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Results 1 - 25 of 229,633
1. Laura Ljungkvist's SEARCH AND SPOT ANIMALS - Guest Post

Search and Spot, Animals!
by Laura Ljungkvist

      I can’t believe that search Search and Spot, Animals! Is my tenth book. It takes such a long time between completion and publication of a book, that getting the box with your 20 copies is a moment full of excitement and a little angst. What if I don’t like it?
      Going back to my editorial illustrating days, I always had a hard time looking at my things after they are just published in a publication or wherever it was. I am so hard on myself. So, after a quick glance, I put it away in a drawer in my flat files and when some time had passed and I look at it again, I can be more neutral and less emotional.
      So it was with sweaty palms that I opened the box Houghton, Mifflin, Harcourt. What if the colors were off. What if the bugs were impossible to find, what if….?
      Of my ten published children’s books, 9 are written by me. I was asked to illustrate Mem Fox's book, Yoo-Hoo, Lady Bug! a couple of years ago. It writing, it was a “search and find book but with Mem’s beautiful” writing. I enjoyed doing that so much that I got the idea to do my own “search and find book”.
      One of my teachers in art school once said to me that I have a fear of white space. He was right. If you look at my body of work, the art tends to fill up the space. As a child I was drawing patterns and obsessively filling page after page.
      I also drew lots of animals, especially horses. I have many, many animal drawings, in my drawers going back to my childhood. So, my “search and find” book was going to be a work of love – patterns and animals! Voila – Search and Spot, Animals!
           When everything has been approved and agreed on with my publishers team on a book project, it usually takes me about 3 months to do all the final artwork for a children’s book.
      However, my first 2 children’s books are painted in gouache, and it took me a whole day just to paint half a background or the pattern on a dress. When I got a MAC computer and started working in Photoshop things went much faster. Unless I scan in a drawing made on paper, I have a drawing tablet with a special pen that acts just like a mouse, so I am still drawing, I’m just using a different pen - “Digitally drawn”!
      Very often I find that things “come to me”, and I get ideas and inspiration as I am working and going to final on a book. That’s why I try keep sketches quite general, so I am not too “locked in” but can allow those ideas to flourish.
      One of my favorite spreads in the book are the horses. That spread is a perfect example of doing something that I think is beautiful, and getting that extra idea for the text, concept and questions as I am working.
     I like the challenge on this spread. Readers are asked to find different colored horses. Some horses have a solid color and some are drawn in just a line. Could lead to some interesting questions for children? I a horse really pink if it’s drawn with a just a pink line?
      And then there are the dogs! Try and find the photographed French Bulldog!

     My goal was to make different kinds of challenges for the reader. In some searches you have to turn the page and find what you are asked to look for on the next spread. In some cases there are some animals shown and you have to find them on the same spread. Then there are searches were you are told in the text what to look for.
      And then, there is my favorite thing that I try to do in all my books. One final search that makes the reader go back and search through the whole book again! So much fun!
      The follow up to “Animals!” is just completed, Search and Spot, Go! It’s full of boats, helicopters, busses, bikes and tractors. So now I’m waiting to open open another package with sweaty palms - test prints (or f&g’s as we say).
     Oh, BTW, I loved “Animals!” when I opened the box! It accomplished just what I set out to do and I had so much fun doing it!
Check out Laura's groovy studio space with her dog Lola:

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2. Wordless Wednesday!

It may be late in the day, but I'm participating in Wordless Wednesday from Comedy Plus.

Wordless Wednesday is "a simple blog post featuring a photo which conveys a message that speaks for itself without using words." 

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3. Computer History

Computer History सुनने में बेशक अजीब लगे पर एक समय ऐसा था जब बहुत लोगों ने कम्प्यूटर का नाम ही नही सुना था . उन्हें लेख के माध्यम से बताना पडता था कि कम्प्यूटर क्या होता है… दैनिक नवज्योति, जयपुर से प्रकाशित बच्चों के लिए लेख Computer History

The post Computer History appeared first on Monica Gupta.

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4. कहानी

कहानी सिमटते दायरे बहुत साल पहले लिखी कहानी है इसमे चित्रण है साधारण परिवार के मेधावी बच्चे  का . जो कक्षा की परीक्षा में तो हमेशा अव्वल आता है पर जिंदगी की परीक्षा मे बहुत पीछे रह जाता है. कहानी

The post कहानी appeared first on Monica Gupta.

