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Results 16,176 - 16,200 of 219,318
16176. Tonight Live Streaming, and, hitherto unseen, a poem (unfinished)

posted by Neil Gaiman

Very quick blog...

Billings, Montana was WONDERFUL: I talked to a bunch of young people in the wonderful new library, read a little and answered many questions. I talked to people that night in the Babcock theatre, read a lot and answered fewer questions than I would have liked.

I was impressed by the future: I landed in Montana to discover that mysteriously my iPad had become a spiderweb of glass cracks, and not something I wanted to read from (or swipe my finger over). Leslie, my host, took me to Best Buy, where I got a new iPad and an army-tough case. I got back to the hotel, told the new iPad who I was, it immediately restored itself from the old one's last cloud backup, and a few minutes later I was doing a reading in the library, from a brand new iPad, without any work, sweating, cables or grumbles. Oh, I like the future sometimes.


Today, I'm in Calgary. The event tonight sold out minutes after it went onsale, but they will be livestreaming it: http://ucalgary.ca/cdwp/gaiman is the website, and it starts at 7:00pm Mountain Time.

Now I really need to decide what I'm going to do tonight. (Probably read.)

...

Yesterday I went through many notebooks and boxes and papers, looking for poems, for a project that I'll talk about when it's ready. I read stuff I wrote as a teenager, stuff I wrote while I was meant to be writing other things, found some forgotten treasures (none of them written when I was sixteen, I'm afraid: sorry, sixteen-year-old Me) and some unfinished things that actually looked like I ought to finish them.

And then, in a  small tub from the attic, on three folded up Byerly's cafe place mats I found this, a doggerel thing vaguely inspired by Robert W. Service or Kipling's ballads or somebody else. And I don't remember what was going to happen next, or what it was for, so I am simply putting it up here, on my blog, to make you smile. And because it doesn't have a title I'll call it...


Found on a placemat in the attic



It's kind of dead at Davey's when the clock hits three a.m.
And I know I didn't come here for the food
For I'm sipping something coffee-like that tastes a bit like phlegm
While I pick at cake that something might have chewed.



There's a bill upon the table for my unappealing fare
And a bored cashier is waiting by the till.
Then she takes my twenty dollars with a cool intriguing stare
like a kidney-surgeon waiting for the kill.



You seem like much too nice a girl to work in such a dive.
It's the sort of place that turns your brain to rot.”
She just smiles and in a sullen voice more poisoned than alive
She tells a tale that turns my spine to snot.



I have a fearful tale to tell, a bloody tragic lay,
A narrative of horror and of fear.
A story that will make you weep and turn your guts to clay,
before your braincells dribble out your ear.



Mine is a dark biography, a thing of dread and fright,
A tale that reeks of terror and of woe.
There are not words,” she told me, “to do justice to my plight.
But what the hell,” she said, “I'll have a go.



Nobody could envision it, it's nasty weird and strange.
Nobody could have dreamed, or said, or thunk.
And none who sit to hear my life will stand again unchanged.
(Some kill themselves, while others just get drunk.)



I warn you now!” she raised her hand, “if you are faint of heart,
Leave now! Just flee! Get out! Go 'way! And shoo!
It's horrible and sordid. Stop me now, before I start,
for every loathsome word of it is true!”






(I honestly no longer remember what her story was, although elsewhere on the placemat is the couplet:



I can't get into Heaven, 'cos of all that I've done wrong
And I can't get into Hell because the lines are far too long.




Which may be a clue.)




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16177. Rabbi Sheldon Wayne Moss D.D., Ph.D.

Do You Want to Drive, or Do You Want to Bitch? Driving Under the Influence of the One You Love by Rabbi Sheldon Wayne Moss D.D., Ph.D.

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16178. The 2014 SCBWI FL Regional Conference - Part 3

As promised, here is my third post about the incredible 2014 SCBWI FL Regional Conference in Miami. This one covers the editor panel and workshops led by editors Laura Whitaker and Aubrey Poole. Click here to check out my first post about the fantastic Novel Intensive led by agent Jen Rofé, editor Stacy Abrams, and author Chris Crutcher. And part two covers almost all of the general session, including an amazing agent panel filled with helpful info.


The Wonderful Editor Panel

Editor Panel
Stacy Abrams, Kat Brzozowski, Aubrey Poole, Laura Whitaker, Andrea Pinkney
Moderated by author Dorian Cirrone

This is what they said they’re looking for:

Stacy Abrams—contemporary (no paranormal or dystopian). Can have an issue in it but the book can’t be about the issue.

Kat Brzozowski—dystopian is hard. Would love a good YA mystery. Comes across as loving dark but does love girl meets boy and they kiss, light romantic contemporary stuff for girls.

*She also said that with social media, if you do one thing well but don't like another, don't force it.

Aubrey Poole—loves sci fi, YA, not looking at genre really—it’s the stories that stand out within a genre. More experimenting with format.

Laura Whitaker—she’s tired of dystopian and paranormal YA. She wants to be immersed in a story so much that she's physically removed from her own issues. She wants to read about real people. Contemporary, original voice.

*She also said that with MG and YA, networking is important. Do a lot of digital marketing initiatives. You can get a huge impact from doing a blog tour. "Help me help you."

Andrea Pinkney—more diversity, African American boys, adventure, mystery, fun. Contemporary stories. *You need to normalize and not make it about the problem, even with something like bi-polar. She’s interested in a novel with a character who has piercing or a lot of tattoos.

Sunday workshops
Aubrey Poole – Do You Know Your Character?
A Writing Intensive on Character Development.

Aubrey Poole

She gave us a personality quiz to help look at characters in a different way. She chose a character—Sherlock Holmes (she's obsessed with the new Sherlock show). We had to answer from our POV—how we see him.

When writing your character, remember that you act different with parents/sister/friend, etc.

You can use the Hero's Journey—Google it, and you'll find one that works for you.

Harry Potter perfectly follows the Hero's Journey.

You should use whatever point of view tells your story. If you give a description of a room, it should reflect your character.

She shared a character questionnaire found in Gotham Writers’ Workshop’s Writing Fiction. It’s filled with fantastic questions, broken up into two sections. The first are questions that address the basics about a character and include things like: Does she have a secret and where does your character go when she’s angry. The second section digs deeper by asking more unconventional questions like: What is one strong memory that has stuck with your character from childhood and why is it so powerful and lasting?

