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Viewing: Blog Posts from All 1562 Blogs, since 4/24/2008 [Help]
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20676. Grammar Editing Software

Question: Is there a free link or software I can use that helps editing my grammar for my writing? Answer: Plenty of websites and companies offer grammar

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20677. Flogometer for Emily—are you compelled to turn the page?

Submissions Welcome. 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 engaging the reader with the character
  • 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 character desires something.
  • The character 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.

Also, if you think about it, the same checklist should apply to the page where you introduce an antagonist.

Emily sends a first chapter of Serenity, a dystopian story. The remainder is after the break.

Please vote and comment. It helps the writer.

T h e  F a M i l y

Las Vegas, 2037

Politicians voted to open the first Red Light District, later referred to as the Glass District. This was the Families’ dream come true. As more and more cities capitalized on the concept, the Family branch known as the Syndicate took advantage of the system and opened the first Museum to entice wealthier clients. Stocks soared overnight, but the beast had only begun to salivate. Recruiters soon swept into schools, into malls, into neighborhoods in order to monopolize the most successful corporate-driven commodity of all time: girls.

S e r e n I t y 

I felt colder than the first time my father took me to the Glass District.

“Serenity, you must open your eyes,” he’d told me as another plump drop of rain bit my cheek, feeling more like a speck of gravel. I wiped it away, but more took its place.

I didn’t want to open my eyes. I didn’t want to look at the girls in the glass cages, half-starved, clothed in rags, kneeling prostrate. But I’d started to bleed, and my mother spoke to me about what happens to girls when they ‘grow up’. So, my father decided it was time to show me the world outside all the hotels and empty, abandoned manors where we’d lived a throughout the years. He said I needed to see it for myself. Even if I understood why they kept me hidden from (snip)

Were you compelled to turn the page?

For the most part, the writing is strong and the voice likeable, so far so good. Things started to get interesting for me when we learned about the girls in the glass cages. If it were me, I would ditch the “FaMily” opening setup chunk and start with the real scene. The opening page has two goals: engagement with a character and creating intrigue as you see recommended in my checklist (see Donald Maass’s recent post on Writer Unboxed). This paragraph may contribute to intrigue, but it’s divorced from a character.

The SerenIty scene needs to be set and its relationship to the flashback made clear. The flashback does imply jeopardy for the narrator, and that’s good. However, when we get out of the flashback the narrative isn’t totally clear as to what’s going on in the now of the story and its relationship to the flashback, and then we slip into another flashback to deliver more backstory. The elements are good, but they put off the moment the story takes off. Even then, considering what’s happening in the now of the story (immortality treatments), it’s not clear to me what the problem is for the narrator. I guess that follows, but I think it should be on the first page, not the second chapter.

As it is, the ending of the chapter, which would otherwise be suspenseful and a page-turner, it isn't because we know from what goes before that she seems okay, receiving immortality treatments. Notes:

T h e  F a M i l y

Las Vegas, 2037

Politicians voted to open the first Red Light District, later referred to as the Glass District. This was the Families’ dream come true. As more and more cities capitalized on the concept, the Family branch known as the Syndicate took advantage of the system and opened the first Museum to entice wealthier clients. Stocks soared overnight, but the beast had only begun to salivate. Recruiters soon swept into schools, into malls, into neighborhoods in order to monopolize the most successful corporate-driven commodity of all time: girls. while chilling, it’s still an info dump. Try to weave this into the story after you engage me with the character. Check out the opening pages of “The Hunger Games” and “Divergent” so see how involvement with the character comes first and then the unique nature of the world is woven in. A handy tool is the Kindle store on Amazon where you can read the opening online for free.

S e r e n I t y 

I felt colder than the first time my father took me to the Glass District. Need to set the scene here. While the tense does change in the next paragraph, it’s not an obvious change, and the scene shifts to wherever she is as she thinks this—and that lacks a transition to keep the flashback and the now of the story separate.

“Serenity, you must open your eyes,” he’d told me as another plump drop of rain bit my cheek, feeling more like a speck of gravel. I wiped it away, but more took its place. The contradictory imagery took me out of the story—I don’t understand why a “plump drop” of rain can bite, why it would feel like gravel. If there’s a skin-condition reason, include that so it makes sense.

I didn’t want to open my eyes. I didn’t want to look at the girls in the glass cages, half-starved, clothed in rags, kneeling prostrate. But I’d started to bleed, and my mother spoke to me about what happens to girls when they ‘grow up’. So, my father decided it was time to show me the world outside all the hotels and empty, abandoned manors where we’d lived a throughout the years. He said I needed to see it for myself. Even if I understood why they kept me hidden from (snip) In looking at the definition of “prostrate,” I’m not sure I buy the idea of “kneeling prostrate” as prostrate mostly has to do with being stretched out with face on the ground. I don’t usually like flashbacks, but this is gripping material and, if it supports what’s happening in the now, then use it. But, as with the aforementioned "Hunger Games" and "Divergent," I'd rather be engaged with the character in the now of the story.

Comments, please?

For what it’s worth.


Submitting to the Flogometer:

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

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

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 Emily



. . . the world, why I couldn’t attend school or meet others my age, why I couldn’t go anywhere without Skylar, it was different seeing it first-hand.

When I saw a girl up close, I retched right there on the sidewalk just before my skin turned raw. Just like it did now.

 Despite my skin that screamed from the needles boring into my arms, my paralyzed body left me no chance to fight. Instead, I crawled through webs of mental fluff threatening to send me back underneath this disinfectant Wonderland. Somewhere inside the chink of fluff, I was aware of several things at once...


“She’s coming to.”

They sounded suppressed. Like cotton candy suffocated vocal chords. 

“Not for long.” 

I teetered just on the edge of the rabbit hole. Naked, all I could do was observe from the gap in the fabric armor across my mind while nurses in blanched, sterilized outfits hovered over me. The image of a glass cage flickered in and out of my mind like a whimpering candle flame, and a fog-like fear engulfed me.

Not the Glass District.

Another needle gave birth to a tear that rolled out of its eye bed and tumbled down the floor of my cheek as I considered another option. Then, I caught the telltale hum of the machine beneath me just before a glow of lights above me began to move. With purpose, they flowed across my entire body, their warmth rippling across my skin like golden waves. And then I understood. This was part of the Immortal Treatment.

