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1001. Food from around the world

A few recent pieces from a larger magazine project featuring food from around the world,
Not something I've done much of before but it was great fun.

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1002. It's that time of the year

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1003. KidLit Author Events Dec. 8-16


I think these will be the last events for 2014. December is a tough month for special events, so I hope each of these has a great turnout. I want to say a big THANK YOU! to all the stores, libraries and organizations that have hosted writer/illustrator events in the Greater Houston Area this year.

December 9, Tuesday, 4:00-6:00 PMBIZZ & BUZZ MAKE HONEY BUNS by Dee Leone
River Oaks Barnes & Noble
Dee Leone, PB Author

Dee Leone will be signing BIZZ & BUZZ MAKE HONEY BUNS for the William B. Travis Elementary School book fair. Book fair purchases that day will benefit the school.

December 13, Saturday, 11:00AM-4:00 PM SLEEPYHEADS by Sandra Howatt
Teacups & Tadpoles, The Woodlands
Sandra Howatt, PB Author

Author Sandra Howatt will be signing her sweet, snuggly, and silly bedtime book SLEEPYHEADS.

The sun has set, and sleepyheads all across the land are tucked into their cozy beds.
Rabbit is snoozing in the weeds, and Duck is snuggled in the reeds.
Bear is nestled in his cave, and Otter is rocking on a wave.
But there’s one little sleepyhead who’s not in his bed.
Where, oh where, could he be?

December 13, Saturday, NOON- 4:00 PM Scrivener
Loosecan Library
Houston YA/MG & Houston Writers’ Guild
Workshop: “Software Will Save your (Writing) Life: Using Scrivener Effectively”

Think Microsoft Word is sufficient for your manuscript? Wondering if you need specialized creative writing software? Downloaded Scrivener but not sure where to start? Using Scrivener but want to take it up a level?

Regardless of where you are, Jess Capelle and Sharon Morse will help ease you out of your comfort zone and see how much easier your writing life can be with Scrivener, whether you’re starting from scratch on a new project or importing an existing one. They’ll cover how Scrivener can help with every step of the writing process from brainstorming to formatting for e-books, demystifying the program and helping you get the most out of it. Jessica and Sharon will cover basic and intermediate level tips for both PC and Mac.

While previous knowledge of Scrivener is not a requirement for this presentation, please visit http://www.literatureandlatte.com/scrivener.php and read a little about the features and download a trial version of the software. We will be doing live demonstrations during the presentation which you’ll be able to follow along with on your own computer.

December 13, Saturday, 1:00-4:00 PMJoy Preble
Joy Preble, YA Author, Workshop: How to Find an Agent
Cost: $35
CAP: 14

For those serious about publishing a novel with a traditional press, the next step after writing a polished manuscript is to find a literary agent to represent you and your work. This two-hour workshop will break down the often daunting and highly competitive process of seeking representation. We will examine what an agent does and doesn’t do when he or she agrees to represent your work, as well as what exactly it takes to find the perfect match between author and agent. In this workshop, we will cover the most crucial aspects of the process of finding and your dream agent, from networking to research to query letters and more.

December 13 & 20, Saturday, 2:00 PMLittle Scrooge
Express Theatre
Patricia Barry Rumble’s Holiday Play, Little Scrooge 
Tickets: $10, $9 for seniors, $8 each for groups of 10. RSVP: 713 682 5044

In Little Scrooge, Patricia Barry Rumble’s adaption the Dickens’ classic A Christmas Carol, an adolescent boy strikes it rich by inventing a popular phone app but loses sight of what really matters in life; Love & Friendship. Visited by three ghosts of Christmas, Little Eben soon realizes the true meaning of Christmas. Suitable for All Ages/Recommended for Pre-Kindergarten and up.


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1004. 2014 Sox Knocker list-first item

It's time for the list of things that just knocked my sox off this year!

First up is THE MOST DANGEROUS BOOK: The Battle for James Joyce Ulysses by Kevin Birmingham.

Frankly, this guy could probably write about paint drying and I'd be fascinated. He's got a real gift for exposition and it serves him well in this complex story of author, publisher, smut laws, and anarchists.

If you're a writer, you'll want to read this to learn more about James Joyce and the novel. If you're on the other side of the desk, you'll want to read it for the story of how hard it was to publish difficult books in the early part of the last century.

And if you're neither of those, you'll still want to read it cause it's just a great story, well told.

Here's one of my favorite paragraphs (there were many)

[Despite all of this] she [Sylvia Beach] decided that Shakespeare & Co. a company of one, after all, of a thirty-four-year-old American expatriate who was until recently sleeping on a cot in the back room of a diminutive bookshop on a street nobody could find--would issue the single most difficult book anyone had published in decades. It would be monstrously large, prohibitively expensive and impossible to proof read. It was a book without a home, an Irish novel written in Trieste, Zurich, and Paris, to be published in France in riddling English by a bookseller from New Jersey.

The highest praise I can think of for this book is that it made me eager to read Ulysses.

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1005. Dinotopia Podcast, Episode 5

Today we continue with episode 5 of the serialized podcast of Dinotopia: A Land Apart from Time. To listen, click the orange play button below, or follow the link to the SoundCloud file.

The episode opens in the helicoid geochronograph, a water-powered machine that keeps track of time.

We meet Nallab and Enit, librarians of Dinotopia, who show Arthur their scroll-reading machine.

In Dinotopia, dinosaurs write messages in a sandbox using a unique footprint alphabet.

The Podcast Series
This acoustic adventure was produced by Tom Lopez, mastermind of the ZBS Foundation, with an original music track by composer Tim Clark.

Episode 6 arrives one week from today— Tuesday, December 16. Each 10-minute episode will only be live online for one week, and then it will vaporize.

If you'd like to purchase the full two-hour Dinotopia podcast right now and hear all twelve episodes back to back in a feature-length production, check out Dinotopia at ZBS Foundation website for the MP3 download.

If you missed last week's episode #4, I'll leave it up through the rest of today. Here's the link to that SoundCloud file for Episode 4.

You can also order the original book from my web store and I'll sign it for you. It's the ultimate holiday gift for the imaginative person in your life. (US orders only for the book, please).

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1006. Draw Tip Tuesday: Spicy Paints

Welcome to Draw Tip Tuesday!
Let's add some colour to last week's drawing, and spice it up - Literally!

Of course, there's more where this came from. Go to my website www.koosjekoene.nl to learn more.

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1007. Could It Be Published Today?

GoodnightMoon Could It Be Published Today?This past Saturday I hosted a Children’s Literary Salon at the main branch of NYPL that discussed the past, present, and future of children’s book publishing. It was a stellar line-up, moderated by author Jane Zalben. To kick off the panel discussion, the panel was asked a question that has been posed many times before but not always in this context.  Let us consider the case of Goodnight Moon.  Here we have a book that is often considered right up there with Where the Wild Things Are in terms of picture book popularity.  So the question is, could it be published today?

This type of question is raised fairly regularly on the internet.  It ranges from the sane (Rebecca: Could It Be Published Today?) to the ridiculous (Could The Hunger Games Be Published Today?).  It is usually raised to highlight changes in the publishing industry.  Then vs. now.  The distant (or maybe not so distant) past and our much improved/much impoverished present.

What made this discussion so interesting to me was how it examined the publishing history of Goodnight Moon himself.  I was aware that it wasn’t a hit when it came out.  It just didn’t make the sales, which seems ridiculous at first glance.  What could the public have had against it?  But Leonard Marcus made it clear that the book was, itself, a bit of an anomaly.  It was a pre-schooler / toddler title in an era when that market simply didn’t get books of their own.  Public libraries, the major buyers, weren’t set up to cater to the very young, and books for that age range just didn’t exist.  So Margaret Wise Brown’s book came out and missed its mark.  It wasn’t until at least five years had passed and a columnist recommended it that the sales started to take off.