I wish I could share them all with you, but it really wouldn’t be fair for me to give more than this glimpse. If you want more—take Aubrey Poole’s character workshop or Writing Fiction!


Laura Whitaker: Dating 101: What makes YOU desirable to an editor?

Laura Whitaker

She’ll look at a query for 30 seconds to a minute. First thing should be the hook, then a two sentence synopsis (three if you have to), then info about yourself. 

Tell her something interesting about your writing journey. What drew you to telling this story? Let her know any cool things you can share about yourself—show what makes you vibrant and unique.  

Come up with an original title that represents your work. If the title is the same when you’re published and there’s a story behind how you arrived at the title, marketing will want it later for a blog/Tumblr piece.

If there’s a tie in with a recent news story/national concern—make sure she knows. Comp titles/TV shows/films are always good to include. For non-fiction, tie it into common core curriculum. Writing groups/conferences show that the writer is interested in the revision process. They want to know this!

She wants magical realism MG—a present day situation that has magical elements that come into it rather than the focus of the whole story. She wants a Chanukah picture book. She likes sparkly things.

You can include info about it being a trilogy in a pitch letter to an agent but not an editor.

Your website is your calling card--especially for picture books.

Do you tweet out interesting, dynamic tweets? It’s the best way to build connections with other authors, agents, and editors. Twitter is more important for MG and YA. Interact! Do you write about the process or what you're working on? Marketing and publicity want to see your social media platform. The more social media, the better—but it’s not a substitute for the craft.

We received a coupon from the conference to submit to her. If we don't have an agent, Laura can't acquire a manuscript (but if she loves it--she'll actively try to help us find an agent). Combine this with her incredible enthusiasm and knowledge, this amazing workshop that explained how to wow an editor and included a really helpful handout, plus the fact that she requested several manuscripts and you’ll see why Laura Whitaker is a fantastic asset to any conference or retreat faculty!  

All the FL SCBWI events have been incredible, but this one had some extra-special magic. Peggy Robbins Janousky had her first page read in the Picture Book Intensive and it received such enthusiastic responses from the agent and editors that she ended up signing with Deborah Warren on the second day of the conference! I can’t wait to share Peggy’s full FL SCBWI Success Story in an upcoming newsletter. We have another writer who signed with Deborah Warren soon after the conference. And so many of our members received full manuscript requests from agents and editors that weekend. There’s a lot of hope out there now, and I’m crossing my fingers and toes that there will be even more great news to shout out soon.

I’m counting the days until the Orlando Workshop at the Swan/Dolphin hotel on Disney property on June 6th and 7th. I’ll share the faculty list as soon as it’s confirmed, but I was excited to hear that agent Alexandra Penfold will be back again. She gave an amazing Picture Book Intensive a few years ago with author Lisa Wheeler. Here’s a link to the first post about that Picture Book Intensive and here’s the second one.

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16179. Dixie Chetty

The Rainbow Chicks: The Rainbow Chicks Are Born by Dixie Chetty

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16180. SCBWI FL Conference Recap #1: Agent Panel

MindyThis week I’m doing something special–bringing you a boatload of notes from Florida’s recent SCBWI conference in Miami, courtesy of author Mindy Alyse Weiss. Why a boatload? Well, it’s freezing here in NJ, so I imagined Mindy on a catamaran, sipping a piña colada with the captain as she wrote this. (We all have dreams, and my dream is to attend a WARM conference! Or maybe that should be a HOT conference?)

I was thrilled when Tara asked me to blog about the 2014 SCBWI FL Regional Conference in Miami. She always gives so much to the kidlit community through her yearly PiBoIdMo challenge and thoughtful blog posts, and I hope this will help all of you, too. Since workshops are often repeated, I can’t share all the secrets…but I definitely have some juicy info, plus insight into what some agents and editors are hoping to find…

I attended the Agent Panel with Jen Rofé of Andrea Brown Literary Agency, Deborah Warren of East*West Literary Agency and Ammi-Joan Paquette of Erin Murphy Literary Agency, where they shared wish lists and do’s/don’ts with aspiring authors.

agentpanelflscbwi

Jen Rofé

  • When sending a query, make it clear you’re personalizing it to that agent.
  • When asked how many editors she sends a manuscript to at a time and when she considers giving up, she said she won’t stop until she’s exhausted every opportunity.
  • The fastest she sold a manuscript—three hours! The longest it took was four years.
  • Wish list: commercial character-based picture books. A country song book for YA. Books based on childhood, like a girl who is getting into stuff she isn’t supposed to do, but nobody would expect that.
  • If you write picture books, she would want at least four she could try to sell right away.
  • Write the thing that scares you. It usually comes from some raw, painful place and that’s where the good stuff comes out.
  • So many people say that it only takes one yes. But it’s not just one yes—you typically need lots of yeses, including the editor, publisher, marketing, etc.
  • Don’t EVER write to the market!
  • A personal note from an agent is a good sign! They don’t have time to send that to everyone. It might be the project/first page/query letter that isn’t quite right at the moment.

Deborah Warren

  • Specializes in picture books. She’s known for building brands and loves finding new talent!
  • She loves working with author/illustrators—it’s her sweet spot. She’s having trouble with chapter books (they’re usually franchises). Realistic fiction is really coming back and she’s excited about that.
  • The client/agent relationship is like a marriage. She’ll never give up on a client—once you’re on the team, you’re there!
  • Wish list: Author/illustrators, multicultural, books based on childhood, a book about singing, or kids overcoming their obstacles.

Ammi-Joan Paquette

  • She looks for a strong opening in the sample pages and is especially drawn to precise pitches in a query that are snappy and compelling.
  • She usually takes three to four weeks to respond to queries. For longer requested manuscripts it was two months, but she’s backlogged right now.
  • When working on promotion, authenticity and what feels natural to you is important. An awkward presence is actually worse than no presence. In the pre-published stage, the focus should be on craft.
  • Wish list: books that do something really different, a different narrative structure, different POV. She loves unusual projects, books based on childhood—travel, unusual vacations, anything to do with food or baking or French food.

Thanks for the agent tips, Mindy. See you back here on Wednesday with more from the SCBWI FL Conference!

Mindy Alyse Weiss writes humorous middle-grade novels with heart and quirky picture books. She’s constantly inspired by her two daughters, an adventurous Bullmasador adopted from The Humane Society, and an adorable Beagle/Pointer mix who was rescued from the Everglades. Visit Mindy’s Twitter, Facebook, or blog to read more about her writing life, conference experiences, and writing tips.


