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16176. How to Fix a Broken Zipper

What should you do if you are at a formal event and realize the zipper on your pants is broken? Broken is too light a word – let’s say it has exploded leaving its jagged edges flayed open as a new source of entertainment for the party-goers.

Should you:

A) Act natural – This probably happened to James Bond at some point (the Sean Connery James Bond, none of the imitations). James Bond would hold his martini, look suave, and say something pithy about horse prices. No one would notice.

B) Create a Catch Me If You Can-like diversion. “It’s all about the pinstripes, Frankie.” – I’m not talking about hurting anyone or defacing property. I am thinking more along the lines of spilling red punch all over your shoulder. That way, people say, “Ah, look at Jim. That guys is always making a mess,” instead of, “Is Jim wearing tidy whities? What is he, 8 years old?”

C) Go MacGyver – Borrow a paper clip, lighter, hairspray, and a stick of gum from people around you and create a subminiature welding machine that rigs your zipper so tight you aren’t sure if you’ll ever be able to remove your pants.

D) If you wore underwear, be glad and go with it. If not, run away.

E) Tinker with it in your seat as “discretely” as possible. Zip…unzip. Zip…unzip. Don’t obsess over it. Look up intermittently and pay a modicum of attention to the guest speaker. Zip..unzip. Keep messing with it while those around you give you disgusted looks and shift uncomfortably in their seats. Zip..unzip. Zip…unzip. Why would the disapproval of others stop you?  Zip…unzip. Maybe this time it will close right. Zip…unzip repeat. Dogonit! Never mind that your monkey hands and sausage fingers are useless for anything besides clapping. Zip…unzip.  Oh, and your mid-forties eyes can’t come close to focusing on something outside of five feet away, leaving the zipper’s intended path a fuzzy mystery. But this is a great plan. Zip…unzip. Why are so many people still staring?


I should have started this post by saying I had a formal occasion at the kids’ school where I had a slight wardrobe malfunction. I prefer not to discuss it. I’m no celebrity, so there certainly isn’t enough interest for it to make the news (my lifetime goal). But if it had been a zipper issue, which of the above-mentioned solutions do you think I arrived at?


I refuse to answer.


However, If you don’t mind, say a prayer for me Thursday at 10:30 when I have a meeting with the headmaster, three church elders, and a psychologist to answer some complaints about my behavior. Think they’ll mind if I wear sweatpants?



photo credit: Rabenstteiner

Filed under: It Made Me Laugh

5 Comments on How to Fix a Broken Zipper, last added: 6/3/2014
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16177. Book Profile Announcement for Caught Between Two Curses by Margo L. Dill

I'm pleased to host Margo today and tomorrow for her latest book, Caught Between Two Cures. Margo and I are colleagues and I always find it easier  to "toot the horn" of a fellow author than my own horn. Congratulations Margo! 

Book Profile Announcement for Caught Between Two Curses by Margo L. Dill

Caught Between Two Curses (Rocking Horse Publishing, Released: March 14, 2014) is a young adult, light paranormal contemporary novel set in Chicago, IL, appropriate for readers 14 and up.
Seventeen-year-old Julie Nigelson is cursed. So is her entire family. And it’s not just any-old-regular curse, either—it’s strangely connected to the famous “Curse of the Billy Goat” on the Chicago Cubs.
Julie must figure out this mystery while her uncle lies in a coma and her entire love life is in ruins: her boyfriend Gus is pressuring her to have sex, while her best friend Matt is growing more attractive to her all the time.

Somehow, Julie must figure out how to save her uncle, her family’s future, and her own love life—and time is running out!
It’s available from all major booksellers:

Autograph copies are available from Margo’s website at: http://margodill.com/blog/books/

<!--[if gte mso 9]> Normal 0 false false false EN-US JA X-NONE <![endif]-->
Margo’s bio: Margo L. Dill is a children's author, freelance editor, and workshop leader, living in St. Louis, MO. She is the author of the YA book, Caught Between Two Curses, and also the author of the historical fiction, middle-grade novel, Finding My Place: One Girl's Strength at Vicksburg (White Mane Kids, 2012) and the forthcoming picture books, Maggie Mae, Detective Extraordinaire and the Case of the Missing Cookies and Lucy and the Red Ribbon Week Adventure. Caught Between Two Curses is her first young adult novel. She promises that she is a Cardinals' fan at heart, but the Billy Goat curse on the Chicago Cubs is too irresistible for a plot line. You can find her blogging on Tuesdays at http://www.thelitladies.com  and more about her work at http://margodill.com/blog/.

Be sure to stop back tomorrow to read What Inspires Margo! 


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

Connect with

A Sandy Grave ~ January 2014 ~ Guardian Angel Publishing, Inc.

Powder Monkey ~ May 2013 ~ Guardian Angel Publishing, Inc.

Hockey Agony ~ January 2013 ~ Guardian Angel Publishing, Inc.

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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16178. “Games are basically operas made out of bridges.”

I love that quote above from Frank Lantz, director of the New York University Game Center, and I’m intrigued by the rise of university programs in video game design:

Recess, the word for the school period set aside for games, means a break in the action. But here at the New York University Game Center, where the library collection includes about 5,000 video games, play has elbowed its way into the classroom itself. Last month, the first graduates of a new M.F.A. program in game design at N.Y.U. received their degrees.

The Game Center is part of the Tisch School of the Arts, meaning that game design is taught alongside theater, film, television and all the rest. Next fall, the school expects to add a bachelor of fine arts degree in the field.

“At least professionally, I feel like a much better version of what I was a year ago,” said Charles George, a former website developer who entered the M.F.A. program last year to accelerate a long-delayed plan to make games for a living. “It’s always been, ‘In the future, I’m going to work on games,’ ” he said. “And all of a sudden, I’m 30 and my wife is pregnant.”

This New York Times article focuses on graduate programs, but during the past couple of years — while I was working on Attack! Boss! Cheat Code! A Gamer’s Alphabet — I became aware of a couple of programs in my home state that aren’t focused solely on post-graduate work.

There’s the brand-new Denius-Sams Gaming Academy at the University of Texas at Austin, and at UT Dallas there’s the Arts and Technology (ATEC) program. I know there are others, too.

As the article points out, master’s degrees in gaming don’t come cheap. And the same often goes for bachelor’s degrees. When I visit schools to discuss Attack! Boss! Cheat Code!, it’ll be interesting to see how students fall into the various camps of non-gamer, casual gamer, serious gamer, and serious-to-the-tune-of-a-$100,000-degree gamer.

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16179. My tweets

  • Mon, 22:08: Today sucked, but that's okay, I'm going for a very fast run listening to Pink and shall return as a brand new woman. #happymonday #running

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16180. Spotlight and Giveaway: Tall, Dark & Cowboy Box Set

Here’s a great deal!  Six cowboy books for one low, low price!


Everybody loves cowboys! Now in this special six-book box set, meet the best of the tall, dark, and handsome cowboys and get ready for the ride of your life . . .

SOMEBODY LIKE YOU by Lynnette Austin: Cash thought he had plenty of time to find the right woman-until he learns that he must marry soon or lose his family’s Texas farm. When Boston beauty Annelise enters his life, Cash wonders if she’s what he’s been looking for all along.

AIN’T MISBEHAVING by Molly Cannon: After her ex-husband leaves her for another woman, Marla Jean won’t settle for another lonely night. And her childhood crush, Jake, may just be the right man to help make this good girl go a little bad.

THE SWEET SPOT by Laura Drake: Charla Rae thought she was over her ex-husband-they’d both been through too much together. But when the championship bull rider comes back into town and offers to help with her ranch, will he also convince her to give their love a second chance?

LOOKING FOR TROUBLE by Erin Kern: Fleeing her rich, overbearing family, Avery makes her way to Trouble, Wyoming. She soon tries things the old Avery wouldn’t dare, like having a sizzling affair with her sexy new boss, Noah-and discovering he’s just the kind of trouble she needs.

GOING COWBOY CRAZY by Katie Lane: When Faith is mistaken for her identical twin sister in Bramble, Texas, there’s bound to be trouble-especially with her sister’s ex-boyfriend Slate.

MONTANA LEGACY by R. C. Ryan: When Amy left Jesse, she broke his heart. Now she’s back in town and stirs his old desires, even as she promises to help him find his family’s gold. But under the prairie skies an unseen enemy is closing in to threaten their love-and their lives.