These sort of treatments were reserved for only one type of candidate: I was Museum worthy. So it finally happened. I would become more than long skirts covering my ankles and sleeves loose as rivers. More than white skin that sunlight never so much as tickled. Maybe flower petals and vines crawling over my skin like a spider web. Maybe feathers strung together like chords of music on my body. How much had they done to me already? Detoxified my body? Smoothed all its lines? Intensified my natural hair color? Promoted collagen growth?

Fuzziness overwhelmed me again, and I sunk, became a shipwreck in depth and darkness before one last option impregnated my thoughts: The Temple.

Not the Temple.

Not the Temple.

Not the Temple.

No, I would never become like my mother.

Just before the hospital, just before the hotel hallway, Sky and I talked about our mother…

He’d towered over me even more than usual with his six foot five stance after I’d flopped down on the bed, hiking up one of the many long skirts I wore that covered my curves. Curves in all the right places according to my brother but in reality ‒ curves in all the wrong places. Curves that could never see the light of day.

I leaned back on my hands and glanced out the window, watching the sunlight turn my silvery hair to shimmery latticework, warming one side of my body all the way to my hips. “Shouldn’t Mom and Dad be back by now?” I asked my brother.

Sky grunted, and the muscles in his neck tensed as he responded, “Typical.”

Long ago, I’d memorized this familiar body language that he only played when we talked about our parents. He didn’t act much different when they were home either. I excused it as some late adolescence.

“Where do you think we’ll go tomorrow?” I wondered just as Sky braced his arm against the wall next to the window, muscles along that arm not bothering to hide. The sun welcomed him, sewing its rays into his tan skin. We were polar opposites that way. I took after Mom − more, petite magnolia tree limbs, birch-white skin, fairy white curls.

“Who knows with Kerrick and Serafina?”

I bit my lower lip, considering whether or not to ask him for the umpteenth time why he called them that. Instead, I groaned when he pulled the drapes, and my hair returned to the color of dull lace. I was cold again.

“I wasn’t done looking at the city,” I complained and threw out the suggestion, “Why don’t you go flirt with the front desk girl? Bet if you just show her one of your sugar-coated smiles, she’ll upgrade us to a higher room.”

“No higher rooms, Serenity,” warned Sky before cocking his head to me while a ringlet of his hair, a lighter shade of his eyes, coddled his cheekbone. “You know the rules. We don’t attract attention. You need to stay out of line of sight.”

Always out of line of sight.

Always moving. It was a constant process. Most of the time, I never complained. With the Temple never giving up its search for my mother and I, discretion wasn’t just advised; it was required. My parents always smuggled me in when it was busiest. By day, we worried about recruiters. By night, we worried about smugglers. For some reason, my parents never bothered to just leave Sky and I holed up in one of their country cabins or seaside condos even though they were so paranoid about my safety. It made more sense to me since those places were much more isolated than venturing into the cities. If my mother wanted to hide from the Temple Director so much, then why did she and my father always return to the Capital? Why bring me with them? They always wanted me close, but their secrets kept me at arm’s length while Sky wore me closer than the hairs on his arms. Except for the past couple of years, he seemed to wear me closer but looked past me like I was a stranger.

We were like paper flowers in the attic. With no sunlight to help us grow, we held on to each other for warmth as cold dust blanketed us. Maybe we were more intense than most siblings, but our lives were always tethered up in nothing but each other.

“Maybe...” I bit down on my lower lip, suddenly a little serious as I considered whether or not to add the last part, but my words catapulted before I could catch them, “maybe we’ll be near a Museum.” My thoughts were like water balloons. The slightest thing could make them pop. No way to hold them together or prevent them from spilling their words. 

Sky groaned and fell back on the bed like we’d gone over this a hundred times already, which was accurate. He folded his hands behind his head while I eased onto my belly to face him. “Again with the Museum! Museums are just as bad as the Temple, Ser.”

“But parents groom their daughters specifically for Museums. More girls would rather go to a Museum these days than become actresses.”

Sky rubbed his eyes and repeated the same words to me that he always had. “I won’t deny the Museums are nicer than the Glass Districts or Carousel Blocks or most of the levels of the Temple. Thousands of orphan girls tend to go to the District because they’re cheap, but Museum girls still aren’t what you think they are. They are designed to look and act that way, some from birth. All those exhibits are is an act. You should know that better than anyone.”

Because of Mom.

Sky understood I needed the reminder, so he didn’t pay me any mind when I turned onto my side and reached for the nightstand drawer to withdraw the photograph inside. It was the one picture my mother had from her time in the Temple. Except this wasn’t my mother. This was the Unicorn. With her face as serene as a snowflake on glass and body composed like a pool pausing just before a pebble disturbs its surface, my mother was all white beauty. Hair straightened and decorated to resemble a mane, true silver flecks on her painted white cheeks, diamond bridle around her neck, and the crowning horn stamped in the middle of her forehead – all of it echoed a lost time. A time when my mother became a ghost to the Unicorn.

Just like girls became something else in the Museums whether the Rose in the Garden Museum or the Peacock in the Menagerie or the Gazelle in the Safari Museum. The possibilities were endless.

Sensing Sky’s presence hovering over me, I peeked back to see him eye the photograph and press his full lips together so much they looked starved. Something he did when he was angry. So I slipped the photograph back inside the drawer again, watched as he settled some.

I wrung my hands together as another balloon inside my head popped. “What if I were ever−”

Every one of Sky’s muscles went rigid, veins almost leaping off his skin. “I won’t let that happen, Ser.”

“Play devil’s advocate with me, Sky. What if?”

Heaving a sigh, Sky lowered himself to the bed next to me and nudged my shoulder, encouraging me, “If you were to go to a Museum, Serenity, then God help them. Because if there’s one thing I know about you, it’s this: you are the polar opposite of your namesake.”

I tossed my head back with a chuckle. “Can’t argue with that,” I agreed just before chucking a pillow in his face and scrambling off the bed as he retaliated.

Sky used to let me win, but when I complained it wasn’t challenging enough, he stopped a couple years ago. Since then, I’d had plenty of practice. Sure, I took a cheap shot now and then, but girls get to use whatever advantage they have. So, when I beamed Sky for the third time in the head, he threw up his hands in surrender, pillow tumbling to the floor.

“You give, Skylar Lace?” I addressed him, my pillow primed and ready if he tried a sneak attack.