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16181. Character Questionnaire: Getting to the Guts of Character

whoareyouThe other week I wrote a guest post about a film that gets away with not developing its protagonist. However, that tends to be the exception to the rule. Normally, it’s a good idea to spend some time developing your characters. You want to know as much as you can about your main and supporting characters and see what makes them tick.

A great way to get started is with a character questionnaire. There are dozens of these on the internet, and I’ve listed a few below. Questionnaires can range for simple characteristics (hair color, favorite song), to detailed life-histories of your characters. I like to scan these forms for questions that gets me excited. It’s always different from character to character, one question might be relevant to my protagonist, while another gets me thinking in a new way about the villain.

Over time, I’ve found that there are a few questions I like to go back to over and over again. For me, these are the ones that cut through the fluff and get to the real guts of my character.

Favorite questions that help to develop character in regards to story and plot:

  1. What is your character’s controlling belief?
  2. What is your character’s biggest fear?
  3. What is your character’s great weakness?
  4. What does your character need?
  5. Who is your character hurting at the opening of the story?
  6. What is your character’s moral need (this will relate to who they are hurting)?
  7. What is the crisis or problem your character is in at the opening of the story (before the inciting incident or any other events occur)?
  8. What is the “ghost,” wound, or hole in your character’s heart? (Something that happened in the past that affects their actions today and may or may not be related to their weakness/fear).
  9. What is your character’s obsession? Why are they obsessed with it?
  10. What is your character’s external goal?
  11. What is your character’s self revelation? What do they learn at the end of the story?
  12. What does your character believe or think they know at the opening of the story?
  13. How is your character wrong about what they believe at the opening of the story?
  14. How does the story world reflect your character’s needs, desires, fears, or challenge their weaknesses?
  15. What is your character’s Inciting Incident? (This is an event that connects need and desire, and jump starts the hero out of paralysis and into action). What would cause them to act?
  16. Who are your character’s allies? And what do those characters want for themselves?
  17. Who are your character’s opponents? Who wants to stop the hero from getting what he wants and why? What does the opponent want? Is he/she competing for the same thing?
  18. What are the opponent’s values and how do they differ from the hero’s?

Favorite questions that help to get to the heart of your character:

  1. How does your character relate to other human beings? Why?
  2. What’s his/her relationship with their family (mom, dad, siblings), friends, co-workers?
  3. What/who does your character love? Why?
  4. What/who does your character hate? Why?
  5. What does your character view as his/her greatest failure?
  6. What does your character view as his/her greatest success?
  7. In what way does your character feel the world has wronged them?
  8. What’s your character’s greatest strength? And weakness?
  9. Who does your character think they are better than?
  10. Who/what do they think they will never live up to?
  11. What traits does your character value/respect in others?
  12. What causes your character shame?
  13. Who does your character trust?
  14. What are your character’s religious and political views? And what affect do they have on their actions/way of life?
  15. If your character could change one thing about themself, what would it be?
  16. What does your character lie about when they meet other people?
  17. What’s your character’s motto?

Other fun questionnaires to check out:


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16182. NOVA Teen Book festival

I'll be at the NOVA Teen book festival on March 8th, 2014. Just take a look at all the amazing authors who are going to be there!! If you are in the area, please come by! It's going to be awesome!!


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16183. A Bookish Craft to Help You Track Your Reading…

Too often Mary and I read library books or listen to audiobooks only to forget that we ever read them–without that spine on our bookshelves, it’s easy to forget.  In 2013, Mary and I decided to start keeping a master list of every book we read … and we decided to make it GIGANTIC. We did this by painting over an old piece of thirftstore art with white primer: 

IMG_0706

We decided to leave a tree and girl on horseback just for fun: 

IMG_0709

Then we started writing down the titles of books that we read with a black Sharpie. I was House Scrivener because Mary has the handwriting of a serial killer:

IMG_0708

Our rules were pretty simple. Only write each title once (per year). That means if we both read a book or if we re-read something, it wouldn’t clutter our list: 

photo 4

One year into the experiment, it’s become a nice ritual. You’d be surprised how the prospect of adding to the list motivates you to finish a book! Here’s the list hanging above our piano in the library: 

photo 1

I like the idea that in 30 years, we will have an entire room filled with pictures like this! 

 

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16184. Alvah Buckmore, Jr.

The Power of Human Sexual Fantasy: Effect over Sexual Orientation, Culture and Crime by Alvah Buckmore, Jr.

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16185. Author Alert: Square Rocks!

Here’s a quick, deserved plug for a company in which I’m very impressed! Square: The credit card app called Register and Square Reader at https://squareup.com. This awesome device and application rings up credit cards and records cash and check payments on mobile devices. The accompanying, no hype and easy to set-up Square Market is something I already can’t live without.

I’m using Square to sell and service autographed and school orders for my picture book, Samuel T. Moore of Corte Magore, which requires me to touch each of my books personally. (These orders can’t be serviced for me by employees or the publisher.) This is seriously brainless stuff and it’s no surprise this company has literally exploded. Got a second? Check out my book and swag store on the Square Marketplace and order your copy of for Samuel T. Moore of Corte Magore!

See you on Corte Magore!

Sincerely,

Tonia Allen Gould


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16186. The Ditzy Fairy and Labeling

fairy

In Arizona right now, there is a law sitting on the Governor’s desk that will allow businesses to discriminate and not serve those that are gay based on religious beliefs. This legislation got me thinking about labels and how we perceive people when we only look at the surface.

Years back, I had an experience when I overheard an acquaintance tell her friend I was “flighty.” I had a legitimate reaction: I almost whacked her with my wand. Being a sensitive person I have two forms of reactions in my arsenal: I either want to smack people over the head and get bitchy, or I feel hurt. (I usually feel both). And yes I have wings that I only show my dearest and closest friends, so I can take flight sometimes when I need to, but being called flighty pissed me off. This woman knew me at a time when my whole life was crumbling, my beloved dog, Foxy, was in the process of leaving this world, my family was crumbling, and what this woman saw was my world’s ungrounded-ness. She, not knowing me well or knowing any of this, only saw the surface and made an assessment.

