulous Lilian A Govey, a contemporary of my favoured Anne Anderson! Every word of this is so true, especially when I think of the brother and sister pair which my dad and step-mum own and adore!! So much so, that I scanned the three pages and sent them with Dad's birthday card which I made for his 86th birthday! I was rewarded with so many giggles and such genuine laughter when I was phoned with their ardent thanks.
The first story I saw when I opened the Joy Book Annual for 1928 (with a gorgeous child dressed up as a Jester on the cover) happened to be by that favourite author of mine, Agnes Grozier Herbertson!! It is called 'Wee Wobbledy'. He is a gnome who lived on the One Tree Common, and everything in his little house had to be tied securely, or hung on hooks as the BIG WIND always caused everything inside to go Wobbledy-Wobbledy'!!! In her gorgeous inimitable style, A.H tells the story of how the house one day, while its owner was out, was picked up by the BIG WIND and taken quite far away. The Wibbledy-Wobbledy has a grand adventure trying to find where his beloved little home has been set down and with help from The Wise Witch, and then the Wise Wizard, as well as a Shepherd who has a star in his bell, he does indeed find where his house is, by the side of The Peaberry Tree where lots of lovely and kind fairy folk were staring at it and wondering who it belonged to! After he finds the house, meets the 'neighbours', and invites them all in for tea, he decides that he likes this sheltered place and the folk who live there so much that he stays there rather than return to One Tree Common. All in all, another delicious little story by A.G.H.
The Joy Book Children's Annual with the story of Wee Wobbledy and The Spindle Tree
I also managed to have so much time that I enjoyed reading her stand-alone story book titled 'The Spindle Tree’, which I believe was written back in the mid 1920s and illustrated by Stanley Cook. At 190 pages, it is divided into 12 chapters. It is all about a gnome named Yumps, his Real Speckly Sparrow, his Genuine Silver Fin (fish) and his RARE and REAL Spindle Tree which is home to the Spindle Fairy. The tale is filled with memorable characters from the very first page, and I do wish I had a small person to whom I could read a chapter each night at bedtime as it is just exactly THAT type of a story, though still in A.G.H's gorgeous style so suited to very young children!! Many of her larger books which I have now collected are groups of individual short stories, as in The Adventures of Bee Wee the Gnome to which I introduced you late last year,(again, as with my recent buy of Gum Tree Brownie, after waiting so long to find a copy I could afford!!!) Her Stand alone stories, such as Teddy and Trots in Wonderland and Lucy-Mary, or The Cobweb Cloak, to me seem far better suited to older children than the delightful Spindle Tree!
Kookaburra in my flowering gum tree
Oh heavens, I could just go one and on, and then on some more about all the magical moments I have been so lucky to enjoy over this hideously hot summer!!! I do not honestly know many people who are as fortunate to have such treasures at their fingertips whether indoor, or outside in the garden. Over summer, we have been visited by beautiful and very cheerful Laughing Kookaburras! I do enjoy these marvellous Aussie Icons so much as they sit in the trees and make their amazing sounds which truly do sound just like laughter! It is little wonder that they feature in so many Australian stories. My gum tree is back in bloom again so all sorts of feathered friends come to visit in the cooler daylight hours....simply wonderful!
Ladybirds and little water dragons (gorgeous little lizard friends) have been in the grass a lot lately as well, I think because they enjoy drinking the heavy morning dews!! Between the gum blossoms and the garden critters, I see so much of nature's inspiration which Tarella Quin found, from which she could tell her delightful early fairy tales of this country I call home! I am still tempted to pinch myself to prove that I do in fact have my treasure in 'Gum Tree Brownie’. I was showing it to an elderly friend who popped in earlier, so I do know it is indeed real!!! Some book treasures, as you are so well aware, are akin to dreams in their beauty, aren't they?! (Indeed they are Julie!)
Water dragon which is about 5 inches long TOTAL!