“I give, your pillow-ship.” 

I tossed my pillow onto the bed and gave him a mock bow before walking across the room to grab a glass. Suppressing a groan at the empty ice bucket, I set the glass back down and picked up the bucket, heading for the door.

“Serenity,” Sky’s commanding voice caught my attention. “Recruiters are out. You shouldn’t−”

“It’s just down the hall. I’ll be fine, Sky. You know they never scout these floors.” Clients weren’t wealthy enough on the lower floors. The wealthier the client, the healthier the girl, and the more likelihood of recruiting for a Museum instead of a Glass District.

 “You come right back,” Sky reminded me.

“I will.”

My world made sense when it was just Sky and me and no thinking about Museums, Glass Districts, Carousels, Graphicker Studios, or the Temple’s penthouse. They didn’t even call it prostitution anymore. Prostitution was slavery wrapped in a bow, but it existed in different forms. With the world gorging itself on bodies, it had to look neater. Just a paraded reality. And most girls chased the parade. Even my mother fell down the Rabbit Hole.

I wasn’t so naïve as to think I was above my mother, but I did have my advantages. I had more fight in me. My mother wasn’t much of a fighter. She just endured. Pity she didn’t fight that hard for me. Whenever she and my father came home, I pretended like I didn’t resent them for only seeing me once or twice a month. Or for moving us around from place to place watching the world from hotel glass. Ever since I turned sixteen, it was harder and harder to keep up appearances.

After filling up the ice bucket, I sampled a little more on my trifle of freedom outside our stagnant hotel room. I lingered. Too long. Just as I stepped out of the ice room, I heard voices coming from the end of the hall. Rushing back into the ice room, I closed the door, hoping they hadn’t seen me because I recognized them as smugglers. Some smugglers were independent, but others were commissioned by certain Museums or the Temple. These smugglers had one thing in common to set them apart: black gloves. Family smugglers.

In hindsight, I should’ve insisted Sky come with me. Or at least had some sort of weapon. All I had was a bucket of ice. I held my breath when they approached the door, heard their casual chuckles, voices goading me.

“Come out, come out wherever you are.”

“You want to play hide and seek?”

I rocked on the balls of my feet, and just as they opened the door, I launched the ice bucket directly into their faces. Cubes catapulted in the air as I pushed through the gap of their bodies, but another one took their place and became a wall that I crashed against before losing my balance and tumbling to the ground. Parting my curls, I stared up at the smuggler with his eyes like elevators scaling the floors of my body.

“Not bad,” he muttered just before I felt the electrical surge jolting through my system from the back of my neck. I passed out on the hotel floor.

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20678. Comics Friday: Mike's Place by Jack Baxter and Hand Drawn Jokes for Smart Attractive People by Matthew Diffee

From Goodreads:
There's a rule at Mike's Place: never, ever talk politics or religion. At this blues bar on the Tel Aviv beachfront, an international cast of characters mingles with the locals, and everyone is welcome to grab a beer and forget the conflict outside. At least, that's the story Jack and Joshua want to tell in their documentary. 
But less than a month after they begin filming, Mike's Place is the target of a deadly suicide bombing. Jack, Joshua, and the Mike's Place family survive the only way they know how-by keeping the camera rolling. 
Written by filmmakers Jack Baxter and Joshua Faudem and illustrated by award-winning cartoonist Koren Shadmi, Mike's Place chronicles the true story of an infamous terrorist attack in painstaking detail. Rarely has the slow build to tragedy, and the rebirth that follows, been captured with such a compassionate and unflinching eye.
This one is a must-read if you enjoy graphic non-fiction.  It would also make a great transition book for those who are fans of graphic novels but don't normally gravitate towards books about history or current events.  What I enjoyed most is that this is a story about the people who populate Mike's Place and their relationships before and after a terrorist attack.  It doesn't get into the politics of conflict in the Middle East.  At its heart it's a personal account of private lives that are affected by politics, but doesn't make a judgment or statement about those politics.  I'm now on the lookout for the documentary that the story is based on, Blues by the Beach.

 From Goodreads:
This collection contains Diffee’s funniest drawings and writings from the past decade as well as all-new cartoons and sketches organized into categories that will appeal to smart attractive people in all walks of life, based on profession and circumstance: smart attractive Medical Professionals, sharp and good-looking Old People; beautiful geniuses in Prison; brainy handsome Lumberjacks; and more. Are you an alluring well-read utensil user? Well, there’s a chapter just for you!

If you’re a fan of Demetri Martin and Jack Handey, or if you happen to be George Clooney or Natalie Portman, Hand Drawn Jokes for Smart Attractive People will leave you laughing your smart attractive ass off.
And on a totally different note, I also enjoyed this collection of cartoons from a prominent New Yorker cartoonist.  I liked Diffee's sense of humor and enjoyed it, but I wasn't just blown away.  I think it's pretty normal for me to only really "get" about three quarters of the jokes you find in the New Yorker, and the same could be said for this book.  Some parts just didn't resonate and I felt like I needed the joke explained.  But the jokes that I got were quite entertaining.  It wasn't a laugh out loud book for me, but it was worth the short time it took to read and made for great diversionary reading.

Thanks to NetGalley for providing me with copies of these books to review.

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20679. This “WETA Effect” Video Is The Dumbest Thing You’ll See All Week

An uninformed commentary about the visual effects industry goes viral.

0 Comments on This “WETA Effect” Video Is The Dumbest Thing You’ll See All Week as of 7/3/2015 2:08:00 PM
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20680. Animation Artists’ Union Reaches Agreement for 3-Year Deal with Studios

How smooth were negotiations? They began Monday and finished Wednesday.

0 Comments on Animation Artists’ Union Reaches Agreement for 3-Year Deal with Studios as of 7/3/2015 6:44:00 PM
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20681. Nina George & Robert Kurson Debut on the Indie Bestseller List

The Little Paris BookShop (GalleyCat)We’ve collected the books debuting on Indiebound’s Indie Bestseller List for the week ending June 28, 2015–a sneak peek at the books everybody will be talking about next month.