The definition of “flighty” found online: “not serious or dependable” “irresponsible” “flakey”

I equate flighty with being ditzy, which would be really nice, as you are never weighed down with thoughts.  (Finally, a good night’s sleep!) Ditzy equals lightheaded, not all there, a not super bright kind of formula. I wouldn’t want to be labeled that, ever. The truth of the matter is there isn’t a moment that I’m not thinking three thousand thoughts, including analyzing the meaning of the life while trying to figure out the formula for the back of Post-it paper. And like most sensitive empaths, I’m overly responsible feeling like it’s up to me to make sure most of the world’s population is happy and fully taken care of.

If we believe in magical things like fairies and the light, imaginative, happy part of this crazy world, are we then seen as ditzy and not down to earth? Are we prejudiced against? What if Arizona businesses had signs that said “No folks that believe in anything magical allowed here.” How would these businesses even know we thought this unless we carried a sign saying so?

Now, I can understand why she might have felt that way about me. I can look very ungrounded, flying around the room with a ton of hummingbird energy. That is my natural energy reserve because I am just plain excited and passionate about what this planet seems to offer. But I guarantee my head is not in the clouds but is in a planning/organizing stage. And give me sugar or caffeine and my sensitive, little body will be hanging from the ceiling lamp making giggling noises and I’ll be talking a mile a minute. I can also get overwhelmed with too much information coming in all at once which can give me that glossed-over look.

Over at my Facebook page I have my featured cupcake of the day and I like to share pictures of fairies and sweet dogs smiling.  Does that mean I am flighty and not seriously dealing with the big life issues of the day? Nope, the opposite. It’s because I have felt and lived the depth of this world — deep pain, deep love, deep hurt, deep everything —  that I know how crucial it is to share the good so we don’t get loss in that pain.

So before we label anyone inaccurately, we need to remember we are only judging the surface, and by labeling, much like those signs that might go up in Arizona restaurants, all we are doing is keeping so many others out, and missing out on the beautiful experience of seeing their greater depth.

—————————————————-

*And many of us have experienced prejudice and labeling about just being sensitive or highly intuitive


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16187. Red Carpet Fantasies: Part III

If you follow me on Twitter, you already know that I get very excited to watch the Academy Awards each year. Not just because I get to eat my traditional pint of Ben & Jerry's Chubby Hubby, but because I'm also a movie freak! (This year, I'll watch the show from a hotel room in NYC. Thankfully, this should keep me from stressing about the live webcast I'm doing the next day.)

One of my not-so-secret fantasies is to one day write an Oscar-nominated screenplay. Something just as exciting would be to have one of my novels turned into an Oscar-nominated adapted screenplay.

If either one of those things happen, hopefully I'll get the chance to walk down the red carpet. Of course, the question then becomes What will I wear? Or What shall I do with my hair?

So, with the help of InStyle's Hollywood Makeover, I decided to try on some hairdos of the nominated actresses of 2014...

Amy Adams for American Hustle:


Cate Blanchett for Blue Jasmine:


Sandra Bullock for Gravity:


Jennifer Lawrence for American Hustle:


Lupita Nyong'o for 12 Years a Slave:


Julia Roberts for August: Osage County:
 

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16188. Heather Stewart

Unknown Identity by Heather Stewart

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16189. A Dangerous history

Dangerous3DI love superheroes.

I grew up watching Wonder Woman, my sister and I spinning around in the family room in our Underoos and pretending to fight bad guys. I watched Super Friends, Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends, He-Man, Jem and the Holograms, and later Batman and Superman. The Spider-Man segments on Electric Company were my favorite part. Our family loved the Superman movies (all but 4, of course) and yes, even the Supergirl movie. I didn't know it was terrible. It was Supergirl!

And I was a voracious reader. But I never came across a superhero book.

My husband grew up reading superhero comic books. I didn't have access to comic books growing up. They were a "boy thing." But I'm certain I would have loved them. I began to read them as an adult--Wonder Woman, X-Men, Justice League, Invincible, Runaways. Dean and I saw all the superhero movies in the theater and walked away feeling as though we could vanquish all the bad guys ourselves!

I was still a voracious reader, but still never came across a superhero book. Why are superhero stories so fundamental to movies, cartoons, and comics but mostly skip novels altogether?

I wanted to write that book. The one that I would have loved when I was younger. The one I would gobble up now.

The superhero genre is a subset of science fiction. Growing up, our library coded books by genre with a sticker on the spine. The fantasy books had a unicorn, the scifi had a Saturn. I went straight for the unicorns. The Saturns, I understood, were for the boys, not for me. Not until adulthood did I question this. Why is science fiction only for boys? And science too, for that matter?

So, yeah, I definitely wanted to write science fiction. As a girl. Starring a girl. Superhero YA scifi, something I hadn't seen before but to my mind so logically needed to exist.

As a writer, what excites me is crossing genres. A western-fairytale-graphic-novel. A literary-princess-story. An Austen-romantic-comedy-murder-mystery. With this book, I wanted to take the realism and depth allowed in novels + superhero adventure story + young adult. Could I pull it off? And would people accept a popcorn movie/Saturday morning cartoon type story in a realistic medium?

Smart People told me that it wouldn't work, and for many reasons.
1. The only kinds of science fiction you can do in young adult books are dystopian and steam punk. You can't do YA scifi in a contemporary setting (which is what the superhero genre typically is).
2. Girls don't read science fiction, and boys won't read about girls, so there's no audience for this book.
3. Superhero stories are the domain of Saturday morning cartoons (targeted at boys) and Hollywood action movies (targeted at men). You can't do it for a teen audience, and certainly not a female teen audience.
4. The superhero story has passed over into the overdone realm. In novel form, you can only parody it, not take it seriously.

But I have this problem. When people tell me I can't do something, I want to do it all the more. It took me time to get it right, no question. The book creation spanned a decade.

2003 I knew I wanted to write a YA scifi superhero story and began to invent it.

2004 I first named a character Daisy Danger Brown (changed her name to Maisie several years later).

2005 I sold a synopsis and outline of the book to my publisher, Bloomsbury.

2009 I finished a first draft.

2013 I finished a final draft.

Maybe in 2003 we weren't reading for a superhero-female-MC-contemporary-scifi-YA-novel. Hopefully by 2014 we are. At least, I am ready for Maisie Danger Brown. If I had Maisie Brown Underoos, I'd put them on right now and spin around in the living room.