The takeaway from all of this is the difference in how long books were allowed to stay in print back then vs. today.  These days if you don’t make back your advance in two years (at least) it’s to the out-of-print dustbin with your remainders.  Back then a book had a bit more of a chance to find its audience.  And as any children’s librarian who has had to deal with summer reading lists from schools will attest, five years is sometimes precisely how long it takes for folks to discover a book.

All this is a roundabout way of saying that the question is impossible to answer because when we are discussion a genre, like picture books, it’s not as though they are published without owing something to their forbears.  Goodnight Moon set the tone for all the “quiet books” to come.  Bedtime fare was forever changed, and continues to be affected, by its presence in the marketplace.  The same could be said if we tried to consider if children’s books as diverse as Where the Wild Things Are or Harriet the Spy or The Phantom Tollbooth could be published today.  That said, it’s still fun to ask.  And then to look at books being published now, one wonders what books they’ll be saying this about in the future.

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1008. For Real: An Interview with Author Alison Cherry!

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It’s that time of year when we’re all buying books as gifts for the ones we love (at least I assume you guys all do that too), so today I want to introduce you to a book I read in one sitting! It’s a delicious behind-the-scenes peek onto the set of a Race Around The World style reality TV show — if you’re looking for a holiday gift for the reader or reality TV fan in your life, this is it! And today, I’ve dragged in author Alison Cherry to answer some questions for all you lovely readers! But first, let’s hear a little about For Real!

For RealNo parents. No limits. No clue what they’re in for.

Shy, cautious Claire has always been in her confident older sister’s shadow. While Miranda’s life is jam-packed with exciting people and whirlwind adventures, Claire gets her thrills vicariously by watching people live large on reality TV.

When Miranda discovers her boyfriend, Samir, cheating on her just before her college graduation, it’s Claire who comes up with the perfect plan. They’ll outshine Miranda’s fame-obsessed ex while having an amazing summer by competing on Around the World, a race around the globe for a million bucks. Revenge + sisterly bonding = awesome.

But the show has a twist, and Claire is stunned to find herself in the middle of a reality-show romance that may or may not be just for the cameras. This summer could end up being the highlight of her life… or an epic fail forever captured on film. In a world where drama is currency and manipulation is standard, how can you tell what’s for real?

Alison, I looooooved For Real! Spill! How on earth did you get hold of so many fantastic details?

I did so much research for this book! It was pretty easy to get hold of details about how to audition for reality TV effectively—I read several entire books about that. But once someone actually makes it onto a show, the network makes them sign all kinds of non-disclosure agreements, so it’s significantly harder to find behind-the-scenes information about the filming process. Fortunately, reality shows have a lot of rabid fans, and they’re pretty good at scrounging up secrets—in fact, there’s a nearly-500-page, fan-written tome about the first few seasons ofThe Amazing Race. Since the show in my book is pretty similar, I found all kinds of information I could use in there.

Of course, I also needed lots of little details that were far too specific or mundane to address in that kind of book. What’s the sign-in process like at an audition? What does the producer’s side of the conversation sound like in a daily recap interview? Are the contestants allowed to snack on camera? How do you attach a microphone to someone when he’s not wearing a shirt? Fortunately, I was able to find one reality show contestant, one casting director, and one field producer who were willing to do interviews with me. I probably drove them crazy with all my super-specific questions, but they were incredibly good sports about it, and they did an excellent job of demystifying things!

And what about the exotic locations? I’m guessing an all-expenses-paid world tour wasn’t on the cards, so how did you so convincingly convey that local flavour?

Sadly, you’re right: a world tour was not included in my advance. I actually did a lot of my local flavor research by watching The Amazing Race; there have been something like twenty-five seasons at this point, so I was able to find at least one episode that took place in each of the cities I’d chosen. I never stole a challenge from the show, but I paid a lot of attention to what was going on behind the contestants so I could accurately describe the road signs, the taxis, the locals’ clothing, etc. It often took me ninety minutes to get through a forty-five-minute episode because I had to keep pausing it to write down descriptions of cows and rooftops and bridges. The “street view” function on Google Maps was also an incredibly big help—I spent one entire afternoon virtually driving down highways in Scotland. Honestly, I can’t imagine how people did book research before the internet…

I know I looooove Race Around The World for my vicarious travel fix, and For Real felt like being allowed behind the scenes. Are you a big reality TV fan?

I used to watch a number of the competition shows pretty religiously: Amazing RaceTop ChefSo You Think You Can Dance, Work of Art, and Project Runway were my favorites. I loved watching people showcase their talents, and I used to get really into it. Unfortunately, writing this book kind of ruined reality TV for me. Maybe I just know too much about the strings behind the puppets now, but it just doesn’t appeal to me at all anymore. Scripted dramas only from now on, I think…

To leave reality TV for a moment, For Real also explores the relationship between sisters. Was that something you set out to do when you began writing the book?

Absolutely. The sister story came first, and the show came later; in fact, Claire and Miranda never even made it past the final round of auditions in my first draft! The sisters have been apart during Miranda’s four years at college, and I was most interested in exploring the way their relationship shifted and strained and morphed as they struggled to get to know each other again as adults. I sent them on this trip around the world together because it was the best way to raise the stakes and the tension; it turns out emotions bubble to the surface much faster if you surround your characters with manipulative strangers, deprive them of sleep and personal space, and stick a camera in their faces!

And finally, what’s the one book you’d pack if you were setting off around the world?

I’d bring a big, thick, plot-twisty novel full of scandal and scheming and intrigue, like Gone with the Wind or The Count of Monte Cristo. Those books are so long that they’d last me through a bunch of transcontinental flights, and if I did manage to make it to the end, I love them enough that I’d be perfectly happy starting over again right away.

Thanks Alison! Readers, I’m sure you can see now why I’m so into this book–there’s nothing like being kept up late by an amazing read, and this one kept me laughing, guessing, turning pages, and kept me from sleeping!


amie165c-twitterAmie Kaufman is the co-author of THESE BROKEN STARS, a YA sci-fi novel out now from Disney-Hyperion (US) and Allen & Unwin (Australia). Book two, THIS SHATTERED WORLD, is out now in Australia, and coming on December 23rd in the US! Her new trilogy will start with ILLUMINAE, coming from Random House/Knopf in 2015. She is represented by Tracey Adams of Adams Literary. You can find her on Twitter or on Facebook, or visit the These Broken Stars website for exclusive sneak-peeks and contests. Amie lives in Melbourne, Australia, with her husband and rescue dog.

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1009. Snow

Snow by Isao Sasaki

by Isao Sasaki (Viking, 1982)

Snow by Isao Sasaki

I’m not too sure if this book is still in print or not, but I snagged it at a used bookstore in Seattle once upon a long time ago. It was the best six bucks I spent in the entire city. Maybe the best six bucks ever.

This book felt familiar, and I’m sure I’ve buried some memories of reading it as a kid somewhere deep inside my book-person-soul. Opening the pages again to a story both calm and busy was also the only way to experience any snow in these parts.

And so, Snow.

Snow by Isao SasakiSnow by Isao SasakiSnow by Isao Sasaki

The book itself is a square. It’s the soft gray of winter skies. Each illustration is framed within a border of a lighter shade of that barely gray. Maybe it’s its 1982-ness, but it also feels like looking at a slide. Remember those?