(Debuted at #11 in Hardcover Fiction) The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George: “Monsieur Perdu calls himself a literary apothecary. From his floating bookstore in a barge on the Seine, he prescribes novels for the hardships of life. Using his intuitive feel for the exact book a reader needs, Perdu mends broken hearts and souls. The only person he can’t seem to heal through literature is himself; he’s still haunted by heartbreak after his great love disappeared. She left him with only a letter, which he has never opened.” (June 2015)

(Debuted at #13 in Hardcover Fiction) The Festival of Insignificance by Milan Kundera: ” A strange sort of summation. Strange sort of epilogue. Strange sort of laughter, inspired by our time, which is comical because it has lost all sense of humor.” (June 2015)

(Debuted at #15 in Hardcover Nonfiction) Pirate Hunters: Treasure, Obsession, and the Search for a Legendary Pirate Ship by Robert Kurson: “Finding and identifying a pirate ship is the hardest thing to do under the sea. But two men—John Chatterton and John Mattera—are willing to risk everything to find the Golden Fleece, the ship of the infamous pirate Joseph Bannister.” (June 2015)

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20682. Big dim hero to the rescue

0 Comments on Big dim hero to the rescue as of 7/3/2015 5:16:00 PM
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20683. Dung Beetles

For the last week I keep watching this video about a dung beetle trying to push a turd ball up a blazing hot sand dune. You think Sisyphus had a hard time of it? He has nothing on this uncomplaining scarab.


I’ve considered before the heroic efforts of the tiniest things, and more recently been particularly interested in these industrious recyclers. I am sure an idea is brewing but I don’t know what it is: nonfiction, perhaps, or a picture book, or a novel. “Watership Down with dung beetles!” I ventured yesterday on Facebook, to a rousing lack of enthusiasm.

I guess people think dung beetles are gross because dung, but… well, without them, things would be a lot grosser. They consume some feces and bury more, effectively aerating and fertilizing the land they use. I have come to appreciate nature more, in my middle-ages, and the wonderful integration of the world’s species to function as a whole. Imagine the prairie three hundred years ago: buffalo gobbling up the long hoary grass and leaving these tremendous buffets for the hordes of dung beetles that followed, who repurposed the poop and fed the small birds and prairie dogs, which in turn fed the ferrets and hawks and coyotes…. Without the beetles, none of it is possible. And dung beetles serve a similar role across the globe, in various ecosystems, and are rarely appreciated (though the ancient Egyptians wisely thought they were sacred).

Few people can claim what the dung beetle can, which is that their mere existence makes the world an unarguably better place.  Dung beetles are also the only animal besides humans known to observe the stars, and I think this single idea is what makes them especially fascinating to me. The humblest creature on earth will climb upon its dung ball, orient itself by the milky way, and — I like to believe — make a fervent wish before it continues on its journey.

I think this will fuel a book but I don’t know what it is yet. I hope you will give it, and its heroes, a chance, despite their diet.

Filed under: Miscellaneous Tagged: dung beetles

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20684. James Patterson to Give Away $1.75 Million to School Libraries

James Patterson 200 (GalleyCat)Back in March 2015, James Patterson (pictured, via) and the Scholastic Reading Club established a partnership to help school libraries. Initially, Patterson vowed to give away $1.25 million.

Since this announcement was made, over 28,000 applications were sent in vying for these funding grants. In consideration of all these requests, Patterson has decided to increase his donation amount to $1.75 million. So far, $500,000 has been handed out to 127 different schools.

Here’s more from the press release: “Scholastic Reading Club will match each dollar with bonus points that allow teachers to buy materials, including books, for their classrooms…With the school library initiative, Patterson’s mandate was to make the application process as simple as possible for librarians. The online application poses a single question: ‘What would your school library do with $1,000 to $10,000?'”

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20685. Picture Book Secrets

Here are some suggestions (no magic secrets, unfortunately) about how to write picture books.


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20686. Todd S. Purdum Inks Deal For a Rodgers & Hammerstein Biography

Henry-Holt-130Journalist Todd S. Purdum has landed a deal with Henry Holt. Purdum will write a biography profiling musical theater icons Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II.

The publisher has set the release date for Spring 2018. It was chosen to coincide with the 75th anniversary of the opening of their acclaimed Broadway show, Oklahoma!.

Purdum had this statement in the press release: “These are the songs and stories I grew up with, the original cast albums that my parents played till they were worn thin, and I could sing the scores in in my sleep. In watching the joy with which my own children have discovered Rodgers and Hammerstein, and the enormous worldwide commercial and critical success their work still enjoys, I became certain that the fascinating story of their collaboration was ripe for a fresh telling, not only to the Baby Boomers who love The Sound of Music, but to even younger generations who will appreciate the pioneering contributions this team made to one of America’s most important native arts.”

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20687. Giveaway: Becoming Darkness by Lindsay Brambles (US & Canada Only)

Becoming Darkness

by Lindsay Brambles

Release Date: October 1, 2015



About the Book

Becoming Darkness is a dark, action-filled tale set in an alternate twenty-first century in which Hitler won World War II, our modern technologies never evolved, and the Nazis’ terrifying reign still continues.

A genre mash up of alternate history, dystopian, mystery, romance and gothic fiction, this story of a young woman coming into her own in a world of secrets, betrayals and conspiracies will appeal to readers looking for a fresh hybrid to sweep them away.

Like everyone else living in Haven, 17-year-old Sophie Harkness is an Immune in a world ruled by vampires. She is a carrier of the genetic mutation that protects her from the virus Hitler unleashed upon the world more than half a century ago. That virus wiped out most of humanity and turned 200 million people into vampires. After her best friend is brutally murdered and several attempts are made on her own life, Sophie becomes determined to find answers to what seems to be a conspiracy running generations deep. And when she questions the peace treaty that keeps her small community protected, Sophie begins to discover terrible truths about herself and what it means to be human in a world ruled by darkness.

To learn more about this book and see our review, go HERE.

About the Author

Lindsay Brambles was born in Ottawa, Canada, and spent a large part of his childhood and youth living and traveling overseas in countries such as Pakistan, Iran, Kenya, and Tanzania. Although he occasionally attended traditional schools, most of his education was gained through correspondence courses and the life experience of living amidst other cultures. As a child in Iran, Lindsay produced a weekly newspaper, which kindled what would become a lifelong interest in writing. In 1989, he won first prize in the Pine Cone II Science Fiction Convention writing contest for his novella Zero-Option. He has worked in a variety of fields, from construction to childcare while pursuing a vocation as an artist and writer. Lindsay is currently hard at work on several new projects, including the next book in the Becoming Darkness trilogy. www.lindsaybrambles.com/ or on Twitter at @LBrambles.

