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You can’t judge a book by its cover?Rightly or wrongly, we all do.In the children’s book market, trim size matters too.And, when you’re a nonfiction picture book author, these two criteria create a complicated mix.
Here’s why I’ve been thinking about this subject.Last year, Penguin’s paperback imprint, Puffin Books, approached me and illustrator Elwood H. Smith about combining our books, The Truth About Poop and Gee Whiz, into one digest format edition for the middle grade market.Why not?Where Elwood’s original illustrations were vivid and lovely, they were just as funny in black-and-white and worked well in this 5 x 7 ½ trim size.
Furthermore, this new edition was in a format that says to kids, “You’re older now, grown up enough for a big person’s paperback.Welcome to middle grade and the road to adulthood.”
The Truth About Poop is remaining in print; in fact, it’s soon celebrating its tenth anniversary.I’m happy to say it’s still selling, being reviewed on Amazon and hopefully offered in brick-and-mortar bookstores around the country.But I realize that these two versions, that share the same text and drawings, are for different audiences.
There comes a day in every child’s life when it’s no longer okay to carry a teddy bear outside or hug Mom in public.For most kids, there’s also a time when reading landscape-format or square-shaped picture books with bright illustrations becomes taboo—at least in public or outside the classroom.The same material that can amuse, amaze and be shared in black-and-white and portrait-shaped rectangles doesn’t cut the middle grade mustard when it’s in color.
But, here’s the rub.So many nonfiction picture books in these sizes and shapes are written for this age group and even older.This short length is just the right sized introduction to an idea or subject that can become an abiding interest.Beautiful pictures or photographs not only bring these subjects gloriously alive, they are a “working vacation,” providing additional information while they also give respite, letting a young reader stay involved while absorbing what was just read. And our readers may need this rest.We often write about complex situations or questions with high level language and abstraction.We talk about the ingenuity of Ben Franklin, the eccentricity of mathematicians and Thelonius Monk, the stuff that stardust is made of.
The Truth About Poop and Pee just came out on March 6th and I couldn’t be happier.It translates well into its new format, and snuggles comfortably into its new home on bookstore shelves where every book is the same dimension.If it reaches new readers this way, I’m very delighted.I’m glad I can nurture an interest in biology, chemistry, sociology, history while kids just think they are reading about poop and pee.
But I also hope these same readers won’t be so ready to “put away childish things” and will still be willing to explore the wonderful world of nonfiction picture books in living color.
Promise of Shadows Justina Ireland Hardcover Giveaway plus a copy of Vengeance Bound Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers Released 3/11/2014
Zephyr Mourning has never been very good at being a Harpy. She’d rather watch reality TV than learn forty-seven ways to kill a man, and she pretty much sucks at wielding magic. Zephyr was ready for a future pretending to be a normal human instead of a half-god assassin. But all that changes when her sister is murdered—and she uses a forbidden dark power to save herself from the same fate.
Zephyr is on the run from a punishment worse than death when an unexpected reunion with a childhood friend (a surprisingly HOT friend) changes everything. Because it seems like Zephyr might just be the Nyx, a dark goddess made flesh that is prophesied to change the power balance. For hundreds of years the half-gods have lived in fear, and Zephyr is supposed to change that.
But how is she supposed to save everyone when she can’t even save herself?
Author Question: What is your favorite thing about Promise of Shadows?
Well, besides that gorgeous cover I absolutely love the main character, Zephyr. She is lazy and she isn't hero material. Despite the support of everyone around her she has some real issues with confidence, and even the incredible powers she's been gifted with aren't enough to really make her believe in herself. She's an incredibly flawed character, scared and uncertain, and I really dig that about her.
Acid Emma Pass Hardcover Giveaway Delacorte Released 3/11/2014
The year is 2113. In Jenna Strong's world, ACID—the most brutal controlling police force in history—rule supreme. No throwaway comment or whispered dissent goes unnoticed—or unpunished. And it was ACID agents who locked Jenna away for life, for a horrendous crime she struggles to remember. But Jenna's violent prison time has taught her how to survive by any means necessary.
When a mysterious rebel group breaks her out, she must use her strength, speed, and skill to stay one step ahead of ACID, and try to uncover the truth about what really happened on that terrible night two years ago. They have taken her life, her freedom, and her true memories away from her. How can she reclaim anything when she doesn't know who to trust?
Strong, gritty writing, irresistible psychological suspense, and action consume the novel as Jenna struggles to survive against the all-controlling ACID. Seriously sinister stuff.
Author Question: What is your favorite thing about Acid?
My favourite thing about ACID is London. It was loads of fun imagining the city, which I grew up near so am quite familiar with, a hundred years from now, and how it might have changed under ACID's brutal regime (ACID are the Agency for Crime Investigation and Defence, a sinister police force who rule over the UK, now known as the Independent Republic of Britain or IRB). I've imagined that the city had been divided into three sectors – Outer, Middle and Upper – and where you live depends on your social standing, which is determined by ACID. Although all people in the IRB live under certain restrictions, life in Upper is extremely comfortable, with its citizens being given the best jobs, clothes, food and housing. Middle's citizens don't live in such luxury, but they get by. But in Outer, life is hard. The people there are forced to eat mostly cheap, synthetic food known as Sub, and work in hard, manual jobs. In their houses they have screens broadcasting ACID propaganda which they must watch for a certain number of hours every day, or risk arrest.
The Mirk and Midnight Hour Jane Nickerson Hardcover Giveaway Knopf Books for Young Readers Released 3/11/2014
A Southern girl. A wounded soldier. A chilling force deep in the forest. All collide at night’s darkest hour.
Seventeen-year-old Violet Dancey has been left at home in Mississippi with a laudanum-addicted stepmother and love-crazed stepsister while her father fights in the war—a war that has already claimed her twin brother. When she comes across a severely injured Union soldier lying in an abandoned lodge deep in the woods, things begin to change. Thomas is the enemy—one of the men who might have killed her own brother—and yet she's drawn to him. But Violet isn't Thomas's only visitor; someone has been tending to his wounds—keeping him alive—and it becomes chillingly clear that this care hasn't been out of compassion. Against the dangers of war and ominous powers of voodoo, Violet must fight to protect her home and the people she loves. From the author of Strands of Bronze and Gold comes a haunting love story and suspenseful thriller based on the ancient fairy tale of “Tam Lin.”
Author Question: What is your favorite thing about The Mirk and Midnight Hour?
The basic plot of a Southern girl meeting a wounded Union soldier is one I have played around with for ages. Through the years, I’ve made up tons of stories in my head as I’m falling asleep, and this is one of them. It’s so fun that I could take this old favorite, adapt it to loosely fit “The Ballad of Tam Lin”—a story I love—and create a book I would love to read myself. It’s kind of like having a dream come to life.
Never Ending Martyn Bedford Hardcover Giveaway Wendy Lamb Books Released 3/11/2014
Shiv's best mate, her brother Declan, is dead. It's been all over the news. Consumed by grief and guilt, she agrees to become an inpatient at the Korsakoff Clinic. There she meets Mikey. Caron. The others. They share a similar torment. And there, subjected to the clinic's unconventional therapy, they must face what they can't bear to see. Shiv is flooded with flashbacks, nightmares, haunting visions of Declan on their last, fateful family vacation in Greece. And with memories of Nikos, the beautiful young man on the tour boat. It started there, with him, beside the glittering sea . . . the beginning of the end.
Author Question: What is your favorite thing about Never Ending?
This might sound strange but my favourite thing about NEVER ENDING is that fact that I managed to finish it! It took me two and a half years to write this book and, at times, it was such a struggle that I almost gave up on it. (My publishers are probably screaming: "No, don't tell them that!") Part of the problem was that I began by writing a quite different version of this story - one that it took me a year to realise wasn't working. So, I then set about rewriting it. Trouble was, I couldn't quite let go of the previous version and the result was a kind of hybrid of the old idea and the new . . . which was even more of a mess!