Because of this bit of framing, this story is told in snippets like snapshots—of a day, of a season, of a bustling platform, but it also feels like we’re watching from a distance, remembering something that was so simple and sweet.Snow by Isao Sasaki

And at the same time, Snow is intimate. All of the action happens in the foreground. That’s where the train rumbles and the station agent shovels.

Once upon another long time ago I wrote about the rule of thirds, and that’s beautifully at work here.

We’re looking in from the outside, thanks to the white space, but we’re right there with them, thanks to the foreground action. It’s a balance, a push and pull, and some inviting tension in the quietest of stories.

Snow by Isao Sasaki

Only one spread has an illustration that takes up the entire page. A wide rectangle becomes a perfect track for rolling in. (Or is it out? But does it matter?) A wide rectangle becomes the perfect break in the pace of this book.

Much like the snow, falling heavier at times, lighter at others. Much like the light of the day, changing from dawn to dark.

Snow by Isao SasakiSnow by Isao Sasaki


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1010. John Boyd and Sun Tzu’s The Art of War

Renowned US military strategist John Boyd is famous for his signature OODA (Observe-Orientation-Decision-Action) loop, which significantly affected the way that the West approached combat operations and has since been appropriated for use in the business world and even in sports. Boyd wrote to convince people that the Western military doctrine and practice of his day was fundamentally flawed. With this goal in mind, he naturally turned to the East to seek an alternative.

Sun Tzu: The Art of War happened to be the only theoretical book on war that Boyd did not find imperfect; it became his Rosetta stone. Boyd eventually owned seven translations of The Art of War, each with long passages underlined and with copious marginalia. He was at the same time familiar with Taoism (Lao Tzu mainly) and Miyamoto Musashi (a famous Japanese swordsman who practiced Samurai Zen). With this extensive knowledge of Eastern thought, Boyd aimed for an almost full adoption of Sun Tzu’s theory into the Western strategic framework. The theory of Sun Tzu was foreign to his audience’s way of thinking, so in order to convince them of its value he repackaged, rationalized, and modernized Eastern theories using various scientific theories from the West.

Why couldn’t such an adoption take place using existing translations of The Art of War? Boyd understood that he could get nowhere close to the heart of Chinese strategy without first understanding the cognitive and philosophical foundations behind Chinese strategic thought. These foundations are usually lost in translation, causing an impasse in understanding the Chinese strategy that remains today. Hence Boyd made use of new sciences to illuminate what the West had been unable to illuminate before.

For instance, Boyd recreated the naturalistic worldview of Chinese strategy in the Western framework. From this perspective, the OODA loop encompasses much more than a four-phase decision-making model: its real significance is that it reconstructs mental operations based on intuitive thinking and judgment. This kind of intuition is pivotal to strategy and strategic thinking, but was lost as the West embraced a more rational scientific mindset. It is an open secret that the speed and success of the OODA loop comes from a deep intuitive understanding of one’s relationship to the rapidly changing environment. This understanding of one’s environment comes directly from Chinese strategic thought.

Chinese warrior. CC0 via Pixabay.
Chinese warrior. CC0 via Pixabay.

Another aspect of Chinese strategic thought that Boyd insisted on capturing and incorporating into the Western strategic framework is yin-yang (yin and yang). Yin-yang has been commonly misunderstood as the Chinese equivalent of “contradictions” in the West. Yin-yang, however, is not considered contradictory or paradoxical by the Chinese, but is actively used to resolve real-life contradictions and paradoxes—the key is to see yin-yang (such as win-lose, enemy-friend, strong-weak) as one concept or continuum, not two opposites. It is this Chinese philosophical and logical concept that forms the strategic chain linking Sun Tzu, Lao Tzu, and Mao Zedong.

Once this “oneness” of things is realized, a strategist will then be able to tap into the valuable strategic information it carries, including the dynamics of situations and relationships between things, resulting in a more complete grasp of a situation, particularly in complex and multifaceted phenomena like war. In short, yin-yang provides an intuitive means for understanding the essence of reality, opening a new door to strategic insights and forecasts that were once inaccessible by using Western methods.

Boyd’s thesis is not a general theory of war but, as one of his biographers noted, a general theory of the strategic behavior of complex adaptive systems in adversarial conditions. It is ironic that the scientific terminology used illustrates the systemic thinking behind Chinese strategic thought applied by Sun Tzu 2,500 years ago, as the terminology of complex adaptive systems and non-linearity did not exist then.

Boyd opened a crucial window of opportunity for Western thought by repackaging and rationalizing Eastern thought. His attempt to adopt Sun Tzu into the Western strategic framework was far from being successful, and many of his proposals have gone unnoticed, but nonetheless Boyd made very significant progress in “synchronizing” Chinese and Western strategy. Once the West grasps the significance behind this unprecedented opportunity to directly absorb and adopt elements of Chinese strategy, it will open many new avenues for the development and self-rectification of Western strategic thought and practices.

The post John Boyd and Sun Tzu’s The Art of War appeared first on OUPblog.

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1011. Scoring loss across the multimedia universe

Well known is music’s power to stir emotions; less well known is that the stirring of specific emotions can result from the use of very simple yet still characteristic music. Consider the music that accompanies this sweet, sorrowful conclusion of pop culture’s latest cinematic saga.

When the on-set footage begins, so does some soft music that is rather uncomplicated because, in part, it simply alternates between two chords which last about four seconds each. These two chords are shown on the keyboard below. In classical as well as pop music, these two chords typically do not alternate with one another like this. Although the music for this featurette eventually makes room for other chords, the musical message of the more distinctive opening has clearly been sent, and it apparently worked on this blogger, who admits to shedding a few tears and recommends the viewer have a tissue nearby.


This simple progression has been used to accompany loss-induced sadness in numerous mainstream (mostly Hollywood) cinematic scenes for nearly 30 years. This association is not simply confined to movies, yet inhabits a larger media universe. For example, while the pop song “Comeback Story” by Kings of Leon, which opens this movie’s trailer, helps to convey the genre of the advertised product, the same two-chord progression—let’s call it the “loss gesture”—highlights the establishing narrative: a patriarchal death has brought a mourning family together (for comedic and sentimental results).

Loss gestures can play upon one’s heartstrings less discriminately; they can elicit both tears of joy as well as tears of sadness. Climaxes in Dreamer and Invincible, both underdog-comes-from-behind movies, are punctuated with loss gestures. As demonstrated at 2:06 in the following video, someone employed by the Republican Party appears to be keenly aware of this simple progression’s powerful capacity for moving a viewer (and potential voter).

Within the universe of contemporary media, the loss gesture has been used in radio as well. The interlude music that plays before or after a story on National Public Radio often has some relation to the content of the story. A week after the Sandy Hook school shootings, NPR aired a story by Kirk Siegler entitled “Newtown Copes With Grief, Searches For Answers.” Immediately after the story’s poignant but hopeful ending, the opening of Dustin O’Halloran’s “Opus 14” faded in, musically encapsulating the emotions of the moment.

How the loss gesture works its magic on listeners is a Gordian knot. However, it is undeniable that producers from several different corners of the media world know that the loss gesture works.

The post Scoring loss across the multimedia universe appeared first on OUPblog.

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1012. Kibbles ‘n’ Bits 12/9/14: I tried to do this every day but it broke my heart

§ Reportedly, the first issue of Marvel’s Star Wars comic by Jason Aaron and John Cassaday, will sell 1 million copies, the most single issues of a comic since Batman #500 in 1993. Comicsbook.com reported this, and didn’t mention Loot Crate, which has been behind a lot of the massively selling comics of late. I know people like Star Wars, but if this number holds steady, I expect to hear that there were some kinds of massive extra-DM sales involved. That would average out to 333.33 copies per DM store, which is, I suppose, possible.

