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16176. Interview and Giveaway: Toni Blake, Author of Love Me if You Dare

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

[Toni Blake] Smart, funny, loyal, creative type

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Can you tell us a little about your book?

[Toni Blake] LOVE ME IF YOU DARE is the second book in my Coral Cove series, set in a small, quirky, seaside town in Florida. The hero, Reece Donovan, owns a quaint, retro motel called the Happy Crab, and he’s refusing to sell it to the high-rise developer who wants his land – even though his motel, along with the rest of the town, has fallen on hard times. Enter Camille Thompson, the developer’s secret weapon – her job is to wear Reece down. Of course, in the process of that, sparks fly, she falls in love with Reece and the Coral Cove, big secrets are revealed and promises are broken – you get the picture. ?

[Manga Maniac Cafe] How did you come up with the concept and the characters for the story?

[Toni Blake] Actually, the characters and certain elements of the story have been in my head for a very long time. I wrote a very different version of this book back in the nineties when I was still trying to break into publishing. That book had a lot of plot problems, but I always loved the characters, so all these years later, I’m thrilled to have the chance to resurrect them, but in a much better story with much more heart.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What did you enjoy most about writing this book?

[Toni Blake] I think it was the chance to revisit these characters I’d created long ago. I already knew them very well, even all these years later, so it was very easy to write their story. This entire book just spilled from me effortlessly and was a joy to write.

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

[Toni Blake] Honestly, just a few of the plot logistics. Which all worked out just fine in the end. But as I said above, this book was unusually easy to write for me.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] If you had a theme song, what would it be?

[Toni Blake] “I Did It All,” by One Republic. Though I haven’t done it ALL, I’ve had an extremely interesting, rich, textured, and rewarding life so far, for which I’m very grateful.

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

[Toni Blake] My cell phone, my Destiny and Coral Cove series Bible, and my Snoopy perpetual calendar.

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

[Toni Blake] I don’t know that I’d be interested in trading, even for a day. ;)

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

[Toni Blake] I’m sincerely sorry to say that I’ve had very little time to read for pleasure in the last few years, but I recently enjoyed THE FOUR AGREEMENTS, which I would categorize as a miniature guide to life, and I also read THE SECRET GARDEN and PETER PAN, both for the first time. LOVE ME IF YOU DARE has a quote from Peter Pan at the beginning of each chapter, and some fun Peter Pan story elements are woven lightly through the book.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What do you like to do when you aren’t writing?

[Toni Blake] I’m happiest spending time outdoors on sunny days, whether I’m walking in a park or going for a drive in my convertible – I’m a very summer-loving chick. If I’m not doing that, I’m usually being creative in other ways – in the last few years, I’ve taken an interest in working with wood, painting and distressing small pieces of furniture, along with other crafts.

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

[Toni Blake] My favorite place to connect is at my Facebook page, where I give away lots of prizes! But I also have a fairly extensive website – www.ToniBlake.com – where readers can learn all about my books, and I’m on Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest, as well. I’m AuthorToniBlake at all my social media sites, so please look me up and follow me!

Love Me if You Dare
Coral Cove # 2

By: Toni Blake

Releasing December 30th, 2014

Avon Romance


USA Today bestselling contemporary romance author Toni Blake continues her new, heartwarming series set in the beachside town of Coral Cove.

When the question is love, the answer is always yes…

Camille Thompson is the best at what she does-closing deals. That’s why real estate developer Vanderhook has sent her to Coral Cove, Florida, where the stubborn owner of the Happy Crab Motel is refusing to sell. Camille’s never had a problem turning a “no” into a “yes”, but then she’s never been so captivated by a man’s sexy smile before.

Laidback Reece Donovan likes life simple. No amount of money – or any other temptation Camille can offer – will convince him to give up the one link to his past. Of course, it would be easier without the powerful chemistry raging between them.

As a fragile romance begins to grow, can Reece trust Camille with his secrets? And when promises are broken, along with hearts, can the charm of Coral Cove help bring them back together?

Link to Follow Tour: http://www.tastybooktours.com/2014/11/love-me-if-you-dare-coral-cove-2-by.html

Goodreads Link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/22401349-love-me-if-you-dare?from_search=true

Buy Links: Amazon | Barnes | iTunes | Kobo

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Love-Me-If-You-Dare-ebook/dp/B00KPV3O66/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1416333621&sr=1-2&keywords=love+me+if+you+dare

B&N: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/love-me-if-you-dare-toni-blake/1119642772?ean=9780062229533

iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/love-me-if-you-dare/id885045360?mt=11

Kobo: http://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/love-me-if-you-dare-2

Author Info

USA Today bestselling author Toni Blake’s love of writing began when she won an essay contest in the fifth grade. Soon after, she penned her first novel – nineteen notebook pages long. Since then, Toni has become a RITA-nominated author of more than twenty contemporary romance novels, her books have received the National Readers Choice Award and the Bookseller’s Best Award, and her work has been excerpted in Cosmo. Toni lives in the Midwest and enjoys traveling, crafts, and spending time outdoors. Learn more about Toni and her books at www.toniblake.com.

Author Links: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest | Goodreads

Website: http://www.toniblake.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AuthorToniBlake

Twitter: https://twitter.com/AuthorToniBlake

Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/AuthorToniBlake

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/402788.Toni_Blake

Rafflecopter Giveaway (Five Print Copies of ALL I WANT IS YOU by Toni Blake)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

The post Interview and Giveaway: Toni Blake, Author of Love Me if You Dare appeared first on Manga Maniac Cafe.

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16177. Craft of Writing: Best Craft Tips from 2014, part B

Last week we posted the first part of our look back over our 2014 craft posts and highlighted some of the best tips that we found to be fresh and useful. The quotes below come from the second half of 2014 and cover aspects from Pacing and Plot to Voice to Editing Tips. We hope you'll find a snippet that speaks to you and then click the link to read the full article.

Also -- don't forget our new monthly Ask a Pub Pro column where you can ask a specific craft question and have it answered by an industry professional. So, get those questions in! Or, if you're a published author, agent, or editor and would be willing to answer some questions, shoot us an email as well!

Craft of Writing: Best Craft Tips from 2014, part B

Pacing and Plot:

Pacing and plot are two entirely different things, and a common problem is when a writer plots a novel with plenty of surprises and cliffhangers and threads that all lead to a crescendo in the denouement and thinks this means that the novel will thus avoid pacing problems.