Eventually, I more or less scrapped everything and started over again. This time, I found an approach to the story which DID work and, after two or three drafts (and some brilliant editorial input from my UK and U.S. editors and agents), I finally wrestled the book into shape. I'm really pleased with how it turned out in the end. But, most of all, I'm just relieved to have an actual book on my desk rather than hundreds of pages of manuscript that look like they've been crawled all over by a nest of ants with inky feet. Amazon | Indiebound | Goodreads
* * * *
Don't Even Think About It Sarah Mlynowski Hardcover Giveaway Delacorte Released 3/11/2014
Contemporary teen fiction with romance, secrets, scandals, and ESP from the author of Ten Things We Did (And Probably Shouldn't Have).
We weren't always like this. We used to be average New York City high school sophomores. Until our homeroom went for flu shots. We were prepared for some side effects. Maybe a headache. Maybe a sore arm. We definitely didn't expect to get telepathic powers. But suddenly we could hear what everyone was thinking. Our friends. Our parents. Our crushes. Now we all know that Tess is in love with her best friend, Teddy. That Mackenzie cheated on Cooper. That, um, Nurse Carmichael used to be a stripper.
Since we've kept our freakish skill a secret, we can sit next to the class brainiac and ace our tests. We can dump our boyfriends right before they dump us. We know what our friends really think of our jeans, our breath, our new bangs. We always know what's coming. Some of us will thrive. Some of us will crack. None of us will ever be the same. So stop obsessing about your ex. We're always listening.
Kissing in Italian Lauren Henderson Hardcover Giveaway Delacorte Released 3/11/2014
In addition to her studies, Violet loves the arts, the shopping, and the friendships she's found in Italy. But secretly, her main objective is to learn about her true identity and family history. She never imagined she would fall in love with handsome Italian Luca. And he feels the same about her. But there are certain rumors circulating, that if proven to be true will forbid that they end up together. They need answers, but are they prepared for the truth?
Liv, Forever Amy Talkington ARC Giveaway Soho Teen Released 3/11/2014
When Liv Bloom lands an art scholarship at Wickham Hall, it’s her ticket out of the foster system. Liv isn’t sure what to make of the school’s weird traditions and rituals, but she couldn’t be happier—especially when Malcolm Astor, fellow artist and scion of one of the school’s original families, starts falling for her. Fellow scholarship kid Gabe Nichols warns her not to get involved with a “Wicky,” but things are finally going Liv’s way, and all she wants to do is enjoy it.
But Liv’s bliss is cut short when she is viciously murdered. In death, she discovers that she’s the latest victim of a dark conspiracy that spans 150 years and many, many lives. Gabe, cursed with the ability to see their ghosts, turns out to be Liv’s only link to the world of the living.
Liv must rely on Gabe’s help to prove to Malcolm that she’s still present… lingering with the other spirits. Together, Liv, Gabe, and Malcolm fight to expose the terrible truth that haunts the halls of Wickham before more lives are lost.
Let The Storm Break by Shannon Messenger Hardcover Giveaway Simon Pulse Released 3/4/2014 Winner - Rosi Hollinbeck
Whirlwind romance and breathtaking action continues in the sequel to Let the Sky Fall, which Becca Fitzpatrick called “charged and romantic.”
Vane Weston is haunted. By the searing pull of his bond to Audra. By the lies he’s told to cover for her disappearance. By the treacherous winds that slip into his mind, trying to trap him in his worst nightmares. And as his enemies grow stronger, Vane doesn’t know how much longer he can last on his own.
But Audra’s still running. From her past. From the Gales. Even from Vane, who she doesn’t believe she deserves. And the farther she flees, the more danger she finds. She possesses the secret power her enemy craves, and protecting it might be more than she can handle—especially when she discovers Raiden’s newest weapon.
With the Gale Force weakened by recent attacks, and the power of four collapsing, Vane and Audra are forced to make a choice: keep trusting the failing winds, or turn to the people who’ve betrayed them before. But even if they survive the storms sent to destroy them, will they have anything left to hold on to?
Author Question: What is your favorite thing about Let The Storm Break?
Oh—that’s easy: THE HABOOBS! And no—they’re not what you’re thinking. A haboob is actually a type of dust storm that plays a very prominent role in LET THE STORM BREAK. Though of course Vane isn’t the type of guy to let a name like that pass without a few choice comments. One of the reasons I love him. :)
Hung Up by Kristen Tracy Hardcover Giveaway Simon Pulse Released 3/4/2014 Winner - Sally
Can you fall in love with a voice? This witty romance, told entirely through phone calls, chronicles the tale of a wrong number gone right.
It all started with a wrong number. The voicemails Lucy left on James’s phone were meant for someone else—someone who used to have James’s digits. But then when James finally answers and the two start to talk, a unique bond forms between the two teens.
Gradually Lucy and James begin to understand each other on a deeper level than anyone else in their lives. But when James wants to meet in person, Lucy is strangely resistant. And when her secret is revealed, he’ll understand why…
The Shadow Prince Bree Despain EgmontUSA Released 3/11/2014
Haden Lord, the disgraced prince of the Underrealm, has been sent to the mortal world to entice a girl into returning with him to the land of the dead. Posing as a student at Olympus Hills High—a haven for children of the rich and famous—Haden must single out the one girl rumored to be able to restore immortality to his race.
Daphne Raines has dreams much bigger than her tiny southern Utah town, so when her rock star dad suddenly reappears, offering her full tuition to Olympus Hills High’s prestigious music program, she sees an opportunity to catch the break she needs to make it as a singer. But upon moving into her estranged father’s mansion in California, and attending her glamorous new school, Daphne soon realizes she isn’t the only student in Olympus who doesn’t quite belong.
Haden and Daphne—destined for each other—know nothing of the true stakes their fated courtship entails. As war between the gods brews, the teenagers’ lives collide. But Daphne won’t be wooed easily and when it seems their prophesied link could happen, Haden realizes something he never intended—he’s fallen in love. Now to save themselves, Haden and Daphne must rewrite their destinies. But as their destinies change, so do the fates of both their worlds.
The Voice Inside My Head S.J. Laidlaw Tundra Books Released 3/11/2014
A fast-paced mystery, The Voice inside My Head is expected to be a commercial success and a hit with teens. Seventeen-year-old Luke's older sister, Pat, has always been his moral compass, like a voice inside his head, every time he has a decision to make. So when Pat disappears on a tiny island off the coast of Honduras and the authorities claim she's drowned - despite the fact that they can't produce a body - Luke heads to Honduras to find her because he knows something the authorities don't. From the moment of her disappearance, Pat's voice has become real, guiding him to Utila, where she had accepted a summer internship to study whale sharks. Once there, he meets several characters who describe his sister as a very different girl from the one knows. Does someone have a motive for wanting her dead? Determined to get to the bottom of Pat's disappearance, Luke risks everything, including his own life, to find the answer.
Kira, Samm, and Marcus fight to prevent a final war between Partials and humans in the gripping final installment in the Partials Sequence, a series that combines the thrilling action of The Hunger Games with the provocative themes of Blade Runner and The Stand.
There is no avoiding it—the war to decide the fate of both humans and Partials is at hand. Both sides hold in their possession a weapon that could destroy the other, and Kira Walker has precious little time to prevent that from happening. She has one chance to save both species and the world with them, but it will only come at great personal cost.
The Edge of the Water Elizabeth George Viking Juvenile Released 3/11/2014
A mysterious girl who won’t speak; a coal black seal named Nera that returns to the same place very year; a bitter feud of unknown origin—strange things are happening on Whidbey Island, and Becca King, is drawn into the maelstrom of events.
But Becca, first met in The Edge of Nowhere, has her own secrets to hide. Still on the run from her criminal stepfather, Becca is living in a secret location. Even Derric, the Ugandan orphan with whom Becca shares a close, romantic relationship, can’t be allowed to know her whereabouts.
As secrets of past and present are revealed, Becca becomes aware of her growing paranormal powers, and events build to a shocking climax anticipated by no one.
Acclaimed author Elizabeth George brings her extraordinary talents to this intriguing story that blends mystery and myth.