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5. Presidential Polar Bear Post Card Project No. 28 - 11.25.15

0 Comments on Presidential Polar Bear Post Card Project No. 28 - 11.25.15 as of 11/26/2015 8:23:00 AM
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6. बिग बॉस डबल ट्रबल

बिग बॉस डबल ट्रबल मैं अपनी सहेली मणि की tolerance के आगे नत मस्तक हूं क्योकि वो टीवी के सीरियल BIG BOSS-9 डबल ट्रबल को सीरियस होकर देखती है. इस बार मुझे एक भी पोंईट ऐसा नही मिला कि BIG BOSS देखा जाए. हैरानी है कि प्रतिभागी खुद ही रहना नही चाहते और जो आऊट […]

The post बिग बॉस डबल ट्रबल appeared first on Monica Gupta.

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7. It's live!! Cover Reveal: South of Sunshine by Dana Elmendorf + Giveaway (US/Canada)

Happy Wednesday, YABC! Are our US readers ready for Thanksgiving tomorrow?!

Today we're super excited to celebrate the cover reveal for SOUTH OF SUNSHINE by Dana Elmendorf, releasing April 1, 2016 from Albert Whitman & Company: AW Teen. Before we get to the cover, here's a note from Dana:

Hey, YABC! I’ve waited for this day for so long, and now I finally get to share SOUTH OF SUNSHINE’s cover with y’all. I have so much love for this story and my characters.  LGBT romances are so underrepresented, and I’m glad my book is finding a place in the world. The overall feel of the cover perfectly captures the romance and southern setting. The title treatment is absolutely gorgeous. And I’m so glad my publisher made the decision to put two girls on the cover. It’s done in such a classy way, and I couldn’t be prouder.
~ Dana Elmendorf (SOUTH OF SUNSHINE, Albert Whitman & Company: AW Teen)



Ready to see?

Scroll, YABCers! Scroll!


































Here it is!



*** If you choose to share this image elsewhere, please include a courtesy link back to this page so others can enter Dana's giveaway. Thank you! ***



by Dana Elmendorf
Release date: April 1, 2016
Publisher: Albert Whitman & Company: AW Teen
ISBN: 978-0807575680
About the Book
What is Kaycee willing to risk for the sake of love? And what will she risk for acceptance? 
In Sunshine, Tennessee, the main event in town is Friday night football, the biggest party of the year is held in a field filled with pickup trucks, and church attendance is mandatory. For Kaycee Jean McCoy, life in Sunshine means dating guys she has no interest in, saying only “yes, ma’am” when the local bigots gossip at her mom’s cosmetics salon, and avoiding certain girls at all costs. Girls like Bren Dawson. 
Unlike Kaycee, Bren doesn’t really conceal who she is. But as the cool, worldly new girl, nobody at school seems to give her any trouble. Maybe there’s no harm if Kaycee gets closer to her too, as long as she can keep that part of her life a secret, especially from her family and her best friend. But the more serious things get with Bren, the harder it is to hide from everyone else. Kaycee knows Sunshine has a darker side for people like her, and she’s risking everything for the chance to truly be herself.
To learn more about this book and see our review, go HERE.

b2ap3_thumbnail__DSC0603-1.jpgAbout the Author

Born and raised in small town in Tennessee, Dana now lives in southern California with her husband, two boys and her tiny dog Sookie. When she isn’t exercising, she can be found geeking out with Mother Nature or scouring the internet for foreign indie bands. After her family’s needs are met, you can find her dreaming up contemporary YA romances with plenty of kissing.

Twitter | Web | Facebook | Goodreads | Tumblr | Instagram | Pre-order Amazon


Giveaway Details

Five winners will each receive a signed ARC of SOUTH OF SUNSHINE (when available). 

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 about the cover and synopsis?

Click the Rafflecopter link below to enter the giveaway:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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We Izzy Elves are not QUITE sure why, but starting today, Deedy (that's Dorothea Jensen to you) is giving away Kindle e-books of our Tizzy's story FOR FREE!

Here's the magic link:


Tizzy has mixed feelings about this, to say the least.  He wonders why the other three stories, Blizzy, the Worrywart Elf; Dizzy, the Stowaway Elf; and Frizzy, the S.A.D. Elf, are not free, too.

He worries that Somebody thinks his story isn't worth anything. We explained that whenever Somebody gives a book away as a gift, that means Somebody thinks it is EXTRA valuable.

We also told him that his story will only be given away as a gift until Monday. After that people will have to pay to buy it again. That made him feel better.  We think.

Of course, his story is also on Kindle Select for awhile, so some people will be able to read it for free, but the rest of us Izzies decided not to tell Tizzy that until we know how to explain it better.

Anyway, here is the magic link again.  Just in case.



Blizzy, Dizzy, Frizzy, Quizzy, Whizzy, Fizzy, and Bizzy

(Yes, we know that we didn't include Tizzy in our sign-off. That's because he doesn't know about this post. Shhh!)

