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1. Meet Art

Library Dance,January 10, 2015 (Photo by Paige Bentley-Flannery )

Library Dance,January 10, 2015 (Photo by Paige Bentley-Flannery)

January at the Deschutes Public Library features Know Art!  In the past, I’ve created and presented a Meet Art series for children on famous artists such as Henri Matisse, Paul Klee, and Georgia O’Keeffe.  As a community librarian, I do programs for all ages.   I was so excited to hear that the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York has a traveling exhibit titled Henri Matisse: The Cut-Outs.   I decided to re-create the exhibit through two art library programs for adults.  We had so much fun!  I also created a new list of resources for a children’s Matisse program.

Meet Henri Matisse: Cut-Outs:

Using the art medium gouache, paper and scissors, you’ll discover ways to explore Matisse’s cut-outs and interact with art using books, dance and apps all while creating your own masterpiece. This is a creative hands-on program.

IMG_3634 copyPaint:

While everyone is arriving, have them settle in by playing with gouache (an opaque watercolor paint). Paint one color on a piece of white card stock paper, covering the whole piece of paper, and set aside to dry. Have paint available in bold Matisse-like colors. (blue, orange, yellow, green…)


Dance like Matisse with Matisse Dance for Joy by Susan Goldman Rubin. Everyone up! Read the board book and encourage people to act out the dance moves together. Shake, wiggle, and bounce! “Rumble, tumble with a friend” is my favorite page! Optional: Display images from the board book on a big screen.


Imagine you are Matisse! Read aloud Matisse’s Garden, Henri’s Scissors or Snail Trail. One of my favorite children’s Matisse books is Oooh! Matisse by Mil Niepold. Have everyone guess the shapes and together say, “oooooh! Matisse.”

 Matisse Cut-out  (Photo by Paige Bentley-Flannery)

Matisse Cut-out (Photo by Paige Bentley-Flannery)


Create a BIG group cut-out. Spread out a HUGE piece of butcher paper on the floor (for smaller groups use a big piece of poster paper). Everyone cuts one shape, using a full 8” by 11’ piece of colored paper. Then place or drop the shapes onto the butcher paper. By now, the gouache papers will have dried so artists can create cut-outs from that paper too. Matisse used pins to secure and compose his shapes – but you can glue all the shapes onto the butcher paper. Decide as a group the title of your masterpiece and add the date at the bottom right corner. For example: Library Dance, January 10, 2015.

Most of all dance, create and have fun!

Extra Materials:

I love sharing postcards from different museums. If you know someone who’s visiting a museum, have them mail you a postcard! I ordered 40 Matisse postcards online at the MoMA store so participants could take home a postcard.


Children’s Matisse book recommendations:

My new favorite Matisse book this year is Matisse’s Garden by Samantha Friedman ; illustrations by Cristina Amodeo ; with reproductions of artworks by Henri Matisse.

Art and other supplies:

Gouache in a variety of colors, card stock paper, scissors, colorful butcher paper, a few pieces of poster size paper (or use butcher paper), glue sticks, paint brushes, newspapers, paper towels, small paper plates and small paper cups for water. (Extra: postcards, projector, iPad/Tablet…)

Matisse Websites:

For the full Matisse program descriptions, please email me at paigeb@dpls.us.


Our guest blogger today is Paige Bentley-Flannery. Paige is a Community Librarian at Deschutes Public Library. For over fifteen years–from Seattle Art Museum to the New York Public Library to the Deschutes Public Library-Paige’s passion and creative style for art and literature have been combined with instructing, planning, and providing information.

Please note that as a guest post, the views expressed here do not represent the official position of ALA or ALSC.

If you’d like to write a guest post for the ALSC Blog, please contact Mary Voors, ALSC Blog manager, at alscblog@gmail.com.

The post Meet Art appeared first on ALSC Blog.

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2. working up a new set of #character #sketch (at 17th Avenue...

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3. A Writer Prepares For A Storm

As I was saying yesterday, this week's expected New England blizzard was a bit of a surprise for me.  Today was committed to preparing to get through the next few days, which could mean a power outage in cold weather.