Remember, pacing is all about reader perception. If your plot demands a secret conference between all the rival kings to get to a key plot point, and the only relevant piece is that key plot point, then all the give and take and discussion in the scene may bog your story down until you get to the big “reveal.” This leads to skimming and comments like, “Get to the point already!”
(from Dealing with Pacing Problems by Jake Kerr on 12/12/14)

Character Development:

...But I also think those kinds of stories can be really valuable, particularly at a time when “strong” still seems to mean “masculine” or “physically badass” to many. Being strong isn’t about wielding knives or a witty barb; it’s about how your characters respond to the challenges life throws at them. A girl in a wheelchair, overcoming discrimination and dismissal is damn strong. A woman moving past bullying or rape, a girl defying stereotypes to become a scientist in a male-dominated industry – these characters are no less strong for not wielding a sword or a gun.
(from What Does Strong Mean to You? by Tracy Banghart on 12/19/14)

from fanpop.com

What is it that makes a character likable? Some of the common denominators in likable characters include making sure that she (or he):

  • has something she loves.
  • has something she fights for.
  • is willing to sacrifice for something.
  • has some special skill or ability.
  • has some handicap or hardship that makes her an underdog.
  • has a flaw that readers can relate to and forgive.
  • operates from motivation the readers can see and understand.
  • has wit, spunk, or a sense of humor.
(from Unlikeable Characters and Mary Sues: Do We Give More Leeway to Male Characters than Female Characters? by Martina Boone on 7/10/14)

source: harrypotter.wikia.com
World Building:

On Important Objects/Mechanics
For example, in Lord of the Rings, there is the one ring and the lesser rings, the Wizard’s staffs, etc. Harry Potter has many as well: the sorcerer’s stone, the sorting hat, the Sword of Gryffindor, etc. If you have these objects, try to have them serve another purpose besides a plot device. Rae Carson does an excellent job of this in The Girl of Fire and Thorns. The Godstone is crucial to the plot, it connects history to the present and informs the reader about the people. These objects should not be a crutch, but should add richness to the novel.
(from World Building Tips by Erin Cashmanon 10/24/14)

Editing Tips:

1. Make your manuscript’s font small and single-spaced so you can see the big picture of the book for pacing and repeated scenes; lay out the pages on the living room floor so you can see it all at once instead of trying to scroll through hundreds of pages on a computer screen.

2. Change the font and formatting by moving margins and using a different font that mirrors a published book. The story will suddenly look and read differently. You’ll find yourself tightening and editing in a whole new way.

3. To get the *big* picture of the entire novel, write down each chapter in 1-2 lines and watch for the story’s plot ARC and the character’s individual ARCs.

4. READ your manuscript aloud. You’ll catch clunky sentences and rhythm and repeated words, too!
(from Micro Level Revision – AKA “Line-Editing” by Kimberley Griffiths Little on 11/7/14)

 Learning from Positive Reading:

...The advice this professor gave me was to forget “good.” It wasn’t my job to determine whether or not a book, poem, story, etc. was worth reading. Other people with far better credentials had, in fact, already determined the work was “good.” It had made its way into the literary canon. It was a classic. My job, as a literature student, was to figure out why. What separated this work from its contemporaries? Why did it survive while others produced in the same vein were forgotten?

When I graduated and was up to my eyeballs in rejections, I returned to that lesson. I checked out piles and piles of contemporary juvenile literature from my local library and attacked each book in the same way I’d once attacked the works I’d read for my literature professor. I went at it thinking, “Okay, somebody—an agent, an editor, a publishing house—has already decided this book is good. Why? What does this book have that made it a work to be acquired? What are this author’s strengths?”...
...Then challenge yourself. Figure out how to incorporate other authors’ admirable qualities into your work in your own way. I contend it’s far more useful to try to emulate something positive than it is to avoid something negative
 (from Positive Reading Challenge by Holly Schindler on 10/10/14)


For me, voice is telling. To be true and genuine, voice has to take us by the hand and lead us into the magical world of the character, or the narrator. But beyond the facts or emotion that the words convey, voice is about the selection of the words themselves. It's that indefinable quality of rhythm and sentence structure and elegance of expression that elevates writing above the ordinary.
(from What Is Voice In Fiction? by Martina Boone on 7/12/14)

On Writing Dialogue:

from awrighton.com

Read play scripts. Remember, plays are almost all dialogue. Not film scripts, watching and reading those are totally different experiences, there’s nothing but stage direction in a film script and very little dialogue, despite my film examples. The plays the thing. Heh. If you’ve never read a play and Shakespeare or Marlowe aren’t your jam (though you may love it and no one writes better dialogue than those guys) there are a million amazing contemporary playwrights (Mary Zimmerman or Sam Shepard, Tom Stoppard, Edward Albee, Wendy Wasserstein, Paula Vogel, John Patrick Shanley to name just the big ones) who all write dialogue that will set your brain on fire. Feel the rhythms, feel how the conversations make the story unwind and let tension grow, feel the quiet moments and the fighting, it’s a really unique experience. Full-length plays, when read straight through, can be consumed in like, an hour.
(from A Diatribe on Dialogue by Jennifer Longo on 8/8/14) 

On Outlining a Novel:

An outline helps you to summarize the story in your own mind. It sounds like an obvious point, but knowing exactly what your story is about -- in as few words as possible -- helps you to write it better. An outline helps crystallize your themes, your characters' goals, attributes and shortcomings, and the obstacles standing in their way. Being able to easily put a finger on these things lets you write your first draft much more efficiently.
(from The Craft of Outlining by Kiki Sullivan on 9/12/14)

-- Posted by Susan Sipal

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16178. Perfect Picture Book Friday - Blue On Blue

Happy Perfect Picture Book Friday, Everyone!

There's nothing like days on end of temperatures in the single digits to make me think about summer :)  So today's book is about a summer thunderstorm which clears off into a starry night.  I hope you'll enjoy this pretty, pretty book!

Title: Blue On Blue
Written By: Dianne White
Illustrated By: Beth Krommes
Beach Lane Books, December 2014, Fiction

Suitable For Ages: publisher says 5-8, I think younger would enjoy too.

Themes/Topics: poetry, weather (thunderstorms), nature, colors

Opening: "Cotton clouds.  Morning light.  Blue on blue.  White on white.  Singing, swinging outdoor play.  White on blue on sunny day."

Brief Synopsis: This lovely book shows both the course of a family's day on a New England farm from morning through bedtime, and the change of weather from a sunny morning, through darkening clouds, to rain and thunder, and finally clearing skies, sunset, and a "silver night."

Links To Resources: Color Lesson Plans (Marble Art, Beautiful Butterfly Prints, Awesome Octopus, Trying Out Art); make your own scratchboards; Weather for Kids.  You could also make your own art projects based on the descriptions in the story (e.g. cotton clouds on blue sky).

Why I Like This Book: This is such a lovely book!  The story is simple, but poetic.  It takes you through a child's day, and includes elements of color, weather, and life on a New England farm (including animals :)). The day starts out sunny, but a storm comes up.  The child hides under the covers during the worst of the storm, but after the rain stops, the child, the puppy, and the little piggies have a wonderful time in the mud :)  The story finishes with a bath outside for the puppy, and a bath inside for the child, and sweet dreams under a starry night.  The lyrical, rhyming language is fun to read aloud, and the rhythm of the language mimics the rhythm of rain dripping, then pounding, then lightening, and finally stopping.  The scratchboard and watercolor art, done by Caldecott Medalist Beth Krommes, is absolutely gorgeous.  I encourage you to check this one out!