Life is not just good, but genuinely GREAT! I’d need ever so much time to share with you all the treasures and pleasure I garner from them!! But I can continue to do so in bits and bobs! I nearly wrote 'in Dribs and Drabs' but they surely are not, any of them, Drab!!!!
The sunset is taken looking through the trees from my yard.
Until next time, my love and miles of smiles, Jules xoxox
Postscript 14th March, 2016.
Well, Goodness gracious....We here in tropical North Queensland (Australia) are now praying that the Rains keep up....just so that they won't come down!!!!! Since I wrote the post and Feb came to an end, we have been continually inundated with the unusual wet stuff known as RAIN!! and I really DO mean inundated!! One night we had over 100mm, and almost every day or night this month we have received more extremely worthwhile falls!!
The entire region around the city is gloriously green for the first time in well over a year, and with so much of the wet treasure, it may remain this gorgeous colour for more than a month!! The dust has settled at last too, so the Fur Babies are much more comfortable and it is far easier to keep the housework up to scratch! Like the rest of the population, I am certainly not complaining about any downsides the rain has, such as huge paw prints all over the tiled floors (they clean off so easily!!), as NOTHING makes my beloved plants grow as well as real rain!! I knew that we were in for some more of the deliciously refreshing stuff on Saturday, as my 24-hour little Rain Orchids came into full fragrant bloom again on Friday morning!!! They NEVER tell lies! It's almost as if they have little Fairies living within the buds waiting to just burst forth with the good news!! I could smell their perfume from my kitchen window long before I ventured outside for a closer appreciation! What a huge pity though, that these teensie, yet pristine blooms do only last for a single Day!
While the cheerful sounds, of all the children having a splashing good time out in the street as the rain gently falls on them, echoes delightfully in my head, I have been enjoying being able to curl up and enjoy some of my favourite of books with their magical illustrations and stories! I feel like the happy young child I was all those years ago, growing up in Melbourne where it always seemed to be raining, and I was always being transported off to have adventures in some new Storybook Land!!! My life is certainly blessed, even all these years later, in a city as far from and as different to, that memory-filled place of my childhood. I do pray that all of you who read this little post, also are able to return to you own magical memories with as much ease as I seem able to do. Enjoy every moment, and fill them with smiles!!
Yesterday the great Al Jaffee turned 95. He's been contributing to Mad Magazine for a mere 61 years as the master of the "Fold-In," a few of which are presented below. Still active and charming as ever, Mr. Jaffee is one of the few people who can genuinely be said to speak with a "stentorian" presence, and I would just sit and listen to him read the phone book.
In the wake of The Walking Dead‘s on-going (and growing) success, AMC is gearing up for what it hopes is its next big comic book success. Here’s hoping they find it in Preacher, their adaptation of Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon’s critically acclaimed DC/Vertigo series. The series pilot is set to debut on Sunday, May […]
Well, I've packed up a home of 15 years, and a job of a decade, and moved them both almost 1,000 miles away - while simultaneously working (with little more than a week's break), hosting two of my kids for back-to-back spring breaks (one helped load the moving van in the North, and the other one helped unload it in the South), and flying back and forth for new-hire screenings and orientation. (Have I mentioned that my husband and family are wonderful?)
Anyway, as of tomorrow, I will be "shelf-employed" in my new adopted state.
If you've been waiting for me to review a book you've sent me, I've got a backlog, but I'm getting through them.
I recently had the pleasure of being interviewed by Upstart Crow client Andrew Brumbach over at the Literary Rambles blog, where we discussed the release of his debut novel, THE EYE OF MIDNIGHT the harrowing submissions process, and the joy of getting “the call”. Pop over the blog for the full interview, and do be sure to put THE EYE OF MIDNIGHT on your “to read” list today!
Today, my friends, is a double header….yep you heard me right.
First, look at the date; it’s 3.14 which is the written form of the mathematical symbol known as Pi. How cool is that ? Pi is the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter. The ratio is ALWAYS 3.14! 3.14 is the day people all over the world irrationally and irreverently celebrate this important mathematical constant. It’s the only number with its own holiday.