You can purchase it here:


Quick questions for the authors:

A la Twitter style, can you describe your book (or series) in 140 characters or less.

R.C. RYAN- Can Jesse McCord guard his heart against Amy Parish, the only woman he ever loved and lost? Or will danger change the game? 

ERIN KERN- Would you give up your inheritance to live in the middle of nowhere? Avery Price did. And ended up getting way more than she bargained for!

KATIE LANE- A small, Texas town filled with sassy heroines, hot cowboys, and zany matchmakers whose hearts are as big as the state they live in.

LAURA DRAKE- A grieving housewife throws her cheating Ex off their ranch. But when the sweet cowboy she married returns, can they both learn to forgive?

MOLLY CANNON- When Marla Jean’s husband dumps her for an older woman, chaos in the form of hunky Jake turns the rest of her life upside down.

LYNETTE AUSTIN- When a cowboy meets an heiress…Somebody Like You—one sexy cowboy and a Harley-riding heiress, each with a secret.

What is the funniest note you’ve received from your editor?

R.C. RYAN- “Whew.  Hot.”  I love reading that in the margin.

Despite hot love scenes, scary shoot-outs with bad guys, what really got my editor all charged up were the food scenes.  She claims to love the meals I serve my cowboys and their ranch families, and put a note in a margin that just reading the scene had her salivating.

ERIN KERN- It’s hard to say, because I’ve received a lot of notes! And after a while they all kind of run together. I’d say my biggest “doh’s” are the typos that even my five year old wouldn’t have made.

KATIE LANE- It’s not a note as much as pictures. My editor owns a cat named Clara, and every Halloween, I get a picture of Clara in costume. The cute photos always brighten my day and make my granddaughters giggle.


MOLLY CANNON- She asked if I was willing to change my cat into a dog. I was reluctant at first because I loved my kitty cat, but finally agreed when I found a picture of the puppy that became Sadie.

LYNETTE AUSTIN- Lauren Plude, my fantastic editor, chewed out Ty Rawlins in Nearest Thing to Heaven. Lauren is a vegan, and every once in a while I stick something in, just to make sure she’s paying attention. And she always is. ? Poor Ty got in trouble for it. Riding to his favorite fishing hole, he asked Sophie, “You don’t have a problem with fishing on some philosophical level, do you? I mean, you’re not a vegan or anything. I watched you devour too much Texas beef at the wedding to believe that.” Lauren’s comment? Hey no ragging on vegans, Ty! ;)

What is the most interesting thing you learned from research?

R.C. RYAN- Just how dedicated our farmers and ranchers are to maintain the lifestyle and the land of their ancestors.  It takes true grit to stay the course when fighting fickle weather, predators, and the rising cost of feed for herds.  Ranchers and farmers can never take a vacation from their demanding job.  

ERIN KERN- In the Trouble books, the brothers are in the restaurant industry. I was really surprised to learn that chefs work really long hours. Way longer than I expected.

KATIE LANE- I did a lot of research on famous brothels for Miss Hattie’s Henhouse in Trouble in Texas. It is believed that the infamous Chicken Ranch got its name during the Great Depression. Money was so scarce that the prostitutes started taking chickens in exchange for services.

LAURA DRAKE- Next weekend I’m auditing a three day Bullfighting class! Not the ‘El Toro!’ type – the ones who distract the bull from a downed bull rider. Cannot wait!

MOLLY CANNON- I love researching recipes for my books. Reading cookbooks is less fattening than eating the finished product-but not as much fun.

LYNETTE AUSTIN- Cowboy hats should always be set down brim-up. Not only does this help preserve the shape, but it allows for all the luck that passes by to collect in it. Fun, huh?

What’s one book you read in the last 6 months that has left a lasting impression and why?

R.C. RYAN- The Book Thief.  I thought, because it was originally written as a young adult novel, I’d breeze through it and on to the next, but it was heart-wrenching, and I found myself fully immersed in that era.

ERIN KERN- Jill Shalvis has been a huge inspiration of mine for a long time. I love just about everything she does. But when I read At Last, I was more or less blown away. It’s one of the few books that I pre-ordered and then re-read as soon as I finished it. After reading it the second time, I actually re-wrote some of my current manuscript because I was so inspired by Ms. Shalvis’s writing and storytelling abilities.

KATIE LANE- Me Before You by Jojo Moyes. It was the most wonderful, bittersweet romance I’ve ever read. It made me sob like a kindergartener on the first day of school, but it also reminded me how life-changing love can be.

LAURA DRAKE- Coyote Dream, by Jessica Davis Stein. The author uses wonderful characterization of two disparate cultures and ethnicities (NY Jewess and Navajo New Mexican) in a believable, wonderful way. The characters’ journey both inner and outer, are long, arduous, and believable. A wonderful romance!

MOLLY CANNON- BEST KIND OF BROKEN by Chelsea Fine. This book was funny, heartbreaking, and it was one of those books that stayed with me for days after I finished. Loved it!

LYNETTE AUSTIN- I couldn’t put down The Collector by Nora Roberts. Not only was the plot intricately and brilliantly woven, but it revolved around Faberge eggs, the Romanovs, and Russian history. I love it when, while reading a great book, I learn along the way.

About the Authors

You can learn about Lynnette Austin at: www.lynnettehallberg.com
You can learn about Molly Cannon at:


Twitter @cannonmolly

You can learn about Laura Drake at:


Twitter @PBRWriter

You can learn about Erin Kern at:


Twitter @ErinKern

You can learn about Katie Lane at:


Twitter @ktlane3


You can learn about R.C. Ryan at:


Twitter @RuthRyanLangan


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The post Spotlight and Giveaway: Tall, Dark & Cowboy Box Set appeared first on Manga Maniac Cafe.

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16181. Coloring Page Tuesday - Giftie!

     It's my birthday week - yay! Or, ummm. Well, I suppose I'll celebrate. Although, at my age, it's more about lunch and dinner dates with freinds. It's also not about What will I get? But What will I get myself? I'm thinking there might be some cowboy boots in that package. Everybody in Roanoke, Virginia, where I teach at Hollins University each summer, wears cowboy boots - go figure! And I don't have any... yet.
     What would be waiting in this giftie for you?
     CLICK HERE for more coloring pages! And be sure to share your creations in my gallery so I can put them in my upcoming newsletters! (Cards, kids art, and crafts are welcome!)
     Sign up to receive alerts when a new coloring page is posted each week and... Please check out my books! Especially...

my debut novel, A BIRD ON WATER STREET, coming out next week! Click the cover to learn more!
     When the birds return to Water Street, will anyone be left to hear them sing? A miner's strike allows green and growing things to return to the Red Hills, but that same strike may force residents to seek new homes and livelihoods elsewhere. Follow the story of Jack Hicks as he struggles to hold onto everything he loves most.
**A SIBA OKRA Pick!**
**A GOLD Mom's Choice Award Winner!**
**The 2014 National Book Festival Featured Title for Georgia!**

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16182. fun with marker pens

Here's another Ugly Birthday Card, this time for Lauren O'Farrell (aka Deadly Knitshade).

The one problem with having a studio is that when I'm at home, and suddenly remember I want to draw a birthday card, I don't have any of my good art supplies lying around; I have to grab whatever I can find. So occasionally friends get hideous stuff cobbled together from the cardboard in tights packets or painted with tea. But awhile back, I bought a pack of Letraset marker pens - I think Posy Simmonds said she used them to colour Gemma Bovery - and I was playing around with them the other night.

They're good fun. Here's a picture of Stuart reading The Guardian:

And a fearsome selfie:

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16183. My tweets

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16184. Spotlight and Giveaway–Redemption at Midnight by Mary Moriarty

Redemption at Midnight

My Beloved Vampire Series

By: Mary Moriarty


Bella is the only daughter of former Vampire King, Cormac O’Heachthanna. She spent the first four hundred years or so in peace, happiness and love. Surrounded by her loving and strong father and brother. Then came the 1900s and with that women demanding their rights… and Bella starting to spread her wings.

By WWII Bella was in the thick of it. Working for the British as a spy. She goes to Germany where she would fit in to try and persuade top officials to come to the Allies side. No one prepared Bella that her objective was a dashing, German Aristocrat. Pictures didn’t capture his charm and personality.