People, I am soooo chuffed about today’s post. We have two guests here to talk about a topic that can’t be discussed enough, in my opinion: how to reach readers. I have only recently met Katrina, but Fiona and I met eons ago at Critique Circle. She was one of my first ever critiquers, and her work. is. amazing! She always has great advice to share, and today’s sampling is no exception…
Courtesy of ReneS @ Creative Commons
I must say, I (actually, we because my good friend Katrina is also here) am absolutely thrilled to be invited over for a guest post today on Writers Helping Writers, and I’m looking forward to talking to you all in the comments section! I wanted to talk about a topic concerning each and every writer, no matter their genre: reaching readers. This is something I think every writer worries about in today’s oversaturated market. With so many books, video games, movies, and technological advances out there now, every writer has to fight for their corner of the market.
It occurred to me lately when talking to a fellow writer that authors often focus on promoting their books, their stories, and themselves. But is that what a reader truly wants? Of course, yes, you want to build your brand, get known, and sell your books, but that isn’t truly what will connect you to readers. If you want to connect with readers (and thus the market) then you need to dive into the reading community and discover what it is they love/hate/don’t care about in the book world.
Recently, Katrina and I decided to set up a debate website – a place where readers can come and debate about literary topics from all genres, including other book related topics. Why did we do this? Because if you don’t invite the reader in and give them a chance to air their views about topics they care about and you don’t listen to what they have to say, how are you supposed to reach your target audience when you write your books? How are you supposed to know the market? And I know the word market strikes terror into all writers, but it’s nothing more than readers and what they like to read, and thus, buy. Not as scary as it sounds.
So what is the key to getting that agent, landing that book deal, or hitting the bestsellers list? Write a good book people want to read. That’s what they tell you. Sounds mysterious, elusive, and out of reach. Of course, there are those who just intuitively know how to do it (and to those people I take my hat off), but for the rest of us mere mortals, there are concrete steps we can take to break this down so we can achieve the same ourselves. Now, assuming you have honed the technical side of your craft (since you’re here at Writers Helping Writers, I’m guessing you have already!), let’s look at what you can do to make sure your work hits the mark:
Find a way to get in touch with readers who read the type of books you read. Don’t just hit up the writing websites. Go and find fan sites (a treasure trove of information) and search out online clubs.
Look on Goodreads and Amazon, etc., and read the reviews. Actually READ the reviews. Then read the book. And see how the reviews stack up against the books. We’re always told to read widely in our given genre by agents and editors. But we’re not told about this gem: if we read books, then carefully read their reviews, that information can teach us a lot about what the reader wants. Trust me, it does.
Search out other interests within your target audience. Amazon is amazing for this. Pick a book you think is in the same vein as yours. Then scroll down to see what books the customers who bought this book have also bought. Learn what ticks people’s like list and you’ll start to see how your book fits in, too (or doesn’t—and this can help just as much as knowing if it does fit in, because rewriting is always a wonderful thing).
Pool resources. We all have writer friends and critique partners. But when it comes to research we tend to close ourselves off a little. Talk with each other, and half the workload.
Book club. I know, I know. Old fashioned. But so valuable.
Ask. Yes. That simple. Ask readers. Whether you are commenting on a blog, on twitter, on Facebook, wherever, it doesn’t matter; the concept is the same. Ask people what they like to read. When someone says they loved or loathed a book, ask them why.
There are a lot of different avenues for meeting and talking with readers, but sadly, as writers, we tend to block ourselves off to the writers-only community. And yes, writers are readers too and you should never deny yourself access to the writers’ world. But if you don’t reach out to the thousands of other readers out there, then you’re missing a huge opportunity to build your knowledge of the market.
At the end of the day, writing is designed to touch a reader’s heart or life in some profound way. Taking the time to learn what they care about (or don’t) will pay dividends when it comes time to write or revise your work.
Fiona McLaren is agented for her YA novels by Jamie Bodnary Drowley of Inklings Literary Agency, and works full time as a freelance writer, ghost writing books and writing articles, short stories, short scripts, and much more. She is the co-founder of the DEBATE IT! website, where readers discuss literary topics close to their hearts. She would love it if you came to debate with everyone over there! She can also be found blogging at The YA Bookcase and YATopia. You can also find her on Twitter.
Katrina is represented by Jamie Bodnar Drowley of Inklings Literary Agency for her adult sci-fi novel. By day, she’s a mild mannered accountant, but, by night, Katrina is an active writer, critique partner, and intern. As a co-founder of the DEBATE IT! website, Katrina works with Fiona to encourage healthy debate and conversation between readers of varying genres and styles.
Today I have an interview with Adrianne Lee, author of Delightful.
[Manga Maniac Café] Describe yourself in five words or less.
[Adrianne Lee] Blond, Talkative, Extrovert, a 12 (Seahawks Fan).
[Manga Maniac Café] What’s one thing you won’t leave home without?
[Adrianne Lee] My traveling cup of Diet Coke
[Manga Maniac Café] Name three things on your desk right now.
[Adrianne Lee] I’m assuming you mean besides the expected computer, printer, mouse. I have my old laptop, just in case, but that doesn’t count either. Three things are: A ladybug rock a friend painted and gave me many years ago. A couple of unanswered fan letters. (Yes, some fans still like snail mail.) The Gorgeous Covers of the paperback versions of DELECTABLE and DELIGHTFUL.
[Manga Maniac Café] If you could trade places with anyone for just one day, who would you be?
[Adrianne Lee] I’d trade places with my daughter Kim, so that she could have another day with her daughter, her father, and her sister, even if it meant I didn’t get to have the time with her. (We lost Kim to cervical cancer in 2009)
[Manga Maniac Café] What are some books that you enjoyed recently?
[Adrianne Lee] My reading is very eclectic. Trouble in Texas by Katie Lane; Down by Contact by Jami Davenport; Love in a Pawn Shop by Bonnie Edwards, and the Rose Gardner series by Denise Grover Swank, anything Bosch by Michael Connelly, and the Mallory series by Carol O’Connor.
Ice Erickksen has “one-night stand” written all over him. Once he’s finished shooting the Big Sky Pie reality show, this hot-as-hell TV producer is going to hightail it out of Montana and return to his glamorous life in L.A. But Ice gets into hot water when one of the goodies in the pie shop-a delightful blonde with marriage on her mind-burns up the camera lens.
Andrea Lovette, the manager of the shop, always picks the bad boys. But after her divorce, she’s determined to find the good family man that her two young sons deserve. Although Andrea’s body sizzles whenever Ice is near, she knows in her heart that he’s not marriage material. Then why does the bad boy still seem like such a good idea?
About Adrianne Lee
Adrianne Lee lives with her husband of many, many years on the beautiful Olympic Peninsula in Washington State in a pole barn building her husband transformed into an upstairs apartment with a shop below for his hot rods. Adrianne creates her stories on her laptop, in her recliner with her adopted cat, Spooky, curled between her calves, snoozing. Over thirty years of summer vacationing in the Flat Head Lake area near Kalispell and Glacier Park has given her a love for all things Montana.
by Teri Terry
School one of ten...!
If you've got a book out soon and the words publicity tour have been mentioned by your publisher, if you're anything like me you were just a little terrified...
I mean, not just a school visit, but a whole week of them? and travelling? and packing? and author-imagining-long-list-of-things-that-could-go-wrong?
I'm just back from the publicity tour for
I've been commissioned to do a SketchCrawl event in Manchester at the end of the month, for SCBWI - that's the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators. If you are trying to get started as a writer or illustrator of children's books, it's an organisation that is well worth joining. They have regional groups all over the country and put on lots of events to advise and inspire.
SketchCrawling is an idea I introduced to SCBWI back in 2010, when I was keynote speaker at the 10th anniversary conference. I talked about it in my speech, because sketching is a key part of how I keep my love of what I do alive, despite it having been my job for 30 years now.
Because SCBWI represents authors as well as illustrators, the SketchCrawl event later this month in the Science Museumwill not just be for sketching, but writing too - creating on-the-spot responses to what we see. There will be plenty to inspire and I'm sure the exhibits will be evocative enough to get the authors fired up.