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9. Time for the Black Swagday Giveaway Extravaganza!!!

I can't believe it's already time for my annual Black Swagday Giveaway--but.... *double checks calendar*....Yep! THE TIME HAS COME!

(*whispers* If anyone can figure out how to pause time, that'd be AWESOME. kthanxbai)

Since this is the time of year where everyone has gifts on their minds--and I personally feel that books are THE BEST gifts anyone can give--I love doing this giveaway to help you guys make your gifts even more special (and btw--gifts for yourself totally count). But it only lasts for a few days so don't miss your chance!

So here's how this works.

If you buy any of my books (Keeper of the Lost Cities, Exile, Everblaze, Neverseen, Let the Sky Fall, and/or Let the Storm Break*) this weekend--which just so happens to be the biggest shopping weekend of the year, between Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday--and fill out the form at the end of this post, I will send you the corresponding swag pack below.

*I'm not including pre-orders of Let the Wind Rise because I'll be doing a separate giveaway for that closer to the book's release

And here's what's up for grabs:

If you buy any of the KEEPER books and fill out the form, I'll send you this*:

- a signed bookplate 
- a signed, limited edition Verdi art print
- a Black Swan sticker
- a 5x7 character art print (featuring the awesome illustrations by Courtney Godbey)

AND, if you buy more than one KEEPER book, I'll throw in extra goodies as well--and if you want an example of what some of those goodies could be, here's a pic:

(Obviously you won't get everything you see in this pic--but you'll get some of it, chosen randomly at mailing. And the more books you buy, the more you'll get)

And if you buy LET THE SKY FALL and fill out the form, I'll send you this*:

- a LTSF signed bookplate
- a LTSF bookmark
- a LTSF sticker
- a Keep Calm and Let the Sky Fall sticker

AND if you buy LET THE STORM BREAK and fill out the form, I'll send you this*:

 - a LTSB signed bookplate
- a LTSB bookmark
- a LTSB sticker 
- a Keep Calm and Let the Storm Break sticker

All of this swag is only available here and hand signed by me!
*And should supplies run out of any particular item, it will be substituted with a comparable piece of swag

Everyone who fills out the form below between today (11/25/15)  and 11:59 pm pacific time on Monday, 11/30/15 WILL get their swag mailed to whatever address they provide. I'll do my best to have them in the mail straight away, so that you get it in time for whatever you're celebrating. No proof of purchase required. If you say you bought it, I believe you. But remember, every time you lie, it makes Keefe, Fitz, and Dex cry.

It also doesn't matter where you buy the book (though supporting your Local Indie Bookstore guarantees you a life of sunshine and happiness) or if you buy a paperback or a hardcover (ebooks and audiobooks count too!). And you're welcome to buy as many books as you want! (Just make sure you fill out the form accordingly so I know to send you the proper amount of swag).

Giveaway is also open internationally!!!

**Please note** This giveaway ONLY applies to books purchased between 11/25/15-11/30/15, and does NOT include books previously purchased. Of course I super-appreciate if you've bought my books before now, but I've also done previous giveaways that you would've had a chance to take part in (sorry if you missed them). So this is only for new purchases, and if you are desperate for the swag, you could always buy a book to give as a gift (what better gift could there be, really?) and keep the swag for yourself--I won't tell! :)

Um... I *think* that covers everything--but if I missed something, of course feel free to ask any questions you may have in the comments (but make sure you leave those comments in the post on my website, not on goodreads or any of the other places this blog feeds out to, otherwise I won't see them). 

If the form won't load, click HERE to access it. Otherwise scroll down!


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10. and the “groundhog’s dilemma” giveaway winner is . . . [ahem cue drum roll please].


Congratulations to Buffy Silverman! You’ve won your very own copy of Kris Remenar’s debut picture book GROUNDHOG’S DILEMMA. I’m so happy for you! This adorable book will be available in early December, so I’ll pre-order your copy and have it sent your way quick as a bunny on Red Bull.

Bushels of thanks to everyone who visited Frog on a Dime and offered such kind, encouraging comments for Kris. You’re the best! Honest. Cross my heart, hope to die, stick my finger in my nose, I mean, pie.

P.S. Pssst. Buffy, please send me your mailing address and I’ll whisk your prize to you as soon as its available.

groundhogsdilemma (2)

By Kris Remenar, Illustrated by Matt Faulkner, Charlesbridge Publishing


Though the groundhog and crocus creep into their holes
It’s Spring, and the almanac shows it;
Though a polar wave over the continent rolls
It’s Spring! And we don’t care who knows it!
~ Robert J. Burdette, “March,” c.1888

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11. Inventing a Language

When you create a language for your fantasy novel, you want it to sound as if it were real.