I spent a great deal of time preparing food that could be reheated on the wood stove. During a power outage after a hurricane, we ate pretty well. We also have 10-plus gallons of water for 3 people, one tub full of water, another tub with pails of water, pots of water in the kitchen, baby wipes to use for cleaning hands, flashlights, candles, oil lamps... We've done this before.

What I also did today was some work prep. First off, I posted the Connecticut Children's Lit Calendar in case I can't do it later this week. Additionally, I printed out some material related to the short work I'd decided on last week. The plan, and I have one, is to find some moments to at least outline some of these things. In the event that there's no power, I'll go back to working in the old paper journal. The best part of this scheme is that it directly addresses one of my goals for this year.

Maybe we won't lose power after all, and everything I did today was for nothing. One can hope.  Hmm. Perhaps I should be thinking about an essay regarding why we worry so about the lights going out.

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4. A Small Buffet

Just a few things tonight. First, the silly.

The folks on the east coast of the US who are being bombarded by a blizzard should totally have an army of awesome Japanese snow robots that scoops up snow and poops out snow bricks perfect for building snow forts. I’m sure there will still be plenty of snow leftover for the epic snowball fight that all those snow forts will require.

Next, Books as obstacle course, which Javier Marías makes sound rather appealing. The walls of his parents’ apartment covered in books with art hinged to the shelves, what a magical place it sounds!

Remember Dirty Chick? The book is now available on audio read by the author. You can have a twenty minute sample listen at SoundCloud. It’s from the beginning of the book when she is taking care of her parents’ chickens and duck and the duck sexually assaults one of the chickens. It will give you a good flavor of what the whole book is like.

Finally, can books change the world? Sure they can! Darwin’s The Origin of Species anyone? What about 1984? Or Jane Austen’s entire oeuvre? Rick Kleffel offers Nine World-Changing Books from 2014 (via). I’ve heard of some of them, others not at all. And there are several I’d really like to read and a few I’m content just reading good essays about them by others who have read them. Are there other books from 2014 that should be on the list? Are there books there that shouldn’t be? Is there a book from 2014 that changed your personal world? I had a number of books that rocked my world in 2014 but none that changed it. Still, several large book-quakes are nothing to sneeze at.

Filed under: Books

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5. Reflection and Projection

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6. Keindahan Pantai Karang Bolong Banten

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Seperti namanya, pantai ini memang banyak dihiasi oleh tebing-tebing karang. Debur ombak yang pecah ketika menghempas batukarang menjadi suara yang sangat dominan di tempat ini. Angin yang bertiup serta suasana pantai membuat tempat ini terlihat sangat eksotik.


Dahulu, pantai ini dikenal dengan nama Pantai Karang Suraga. Hal tersebut berkaitan erat dengan cerita rakyat yang mengisahkan tentang seseorang yang memiliki kesaktian, dia adalah Suryadilaga. Sekarang, pantai ini banyak dikenal dengan nama Pantai Karang Bolong karena pintu gerbang memasuki pantai ini adalah sebuah karang yang bolong.
Bagi anda yang ingin sejenak terlepas dari suasana perkotaan, hiburan berupa pantai dan debur ombak merupakan alternatif tepat untuk merefresh jiwa dan raga anda. Pantai karang bolong adalah tujuan wisata yang bisa anda masukkan ke dalam list liburan anda yang akan datang.
Di tempat ini anda bisa melakukan beberapa kegiatan seperti menikmati keindahan pantai, mengabadikan momen-momen, berenang, dan berjalan-jalan.

Fasilitas dan akomodasi
Fasilitas yang dimiliki oleh pantai karang bolong sudah cukup mumpuni. Hampir setiap hari pengunjung datang ke pantai ini. Dan boleh dikatakan pantai ini tidak pernah sepi dari pengunjung. Warung-warung makan juga menjadi salah satu fasilitas yang mendukung. Tidak hanya itu, fasilitas lain seperti mushola, tempat parkir, dan beberapa wahana permainan ada ditempat ini.
Jika anda datang dari luar kota, anda tetap bisa menginap di tempat ini karena terdapat beberapa cotage dan villa yang memang disewakan untuk mereka yang datang berlibur dari jauh.