If you fancy giving it a go, as a writer or a sketcher, it's open to non-members too. Drop Anna Violet an email to book your place.
Several things of note in recent days as I process the AWP conference and absorb Iditarod madness over at Alaska Dispatch. A few things that have caught my eye recently:
1. Rebecca Hall is starring in the play Machinal which is loosely based on the life and death of murderess Ruth Snyder. I find it very interesting how journalist/playwright Sophie Treadwell wrote about Snyder in 1928: not in a biographical or chronological way but by breaking up her life into segments and looking into what would drive any woman of her times to murder her husband. Also crazy is that the newspapers ran pictures of Snyder as she died in the electric chair. I'm just not getting a warm fuzzy "good old days" feeling from that bit of information.
2. Quote from Hall: "It's primal," she says. "It was sort of a guttural scream (that) just tumbled out of the writer in response to anger and emotion to seeing that photo and following how this woman's mythology was built around this case."
3. The National Portrait Gallery has a new show: "American Cool" which includes portraits of Americans like Debbie Harry, Steve McQueen, Jimi Hendrix, Billie Holliday, John Wayne, Barbara Stanwyck and I could go on and on. (Joan Didion! Jackson Pollock! Duke Ellington!) You can see some of the portraits here. I want a coffee table book of this exhibition in the most absurd way.
3. What it's like to take the train for 47 hours - you certainly meet a ton of interesting Americans. (via longreads)
4. And via Jenny D., Gary Panter on the NY Public Library: "But much more exciting to me is knowing that really deep scholarship is going on there, the real thing, human computers desiring to know, souls burning with curiosity in a place that they can't exhaust, that there is a deep life of the pursuit of knowledge happening on and on in that hive."
5. Finally, a movie report. I loved The Lego Movie ("Everything is Awesome!!!!") and Monuments Men (Bill Murray = amazing) and after watching Thor: The Dark World (on blu-ray) I am having a lot of feelings for Loki. I am still trying to process if I am under a spell or something....
[Post pic - I'm also addicted to a rewatch of WONDERFALLS. You should be too.]
Alright, alright, so it might not be the official World Book Day today - it might not even be World Book Day for you but it is for many people. This week, and probably for the next few weeks too, authors, illustrators, poets and storytellers will be hitting the road to share their love of the written word with children in schools and libraries all over the place. It's a wonderful thing.
Now don't get me wrong, I think that the WBD initiative is brilliant. The idea of setting aside one day a year when everyone can share their love of books. Children in many schools get to dress up as their favourite book character - superheroes and little princesses abound thanks to the supermarket's ready made costumes but more imaginative creations come to light too. Throughout the day pupils and teachers share their favourite books and the aforementioned visit from an author, illustrator, poet or storyteller can add a much needed boost to the general book excitement.
Perhaps it's just me but the idea of a single book day does make me cringe slightly. One day isn't enough to generate that love of books amongst children that have little or no interest in books in their home environment. Sadly, I meet many children in school that really don't like reading - not surprising though as the whole learning to read business can be a very difficult and taxing one.
Recently I've been writing a series of little stories based on the lives of real people - Columbus, Elizabeth I, Neil Armstrong and others. The most recent book in the series is about William Caxton - not the inventor of the printing press but the man to first print books in the English language. Researching William Caxton really brought home the importance of the written word in particular. What he, and other printers did, changed people's lives forever. News, information and ideas could be shared quickly with many people. Caxton wasn't just a printer though - he was a businessman, a publisher, the first person to open a bookshop in England. He and others at the time brought about a real revolution of the word. Books suddenly became available to a much wider audience and now it's hard to imagine a world without books in it.
Books are everywhere and anyone can get their hands on them so why not share a book today and everyday. And to help spread that love of books why not get involved with the excellent Patron of Reading scheme. A book isn't just for world book day - it's for everyday.
I don't know why, but for some reason I did not encounter this classic book when I was a child, and it has taken me a ridiculously long time to get around to reviewing it. I am delighted that did, because reading about poor Alexander's dreadful day makes even the worst of my days seem positively fabulous. This book also happens to be wonderfully funny, which is a huge added bonus.
Tensions in the South and East China Seas are high and likely to keep on rising for some time, driven by two powerful factors: power (in the form of sovereignty over and influence in the region) and money (from the rich mineral deposits that lurk beneath the disputed waters). Incidents, such as the outcry over China’s recently announced Air Defence Identification Zone, have come thick and fast the last few years. One country’s historic right is another country’s attempt at annexation. Every new episode in turn prompts a wave of scholarly soul-searching as to the lawfulness of actions taken by the different countries and the ways that international law can, or cannot, help resolve the conflicts.
In order to help keep track of debate in blogs, journals, and newspapers on the international law aspects of the various disputes, we have created a debate map which indexes who has said what and when. It follows on from our previous maps on the use of force against Syria and the prosecution of heads of state and other high-profile individuals at the International Criminal Court. Blog posts in particular have a tendency to disappear off the page once they are a few days old, which often means that their contribution to the debate is lost. The debate maps reflect a belief that these transient pieces of analysis and commentary deserve to be remembered, both as a reflection of the zeitgeist and as important scholarly contributions in their own right.
To help readers make up their own minds about the disputes, the map also includes links to primary documents, such as the official positions of the countries involved and their submissions to the UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf.
One striking aspect of the map is how old some of the articles are, originating from the early 1970s. Controversies which seem new now actually go back some 40 years. In conflicts such as these, which cannot be understood without their history and where grievances often go back centuries, this awareness is key.
Another surprising feature is the uncertainty surrounding the legal basis of China’s claim to sovereignty over most of the South China Sea—its famous nine-dash line. Semi-official or unofficial statements by Chinese civil servants, or in one case by the Chinese Judge at the International Court of Justice, are seized on as indications of what China’s justifications are for its expansive maritime claims. A clearer official position, and more input from Chinese scholars, would significantly improve the debate.
Ultimately, the overlapping maritime claims and sovereignty disputes in the South and East China Seas are unlikely to be solved any time soon, and will keep commentators busy for years to come. We will keep the map up to date to facilitate and archive the debate. Your help is indispensable: please get in touch if you have any suggestions for improvements or for new blog posts and articles we can link to.
Oxford Public International Law is a comprehensive, single location providing integrated access across all of Oxford’s international law services. Oxford Reports on International Law, the Max Planck Encyclopedia of Public International Law, and Oxford Scholarly Authorities on International Law are ground-breaking online resources working to speed up research and provide easy access to authoritative content, essential for anyone working in international law.
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We are finishing up a unit of study on nonfiction writing. In the midst of our study, it became clear that my students needed help learning to write well-crafted introductions. As 3rd graders, they don't yet have much experience with this so many of their drafts began with sentences such as "I am going to tell you about..." So I started to share some great nonfiction leads and we studied those. But it wasn't until I discovered the introductions in the National Geographic Kids Everything books that things started to fall into place.
I have purchased several National Geographic Kids Everything (National Geographic Kids Everything Rocks and Minerals: Dazzling gems of photos and info that will rock your world) books this year. They are really well done and all focus on topics kids love. The text is challenging but accessible and they immediately draw kids in. So, as I was looking for good leads to share with kids, I pulled on from the shelf to see what type of intros they had as I hadn't paid much attention before. Well, I was thrilled with what I read. The lead in every single one of these books is incredible!
For example, here is the lead to the book about Rocks and Minerals. Take a minute to read it.
A pretty solid introduction into the topic. Clear and well crafted. And then it ends with a little humor. As we read on, we realized that each and every introduction does a little content-specific wordplay in the introduction as a way to transition into the story.
Over 2 days, we studied 6 introductions from this series and kids played with all they were learning. These were the perfect pieces to study and they helped kids really understand that a lead was not necessarily a first sentence, that it needed to be organized and set up the piece, and that it could use humor to do so.
I have to say, I didn't really expect to use this series as mentors for writing but these intros are amazing. haven't discovered many other introductions for my 3rd graders to study, that are as strong as these.
[Manga Maniac Cafe] Can you tell us a little about Weather Child?