For the complete list of books with resources, please visit Perfect Picture Books.

PPBF bloggers please be sure to leave your post-specific link in the list below so we can all come visit you!  I can't wait to see what you've chosen this week!

Have a great weekend, everyone!!! :)

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16179. pick up an object & write

I liked
Amy's idea and Hope's spoon
so much last Friday
that it carried me
like a weebling egg
to this:


scoop of my heart
in a crude wooden spoon
scoop of my heart
soured and soon there

will be nothing left
no sweetness or cream
bowl will be empty
empty will dream of

scoops of white foam
spoonfuls of fizz
filling my heartbowl
where yearning is

HM 2015
all rights reserved

Go live at Live Your Poem today with Irene and the rest of the Poetry Friday crowd.  How I miss you all between Fridays!

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16180. Self-Talking Yourself Into Being a Better Writer, A Better Marketer

I’ve long believed the benefits of positive thinking and positive projection. Now, in line with these philosophies, there is positive self-talk. In an article at NPR.com, “Why Saying is Believing,” it explains the importance of not only talking to yourself, but how you talk to yourself. Researchers delved into the influence that referring to the ‘self’ has on how the individual thinks, feels,

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16181. Three Questions For Kat Yeh: Twinkie Pie, Advice for Young Writers and what to do when you get Stuck

I devoured Kat Yeh's debut middle grade novel, The Truth About Twinkie Pie (comes out from Little Brown later this month), in two sessions. I got so hungry from reading the fabulous-sounding recipes sprinkled through the book that I had to take a break to eat something. Before I stopped, however, I had already teared up as well as laughed out loud at least once. Couldn't wait to keep reading! 

Twinkie Pie is my favorite kind of book: a wonderful voice, characters I care about and an unexpected but thoroughly satisfying ending.

I've marked all the recipes in my copy of Kat's book that I want to try

I'm also a big fan of food books and food movies. While reading E. Nesbit's books, I lusted after an English Tea years before I really knew what it was. I always felt ripped off when a story text said "they had supper" but didn't give any details. The Truth About Twinkie Pie deftly weaves together the themes of food, family and friendship in an irresistable story about two sisters trying to make it on their own. You can find out more about the book on the Hachette/Little, Brown website.

An aside: I wasn't kidding when I said that the recipes throughout the book sound fantastic. I am SO going to try making No-Peek Chicken, Maybe Even Better Soup, Madder'n Heck Smashed Potatoes, Special-Occasion Fancy Sandwiches, Pull-Aparts, Easier-Than-Pie Pudding, Impossible Pie, Tangled-Up Pie, Heartbreak On Toast, Pick Me Up, Cherries In The Snow, and of course...Twinkie Pie!

I'm not the only one who loved Kat Yeh's The Truth About Twinkie Pie. Here are just a couple of review excerpts:

"Filled with enough characters and plot for two novels, Yeh’s nimbly voiced, combination fish-out-of-water, personal transformation and emotional family tale is also stuffed with charm." - Kirkus Reviews

"...in her first novel, picture book author Yeh (The Magic Brush) skillfully builds toward a breathless, emotional conclusion." - Publishers Weekly

If you're in NYC, you can help Kat celebrate the launch of The Truth About Twinkie Pie on Sunday, January 25th from 1-3 pm at Books Of Wonder. Wish I could go!

Kat has kindly agreed to answer three questions for me.

Q. How did you come up with those wonderful recipes?

The recipes! That was one of my favorite parts of this process and so much fun! Some of them are just classic recipes that have been around forever (like Banana Pudding) that I tried to give a fun little twist. Some I made up. And some, my friend, Elise Coster, who is a chef, helped me to figure out. There was an awful lot of taste testing going on in my house for a while there. I'm not complaining :-)

Q. What advice do you have for young writers?

Last year, I started a correspondence with a young writer who reached out to me. It's been pretty amazing to hear how passionate she is about writing and creating and to read the questions that she has for me.

Our letters are rather lengthy so I will share only a little excerpt with you:

Dear Kat Yeh,

My name is _______. I’m fourteen years old and also a writer. So far I’ve written two childrens books (although that was in second and third grade), a novel, a play, and I’m currently working on my second novel. I do mostly realistic fiction writing.

My dream is to one day be a published author. I realize that, being only fourteen, that isn’t likely to happen anytime soon, but I was wondering how you actually go about getting something published.

I was also wondering if you ever go back to read something you wrote a while ago, or even a couple days before, and just don’t know what you were thinking when you wrote it. That happens to me a lot and I wanted to know if that happens to other people too.

Kat's Response:

Hi _______

…YES! I often look back at what I've written and wonder WHAT WAS I THINKING?!! This is good.

This means that you are allowing yourself to write without editing yourself. You are allowing yourself free reign to put down whatever it is at the moment that is feeling right and true. THIS is how great writing happens. Here's a secret that most writers know: Writing is Rewriting.

Rarely do we get things perfect the first time. The real art is in the work. Write something. Set it aside. Set it aside long enough that you can see it with new eyes. Read it. Think. Think about why you wrote what you did and what you were feeling and hoping. Edit. Make it better. Set it aside again. Repeat. :)

IF you have friends who also write, think about starting a group in your school where you read each other's work and talk about it. Find a teacher who is willing and interested in reading extra stories outside of class. Yes, you are young, but you already know what you love - this is wonderful!


Debbie: Another thing that I often hear young writers talk about is how they get Stuck. And just do not know what to write.

So I tell them what I do. I write anyway.

I write about how Stuck I am.

And I keep going. I go on and on about the Stuckness and how Stuckish it really is and that it's as Stuck as a Stuck door or — or a painted window — you know the kind that has, like, 10 coats of paint on it so that the edges are all painted over and you can't open it. Not even with all your muscles and might! …not even if you HAD to get out because you were hiding in that over-painted bathroom and needed to sneak out the window only you didn't realize that it was stuck and now you can hear the footsteps coming closer and closer as you look at that stuck window one last time before the door knob turns and the door begins to creak open and -

well, you get the idea. You never know where one idea will lead you if you let yourself just WRITE whatever comes to mind. (I'll let the young writers finish that story for me!). What it comes down to is if you're stuck, write about being stuck. If you're bored, write about that. If you feel frustrated, write about that. And go on and on until it turns into something. You can always rewrite. But only if you write to begin with.

Q. What are you excited about or working on now?

I recently finished edits for my next picture book, THE FRIEND SHIP, which comes out next year with Disney Hyperion. AND I'm working on my next novel for Little, Brown which I am crazy excited about and nervous about and so, so hoping that I do it justice!