Tips berwisata di Pantai Karang Bolong
Namun cobalah untuk tetap berhati-hati terlebih ketika anda memesan makanan di tempat ini. Beberapa pengalaman buruk dari mereka yang sudah lebih dahulu pernah ke tempat ini harus anda jadikan pelajaran. Cobalah untuk menanyakan terlebih dahulu harga makanan sebelum anda memakannya. Kuliner yang disajikan di daerah ini tentu saja kuliner seafood. Makanan khas banten, serta bumbu-bumbu yang sedap. Tidak hanya itu, anda juga bisa menikmati kelapa muda sambil duduk-duduk di atas karang.
Beberapa orang menikmati pantai ini dari ketinggian dengan menaiki bukit-bukit yang ada di pinggir pantai. Apabila anda ingin melakukan kegiatan ini, cobalah untuk tetap berhati-hati dan melihat situasi serta kondisi. Apabila medan licin, jangan memaksakan diri.
Menyaksikan pemandangan dari atas tebing adalah pengalaman tersendiri yang tidak semua orang bisa melakukannya. Oleh karena itu spot terbaik di tempat ini adalah di atas tebing.

Rute Objek Wisata
Rute yang bisa anda tempuh untuk mencapai pantai karang bolong adalah jalan Tol Jakarta – Merak, Cilegon barat, Anyer, Karang Bolong. Tempat ini berjarak kurang lebih 140 km dari Jakarta dan 50 kilometer dari Serang Banten.

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7. An interview with yours truly

... Me! Betsy Bird, with School Library Journal, interviewed me for her new and awesome web series. We talk roller derby and graphic novels and the comic strip "For Better or For Worse". WHAT ELSE COULD YOU WANT? Thanks for having me, Betsy!

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8. How to make vector fur

Just the squirrel-01Getting vector art to have texture can sometimes be a challenge, but it is a challenge I love. In this video I outline how to give the illusion of fur to any vector object. I start by de-constructing a squirrel (that sounded bad, no squirrels were harmed). Then I move into the nitty-gritty how-to. I hope you enjoy this video and please give me some feedback.

Here is the link to the video: Making Vector Fur

Here is the file used in the video: Download Fur Texture


Related Stories


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9. The Importance of Dreaming: Why Diversity Matters in Science Fiction and Fantasy – by C. Taylor-Butler



I’m a dreamer. I grew up in a lower middle class environment where the stretch goal was simply survival. Many of my neighbors had never ventured far from the city. Reading wasn’t a popular hobby. Dreams were for other people.

But my mother introduced me to every free or low cost cultural program she could find. I took art classes at the Museum of Art. Spent days sketching by a replica of The Thinker near the reflecting pond. And my weekends existed living in the stacks of the Public Library and carrying home as many books as I was allowed at the end of the day. Whenever I needed to escape my environment, books were there to guide me. I immersed in Barbar and envisioned myself traveling with the king to a far distant land. I was Madeleine lined up in a row of similarly dressed girls. All the while I doodled designs of futuristic cities while munching popcorn in front of Lost In Space. I imagined being tutored by the magical Mary Poppins. But in those books and movies the characters were animals or they were white. Other than Star Trek, people of various backgrounds didn’t exist in the imagined futures for our world. I loved Uhura, Checkov and Sulu. But I wanted them to be my Captain Kirks.

A few years ago, I spoke at a public library in Arkansas. Over the course of a week I talked about writing to 25 busloads of elementary school children. At the end of the week a teacher returned and said one of her students was perplexed that I had gone to MIT. The teacher, confused by the girl’s question, pressed her. The young girl wanted to know if she could go to a school like that, given that she was Hispanic. She wanted to know if it was allowed. And if so, could she tag along with the teacher who, herself, was studying for her Masters degree at a nearby college. In that child’s neighborhood, college wasn’t in the vocabulary. And in her literature, girls like her didn’t exist at all.

I want you to think about that a minute.

Decades after the multicultural Star Trek series debuted, contemporary literature and the media still play a large role in the perception that options for children of color are severely limited. Popular fiction and blockbuster movies center around children who are not Hispanic, or Native American or . . . (fill in the blanks). In the rare instance where they are, movie directors make a course correction. For instance, in writing Wizard of Earthsea, Ursula LeGuin created a world in which all of the communities were populated by people who were various shades of brown. No specific ethnicity is delineated. The hero is brown, the villain is blonde and blue eyed. In translating the book into a mini-series for the SyFy channel, Producer Robert Halmi of Hallmark Entertainment cast all the characters using white actors and said he had “improved upon the author’s vision.” Ursula LeGuin responded by saying he had wrecked her books.