The book takes place between the original Star Wars and Empire Strikes Back, so expect a lot of “We’ve got to get to Hoth” talk. Also, Jason and John, you’re buying.

§ A comic-con was held in Sao Paulo last weekend. About 20,000 people attended. What did they see?

In addition to seeing the original comic strips that inspired many major superhero franchises, guests also got a sneak-peek at future releases. There will be an exclusive preview of the next Hobbit film, “The Battle of Five Armies”, at the event, with a special appearance from Thorin actor, Richard Armitage. This mixture of attractions caused great excitement.


§ Meanwhile they are planning the first Comic-Con Portugal soon:

The Portuguese convention, which is being held for the first time, is “to make this event a national and international benchmark and to position itself as the biggest pop culture show in Portugal,” according to its organizers. Some highlights of the conference are an appearance by Clive Standen, the actor who plays Rollo in the TV show Vikings, actor Natalie Dormer from Game of Thrones, as well as Seth Gilliam, known for playing Father Gabriel in The Walking Dead.


And WHY do they call these things comic cons any more?

tumblr ng3vzvl1Ww1qmkli8o7 r1 500 Kibbles n Bits 12/9/14: I tried to do this every day but it broke my heart

§ Looking for your smoking gun on Lichtenstein? this photoset from his studio has it!

§ Multiversity has chosen its breakout writers and artists for 2014.

§ Zainab Akhtar also picked 10 artists she liked in 2014 and…she nails it. Kris Mukai and Ronald Wimberly. So there.

§ Tom Spurgeon has explained more about his move to Columbus and his new job running CXC the new Columbus based CAF. The good news is that he isn’t giving up running The Comics Reporter! Running even a spuriously comprehensive blog like The Beat with another job is no easy task so, good luck! He’s also contemplating changes:

* CR, completely independent of my taking the gig in Columbus, has been experiencing trouble for quite some time. I’ll be announcing several changes in the way I do CR, changes that are long overdue and may help me to continue doing it and make for a better publication/source in the next few weeks. The model we started in 2004 and still use today doesn’t really work anymore. I hope you’ll bear with me and I hope you’ll be open to me pitching a few things at you at an appropriate time. Watch this space.

Tom is the only other blogger who does kind of the same thing I do, so if he’s changing it means our day is truly over.

§ Hilary Brown interviewed Olivier Schrauwen becuase Arséne Schwauren is one of the books of the year.

Schrauwen: The meaning of the color changes is not fixed; it depends on the context. For instance, the red can suggest a sweet and romantic feeling, but it can also illustrate hellish torment. The choice to work with two colors comes from the fact that I printed it first by myself, on a printer that can only print two different colors at a time. When you overlap the colors you can have quite a rich palette, but I figured it was more appropriate for the story to just juxtapose the colors. It’s a bit crude and brusque, but so is the story.

§ SPOILER. Apparently there is a petition to bring back **** who was shockingly killed in the mid-season finale of The Walking Dead. Sorry to say, she looked pretty dead to me.

§ Director Ridley Scott has mumbled something about why he won’t direct a comic book movie:

“I’ve had a lot of opportunities and I tend not to do that. They’re the hardest single thing to write,” he said. “Taking a comic strip character is very hard to write, because comics are meant to work in one page, to work in frames with minimalistic dialogue. And a lot of it is left to the imagination of the reader. To do that in film you’ve got to be a little more explanatory. And that requires a good screenplay and good dialogue.”

You know, I love Ridley Scott, but there’s a reason they don’t let him say things, because unless he was offered a movie version of Henry, people can say things in movies. On the other hand, the first four movies he directed were The Duelists, Alien, Blade Runner and Legend (with the Apple 1984 commercial thrown in) so…he can kind of do whatever he wants.

And now a bunch of things I had kicking around since before Thanksgiving.

§ For some reason I bookmarked this Gerard Jones account of a trip to DC in the 80s and meeting Julius Schwartz.

§ I also bookmarked this quotes from Johanna Draper Carlson on Lumberjanes:

Lumberjanes is to today what the Dark Knight Returns was to another generation — a book that’s bringing in a whole new audience, an outreach book to a group that can love comics, once comics exist for them. Then it was older readers, those looking for mature content; now, it’s young women interested in active adventures, not appearances. It’s great to see a group of female lead characters (still rare in comics). Being a gang, they’re allowed to have different personalities and interests, instead of just being The Girl.

§ How do superhero costumes fit so well in the movies? they basically scan the actors and manufacture them to the micron. Only Kate Beckinsale and Bradley Cooper can really stand up to this kind of scrutiny.

10635701 10152891467134570 7697416630666811610 n Kibbles n Bits 12/9/14: I tried to do this every day but it broke my heart

§ James Gunn obviously hasn’t let his success as a marvel director get in the way of speaking his mind, which is pretty impressive, as with his widely quoted FB post on the flaws in the shared universe idea. He also loves posting mash-up art like Steamboat Yondu, above, and pictures of cure animals. What Gunn doesn’t really mention is that the entire Hollywood system is broken at the moment, along with everything else. It’s basically either small >$10 million films or $150 million blockbusters. No in between.

§ Finally, I greatly enjoyed this in-depth review of the Ellis/Shalvey/Bellaire Moon Knight by Beat alum Steve Morris.

There’s a real lack of baggage in Moon Knight, which is emphasized through Shalvey’s artwork. Whilst out of costume, Moon Knight looks gaunt, tired, and human. But within the costume, nothing interests or bothers the character beyond getting through his latest mission and finishing things. Shalvey puts an incredible amount of blank space in many of his panels, particularly in the fight scenes. Moon Knight’s costume at times is just an outline, with no definition – he’s an empty space within a busy confluence of fantasy, noir, action — whatever genre Ellis’ mood takes the series in. This creates a really distinctive sense of presence, even if that presence seems distant.

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1013. Editorial Submission :: Greg Wilson

Post by Natalie





Greg Wilson is an illustrator from the Chicago area who has relocated to Savannah, Georgia to complete his MFA in Illustration. He creates his images with ink and then applies digital color. Above all he loves drawing, collaboration, and visual problem solving and he hopes to work with a variety of clients to fulfill their illustration needs. See more of Greg’s work on his website.




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Continuing with "Two-Question Tuesday", in which I post and answer two questions each week, one pulled from some of the actual questions I've received over the years, the other a playful question I ask myself. I hope they provide a bit of insight into who I am and how (and why) I do what I do!

If you have a question you'd like to ask me, post it as a comment below and I will answer it in a future post.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Q1: What artists influence you?

I am a great appreciator of the work of many children's illustrators, although I don't actively try (or succeed) at making work anything like theirs. Instead, I admire their work because it looks like they sincerely enjoy their process. They are consistent in their dedication to quality and their craft, whatever their medium of choice. Most of my favorite illustrators have a recognizable, characteristic style that makes their work easily identifiable. Some of my favorites are Mary GrandPré, Linda Wingerter, Cory Godbey, Brett Helquist, Brian Selznick, Tony DiTerlizzi, Rebecca Guay, and Aaron Becker (just to name a few). If you know their work you'll probably notice that they all have distinctly different styles from each other and from my own work.

By looking at these artists' images, I absorb valuable insights that I hope to someday be able to bring to my own art---insights into color, composition, lighting, character, style, etc. Qualities like strong drawing skills (good anatomy or intentionally stylized figures), use of interesting perspectives, dynamic environments, looseness of lines, use of expressive, dynamic shapes, and a sense of gesture and movement are all evident in the illustrations that strongly appeal to me (in contrast to my own work, which all-too often tends to become stiff and overworked). There is much to be learned from the artists I admire. 