Learn more Publisher Facebook | Publisher Twitter | Goodreads | Author Twitter | Publisher Pinterest

Giveaway Details

4 winners will each receive an advanced reader copy of BECOMING DARKNESS. US and Canada only.

Entering is simple, just fill out the entry form below. Winners will be announced on this site and in our monthly newsletter (sign up now!) within 30 days after the giveaway ends.

During each giveaway, we ask entrants a question pertaining to the book. Here is the question they'll be answering in the comments below for extra entries: Where does Sophie Harkness live?

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20688. Giveaway: Alive by Chandler Baker (US Only)


by Chandler Baker

Release Date: June 9, 2015



About the Book

Stella Cross's heart is poisoned. After years on the transplant waiting list, she's running out of hope that she'll ever see her eighteenth birthday. Then, miraculously, Stella receives the transplant she needs to survive.

Determined to embrace everything she came so close to losing, Stella throws herself into her new life. But her recovery is marred with strange side effects: Nightmares. Hallucinations. A recurring pain that flares every day at the exact same moment. Then Stella meets Levi Zin, the new boy on everyone's radar at her Seattle prep school. Stella has never felt more drawn to anyone in her life, and soon she and Levi can barely stand to be apart.

Stella is convinced that Levi is her soul mate. Why else would she literally ache for him when they are apart?

After all, the heart never lies...does it?

To learn more about this book and see our review, go HERE.

b2ap3_thumbnail_Chandler-author-photo.jpgAbout the Author

Chandler Baker got her start ghostwriting novels for teens and tweens before turning to her own stories. She grew up in Florida, went to college in Pennsylvania, and studied law in Texas where she now lives with her husband. Although she loves spinning tales with a touch of horror, she is a much bigger scaredy-cat than her stories would lead you to believe. You can visit her online atwww.chandlerbaker.com.

Learn more Website | Twitter | Goodreads | Youtube


Giveaway Details

One winner will receive a copy of ALIVE. US only.

Entering is simple, just fill out the entry form below. Winners will be announced on this site and in our monthly newsletter (sign up now!) within 30 days after the giveaway ends.

During each giveaway, we ask entrants a question pertaining to the book. Here is the question they'll be answering in the comments below for extra entries: What do you think of the cover & synopsis?

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20689. TOLJA! Tokyopop is back with publishing plans


As I noted a few weeks back, Tokyopop, the company that came in changed comics and then crashed and burned, suspending publication for the most part back in 2011, is coming back as announced on a panel at Anime Expo with plans to begin publishing again in 2016″ announced by founder Stu Levy.

The company is seeking to license “hidden gems that are not yet noticed” from small or independent publishers.

In addition, Tokyopop plans to publish art books and collectors editions, and will consider light novels.

The company’s once-ambitious media plans continue with 20 properties—including Knockouts and Riding Shotgun— in development and a series of vidoes on the Tokyopop YouTube channel. Other plans include an anime review series on YouTube, “Pop Comics” a sharing app for iOS and Android for community sharing of comics.

This move was met with a mix of curiosity and hostility online which you can see developing in this ANN comment thread. While some former fans hoped for Tokyopop to finish series that were left hanging in 2011, others recalled the past sins of the company and vowed never to give Levy another penny.

If you’re wondering about the sins—which I covered in detail over the years—a tweet from Darryl Ayo sums it up:

One of the more interesting things about Tokyopop’s new plans is that when users upload their own comics to the “Pop Comics” app “Users keep the copyright and 100% creative control of their uploaded works.” according to ANN. This was not always the case with Tokyopop, and much of the animus towards the company stems from their publishing history of signing up a lot of original creations by very young creators and refusing to give them the rights back, despite being long OOP (although the rights CAN be purchased back.) Among those creators: Brandon Graham, Becky Cloonan, Felipe Smith, Amy Reeder, Svetlana Chmakova, Rivkah la Fille….yeah kinda a pretty good lineup of people. Most of them don’t even like talking about their Tokyopop experiences any more but a few do:

You can read our past coverage of the company as it happened here. And Brigid Alverson has her own summation post right here. But I’d like to list a few contemporaneous accounts for those who want to revisit history via blog posts.

Tokyopop: Hey, dude, totally bad contract!
Tokyopop: the other side
Yet more on Tokyopop
Tokyopop letter to creators
Yet MORE Tokyopop stuff
Platinum and Tokyopop drama continues
Mystery solved: why would anyone sign that Tokyopop Manga Pilot Program contract?
Pavia updates Tokyopop
More on KING CITY’s move
Tokyopop follow-up: Is Stuart Levy the Charlie Sheen of comics?
Tokyopop updates: Who owns what
Must read: Chuck Austen’s advice to Tokyopop creators: ‘Move on’
Can creators really get their books back from Tokyopop?
Plus, Becky Cloonan on never being able to finish her East Coast Rising book.
The first blog post of 2011, or How Cannonball Joe Quelled the Suffocating Death

There’s lot more if you Google around (god people were so loose lipped back in the day! In this day of FB and Twitter no one says anything!). This is not to say that Tokyopop might not come back with a new resolve and a business plan that’s 2015-ready. But at the very least some acknowledgement of past mistakes and a pledge to do things differently would be a great way to get a fresh start.

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20690. Flamingo

Trying some new things

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20691. Airboy #2 criticized by GLAAD for transphobic storyline

When creators James Robinson and Greg Hinkle showed me a copy of the first issue of Airboy back at NYCC last year, my jaw dropped. A fourth-wall breaking 8 1/2 storyline about two creators bringing back a Golden Age hero while engaging in all sorts of drug taking, alcohol abusing and balls-out (and shown) sexual experimentation…yep something to cause comment. While the first issue got some buzz going, the second issue, which went on sale this week, has unfortunately ignited a firestorm over a storyline that many have condemned as transphobic.

In the issue, Robinson and Hinkle (who are the stars of the comic) are out on a bender and take Airboy to a bar populated by many trans women. Robinson’s character uses the t-word many times, and then Robinson and Airboy go into bathroom stalls for oral sex with the trans women. Robinson has no regrets for drunken bathroom sex, but the old timey, naive Airboy is angered and confused when he finds out that that lady was no lady.