She falls and falls hard but that is not suppose to happen. So her father orders the love of her life’s death.

Brent O’ Hara has been a Marine for almost half his life. He lived to go to battle. He was finally called up for a Special Ops unit with none other than Cormac O’ Heachthanna. Both he and his brother joined. After three years his brother is mortally wounded and changed. Seven months later without the backup of his brothers in arms he is on a mission, doing a sweep of a village when an IED kills four and severely wounds Brent. He wakes up to the bottoms of his legs missing and his left hand also gone. He then knew he would never be good for anything again… or so he thought. He needed to heal and Cormac knows just who would be the one to help. His daughter Bella… only she hasn’t spoken to him in sixty years.

Can Bella and Brent find the healing and love they so desperately need and want before it’s too late?

Link to Follow Tour: http://tastybooktours.blogspot.com/2014/04/now-booking-tasty-blurb-tour-for.html

Buy Links

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Redemption-Midnight-My-Beloved-Vampire-ebook/dp/B00JTD9B72

B&N: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/redemption-at-midnight-mary-moriarty/1119315935?ean=2940045844581

Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/431046

Author Info

I grew up in New England surrounded by a lot of history and story telling by my father who was from the Mid-Coast of Maine. What I remember of my mother was her love of fairy tales, the wee people and poetry. So it’s no wonder I would one day write.

When I am not writing, I read. Of course I love Romance but can’t read the same genre that I write so I read mysteries, memoirs and history… I love history, especially Medieval and WWII.

I don’t generally watch TV but I love Downton Abbey.

My favorite authors… Mmmm, well let me see. Jane Austen, the late Elizabeth Peters, LM Montgomery, Loretta Chase, J.R.Ward , Sharon Kay Penman and Pamela Kaufman to name a few that come to mind.

What do I do when I am not writing? I am a mother of seven, four still at home. I have a home filled with pets, four dogs and six cats. I write seven days a week.

Author Links





Rafflecopter Giveaway (Two Book Bundles: One Digital and One Print (US ONLY) including the following: ONE THOUSAND YEARS TO FOREVER, I’VE BEEN WAITING FOR YOU, and REDEMPTION AT MIDNIGHT)

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The post Spotlight and Giveaway–Redemption at Midnight by Mary Moriarty appeared first on Manga Maniac Cafe.

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16185. Ninja! and an interview with Arree Chung

Ninja! by Arree Chungby Arree Chung

published June 2014 by Henry Holt and Company, an imprint of Macmillan.

Friends, I’m so excited to have Arree Chung in this corner of the internet today. I met Arree last summer at SCBWI in Los Angeles, and am humbled every time I think about how we share an agent and a friendship. He’s an expert storyteller with a bright, animated style and a fresh perspective. Ninja! is his debut picture book, and it will be far from his last.

First, you should watch this short film. And here’s my confession. Arree sent this to me a number of weeks ago with the caveat that it was unreleased and not to share. Except: it was too awesome not to. So I showed it to my students, because single-digit-aged kids are pretty good at secrets and don’t have Twitter accounts anyway.

They loved it. And I mean L O V E D  I T. Each class, without fail, asked to watch it many, many times in a row. So we did.

Meet Maxwell, and then meet Arree.

breakerWhat has been the most surprising thing about this whole debut picture book thing?

The most surprising thing about the publishing process is how long it takes to actually bring a book to market (1.5 – 2 years).  My background is in games, where companies can publish with the click of a button and make updates via the internet.  The process gives me appreciation for the care that goes into the publishing process.  It also helps to have a great team of people to work with.  Everyone from your agent, publisher, editor and art director in making the book and then there’s publicity, marketing and sales folks that help in getting the book out.1stCoverAn early cover design.Ninja_Revision_Notesrevision notes.

I’m fortunate to have a supportive publisher in Macmillan.  They have a great team of experts.  Each one helps you with a specific aspect of the publishing process.  I’ve learned so much.  I’m so grateful I’ve been in good hands.  I’ve worked hard to hold up my end of the deal and make something special.  With Ninja it was easy, because I loved it so much.

Who are your creative and/or literary heroes?

Oh, so many!

Roald Dahl
E.B. White
Jack Gantos
Judy Blume
Jeff Kinney

Russell Patterson
Chris Ware
Yuko Shimitzo

Shel Silverstien
Wolf Erlbruch
William Steig
Mo Willems
Peter Brown
Leo Lionni
Maurice Sendak
Ian Falconer
Jon Klassen
David Shannon
Bill Peet
Calef Brown

Jim Lee
Scott McFarlane
Jeffrey Brown
Bill Watterson
Jim Davis
Charles Schulz

Brad Bird
John Lassetter
Guillermo Del Toro
Chris Sanders
Danny Boyle
Tim Burton
Nick Park (Wallace & Gromit)
Steven Spielberg
Hayao Miyazaki

Can you talk about the similarities and differences in animation and the picture book form?

I love both mediums for different reasons.  Both mediums can transport the reader into new worlds.  I love it when a book or movie captures my imagination and I am completely immersed in a world that has been built.  The world is invented but it feels familiar and the story resonates with honesty.  I hate it when a story is force feeding me a message and it feels like an infomercial or when a story rambles without a focus.  Storytelling is magical when it has both the imagination and heart and speaks to you directly and honestly.  A great story is so exhilarating.  There’s nothing in the world that feels like it.  I love both animation and picture books because they have the ability to create magic.

How they are different?  Well, I think the main difference is that film tends to be a passive experience.  The viewer is in a dream like state that watches the story unfold.  It’s like being suspended in a time capsule and you watch everything that happens.  You take the story in a more subliminal kind of way.NinjaCreepAwaySpread14_15Books on the other hand I think are active experiences.  You as the reader actively interact with the words and pictures.  It’s like your brain is the film projector and is working to play the story.  Because of this, I think books are much more intimate experiences.  You go at your own pace.  You stop, question and wonder.  Sometimes you’re so engaged, you speed all the way through and sometimes you like to read slowly just because.  Readers engage books with their imaginations and a lot of the story is told in-between the words, the page turns and the illustrations whereas films are full experiences that use all the arts of composition, acting, music and visuals to put you in a state of suspension.

Both are magical and I love doing both so much.

Can you give us any behind-the-scenes information on how you created the short film? Did you get to know Maxwell differently in that format?

Yeah!  It was so thrilling to bring Maxwell to life.  I had a pretty good idea of who he is as a character after creating the book but actually seeing him move and casting Taylor Wong as Maxwell brought another whole dimension.

As for production, here’s a quick behind the scenes look of what it took to make the short film.  I plan on doing a much more in-depth look in a separate blog post.

We used 4 software tools: Photoshop, Flash, After Effects and Final Cut Pro.  The process was a highly collaborative effort between folks at MacMillan, myself and David Shovlin, the animator.  It was a ton of work to do but a ton of fun as well.ShortFilm_Process

In all, it took about 5 weeks of work.  David and I worked really hard on it and I’m really proud of what we created in a relatively short period of time.2013-09-09 23:23Where did Ninja! come from?

It’s been my dream to make my own picture books for a long time.  The first conception of Ninja came when I was in art school.  I jotted down “A boy goes creeping around the house dressed as a Ninja and causes trouble.”  That was probably in 2007 or so.

Maxwell_1st_CharacterSketchesNinja_Thumbnails        MaxwellScanNoPencilNinja_earlySketches-1Early Ninja! thumbnails and character sketches.

In 2012, I decided to do the Illustrator Intensive at the SCBWI Summer Conference.  We were given an assignment to submit a story along with a manuscript, thumbnails, character sketches, and a finished illustration.  Up to that point, I had been writing stories for years but was stuck on many of them.  For the workshop we had to write down answers to the following questions:

WHAT is the dilemma?
WHERE does it take place?
HOW is the problem solved?

This really helped me a lot.  Previous to this, many of my stories didn’t have focus and wandered a lot.  Ninja was a big break through for me as a storyteller and I had lots of people who helped guide me through it.   I’m so thankful for Rubin, my agent, and Kate, my editor.  The more I worked on it, the more the world and character took shape and gained depth.  It was so much fun to make.

Do you remember any art you made as a kid? What was it?!