Most scholars consider Pi to be the most important and fascinating number in all of mathematics. Technically, the mathematical constant pi is an irrational, or never ending number, created by dividing the circumference of a circle by its diameter. It is a number that begins with 3.14 but then goes on and on never repeating itself for infinity.
Here’s a fine little guy who can recite pi up to 100 place points past the decimal. WOW.
Today is also Albert Einstein’s Birthday! Happy Birthday Albert!
I’m a huge Albert Einstein fan and never cease to be amazed. Recently a wonderful book came out that I reviewed on Jump into a Book called On a Beam of Light: A Story of Albert Einstein. There’s lots of fun science and physics play and it’s the perfect way to celebrate Albert Einstein.
Something To Do: Pi Celebration
Let’s be corny, I think we need to make a pie. Sorry I had to go there. I just can’t stop myself. It’s round and we can measure the circumference before we eat it and then after as it gets smaller in size. It doesn’t matter if it’s an apple pie, a cherry pie, or a chocolate pie. It’s just time to eat in the round. But remember that I’m quite a giver so with that I’m going to share the Best Ever Chocolate Chip Pie recipe.
The Best Chocolate Chip Pie Ever
Around these parts it’s known as Courtney Orr’s Chocolate Chip Pie and now you’re fortunate enough to know about it too. It’s the perfect start to Pi Fest.
1 unbaked 9-inch (4-cup volume) deep-dish pie shell *
2 large eggs
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter, softened
1 cup (6 oz.) Semi-Sweet Chocolate Morsels
1 cup chopped nuts
Sweetened whipped cream or ice cream (optional)
PREHEAT oven to 325° F.
BEAT eggs in large mixer bowl on high speed until foamy. Beat in flour, granulated sugar and brown sugar. Beat in butter. Stir in morsels and nuts. Spoon into pie shell.
BAKE for 55 to 60 minutes or until knife inserted halfway between edge and center comes out clean. Cool on wire rack. Serve warm with whipped cream, if desired.
* If using frozen pie shell, use deep-dish style, thawed completely. Bake on baking sheet; increase baking time slightly.
Some of us make pie and other people, like math and science game wizard Cy Tymony focus on teaching people fun ways to enjoy and learn more about science and mathematics. Cy is the author of the young adult educational book series “Sneaky Uses for Everyday Things”. These books are packed with cool math and science games and projects for kids and teens to play.
This year Cy created www.PiDayFun.com – an educational website dedicated to making Pi Day math memorable with free tips on how kids can have lots of fun using discarded items and without special tools. The site contains 5 Free ‘Pi’ and Math Projects.
There’s a free download for a whole set of Pi Cards, and directions on how to create a Sneaky Pi Detector, and instructions on how to make a Sneaky Pi Quizzer.
A huge thank you to Cy Tymony for making my Pi Card and for sending a Sneaky Pi Detector along with it. We’re having so much fun with Pi. Cy will be back on Jump into a Book a bit later with his new Sneaky Math book.
Want to learn how to recite Pi to 100 digits in 4 minutes or less? Common, who’s Brave?
It’s time to be on a memory mission. Did you know that the more digits of pi you memorize the easier it will be for you to learn math ? It’s true. Research from Harvard shows that the more you memorize pi, the better your brain works mathematically.
Pi Day Carols
In honor of Pi Day I think we need to gather around the piano, or pull out the guitar or something and sing these favorite Pi Day tunes such as:
Oh, Number Pi (to the tune of ‘O, Christmas Tree’)
Ludolph the Mathematician (to the tune of ‘Rudolph’)
Ready to get your “sleuth” on? My Secret Codes, Mysteries and Adventures Activity PDF for kids will keep young minds percolating for HOURS!
Inside young super detectives will discover:
*19 pages of sleuthing fun for your family to enjoy.
*Use Pilot Frixion Pens and craft paper to create Invisible Secret Notes!