Find out more about Kat Yeh on Facebook and Twitter.

Kat Yeh grew up reading, doodling, and scribbling in Westtown, Pennsylvania. She worked for many years in advertising and sports marketing — while writing for herself in the wee hours of the night. She currently lives on Long Island where she can see water everyday and explore all the bay and harbor beaches with her family. She is the author of children’s books YOU’RE LOVABLE TO ME, Random House Books for Young Readers (2009), THE MAGIC BRUSH: A STORY OF LOVE, FAMILY, AND CHINESE CHARACTERS, Walker Books for Young Readers (2011), and THE TRUTH ABOUT TWINKIE PIE, Little, Brown Books for Young Readers (launching next week!), and THE FRIEND SHIP, Disney-Hyperion (coming 2016)!

For more interviews, see my Inkygirl Interview Archive.

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16182. Player Profile: Paula Hawkins, author of The Girl On The Train

Paula Hawkins, author of The Girl On The Train Tell us about your latest creation: The Girl on the Train is psychological thriller which examines the fine line between normality and the loss of control wrought by addiction. It’s all about how when you peel back the veneer of everyday life, you can find something really quite disturbing just underneath… […]

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16183. A Literary Appreciation of Dragons 2015 – Part 2 of 4

Here we are, with the second of four posts for the Third Annual Bugs and Bunnies Literary Appreciation of Dragons!

Drawing courtesy of Chez Wheedleton's resident Dragon Expert: Lovely Girl

Regular readers – or at least those who follow this particular series here on Bugs and Bunnies – already know what's what. For those who are new: click on the link up there in the very first sentence of this post, and you'll find all kinds of information that will catch you up quite nicely. Then come on back here to continue the dragon-y fun.

Last week, our theme was Dragon Fact, Dragon Fable. This week's theme is:

Chinese Dragon Tales

It's a little round-up of four picture books focused on stories rooted in Chinese culture, with Chinese dragons:

The Paper Dragon, by Marguerite W. Davol
Illustrated by Robert Sabuda
Ages 5 - 8
* Summary courtesy of Chez Wheedleton's own Lovely Girl

Humble artist Mi Fei spends most of his time painting scenes of the glorious past on paper scrolls. The people of his village love to admire his epic portraits of gods, festivals, heroes, and great deeds. When news arrives one day that Sui Jen, the great dragon of Lung Mountain, has woken from his hundred years' sleep and is rampaging through the country, the villagers are sure that Mi Fei has enough knowledge of ancient heroes to save the day. But Mi Fei is just a simple artist! Can he live up to his village's expectations and convince the mighty dragon to sleep once more?

The Boy Who Painted Dragons
Written and Illustrated by Demi
Ages 7 - 10
* Summary courtesy of Chez Wheedleton's own Lovely Girl

 Ping paints dragons everywhere - on the walls, columns, doors, windows, tables, and chairs, and all over the ceiling and floors. All of the other children are in awe of his skill, but none of them know Ping's secret: he is terrified of dragons. No matter how many he paints, he still is unable to get over his fear. When the mighty Heavenly Dragon catches a glimpse of his art and decides to pay Ping a visit, the boy artist is in for a big shock... 

Written and Illustrated by Jon Berkeley
Ages 4 - 8

Chopsticks is a small gray mouse, living on a floating restaurant in a busy harbor on the island of Hong Kong. The restaurant's entrance is flanked by two huge pillars, each of which has coiled around it a magnificent carved wooden dragon. One night – New Year's night, Chopsticks is going about his usual business of foraging for crumbs, when one of the dragons of the pillars speaks to him, and asks him for help with something very important. But how can one small mouse help a dragon made of wood and lacquer to realize his most cherished dream: to be free, so he can fly?

Dragon Dancing
Written by Carole Lexa Schaefer
Illustrated by Pierr Morgan
Ages 3 and up

A class of students listen to their teacher read a book about dragons. And then, during art class, when it's time to decorate for Mei Lin's birthday, the sparkly paper and ribbons give the kids a great idea. And very soon, a sparkle-headed Birthday Dragon is off exploring imaginary lands, far, far away...at least until they hear their teacher calling.

* * *

And so we've come to the end of Part 2 of 4 of the Third Annual Bugs and Bunnies Literary Appreciation of Dragons. Be sure to come back next Friday, for Part 3 of 4, when we'll explore some more dragon tales...



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16184. The Childhood Friendships Behind BLUE BIRDS

Books grow from a lot of places. Blue Birds is firmly rooted in two of my childhood friendships.

with Serg

In 1980 I moved back to the US from Saudi Arabia at the ripe old age of six. I didn’t understand America, this place with “deer crossing signs” (weren’t those pictures of goats?) and weird playground slang. While living on the other side of the world, what had once been familiar was now strange. That’s when I met Sergio, my boy-next-door, playmate, classmate, sometimes sworn enemy, and stand-in sibling. Our friendship gave us a place to be ourselves, to grow into our fuller selves. It was a safe place for me to navigate my new surroundings and learn about my new home.


A few years later, I met Anna. We traded books, dreamed big dreams, were hugely creative and beyond silly. Anna moved away in fifth grade, and our mothers let us call each other twice a year — on our birthdays and Christmas. The rest of the time we wrote letters, hers filling up a blue suitcase I kept in my closet, mine filling up a red toolbox in hers. Since 1985, we’ve seen each other only five times. I still count Anna as one of my dearest friends.

How have your childhood friends influenced you? 

BB PDF pic for blog postsThis post is part of a week-long celebration in honor of  Blue Birds. I’m giving away a downloadable PDF of this beautiful Blue Birds quote (created by Annie Barnett of Be Small Studios) for anyone who pre-orders the book from January 12-19. Simply click through to order from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Books A Million, IndieBound, or Powell’s, then email a copy of your receipt to caroline@carolinestarrrose.com by Monday, January 19.

Join the celebration!

Blue Birds by Caroline Starr Rose :: Kid Book List

Good Friends and Good Books: Blue Birds by Caroline Starr Rose :: Victoria Easter Wilson

Blue Birds by Caroline Starr Rose :: The Readers and Writers Paradise

Bravery in a Foreign Land: Celebrating Caroline Starr Rose’s Blue Birds :: Amy Rogers Hays

Blue Birds by Caroline Starr Rose :: Well Read Sleepy Head

Blue Birds, by Caroline Starr Rose, and an Unlikely Friendship :: Our House in the Middle of Our Street



The post The Childhood Friendships Behind BLUE BIRDS appeared first on Caroline Starr Rose.

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16185. Hidden

A puzzle piece gets tucked away

Inside a resting boot
And Henry, who's the tucker,
Finds this type of thing a hoot.

A book is likewise hidden
In a laundry pail or drawer
Where, if someone isn't watching,
We won't find it anymore.