If this all sounds like typical bro-comedy…it is. And it’s also old and tired. And gross and possibly dangerous. Emma Houxbois was the first to criticize the storyline at the LGBTQ site The Rainbow Hub and was the first of many to call out the disconnect between Image’s rainbow twitter icon and ongoing public call for diversity and this transphobic storyline:

I mean, really. Image Comics has a rainbow background on their Twitter account right now. The day before they’re set to release a comic where one of their writers himself is drawn mercilessly and repeatedly using a transmisogynist slur, degrading trans women by portraying us both as sex objects and a carnival sideshow to be gawked at, and then topping it off by completely ungendering us. To what end? To use us as a symbol of the fall of western civilization to drive Airboy into a furious rage? To give Robinson the world weary asshole street cred he’s so desperate to peddle as an excuse for not having anything interesting to say? There’s no voice, no agency, no humanity to any of the trans women in this comic. Just an open mouth to fuck or a penis to gawk at. Robinson and Hinkle have clearly proven themselves to be worth about as much of my time as a pair of used condoms floating in a toilet. It’s a distraction to target and shame hacks like them who stoop to this level for a cheap thrill

The outrage spread from there. If your’e telling yourself this is just another tempest in a teapot, I think (the much missedfrom these pages) Laura Sneddon has a must read post that addresses many of the defenses of the issue, starting with the one that Robinson and Hinkle are portrayed in anything but a favorable light in the book:

First up, the characters of James and Greg are portrayed as complete assholes. A pair of idiots who stumble from one drug to the next with their dicks hanging out, literally.

In many works of fiction, asshole characters requires asshole behaviour. But in the case of Airboy this is not merely asshole behaviour, instead it is harmful behaviour. Trans folk are one of the most oppressed communities in our society today – and not only do they have to deal with hateful behaviour from cis people, but also from their LGB allies.

Not only do they have to deal with hate but the very real threat of violence and murder. I made the error of thinking that asshole characters excuse asshole behaviour and but that simply does not apply to transmisogynistic slurs/tropes. I  apologise for my wilful idiocy, and thank those that called me out. I don’t ever want to recommend something hurtful! Comics that hurt people, that perpetuate damaging tropes, should not be acceptable in this day and age. Thinking that it’s part of the characterisation or context presumes that everyone reading the comic is cis or that folk who are reminded of the fear they feel daily should just get over it. That slur is still all too commonly used (recently by John Barrowman for example) and nobody should have to deal with that in a comic.

If you have any doubts that this story is truly offensive and dangerous, even GLAAD took time to explain why and denounce it:

This trope is particularly dangerous, as trans women are often violently assaulted by men who feel they’ve been “deceived.” In the past six months, nine transgender women have been murdered in the United States.

Robinson’s previous work on Starman and Earth 2 has included multi-dimensional gay male characters. In fact, both received GLAAD Media Award nominations for Outstanding Comic Book. Not to mention that Image Comics is currently publishing at least two books with interesting trans characters: Wicked + Divine by Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie, and Trees by Warren Ellis and Jason Howard.

It is disappointing that Robinson would create such a transphobic scene when he’s been an ally on gay issues. And even more disappointing that Image Comics would damage its own reputation for publishing strong trans characters by allowing this scene to appear in this issue.

“It’s shocking in 2015 that a publisher would allow this type of transphobic scene to be associated with its brand,” said Nick Adams, GLAAD’s Director of Programs, Transgender Media. “Robinson and Hinkle repeat the outdated, stereotypical attitudes toward transgender women that the rest of America is quickly leaving behind.”

The Mary Sue has TWO articles about Airboy up, including one by trans writer Marcy Cook that explains why this is dangerous:

Defending this comic as cool or a great story is an act of willful blindness, the constant abuse that trans people receive from media and from society is killing us. With a 41% suicide rate this is the literal truth. I’m sick of being a punching bag, of having to explain why things are bad all the time, of trotting out that suicide statistic. And I’m utterly sick of cisgender guys saying ‘Oh this isn’t bad, I don’t see what the fuss is about.’ You can go to Twitter now and see leading comic creators saying exactly that. This lack of empathy and an attitude of ‘I’m alright so you should be’ is wrong. It’s really sad to see it coming from comic professionals.

And Nick Hanover at Loser City decries the tired nature of the tropes:

Removing quality from the equation altogether, is Airboy’s “boys will be boys” story something that is in danger of disappearing from culture? Judd Apatow’s empire of films by and for man children behaving badly doesn’t seem to be hurting for sales, and Two and a Half Men remains one of the most successful television series in history. You don’t have to look very hard to find works like Airboy, but you would have to look much harder to find a comic or, hell, a work in any medium that treats trans culture fairly.

I reached out to Robinson for comment and he has yet to reply, however, he is working on one:

MEANWHILE, the most radical reaction of all came from another Beat comrade, Brett Schenker, who organized an action at Graphic Policy called for the book to bepulled from the shelves because of the transphobic elements that reinforce prejudice:

This is not a call for censorship. James Robinson and Greg Hinkle have a right to create whatever they’d like, and we have as much of a right to show our disdain for that. Speech doesn’t mean protection from consequences. Image has the right to exercise their speech and pull the comic, and actually show they believe in the words and beliefs they claim they uphold.

The Rainbow Hub also tweeted about the dangers:

So that’s where we’re at right now. Do I believe that Airboy #2 presents a tired, unnecessary storyline? I sure do. The idea of the old out of touch guy who has sex with a trans woman and then freaks out is right out of the aging sitcom playbook. This may have been a storyline that people once thought was edgy, but we’re in the midst of a huge consciousness raising about trans people, gender fluidity, and in general the non binary nature of sexual roles. Greater social acceptance for trans people is definitely a civil rights movement that’s growing quickly.

And it comes in the face of very troubling statistics for both murder and suicide of trans women, especially women of color. I am very sad to say that I am personally acquainted with this terrible toll. So the “recall” of Airboy #2 could be something like a recall for a faulty airbag…ignorance can kill in this case.

All that said, as a baby boomer, my hackles go up at any call for the removal of public art. We don’t know if violent media causes violence, but the media does reinforce dangerous beliefs and prejudice and these ideas need to be identified and called out. I personally don’t think Airboy #2 is hate speech —it’s more planned self loathing than anything—and Robinson’s character is actually fond of the woman he had sex with:
So there is a bit more nuance than the previous stories might indicate and suggest the intent was not as harmful as the execution….but, once again, this does not outweigh the unfortunate transphobic elements of the story and the dangerous nature of these tropes.