 

Dangerous comes out in a week! Remember to preorder by tomorrow and email your receipt in to get the prize pack. And check my events page to see if I'm coming near you on book tour.

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16190. Author's Notes: "The Thing About Ray's Smile"

I often find myself writing a story without any idea where it will land.

(I really wanted to type "end up" but the dangling preposition really burns my eyes.)

"The Thing About Ray's Smile," recently published at Black Heart Magazine, is one of those stories. I had the idea for an image, a really cheeky teenager, and one of my favorite stories, T. Coraghessan Boyle's "Greasy Lake," blended together to tell the very short story of--

Okay, spoiler alert. Read "The Thing About Ray's Smile" first, please.

Ready?

--a teenager who makes  a really dumb decision and it costs him his life. The bad decision? To throw an empty beer bottle at a boat full of what he thinks at the time are kids from the local junior college. That image--the bottle arcing through the air in slow motion--comes from a moment in high school when a buddy of mine tossed an empty glass bottle (only root beer in our case) against the side of a building as we cruised past a police car. I feared we'd be pulled over, but weren't. In Ray's case, the result was worse.

"The Thing About Ray's Smile" is unclassifiable. Yes, the end is horrific, but it isn't horror. It's not a crime story, either, even though a crime happens. Literary? Okay. Maybe. It's definitely dark and I enjoy the word play. It's the kind of story I enjoyed writing even without a clear landing in mind.

Thanks to Laura Roberts and Black Heart Magazine for given "Ray" life...

Irony?

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16191. February... New Mythology, Books, Kids and Dogs

TwilightSnowSibelius Pk2

 

Is this the New Mythology? 

George RR Martin has created extremely popular stories that encompass the past in both book form and television.

More than 24 million books in the series, A Song of Ice and Fire, have been sold.

More than 14 million viewers were watching Game Of Thrones by the end of 2013.

Game Of Thrones, like the European history on which it is based, is filled with treachery, violence, and darkness.

GameThronesWarIsComing

Currently, there are five books in the series.  They have continued to grow in popularity since the publication of the first book, A Game of Thrones; they have been translated into more than 20 languages.

 The viewing audience for the immensely popular Game Of Thrones TV show on HBO also continues to grow and is now in its fourth season. 


European history, particularly the wars and brutality of the middle ages, is echoed in this GameThronesArmy readyfantasy drama series. Conflicts over power, violent dynastic struggles,and treachery are ongoing.
Locations, including northern Ireland, Malta, Croatia, Iceland, Morocco, Scotland and the United States play a major part in adding an air of authenticity. 

 In our current era, and in the prosperous tradition exemplified by Disney, the new mythology created by George RR Martin has spawned popular video games as well as a plethora of merchandise (including a $10,500.00 wristwatch) and clothing.

Here is a link to an excellent trailer that provides a brief overview of the first three seasons. 

An Interview and Insights from George RR Martin 

Game-of-thronesBookGame of Thrones author George RR Martin talks to Alan Yentob on BBC Arts and Culture.

In his discussion of influences, Martin refers to Tolkien, and drawing upon the traditions of fantasy literature; he explains how the grittiness of real English and Scottish history influenced his world of Westeros. He says he was also inspired by the plotting and intrigue of Machiavelli's era during the Italian renaissance...

Martin also discusses differences in characterization between his books and HBO's Game of Thrones television series.

 Here is a quote by Lord Varys from the video series: “Power resides where men believe it resides; it’s a trick, a shadow on the wall, and a very small man can cast a very large shadow.” ...this reminds me of a famous scene in American Hustle, where Christian Bale (as Irving Rosenfeld, the con man) saysto Bradley Cooper, "People believe what they want to believe." 

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Game-of-Thrones-Kayak-Easter-Eggs

The public popularity of George RR Martin and his new mythology is also well illustrated in this anecdote from a book tour that followed publication of his fourth book in the Song of Ice and Fire series, Feast Of Crows..."Meanwhile, crowds have been lining up for hours on Mr. Martin's publication tour to hear him read. 'It's unlike anything I've ever seen, except for hosting events for rock stars,' said Carolyn T. Hughes, an events coordinator for Barnes & Noble at Astor Place in Manhattan, where Mr. Martin read in November. ' "  Dinitia Smith, NY Tmes, December, 2005

A Critic Writes ...Here is an excerpt from Emily Nussbam's New Yorker Review

GameofThronesIronSwordThrone“Game of Thrones” is an ideal show to binge-watch on DVD: with its cliffhangers and Grand Guignol dazzle, it rewards a bloody, committed immersion in its foreign world—and by this I mean not only the medieval-ish landscape of Westeros (the show’s mythical realm) but the genre from which it derives. Fantasy—like television itself, really—has long been burdened with audience condescension: the assumption that it’s trash, or juvenile, something intrinsically icky and low"...

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GameofThronesPAINFearChildren will find food for nightmares, confusion, and violence in the series. For example: a captive woman with no weapons must fight a fierce bear; a wedding feast becomes a murderous bloodbath; a young teenage girl watches her beloved father have his head chopped off amidst a cheering crowd...sweet dreams kiddies.

Here is a quote from the powerful, beautiful, and ruthless Cersei Lannister: “When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die. There is no middle ground.”

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Traditions from the Past...

Author Phillip Pullman, discussed the passing on of fairy tales, folklore, and legends from the past in the Guardian. He was prompted in this by the publication of his own excellent retelling of fairy tales by the brothers Grimm.  

"But a fairy tale is not a text of that sort ( stories written down word for word). It's a transcription made RackhamFairydanceon one or more occasions of the words spoken by one of many people who have told this tale. And all sorts of things, of course, affect the words that are finally written down. A storyteller might tell the tale more richly, more extravagantly, one day than the next, when he's tired or not in the mood. A transcriber might find her own equipment failing: a cold in the head might make hearing more difficult, or cause the writing-down to be interrupted by sneezes or coughs. Another accident might affect it too: a good tale might find itself in the mouth of a less than adequate teller.It is understood that during the Finnish reformation in the 16th century the clergy forbade all telling and singing of pagan rites and stories. In conjunction with the arrival of European poetry and music this caused a significant reduction in the number of traditional folk songs and their singers. Thus the tradition faded somewhat but was never totally eradicated..." Read it all...here is the Link: Pullman. The illustration by Arthur Rackham 

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 The Missing Pet Nightmare

More than 1,000 pets have gone missing in just the state of Ohio over the past eleven months. The nationwide total is in the hundreds of thousands!