This hide and seek's adorable
Though it comes with a cost,
For it's just a stroke of luck so far
That nothing has been lost!

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16186. Book Beginnings - 1/16/15

*Please join Rose City Reader every Friday to share the first sentence (or so) of the book you are reading, along with your initial thoughts about the sentence, impressions of the book, or anything else the opener inspires. Please remember to include the title of the book and the author's name.  *Taken directly from Rose City Reader's Blog Page.

This week's book beginnings comes from ONE STEP TOO FAR by Tina Seskis.  A review will be up on February 2.

"The heat is like another person to push past as I make my way along the platform.  I board the train although I don't know whether I should, after all."


It is slow and confusing, but the end is to be a surprise.

This book was featured last week.  It was good and I wanted to share it with everyone.  The review is in the book's title.

THE SECRET OF MAGIC by Deborah Johnson.

"Gotcha! Joe Howard Wilson jerked and his hands went straight to his face, and then to his body, for his gun.  Groping.  Feeling.  Saying his prayers.  Checking to make sure that he was awake and what had happened in that forest in Italy, all the killing, was over."

There are two covers.  This is the cover I have, and I like it better.  :)

Anything with a typewriter on it, catches my eye.

The writing is beautiful, and the characters are authentic and likeable.

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16187. Friday Feature: 52 Likes by Medeia Sharif

After a brutal rape and near-murder, Valerie wants to get past feelings of victimhood from both the assault and her history of being bullied. She’s plagued by not knowing the identity of her rapist and by the nasty rumors in school about that night. Valerie follows clues from ghostly entities, past victims of the rapist-murderer, contacting her through a social media site—why do all of their eerie photos have 52 likes under them? Their messages are leading her to the mystery man, although he’ll put up a fight to remain hidden.

My thoughts:
After reading Vitamins and Death in one sitting, I knew Medeia could write edgy and dark YA really well, so I jumped at the chance to read 52 Likes. Once again, I couldn't put the book down. The book begins with Valerie being raped. I wasn't sure how I'd endure reading a rape scene, but it was handled really well. I felt Valerie's emotion without being overwhelmed by the horrific act. What I loved about this book was that Valerie doesn't allow herself to sit back and become the victim. She fights. Even when everyone around her is making her feel like she is the one who did something wrong, she continues to seek out her rapist and reveal his identity to everyone.

The ghosts of the rapist's victims appear to Valerie, encouraging her to fight for them, too. Valerie was supposed to die like they did, only a passerby saved her life. And that means her rapist is set on finishing what he started. The mystery behind who the rapist is and the race to reveal him and have him locked up before he gets to her again is what made me keep turning the pages. 

If you like darker YA with mystery and some ghosts thrown in, this is the perfect read. I dare you to put it down once you start reading it. ;)

Want your YA, NA, or MG book featured on my blog? Contact me here and we'll set it up.

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16188. Fathers, Sons, and Baseball

I originally posted this back on July 10, 2008 — before I knew how to insert photos.


Fathers and sons and baseball. You can almost hear the violins, the sap rising from the roots. It’s a tired cliche, of course, but that doesn’t render the dynamic meaningless.

My father, ten years before I came along, with Neal or Billy.

My father wasn’t a sports guy; I can’t remember him ever turning on the television to watch a game of any sort. Hey, I can’t remember having catch with him. But I had four older brothers, and my baseball-loving mom, and a dozen kids on the block for that. Dad was Old School. I think of him as more CEO/CFO in Charge of Household as opposed to today’s helicopter-style parent, forever hovering, eager to bond and share and become best buddies. That wasn’t my father’s way.

So, basically, I played Little League and my father did other things. And I want to make this clear: It was perfectly okay. But one year, when I was ten years old and playing for the Cardinals — astonishingly vivid memories of those games — somehow my father got roped in as a coach. He didn’t know a blessed thing about baseball. Didn’t care to know. The manager, hard-nosed Larry Bassett, taught my father how to keep the scorebook and I’m fairly certain that was the full extent of his usefulness.

I found it embarrassing. Not horribly so, but it felt odd to see my father on the ballfield, clueless and unathletic. What did the other boys think? It was 1971 and my dad was painfully uncool. I loved baseball deeply, passionately. In that sense, we lived on separate planets. Of course now, years later, I see it from a different perspective. And it boils down to this: He was there. As a parent, isn’t that 98% of the job? Just showing up, day after day. Being there. My father is gone now, died almost two years ago, fell on the front lawn and never got back up. Maybe that makes you (me) appreciate those times, those presences, all the more. For he will never “be there” again.

He never read Six Innings, either. If he did, I would have told my father that I loosely modeled a character after him, Mr. Lionni, Alex’s dad, right down to the thick-framed glasses and questionable attire, the black socks, brown loafers and shorts. There’s a scene when Mr. Lionni takes his baseball-loving son, Alex, for extra batting practice. That scene sprang directly from my childhood; I remember the one and only time my father pitched batting practice to me — awkwardly, poorly, like he was hurling foreign objects. But I was struggling with the bat, the same as Alex in my book, and that man, the father, tried to help the best he could.

In Six Innings, it’s a minor scene (pp. 56-58), just a little backstory about one of the boys on the team. But for me, it resonates across the years, like an echo across a vast canyon. My dad and baseball. Our moments together on the diamond, a burnished memory, glowing like hot coals almost forty years hence. He was there. I didn’t appreciate it then, though I certainly recognized the uniqueness of the event; I was just a boy. But that’s what writing gives us, the opportunity to revisit, revalue, remember in the root meaning of the word — to re-member, to make whole again, to bring those disparate things together. Me and Dad and baseball.

Postscript: Oh, yeah, about the name Lionni. That’s another tribute to a great children’s book author by the name of Leo. Someday I should put together a full roster. I see James Marshall manning the Hot Corner, nimble and loose; Maurice Sendak on the hill, strong-armed and determined; maybe sure-handed Bernard Waber over at second base . . .

Addendum II: Today is 1/16/2015, and I came across this post while hunting for other prey. It’s been a week consumed with writing — I’m trying to finish a book today that I started four years ago — and I’ve neglected the blog. Not that anybody cares. Anyway, here’s something. Also: a curiosity. My father was named Alan J. Preller, and grew up on Long Island. The new GM of the San Diego Padres, A.J. Preller, also grew up on Long Island. It’s not a common name. I’ve talked it over with my brother, Al, and we’ve decided he’s probably a second-cousin or something, connected to my late Grandfather, Fred Preller, 22-year assemblyman from Queens, NY. Ah, baseball.

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16189. Book Blogger Hop - 1/16 - 1/21

 Question of the Week:

Do you feel comfortable enough approaching a stranger when you see he/she is reading a book to ask what they are reading?

My Answer:

Oh yes....I do that all the time. :)

I think readers are flattered when you ask what they are reading, and it definitely starts a wonderful conversation.