In recreating the popular Avatar: The Last Airbender, director M. Knight Shamalayan cast all of the Asian heroes with white actors. The villain who was white in the series, became Asian in the movie. Children of color are tokens in the background of Harry Potter’s universe but not in his inner circle. The olive-skinned girl in Hunger Games becomes Jennifer Lawrence. See the trend? For children of color the message is clear: when it comes to being a hero in a fantastical adventure . . .

Not you.

But it also sends a more dangerous message to society. For people of a majority race it may imbed a subconscious message of “only you,” or worse . . .

“Not them.”

In watching the protests around the country starting with, but not limited to Ferguson Missouri, I found myself wondering if someone like ex-officer Darren Wilson grew up surrounded by images of people like him who were the heroes, the leaders, the enforcers and where people who didn’t look like them were villains to be feared. Police officers who are later assigned to patrol neighborhoods where gifted children are stunted because they were trained by society, and sometimes their own communities, to stop dreaming beyond the end of the street.

In crafting The Lost Tribes I envisioned a world where those children were integral to the story and allowed to take center stage. Children who were very smart, but not perfect. Children who bickered and made mistakes while they worked out solutions and came together as a team out of necessity but remained together out of mutual respect. I envisioned characters informed by their cultural backgrounds but not constrained by them. I wanted to create an environment where the characters faced frightening situations and had to work out the solutions without the use of magic wands or other tricks that would substitute for logic and team work. In a sense – if your world is falling apart what would an ordinary kid do with few skills and no training?


I had a vision, for instance, of who the character of Serise would be. She’s Navajo and I knew book research wouldn’t substitute for spending time in her environment. So I spent two weeks in Rock Point, Arizona. It is a small town on the reservation where I met two teens who were Goth and quiet. I met another who was quite outspoken. I came armed with books, including a lot of age appropriate fiction. They leaped for the nonfiction, showed me how to log on to a password protected satellite dish so I could check emails, and talked about their lives and dreams with me. And so Serise was reborn as a computer hacker, far from the stereotypes people have about Native American girls.

My protagonist, Ben, thinks basketball is the ticket to success. He eschews his parent’s scientific interests as the stuff of nerds. In working with urban students I learned that many hide being smart. It’s easier to be athletic. It’s expected. It’s often emphasized. So it is fascinating that a friend and librarian forwarded an excerpt of Neil deGrasse Tyson’s book in which he talks about fulfilling society’s expectations of aspiring to be a top athlete until he read a fascinating fact about the speed of light and black holes. He decided science was infinitely more interesting and became an astrophysicist.

Moai of Easter IslandMy characters, like my readers, crave adventure and as an engineer writing science fiction I understood that Earth already held much stranger backdrops than anything I could make up. For example the Moai of Easter Island or the Terra Cotta Army.

I wrote Tribes to say “Yes. You belong in the wider context of the universe.” “Yes. You can be the center of an adventure.” “Yes, children from different backgrounds can and do work together for a common purpose.” “Yes you can dream bigger than the landscape of your own neighborhood.”


“Yes.”  Terracotta warriors


As we approach February, inevitably children across the country will be introduced to the same ubiquitous fare that adults provide every year. We’ll fill their reading lists with realistic fiction, historical fiction and angst based nonfiction centered around race. But we won’t tell them they can aspire to slay dragons, build castles or venture out into the great unknown. They won’t travel to outer space or even abroad to a foreign land. When they are looking at the stars, we’ll quiz them on books that go no farther than their own environments. And when some children are dreaming of the future, we’ll be drilling into their heads only visions of a painful past.

During Black History Month we’ll ask, “What are you doing to fulfill Dr. King’s dreams?” and therein lies the rub.

Because it’s the wrong question.

We should be asking, “What are you doing to fulfill YOUR dreams?” and then make it our priority to point them toward a path that will get them there.

I’m still a dreamer. I found my path forward in books and used the clues to figure out how to reach for the stars. Perhaps it is time for publishing to provide those clues forward without our readers needing a universal translator to see themselves between the pages. Perhaps it is time for a broader selection of children to be shown leading the way.