Most important of all, my favorite artists remind me to enjoy myself, to work hard, and create with authentic passion. They're all so good at being themselves that I'm reminded to be myself, too (whatever that may be). Their techniques and processes encourage me to try something new, loosen up, and be playful. Their work compels me to continue to hone my drawing skills so that I can draw realistically when I need to AND be expressive when I want to.

Ancora imparo!

Q2: Are you obsessed with space, and why is the answer YES?

Our solar system, exoplanets, the galaxy, and the entire universe has been and will forever be a topic for me which inspires true AWE. Contemplating space used to leave me boggled and afraid. Afraid of what is out there, afraid of what we don't know, and afraid we'll never know enough to satisfy my own curiosity. Apart from my creative projects, the pursuit of space related topics has been filling ALL of my free time for the last year and a half. I've read non-fiction (several of Carl Sagan's books), fiction (The Martian was a particular favorite this year), sci-fi comic books and classic novels, not to mention watched countless documentaries and educational videos. I'm discovering more and more my passion for topics like cosmology, astrophysics, and astrobiology. (If I hadn't been scared away from studying science in my youth, I suspect I would have loved spectronomy.)

I've always been dissatisfied with the sub par science education I received in school, and up until last year I'd spent most of my life avoiding heavy science topics altogether because I was intimidated by how stupid I felt trying to navigate it all. But I'm making up for lost time by throwing myself into it now, at age 30, with a level of passion and enthusiasm I've only ever experienced inside the art-making realm.

So YES. I am obsessed with space, that wondrous, fascinating and overwhelming place of which we human beings have the privilege to be a very small part. Sometimes I wonder if anything besides the study of the universe really matters at all...

Did you watch the Orion test flight last week? Are you following the New Horizons mission? There is so much happening right now--- it's a very exciting time to be a space enthusiast!

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1015. Spotlight and Giveaway: Running Hot by HelenKay Dimon

This morning I have an excerpt and giveaway for Running Hot by Helenkay Dimon.  Grab a cup of coffee and enjoy!


Ward Bennett jerked back into consciousness. One shift and he nearly wrenched his shoulder out of its socket. He didn’t need to see the plastic zip tie to know that’s what dug into his wrists and bound them behind his back.

Moving his ankle, he didn’t meet any resistance. The person who shackled him made a pretty big miscalculation. As if he needed his hands to escape. Any idiot could break a zip tie. But first he had to figure out how he got in this position and why.

That must have been one hell of a date. It was a fucking shame he couldn’t remember one minute of it.

Humidity made his skin slick and sweat gathered between his shoulder blades as he scanned the open area. He’d been in similar structures for a week now but didn’t recognize this particular one. He’d call it a bungalow or cabana of sorts. The locals referred to it as a bure. Wooden beams, a thatched straw ceiling soaring a good twenty feet above his head, open walls, and not a stick of furniture other than the chair he was tied to.

A warm breeze blew over him and darkness fell around him on all sides. He could make out the shadow of trees and smell the ocean in the distance. He strained to listen for the usual sounds of the resort – the mumble of conversation and ever-present local music piped through the speakers, maybe the sound of motorboats in the distance – but heard nothing.

People described this place as paradise. Right now, to him, Fiji pretty much sucked.

As soon as the thought registered, footsteps echoed around him. The gentle sway of hips came into view. His gaze traveled up the tanned, lean legs peeking out from under the navy cargo shorts. Then to the sliver of bare stomach visible at the bottom of slim tank top and to the impressive breasts filling out the top of it. He finally landed on that face.

Tasha Gregory, the damn-she’s-hot, smooth-talking bartender from the Waitui Resort. The same one with the husky voice that made him stupid. From the slight wave in her long blond hair to the big brown eyes, everything about her worked for him. Which was how they ended up at her place last night…but the rest between then and now was a blur.

Running Hot
Bad Boys Undercover # 0.5

By: HelenKay Dimon

Releasing December 16th, 2014

Avon Romance


HelenKay Dimon kicks off her hot new romantic suspense series, Bad Boys Undercover, featuring the fierce men of Alliance—and the only women capable of taming their hearts.

Camped out at a resort bar in Fiji, CIA operative Ward Bennett may look like he’s on vacation but he’s really deep undercover, hunting a dictator on the run. Ward may be on the job, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t time for the sexy female bartender. That is, until she drugs him.

When Tasha Gregory discovers the hottie on the barstool isn’t who he pretends to be, her MI6 training kicks into gear, and she has no choice but to take him out. Problem is, Ward’s not an easy man to put down for long. More than once, his interference almost blows her surveillance operation—and her ability to keep her heart to herself.

As the situation heats up, these two must decide whether they can trust one another—and quick. Working together might just make everyone safer, but getting close enough for comfort … might just get them killed.

Link to Follow Tour: http://www.tastybooktours.com/2014/11/running-hot-bad-boys-undercover-novella.html

Goodreads Link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/21546205-running-hot

Goodreads Series Link: https://www.goodreads.com/series/127877-bad-boys-undercover

Buy Links: Amazon | Barnes | iTunes

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Running-Hot-Boys-Undercover-Novella-ebook/dp/B00J7Q620K/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1416174146&sr=8-1&keywords=running+hot+by+helenkay+dimon&pebp=1416174149581

B&N: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/running-hot-helenkay-dimon/1119887861?ean=9780062357823

iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/running-hot/id847613513?mt=11

Author Info

HelenKay Dimon is a former divorce attorney turned full-time romance author. Odd transition, right? She has sold over thirty novels, novellas and shorts to numerous publishers, including Kensington, Harlequin and Penguin, Samhain, Carina Press, and HarperCollins. Her nationally bestselling and award-winning books have been showcased in numerous venues and her books have twice been named “Red-Hot Reads” and excerpted in Cosmopolitan magazine. But the best part of the job is never having to wear pantyhose.

Author Links: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

Website: http://helenkaydimon.com/

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

Twitter: https://twitter.com/helenkaydimon

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/70860.HelenKay_Dimon

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The post Spotlight and Giveaway: Running Hot by HelenKay Dimon appeared first on Manga Maniac Cafe.

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1016. Coloring Page Tuesday - Sleeping Mouse

     All the holiday hub-bub can just wear a little mouse right out! How are you getting in the holiday spirit?
     CLICK HERE for more Thanksgiving coloring pages! And be sure to share your creations in my gallery so I can put them in my upcoming newsletters! (Cards, kids art, and crafts are welcome!)
     Sign up to receive alerts when a new coloring page is posted each week and... Please check out my books! Especially...

THE 12 DAYS OF CHRISTMAS IN GEORGIA! Makes a GREAT teacher gift! Click the cover to learn more!
     Don't live in Georgia? Check with your local bookseller - Sterling has a version for each state.

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1017. Christmas Snow....

"...and every mother's child is going to spy 
to see if reindeer really know how to fly...."

Tara Larsen Chang, watercolor

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1018. Why England Is Finally DEAD To Me

I woke up this morning having actually slept for 2-3 hours.  Tick on the calender there.  So, had to go get my diabetic old eyes checked.

Firstly, however, I had to pop into the post office in BEDMINSTER ARCADE, Bedminster, Bristol, to return a mail order item for my sister.  Up to this point I was calm.  I walked up to the counter and put my gloves in my hat on it and handed over the package (about 17x 10cms).  "Good morning.  How are you?  I'd like to return this item and need a proof of posting, please."