FindingFidoMany of these pets find themselves in shelters hoping their families will find them, but sadly many don't make it out alive. Author C.A.Wulff with the help of her coadmin at Lost & Found Ohio Pets has written Finding Fido to address this sad reality.
 
This Barking Planet book gives solid advice on how to prevent losing a pet, tips for what to do if you find a stray animal, and a step-by-step plan in case the unthinkable happens and your pet goes missing.
 
100% of the proceeds from sales of this book benefit The Beagle Freedom Project, an offshoot of Animal Rescue Media Education (ARME), which works to rescue dogs used in laboratory research and place them in loving, forever homes. Available in print and for kindle. Your purchase helps animals worldwide.
 
 
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Does Success Spell Nightmares...Today's New Mythology...
 
The Desolation of Smaug, Frozen, and Hunger Games-Catching Fire, roll GameTronesAryaStarkon...these movies, made from Classic Fairy Tales and YA literature, are all great popular and financial successes. The 3 films combined revenues exceed one billion dollars ! However, there are other vital considerations...
 
 Frozen is scary for some young children.
Smaug and Hunger Games are guaranteed to frighten, confuse and give children nightmares. 
 
The Game Of Thrones is dark and violent and not for kids.
 
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The New Media and the New Mythology
Fairy tales, folklore and mythology were once part of an oral tradition. With the spread
of books and literacy, they were reinterpreted and passed on to all ages. Now we have many more forms for passing on what was once primarily an oral tradition: movies, games, apps, websites, TV shows, and music. Adults, young adults, and children are surrounded by the new media marketplace.
 
CommonSenseMedialogoCommon Sense Media, utilizing reviews by parents, kids and educators, makes age appropriate recommendations for the new media.
 
Here are their recomendations for today's new mythologies: Smaug  - age 11 (based on 52 reviews) ; Frozen - age 5 (based on 109 reviews); Hunger Games,Catching Fire - age 13 (based on 96 reviews); and Game Of Thrones - not for kids, minimum age-16 (based on 77 reviews).
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Winnie-the-Pooh_1495382c

Illustration by E.H. Shepard

Absolutely Mindless...

Jack Zipes is one of the most prolific and respected scholar-authors in fairy tale and folklore studies. He has long been a critic of Disney's sweetening and romanticising -- as in Cinderella --  of classic tales. He spoke with Annabelle Smith of the Smithsonian  about mainstream movies adapted from fairy tales. The interview, relevant today, was actually conducted shortly after the release of Snow White and the Huntsman..

"There has been interest in fairy tales since the 1890s. All of this spectacular talk is not really a new interest in fairy tales, but a new way to exaggerate and embellish productions that cost millions of IrresistableFairyTaleZipesdollars. What’s new is the hyping—films that are just absolutely mindless can make it seem like you are going to be sent into a world that will astonish and delight you for a couple of hours while you eat your popcorn.

What’s your opinion on the adaptations that have come up over the years?

We have every right and should adapt tales because society changes. But the Grimms would flip over if they were alive today. They were better known during their time as scholarly writers; they were in the pursuit of the essence of story telling. By collecting different versions of every tale they published, they hoped to resuscitate the linguistic cultural tradition that keeps people together—stories that were shared with the common people. In these adaptations you can gain a good sense of whether artists are writing to make money or to celebrate themselves. As critics, we owe it to our culture to dismiss 95 percent of the stuff we see..."

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"Wild Dog crawled into the Cave and laid his head on the Woman’s lap… And the Woman said, 'His name is not Wild Dog any more, but the First Friend'.”

Just So Stories --  Rudyard Kipling.

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PalDogLicksOldLadyNo, Dogs Aren't People... 

Salon...

Jason G Goldman, developmental psychologist, science writer, and blogger in the Scientific American (The Thoughtful Animal Blog), responded to a New York Times op-ed article that posited that dogs have emotions like humans. Here are excerpts from his thoughtful article entitled:  No, Dogs Aren't People  

"Are dogs really people? Gregory Berns seems to think so. On Sunday the New York Times ran an op-ed by Berns, a neuroeconomist and author, titled “Dogs Are People, Too.” But all the puppy-friendly Halloween costumes in the world can’t turn a dog into a person...

Perhaps domestication has allowed us to see a bit of ourselves in our canine companions. We made dogs
PALThatLittleRascalin our own image. We were so successful in domesticating dogs that they even outperform chimpanzees when it comes to understanding human social cues. Unlike other animals, dogs do not need their desired behaviors to be reinforced with food; praise from a human is reward enough. Given their unique place in human culture, it’s easy to see why we look into Fido’s eyes and see ourselves reflected back..."

The photos above, from PAL (People Animals Love), are clear examples of the canine connection, the bonding and caring between dogs and people, and the primary factor in our relationships with dogs. PAL works with therapy dogs to bring friendship and healing love to people of all ages. PAL posts this motto on their site..."HUMANS LEND A HELPING HAND, ANIMALS LEND A HELPING PAW"

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HarveytheVideoDogClick the link for a wonderful video smile for dog lovers, children and even those who are not dog lovers...How To Pick Out A Dog, wherin Harvey, a dog, creates his own myth.

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The  Literary Voice of the Brothers Grimm

Every book, whether written for children or adults, has a "voice". It may be, "See spot
run",  or "It was the best of times , it was the worst of times"; there is always a written
Grimmfairy-tales-book-cover"voice". What voice did the Grimms use in their fairy tales? 

"The Grimms' fairy tales are not written in the language of real children, nor do they seek to evoke the sounds of childish speech. Rather, the Grimms synthesized folk stories, personal remembrances, and an already rich tradition of literary fairy tales (from those of Charles Perrault in the 1690s to those of Clemens Brentano in the earlly 1800s) to create a literary language akin to their sense of early language itself"...Seth Lerer,in his Children's Literature, A Reader's History from Aesop to Harry Potter

 

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 The Castle and the huge surrounding forests are covered in snow. Inside the castle are the kidnapped children. There will be war unless the dogs can free them.