Yeah, I made a lot of ninja stars and origami.  I was also obsessed with Legos.  I loved to build cruiser space ships and large fortresses armed to the teeth.  Whenever my uncle bought us Legos, we would make the thing we were supposed to make and then tear it apart and then make what we wanted to make.  Making your own thing was much more fun.

I was a huge comic book reader and collector as well.  I bought all of the X-men, Spiderman, Spider-ham, Batman and Spawn comics.  I still buy comics.

I also really love the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.  I used to record all of the episodes.  In fact, I used to press pause on the VCR and trace drawings of the Ninja Turtles by overlaying paper onto the TV.  At school, everyone thought I was the best drawer, but I never told anyone my technique til now!  Eventually I copied so many drawings I could draw it out of memory.  I tried to do the same technique with Transformers but that wasn’t nearly as successful because I didn’t understand perspective as at 12 year old.

And now what’s next for you?Ninja_GhostStoryI’ve got a lot of things I’m working on.  I have lots of Ninja stories to tell with Maxwell. (I’m so excited about all of them!)  One of them involves an old Chinese folktale involving ghosts!

I’m also illustrating two Potty Training books for kids that are hilarious.HowToPeeillustrations from How to Pee

I have lots of picture book stories I’m developing and I’m also writing a middle grade novel titled Ming Lee, All American.  Ming Lee chronicles my experiences growing up as an ABC (American Born Chinese).  It’s deeply personal and is funny in that Louis CK, embarrassing but honest kind of way.  I would describe it as Judy Blume meets Diary of a Wimpy Kid.  Of course, it is its own thing that I am figuring out.  I have a sense of what I want it to be but you never know what it will be until you get there.


breakerA huge thanks to Arree for this peek into the mind of a master craftsman. Be sure to get your hands on Ninja! this week!


Tagged: arree chung, character sketch, design, illustration, lego, ninja!, picture book, rubin pfeffer, scbwi, teenage mutant ninja turtles, thumbnails, typography

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16186. Fitting It All Into A Day: My Writing Process

It's been a while since I posted here and I hope that this post you will give you insight into what I've been up to in terms of writing, the factors that affect my writing day and how I try to fit it all into my day, with varying degrees of success. What am I working on/ writing One of my biggest challenges is that my head is never quiet, even when I’m not writing or blogging. There is always

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16187. Being Nearly There

Sometimes it seems as if the hardest part of the writer's journey is when you've almost succeeded.


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16188. BEA Recap, BEA Mystery Box Giveaway Reveal, and YA Pick and Mix 6/3/14

So I went to Book Expo America. Squee! And Compulsion went to BEA -- in giant poster size. Yes, that's my cover  blown up to six feet high or so, sandwiched between the posters of #1 New York Times bestselling authors (Squee again!)

BEA is basically a writer's Disney World. Picture hundreds of publishing booths, hundreds of authors signing books and giving them away for FREE, and thousands of librarians, booksellers, editors, publishers, publicists, agents, bloggers, and READERS all in one place. Mind-boggling, right?

My biggest takeaway? Readers are readers whatever hat they wear. We all sound the same when we geek out about each other's books. I honestly didn't realize that. But getting to hang out with a whole range of people from Simon and Schuster, I was delighted to discover that an incredible number of them had read my book and that it didn't sound like a job when they talked about it. I knew that at some level, but getting to meet these incredible people in person was a dream.

Me, Sara Sargent (rockstar editor), Meg Leder (rockstar author)

The YA lunch S&S hosted for bloggers, librarians, and booksellers was another surreal and wonderful experience. Picture me at a table with Scott Westerfeld signing books. (He used my pen. It's probably worth more than my car now, but I'm not selling it.) Did I mention he had a banner hanging from the roof of the Javitt's Center that was basically the size of my living room?

Scott Westerfeld, Mara Anastas (Publisher), Me

And then Becca Fitzpatrick, Kresley Cole, and Christina and Lauren (Christina Lauren) came in. Becca Fitzpatrick. Kresley Cole. Christina Lauren. !!!!!

Every one of them was gracious and lovely. Mentally, I kept doing that Sesame Street song in my head. You know, "One of these things is not like the other . . . " But my publisher very graciously slotted me in the middle of these incredible writers, and none of the bloggers and guest walked out. I survived, and I introduced Compulsion, and I got to listen to the amazing presentations about the other books featured. I can't wait to read them all!

After lunch, I had my first ever book signing, and there were actually people who wanted me to sign Compulsion for them. Actual people. My favorites, apart from the wonderful author Anna Staniszewski and fabulous blogger Jessica Reigle, was the boy who wanted me to sign it to his teacher, and the dad who had stood in line to get his daughter's book signed. (And yes, I realize this means the daughter was standing in a different line : D) Seriously, how great would it be to be able to take your dad to BEA and have him get books signed for you?

I walked past the S&S booth about twenty times, and somewhere around the 21st, I realized my book was on the wall. (Yes. I'm a total dork.)

Altogether, it was a fantastic experience, and I kept pinching myself to make sure it was really happening.



Time to reveal the contents of the mystery box. I have to admit that I was not as successful as I'd hoped at getting ARCs, but I am snagging these from my publisher, and I have a few additional giveaways stored away for the next couple of weeks.

Black Ice
by Becca Fitzpatrick

Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Released 10/7/2014

Sometimes danger is hard to see... until it’s too late.

Britt Pfeiffer has trained to backpack the Teton Range, but she isn't prepared when her ex-boyfriend, who still haunts her every thought, wants to join her. Before Britt can explore her feelings for Calvin, an unexpected blizzard forces her to seek shelter in a remote cabin, accepting the hospitality of its two very handsome occupants—but these men are fugitives, and they take her hostage.

In exchange for her life, Britt agrees to guide the men off the mountain. As they set off, Britt knows she must stay alive long enough for Calvin to find her. The task is made even more complicated when Britt finds chilling evidence of a series of murders that have taken place there... and in uncovering this, she may become the killer’s next target.

But nothing is as it seems in the mountains, and everyone is keeping secrets, including Mason, one of her kidnappers. His kindness is confusing Britt. Is he an enemy? Or an ally?

BLACK ICE is New York Times bestselling author Becca Fitzpatrick’s riveting romantic thriller set against the treacherous backdrop of the mountains of Wyoming. Falling in love should never be this dangerous…

Purchase Black Ice at Amazon
Purchase Black Ice at IndieBound
View Black Ice on Goodreads

* * * *

Endless Knight
by Kresley Cole
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

Shocking secrets.
Evie has fully come into her powers as the Tarot Empress, and Jack was there to see it all. She now knows that the teens who’ve been reincarnated as the Tarot are in the throes of an epic battle. It’s kill or be killed, and the future of mankind hangs in the balance.

Unexpected allies.
With threats lurking around every corner, Evie is forced to trust her newfound alliance. Together they must fight not only other Arcana, but also Bagmen zombies, post-apocalyptic storms, and cannibals.

Gut-wrenching treachery.
When Evie meets Death, things get even more complicated. Though falling for Jack, she’s drawn to the dangerous Endless Knight as well. Somehow the Empress and Death share a history, one that Evie can’t remember—but Death can’t forget…

In this seductive follow-up to Poison Princess, #1 New York Times bestselling author Kresley Cole takes us deeper into the dark world of the Arcana Chronicles.

Purchase Endless Knight at Amazon
Purchase Endless Knight at IndieBound
View Endless Knight on Goodreads

* * * *

by Christina Lauren

Simon & Schuster Books
Released 10/14/2014

True love may mean certain death in a ghostly affair of risk and passion from New York Times bestselling duo Christina Lauren, authors of Beautiful Bastard. Tahereh Mafi, New York Times bestselling author of Shatter Me calls Sublime “a beautiful, haunting read".

When Lucy walks out of a frozen forest, wearing only a silk dress and sandals, she isn’t sure how she got there. But when she sees Colin, she knows for sure that she’s here for him.