Man looks down at package.  Rubs his finger over label and asks "You want to return this?"  So I say "Yes, please."  He points to the label with the company name and "Returns Department" printed on it but he wants to know WHAT is in it. "That's not the right label" he tells me.  So I say "I'm sorry? It's the name and address of the company it is being returned to why is it not 'right'? And the woman before me was not asked what was in the chunky square box she posted off to another mail order company"  He tells me he has to go check so opens the door to enter the enclosed counter area where the two women who have worked there for years and accepted all sizes of packages from me were serving others.

He returns.  "It's not the right label. What's in it?"  I point out that I do not know.  It is being returned on my sister's behalf.  He then says that the label is not a "Mail pre-paid label" and I point out that I know this which is why I asked for a proof of posting AND a cash receipt.  "We'll need to open it and examine it" he tells me. "It's security regulations"

Imagine how angry I am getting but staying calm.

I point out that it is being returned for my sister to the mail order company she buys from. "We will take it so long as you are happy for us to open and examine the contents."  Obviously niggly customers behind me in the queue. So I ask WHY the woman before me had not been asked to open the big square box but I am? "Security regulations" he says again.  I point out that there might (or might not) be something in the package my sister might find embarassing to have lifted up and examined in public.  "It's security regulations" he moronically repeats.

Now I need to point out that I have been posting packages and mail to the UK and all around the world since 1975.  Because of "previous work" I know the regulations and what makes a suspicious package.  There are things you cannot send via Royal Mail -batteries, pressurised containers etc (your local PO will have a sign showing you).  In almost 40 years I have NEVER EVER been refused the right to post an item by any post office and that includes BFPO.

Were I asked by a police or security official who stated the regulation and WHY they suspected the package I might have said "go ahead but not in front of anyone else -privacy"  But when I asked "Under what security regulation -can you quote me the regulation number and sub-paragraph, please?"  And..."Its security regulations"...next to me one of the female staff was accepting a long rectangular returns package from a woman and just gave the receipt.

"Can I speak to the manager, please?"  and I get "No. No one is here."  I look at the two female (senior) counter staff and ask "Can you help me sort this out, please?"  They turn away quickly.

Once again I was told that the package could not be posted unless it was first "opened and examined".  So, I take out my business card and hold it up to the security CCTV camera. I then show it to the moron.  I then take out two photo IDs and do the same and I need to point out one used to be okay to get me past military security guards.  Not good enough.  "The package has to be opened and examined".

I helped these people once by clearing out a rather aggressive drunk from their premises. They were happy then.

So, I state that unless there is a Post Office security officer present then, NO, he as a counter staff would not be allowed to open and examine a private package (which, apparently, I would then need to reseal at the counter).

I thought ***** it.  So I took a book out I was going to post -name and address on the pack. "I'll just post this then...please."  ta-daaaaa!  "What is in the package?"

No.  Just no.

It seems I am plain and obviously a security risk.

But then we have TV Licensing.

In the UK if you own and use a TV set you pay an extortionate licence fee.  This is the important highly legal stuff: if you DO NOT have a TV set then you do NOT need a TV licence.

People who know me know I do not watch TV -there is absolutely nothing I'm interested in and I tend to work all day.  So, in May, I had no TV set and no TV licence.  Someone from TV Licensing called and I explained this to him.  I denied him his perceived 'right' to enter and search my property (even the police need a warrant).  So he wrote down that I had no TV set and no TV license.  Read it back to me.  No problem. I signed the statement.


Every day, morning, afternoon and evening 3-4 calls every day up until August telling me I had no TV licence.  Now,by July I HAD gotten a small portable TV set and I HAD a licence.  I contacted TV Licensing and asked for an explanation because I was getting what was harassment -phone calls every day and doorstep callers.

Apparently, their caller "must have forgotten to process" the documents.  So, to up-date things I did as requested and sent a copy of my new TV license to them.

Nothing.  Must be sorted then.

October I receive a court summons as I am being prosecuted by TV Licensing for operating a TV set without a license.  WHAT???

I try to sort this out.  December 2013-May 2014 no, I had no TV set and no TV licence.  Sooo?  Well, it seems that my doorstep caller falsified and added to the signed statement.  "You admitted to have been using a TV set which was plugged-in to a freeview box and had been using this for up to six weeks" I thought "What??"  I NEVER said any such thing and I still DO NOT have a freeview box (in fact I do not currently have a TV!) and I have pointed this out in writing and on the form and the response? "You signed the form" -it does not matter if it was added to, falsified later (after THREE MONTHS) it is their "agents" word against mine and he has a signed form.

I explain to the courts.  "That might be correct BUT you signed the form. You can't prove anything was added to it because you never had a copy of the document you signed.  The court will go by the signed statement."   Solicitors....ditto. Oh, and then the great advice "NEVER EVER EVER signed a document on the doorstep -even if you are given a carbon copy there and then. You are not legally obliged to do any such thing."

And then I was told: "You seem a very honest person. Intelligent but honest. Honest people are always the ones who get screwed over in these cases"

There are other things but I'm not going into those here. I just want the maximum number of people to know what goes on and also, for the Post Office, to cause the maximum amount of embarassment.  I've not really started yet but about 5-6000 people being "made aware" is a start.

I've always been fair, honest and stuck to the law.  This is what I get.

In case you cannot tell -I am very VERY pissed off.  I now await my County Court fine for not having a TV set...nor a TV licence.

**** the UK

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1019. Interview and Giveaway: Monica Murphy, Author of Owning Violet

This morning I have an interview with Monica Murphy, as well as a copy of Owning Violet to give away!

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Describe yourself in five words or less.

[Monica Murphy] Wife, mom, workaholic, dedicated

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Can you tell us a little about Owning Violet?

[Monica Murphy] Absolutely! OWNING VIOLET is the first in The Fowler Sisters series and is about the middle Fowler sister, Violet. She works for her family’s cosmetics company (Fleur) and when the book starts out, she believes her life is set and is going to follow a specific pattern. But it doesn’t. She gets thrown for a loop and then Ryder McKay enters her life…and really starts messing with her head. He works for Fleur as well and wants to use Violet to get ahead. But of course, he ends up falling madly in love with her…

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

[Monica Murphy] It’s fairly late in the book and I don’t want to reveal too much because of spoilers but there’s a moment where Violet rushes back to her place to meet up with Ryder and he’s waiting for her. And he’s jealous but doesn’t know how to deal with it. Here’s a glimpse:

The moment I enter the lobby of my building I see him.

Pacing near the bank of elevators, the expression on his face fierce. He doesn’t even notice me at first, what with the way he’s scowling and staring at the ground, and I watch him for one unguarded moment, loving the way he checks his cell. In the hopes he has a message from me, perhaps?

I clear my throat and he whirls around, his expression softening in an instant. But he remains coolly impassive, keeping his distance as I approach him and reach out, pressing the button for the penthouse floor.

“Hi,” I murmur, stepping back.

“Hello,” he greets in return, shoving his hands into the front pockets of his dark-rinse jeans. He looks amazing. The spring night has turned cool and he’s wearing a black Henley shirt that hugs his torso, his biceps straining against the sleeves. I always see him in suits—or naked—and I savor these moments when I get to admire him in such casual clothing.

He looks good no matter what he wears.

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

[Monica Murphy] I loved Violet’s journey. She really changed and grew in this book. So did Ryder. But I loved how strong Violet became. She surprised everyone, including me.

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

[Monica Murphy] My cell phone! Oh God, I am so dependent on that thing it’s pitiful.

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

[Monica Murphy] My iPhone (see? LOL), a now empty can of diet Coke and a pile of receipts I need to file.

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

[Monica Murphy] Lately it’s been Sour Patch Kids watermelon flavor. They’re so good! I blame my daughter for turning me on to them.