CITM-frontcover-jpg-654x945Here is an excerpt from the review of Castle In The Mist by Ann SnowForest2
Staub
on Pawsitively Pets...
"The dogs lead the evil Prince on a hunt to capture them in an effort to save the kidnapped children. This part of the story is very exciting and has great suspense. It's fun to read about the dog's strategies in outsmarting the Prince's soldiers. As I'm sure you're all aware, dogs are very clever creatures and this book showcases their intelligence perfectly!...I'd recommend Castle In The Mist for children as well as adults. "

Read sample chapters of all the books in the Planet Of The Dogs series by clicking here: Books

Our books are available through your favorite independent bookstore or via Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Powell's...

Librarians, teachers, bookstores...Order Planet Of The Dogs, Castle In The Mist, and Snow Valley Heroes, A Christmas Tale, through Ingram with a full professional discount.

Therapy reading dog owners, librarians and teachers with therapy reading dog programs -- you can write us at barkingplanet@aol.com and we will send you free reader copies from the Planet of the Dogs Series...Read Dog Books to Dogs....Ask any therapy reading dog: "Do you like it when the kids read dog books to you?"

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The Canine Connection and Can Do Canines

We live in an era where many wonderful organizations, supported by volunteers, dedicated staff, and caring people are utilizing the canine connection and the special abilities of dogs to make an enormous difference in the lives of people with severe and often dangerous handicaps. 

CanDoCaninesLogoWhat do you do if you are confined to a wheelchair and you are unable to open a door and retrieve a cordless phone?

Can you hear a smoke alarm, a doorbell, or a ringing phone?

Do you have an autistic child who may suddenly become excited and run into danger?

Do you know a diabetic who was alone, didn't know that their blood suger was low, and had a seizure?

Seizures can also come from epilepsy and other sources. 

Can Do Canines help people with a variety of disabilities and handicaps. As an CanDoCaninesAutism_picexample: their Seizure Assist Dogs help people before, during, and after the seizure takes place. Dogs can warn when a seizure is coming. Dogs stay with a person who suffers a seizure attack, licking their face and comforting them while the person is recovering. The dog is trained to bring an emergency phone or to get help from another person. In addition, the dog can wear a backpack with pockets that hold medicine and medical alert information...for more information on these wonderful therapy service dogs, visit Can Do Canines

 


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The Kalevala...the Mythology of Finland

KalevalaDefense ofSampoFebruary 28 is Kalevala Day in Finland...Flags will fly from virtually every building and home... 

I wrote of the Kalevala in our last blog. This ancient tome contains the folk legends of Finland, passed on through the centuries in rhythmic verse by rune singers ( story tellers). The Kalevala, when published in the mid-nineteenth century -- after 600 years of Swedish rule -- swept through Finnish consciousness, igniting feelings of national identity and a great flourishing in all the arts.

I have learned that there is now a Kalevala Children's Game

Kalevala Children's Game...
KalevalaKidsGame

There is also the wonderful children's book of the Kalevala, written and illustrated by Mauri Kunnas 

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No Books in New Library in Texas !

As reported in Galley Cat by Dianna Dilworth

Bexar-county-seal"Bexar County, Texas has opened a new library that has no books inside. Instead the library is outfitted with iPad stations and iMacs loaded with digital books available to check out, making it the first digital library in the country..."                               Here is the link: BiblioTech

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WCDogsLogo

DOGS for KIDS...Information from Way Cool Dogs

The Best Dog Breeds for Children: Which One Should You Choose?

POD-Daisy&Bean-blog size"When it comes to choosing the best dog breeds for children, it’s no good simply choosing the dog you think is cutest or the breed from their favorite film. Different dogs need different levels of care and attention, some dogs get more excitable than others, and some are more placid. You need to take everything about a dog breed into account before deciding that it’s right for your family and home life! We’ve compiled a list of the best dog breeds for children to help you get an idea of the kind of dogs you should be looking at..." Read on to learn more: Children

The illustration, by Stella Mustanoja McCarty, is from Planet Of The Dogs.

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Biscuit and Gravy BradleyRichBiscuit_Gravy

Thanks to Richard Bradley (A Rock In My Shoe), in our December Christmas blog, we have published photos of his dogs dressed for the holiday season. Alas, the dogs, Darcy and Caboose, have passed on but their holiday spirit remains.  Richard's new dogs, Biscuit and Gravy will carry on this tradition in our next December blog.

 

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A Book Of Enchantment

TatarAnnotatedClassicFairyTalesMaria Tatar's book, The Annotated Classic Fairy Tales, is beautiful.

The insights are equal to the wonderful array of illustrations in color by Edmund Burne-Jones, Gustave Dore, Arthur Rackham and seven others.

There are 26 annotated classic fairy tales and biographies of the authors.

This book is itself a classic. 

 

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"Language exists less to record the actual than to liberate the imagination." Anthony Burgess 

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Therapy Dog Uses Surfboard

RicochetTherapydog

The Human Canine Connection has infinite variations...

in this video, an Irish Setter named Ricochet,  rides a surfboard and opens the door to self confidence and joy for children with disabilities.

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       educating alice

Aliceheader

Close Reading...Information and Insights 

 by Monica Edinger, dedicated 4th grade teacher, author, and children's book lover who writes from decades of caring experience ...Here is an excerpt:

"I’ve been curious about the attention now being paid to the skill of close reading, something I began doing with my 4th graders decades ago. Judiciously. By that, I mean I only do it enough for the children to see how much pleasure they can take in the experience, but not enough for it to become a chore. Frankly, some of the current suggestions I see for close reading concern me because they seem utilitarian in the extreme and leave out the joy that the experience can be..."

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New York Public Library's Children's Literary Salon is pleased to announce our NYPLlogoprogram this coming Saturday, March 1st at 2:00 p.m.

 

Photography and Children's Books: A Complex Pairing

 

Photographers Nina Crews, Joanne Dugan, Charles R. Smith, and Susan Kuklin, all of whom work in the realm of children's literature, discuss the highs and lows of this skilled but rarely properly credited art.

 

This event will take place in the South Court Auditorium.

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SunbearSqBigLogo

Sunbear Squad posted the following Watch Tips for February

Urgent: Extreme cold kills outside tethered dogs and cats, especially those animals without heavy coats, the malnourished, the very young and the elderly. Tethered animals in southern regions are at higher risk for hypothermia because they have not grown heavier coats over time like they would have in cooler climates. Watch for animals that don't have adequate shelter; speak with owners or call the authorities immediately. It's important that the shelter be sited correctly also...