Colin has never been captivated by a girl the way he is by Lucy. With each passing day their lives intertwine, and even as Lucy begins to remember more of her life—and her death—neither of them is willing to give up what they have, no matter how impossible it is. And when Colin finds a way to physically be with Lucy, taking himself to the brink of death where his reality and Lucy’s overlap, the joy of being together for those brief stolen moments drowns out everything in the outside world. But some lines weren’t meant to be crossed…

Purchase Sublime at Amazon
Purchase Sublime at IndieBound
View Sublime on Goodreads

* * * *

by Scott Westerfeld

Simon Pulse
Released 9/23/2014

Darcy Patel has put college and everything else on hold to publish her teen novel, Afterworlds. Arriving in New York with no apartment or friends she wonders whether she's made the right decision until she falls in with a crowd of other seasoned and fledgling writers who take her under their wings…

Told in alternating chapters is Darcy's novel, a suspenseful thriller about Lizzie, a teen who slips into the 'Afterworld' to survive a terrorist attack. But the Afterworld is a place between the living and the dead and as Lizzie drifts between our world and that of the Afterworld, she discovers that many unsolved - and terrifying - stories need to be reconciled. And when a new threat resurfaces, Lizzie learns her special gifts may not be enough to protect those she loves and cares about most.

Purchase Afterworlds at Amazon
Purchase Afterworlds at IndieBound
View Afterworlds on Goodread



Winner: Jeri Baird

Dangerous Creatures
by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl
SIGNED Hardcover
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Released 5/20/2014

From the world of Beautiful Creatures-a dangerous new tale of love and magic.

Ridley Duchannes is nobody's heroine. She's a Dark Caster, a Siren. She can make you do things. Anything. You can't trust her, or yourself when she's around. And she'll be the first to tell you to stay away-especially if you're going to do something as stupid as fall in love with her.

Lucky for Ridley, her wannabe rocker boyfriend, Wesley "Link" Lincoln, never listens to anyone. Link doesn't care if Rid's no good for him, and he takes her along when he leaves small-town Gatlin to follow his rock-star dream. He teams up with a ragtag group of Dark Casters, and when the band scores a gig at a hot Underground club, it looks like all of Link's dreams are about to come true.

But New York City is a dangerous place for both Casters and Mortals, and soon Ridley realizes that Link's bandmates are keeping secrets. With bad-boy club owner Lennox Gates on her heels, Rid is determined to find out the truth. What she discovers is worse than she could have imagined: Link has a price on his head that no Caster or Mortal can ever pay. With their lives on the line, what's a Siren to do?

Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl, the #1 New York Times bestselling coauthors of the Beautiful Creatures novels, are back to cast another magical spell. Their signature blend of mystery, suspense, and romance, with a healthy dose of wit and danger, will pull fans in and leave them begging for more.

Purchase Dangerous Creatures at Amazon
Purchase Dangerous Creatures at IndieBound
View Dangerous Creatures on Goodreads


Need a creativity books? Change your brain! According to a NaNWriMo tip post from Scott Westerfeld, "after thirty seconds of eye exercise, subjects gained about ten minutes’ worth of improved scores on various creativity tests. Not ready to drop everything to roll your eyes every half-hour? No worries. Think left-handed.

Read the rest of the post here:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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16189. Inkygirl Profile: Arree Chung, NINJA! and tips for children's book writer/illustrators

Congrats to my friend Arree Chung, whose NINJA! launches today from Henry Holt. I met Arree at one of the Lost Weekends hosted by David Diaz.

NINJA! is published by Henry Holt, and here's a plot summary from Arree's website:

"A ninja must be strong, courageous, and silent! He creeps through the house on a secret mission. There may be obstacles! But have no fear—a true ninja can overcome all challenges."

Arree Chung, Ninjafy-ed.

You can find Arree Chung at Arree.com, on Facebook, at @arreechung on Twitter and arreechung on Tumblr.

I can't wait to get my copy of NINJA!, especially after seeing Arree's book trailer:

And I loooove the reactions of these young readers as they watch the video:

NINJA! has gotten some great reviews, including Kirkus Reviews, School Library Journal and Publishers Weekly.

Arree also has a fun NINJA!-fy ME app online where you can upload a photo and add NINJA! graphic elements. Here's what I came up with:

Do check out the rest of Arree's wonderful NINJA! content at Arree.com, where you can not only find info about NINJA! but also see related bonus content, including an activity guide and coloring pages.

Here are some interviews and blog posts where you can find out more about Arree and his work:

My journey to becoming a children's book author and illustrator - by Arree, on his blog. Fascinating account of Arree's journey to publication, from his upbringing, studying bio-chemistry, working for Pixar and Walt Disney Imagineering, getting inspired at SCBWI conferences, how he made his decision to become a children's book writer and illustrator.

Ninja! and an interview with Arree Chung - by Carter Higgins on Design Of The Picture Book! A great peek into Arree's process, with storyboarding and sketches as well as sample illustrations from NINJA!

Illustration (c) 2014 Arree Chung. Sample from NINJA!

Things children's book writer/illustrators can learn from Arree:

Work on your craft every day. 

Join the SCBWI. Arree won the Portfolio Showcase at the 2010 SCBWI conference in Washington and found his agent (Rubin Pfeffer) at the 2012 SCBWI Summer Conference. Rubin helped him sell NINJA! to Macmillan as part of a 3-book deal.

Take chances.

Find mentors.

Scribble and keep a notebook.

Take leaps of faith.

Don't give up. Rest when you need it. Try again.

Listen to that voice inside of you.

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16190. Interview with Elley Arden, Author of Marrying the Wrong Man and Giveaway

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Good morning, Elley!  Describe yourself in five words or less.

[Elley Arden] Optimistic, Idealistic, Sensitive, Emotional, and Creative

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Can you tell us a little about Marrying the Wrong Man?

[Elley Arden] Marrying the Wrong Man is a story about second chances and redemption. It’s the happy ending for a couple of people who made some bad decisions and walked away from what they wanted and needed all along. These are flawed characters. Big flaws. The hero is an alcoholic. The heroine was a cheater. She left town on the heels of her scandalous behavior. Years later, they are in many ways—important ways—different people, but one thing remains the same. They still love each other. But can they trust each other, especially when the heroine returns to Harmony Falls with the hero’s little girl?

[Manga Maniac Cafe]  Can you share your favorite scene?

[Elley Arden] Sure! This scene captures the playful passion between Morgan and Charlie:

He flashed a not-so-innocent smile, and—zap!—something hot and strong laced the air between them.

She must’ve felt it, too, because she stepped back. “I should go. Help Corbin and Hannah.”

She was going to pretend like nothing happened there, too.

“Hold on.” He grabbed her wrist, and she froze. “This is not working for me.”

“What isn’t?” she whispered.

He let her go and stepped back into his office, crooking his finger. “Come in here and close the door.”

Her eyes rounded, but then her lips twitched. “Ask me nicely.”


Morgan followed him into the office, but she kept her back glued to the closed door. “Charlie, I want you … ”

He raised a hand to cut her off. “I like that sentence.”

She gave him a cocky look. “There was more to that sentence.”

“There doesn’t need to be.” He stepped forward, touching the tips of his boots to the tips of her shiny black shoes, and then he leaned in until their bodies brushed. “I can’t pretend like nothing is happening.”

“Me neither.” She wrapped her arms around him and covered his mouth with hers.

Immediately, the door shook on a knock, and they broke apart. “Chef, the produce delivery guy is here.”

“I’ll be right there,” Charlie called.

“Okay. Should I call Morgan? She’s late.”

Morgan covered her mouth as Charlie smirked and tucked a hand between her legs, slowly drawing his thumb over her core with firm pressure.

He barely held in a chuckle. “Nope. I’m sure she’s coming.”

“You are so bad,” she whispered.

He bobbed his eyebrows and kissed her again.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What gave you the most trouble with the story?

[Elley Arden] The hardest part of writing Marrying the Wrong Man was getting past the backstories of both characters. There was a lot of dishonesty and immaturity to work through. I worried readers wouldn’t be as forgiving as I apparently was. But, real people have serious flaws, so why shouldn’t characters?

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What’s one thing you won’t leave home without?

[Elley Arden] It’s pathetic, but I can’t and won’t leave home without my iPhone. I would turn around and go get it if I ever forgot it. Thankfully, it’s always by my side. It’s like an extra limb. See, I told you. Pathetic.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What’s your favorite snack when you’re working on a deadline?

[Elley Arden] Oh! Chocolate is my favorite deadline snack, which would partially explain why in the last year while publishing eight books I’ve gained an obscene amount of weight.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Name three things on your desk right now.