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

[Monica Murphy] Umm, that’s a tough question! I’m going to say Jennifer Lawrence because I like her attitude and she knows Liam Hemsworth so win/win. I’d go visit Liam and ask him to invite his brother Chris over. Heh heh.

[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?

[Monica Murphy] Teletransport! So I can go wherever I want whenever I want. Wouldn’t that be awesome? I’d be doing a lot of heavy traveling that week.

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

[Monica Murphy] I read a YA book entitled The Book of Ivy by Amy Engel and OMG so so good. Another book I read was Black Ice by Becca Fitzpatrick – loved! I went on a YA binge. 

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

[Monica Murphy] My website is: http://monicamurphyauthor.com

I’m on Twitter all the time: http://twitter.com/msmonicamurphy

And Facebook of course: http://facebook.com/MonicaMurphyAuthor

Pinterest too! Oh that place is a dangerous time suck: http://www.pinterest.com/msmonicamurphy/

Thank you for having me at your blog!

[Monica Murphy] Thank you for taking the time to answer my question!

New York Times bestselling author Monica Murphy begins a sexy new contemporary romance series—perfect for fans of Christina Lauren and Emma Chase—that introduces three sisters born to wealth, raised to succeed, ready to love, destined to make waves.

I’ve moved through life doing what’s expected of me. I’m the middle daughter, the dutiful daughter. The one who braved a vicious attack and survived. The one who devoted herself to her family’s business empire. The one who met an ambitious man and fell in love. We were going to run Fleur Cosmetics together, Zachary and I.

Until he got a promotion and left me in the dust. Maybe it’s for the best, between his disloyalty and his wandering eye. But another man was waiting for me. Wanting me. He too has an overwhelming thirst for success, just like Zachary—perhaps even more so. He’s also ruthless. And mysterious. I know nothing about Ryder McKay beyond that he makes me feel things I’ve never felt before.

One stolen moment, a kiss, a touch . . . and I’m hooked. Ryder’s like a powerful drug, and I’m an addict who doesn’t want to be cured. He tells me his intentions aren’t pure, and I believe him. For once, I don’t care. I’m willing to risk everything just to be with him. Including my heart. My soul.

My everything.


US addresses only, please

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The post Interview and Giveaway: Monica Murphy, Author of Owning Violet appeared first on Manga Maniac Cafe.

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1020. How to Craft a Centerpiece With Old Books

Still not finished decorating? Recycle an old book and transform it into a “Book Page Christmas Tree Centerpiece.”

If you want to make this project, watch the video tutorial (from the Factory Direct Craft YouTube channel) embedded above. What seasonal decor pieces do you enjoy making?

New Career Opportunities Daily: The best jobs in media.

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1021. Scholastic Report: Write Funny, Imaginative Stories


PB&J: Picture Books and All That Jazz: A Highlights Foundation Workshop

Join Leslie Helakoski and Darcy Pattison in Honesdale PA for a spring workshop, April 23-26, 2015. It's a great Christmas present to yourself or a writer friend! Full info here.
  • "This conference was great! A perfect mix of learning and practicing our craft."Peggy Campbell-Rush, 2014 attendee, Washington, NJ
  • "Darcy and Leslie were extremely accessible for advice, critique and casual conversation."Perri Hogan, 2014 attendee, Syracuse,NY

It’s often hard to predict what books kids, from first grade through Young Adult novels, will like to read. Scholastic will release in January a research report that clearly expresses a kid’s point-of-view. They’ve released this infographic to advertise the report.

Click image to see full size.

Click image to see full size.

This research has lots of implications for those writing children’s books.

Write funny. Kids develop a sense of humor slowly and in stages. Here are 3 ways to write funny, 5 ways to add more humor, and tips on running gags.

Use imagination. Kids like to be transported to a different time and place. When you create stories, think about interesting settings, historical time periods, or made-up worlds. Create these in enough detail that the kids will understand the actions, but leave room for their imaginations.

How else will this research affect your writing and the focus of your next story?

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1022. Happy Holidays

Metinseven.com wishes you Happy Holidays and a pleasant 2015!

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1023. The Lerner Letters: Part 1 – The Stars

This is the first of a three-part series from Dominic McHugh on the correspondence of Alan Jay Lerner. The next installment will appear on Tuesday, 16 December 2014.

One of the joys of editing the correspondence of Alan Jay Lerner has been discovering his letters to and from the major stars with whom he worked. As the lyricist, librettist, and screenwriter of Brigadoon, Paint Your Wagon, An American in Paris, My Fair Lady, Gigi, Camelot, On a Clear Day You Can See Forever, and many more, he worked with the finest performers of his time. In this post, I’ll explore focus on his relationship with two of his stars: Rex Harrison and Julie Andrews.

Rex Harrison’s iconic performance as Henry Higgins was one of the keys to making My Fair Lady the most successful musical of the 1950s. He played the role for over a year in New York, opened the show in London, and went on to appear in the 1964 movie version (currently celebrating its 50th anniversary). But Fair Lady was Harrison’s first foray into musical theatre, and he found the process terrifying. The following letter was the first I found for my book, and it’s a wonderful insight into the writer-performer relationship. This excerpt shows how Lerner tried to lay Harrison’s fears about some of the initial songs they had written for him to rest:

[…] I was very interested in your comments about “Why Can’t The English,” and want you to know that I feel your reservations, as far as you are concerned, are completely justifiable. As I said in my cable, don’t let it tinge one hair with gray—we are rewriting it completely in a way that will be not only simpatico with you, but with the character of Higgins. I can do no other but agree with you when you are right, but I would fight you like a wounded tiger if I thought you were wrong.

Photo of Julie Andrews and Rex Harrison from My Fair Lady. Eliza Doolittle, the flower girl, meets Professor Henry Higgins.
Photo of Julie Andrews and Rex Harrison from My Fair Lady. Eliza Doolittle, the flower girl, meets Professor Henry Higgins. NYC Public domain via Wikimedia Commons

I might add, before closing the matter, that there are certain lyric liberties one can take when they are framed by certain kinds of melodies. There are “song songs” and “character songs.” A “character song,” which is basically free and is accompanied by an emotion or emotions, as is the case in “I’m An Ordinary Man,” must pretty much stay within the bounds of reason. In a “song song,” certain extravagances are not only permissible, but desirable. “Why Can’t The English,” written as it was, was definitely a “song song” and therefore contained a certain amount of satiric extravagance. The minute the same idea is written in a freer way, so that it almost seems like normal conversation set to music, those extravagances would seem definitely out of place. When one reads the lyric of a “song song” over and compares it to the character who is singing it, very often there will seem to be a discrepancy. For example, what business does a young Navy lieutenant have singing a poetic song like “Younger Than Springtime”?

The second paragraph is a particularly wonderful insight into the lyric writer’s mind, explaining how he viewed different kinds of songs. Another wonderful letter related to My Fair Lady shows how Lerner tried to persuade Julie Andrews – future star of the movies Mary Poppins and The Sound of Music – to arrive a little early for rehearsals. She had decided to spend New Year at home with her family in London because she knew she was about to start a long run away from them, but Lerner wanted her to come to New York early in order to rest and take part in publicity opportunities:

[…] I don’t know whether or not you have been aware of the explosive conversations that have been going on lately between Herman Levin and Lou Wilson. I might add that Herman has been doing the conversing and Lou the exploding. What it’s all been about is the matter of your being here on December 27th. I, of course, realize how much you would want to be with your family over New Year’s, but there are a few things involved that I beg you to consider. I am sure you know in advance that our desire to have you here on that date is no capricious whim on our part.