I love finding new titles and new book lovers to talk to.  I have yet to find one with a blog, though.  

What about you?  Have you found a reader on the train, on a plane, in the airport, or anywhere that you talked to?


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16190. Join the QUEST! Win the TREASURE!

URQ Poster3What do pirates, explorers and children have in common? They all love treasure hunts!
THE ULTIMATE READING QUEST will end on Monday, January 19th, at midnight. This is your last chance to explore new books and authors, and to take home free prizes and books. Plus, one lucky winner, will get a
To enter your name for this SPECIAL TREASURE you must prove yourself worthy by collecting the 49 letters of a secret message! Just by reading this post you already have two of the letters (A and B).
Find the rest within the Quest, writing them down as you go. When you have all 49, unscramble them to decode the secret message. Enter the exact words of the message in the Mystery Prize Rafflecopter right here: a Rafflecopter giveawayAs you're searching for the letters, be sure to leave a comment for each and every author. Not only will you get to chat with the amazing Quest authors, but each comment will earn you extra entries in the general Quest prize giveaway that includes an astonishing 124 free prizes and gifts! a Rafflecopter giveaway
What are you waiting for? Click this button to start collecting the rest of the letters. Then return here and enter to TAKE THE TREASURE!

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16191. Try, Try Again

So this week I sent out six new agent queries. I'll do more next week; it takes a lot of time to explore agents and pick those who you think will connect with your writing. I feel good about it, even though statistically speaking I likely won't end up with any of them as my agent. I am pretty sure I'm not the only one who gets frustrated by this merry-go-round of submissions and rejections. Why do we keep doing it?

I'll tell you why I keep doing it. I am not interested in self publishing. I have nothing against it, per se. It gains more and more credibility every year as a viable path. But I want to write. I don't want to negotiate contracts, pay for my books to be printed, market all by myself. I just want to write my books. So I keep doing it. (I will say that most of the self-pubbed books I've read have not been of the same caliber as traditionally pubbed books. This isn't to say it's not possible, but traditional publishers have teams of people who work on your book. It's bound to improve the quality of the thing. I should also add that I edit for self-publishing authors, and I think those who hire an editor end up with a much better book.)

I have several friends who were almost at the end of their proverbial ropes when they finally signed with an agent and sold one or more books to traditional publishers. Their stories lift my spirits when I want to give up.

Here are a few of things I've learned over my many long years of writing, submitting, being rejected, and trying again.

1. If the same work keeps getting rejected, maybe it's time to set it aside and work on something new. I know for a fact that each book I write is better than the last. And every time, I think this one is it, until it's not. Each one teaches me something I didn't understand before. So don't put all your eggs in that one basket.

2. I am confident that I am a good writer. Maybe even a great writer. I know this because I go to a lot of workshops, conferences, retreats, and critique groups with professionals, and they tell me this. Also because I've been practicing for a very long time. Also because I read by the ton, and I know what's out there. Also, because I have no ego left, so I can assess my own writing in a fairly unbiased way.

3. It's a good thing that some of the agents and editors I've submitted to have rejected me. As mentioned, I been in this rodeo quite a long time, and I've seen the big stall that can happen to a writer with an agent who isn't right for them. Inevitably, that partnership ends, and one has to start all over. As I have gotten to know some of the agents I once thought would be perfect for me, I cry happy tears that they didn't sign me.

4. Agents are just people. Very fallible people. Very nice people. Professional people. But there is nothing to be afraid of. I have given up the role of sweet little author who needs the help of an agent (if that ever was me), and I have started being completely myself when I query and submit. I tell people straight out what I want, what I'm willing to do, and what my vision for a particular book is. I am too old to tiptoe around, hoping my good behavior will get me in the door. You know that saying about well behaved women rarely making history? That.

5. Even when nothing happens, something is happening. I spent the last year hoping to nail down a particular agent. She asked for fulls of two manuscripts, read them, sent back copious editorial notes. I spent two months revising one manuscript per her notes, resubmitted at her request, and waited. For six months. Nothing. All my writing friends said to move on, which I am doing. But that was a good experience, because it gave me more confidence, revision notes to work with, and some good revisions came out of it.

6. Never, ever sit around and wait for that reply. Be working on new things and revising old things and researching and everything else. It gives me so much energy to be working on the next, new, shiny manuscript that I can forget there is ever one making the rounds out there. It keeps me from obsessing or worrying. It keeps me moving forward and writing better books.

I wish us all the best luck this year in achieving our writing and publishing dreams.

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16192. Guest Post and Giveaway: Laura Simcox, Author of Various State of Undress: Georgia

Laura Simcox hijacked the virtual offices this morning to share a guest post.  Make sure you enter the awesome giveaway, too! 

Hi Readers,

I’m thrilled to be returning as a guest on Manga Maniac Café! Big hugs all around.

Today I’m celebrating the release of Various States of Undress: Georgia and I hope you enjoy a little peek inside my hero’s bedroom. First—a bit about Brett Knox. He’s 26, and a pro baseball player. He’s tall, dark, arrogant and hot-headed. He’s also charming, funny and can make Georgia’s mouth *thud* with one little seductive smile.

At the moment, he’s out of town on some away games, and I have a little favor to ask you. Wanna sneak into his apartment with me? Yay. Let’s go! *sneak, sneak, sneak*

Ooh, nice place. Very masculine. The bedroom is….here we go. *opening door* *surveying bed* *getting ideas* *pulling brain out of naughty land* *clearing throat*

Okay, ladies. Do you see any of these things?

  1. Items with girls’ phone numbers on them. They get handed to Brett all the time at the ball park, but he throws them in the trash because he only has eyes for Georgia.

  2. Junk food remnants—Cheetos and Mountain Dew in particular. He grew up eating that stuff and he doesn’t do it anymore. He’s a machine. *eyes trail toward bed again*

  3. Candles. Hey, he’s a guy…he doesn’t give a crap. If he wants to see fire, all he has to do is look into my Georgia’s eyes.

  4. Anything baseball. Brett doesn’t bring his work into the bedroom. Not even his tight uniform pants or jersey.

  5. TV. He’s got a huge sofa in the living room if he wants to lounge and watch a game. His bedroom is for two things only. Sleeping, and… *big, flirty wink*

Did you see any of the items on my list? Me either!! Hope you’ve enjoyed our little bedroom inspection—now let’s get the H out before we get caught. I heard that the Secret Service stakes out this place…

For more Various States of Undress fun, visit me at www.laurasimcox.com

Happy Reading!!


Various States of Undress: Georgia
Various States of Undress # 3

By: Laura Simcox

Releasing January 6th, 2015

Avon Impulse


Laura Simcox concludes her fun, flirty Various States of Undress series featuring three presidential daughters with the tale of love at the ballgame.

