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1001. Julie Barton Lands Deal With Penguin Books

Julie Barton (GalleyCat)Julie Barton has signed a deal with the Penguin Random House imprint, Penguin Books.

Barton has written a memoir entitled Dog Medicine. Kathryn Court, president of the imprint, negotiated the deal with Marly Rusoff, a literary agent.

Think Piece Publishing released the original edition of this book back in Nov. 2015. Penguin Books has scheduled the publication date for Jul. 2016. (Photo Credit: Colleen Gallagher)

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1002. Review: The Liminal War and The Entropy of Bones by Ayize Jama-Everett

Over at Strange Horizons, I review the second and third books in Ayize Jama-Everett's Liminal People series.  This was one of those cases where a book comes to you just when you need it the most.  As they've slowly taken over popular culture, I've found myself growing increasingly impatient with superhero stories, and with how the ones that show up on our screens choose to handle politics (see,

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1003. The Best (so far) of Hourly Comics Day 2016: The Dinosaurs are Still Dead

CaJzgH-UcAEQvXYThe best (so far) of Hourly Comics Day 2016!

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1004. The Donald Taught Me a New Word

trump

Well, not actually Donald Trump himself. But rather this article, “Has Trump Killed the GOP?” on Politico.

In the piece, Jacob Heilbrunn states that “It’s precisely Trump’s lubricity that is allowing him to transcend the GOP’s parochial ideological battles.” And I actually did think, “is that a made up word?” Nope. It’s in the dictionary! Merriam Webster defines the term as “the property or state of being lubricious; also the capacity for reducing friction.”

Obviously the context basically gives away the definition. It’s not like I was shocked by reading the actual textbook definition. Rather, at first glance, I figured this was some analyst-made-up word like the football commentators who continually talk about “escapability.” It was nice to know that yes, this is indeed a legitimate word.

[By the way, absolutely zero politically — positive or negative — about this article is intended towards Trump himself. Take your political kvetching to the Huffington Post or somewhere.]

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1005. Beatrix Potter and the Unfortunate Tale of a Borrowed Guinea Pig

This year is Beatrix Potter's 150th birthday, and so it's fitting that she has been in the news. A long-lost story featuring a black cat will soon be published with illustrations by the delightful Quentin Blake. Can't wait!

Another reason to rejoice is a newly released picture book about Potter the animal lover written by Deborah Hopkinson and illustrated by Charlotte Voake. Hopkinson sets young Beatrix in Victorian London and introduces readers to her many animals. There are the rabbits she takes for walks, assorted birds, reptiles, amphibians, and hedgehogs. Hopkinson is also upfront about the misfortunes that befell some of the critters. These sad events are told in Potter's own words, from the many journals the naturalist kept. Despite the horrors, it's hard not to smile when reading Potter's entries. Here is her account of what happened to a bat left dozing in a wooden box:

The very next morning that horrid old jay, being left alone to bathe in a wash basin, opened the box and destroyed the poor creature. I fancy he found it ill-favored, but he pulled out its arms and legs in a disgusting fashion.

These sad anecdotes, though, are but mere appetizers to the main story--the guinea pig. As the title  foreshadows, there will be no happy ending. Wanting to sketch a guinea pig and having none at hand, Beatrix borrows the squeaking rodent from her neighbor, a Miss Paget. And not just any guinea pig. She borrows Queen Elizabeth, a descendant from "a long line of distinguished guinea pigs." But when Beatrix is called away from her sketching to attend a dinner party, Queen Elizabeth devours a good deal of the art supplies, including paste, and that night succumbs to a case of extreme indigestion.

The next day Beatrix has no recourse but to tell Miss Paget what happened to her beloved guinea pig. Miss Paget does not take the news well, not even when Beatrix gives her a watercolor of her late pet.

Hopkinson's tongue-in-cheek recounting of the tale is similar to Potter's droll style in her journals. And Voake's soft watercolors evoke her illustrations. My one quibble with the book comes in the entertaining postscript. Hopkinson admits that she made up some parts to her story and changed others, including that Potter was actually twenty-six when she borrowed Queen Elizabeth and not a young girl as portrayed in the book. This strikes me as not playing fair with the reader and casts an entirely different light on the incident. You can forgive a child for being careless with another's pet; you judge an adult more harshly.

Still, all in all, this well-told story will entertain and inform young readers, many of whom no doubt have their own "unfortunate tales" regarding pets. (I know I do.)

Beatrix Potter and the Unfortunate Tale of a Borrowed Guinea Pig
by Deborah Hopkinson
illustrated by Charlotte Voake
Schwartz & Wade    44 pages
Published: February, 2016



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1006. Frederick Douglass Gets a Google Doodle for His Birthday

Frederick Douglass Google Doodle (GalleyCat)

Google has created a Doodle to celebrate Frederick Douglass’ 198th Birthday. He  was a social reformer, abolitionist, orator and writer.

Here’s more from the Google Doodle webpage: “To help us commemorate Frederick Douglass’s legacy, the Gilder Lehman Institute curated an exhibit of photographs and ephemera that you can explore here. Through our partnership with Open Road Integrated Media, Google Play Books is offering a free download of Douglass’s seminal autobiography, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass: an American Slave, which is available starting today, February 1, 2016.”

In the past, Google has crafted Doodles in honor of Little House series author Laura Ingalls WilderWhere the Wild Things Are creator Maurice Sendak, and Anne of Green Gables novelist Lucy Maud MontgomeryHere’s a video from Google headquarters spotlighting the artists behind the doodles. Which authors would you suggest as future Doodle subjects? (via The Huffington Post)

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1007. What is an Air Guitar?

tt

The University of Chicago Press: you’ve got the answer(s), we’ve got the question(s).