[Philippa Ballantine] Weather Child is a historical fantasy, set in New Zealand of the 1920s and 30s. It is the story of a pair of people, who are one of the magicians in New Zealand. It takes in many years, as Faith and Jack must discover a grand conspiracy to use the magicians.
[Manga Maniac Cafe] Can you share your favorite scene?
[Philippa Ballantine] My favorite scene is where Faith, the Weather Child, summons the storm, and accidentally targets the wrong person. It is the moment she meets Jack, and she makes quite the impression.
Turning his head, Jack saw that the darkness was gone, and that the far end of the room once more was visible. Obviously his unwelcome guest had chosen flight in those moments before bedlam.
Staggering to his feet, fighting all the time against the wind, Jack saw something that certainly didn’t happen in the city every day. Hanging in the swirling centre of the mini tornado, only ten feet away in mid-air two stories up, was a girl. In an instant he had summed her up; not beautiful, but striking, with strong cheekbones, and full determined lips. Her hair was long, brown angry curls, and her dress was in danger of being ripped apart by the force of the powers she commanded.
He had no doubt that she was holding the reins of this tumult. Even as Waingaio told him that, Jack had confirmation; the young woman’s eyes were clear orbs of gold. It was the one sure sign that the human was no longer in control, but had surrendered to the leech.
Those terrifying eyes flickered over the scene; taking in the tied forms, the dropped heads, and the man standing in the midst of it all with a bared blade.
“Oh dammit…” Jack said, realising the instant her eyes turned back to him exactly what this looked like. This was one woman that he didn’t want to have angry with him. A pity he comprehended that a moment too late.
[Manga Maniac Cafe] What gave you the most trouble with the story?
[Philippa Ballantine] Writing the story wasn’t the hard part. Finding someone to publish it was. My agent pitched it to New York houses, but time and time again she was told ‘Americans don’t want to read stories set in NZ’. Being the determined type I set out to prove them wrong by publishing it myself.
[Manga Maniac Cafe] What’s one thing you won’t leave home without?
[Philippa Ballantine] My cellphone! I need it for writing down sudden ideas, communicating with my family back in New Zealand, or just searching for answers to those tricky questions about movies my husband always tends to ask me.
[Manga Maniac Cafe] Name three things on your desk right now.
[Philippa Ballantine] A Jaeger toy from Pacific Rim, a microphone for podcasting moments, and a giant fluffy cat.
[Manga Maniac Cafe] If you could trade places with anyone for just one day, who would you be?
[Philippa Ballantine] I would love to swap places with Sir Patrick Stewart, just so I could hang out with Sir Ian McKellan…he looks like a lot of fun.
[Manga Maniac Cafe] You have been granted the use of one superpower for one week. Which power would you choose, and what would you do with it?
[Philippa Ballantine] Much like Faith, I would love to control the Weather. I am pretty sick of snow right now! It would also be nice to able to guarantee the weather you get for any events. I could certainly make money securing the right weather conditions for brides!
[Manga Maniac Cafe] What are some books that you enjoyed recently?
[Philippa Ballantine] I love Scott Lynch’s The Lies of Lock Lamora, and I just finished Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children.
[Manga Maniac Cafe] How can readers connect with you?
They are the Awakened, a unique breed of people in a remote corner of the world. Faith is one of these gifted carriers of the Seraphim; and in return of her unconditional love, her Seraphim grants her powers of incredible potential.
But not all carriers embrace their blessing.
Jack loathes being an Awakened. He never asked for it, his Seraphim keeping him alive even in spite of his desire to die. Not even a great war could rid him of this curse.
Now a magician of incredible ability and a walking dead man must find a way to work together to save the Seraphim. Someone covets the power of the Awakened, and will not stop until that power belongs to him.
About the Author:
New Zealand born fantasy writer and podcaster Philippa (Pip) Ballantine is the author of the Books of the Order and the Shifted World series. She is also the co-author with her husband Tee Morris of the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences novels. Her awards include an Airship, a Parsec, the Steampunk Chronicle Reader’s Choice, and a Sir Julius Vogel. She currently resides in Manassas, Virginia with her husband, daughter, and a furry clowder of cats.
The train squealed as they landed on the narrow walkway between the final car and the coal wagon. Faith managed to catch herself before rolling off, but her hat came loose and was lost into the dust.
Scrambling up, they could see over the pile of coal the pale and astonished face of the engineer. He was taking in the fire and the creature that he could obviously see. He disappeared back again. The train sped up and Wirimu and Faith were forced back into the ruined carriage by the swaying of the train.
“He’s not going to risk stopping in Paraparaumu,” Wirimu yelled over the screaming of the wheels. “He’ll push on to Shorecliff where there is a police presence.”
It made sense, and Faith was thankful for the quick thinking of government employees. Glancing behind her, Faith knew they couldn’t be far from the tunnel.
“You go unhook the back carriages from this one,” she instructed Wirimu. “I can’t risk an all-out battle with so many civilians. I’ll hold her off. Quick, there’s a tunnel.” Mid sentence she had already delved into her magic, Hoa leaping to aid her. The wind began to scream even louder than the train. It filled her with satisfaction and completeness just as always. When it was in her, she was more than just human; she was the living, breathing embodiment of nature’s might.
Seeing the oncoming darkness and feeling the wind begin to batter at the sides of the train, Wirimu didn’t ask any further questions. He dashed back along the now pitted and ruined first class carriage, just as the train plunged into the darkness of the tunnel.
Time slowed. It wasn’t a trick of Faith’s perception or magic; she sensed that immediately. The train was slowly shuddering, where as mere moments before it had been bucking like a wily rodeo horse. Only two remaining lights at the far end of the carriage gave any illumination, but it was enough.
Not even a small woman could have stood atop the roof of the train as it passed into the tunnel, so when the creature appeared in the window to one side of Faith, she was not surprised. The claws that had been twisted from the girl’s once charming little hands were locked around the melding of the window without any apparent difficulty. The golden eyes peered in at Faith with burning fury, but she had the real impression it was not staring at her, so much as through her to the seraph within.
The moment, trapped in amber, passed. Faith heard an almighty clank as the back end of the train fell away. The engine, stoked to full capacity, leapt forward eagerly, but like the well-seasoned traveller she was, Faith managed to keep her feet.
While her attacker shot a glance back, distracted perhaps by losing its audience, she threw the wind at it. The glass exploded and the walls of the carriage bulged as the might of a Wellington southerly wind confined in a small space smashed at that which Hoa found hateful. It pummelled the creature with broken glass, and then, with the full force of a gale. The glaring gold eyes flared wide, but whatever dwelt inside was still beholden to the demands of the real world. The claws scrambled on the side, but couldn’t hold forever.
The long dead girl’s voice howled in anger, before the wind picked up the creature and smashed it against the last few feet of the tunnel.
Tour Wide Giveaway
3- Winner’s choice print or ebook copy of Weather Child by Philippa Ballantine
We all want to write vibrant, lively, realistic characters that leap to life from the page. We want our characters well-rounded and interesting. We want our characters to each have their own “voice.”
In pursuit of this worthy goal of creating a realistic character, we write lengthy character histories, we write journal entries from the point of view of our character, and we fill in character worksheets.
Yet sometimes we do all of these things – we endow our character with personality, background, depth, and breadth – and still, our beta readers say they just don’t “connect” with the character.
In other words, they didn’t care about the character.
How do you take your well-rounded character and carry him over that giant chasm that separates “realistic” from “relatable”? How do you give him the traits that will make a reader stay up all night with him, anxiously turning page after page just to know if he achieves his goal?
The answer is simple:
To be relatable, a character needs to be vulnerable.
Obviously, the concept of creating vulnerability isn’t a well-guarded secret in the writing world. If you’ve watched your share of Disney animated features, you know that almost no Disney character is entitled to grow up with both parents. (Of course, this truism isn’t limited to Disney – Harry Potter, Bruce Wayne, Peter Parker, Luke Skywalker, and Katniss Everdeen have all lost at least one parent.)
Vulnerability gives a reader something to root for. Vulnerability opens a character up to empathy.