And you know what, most importantly of all, as a cis woman, my opinion on this doesn’t really matter. It’s not my call to make. And the people who do matter have spoken.

After the Graphic Policy piece went up, people on twitter were using the words boycott, pull and ban interchangeably. They all mean different things, peeps. I PERSONALLY don’t support censorship of non hate speech, but if people want to boycott this book or Image Comics, they should. And we should all promote more education about trans issues and more talking about the POSITIVE treatment of trans people in comics. And more being kind to each other in general.

I’ll update this post when Robinson’s statement is released.

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20692. First Batman: Arkham Knight DLC Detailed

WB Games have confirmed what will be the first piece of downloadable content for their blockbuster Batman: Arkham Knight. If you’ve already 100% completed the game and are hovering around aimlessly waiting to activate the Knightfall protocol, fret not; season pass holders will be able to play a prequel Batgirl story at no additional cost on July 14. Batgirl: A Matter of Family will be a story of the Barbra Gordon version of the character before the events of Arkham Asylum.


Taking place in a new location and just as with Arkham Knight’s story, parts of this prequel DLC will see Batgirl tandem brawl alongside Robin and include a new hacking mechanic. Don’t worry about getting a one-round sized DLC like the Harley Quinn launch pack; the Batgirl DLC will include several side quests.

If you want an idea of what the DLC’s story may be about then look no further than the main game itself. When inside the clock tower, and a few other parts of Gotham, several newspapers can be found with a headline that reads “Batgirl Saves Police Commissioner”.

It should also be noted the DLC is credited to WB Montreal and not Arkham Knight developer, Rocksteady. If you recall, WB Montreal were the studio behind the Arkham Origins game.

Season pass holders will be able to download the new pack for free on July 14. A week later on July 21 the content will be available as standalone for $6.99. Currently the only platforms listed are PS4 and Xbox One.

What Batgirl skins would you like to see in the game?

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20693. Annecy 2015: Thoughts From a First-Time Attendee

Observations and tips from a first-time attendee of the world's largest animation festival.

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20694. Giveaway: Made You Up by Francesca Zappia (US & Canada Only)

Made You Up

by Francesca Zappia

Release Date: May 19, 2015



About the Book

Reality, it turns out, is often not what you perceive it to be—sometimes, there really is someone out to get you. Made You Up tells the story of Alex, a high school senior unable to tell the difference between real life and delusion. This is a compelling and provoking literary debut that will appeal to fans of Wes Anderson, Silver Linings Playbook, and Liar.

Alex fights a daily battle to figure out the difference between reality and delusion. Armed with a take-no-prisoners attitude, her camera, a Magic 8-Ball, and her only ally (her little sister), Alex wages a war against her schizophrenia, determined to stay sane long enough to get into college. She’s pretty optimistic about her chances until classes begin, and she runs into Miles. Didn't she imagine him? Before she knows it, Alex is making friends, going to parties, falling in love, and experiencing all the usual rites of passage for teenagers. But Alex is used to being crazy. She’s not prepared for normal.

Funny, provoking, and ultimately moving, this debut novel featuring the quintessential unreliable narrator will have readers turning the pages and trying to figure out what is real and what is made up.

To learn more about this book and see our review, go HERE.

b2ap3_thumbnail_fran.jpgAbout the Author

Francesca Zappia lives in Indiana, graduated from the University of Indianapolis with a degree in Computer Science, and still isn't sure exactly how that happened. She spends most of her time writing, reading, drawing, watching anime, and playing way too much Pokémon.

Learn more Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | Tumblr | Pinterest


Giveaway Details

One winner will receive one finished hardback copy of the book. US & Canada only.

Entering is simple, just fill out the entry form below. Winners will be announced on this site and in our monthly newsletter (sign up now!) within 30 days after the giveaway ends.

During each giveaway, we ask entrants a question pertaining to the book. Here is the question they'll be answering in the comments below for extra entries: What would you do if you couldn’t tell reality from delusion?

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20695. Giveaway: Wanted Series by Erin Johnson (US Only)

About the Books


WANTED: Grace and the Guiltless (Book 1)

by Erin Johnson

Release Date: August 1, 2014

As the first book in the new young-adult series Wanted, Grace and the Guiltless is an edge-of-your-seat, gripping thrill ride. Set in the Wild West, the book piggybacks on the success of the strong female character in “True Grit,” and presents Grace Milton, a character whose once-peaceful life on a horse ranch outside Tombstone, Arizona, is shattered in one devastating night.

Her family is brutally murdered by the notorious Guiltless Gang, leaving Grace the only survivor. Trekking into the wilderness on her stallion, Grace falls ill from the elements. A young man named Joe saves her life by taking her to an Apache camp where she learns about their way of life and begins to fall for Joe. When Grace encounters one of the Guiltless Gang, her strength will be tested. Can she survive as a bounty hunter, or will she fall into darkness again? This Western revenge epic will captivate teen readers with its ruthless spirit of suspense and adventure and a powerful central romance.



WANTED: Her Cold Revenge (Book 2)     

by Erin Johnson

Release Date: August 1, 2015

The second book in the gripping Wanted series, this Western revenge epic is a must-read for teen readers who are fans of relentless action, wild horses and heart-wrenching romance.

Grace Milton has only one goal: bring to justice the Guiltless Gang, the outlaws who slaughtered her parents and siblings. That’s why she had to abandoned Joe and her Apache friends. She couldn’t afford any distractions. Now, she’s on her own making her living in Arizona as one of the only female bounty hunters in the Wild West, despite the doubts and protests of others. But when Joe shows up in town, Grace is torn. Feelings she thought she had left behind are rekindled, and the passion threatens to pull her away from her mission. But soon rumors surface that two members of the Guiltless Gang are nearby, planning a daring train robbery, and now Grace is faced with an impossible choice. Will she stay with Joe and forget her vendetta, or risk everything – her love, her life – to fulfill her all-consuming need for vengeance?

To learn more about these books and see our reviews, go HERE and HERE.

b2ap3_thumbnail_Erin_Johnson.jpgAbout the Author

Erin Johnson grew up watching classic western movies with her father, which fueled her lifelong love of horseback riding. She's always dreamed of being a fierce-talking cowgirl, but writing about one seemed like the next best thing. She loves to travel, paint, ride motorcycles and teach, and lives in North Carolina.