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12. My tweets

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The Book of Secrets (Forbidden Books 2) released today (e-book)! Paper should be ready in a week or two!
The world was turning out to be not just a book of secrets, but a whole library full.
Dexter and Daphna Wax have learned incredible secrets. Their mother was thousands of years old and on a Council devoted to destroying the First Tongue. And there are connivers, like Asterious Rash, who would do anything to learn Words of Power. They also know the Words were hidden in the Book of Nonsense.
But now it’s out of their hands, and they may not survive long enough to get it back.
The twins might stand a chance of completing their mother's mission—if they can get on the same page—but danger looms closer to home than they ever thought possible.
And the new secrets Dex and Daphna uncover are ones they never wanted to know.


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14. Warm vs. Cold

With the thermometer dropping, it's getting a little chilly to paint outdoors.
In this little 4x4 inch gouache study I was thinking about warm vs. cold in terms of color temperature, too. The fading warm sunlight only partially melts into the icebergs of the buildings. 

I'm using three colors plus white here: Prussian blue, burnt sienna, and cadmium yellow.

On a different topic, blog reader Jim Douglas asked:
"After following your creative habits for years now I've gleaned you often make a sketch study of a subject then move on to a new subject to make a fresh start. New sketchbook page, new subject. Sketches, especially ones as excellent as yours, can certainly stand on their own as works of art, but do you ever have the urge to develop a sketch and produce a larger scale work based on it? I've only known you to develop sketches into a larger piece of artwork as part of a commission, and I'm curious to know if you ever follow that rhythm when making art for yourself." 

Jim, thanks for the compliment and question. As you say, my sketchbooks are very much an end in themselves, a way of seeing and sharing the world. I'm not doing those paintings to sell, and am making a living in other ways. The benefit of keeping the paintings bound together in sequence in a sketchbook offsets the limitation of not being able to frame them individually on the wall. 

At the same time my sketchbook paintings (maybe I should call them "studies" rather than "sketches") are valuable to me as a means to at least three other goals. One, of course is video production. The instructional documentaries are one of my primary creative outlets at the moment and an important source of income. I'm also looking into ways of publishing those sketchbooks both digitally and physically. And, of course, I do use my sketchbooks as reference when doing studio work. 

And finally, it's funny you should ask about larger scale works, because I just completed two larger separate paintings that will be the subject of the next video. I haven't really shared those images on the blog yet. They're both concept art pieces created entirely on location. Compared to the little sketchbook pages, 11x14" and 12x16" seemed huge. The new video is in voiceover and final edit and will be released in a few weeks.

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15. The Fine Print

Had a coupon, browsed the shelves
For longer than I’d planned
To find an item worthy of
The discount in my hand.

At last, when something caught my eye,
I joined the line to pay,
With just a few ahead of me –
Quite lucky, I would say.

The cashier gave my phone a glance,
The coupon on the screen,
And pointed out, in tiny print,
The dates I hadn’t seen.

“The pre-Black Friday sale begins
Tomorrow, not today.
You still want this?” he questioned
As I meekly said okay.

I felt like such a sucker
Rushing there to save a buck
When the writer of the fine print
Knew that I’d be out of luck.

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16. Thanksgiving Day Prayer

O God, we thank you for this earth, our home;
For the wide sky and the blessed sun,
For the salt sea and the running water,
For the everlasting hills
And the never-resting winds,
For trees and the common grass underfoot.
We thank you for our senses
By which we hear the songs of birds,
And see the splendor of the summer fields,
And taste of the autumn fruits,
And rejoice in the feel of the snow,
And smell the breath of the spring.
Grant us a heart wide open to all this beauty;
And save our souls from being so blind
That we pass unseeing
When even the common thornbush
Is aflame with your glory,
O God our creator,
Who lives and reigns for ever and ever.
— Walter Rauschenbusch

The post Thanksgiving Day Prayer appeared first on Caroline Starr Rose.

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17. चलो स्कीम बनाए

चलो स्कीम बनाए ये व्यंग्य दैनिक भास्कर में प्रकाशित हुआ. बाजार में त्योहार आते नही कि स्कीमें शुरु हो जाती है. फलां के साथ फलां फ्री आदि  अब शापिंग की शौकीन महिलाओ को स्कीम के तहत कुछ भी फ्री का मिले तो खुश होना स्वाभाविक ही है पर स्कीम का अंत होता क्या है बेशक […]

The post चलो स्कीम बनाए appeared first on Monica Gupta.