So if this rule of endowing a character with vulnerability is so simple, why aren’t all of our characters sympathetic, relatable heroes?
The reason may be that – like many concepts in writing – creating vulnerability in a character is much easier to understand than it is to execute. Here are a few things to consider when thinking about your character’s weaknesses:
Vulnerabilities should directly relate to your character’s goal and motivation. In the Hunger Games trilogy, Katniss’s loss of her father is more than just a personal loss – it sets in motion her strong desire to protect her family. It also influences the actions she is willing to take to obtain her goals. Having lost her father in a mining accident, setting off an explosion in a mine is not a tactic she can endorse.
Your reader will relate more to a character’s fears if they share those fears themselves.Harry Potter is thrown into an unfamiliar world and learns immediately that someone very powerful and evil wants to destroy him. Part of why readers find him so relatable is that we all fear the monster under the bed – the unseen thing that wants to harm us – and Voldemort embodies that perfectly.
A loss that creates both a weakness and a strength can be especially compelling. Luke Skywalker learns that his father was a great Jedi. Knowing this makes the fact that he never knew his father all the more painful. Yet Luke has this incredible legacy that empowers him. (And when Luke ultimately learns that his greatest nemesis is actually his father, this vulnerability gains a whole new level of uniqueness and complexity.)
What do you think about creating relatable characters? Do you have an approach to ensure that your characters have a balance of strengths and weaknesses? Please share your thoughts in the comments!
Julie Eshbaugh writes fiction for young adults. She is represented by Adams Literary. You can add Julie on Goodreads and follow her on Twitter and Pinterest.
Warrior faery princes can be very stubborn. Especially when they possess your body.Fourteen-year-old Finn just wants to keep his little sister out of Child Protective Services--an epic challenge with their parentally-missing-in-action dad moving them to England, near the famous Stonehenge rocks. Warrior faery Prince Zaneyr just wants to escape his father's reckless plan to repair the Rift--a catastrophe that ripped the faery realm from Earth 4,000 years ago and set it adrift in an alternate, timeless dimension. When Zaneyr tricks Finn into swapping places, Finn becomes a bodiless soul stuck in the Otherworld, and Zaneyr uses Finn's body to fight off his father's seekers on Earth. Between them, they have two souls and only one body... and both worlds to save before the dimensional window between them slams shut.
NOTE TO TEACHERS: Check out the Virtual Author visit video and Common-Core-Aligned Teacher's Guide for Faery Swap here.
2 minute book trailer
[Author's Note: Faery Swap is told in alternating points of view, between Finn, the human boy, and Zaneyr, the faery prince who tricks him into swapping places.]
He looked up at the blanket of haze hiding the sun. The sky had been blue when he had dropped off Erin. How long had he been out? He wrestled his arm around to look at his watch
The second hand was dead still, frozen between the five and the six. Whatever McFreaky did to knock him out broke his watch, too. The watch his mom gave him. She had strapped it on his wrist that day he was late for the bus and told him that being on time was important. Part of growing up. She drove him to school. The wreck happened on the way home.
It was the last thing she ever gave him. And McFreaky broke it. Finn clenched his fist and slammed it into the grass.
Then the grass punched him back.
The hit to his shoulder was so hard, it flipped him onto his back. A tinkling of glass sounded all around him.
“What the…?” Finn scrambled to sit up. The grass couldn’t have punched him. That didn’t make any sense. Something under the grass then. He jumped up to his feet and stared at the ground, frozen, waiting for it to move again.
Finn stomped his foot on the grass where he’d been lying a moment before, just to be sure. The grass kicked back, knocking him off his feet and landing him with a thump on his backside. The tinkling glass sound rushed up, like a thousand tiny voices laughing.
“Ahhh!” Finn jerked up off the ground. A narrow dirt path was just a dozen feet away, so he ran toward it. Tiny insects rose up wherever he stepped, making the tinkling sound, then falling back down. He teetered on the safety of the path, which seemed clear of the insects. The path was just wide enough for a sheep to pass. A very small sheep.
Whatwasthis crazy place?
Zaneyr peered at the young sister of Finn. He vowed to respect that kin bond, as a brother would. It was the least he could do, having banished her brother to the eternal changelessness of the Otherworld. And perhaps the House of Finn would serve as good a hiding place as any.
She awaited his answer with an impatience too large for such a small thing.
“No, lass, you cannot stay home with me.” He gestured to the loud guardian of the stone structure. “You need to stay here. But I will be back at the appointed time for you.”
Erin’s shoulders sagged with defeat.
“But I think I will return home now.” Zaneyr looked around at the many dwellings that crowded the path. “Which one would that be?”
Erin fixed that glare upon him again. “I memorized our address, already! When are you going to stop quizzing me?”
“It is the sickness,” Zaneyr said with a smile. “It is stealing my memory like a thief.”
“Dude, youaresick.” She suddenly shot her hand toward his face. Reflexively, Zaneyr leaned away, but she managed to land a tiny, warm hand on his cheek. He froze. What sort of magick was she working by touch? Then he remembered she was only a child, and a human one at that. It had been so long since he had felt the warmth of any touch.
The tension flew away.
“You’re not running a fever.” Her face was a picture of seriousness. “But I should go home with you.”
“Erin!” the woman called again, closer now. “You all right, love? I’m closing the gates.”
“You are summoned. You must go.” Zaneyr glanced again at the dwellings, stacked like cubes on top of one another. He pointed to one. “Is that our home? I don’t believe you truly recall.”
Erin’s shoulders drooped again. “It’s 842 on Earls Court.” She speared his chest with a small finger.
Don’t forget to come back and get me.”
“I could hardly refuse an order so imperiously given.”
Susan Kaye Quinn is the author of the bestselling Mindjack Trilogy, which is young adult science fiction.Faery Swap is her foray into middle grade, which is her first writing love. Her business card says "Author and Rocket Scientist" and she always has more speculative fiction fun in the works. You can subscribe to her newsletter (hint: new subscribers get a free short story!) or stop by her blog to see what she's up to.
What do doctors, lawyers, and CPA's have in common aside from all that schooling? Probably the respect they get for their profession. Sure people often get a second opinion but they don't go to the plumber - they go to another doctor, lawyer, or accountant.
I've wanted to write about this for a while because it irks me that in our profession we're often not treated as the experts we've worked so hard to become. Let me begin by pretty much eliminating most of the children's picture book editors from my upcoming rant. I've never been treated more like a professional than by my picture book editors. I'm talking about the clients we've had who don't respect our schooling and work experience in freelance illustration.
I find it really troublesome that we are often asked to make arbitrary, superfluous, unnecessary, and downright stupid changes that ruin compositions by clients that have no art training. It's the equivalent of me telling my surgeon where and how to cut - my attorney what motions to file and my CPA what strategies he should use to save me money. Don't get me wrong - I'm not talking about back and forth conversations about art direction and options to consider before beginning sketches - and I'm not talking about good feedback on sketches or final art. I'm talking about bone headed decisions like eliminating colors that the art director happens to personally dislike. I'm talking about cluttering up good design with extra elements that don't enhance the story or eliminating elements that are important to visual literacy. I'm talking about making content changes based on fear and most importantly the all too familiar "design by committee approach".
What is "design by committee" you ask? It's when companies (often educational text book or software companies) have multiple team and management members that have to "sign off" on all stages of the artwork before it can be approved and the illustrator allowed to proceed. For instance, the illustrator receives the assignment and emails sketches to his/her art director. The art director isn't respected or trusted to make decisions and approvals either! - the sketches must pass by each team members desk. This sets up a dicey situation for each team member as well. If a particular person in this chain likes everything he or she sees - he or she might feel that he or she isn't doing his or her job by sending it through without changes. Since nobody in this donkey conga line wants to appear lazy they conjure up changes they often don't believe in and punt to the next drone. Sometimes I find myself stifling the laughter listening to the poor art director trying to justify conflicting moronic changes that even he/she doesn't believe in.