Brett Knox, star catcher of the Memphis Redbirds, a Triple-A farm team for the St. Louis Cardinals, just got bumped back down to the minors. Brett’s main goal in life is to get back into the big leagues-on his own terms, which means no distractions. Certainly not in the form of a sexy brunette who won’t take no for an answer. As far as Brett’s concerned, his life story isn’t for sale, charity, or pity.’
Georgia Fulton, 4.0 student and daughter of the president of the United States, is certain that she’s on her way to journalistic stardom and she’s doing it without cashing in on her celebrity status-which is exactly what she wants. Nothing’s going to keep her from getting the story of her young career…until she meets Brett Knox, and quickly realizes that he’s a force to be reckoned with. He may be the focus of her assignment, but he could also seriously mess with her internship success, and more alarmingly, her heart.

Link to Follow Tour: http://www.tastybooktours.com/2014/11/various-states-of-undress-georgia.html

Goodreads Link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/20827352-various-states-of-undress

Goodreads Series Link: https://www.goodreads.com/series/133838-various-states-of-undress

Buy Links Amazon | Barnes | iTunes | Kobo

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Various-States-Undress-Laura-Simcox-ebook/dp/B00IHZUTU6/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1417185067&sr=1-1&keywords=various+states+of+undress

B&N: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/various-states-of-undress-laura-simcox/1118637255?ean=9780062304674

iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/various-states-undress-georgia/id824140745?mt=11

Kobo: http://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/various-states-of-undress-georgia

Author Info

After spending years in professional theater as a costume designer, Laura Simcox eased out of the hectic whirlwind of opening nights and settled in a comfy desk chair to write romance. She believes that life is too short not to appreciate heartwarming, quirky humor and her novels are lighthearted journeys into the happily-ever-after. She lives in North Carolina with her true love and adorable little son.

Author Links: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

Website: http://www.laurasimcox.com/

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/authorlaurasimcox

Twitter: http://twitter.com/Simcoxwriter

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6451974.Laura_Simcox

Rafflecopter Giveaway (Digital Bundle of the Various States of Undress Series Books 1 – 3)

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16193. Review and Giveaway: Perfect Couple by Jennifer Echols




Perfect Couple sounded like a cute read, so I was excited to receive an eARC.  I had a couple issues with the story right off the get go, and they prevented me from completely enjoying the book.  Your mileage will probably vary.  When all was said and done, I didn’t love it, but I didn’t hate it, either.  It’s a quick read that kept me turning the pages for an afternoon and I don’t regret reading it.

Though it’s the second in Echols’ Superlatives series and I haven’t read the first book, I had no trouble getting up to speed with the characters.  Harper is the yearbook photographer, she’s dating the yearbook editor, and it’s her job to take standout shots before her deadline in two weeks.  There’s tension between Harper and Kennedy almost from page one, and I quickly wondered why she was dating him in the first place.  Kennedy is a pouty kind of guy who has to have his own way or he retaliates by giving Harper the silent treatment.  He doesn’t make her feel good about herself, and I thought he was a complete douche.

Brody is the high school quarterback.  He’s gorgeous and funny, and after he and Harper were voted the perfect couple that never was, she can’t stop thinking about him.  She is crushing on him from afar, but he has a cheerleader girlfriend.  And, oh, yeah, she has that boyfriend.  And that brings me to one of the things that stuck in my craw about this book. I do not like reading about cheating, and that is what Harper and Brody do.

Now, I get that Harper and Kennedy make a terrible couple and he treats her like dirt, but they are still dating and Harper considers him to be her boyfriend.  In fact, she thinks he’s the perfect boyfriend for her, because they are both kind of weird and nerdy.  Harper does everything in her power to not fit in –  she wears retro glasses and retro clothes, and she is certainly not one of the popular girls around school.  When her head gets turned by Brody, she changes, and that’s another thing I did not like.  She chucks her glasses for contacts, her cute one piece bathing suit for a skimpy bikini, and presto!  She looks and dresses like Brody’s girlfriend.  Ick!

I thought it took too long for Harper to ditch Kennedy, and found it disconcerting that her interest in Brody wasn’t piqued until her classmates voted them the perfect couple that never was.  Then suddenly, she wanted to be the perfect couple that was.  I don’t mind that she broke up with Kennedy, but I wanted her to do for herself, not because she was infatuated with Brody.  I thought she broke up with Kennedy and started dating Brody for all the wrong reasons.

I found the conflict with her parents compelling, and enjoyed the tone of the book.  I liked Harper, I just wished she made different decisions.  I found her intelligent and quirky, and thought that she had it together, at least as far as her plans for her future and her determination to go to college despite her mother’s protests.  While Perfect Couple didn’t work on all levels for me, I was entertained and would like to read more by the author.


Series: Superlatives #2
Release date: January 13th 2015
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Purchase: Amazon

Synopsis via Goodreads:

In this second book in The Superlatives trilogy from Endless Summer author Jennifer Echols, Harper and Brody think they’re an unlikely match, but the senior class says they belong together.

As yearbook photographer, Harper is responsible for those candid moments that make high school memorable. But her own life is anything but picture perfect. Her parents’ bitter divorce left her wondering what a loving relationship looks like. And ever since the senior class voted her and star quarterback Brody ‘Perfect Couple That Never Was’, her friends have been pushing her to ask Brody out.

Brody doesn’t lack female admirers, but Harper can’t see herself with him. He’s confused about the match too. Yet they find themselves drawn together; first by curiosity about why the class paired them, then by an undeniable bond.

The trouble is, though they’re attracted to each other, they have a hard time getting along or even communicating well. If they’re the perfect couple, this shouldn’t be so difficult! Soon it becomes clear their class was wrong, and they throw in the towel. But they feel so changed from making the effort, they can’t forget each other. What if this match made in hell is the perfect couple after all?


Jennifer Echols was born in Atlanta and grew up in a small town on a beautiful lake in Alabama—a setting that has inspired many of her books. She has written nine romantic novels for young adults, including the comedy MAJOR CRUSH, which won the National Readers’ Choice Award, and the drama GOING TOO FAR, which was a finalist in the RITA, the National Readers’ Choice Award, and the Book Buyer’s Best, and was nominated by the American Library Association as a Best Book for Young Adults. Simon & Schuster will debut her adult romance novels in 2013, with many more teen novels scheduled for the next few years. She lives in Birmingham with her husband and her son.


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16194. Toon Thursday Blast From the Past: Here's to Miracles

I actually do have a new cartoon in the works, but it's currently...a sketch on a miscellaneous scrap of paper. I posted this toon in honor of the fact that my novel-in-progress is still slogging through the quagmire of many pieces of paper, both... Read the rest of this post

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16195. POV

Question: This question has really been bumming me out and slowing me down even though it may be quite simple. When you're writing in first person but

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16196. To Drive The Cold Winter Away by Tess Berry-Hart

It's still winter! The bone-shaking chill of a new January with its winds, ice storms, broken healthy resolutions and humourless deadlines (tax payments, school applications, etc) can make even the bravest of us want to curl up in a cave next to a blazing fire and hibernate until spring arrives.