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18. Presidential Polar Bear Post Card Project No. 27 - 11.24.15

For Nola, the White Rhino who died November 23rd at the San Diego Zoo. There are now only three remaining White Rhinos left in the world... #Nola4Ever #EndExtinction

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19. विविधता मे एकता

विविधता मे एकता विविधता मे एकता ये हैं मेरी सहेलियां मारिया , जाहिदा और प्रीत कौर … और हम बहुत मिल जुल कर रहती है. वो मुस्लमान हो या ईसाई या फिर पंजाबन … मुझे मजहब नही पता बस इतना पता है कि वो बहुत अच्छी हैं  और एक दूसरे के दुख दर्द  मे काम […]

The post विविधता मे एकता appeared first on Monica Gupta.

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20. The antagonist: Hero or villain?

In many stories, the antagonist may even be more important than your main character. Your main character cannot become sympathetic without an opposing force.

The antagonist is more than just a bad guy who tries to stop the good guy. A good antagonist actually pushes the protagonist to action. The bad guy gives the good guy a reason to behave like a good guy. Because he is so important, your antagonist has to be every bit as real, every bit as well-rounded, as the protagonist.

The Antagonist is Evil


 No. The good antagonist is not evil. OK, he could be, but not for the mere sake of being evil. It's fun to write the bad guy who ties maidens to railroad tracks for fun, and throws the hero's One True Love on to the conveyor belt at the saw mill just because he can. The kind of bad guy who spends his time laughing maniacally while he twirls his 'stache. There's one secret, one thing you need to remember, if you want your antagonist to be truly interesting:

The antagonist honestly believes he is the good guy. Everything he does has a reason, and to him, those reasons are Right. They are Correct. They are Good.

Your good guy needs flaws and your antagonist needs positive characteristics. In some stories, the reader might even start to wonder just which character is the good guy and which is the bad guy. Few characters are as dull as the arch-villain who is evil just because being evil is evil. People aren't like that. Even people with a warped sense of reality (another little secret: we all have a warped sense of reality, shaped by our imperfect perceptions), do things for a reason. There are truly evil actions, and your bad guy might do some of them. But we humans have an almost unending supply of rationalizations for what we do.

A Rebel With a Cause

Your antagonist has his own character arc. Give your antagonist a cause. She wants to accomplish something, wants that more than anything else. And, like your protagonist, she is prepared to do what she has to do to achieve it, because that's what people do when something is of ultimate importance. Even a bad guy who wants to do something truly awful, like blow up a stadium full of innocent people, does it because he believes it has to be done to achieve the end result, which he believes to be for the ultimate good.  
  • Sauron thought he was doing Middle Earth a favor by taking dominion.
  • Saruman thought he was doing good by trying to stop the Black Lord and taking the power himself.
  • Darth Vadar probably saw the Jedi as nefarious upstarts who wanted to thwart his plan to make the universe a better place.

A Hero in His Own Mind

The antagonist believes he's the hero. Your protagonist, who stands in his way, is the villain.

We are both nice people. The last cookie is sitting on the counter. You want it. I want it. Boom: conflict! In my story, you are now a villain because you want what I want.


My favorite example of this principle comes from politics. No matter what your political position is, your side is right and the other side is wrong. Maybe even evil. The thing is, the other side looks at you the same way. Why? Because each side believes it is right. If they were allowed to have their way, the world would be a spectacularly better place. It's the same with your hero and villain.  

Which one is the bad guy?

Molly has a new puppy. This puppy is so naughty. When she takes it for walks, it pulls at the leash and tries to go its own way. It doesn't follow Molly's perfectly reasonable rules. When the puppy runs away, Molly is devastated. How could her puppy be so wicked?

But what is the puppy doing, really? It's being true to its own puppiness. It doesn't understand Molly's unnatural rules. All she does is try to to restrain it and she scolds it for simply being what it is. 

Let your reader sympathize with the villain, and understand why he wants what he wants, and maybe even see his point. If your reader can sympathize with both the hero and the villain, the conflict becomes more real, the stakes are raised, and your reader is more engaged.

Read More About It

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21. Happy Thanksgiving 2015

Wishing you all a Blessed Thanksgiving. 

During this time (and every day) it is important
to reflect and appreciate our blessings...
Small and large.

For living your life with gratitude,
 blessings will be plentiful!

God Bless!


Best wishes,
Donna M. McDine
Multi Award-winning Children's Author

Ignite curiosity in your child through reading!

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Dee and Deb Off They Go Kindergarten First Day Jitters ~ December 2015 ~ Guardian Angel Publishing, Inc.