The result is a bunch of sketches sent back to the illustrator marked up like a failing high school research paper. I've gotten them back looking like college football play charts. It's interesting to me that this hasn't been my experience in the picture book world. With my picture book projects I get very thoughtful comments and requests that are sensitive to my intentions and desires. We work back and forth to find solutions that address concerns but it's not dictatorial by nature and there certainly aren't the sheer quantity of rage conjuring idiotic arbitrary "one for the gipper" comments.
What is it with art? Why aren't our skills appreciated and trusted? Why do people think they can direct a painting when they don't know how to design, draw, or paint? Why do people think they can publish without hiring skilled graphic designers? Graphic design is a science unto itself yet for some reason it seems to be a skill that is greatly underappreciated. I mean am I missing something? Do they hire college soccer coaches who have never played soccer? Do they hire conductors who have never studied music? Do customers go into the kitchen to tell the head chef how to cook the dish?
The answer can most likely be traced back to our schooling. Since it was never taught as a serious subject to all of us beginning in elementary school it is a discipline that is grossly misunderstood by the masses. "But Will, medicine, law, and accounting weren't taught broadly either. Yes, but each of them have a level of mystery that are inherent to each discipline. Art on the other hand is very accessible. We see it for what it is. We can own it, touch it, commission it, clip it, steal it, share it, print it, etc. But does access devalue it's creative process? Apparently so to some.
Lately I have been listening to my client incompetence radar and turning down assignments that smell of the aforementioned disrespect. I love working on a good project with a great art director, editor, creative director, etc. - but life is too short to spend bitter and angry working with people who care little for the professionals they hire.
If you're serious about this business you can do a few things to help yourself and your fellow illustrators. If you find yourself in a situation like I've mentioned you can be respectful but politely challenge decisions if they are contrary to your artistic sensibilities. Don't challenge for the sake of the challenge but if you do - be solution oriented. Try to get what you want by offering another option that achieves what your art director wants while giving you more of a change you can live with. Agree to making some changes that you don't agree with to help you win a few of the battles you want to fight for. The better we are at communication - the better clients we'll ultimately share.
LeeAnne Joseph grew up a stone’s throw from Seaside Heights and was deeply influenced by the brash and nihilistic fairyland of her childhood haunt. She is heartbroken by the destruction caused by Hurricane Sandy, and recent fire, and wishes the Jersey Shore a full recovery so that it may continue to capture the public imagination and serve as a home, livelihood, and playground for all those in the Garden State, and beyond.
LeeAnne wants her readers to know that she is thrilled that “Geepus” has made the WOW! Top Ten and that this flash fiction is a preview of her dystopian dark comedy to be completed by Summer 2014. (Muffin readers, you can read LeeAnne's award winning story by clicking right here.) If any agents out there would like to learn more about Beck Carter and her evil GPS, LeeAnne would be glad to oblige.
When the author isn’t secretly writing stories and poetry, she serves as an Energy Policy wonk who writes respectable things like conference presentations, public relations copy, and super-cheesy environmental ads with baby ducks and terrible puns.
Again, she thanks the wonderful WOW! readers and judges whose lit-love keeps her motivated even on the dreariest autumn days in the Pacific Northwest!
WOW: Congratulations, LeeAnne, in winning third place in the WOW! Flash Fiction contest. What made you want to enter your story, "Geepus," in the contest?
LeeAnne: Hmmm. I suppose I was inspired by the neurotic potpourri that intoxicates many writers, a heady blend of boredom, validation-seeking, guerrilla test marketing, masochism, and a touch of schmaltzy greeting-card-esque hope. I had a good feeling about "Geepus" and wanted to see if others felt the same way. It makes me truly happy to see that it was well-received.
WOW: Your story is wonderfully funny (great last line!), and in your bio, it states, "This flash fiction is a preview of her dystopian dark comedy to be completed by Summer 2014." Can you tell us a little more about the novel-length work?
LeeAnne: Thanks for the kind words—truly! I’m so glad you liked the last line. My husband and I actually debated whether adding “smart ass machine” at the end was overkill. Glad I kept it there!
My novel Geepus is a dystopian parody, the bastard child of Ghost World and Brave New World with a snarky dose of 1984 added in to lighten the mood. It follows Beck, a teenage journalism drop-out who would have been the height of alt-rock, badass coolness in the 90s. In the 2045 Surveillance State, she’s considered dangerous and out of line. Beck skulks around her family’s vacant farm and tries to “rage against the machine.” She soon finds herself sucked head first into a world of skeevy reality stars, crooked cops, perky anarchists, scary psych exams, and a post-apocalyptic Seaside run by a woman who suspiciously resembles Snookie. Oh, right—
Beck’s also pretty sure her State mandated GPS is trying to kill her…
WOW: Sounds very intriguing! What made you want to write dystopian and/or comedy?
LeeAnne: It’s only now occurring to me that I wrote a comedy. I mean, yeah, I use the label, but honestly the book just came to m,e and I wrote from my heart—which is troubling if you think about it. It means deep down, I am a dark, cynical lady.
As for the dystopia—a colleague and I were driving to a conference, and the GPS kept giving us bad directions. Finally it told us to “pull to the side of the highway and proceed to our destination.” It sounded ominous. Shortly after that, my Geepus struck again and drove me in circle through this tiny town nestled in the Cascade Mountains. It was about 11pm, and no one was on the streets. It was creepy as hell, and I am not kidding, I turned on the radio and the old song “Flying Dutchman” came on the air. So that inspired the evil GPS. From there, it was just a matter of deciding what genre worked best. Dystopia seemed like a good fit, especially if you pay too much attention to the news…
WOW: Maybe it is time for you to get a new GPS! (smiles) How do you manage the balance between your full-time job writing "respectable things" and your love for writing poetry and fiction?
LeeAnne: I have no choice, really. Words are my oxygen. I write for business because I can use my words to affect change and convince others to enact good policy that helps the environment. I write at home, curled up in bed with my laptop to detangle all the hopes, frustrations, and snarky thoughts lurking around my brain. That way, I can be the calm, seemingly perky and optimistic go-getter I look like to the untrained eye.
WOW: Writing is saving your personality, then! (laughs) Your bio sounds like you are possibly on the search for an agent? What's this process been like?
LeeAnne: Truth be told, I haven’t sought one out yet. I want to get my novel looking its Sunday best. That means, I’ll add in a little more glue and duct tape before I send it out to prospective agents. In the meantime, I’ve had a lot of peer-review on several critique sites (more test marketing) and have had an editor work with me on the first two chapters to weed out any particularly annoying habits I might have. I had an ellipsis exorcism performed that makes the piece a great deal more enjoyable. That said, by Summer/Fall, I will likely start pursuing agents in earnest. Of course, if someone approached me sooner, I would gladly speed up the process. I’m in this to win this, man.
WOW: Those ellipsis can often be hard to get rid of! Any words of encouragement for writers reading this interview?
LeeAnne: Finding your voice as a writer is one of the most magical feelings in the world. It takes time; but if you listen very carefully, you’ll hear the little throb inside your gut that whispers to you as you drift off to sleep. That’s the voice that you have to harness. Once you do, the words come so much easier. So as they say in Finding Nemo, “Just keep swimming, just keep swimming.” (It helps if you picture that in a sing-song voice). Seriously though, treat your words as an extension of yourself, keep building, keep growing. If you do, you’ll have something beautiful to show for it.
WOW: Thanks, LeeAnne, for the fun interview. Best of luck to you in your agent search and with your future works!
I was invited to take a look at the latest collections from Camelot Fabrics by the Cinnamon Joe Studio. Cinnamon designer Andrea Turk has designed three exclusive new collections for Camelot Fabrics in Toronto : 'Theodore & Izzy', 'Itty Bitty' and 'Petit Plume'. Here are a few highlights but you can see all the prints and colourways online here.
It’s a content marketing fact: Blogging is one of the most effective authority building, credibility building persuasive, and money-making marketing strategies.
This being the case, it means you need to regularly post content to your blog. It may be multiple times a day, once a day, three-times a week, once a week, or once a month.