Tribe cover













C. Taylor-Butler is the author of more than 70 books for children. A graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology with dual degrees in Civil Engineering and Art and Design, she serves as Chair of one of their regional Educational Councils. After traveling the world and speaking to thousands of children with dreams of their own, she has decided children of color shouldn’t have to settle for second place.

The Lost Tribes Series
“Well-written and well-paced: a promising start to what should be an exciting and unusual sci-fi series. (Science fiction. 10-14)” Kirkus Reviews, Jan. 2015

To find more speculative fiction featuring children of color (sci-fi, fantasy, paranormal, time travel, alternate history, dystopia, horror, etc.), see the list compiled by Zetta Elliot.

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10. mirror mirror on the wall....

"wishful companions"
©the enchanted easel 2015
she truly is the fairest of them all!

my version of the beautiful and sweet, Snow White....accompanied by her *charming* and seemingly smitten companions. 

{princes in the making, perhaps...? ;)}


and other treats here:

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11. 50 States Against Bullying: OKLAHOMA

Stop number thirty-two on the 50 States Against Bullying campaign brought me to Oklahoma for the very first time. When I arrived, I had an hour before a booksigning at Best of Books, a great indie bookstore. After the signing, I went out to dinner with the bookstore owners and faculty from the school where I'd be speaking. I left the dinner with some inside jokes about granola and a fictional girl named Rita. (No, I can't tell you the jokes. They're inside jokes!)

The next day, I woke up early to be interviewed on an Oklahoma City news program, which you can watch here. Then I had an entire day to do sightseeing!

And laundry. I also had to do laundry.

First, I went to the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum. There were plenty of beautiful paintings throughout the museum, but photographs weren't allowed of my favorites. But upon entering the museum, you're hit with the very effective sculpture, The End of the Trail.

From there, I went to the Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum. I will always remember where I was the day the American-bred terrorists bombed the Murrah federal building. I was working at a shoe store, and that's all anyone could talk about that day, employees and customers. To see the site of the bombing in person, and the record of the event captured by this museum, it brought me right back to those emotions. And sometimes it is necessary to be strongly reminded of these tragedies.

The museum contains a dramatic timeline leading up to the event, reminding us how beautiful that day was in Oklahoma City. And then the explosion happened at 9:02am, which is when this clock stopped ticking.

It then follows the search for survivors, the uniting of the citizens, and the capture of the men who destroyed so much.

Outside, it's nearly impossible to speak while taking in the memorial. On one side of the water is a large doorway labeled 9:01, marking the time before the explosion. On the other side is a matching doorway labeled 9:03, marking the time when healing had to begin.

In between, across the water, are chairs representing all of the lives lost.

I could never describe how moved I was the entire time I spent at the museum and memorial, and how much I felt in a daze long afterward. It's a place everyone should visit at some point.

The next day, though, was the reason for my time in Oklahoma. I arrived at Santa Fe High School, and even though my name wasn't on their marquee, they accidentally left a tribute to my book. Just like on the title graphic of Thirteen Reasons Why, the numbers (1 and 3, even) were in red!

At my booksigning at the bookstore two days before, there happened to be a limousine outside. I don't know why it was there, but several students who were there thought it was for me. Isn't that sweet? So I had to let them down by saying I'm not limo-worthy...yet!

But I do often get special parking for my rental car at schools.

#ReasonsWhyYouMatter cards draped across the hallway inside the school.

Sarah Ondak, a student at the high school, posted this photo from near the end of my presentation. I know I use my hands a lot when I speak, which makes me feel more comfortable on stage, but it always makes my photos look silly. But that's cool. It's all good! I'm fine with that.

And here are the students, who had so many great questions when I was done.

The owner of Best of Books took this shot of my signing line. This is always one of my favorite parts of a school visit, because it allows me to speak one-on-one to the readers. Some of them nearly had me in tears with what they shared, while others had me busting up.

And some of them boggled my mind with how much they took notes throughout my book.

a student's book

a teacher's book

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12. Writing Craft: Smells Make a Story Real by @RayneHall - #amwriting

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Special Guest Post

by Rayne Hall

Here’s three powerful techniques for immersing readers into your story: use the sense of smell.