A Sandy Grave ~ January 2014 ~ Guardian Angel Publishing, Inc. ~ 2014 Purple Dragonfly 1st Place Picture Books 6+, Story Monster Approved, Beach Book Festival Honorable Mention 2014, Reader's Favorite Five Star Review

Powder Monkey ~ May 2013 ~ Guardian Angel Publishing, Inc. ~ 2015 Purple Dragonfly Book Award Historical Fiction 1st Place, Story Monster Approved and Reader's Favorite Five Star Review

Hockey Agony ~ January 2013 ~ Guardian Angel Publishing, Inc. ~ 2015 Purple Dragonfly Book Award Honorable Mention Picture Books 6+, New England Book Festival Honorable Mention 2014, Story Monster Approved and Reader's Favorite Five Star Review

The Golden Pathway ~ August 2010 ~ Guardian Angel Publishing, Inc. ~ Literary Classics Silver Award and Seal of Approval, Readers Favorite 2012 International Book Awards Honorable Mention and Dan Poynter's Global e-Book Awards Finalist

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22. How to Order Signed Books -- The Perfect Gift

Books are a delightful way to brighten the deep midwinter. You can pre-order an autographed copy of Flamecaster (release date 5 April 2016) or order signed copies of any of my other books, hardcover or paperback, through my local independent bookstore,  The Learned Owl Bookstore . Just indicate in the comments how you would like the book to be personalized or signed. Call the store if you have questions about your order.

If you're ordering for holiday giving, get your order in as soon as possible so we can make that magic happen in time.

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23. FOODFIC: Please Welcome Axel Howerton, Author of Hot Sinatra

Coffee is God. Coffee is the Life-bringer.

Coffee is the be-all-goddamn-end-all.

The Alpha and the Omega. That’s what Cole calls it.

At least, that’s how I feel. Me and ol’ Mossimo Cole. We love our beans, man.

Do you know Moss? Tall, good looking dude, lots of tattoos, lots of scars, usually wearing this beat-up old fedora he got off of his grandfather. Lives next door to me. Right down the street there. Chicks dig Moss Cole. He’s one of those tall, dark, and soulful types. What Cole loves? Jazz and a fine ristretto pull.

I know. What the hell is a ristretto? Basically, a ristretto is the first half of an espresso. When you squeeze that water through the tightly-packed grounds of coffee bean dust, forcing it at temperature and pressure to work it’s way down through the earthy mantle of a fine grind, and flood out in a big muddy, a veritable Mississippi of shape and colour. The darkest, smokiest, velvet-smooth, dark chocolate magnificence. Coffee contains over a thousand aromatic compounds, and the best and boldest of them are at their peak when you use that first pull.

You dump that into a demitasse and suck it back, brother that’s a straight ristretto. Drop some water in like an Americano, and we’re talking a Long Black. Moss likes those two ristretto shots split with a lovely cloud of foamed milk. Silk and satin, that’s what he calls it. Baby, that’s Flat White right there. 

You better believed you’ve never had a coffee so rich, so flavourful, so damned exquisite.
I used to be a three or four latte-a-day man, licking the caramel scorch-ring off the bottom of a truck-stop pot of joe, if I was having an especially bad morning. Moss showed me the light. He showed me the way. That lady friend of his, the redhead with the stems like polished marble? Rosie.  That was her name. Hot stuff, sweet fancy Moses. Cup of coffee like bountiful naked angels pouring pure sunshine and rainbows straight down your gullet. Haven’t seen her around lately though. Ol’ Moss has been a little down and out. Looks like he’s been run up one side and down the other with one of those riding mowers. Maybe I’d best check in on him.  Been hearing a lot of Chet Baker and not much Satchmo coming out of his place next door.

First things first, I’m feeling a mite slow ‘n’low myself, better shuffle on down to the corner, down to the hipster coffee bar. They got a new girl there, Australian. Mossy says they invented the flat white. She says that too. Says her name’s Pie-Pah, but the tag says Piper. Doesn’t matter what they call her when she can pull a cup of joe like that, I tell ya.

I’ve got a nice crisp ten-spot with her name on it. Pie-Pah.  Of course, ten bucks won’t buy me two large (one now and one for later) plus one for Moss, and leave her with a tip. So I guess Mossy’s on his own. Unless he wants to spot me a cup later. Yeah, he’ll be good for it. He usually is. Right?
Nah. Better not chance it. I’m gonna need that fix later. Alpha and Omega. One now, one for later.

I ain’t gonna argue with the Coffee Gods.

Thanks for stopping by to share your food for thought, Axel!