Both Rex and Stanley Holloway are arriving at that time. It is not at all uncommon for the stars of a play to make it their business to be in town a week before rehearsals for the express purpose of using that time for the good of themselves and the play. You are a star now, Julie, and I do think that as a well-meaning observer, as well as an active participant in these proceedings, it would be most impolitic to have them, who are two great and established artists, follow the usual pattern and you not do so. Even though we will not, of course, be working around the clock during that time, much can be accomplished in those few days. We can go over your new songs with you and get the keys set. If you feel it is necessary, you could freshen up your Cockney with Dixon. We could go over a couple of the scenes, which we would all like to hear, mainly for length, before the first reading on stage January 3rd. Besides that, there is that old devil Publicity, which, annoying as it is, is more annoying when it isn’t. It will also give you a chance to make yourself comfortable in your flat, and you will be rested and ready for the official first day of rehearsals January 3rd.

In spite of Lerner’s power of persuasion, Andrews chose to stay in England: as she explained more recently in her memoir Home, she found it a huge wrench to spend time away from her family, and her family life had been difficult. It’s well-known that she then struggled with early rehearsals for Fair Lady, which the director (Moss Hart) had to close down for a weekend while he spent time training for her the role of Eliza, line by line. But she quickly went on to be a star when the show opened in March 1956, and the rest is history.

These two excerpts show how the use of primary sources shed new light on the study of Broadway musicals. They provide a snapshot of the collaborations that are so important to the genre’s success. And in the case of Lerner, they show both his witty and charming personality and his incredible prose facility, something I feel is often overlooked.

In the next blog post, I’ll look at the letters from Lerner to Frederick Loewe, his most beloved composer collaborator, focusing on two letters from the 1950s and two from the 1980s.

Headline Image: Old Letters. CC0 via Pixabay 

The post The Lerner Letters: Part 1 – The Stars appeared first on OUPblog.

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1024. Post-PiBoIdMo Final Day 9: Deb Lund Works Her “Fiction Magic”

by Deb Lund

Amplify the Longing

“Amplify the Longing!” That was the first card I randomly pulled from my Fiction Magic card deck for writers on the first day of November. Jan O’Neil and I were hosting about a dozen writers for a PiBoIdMo and NaNoWriMo kickoff at the Diamond Knot Brewery next to the Whidbey Island ferry.

Diamond Knot

Good thing I pulled that card before everyone got there. It didn’t take long for Jan and I to discover the afternoon would be more of a social event than an idea-gathering one. Fortunately, using the Fiction Magic cards got us half way through our 30 ideas in record time so we could be social along with the rest of them!

When Tara asked me to write about using Fiction Magic for a Post-PiBoIdMo post, I said yes, because I always say yes to Tara’s challenges. In this case, though, I knew the cards would work well for generating picture book ideas, but following up on those ideas? My first thought was that it would be challenging. That’s good and bad.

It’s difficult for me to resist a challenge.

Fast forward to the last day of November, with my unfinished PiBoIdMo list. How could I write a Post-PiBoIdMo post if I didn’t complete the challenge myself? With my crazy schedule (and clothes-dryer mind), I hadn’t touched that list since our gathering. There’s nothing like a deadline to make a challenge even more exciting!

I pulled out my cards and completed my list in one short sitting. (Should I be admitting that to Tara?)

And then I heard from Jan:

“I had 30 ideas done in 28 days, with the last 11 ideas coming on day 28. That’s the day I was sitting in line for a ferry, pulled out your cards, and whipped out those last puppies.”

cards and card set

All that is great, but I still had the new challenge from Tara ahead of me.

I did say I like challenges, right?

I decided to keep going with the unknown (always a good thing to do when creating) and randomly drew a different Fiction Magic card to apply to each of the original ideas.

Remember the “Amplify the Longing” card? My PiBoIdMo lists in past years were a few words at the most. Not this year! The original idea from that card was:

Kid is never satisfied, wants more, more, more. Parents get run down, tired of trying to keep up with his demands, and when they can’t give any more, he gives them more and more love.

Jan revealed another similar experience:

“In the previous three Novembers, I finished all of the challenges by the skin of my teeth and came to understand that I am not one of those people for whom ideas come fully formed. Most of my ideas fit on one line of my journal paper. Later they may have notes written in the margins, but not at the time the idea first comes. This year, using the Fiction Magic Cards, my ideas are way more fleshed out. I mean, some even take six lines in my journal!”

So I held my breath, reminded myself that I love challenges, and drew a card as a follow-up to “Amplify the Longing.”


Yes! I could revolt and pick a different card, right? No? But the guidebook has creativity coaching tips following each craft suggestion! Couldn’t “Revolt” be a coaching tip?

Okay, okay…

My first thought was to have the parents go on a strike, but I didn’t want them to have any direct part in solving the problem, so I decided my main character needed to revolt. Maybe he’ll throw a tantrum until he’s all tired out, too. Then he can relate to how they feel and figure out that they all need love.

Don’t we all?

Here are a couple more examples of my PiBoIdMo ideas and how I used Fiction Magic cards to flesh them out:

“Speak the Unspeakable”

Original Idea: This little girl can only say no.

This little girl can only say no. When it’s time to go? No!
This little girl can never say yes. Clean up your mess? No!
This little girl can only say no. Would you like ice cream? No!
This little girl would like to say yes. Does she? No!
Can she still have ice cream? No!

The additional card I selected for this idea was “Take a Break.” I thought the girl could insist that she can’t say yes, but when she gets tired of all the no’s, of not getting all she wants, she stops talking instead of saying yes, and later, when she finally says yes, she saves face by saying the change was because her tongue needed a break. I also decided that I needed to take a break from all the “This little girl…” lines—and maybe a good long break from this idea!

Are you getting the idea that you have to come up with a lot of bad ideas in order to get a good one? Good! That’s one of the reasons Tara does all this work.

Okay, one more…

Risk it All 

Baby learning to walk. It’s a risk for the baby, and the artwork could show the determination and obstacles to walking.

I thought this would be a story from the Baby’s point of view, but then I knew it had to be a sibling watching the baby learn to walk. The sibling, of course, is not happy about the baby getting all the attention until the baby chooses to walk to the sibling.

Well, there might be a little hope for that idea.

The card I chose to follow up on that one was “Provoke a Response.” That’s exactly what the baby does. Naturally, there would have been a response from the sibling, but because of the second card, I’ll make sure it’s big enough. And maybe the baby will even say the sibling’s name as the first word. Hmmm… And that means I will work in a little bit at the beginning about how the baby “can’t even talk” and just “makes noise.”

See how this works? Fiction Magic isn’t magic. It just feels that way because it triggers new ways of seeing and deepens the concept and plot by combining ideas to create what Tara and I call “High Concept Picture Books.”

Will I work on any of these stories? Maybe. Will any of them be published? It doesn’t matter. It’s all practice. You have to mine a lot of rock to get at the gems.

Keep adding to your ideas, keep writing badly (you have to reach your quota!), and go where your magic leads you.


Deb Lund may be best known as the author of All Aboard the Dinotrain and other picture books, but she has taught writing (the focus of her master’s project) to teachers and writers of all ages for 25 years. Deb is also a creativity coach whose mission is to get everyone claiming their creativity. Visit her at DebLund.com and follow her on Twitter @DebLund.

Creativity Deb

Fiction Magic: Card Tricks & Tips for Writers is a 3.5” x 5” boxed set of 54 cards with a 60-page guidebook. Fiction Magic card “tricks” help writers raise the stakes in their writing with phrases like “Alienate an Ally” and “Remove the Moral Compass.” The guidebook provides possible interpretations for each of the 54 cards, followed by creativity coaching “tips” to help writers apply the cards’ messages to their writing lives. It’s like having two decks in one!

For a limited time, Fiction Magic is 50% off.



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