*Make I Spy Cookies!
*Discover a President of the United States who was a Master Code Creator!
This free activity guide is a great way to encourage kids to pull books off of shelves, discover the power of imagination and build a new excitement and anticipation for reading. Fill out the info below and grab your FREE copy. Enjoy!
The author of the book featured in Face-Lift 1304 has submitted the revision below, and would like your feedback.
Twelve-year-old Eric Ortega loves his big sister Alyssa almost as much as he loves annoying her. When a wind demon takes over Eric’s body, Eric won’t believe it’s really happening … until the creature threatens his sister.
Nikias only has a body when he steals one, and he sees a latent power in Eric that he wants for himself. In possession of Eric’s body, Nikias can manipulate Eric’s aura to control others.
But Alyssa knows about the beings who live hidden among humans. The Sentinels, who police the world’s hidden peoples, had tried to recruit her. She knocks Eric out and takes him away to the Sentinel Fortress, willing to commit her life to save her brother’s.
When the Sentinels free Eric, Nikias escapes. Now Eric is trapped in the Sentinels’ ancient Roman lair, surrounded by beings who don’t trust him because of the powers Nikias awakened inside him. When Alyssa leaves, his only ally is a whip smart, winged girl.
Eric is certain Nikias is still after Alyssa, but the Sentinels won’t believe him. His winged friend helps him escape, but in order to save his sister, Eric must learn to control his new, unwanted powers.
Complete at 65,000 words, ERIC ORTEGA AND THE DEMON WIND is an upper MG contemporary fantasy. The story features diverse characters, including Medusa as a lesbian doctor with temperamental snake hair. This book will appeal to fans of the Underland Chronicles. Thank you for your time and consideration.
Sorry, this just isn't doing it for me. I have too many questions. If Nikias can control others, why doesn't he prevent Alyssa from knocking him out? How can humans be unaware of the hidden beings living among them? How are they hidden? Why do they need policing? Are the Sentinels also hidden? Did the Sentinels try to recruit Alyssa to be a fellow Sentinel? Are the Sentinels human? Is the Fortress close to where Eric and Alyssa live? If not, how does Alyssa get Eric there after she knocks him out? Why does taking Eric to the Fortress require a lifetime commitment? If Alyssa has committed her life to Eric, why does she then leave him? Why have the Sentinels trapped Eric with beings that don't trust him? What are Eric's powers? Why do you call Eric's powers unwanted if he can't save his sister without them? Does Alyssa also have powers Nikias wants? If not, why is he after her? I have as many questions about your plot as there are sentences in your query.
If Medusa is worth mentioning, tell us what crucial role she plays in the plot. Otherwise leave her out of the query.
Eric spends his time possessed, unconscious, trapped, and powerless. Are you sure Alyssa wouldn't be a better main character?
I suggest telling us the plot in three paragraphs. First the three-sentence setup: Who's the main character, what's his situation, what's his goal? Then three sentences about how he plans to achieve his goal and what goes wrong when he puts his plan in motion. Then a three-sentence wrap-up: How does he handle the chief obstacle. What's plan B? What will happen if he fails?
You have human beings, beings who are hidden, beings who don't trust Eric, and Sentinels, who may or may not be a subset of one of the other three sets of beings. The query would probably be clearer with fewer beings. The hidden and untrusting beings don't do much of anything in the query.
Today we're super excited to celebrate the cover reveal for THE SCOURGE by Jennifer A. Nielsen, releasing August 30, 2016 from Scholastic. Before we get to the cover, here's a note from Jennifer:
When you hear a title like, “The Scourge,” I’m guessing your first thought probably isn’t, “I...