No matter what, you need to post to your blog on a regular
I found on iBooks a four volume set of all of her Arthurian - okay, Merlin - books. Well, three of them were about Merlin, the fourth about Medraut, but it's the same universe. Anyway, the four volumes are under one cover, The Crystal Cave, The Hollow Hills, The Last Enchantment and TheWicked Day. Very good value for $7.99, eh? And a light two megabyte download.
I have always loved the first two best, but the last two are quite readable and I like what she does with the story. She has used Geoffrey of Monmouth as a source, while T.H White used Malory. So it's not quite Rosemary Sutcliff, but it does have a sort-of-fifth-century/sort-of-mediaeval flavour. You just have to read it, I can't quite explain. There's just a touch of fantasy in it, otherwise it could almost be historical fiction. I like that - a minimum of fantasy. Parke Godwin is another writer who did that, which is why I enjoyed his books.
The last book presents a rather sympathetic Medraut, who doesn't want to harm his father, but things just don't work out the way either of them wants. The author's note written at the time said that the source she had used spoke of a battle in which Arthur and Medraut died, but could have meant that they fought side by side. She was kicking herself, but had already established that there would be a tragic ending to what young Arthur had done in all innocence, so had to proceed that way.
I've sold a bit of short Arthurian fiction myself, including a story you'll find in my ebook of ASIM stories(please feel free to download it from this website!) and I have to confess that Mary Stewart was my inspiration - not plagiarism, I just liked her theories. My story Choices is seen from the viewpoint of my own version of Nimue.
Anyway, I'm looking forward to getting stuck into it!
Los Angeles, 2041 – it’s twenty-six years after a NASA probe brought back a strange disease causing many of our familiar toy-like objects to come to life. This is a new world order where cute and fearsome creatures fight for their right to exist in a world that fears them! It’s Blade Runner meets Toy Story in Non-Humans!
The weekend was rough. We had electricity problems and were unconnected for more than 24 hours. It was not a loadshedding issue ( loadhshedding was not implemented in my area anyway). It was just a technical problem that was complicated by a techie who told the utility company that everything was fine on their end when they did in fact have a problem and it was affecting us.
So I had to
I loved this book! Gilded is a fun fantasy based on Korean mythology, and it has a ton of action, death-defying fight scenes, and even a little romance. Protagonist Jae Hwa Lee is not a shrinking violet; she is out there giving back as well as she gets. I think I enjoyed the book so much because Jae Hwa doesn’t wait for a guy to save her (though one does help her throughout her adventures), and because it takes place in South Korea. There aren’t enough books with Asian settings, so I am eager to try each one that I discover. The fact that I had such a great time reading this is like winning the lottery.
After moving to Seoul with her father, Jae Hwa discovers, much to her dismay, that her family is cursed. Descended from Princess Yuhwa, the oldest daughter of each generation has been stalked, wooed, and killed by Haemosu, a Korean demigod. He is still smarting after Princess Yuhwa’s rejection, and he won’t rest until he has his revenge. That, unfortunately for Jae Hwa, means that she and everyone she loves is in grave danger of being abducted by Haemosu and trapped in his otherworldly kingdom.
Jae Hwa is a black belt, as well as a skilled archer. It’s a good thing she is, because she needs every advantage if she’s going to escape from Haemosu’s clutches. She’s also suffering from a lot of pent up angry. Since her mother’s death, things just haven’t gone right for her. Her father works all he time, and how she’s been uprooted from her home and her friends. She doesn’t feel like she fits into her new surroundings, and she just wants to go back home.
Then her grandfather tells her that the only way to save herself and her new friends is to leave the country, so she begs for her father to send her back to the States. He flatly refuses, and tells her that her grandfather has lost his mind and believes in fairy tales ever since the disappearance of his sister, Sun. When she meets her aunt, Eun, her father forbids his sister from discussing the crazy story fabricated by their father about the disappearance. Wow! Talk about being in denial! Jae Hwa’s father would have saved everyone so much heartache if he had just opened his mind – as well as his eyes- and accepted that things just weren’t right with their family.
Of course Eun ignores the order, and begins to teach Jae Hwa how to defend herself from Haemosu. She is warned to never let him touch her, because that will put her under his power. While on a school ski trip, the unthinkable happens, and Jae Hwa is taken by Haemosu to his kingdom. Only her stubbornness saves her from getting stuck there and being Haemosu’s latest trophy bride. As they continue to battle, Jae Hwa’s learns that she has powers of her own, and she is going to go down fighting.
Jae Hwa’s only challenge is not being whisked away by a mythical demigod; she must also train to protect herself, while keeping up with massive amounts of homework. Good luck trying to have normal friendships, too! With spiritual beings constantly tampering with her life, she just doesn’t have time to hang out and go shopping or catch the latest movie releases. And that cute boy in her class? Forget that! How can she possibly concentrate on dating someone when all she wants is to go back to LA? Oh, yeah – and stay alive!
Gilded is like a Korean comic in prose. Jae Hwa faces one challenge after another, all while trying to do what’s best for her family and friends. She wonders if she should just give up and go to Haemosu, but then she realizes that the deadly cycle of the curse will continue, and more helpless girls will meet their doom in Haemosu’s kingdom. I didn’t like her at first, but as she begins to find herself, and feel comfortable in her own skin, she becomes a very likeable young woman. She is tasked with an impossible job, and as Haemosu keeps getting the best of her, she despairs at ever breaking the curse. She makes some really dumb decisions, but with so many lives at stake, it’s easy to forgive her for not always displaying good judgment.
If you enjoy fantasy or stories based on mythology, chances are you will also enjoy Gilded. The setting and unrelenting action scenes made this book for me.
Release date: Mar. 1, 2014
A Korean god. An ancient curse. Can she escape becoming GILDED?
A girl with a black belt and a deadly proclivity with steel-tipped arrows discovers an ancient Korean god has been kidnapping the first-born daughters of her family for generations. And she’s next.
Sixteen-year-old Jae Hwa Lee is a Korean-American girl with a black belt, a deadly proclivity with steel-tipped arrows, and a chip on her shoulder the size of Korea itself. When her widowed dad uproots her to Seoul from her home in L.A., Jae thinks her biggest challenges will be fitting in to a new school and dealing with her dismissive Korean grandfather. Then she discovers that a Korean demi-god has been stealing the soul of the oldest daughter of each generation in her family for centuries. And she’s next.
But that’s not Jae’s only problem.
There’s also Marc. Irresistible and charming, Marc threatens to break the barriers around Jae’s heart. As the two grow closer, Jae must decide if she can trust him. But Marc has a secret of his own — one that could help Jae overturn the curse on her family for good. It turns out that Jae’s been wrong about a lot of things: her grandfather is her greatest ally, even the tough girl can fall in love, and Korea might just be the home she’s always been looking for.
“An amazing contemporary fantasy that explores the vast legends of Korea, this richly detailed novel kept me turning the pages well into the night. Jae Hwa starts off as a strong character and ends as a noble one, using both her brains and her brawn to win the day–she’s exactly the kind of girl YA literature needs.”
~from Beth Revis, NY Times Bestselling author of Across the Universe series
“Farley brings South Korea’s fascinating culture and mythology into vivid detail in this shining debut, and Jae is a compelling heroine. An exotic, thrilling read, GILDED had me utterly entranced!”
CHRISTINA FARLEY, author of Gilded was born and raised in upstate New York. As a child, she loved to explore, which later inspired her to jump on a plane and travel the world. She taught at international schools in Asia for ten years, eight of which were in the mysterious and beautiful city of Seoul, Korea that became the setting of Gilded. Currently she lives in Clermont, FL with her husband and two sons—that is until the travel itch whisks her off to a new unknown. Gilded is her first novel. For more details, check out her website at www.christinafarley.com. Christina holds a master’s degree in education and has taught for eighteen years. She is represented by Jeff Ourvan of Jennifer Lyons Literary.
Fab Scottish designer Clare Nicolson has released two new prints this month. Happy Campers features stylised triangle tents and trees and Birdie uses opaque layers to create harmonious colours. Both are printed on 140gsm recycled Woodstock paper, and both prints are available in A4 ( £10 ) and A3 ( £15). As spotted online here.