Read more at SunbearSquad

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" The dog was created especially for children. He is the god of frolic." Henry Ward Beecher

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16192. Lynne Pickering

The Little Dragon’s Rescue by Lynne Pickering

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16193. Character Questionnaire: Getting to the Guts of Character

whoareyouThe other week I wrote a guest post about a film that gets away with not developing its protagonist. However, that tends to be the exception to the rule. Normally, it’s a good idea to spend some time developing your characters. You want to know as much as you can about your main and supporting characters and see what makes them tick.

A great way to get started is with a character questionnaire. There are dozens of these on the internet, and I’ve listed a few below. Questionnaires can range for simple characteristics (hair color, favorite song), to detailed life-histories of your characters. I like to scan these forms for questions that gets me excited. It’s always different from character to character, one question might be relevant to my protagonist, while another gets me thinking in a new way about the villain.

Over time, I’ve found that there are a few questions I like to go back to over and over again. For me, these are the ones that cut through the fluff and get to the real guts of my character.

Favorite questions that help to develop character in regards to story and plot:

  1. What is your character’s controlling belief?
  2. What is your character’s biggest fear?
  3. What is your character’s great weakness?
  4. What does your character need?
  5. Who is your character hurting at the opening of the story?
  6. What is your character’s moral need (this will relate to who they are hurting)?
  7. What is the crisis or problem your character is in at the opening of the story (before the inciting incident or any other events occur)?
  8. What is the “ghost,” wound, or hole in your character’s heart? (Something that happened in the past that affects their actions today and may or may not be related to their weakness/fear).
  9. What is your character’s obsession? Why are they obsessed with it?
  10. What is your character’s external goal?
  11. What is your character’s self revelation? What do they learn at the end of the story?
  12. What does your character believe or think they know at the opening of the story?
  13. How is your character wrong about what they believe at the opening of the story?
  14. How does the story world reflect your character’s needs, desires, fears, or challenge their weaknesses?
  15. What is your character’s Inciting Incident? (This is an event that connects need and desire, and jump starts the hero out of paralysis and into action). What would cause them to act?
  16. Who are your character’s allies? And what do those characters want for themselves?
  17. Who are your character’s opponents? Who wants to stop the hero from getting what he wants and why? What does the opponent want? Is he/she competing for the same thing?
  18. What are the opponent’s values and how do they differ from the hero’s?

Favorite questions that help to get to the heart of your character:

  1. How does your character relate to other human beings? Why?
  2. What’s his/her relationship with their family (mom, dad, siblings), friends, co-workers?
  3. What/who does your character love? Why?
  4. What/who does your character hate? Why?
  5. What does your character view as his/her greatest failure?
  6. What does your character view as his/her greatest success?
  7. In what way does your character feel the world has wronged them?
  8. What’s your character’s greatest strength? And weakness?
  9. Who does your character think they are better than?
  10. Who/what do they think they will never live up to?
  11. What traits does your character value/respect in others?
  12. What causes your character shame?
  13. Who does your character trust?
  14. What are your character’s religious and political views? And what affect do they have on their actions/way of life?
  15. If your character could change one thing about themself, what would it be?
  16. What does your character lie about when they meet other people?
  17. What’s your character’s motto?

Other fun questionnaires to check out:


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16194. Thought Verbs

Show your story instead of telling via what your character thinks, wonders, believes, understands, etc. something. 

http://marmaladia.org/2013/08/07/practical-writing-advice-from-chuck-palahniuk/

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16195. Odes and Ink

Gorgeous work from Alice Jeffries and Joe Worthington. Here. 

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16196. March Connecticut Children's Lit Calendar

Sat., March 1, Dawn Metcalf, Kent Memorial Library, Suffield  10:30 AM to 11:30 AM Talk for adults and teenagers on writing hooks and query letters

Sat., March 1,  Sheila Murphy Adams, Cat in the Hat Ball, Mitchell College,  New London 10 AM to 2:00 PM

Sat., March 22 Susan Hood, R. J. Julia,  Madison  3:00 PM

Noticed the big decline in Connecticut children's lit appearances the last two months? No? Well, compare March, 2013's calendar to this March's calendar. And the February, 2013 calendar to last month's.

No, it is not just the weather. There are plenty of events scheduled for cookbook, nonfiction, and adult fiction writers. The Big Book Club was held this past weekend at Mohegan Sun. Seventy authors are supposed to have been there. I didn't see any names I recognized as children's or YA writers.

I'm not saying that the lack of children's author activity in Connecticut is some kind of outrage or plot. The question we probably should be asking is why we get as many child/YA authors making appearances as we do? Conventional Wisdom states that parents will take pre-schoolers out to story hour/picture book author appearances, but that after that point, interest drops. Families are much more focused on sports and school events. Bookstores, so I've heard in years past, don't want to bring in a lot of children's writers for appearances because it costs them money to order books and then send the unsold ones back. It costs them money to have their staff setting up for appearances and publicizing them, money they often don't make back in sales. In my own experience, I had a great deal of trouble getting a local indie and a big box store to even talk to me about an appearance for Happy Kid!. I spent a lovely afternoon with a third bookseller in her store. Not only did she not sell one of my books, she didn't sell any books at all while I was there. On a Saturday. After those experiences, I didn't try for appearances for my next two books.

So what's going on in Connecticut right now? Is this year's winter schedule the norm and last year's was the unusual situation? Or is the reverse the case? I'll probably need to keep track of author appearance schedules for another couple of years to be able to answer that question.

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16197. Anne Maree Spencer

Lies, Deceit, Adultery, and My Husband’s Boyfriend: A Wife’s Tale by Anne Maree Spencer

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16198. LAB COAT ARRIVED!

It's for leading robot building workshops.



Actually the second tag is for whoever will be my assistant at workshops. Sorry Pixie.



Also we all know you are the FINAL BOSS.

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16199. ANXIETY: no.


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16200. Author Alert: Square Rocks!

Here’s a quick, deserved plug for a company in which I’m very impressed! Square: The credit card app called Register and Square https://squareup.comReader that rings up credit cards on mobile devices and the accompanying no-hype, easy set-up Square Market

I’m using Square to sell and service autographed and school orders for my picture book, Samuel T. Moore of Corte Magore, which requires me to touch each of my books personally. (These orders can’t be serviced for me by employees or the publisher.) This is seriously brainless stuff and it’s no surprise this company has literally exploded.

Got a second? Check out my online book and swag store for Samuel T. Moore of Corte Magore!


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