"Making plastic food is an art in itself, and the manufacturers fiercely guard their trade secrets. The process typically starts with the actual food which are brought to the factory from the restaurant or client to serve as the model. Pictures are taken, sketches are made and a mould is prepared. Liquid vinyl chloride is poured into the mould and once hardened, the mould is taken apart and out comes the model. These are then hand painted by talented craftsmen who examine every detail of the actual food and applies oil-based paints to the plastic using fine brushes. The replicas reproduce every detail of the real food, from browning on bacon and eggs, to grill marks on chicken, or the difference between steaks cooked rare or medium. Almost all food replicas are handcrafted to order, as the same dishes can differ in their shape, color or presentation at different restaurants."
Starring in The Circle together, Hanks and Watson make a great duo, and their talk about the HeForShe campaign is enlightening and shows just how needed the campaign is.
Emma Watson: Are you a feminist?
Tom Hanks: Yes I am. We are in the Third Millennium. We have thousands of years of human history under our belts. If we are not continuously moving towards equal rights, equal opportunities and equal freedoms for every member of the human race — not just that half that is male — then we have squandered all we have learned.
On gender equality and listening to women:
“The women I have worked with and those I seek inspiration from have had different perspectives on all there is to have an opinion on in this world, and I have always learned from listening to them. My support of those women and those in my family has been the same as it has for any man or any of my sons.”
On gender binaries, sexuality, love and why inclusivity is so important:
EW: You have been very supportive of same-sex marriage. I spoke a lot in my speech to the UN about the importance of seeing gender on a spectrum instead of as binary, and being inclusive of where everyone fits on that spectrum. Would this be something you would like to speak about? Is there a connection there?
TH: Look at us human beings! Each of our fingerprints is unique. Our eyes are just as varied. Just as no two snowflakes are the same, neither are we. We are as singular as those lines and ridges on our palms and fingers. Our gender is defined the same way. We love who we love, we are passionate for those who stir us. The directions our love takes us in are infinite. Not just two boxes marked EITHER and OR.
On why he supports the HeForShe campaign (aw):
EW: Why did you agree to support the HeForShe campaign by appearing on the cover of Esquire?
TH: I find Emma Watson as fascinating as she is accomplished. Time spent with someone as dedicated and as smart as she is is time well spent.
The final question related to Emma Watson’s own interview with Esquire, and her answer about unequal treatment of women in the film industry. Hanks gives an eloquent and balanced response:
EW: You are no stranger to working with strong women. One of your most famous films, Big, was directed by Penny Marshall and you starred in A League of Their Own alongside Geena Davis, who founded the Geena Davis Institute to campaign for gender equality in film. But Hollywood is far from equal, on screen and off. Of the top films in 2013, women accounted for only 30 per cent of all speaking characters. Female characters are almost four times as likely as males to be shown in sexy attire in G-rated [family] films. Or look at the Oscars. The LA Times reports that Academy voters are 76 per cent male, 93 per cent white, with an average age of 63. Kathryn Bigelow is the only woman to win the Oscar for Best Director. No woman of colour has ever been nominated. Why does this matter?
TH: Because the art form of cinema becomes less of an art, and no longer holds the mirror up to nature when women are reduced to being only hot or nurturing. The great films make us all recognise ourselves up there on the screen, even when the characters are women from a different time and maybe speak a different language. When rules of gender and character dictate what stories are told and by whom, when women are required to be only hot or only nurturing, they no longer are full dimensional humans. That’s not art, and it brings less enlightenment to the world. The economics of motion pictures makes faith in voodoo equal to those in a Vegas casino. Bets on making money are made on hunches, odd rules and track records. “Men have a certain touch with material, you can tell by the T-shirts they wear!” “Women directors play with different instincts because they often have babies!” Outliers come along much more often than are admitted. Television is a different matter. There are more women in starring roles, writing and running shows, and even in executive suites. The movies will catch up…
Read the full interview here, and read Emma Watson’s interview here!
Why do we write middle grade and young adult books? Perhaps we love to play with words. Or we admire the honesty and realness of kids—and never quite grew up ourselves.
These reasons also apply to those of religious faith, but we have an added motive—to inspire children, deepen their faith, or help them live a better life. These ideas can be part of both religious and mainstream market books.