Axel Howerton is the genre-hopping, punch-drunk author of the horror novella Living Dead at Zigfreidt & Roy, and the darkly funny detective novel Hot Sinatra, which was a finalist for the 2014 Arthur Ellis Award for Best First Novel. His newest novel Furr,available now from Tyche Books is a "modern gothic werewolf story that's part crime novel and part urban fantasy". Axel is the editor of the anthologies Death by Drive-In, Tall Tales of the Weird West and AB Negative. His work has appeared in places like Big Pulp, Fires on the Plain, Steampunk Originals, Night Shade, Dark Eclipse, Sleuth Magazine, and "The Big Lebowski" compendium Lebowski 101, as well as the anthologies A Career Guide to Your Job in Hell and Let It Snow.

When he's not on-duty as a hometown anti-hero, Axel spends most of his time roaming the untamed prairies of Alberta with his two brilliant young sons and a wife that is way out of his league.

            Hot Sinatra is a darkly funny detective novel featuring more coffee, music, romance and action than you can shake a dark chocolate Pirouline at. Available now in paperback, audiobook and ebook. $0.99 ebook sale December 5 – 9! 

You can find Axel here:

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24. Home, Where the Heart Is

I have to thank Simon and Garfunkel for this post which was inspired by their song Homeward Bound.

The lyrics go: “I wish I was homeward bound. Home, where my thought's escaping. Home, where my music's playing. Home, where my love lies waiting silently for me.”

Hopefully, his love isn’t lying there silently because she is dead. If so, it would place the story in the mystery or horror category.

For most, the word “home” conjures warmth and belonging, especially during the American holiday of Thanksgiving. Home can be a place where Dick finds nurturance and love. It can be the place where he feels safe in a world gone mad.

Home can be a place that he longs to return to, a situation he longs to build for himself, or a place he needs to run from instead of to.

What kind of place do your characters call home? What lies in wait for Dick when he gets there? Home can remind Dick of all the things he lost or never had. Family get-togethers may be bitter rather than sweet. If a story problem forces Dick to go home, the game begins.

What if home is full of ghosts, personal demons and the walking dead, either literally or figuratively? Home can be full of mildly or severely dysfunctional people. If Dick’s family home or hometown is filled with addicts and felons, then it isn’t the cheery Hallmark scenario everyone imagines.

Going home can be psychologically or physically damaging. Can he tell anyone what home is truly like for him? Not necessarily. Shame is a huge motivating factor. It may keep Dick from telling anyone just how bad home really is. Even if Dick tells, he might be mildly rebuked for being so hard on his nearest and dearest. Surely it can’t be that bad? Except, it is. When his coworkers are rushing home, eager for the weekend or his schoolmates returning home at the end of school term, it can fill Dick with dread.

Coming from a family with something to hide places Dick in a precarious position. Even if he is brilliant and has a laudable talent or amazing skills, he has to be careful to not allow the spotlight to veer in his direction. It might startle the cockroaches from his past and make them frightened, which can make them dangerous.

Home can be a trigger for a recovering Sally. Most characters long for home. If going home puts Sally at risk for a relapse, it may not be the best place to visit. If the dysfunction that exists there is the thing that made her get high or drunk in the first place, the trigger will always be there, waiting like a land mine to blow up in her face. Sally may have to avoid home as much as she craves it. She will have to find a way to build her own home and that is not an easy thing to do. What if Sally feels more at home somewhere else? As much as her friends or other family members may like her, she isn’t really part of their home. Will they make room for her? Can they? Should they? To what extent?

Home can be full of actual ghosts or zombies. That places the story in the paranormal realm. Can Jane tell anyone? Maybe not. If she has to deal with the paranormal element at home while trying to live a normal life outside of it, Jane has serious conflict. Keeping a secret becomes a prison whether Jane is hiding that her Dad is a serial killer or a faerie King. How far is she pushed? Who could she tell? Who would believe her? How could she prove it? Her life is in danger either way.

What if Dick returns home and finds it markedly changed? He can return from college, a trip abroad, or from living on another coast or planet. What if it isn’t what he remembered? Dick may have a hard time reconciling the idealized version of home with the reality. How do the changes make him feel? Have things improved or gotten much worse. Has the town been invaded by trolls? Maybe Sally and Jane don’t remember things in quite the same way. Maybe Dick is forced to face a completely different “truth” about the way things were. The story can review all the things he thought he remembered and offer a completely different twist.

A fully drawn hero has both a home life and a work life. It’s important to give your reader a glimpse into both. It is unbalanced when we are presented with characters that are never at home or never at work. We don’t need to see every little thing they do at either location, but it helps to understand them if we see how the character operates in both worlds. They are defined by how they navigate the tricky waters both inside and outside the family.

For more on crafting conflict to create tension, pick up a copy of Story Building Blocks II: Crafting Believable Conflict available in paperback and E-book.