Of all the senses, smell has the strongest psychological effect. The mere mention of a smell evokes memories and triggers associations in the reader’s subconscious.

Mention a smell, and the scene comes to life. Mention two or three, and the reader is pulled into the scene as if it were real.

A single sentence about smells can reveal more about a place than several paragraphs of visual descriptions. For example, the hero enters a home for old people. “The place smelled of boiled cabbage, urine, and disinfectant.” These nine words are enough to convey what kind of old people’s home this is, and it creates a strong image in the reader’s mind.

Or try these: “The room smelled of pizza, beer and unwashed socks.” “The room smelled of beeswax, joss sticks, and patchouli.” “The corridor smelled of mold and leaking sewage.” “The kitchen smelled of coffee, cinnamon, and freshly baked bread.” “The kitchen smelled of burnt milk, overripe pears, and bleach.” “The garden smelled of lilacs and freshly mowed grass.” “The cell smelled of blood, urine and rotting straw.”

Where and How to Use this Technique

The best place to insert a sentence about smells is immediately after the point-of-view character has arrived at a new location. That’s when humans are most aware of smells, so it feels right if you mention them.

Smells trigger emotions. If you want your reader to feel positive about the place, use pleasant scents. To make the reader recoil, mention nasty odors.

Also, consider the genre. Thriller and horror readers appreciate being taken to places where odours are as foul as the villain’s deeds, but romance readers want a pleasant experience, so treat them to lovely scents.


If you like, you can use this technique in almost every scene. To keep it fresh, vary the sentence structure and the wording. Here are some suggestions:

The place reeked/stank of AAA and BBB.

The odors of AAA and BBB mingled with the smells of CCC and DDD.

Her nostrils detected a whiff of AAA beneath the smells of BBB and CCC.

The smell of AAA warred with the stronger odor of BBB.

The air was rich with the scents of AAA and BBB.

The smell of AAA failed to mask the stench of BBB.

The stench of AAA hit him first, followed by the odor of BBB.

Beneath the scent of AAA lay the more ominous odors of BBB and CCC.

The scents of AAA and BBB greeted her.

The smells of AAA and BBB made his mouth water.

He braced himself against the stink of AAA and BBB.

Professional Examples

These examples show how authors have used this technique in their fiction.

The room smelled like stale smoke and Italian salad dressing. (Michael Connelly: The Poet)

I took a couple of deep breaths, smelled rain, diesel, and the pungent dead-fish-and-salt stench off the river. (Devon Monk: Magic to the Bone)

The place smelt of damp and decay. (Jonathan Stroud: The Amulet of Samarkand)

A rare south wind had brought the smell of Tyre to last night’s landfall: cinnamon and pepper in the cedar-laced pine smoke, sharp young wine and close-packed sweating humanity, smoldering hemp and horse piss. (Mathew Woodring Stover: Iron Dawn)

The smell hit her first: rotting flesh, ancient blood. (Kristine Kathryn Rusch: Sins of the Blood)

The air reeked of hot metal, overheated electronic components, scorched insulation – and gasoline. (Dean Koontz: The Bad Place)

The air held the warm odours of honey and earth, of pine resin and goat sweat, mingled with the scents of frying oil and spice. (Rayne Hall: Storm Dancer)

Your Turn

Have a go. Whatever story you’re working on right now, whatever scene you’re writing, think of two or more smells that characterize the place. Write a sentence about them. If you like, post your sentence in the comments section. I’d love to see what you come up with. 

About the Author 

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Rayne Hall has published more than fifty books in several languages under several pen names with several publishers in several genres, mostly fantasy, horror and non-fiction.  She is the author of the bestselling Writer's Craft series and editor of the Ten Tales short story anthologies.

She is a trained publishing manager, holds a masters degree in Creative Writing, and has worked in the publishing industry for over thirty years.

Having lived in Germany, China, Mongolia and Nepal, she has now settled in a small dilapidated town of former Victorian grandeur on the south coast of England where she enjoys reading, gardening and long walks along the seashore. She shares her home with a black cat  adopted from the cat shelter. Sulu likes to lie on the desk and snuggle into Rayne's arms when she's writing.

You can follow here on Twitter http://twitter.com/RayneHall where she posts advice for writers, funny cartoons and cute pictures of her cat.