Writing faith themes in children’s literature can be fulfilling and fun. My first middle grade novel—Picture Imperfect, published by Ashberry Lane—came out in 2015.
Writing this book (and prior failed attempts) taught me a few things about writing middle grade fiction from a faith perspective.
1. Choose an appropriate theme.
People of faith believe life has meaning and God speaks through our circumstances. Naturally, we want to express the truth, as we see it, through our stories. But keep it kid-appropriate. (Forgiveness and loving others are great, fire and brimstone not so much.)
As a child, I loved reading books that inspired me and gave me hope. Now I love writing those books. In Picture Imperfect, my young protagonist, JJ, faces many challenges, including an annoying live-in aunt, a runaway cat, and her great-grandmother’s death. But she grows and finds God through the challenges.
2. Put story first.
Concepts of faith and moral values should emerge organically from the story. Nobody—least of all a child—wants to have a message hammered into them. And forcing a theme onto a story rarely works. I’ve tried it—that book never sold.
Picture Imperfect started out being about a girl discovering faith through her beloved great-grandmother. As I wrote, that element remained, but the focus shifted to JJ finding her place in the family.
Susan & middle grade author Angela Ruth Strong, 2015 Oregon Christian Writers’ summer coaching conference
3. Don’t preach.
Show, don’t tell is the Golden Rule of writing, and it applies equally to faith-based writing. Let the characters’ experiences and interactions demonstrate the underlying concept. While hints of it may appear in conversation, keep it light. Children would rather discover meaning for themselves than have some wise character explain it.
Picture Imperfect does have a “mentor” character with the occasional pithy saying, but the character's life, more than her words, helps JJ discover the importance of faith.
Susan's book launch with critique partner Sandy Zaugg
4. Use symbolism and metaphor.
The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis (1949-1954) is a clearly Christian series, yet never mentions God. In Picture Imperfect, the stained-glass windows of a small church illustrate the protagonist’s longing for God. These tools must be used carefully, of course. An allegory heavy with symbolism may turn off readers. But a gentle touch can add depth.
Not Back to School Day (Portland)*
5. Portray all faiths positively.
Faith themes can work in both the religious and general markets, although emphasis will differ. Even nonreligious books can add diversity by including children of different faiths, whose religion is a normal part of their lives.
A final thought
Believers, there’s no need to force spiritual themes into your stories. Your faith will naturally come out in whatever you write.
Cynsational Notes Susan Thogerson Maas grew up on five green Oregon acres, coming to love the plants, birds, and wild critters of the woods—who often find their way into her writing. She has written part-time for 30 years, selling devotionals, homeschooling and personal experience articles, Sunday school curriculum, and children’s stories.
Picture Imperfect is her first published middle grade novel. She is currently working on another middle grade novel, along with a nature-based homeschool unit study.
Susan chose to publish with Ashberry Lane, a small Christian publisher, due to the supportive, caring environment it offers. The mother-daughter publishing team works closely with the authors, and the authors work together to promote each other’s writing. In today’s publishing world, most authors end up doing much of their own marketing, but Ashberry Lane’s family atmosphere provides both physical help and spiritual encouragement.
*with Christian Tarabochia, Sherrie Ashcraft.
Ashberry Lane family (Aug. 2014): from left: Sherrie Ashcraft (publisher), authors Sam Hall, Angela & Jim Strong, Bonnie Leon, Susan Maas, Camille Eide; cover designer-board member Nicole Miller & editor Christina Tarabochia
Entertainment Weekly unveiled the cover for Liane Moriarty’s upcoming release, TRULY MADLY GUILTY. Moriarty is the author of the bestseller BIG LITTLE LIES which is now in production as a limited series for HBO. TRULY MADLY GUILTY releases on July 26 and this is the tiny snippet we have been given for the plot:
“Six responsible adults. Three cute kids. One small dog. It’s just a normal weekend. What could possibly go wrong?”