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25. How My NaNoWriMo Went

My NaNoWriMo ends today.1 The following is what I thought of the NaNo experience, which let’s be honest, is not aimed at someone like me, who’s already a professional writer with multiple novels already published for whom writing is my job. So take it with a massive grain of salt.

I have been writing every day for 56 days in a row.2 Twenty-five of those days took place during NaNo. Before NaNo I was averaging about 300 words a day. During NaNo I averaged 700 words a day.3

I already knew that gamification works on me. I’ve been using Scriveners’ Project Targets for years so that when I reach my word count goal my program congratulates me. Why, yes, I do take a bow.

Obviously, for me the NaNoWriMo word count goal is too high. It’s been at least a decade since I averaged anything like 1,667 words a day. So I went in with the lower goal of 10k words for the month in mind. I passed that goal on Day 12.

NaNoStatspageI enjoyed watching the word counts of my “writing buddies” going up. There definitely was an increased sense of camaraderie. I am not in this alone! Look at all these other people striving to finish their novels! Look at their bar graphs going up! I would love to have a stats page like the NaNo one for all my novels. I loved that bar graph.

But . . . by the second week the 1,667 words a day expectation was starting to get to me and the ever-increasing words per day in order to finish on time was really freaking me out. The line on the bar graph shows you every day where you’re supposed to be and I was never even close. I only hit 1,667 twice. I was starting to feel like a failure for not hitting 1,667 words a day and falling into the bad habit of typing in order to hit the word count, rather than choosing the right words. I was starting to hate that bar graph.

On day 16 I had a stern talk with myself: Are you a writer, Justine, or are you a typist?

I spent that day reading everything I’d written of this new novel, rearranging and deleting loads of it. It was my best writing day of the month. Not because it was a 1k day but because I was really happy with those words. I’d started to figure out what the novel’s about and where it’s going. I was beaming.

From that day on I went back to my usual practice of starting each writing day by reading over what I wrote the day before, editing it, and only then writing new words. I was back in the rhythm of my novel and feeling happy. I wasn’t thinking about word counts, I was thinking about the novel.

NaNo didn’t work for me because I struggled to get that massive word count goal out of my head. Yes, I wrote more, but much of that excess of words was more typing than writing.

I would have loved NaNoWriMo back when I was a teen writing obsessively and feeling like I was the only one on the planet who was trying to write novels. It would have given me a structure and a community. I would have been in heaven. And, wow, would I have blitzed that measly 1,667 words a day goal. Those were the days when I could write a 5k story in a day without breaking a sweat.4

Also back then I had no clue about rewriting. I thought you were supposed to produce perfection in your first draft. NaNo dedicating January and February to Now What? would have clued me into the whole rewriting thing much much sooner. How lucky you all are!

I won’t be doing NaNo again. I’m too competitive. I really wanted to hit that word count goal even though it would have played havoc with my RSI. Despite my self-pep talk I’m still annoyed I didn’t come close to 50k. But I’m really glad I tried it. I’ve been recommending NaNo for years without actually knowing how it worked. It really is a pretty sweet and easy to use interface.

It’s proven itself over and over again to be just the thing for new writers who keep getting in their own way. Finally, someone is giving them permission to just write! And they do.

It also had the lovely side effect of getting me to check in more frequently with my writer friends on where they are with the latest. Knowing that you’re not alone with your novel, that there other people sweating over theirs, is reassuring. We humans are social creatures. We mostly prefer to suffer together.

The following are some little tweaks I’d love to see on the NaNo pages:

I would love it if you could edit your stats page to put your own word count goal in. Mine would have been 300. It would have made that line on the bar graph far less intimidating.

More writing achievement badges! At the very least one for ever 5k increment would be lovely. The jump from the 10k badge to the 25k badge and then from the 25k one to the 40k one is too steep. More rewards = more better!

I’d also love it if the word counts continued to be visible even after people hit their 50k goal. So instead of just seeing that those writing buddies are WINNERS! you can see that they’ve continued writing. It would be a good reminder that hitting 50k is not the end goal—finishing a novel is. (For those who didn’t know 50k is a very short novel. Most are at least 60k. Razorhurst was 90k. It’s not a long novel.)

TL;DR: NaNo’s fab but didn’t work for me. However, my younger self would’ve loved it.

  1. I’m ending early because I’m off to Adelaide for the historic first day/night test. I can’t wait!
  2. That’s unusual for me. I usually take at least one day off a week but more usually two. I’ve been experimenting to see whether it makes my RSI worse. So far so good. I did have a flare up but that seems to have had more to do with trying a new treatment.
  3. I also stopped blogging for the month of November so the jump in word count is not quite as dramatic as it looks but it’s still pretty dramatic.
  4. Those are the days that led me to having RSI now. But I digress . . .

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