[Elley Arden] On my desk right now, you will find a can of Martha Stewart Sharkey Gray interior paint, a clothes iron, and a framed inspirational quote of Mother Teresa. It’s an interesting collection of things, because I rarely use my desk for writing. I mostly write at my dining table.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] If you could trade places with anyone for just one day, who would you be?

[Elley Arden] Hmm. This is hard! *thinks, thinks, think, thinks, thinks* If I could trade places with anyone for just one day, I’d be … *thinks, thinks, thinks, thinks, thinks* You know what? I’d pass on that opportunity. I really would. I love my life, and I could never willing lose a day of it.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] You have been granted the use of one superpower for one week.  Which power would you choose, and what would you do with it?

[Elley Arden] I’d choose the ability to teleport myself to anyplace I wanted to go, and I’d spend the week spontaneously traveling without the drama of security checks and jet lag.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What are some books that you enjoyed recently?

[Elley Arden] My daughter got me into Divergent and the rest of that series. It’s normally not my thing, but I’m hooked (and more than a little in love with Four). I’m also enjoying reading and discussing the books with her. It’s definitely a bonding activity.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] How can readers connect with you?

[Elley Arden] Readers can “at” me on Twitter @elleywrites, and they can leave comments on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/pages/Elley-Arden-Author/540667649278016), but I also love connecting by good old-fashioned email, which is elley@elleyarden.com.


Second chances don’t come around often, especially not in a town known for its scandals, and almost definitely not with the one that got away, but Morgan and Charlie get theirs in Elley Arden’s latest Harmony Falls novel, MARRYING THE WRONG MAN. Will they take the chance and make it work? This is a story that’ll tug at the reader’s heartstrings!

Want to learn more about MARRYING THE WRONG MAN? Be sure to check out this exclusive interview with Elley Arden!


Author: Elley Arden

Author Location: Pittsburgh, PA

Genre: Contemporary Romance

Release Date: May 12th, 2014

Word Count: 50,000 words

Publisher: Crimson Romance

Format: Digital eBook


Synopsis: Morgan Parrish returns to Harmony Falls after her spectacle of an almost wedding and her father’s colossal fall from grace. She’s broke and infamous. But that’s nothing compared to the secret she’s been keeping.

Life is finally on the upswing for Charlie Cramer. He’s sober and chef of Chargrilled Bistro. But his peace is shattered, when the woman he loves—the woman who left him—shows up in town with shocking cargo: the baby he’d begged her to keep and raise with him.

When fate steps in and Morgan takes a job working in Charlie’s bistro, things heat up—in and out of the kitchen. Can they learn to trust each other enough to love again? And is that love enough to keep them up when everyone else is trying to tear them down?

Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Add MARRYING THE WRONG MAN to your TBR pile on Goodreads!

Other books in the Harmony Falls series:


Goodreads | Amazon| Barnes and Noble | iBooks


Goodreads | Amazon| Barnes and Noble | iBooks | Books-A-Million | Powell’s

About Elley Arden:

Elley Arden is a born and bred Pennsylvanian who has lived as far west as Utah and as far north as Wisconsin. She drinks wine like it’s water (a slight exaggeration), prefers a night at the ballpark to a night on the town, and believes almond English toffee is the key to happiness.
Elley writes provocative, emotional, contemporary romances, where Mr. Not-My-Type ends up being Mr. Right.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

Win some awesome prizes:

A $15 gift card for Amazon or Barnes & Noble (winners choice) plus a signed copy of Crashing the Congressman’s Wedding AND Battling the Best Man! (US residents only)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

The post Interview with Elley Arden, Author of Marrying the Wrong Man and Giveaway appeared first on Manga Maniac Cafe.

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16191. Inkygirl Profile: Brian Won, HOORAY FOR HAT! & tips for children's book writer/illustrators

Congrats to my friend Brian Won, whose HOORAY FOR HAT! launches today from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. I met Brian through the SCBWI Illustration Mentorship program (see today's THANK YOU to the SCBWI), and he's one of the nicest guys you could hope to meet.

You can find out more about HOORAY FOR HAT! and download an activity kit from http://www.brianwon.com/hoorayforhat. You can find Brian at BrianWon.com, @bwon1 on Twitter, BrianOneADay on Tumblr, bwon1 on Instagram, and Brian Won Illustration on Facebook.

Here's a plot summary of HOORAY FOR HAT! from Brian's website:

"Elephant wakes up grumpy—until ding, dong! What's in the surprise box at the front door? A hat! HOORAY FOR HAT! Elephant marches off to show Zebra, but Zebra is having a grumpy day, too—until Elephant shares his new hat and cheers up his friend. Off they march to show Turtle! The parade continues as every animal brightens the day of a grumpy friend. An irresistible celebration of friendship, sharing, and fabulous hats."

Here's the trailer for HOORAY FOR HAT!:

Quotes from nice reviews:

"This lighthearted story revels in the small acts that make life better -- cheers all around." - Kirkus Reviews

"In this debut, Won explores the way a simple gift and a little attention from friends can have nearly magical healing properties." - Publishers Weekly

Here are some interviews and blog posts where you can find out more about Brian and his work:

Author-Illustrator Brian Won on Mr. Schu Reads: Includes fun animations, why he wrote HOORAY FOR HAT!, his Picture Book Sounds series (a peek into the music playlists of picture book authors and illustrators) and more.

A Mini-Interview With Brian Won by Juana Martinez-Neal: Brian's favourite childhood books and influences, inspiration for HOORAY FOR HAT!, his daily routine, how the SCBWI helped him on his journey to publication.

The Writing and Illustrating Process: Brian's post, part of an Author Blog Tour. Brian talks about what he's working on, how his work differs from others of its genre, his process.

KidLitArtists interview with Brian in 2013: Brian talks about his mentorship critiques and what he learned.

Things children's book writer/illustrators can learn from Brian:

Understand the emotions behind the characters you are illustrating.

Don't compare yourself to others. Instead, compare where you are now to where you came from.

Join the SCBWI and attend conferences, enter the Portfolio Showcase. You never know what might happen!


Photo below: Goofing around with Brian and my Mentee Tribe pals at the SCBWI Summer Conference in 2013. The fellow in the blue checked shirt is Arree Chung, whose NINJA! also launches today! My next post will be about Arree and his work.




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16192. Team KEEPER Continues AGAIN!!!!

Hey there all you awesome KEEPER fans!

Don't worry--the old Team KEEPER Continued page is still working just fine, and going strong at over 500 comments. But because it's been so popular, I know some of you have been getting tired of sorting through the chaos, trying to find new comments in your various conversations. I wish I had a better way to keep everything organized for you guys, but my hands are a bit tied as far as what I can do.

So for those of you who at least wanted a fresh page to chat... TA DA! Consider this your new Team KEEPER page! (though like I said, the old one is still working, so you're welcome to keep commenting over there as well)

While I have you here, I thought it might also be a good time to give a few updates and answer some of the questions I keep seeing over and over and over.

First, the current official release date for EVERBLAZE is 11/4/14, so WOOOOOOOO, only about 5 months to go!!!!

The title, cover, and a brief description of the plot have all been released (if you somehow missed them, you can find them on the KEEPER main page by clicking here HERE) and the book is now officially DONE! And I have to say, I'm pretty proud of it. It was by FAR the toughest book I've ever written, but I really think we ended up with something you guys are going to LOVE. So excited to have you read!

*glares at calendar, wishing it were November*

Sadly, that's really all I can say about EVERBLAZE (trying to keep the internetz spoiler-free and all that jazz). But I CAN tell you that I have lots of fun things planned for the next few months as we lead up to the release day.

I'll be touring in August to celebrate the launch of the EXILE paperback (I promise I'll post the dates, times, and locations as soon as I have the final details. For now just know that a tour is happening). And I have some very fun contests coming up in the months ahead. Some of the giveaways will be right here on this blog. Others will be on social media, so if you use those platforms (and your parents are okay with it), you might wanna make sure you're following me there. Here's some handy links to make that easier:

Also, I know a lot of you have been wondering if I'll be doing a pre-order giveaway with swag and signed bookplates and whatnot (like I have with the other books in the past). And the answer is YES, I definitely will be. :)  I won't be posting the giveaway until we're a bit closer to the release day (otherwise it gets too buried under new posts and no one can find it) but that definitely does not mean you have to wait to pre-order. My pre-order giveaways always apply to all pre-orders, not just ones purchased between certain dates. So if you decide you want to order your copy now (and want to make me EVER so happy) feel free. You can still fill out the form when the giveaway goes live and get the same awesome prizes. 