Comics publishing has hit a bit of a slowdown, as I've noted a few times, and Kickstarter seems to be picking up the slack for a lot of publishers. Comicker's Dave Acampo wrote a piece looking at this is mostly about his own Kickstarter for Comicker, but has some general observations and a pie chart of where the money goes prepared by Comicker publisher Sean Williams:
Hello again! A couple of weeks ago, I gave you the start to a worksheet I use for every new project to help fill out my premise, story world, and how I choose to tell your story. Now I’d like to elaborate further on that sheet and go into the beginnings of character.
Before you ever start outlining or even writing your draft, you have to know your characters. Some people do this by filling out a “twenty questions” for each character. Some start writing and discover their characters in the moment. I find that understanding the answers to the questions below (and questions I’ll highlight in the third part of this series in a couple weeks), helps me know what a character will do in any given situation. If I’m ever stumped over what a character might do in a moment, I consult my sheet.
So you’ve already determined your premise, story execution, story world, and story challenges. You probably already know who your main character is, but if you don’t, now is the time to decide who your best character is for telling the story. The girl who has lived for fifteen years in the kingdom dungeons? Or the prince who can’t get his life together? If there are multiple characters you want to tell the story through, now is the time to sort that out.
Once you’ve determined your best character, you’ll want to outline your basic action. This is the action that drives your main character throughout the entire story. Basic action is also informed by story execution – if you plan to use the Journey Principle (see last post), then chances are, your character’s basic action will involve moving toward a specific destination. Your character’s basic action for the entire book will be traveling toward the castle/the space ship/the other side of the US etc. Or, if the story takes place around a competition, then the basic action will be competing/preparing for competition. This might seem remedial, but in those moments when our stories get away from us, remembering what your character’s basic, primal action for this story is will make a world of difference.
Now, think about what taking that basic means for your character. Characters don’t just act without thought or reason – you have to give them motivation to take that action. And that involves weakness.
Character weakness can and should be an integral part of your actual story structure. It should propel your character’s personal journey, the basic action, and provide obstacles for him/her along the way. Weakness offers the potential for character change, which is a big part (maybe the biggest) of making a character and her story interesting.
So what is your character’s weakness? It could be that he or she is afraid to live their lives to the fullest because they lost a parent/friend/partner. Or, that he/she is sheltered and ignorant of the world around them – they have to overcome this fear or this lack of knowledge to actually begin the basic action.
Once you’ve identified the weakness and basic action, it’s important to consider who that character is at the end. What do they look like as a changed person? What does the basic action teach them about overcoming their weakness? Perhaps the sheltered person has taken a trip to a developing country and learned that there are lots of suffering people in the world. This character is now a changed person: he or she is no longer sheltered, and perhaps now they have a desire to help people.
The changed person is very satisfying for a reader. How many times have you seen a movie or watched a show and noticed that the character has little to no growth or change? And to be sure, change doesn’t have to translate into positive growth – change can mean someone becomes disillusioned, or cruel, or greedy. Take a look at Walter White in Breaking Bad – Everyone’s favorite teacher gets cancer and through genius and desperation becomes someone he always had the potential be – a virtual Scar Face.
All of this ties into the moral choice your character must make at the end, a choice that they can only make now that they are a changed person. The decision would have been easy to make (or non-existent) before they changed, but now that they have reached the end and learned so much and became a different person, the moral choice will be much harder to make. It’s a confluence of their old life and their new. For the sheltered person, it could mean going back to their country and living their life with a new perspective, and perhaps becoming a volunteer. Or, being offered a chance to stay in this new place and create more radical change. Neither is wrong – but do you think this character would have had a hard time making the choice before?
Okay, I think I’ve given you enough to chew on for this second part in the What Comes Before series – my next post will be going into more depth on character and structure, so be prepared! As always, I hope this was useful, and I’ll be back in a couple of weeks with the last part in the series.
Last year, the Netflix release of Marvel's Daredevil took superhero fandom by storm. The set of episodes that comprised Daredevil's freshman year breathed new life into a fairly moribund television landscape.