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13. Review: What We See When We Read by Peter Mendelsund

I read this after listening the fabulous Bookrageous Podcast which read and discussed the book for their book club and then interviewed the author. It is a fascinating look at what is happening inside our minds when we read. The author, Peter Mendelsund, is a book designer for Knopf in the US but also has […]

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14. Call for Slices

Write, Share, Give

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15. The Art of the English Murder (2014)

The Art of the English Murder. Lucy Worsley. 2014. Pegusus Books. 336 pages. [Source: Library]

I really liked Lucy Worsley's The Art of The English Murder. There were some chapters that I loved, loved, loved. There were some chapters I 'merely' liked. But overall, I found the book to be worth reading and informative. Plenty of "I didn't know that?!?!" facts were included. I always enjoying learning as I read. I believe this is the book companion to a BBC documentary A VERY BRITISH MURDER. I'm curious how the two compare. If it's better to read or watch.

So the premise of this one is simple: how did the British become so interested, so entertained, so fascinated by murder: murder in real life and murder in fiction. It even looks at how real life crimes influences/inspires fictional crimes. (Think Charles Dickens and Wilkie Collins to name just two.) So on the one hand, it looks at real cases that got plenty of press, and stayed in the news, cases that became, in a way, part of the culture (think Jack the Ripper), and, on the other hand, it looks at fictional cases. (Think Agatha Christie, Dorothy Sayers, etc.) The last few chapters focus on the "Golden Age" of mystery writers. And the very final chapter, I believe, focuses on Alfred Hitchcock.

As I said, this book has plenty of details. For example, it talks of how puppet shows--for the most part traveling puppet shows--were for adults. Puppet shows often depicted famous murders. So there would be puppets depicting murderers and their victims. And the audience would watch the crime unfold in front of them. The book notes that at times, the murder would be (could be) encored several times. So it does go into 'melodrama' and the theatre. I found the chapter on the stage version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde fascinating!

This book is oh-so-easy to recommend!

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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16. Kvachi review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Mikheil Javakhishvili's early Soviet-era classic, Kvachi, a nice addition to Dalkey Archive Press' Georgian Literature Series (and translated by the leading Georgian-literature authority, Donald Rayfield).

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17. Tip of the Iceberg

I made a small declutter vow
To get myself unstuck
That every day I’ll toss one thing
And so far, I’m in luck.

My travel guides from years ago
To places I have been
Were easy things for me to trash,
A good place to begin.

Some macramé for hanging plants,
A box of potpourri
And dinnerware with chips or cracks
Were thrown away by me.

Of course, I’m near the very tip
(The iceberg’s down below),
But every day I’ll chip away
And find one thing to throw.

For sentimental fools like me
This takes a lot of thought.
Too bad the empty space will fill
With new stuff I have bought!

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18. Review – WANTED! Ralfy Rabbit, Book Burglar

It is wise to start a new year on a positive note. Many begin with a resolution. A new book excites me. But how do you choose the perfect title that will not only entertain and enthral but also convince you to pick up another, again and again? Best to begin with a tale of […]

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19. Book Review: Dear Committee Members by Julia Schumacher

From Goodreads:
Jason Fitger is a beleaguered professor of creative writing and literature at Payne University, a small and not very distinguished liberal arts college in the midwest. His department is facing draconian cuts and squalid quarters, while one floor above them the Economics Department is getting lavishly remodeled offices. His once-promising writing career is in the doldrums, as is his romantic life, in part as the result of his unwise use of his private affairs for his novels. His star (he thinks) student can't catch a break with his brilliant (he thinks) work Accountant in a Bordello, based on Melville's Bartleby

In short, his life is a tale of woe, and the vehicle this droll and inventive novel uses to tell that tale is a series of hilarious letters of recommendation that Fitger is endlessly called upon by his students and colleagues to produce, each one of which is a small masterpiece of high dudgeon, low spirits, and passive-aggressive strategies. We recommend Dear Committee Members to you in the strongest possible terms.
This book was laugh-out-loud hilarious.  I loved the novelty of the story being told through the letters of recommendation our narrator is forced to write for various co-workers and students.  I'm all about a good epistolary novel and this one was perfection!  I thought it was witty and fun and wished it was twice as long - which is probably a good sign that it's just the right length.  Always better to wish for more of a book than to wish for less, right?