Learn more Publisher Facebook | Publisher Twitter | Book 1 on Goodreads | Order the Book | Book 2 on Goodreads | Order the Book | Wattpad

Giveaway Details

4 winners will each receive a finished copy of GRACE AND THE GUILTLESS & HER COLD REVENGE. US only.

Entering is simple, just fill out the entry form below. Winners will be announced on this site and in our monthly newsletter (sign up now!) within 30 days after the giveaway ends.

During each giveaway, we ask entrants a question pertaining to the book. Here is the question they'll be answering in the comments below for extra entries: What is Grace Milton’s chosen career?

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20696. Summer House with Swimming Pool

Creepy and disturbing, Koch's Summer House with Swimming Pool is the story of one family and their unraveling one summer. Staying with an insufferable actor at his summer home, Dr. Marc Schlosser's vacation choice for his family is a dire one. As things begin to degrade and then worsen to disaster, Dr. Schlosser begins to think [...]

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20697. Two too many?

Question: I've been working on a story for a while when I got the thought that the main character (Brooklynn) should die at the end. At first I thought

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20698. Lost in the Sun (2015)

Lost in the Sun. Lisa Graff. 2015. Penguin. 304 pages. [Source: Library]

It's funny how the simplest thing, like riding your bike to the park the way you've done nearly every summer afternoon since you ditched your training wheels, can suddenly become so complicated. If you let it.  

Lost in the Sun reminded me of Speak in some ways. Trent Zimmerman is a disturbed sixth grader who has trouble dealing with something traumatic that happened in his past. He uses art--a journal--to express his feelings, for art comes easier than words. His art is disturbing, violent. Trent feels undeserving. He doesn't deserve friends, so he thinks. He doesn't deserve to be happy. Which, for Trent, means that he shouldn't be playing sports. He feels he owes it to the past--to what happened--to be miserable and to feel the pain of that moment every moment after. Trent also has some major anger issues with his Dad.

Lost in the Sun is a good read, a serious one. My favorite thing about Lost in the Sun was the friendship between Trent and Fallon Little, 'the girl with the scar.' Fallon and Trent are so good for one another. The movie club was such a cute element of this one. As was his watering plants for the teacher that he hated oh-so-much at the start of this one.

I thought Lost in the Sun was well written. It's a compelling read that felt realistic. I think if you like sports--baseball especially--then this one will have any more appeal. (I'm not a sports fan, but, I enjoyed it anyway).

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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20699. Pete The Cat's Train Trip (2015)

Pete The Cat's Train Trip (I Can Read) James Dean. 2015. HarperCollins. 32 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Pete the Cat is going to visit his grandma. He gets to ride on a train. Pete's mom buys three tickets. She gives one to Pete and one to his brother, Bob.

Premise/plot: Pete and his family (his mom and his brother) are on their way to visit Grandma. They are traveling by train, of course. Will Pete have a great time on the train?!

My thoughts: I do love Pete the Cat!!! And train books are always in demand it seems! So the combination should prove appealing. I certainly enjoyed it. Perhaps not as much as Pete the Cat and His Four Groovy Buttons or Pete the Cat I Love My White Shoes. This book does not have a song like the earliest Pete the Cat books. But Pete is a lovable character that I still adore.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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20700. 48 days, day 19-20: field trip, unwrinkling

{{ I am chronicling 48 days of writing before my July 31 travel. If you are chronicling your summer writing/days and would like to share, please link or comment so we can all cheer one another through. Strength to your sword arm! }}

Two days off. I'm took my Fourth vacation early. Jim and I plan to work through the July Fourth weekend. We often do this sort of thing in order to avoid crowds, and because it often works better with our schedules, the writer and the musician. I've always told my kids that I'm not particular about celebrating holidays on a pre-arranged culturally-approved day (although I do love birthdays!), and I like making my own holidays.

Although I must say, I loved all the Fourths we spent at Antietam Battlefield with the National Symphony Orchestra, and the Fourths we spent at Baker Park in Frederick, MD., and even the Fourth I spent with Lisa and Jason on the George Washington Parkway in 1976, with thousands of other stranded motorists hoping to get downtown on the National Mall for the Bicentennial Fourth. We did go to the Mall for years, for concerts, for Fourths, when my first two kids were little and we lived closer to D.C. Oh-so-many years ago.

On Wednesday (day 19) we said goodbye to Roger, who has worked here -- off and on -- for almost a year, doing odd jobs and necessary jobs and major foundation work and much-needed water management on our little property. We worked with Roger on Wednesday as he finished a brick walkway so we could get from the front to back yards with a wheelbarrow (and on foot), and we moved mulch and bricks.

There's still a lot to do here, but Roger got us started, the trees are down (still plenty up), sun shines on the yard, the water flows away from the house, and we can keep going with the edible landscape project now. We'll see Roger again this fall.

Yesterday we went out out OUT. My mind needed a rest. So after we put our bodies to work on Wednesday in the yard, we took off on Thursday and went berry picking and then swimming at Hard Labor Creek State Park. We've been to Hard Labor Creek before, and remembered it as a sandy-bottomed lake with good floating. Still is.

The heavens opened up as we slid into the cool lake water, and we got drenched as we ran out and gathered our things, waited out the storm in the van, and then, when the skies were sunny again, got back in the lake for a long float and chat and swim and silence. Almost no one else was there.

We took back roads on our trip, so it took us a long time to wend our way home. We had a good meal at the Blue Willow Inn in Social Circle before our blueberry picking at Hard Labor Creek Blueberry Farm, and we had breakfast for supper on the way home at a diner that caught our eye. We got lost in Jersey, Georgia, in the middle of nowhere, where our Waze app took us down dirt roads. But I got that great capture of "Final Draft" that's on the masthead now -- whatever this place is... there are winches and contraptions out front that make it look like a construction or equipment repair place. I've been looking for a new photo for the blog, FB, and Twitter, now that REVOLUTION is well-launched, so getting lost was a plus.

Today, day 21, I'm back at work on Rachel, mind rested, words on the page. Let's see if I can get to the end of a revision. I'll bet I can. Sometimes you just need to get away, to unwrinkle your mind. And this is our favorite way: pick a place and go. Field trip!

Happy Independence Day to all! xoxo

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