In fact, to make it easier for you (because I can be quite shameless), here's a few handy preorder links. Yanno. Just in case:

Okay, I think that gets you all up to speed on everything. So you are now free to comment away! But like always, PLEASE make sure you keep your discussions spoiler-free, so we don't ruin the fun for anyone who hasn't read both books yet. Also please keep your comments to each other positive or friendly. I want this to be a happy, safe place.

Also, if you need a refresher on who the teams are:

Ever feel like you don't belong? Then you look no further--you belong with Team Sophie! You may not always have the answers, but you're brave and smart, and if you trust yourself, you can handle anything. And as for who holds your heart? Only time will tell how you decide . . .

Ever feel like the underdog? Then welcome to Team Dex! You may have people constantly underestimating you, but you'll prove them all wrong someday. And while you may be the ultimate BFF, you're hoping to break out of the "friend zone" eventually. (you might have pretty great dimples, too . . . )

Ever caused a mess of trouble--and loved every second of it? Then you definitely belong with Team Keefe!  Jokes and pranks are the highlight of your week--but that doesn't mean you can't be serious when you need to be. In fact, you care very deeply about . . . well, maybe you're not ready to admit *who* yet. But you're having fun driving the girls crazy in the meantime!

Ever feel pressure to be who everyone expects you to be? Then Team Fitz is the place for you ! You have the looks, the talent, and the family everybody envies--but that doesn't mean you do everything perfectly. And sometimes you can be a little oblivious when it comes to other people's feelings. But you'll hopefully figure it all out--eventually. . . 

Ever feel like no one understands you? Then find lots of people you can relate to on Team Iggy! You may be small and good at making a mess of things--but you always know when someone needs you. And you're happy to provide them with a cuddle, a purr, or a nose-full of toxic breath--whatever they need. And hey, you can rock every crazy fur color there is!

Ever feel like you're all alone? Then you'll find lots of friends with Team Silveny--plus more sparkles than anyone could ever need! You're special and one-of-a-kind and extremely loyal and caring. And no one can deny you have great taste in friends--even if they give you the craziest nicknames.


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16193. when in writing doubt: modest advice for the novel stuck at page 100

Say you have 100 pages of a novel. Say you're not completely sure about how to carry your dreamy idea about the story through. Do you sit? Do you moan? Do you eat all available chocolate? You could, but here is something else you might do:

Return to the beginning. Build the characters more truly. Shore up your environmentals. Make sure you've nailed the mood. It might look, to you, as if your story is standing still, but no: It is here, in this developmental work, that you will find the key to moving forward. Your 100 pages becomes 130 pages. Your novel is on firm footing. The dreamy is less ambiguous. The characters are more demanding.

See if it works for you.

Report back.

We'll doubt and then un-doubt together.

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16194. Animation Title Cards

When I was developing a title card design for the CLEMENTOONS series, I looked at a lot of the opening graphics that inspired me as a kid. Most of my favorites were from the Golden Age of American Animation in the 1930s and '40s.

When a cartoon started with the Looney Tunes titles it made my heart race with anticipation--still does. I love the cockeyed block letters, and the concentric circles airbrushed to look like a tunnel. It was a special treat to see Bugs or Daffy or Porky featured in the title. 

And I was crazy about the manic energy of the Warner Bros. theme music, based on the tune called "The Merry Go Round Broke Down." 

I also adored the title cards from the Walt Disney cartoon shorts of the 1930s. They conveyed the promise of beautiful animation. Note the "burlap" background, the gradated light, the dimensional lettering, and date written in Roman numerals.

All the cartoons from that period had beautiful titles. They were all colorful, beautifully lit, with an interesting texture behind the letters. I couldn't figure out how they made them, but they seemed to be made by hand from real materials.

For the Clementoons titles, I wanted to see Clement actually animated in front of the titles, and then somehow jumping back into them. If I made the stepped windows rectangular, in the same proportion as a 9x16 video screen, then I figured the camera could dolly back into that space, following Clement as he jumped into his new adventure.

I did all sorts of R&D for the letters, and finally discovered that craft foam worked best. I cut the letters out with a sharp X-Acto knife and spray-glued them onto a spacer above the background. For the background texture, I experimented with real burlap, but it didn't look right, so I hand sculpted the texture out of Magic Sculpt.

Here's what the set-up looks like with my Canon T3i camera mounted on an improvised Lego dolly and set up for the stop motion sequence. Note the white "C" shape in the upper left. That's called a "gobo" and it's made of an aluminum pie plate. It's used to shape the light on the titles.

Here's the final sequence, which takes about 8 seconds. (Direct link to YouTube video) Note the focus pull and the dolly move at the end, zooming into the stepped rectangle.

I recorded the blink sound effects on a mandolin, plucking the strings between the bridge and the tailpiece. The theme music is courtesy of a young band called The Yanks, in which my son Dan happens to be the accordionist.

The Clementoons theme tune is called "If There Weren't Any Women in the World," an old barn dance they learned from fiddle player Seamus Quinn. If you listen closely, you'll hear a saxophone on the track, played by three-time All-Ireland champion Isaac Alderson.
More about animation title cards at Animation Treasures
Respective titles © and ® Disney Enterprises, Inc / Warner Bros. / MGM / Paramount / Universal
Clementoons is © and TM little old me.

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16195. Guest Post: Pamela S. Turner on Telling True Stories

By Pamela S. Turner
for Cynthia Leitich Smith's Cynsations

It's hard to write a boring book about dolphins. They are the low-hanging fruit of reader interest.

Dolphins have personalities. Dolphins are active, highly social, and ridiculously smart.

Who doesn't love dolphins?

To write The Dolphins of Shark Bay, with photographs by Scott Tuason (Harcourt, 2013), I traveled to Western Australia and spent a couple of weeks tagging along with Janet Mann, a scientist who has been studying bottlenose dolphins for over twenty-five years.

Spend any time with Janet and you'll learn that dolphins are very complex animals with very complex lives.

Janet Mann
Reggae hydroplanes out of the water to nab fish. Dodger uses a tool to catch hers (no kidding). Puck is an ideal mother, and the members of Puck's large and loving extended family often "pet" each other with their fins. Awww...so cute.

Puck and her son Samu
But not everything dolphins do is admirable or endearing. Take Nicky. Nicky is a terrible mother and almost all of her calves have died of maternal neglect. A male named Cookie rejected his best friend, Smokey, after Smokey was injured by a shark.

All of the male dolphins in Shark Bay engage in kidnapping in order to score mating opportunities with females, and may react violently if the female tries to escape their clutches.

In fact, the lives of adult male dolphins in Shark Bay resemble an awful sixth-grade slumber party where everybody is trying shoulder into the "popular" crowd.

There are always moments when a writer of narrative nonfiction for young readers wonders what's appropriate to include. If you're writing a picture book biography of Thomas Jefferson, should you mention Sally Hemings? Should drug abuse be a topic in a middle grade book about The Beatles? When you are on a research boat with a scientist watching three dolphins engaged in what can only be described as "sex play" and the scientist says, "Are you really going to put this in a children's book?", what do you say?

I have never had to make those judgment calls about Thomas Jefferson and The Beatles (Though "Thomas Jefferson and the Beatles" would be a terrific book title).

But I said, "Yes, it's going in the book," to Janet's question about the dolphins' sex play. You can read about it in a chapter called "Dating Games."

Sex play, deadbeat moms and kidnappers may not align with most people's image of "Flipper." But by telling true stories about Reggae, Dodger, Puck, Nicky, Cookie, and Smokey, I was able to show readers the sorts of challenges wild animals face and how they respond to those challenges.

Taken together, I think these stories give a picture of dolphin life that is rich and fascinating.

And just speaking for myself: the more I learn about dolphins, the more I love them.

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16196. Thank you, SCBWI! (and why all aspiring children's book writers and illustrators should join SCBWI)

Earlier today, I posted about the book launches of my good friends Arree Chung (NINJA! from Henry Holt) and Brian Won (HOORAY FOR HAT! from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt). And as some of you already know, my very  first chapter book illustration project launches in hardcover today, and the books are by JUDY BLUME (!!!). I posted about the Judy Blume project, including how I became a Judy Blume illustrator.