Entertainment Value
Again, hilarious.  I think it will especially appeal to anyone in academia, anyone who attended a small liberal arts school, and anyone who majored in English.  I loved the budget cuts the English department faced, while the Economics department lived in the lap of luxury - during my senior year as an English major, my department had to deal with the effects of the Business School's fancy new building being built - while we met in conference rooms or professor's homes.

I can't say enough about how funny this book is and what a blast it is to read.  I do, however, think that it may have a limited appeal - those who have no English/Creative Writing in their background and who haven't worked in academia may not find it as humorous.  It's full of in-jokes about working in a college, dealing with Millennial students, and the liberal arts/humanities setting.

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20. Living next to a Superfund site

We don't really hear much about Superfund sites anymore but they haven't gone away. From last month's National Geographic Magazine:

Money remains a constant problem. The Superfund program once had two pillars: rules that held past polluters liable for cleanup and a "Superfund"--financed by taxes on crude oil and chemicals--that gave the EPA the resources to clean up sites when it could not extract payment from the responsible parties. Congress let those taxes expire in 1995; the program is now funded by taxes collected from all Americans. It's low on staff. The Superfund itself is nearly empty.

Superfund sites have entered a mostly benign but lingering state, dwarfed in the public's eye by issues like climate change, says William Suk, who has directed the National Institutes of Health's Superfund Research Program since its inception in the 1980s. "It's not happening in my backyard, therefore it must be OK," is how Suk sees the prevailing attitude. "Everything must be just fine--there's no more Love Canals."

Check out the full photo gallery here.

[Post pic by Fritz Hoffman via Nat Geo: "The municipal water supply in Hastings was contaminated by landfills--and by the FAR-MAR-CO grain elevator. Fumigants sprayed to control rodents and insects leached into the ground. The city closed some wells, but cleaning the groundwater will take decades."]

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21. Kredo – The Creative Network for Artists




Format expands its online portfolio offering with the release of Kredo, a free iPad portfolio app that enables creatives including photographers, designers, illustrators and artists to present their work professionally, both in person and online. Improving upon the traditional printed portfolio, users of Kredo can share their retina-quality, high resolution portfolios online by email, social media, or within the in-app Discover Network.”


Filed under: Resources

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22. Bestselling paperbacks in Germany, 2014

       At boersenblatt.net they look at the top-25 bestselling paperbacks in Germany in 2014 in both fiction and non -- alas only ranked, not with actual sales numbers.
       Translated-from-the-English works dominate both lists, with Jojo Moyes and James Bowen each placing three of the top five titles in their respective categories (fiction, non) -- two authors whose very existence I have only the fuzziest awareness of, and whose books I can not imagine reading.
       Wolfgang Herrndorf's Tschick -- bizarrely transformed into Why We Took the Car in English (see the Arthur A. Levine publicity page, get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk) -- is the top-selling domestic novel. And at least a Patrick Modiano slips onto the list, at 24th.
       The top non-fiction title is the legal reference book, the Bürgerliches Gesetzbuch (see the dtv publicity page) -- an almost 1000-pager --, while Florian Illies 1913 enjoyed success even in 2014 (15th), and Anne Frank's diary also made the top 25.

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23. Friends in a Tree

Friends in tree-01This is a great example of the illusion of texture. I built many brushes to get the furry tail on the squirrel, the dots on the tree trunk and the effect on the puffy clouds. Even the background contains a brush to get the subtle surface texture you see here.  All I can say is that brushes speed up the work, big time!


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24. Libris Literatuur Prijs longlist

       They've announced the longlist for this year's Libris Literatuur Prijs, one of the leading Dutch literary prizes.
       The eighteen-title strong list was selected from the groslijst of eligible titles -- revealing quite a few familiar names who have had work translated into English and whose books didn't make the longlist cut, including: Kader Abdolah, Anna Enquist, Herman Koch, Tessa de Loo, Erwin Mortier, Dimitri Verhulst, and Tommie Wieringa.

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25. Monday Morass: Beyond the B.I.C.

I'm curious about how others deal with the problem of having trouble getting started. I don't necessarily mean getting started with a NEW writing project, but getting going in general, when your mind feels sluggish, or the project is frustrating... Read the rest of this post

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