And to some of us who suffer from depression (episodes of persistent sadness or low mood, marked loss of interest and pleasure) either constant or intermittent, winter can be one of the hardest times. Depression being a multi-headed hydra ranging from many states of unipolar to bipolar, I'm not suggesting that there is one single type of depression; for instance not all of us are affected by the winter or weather, while some people who don't even have depression in the clinical sense might be experiencing a mild case of the winter blues, or Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).

Creativity is like a fire that we can stoke to drive away the cold winter (whether physical or psychological, internal or external). So I'm deep in my cave trying to work out ways that I can stoke my creativity without resorting to biscuits!

Bibliotherapy's been around for a while now, and is the literary prescription of books and poems against a range of "modern ailments" - including depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem. A form of guided self-help, it's not exactly a new idea - the ancient Greeks spoke of "catharsis" - the process of purification or cleansing, in which the observer of a work of theatre could purge themselves of emotions such as pity and fear through watching and identifying with the characters in a play. All of us in the modern world can attest to the feeling of connection and joy when an author so precisely describes a state that we are ourselves experiencing, and the nail-biting, cliff-hanging state of knowing exactly what our heroine or hero is going through. We root for him or her because s/he represents ourselves battling our own demons in an idealised meta-state.

But how does bibliotherapy work? According to the various proponents, it helps perpetuate a shift in thinking, so that things are not so inflexible (black and white thinking, for all you cognitive-behavioural depressives out there!) which is crucial to tackling depression. Being able to gain distance and perspective by viewing problems through the lens of fictional characters means that in real life our fixed thought-patterns which contribute to our problems can start to become unpicked.

And of course, identification isn't the only joy to be found in books; good old-fashioned escapism is surely the reason why many of us read so avidly. A new world, a new family, a new life, perhaps even new biology or physics, takes us away momentarily from the mundane world so we can return refreshed, hopefully to see our lives with new eyes.

I've obviously been self-medicating for a long time, but I always called it comfort-reading. By comfort-reading I mean a well-known book that you can plunge into at will like a warm bath or a pair of slippers. At school when I was anxious about exams or bullies I would find solace in re-reading the heroic adventures of Biggles or the magical quest of Lord of the Rings; at university it was in the dreamy memories of Brideshead and the vicissitudes of Billy Liar or Lucky Jim. When I started my first office jobs I would read 1984 or Brave New World (odd choices for comfort-reads but I think it was to remind myself that things could actually be worse!) but when I started writing my own books, I ...er ... stopped reading for some years. I think my tiny little brain could only take so much exercise!

I started comfort-reading again when we first had our children; during long and frequently painful breast-feeding sessions my husband would read my childhood favourites Charlotte's Web and Danny the Champion Of The World to me as distraction and encouragement. And these days my prospective comfort list numbers hundreds of books; for me, reading is re-reading.

So what could I take to bolster myself against the winter chill? I've written myself a prescription but I'd be interested in hearing yours!

1) A dose of James Herriot's short animal stories, to be administered when needed (they are nice and short so you're not left hanging after a few pages) or chapters from Jerome K Jerome's Three Men In A Boat, or virtually anything by PG Wodehouse;

2) A daily dose of half an hour "joy-writing" - half an hour in the morning when I can sit down and let ideas spill out onto the page. (If it ends up with me writing about what happened last night then so be it. It can often lead to something more ...)

3) A small creative project on the horizon, easily identifiable and manageable, that I can look forward to; in this case getting a small group of actors together to read through a new draft of a play that I've written (there'll be a blog post on this soon so stay tuned!)

4) Connection with others - I'm a member of a local book group, which not only makes me keep on top of what new books are coming out, but also participating in the joy of discussion; there's nothing more frustrating than reading a good book only to realise that nobody you know has read it!)

So I think that's enough to start barricading myself up against the January snows!

But what about you? What kind of comfort-reads do you enjoy to drive the cold winter away?

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16197. Friday Linky List - January 16, 2015

At PW: 2015 Sendak Fellow Announced - How cool would this be?

From Variety (via PW): 2014 Top 10 Books: Film Adaptations Fuel Young Adult Novel Sales

From the New York Times (via PW): Why Do We Hate Cliché?

Terri Windling talks about perfection at her blog Myth & Moor: When Every Day Is Judgement Day. There are lovely photos of her studio and a great video too.

From Red Lemon Club: Why No One Likes Your Art: 26 Reasons - good advice!

On the same note at 99U: This Is Why You Don't Have a Mentor

At BuzzFeed: If Superheroes Were From The Elizabethan Age - great images!

At PW - Illustrators Say: 'Nous Sommes Charlie'

At Mental_floss via PW: 15 Gorgeous Little Free Libraries

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16198. dartmoor pegasus: part 11

And here's the latest installment of the Dartmoor Pegasus, by Philip Reeve and me! (You can read earlier episodes here.)

If you're not from Britain, and don't know what a 'custard cream' is, here's a description. They're not the most luxurious biscuits available, but I like them very much and the packet level goes down very quickly once the tea's made. You can also read a review of the custard cream over at nice cup of tea and a sit down.

And this isn't very much related, but I just thought you might like to see this lovely video, 'Bird on the Wires', by Jarbas Agnelli. He noticed the birds looked like musical notes and decided to see what would happen if he played them.

Direct YouTube link

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16199. Poetry Friday: The Sea-Weed by Elisabeth (Cabazza) Pullen

The flying sea-bird mocked the floating dulse:
"Poor wandering water-weed, where dost thou go,
Astray upon the ocean's restless pulse?"
It said: "I do not know.

"At a cliff's foot I clung and was content,
Swayed to and fro by warm and shallow waves;
Along the coast the storm-wind raging went,
And tore me from my caves.

"I am the bitter herbage of that plain
Where no flocks pasture, and no man shall have
Homestead, nor any tenure there may gain
But only for a grave.

"A worthless weed, a drifting, broken weed,
What can I do in all this boundless sea?
No creature of the universe has need
Or any thought of me."

Hither and yonder, as the winds might blow,
The sea-weed floated. Then a refluent tide
Swept it along to meet a galleon's prow-
"Land ho!" Columbus cried.

- The Sea-Weed by Elisabeth (Cabazza) Pullen

View all posts tagged as Poetry Friday at Bildungsroman.

View the roundup schedule at A Year of Reading.

Learn more about Poetry Friday.

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16200. Catch a Falling Star and Put it in Your Pocket, Never Let It Fade Away

0 Comments on Catch a Falling Star and Put it in Your Pocket, Never Let It Fade Away as of 1/15/2015 11:57:00 PM
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