When the three of us discovered we all had books coming out on June 3rd, we decided to do some joint promotion. I met both Arree and Brian through the SCBWI: Arree through one of David Diaz's Lost Weekends (David is one of my SCBWI Illustration Mentors) and Brian through the SCBWI Illustration Mentorship program. We've since become friends and have exchanged mutual encouragement and advice.

Below: photo from the 2013 SCBWI Summer Conference, when Brian, Arree, Christina Forshay, Kimberly Gee and Jen Betton and I were hanging out in the hotel room. I had met Christina, Kimberly and Jen through the SCBWI Mentorship Program as well. They all kindly agreed to pose for one of my I'M BORED In The Wild photos. :-)

I'm grateful to the SCBWI for so many reasons. You can read the thank you letter I sent to the SCBWI a couple of years ago, and their response.

As I was putting together blog posts about Arree and Brian, I was struck the number of similarities in how we found out way to publication. All three of us found our agents because of the SCBWI or SCBWI connections. All three of us got our first "big break" in getting noticed in the kidlit publishing industry largely because of the SCBWI. And of course all three of us met through the SCBWI and SCBWI connections.

So on behalf of Brian, Arree and myself I'd like to send out a big THANK YOU to the SCBWI

To aspiring children's book writers and illustrators who have never heard of the SCBWI (Society Of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators): I strongly encourage you to check out all that the SCBWI has to offer. Do go over to the SCBWI website RIGHT NOW.

I went over just now to see what was up, and was delighted to find my friend Jessica Lanan is this month's Featured Illustrator! I met Jessica through the SCBWI Illustration Mentorship Program.

And that's another reason I'm so glad I joined the SCBWI and have been attending their events. It gives me so much joy to watch the blossoming careers of children's book writers and/or illustrators I've met and befriended.

If you're nervous about attending your first SCBWI conference, please do read my SCBWI Conference Newbie comics (which I created when I was a nervous SCBWI Conference newbie). 

And I hope to see some of you at the SCBWI Summer Conference in Los Angeles this year! 

You can read my posts today about Brian's and Arree's book launches:

Inkygirl Profile: Brian Won and HOORAY FOR HAT! (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

Inkygirl Profile: Arree Chung and NINJA! (Henry Holt)

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16197. TURNING PAGES: THIRTY SUNSETS, by Christine Hurley Deriso

This is necessarily going to be a short book blurb. It's hard to review a book like this one, where so much of what goes on is a secret. The author intended for the reader to be in the dark, so I'll leave you there. Just know that it's a... Read the rest of this post

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16198. Afterworlds Trailer

Here is the trailer for my next novel, Afterworlds:

Click here to see it bigger.


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16199. Book Profile Announcement for Caught Between Two Curses by Margo L. Dill

I'm pleased to host Margo today and tomorrow for her latest book, Caught Between Two Cures. Margo and I are colleagues and I always find it easier  to "toot the horn" of a fellow author than my own horn. Congratulations Margo! 

Book Profile Announcement for Caught Between Two Curses by Margo L. Dill

Caught Between Two Curses (Rocking Horse Publishing, Released: March 14, 2014) is a young adult, light paranormal contemporary novel set in Chicago, IL, appropriate for readers 14 and up.
Seventeen-year-old Julie Nigelson is cursed. So is her entire family. And it’s not just any-old-regular curse, either—it’s strangely connected to the famous “Curse of the Billy Goat” on the Chicago Cubs.
Julie must figure out this mystery while her uncle lies in a coma and her entire love life is in ruins: her boyfriend Gus is pressuring her to have sex, while her best friend Matt is growing more attractive to her all the time.

Somehow, Julie must figure out how to save her uncle, her family’s future, and her own love life—and time is running out!
It’s available from all major booksellers:

Autograph copies are available from Margo’s website at: http://margodill.com/blog/books/

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Margo’s bio: Margo L. Dill is a children's author, freelance editor, and workshop leader, living in St. Louis, MO. She is the author of the YA book, Caught Between Two Curses, and also the author of the historical fiction, middle-grade novel, Finding My Place: One Girl's Strength at Vicksburg (White Mane Kids, 2012) and the forthcoming picture books, Maggie Mae, Detective Extraordinaire and the Case of the Missing Cookies and Lucy and the Red Ribbon Week Adventure. Caught Between Two Curses is her first young adult novel. She promises that she is a Cardinals' fan at heart, but the Billy Goat curse on the Chicago Cubs is too irresistible for a plot line. You can find her blogging on Tuesdays at http://www.thelitladies.com  and more about her work at http://margodill.com/blog/.

Be sure to stop back tomorrow to read What Inspires Margo! 


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

Connect with

A Sandy Grave ~ January 2014 ~ Guardian Angel Publishing, Inc.

Powder Monkey ~ May 2013 ~ Guardian Angel Publishing, Inc.

Hockey Agony ~ January 2013 ~ Guardian Angel Publishing, Inc.

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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16200. Lessons From James Scott Bell: Characters That Jump Off The Page

A week (ish) ago, I had the pleasure of attending a workshop with bestselling author and writing coach, James Scott Bell. It was a fantastic day of learning how to look deep inside our characters to understand what made them tick, and how structure can lay the framework for a compelling internal arc.

write from the middleThe day left my brain bursting, and very excited to look back into my novels to discover the “mirror moment” something that Jim discusses in his new book, Write Your Novel From The Middle: A New Approach for Plotters, Pantsers and Everyone in Between.

The mirror moment is at the midpoint of the story where the character is faced with these questions: who am I? What have I become? And, who must I become to continue?  This is the point where the hero is weighed down by his situation and has a moment of internal reflection. He sees that the odds are too great and he must grow stronger to succeed, or that who he is now is holding him back and to move forward he must transform, leaving his old self behind. (It’s a short book, but one you absolutely should add to your collection. Click on the link and come back…trust me. Go on, I’ll wait.)

Back? Awesome!

Another thing he left us with was a neat checklist of what can make a character leap off the page. I thought I’d share it here.


Characters who are original in some way–a unique blend of character traits, a witty sense of humor, interests or a job that is unusual, a vibrant  outlook or attitude–make the reader want to get to know them, and see inside their inner world.  Strive to provide a character that is unexpected and fresh.


Readers are engaged by characters who do not always act in a predictable way. Think of how to have your character make decisions or respond in ways the reader won’t see coming. The easiest way to do this is by looking at the situation and decide what most would do.  Then, brainstorm a list of other things your hero might do. Get as crazy as you like, and then read through your ideas until you hit on the perfect match.


Every character should have something they yearn for, something they want deeply for themselves. Readers identify with wanting such a strong desire or need. Make it meaningful and important to the character, and it will become meaningful and important to the reader as well.


All characters should have a back story wound, an emotional hurt that still affects them today. Emotional pain is compelling, deepening a character as well as humanizing them. Look for ways to show that pain in the present, symbolized in the setting and events, acting as reminders of the past.


A protagonist that feels passionately about something (his role, his goals, his beliefs) is able to form a powerful connection with readers. Don’t be afraid to show a character’s passion.


There’s something compelling about a character who has opposing needs or desires, and who experiences conflicted emotions at turning points in the story. This “pull” in different directions creates inner turmoil and complexity that will draw readers in.


Characters who have special talents and skills (hey, there’s a thesaurus for that!) can be resourceful, helping them get out of a tight spot or solve problems in a unique way. This elevates them to readers, making them more interesting and likable! Don’t be afraid to think outside the box when it comes to talents or skills that can turn your character from ordinary to extraordinary.


Walking the walk, talking the talk. Characterization happens not through telling, but showing, especially when a character is faced with a less-than-ideal situation. Showing them doing something even though they don’t want to do it is both gutsy and memorable.


Having strong morals and beliefs and acting on them, even when it might be easier not to, earns admiration. Giving your character a noble purpose will win the hearts of readers.

~~ *  * ~~

A character doesn’t need to have all of these of course, but choosing a few and fleshing out your character with some in mind will help you build a hero that readers can’t help but be drawn to.

What would you add to James’ list? Let me know in the comments!

The post Lessons From James Scott Bell: Characters That Jump Off The Page appeared first on WRITERS HELPING WRITERS.

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