(And by questions, I mean Dave Hickey’s other books.)

        Untitled

To read more about The Invisible Dragon, click here.

To read more about 25 Women: Essays on Their Art, click here.

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1008. Publishing CIA’s Declassified Vault on Kickstarter

Activist Michael Best is trying to raise $10,000 on Kickstarter to publish a vault of previously declassified documents stored in the CIA’s vault.

“Accessing the information isn’t easy,” explains Best in his appeal. “Researchers trying to look up on the National Archive’s website where to access the computers, won’t find it on the page about doing research at that location or on the page for electronic records at that location. That information is tucked away on the page for online databases – despite not being online.”

Best’s plan is to overcome this byzantine structure and scan and upload as much of the database as he can. This includes 700,000 files and 11,000,000 pages. He will then publish these documents for free online and make them searchable, and available in PDF and Kindle formats.

 

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1009. Finding Comparable Books

compare apple to orangeWhen you’re trying to interest an agent or publisher in your book, you’re often asked to provide “comps” — other books that could be compared to yours, or books that might compete with yours. A good book proposal always has a “Competition” or “Comparable Books” section, and even if you’re self-publishing, it helps if you give readers a frame of reference in the form of similar books.
 
One of the most common questions I’m regularly asked is, “How do I figure out what books to include in my comps?” People get all hung up on it, especially with fiction. Do I look for books with the same premise or plot? Same time period? Same writing style? How do I know what to include?
 
I’m going to make it easy for you.
 
Ask yourself, “Who are my readers? What are they reading right now?” Those are your comparable books.
 
Keep this line in mind:

“People who enjoy the following books are likely to enjoy my book.”

 
You can use that line in a proposal, then follow it with the comparable books, and for each one, a brief explanation of why your book would appeal to those same readers. This approach frees you from trying to decipher what an agent is looking for, and instead, use those comps to identify your audience.
 
If you can’t readily identify six to ten books or authors whom your potential readers are already reading, then you need to stop what you’re doing and get a lot more educated about what’s already out in the marketplace, and who your potential audience is. If you can’t identify your audience, then how will you or a publisher sell your book to them?
 
Providing “comps” is all about helping your agent, your editors, your marketing team, and your readers to capture a vision for your book.
 
Too often, writers tell me, “I’ve looked and looked, and I can’t find anything quite like my book.” You and I both know that’s a cop-out. Think about your potential readers, and figure out what they are already reading. It’s that simple.
 
To read a little more about how to create a strong Competition section for your book proposal, click HERE.
 

Do you know what books your potential readers are already enjoying? How do you research this?

 

Comment below, or by clicking: HERE.

 
 

Need a publishing coachTWEETABLES
 
The one simple secret to providing “comps” for your book. Click to Tweet.
 
Think there are no other books like yours? Think again. Click to Tweet.
 
Providing “comps” for your book is as simple as knowing your audience. Click to Tweet.
 
Image copyright: dgilder / 123RF Stock Photo

The post Finding Comparable Books appeared first on Rachelle Gardner.

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1010. Leaky Fans on the Ground at the HP Celebration- Part 1: Chelsea

Unfortunately, this last weekend, Leaky wasn’t able to attend the Harry Potter Celebration in Orlando. However, we do have marvelous Harry Potter fans who follow our site, and we invited them to share their experiences of the celebration.

Chelsea Kleven, a Senior Production Editor for a Central Florida newspaper, was the first to share her experience with us. The following review of the Harry Potter celebration is written by Chelsea Kleven. (Click to enlarge photos)

 

I had no expectations for the Harry Potter Celebration weekend. My friend Amy and I had heard about the Harry Potter Celebrations before, but had never been to one. We live an hour from Universal Studios and both have annual passes to the park, and this year, we decided to see what it was all about. We figured it would be over-crowded and impossible to do anything all day, but since we have been to the park and experienced this many times before, we didn’t mind.

Amy and I both work for a daily Central Florida newspaper. I’m a designer, and she has a design background but now works on special projects and social media. We are both HUGE newspaper nerds, which inspires our love for the Daily Prophet (even though it seems Daily Prophet is written by many crooked journalists in the books.)
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We headed straight for Hogsmeade Village when we got to the park, though we normally go to Diagon Alley first (that way you can ride the train from King’s Cross to Hogwarts like you would at the start of a school year. We’ve given this a lot of thought.)
When we looked up the schedule for the Celebration events, we discovered there was a graphic design panel happening in about 45 minutes in Hogsmeade. Perfect! We had just enough time for a ride Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, and run over to the panel. 
For as big of a Harry Potter fan and design nerd as I am, I had absolutely no prior knowledge of Minalima, the graphic design duo behind the Harry Potter films. Their talk was short and sweet, but still awesome. I had no idea what being a graphic designer for a film was like.
They began with a short video showing clips of their work as seen in the films. They discussed how many people don’t realize how every paper, poster, package … everything!…has to be created by a graphic designer. 
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Minalima spent a large amount of time creating a realistic world for these characters to interact in, but often, their work is rarely seen in the final film. For example, they said they spent 7 months working on all of the elements for Fred and George’s shop, when it was only seen in the film for about a minute and 30 seconds.
They weren’t bitter about this at all though. They seemed thrilled to have been a part of the films, and lucky to help bring authenticity to the magical world. Another example of their hard work was how they designed all of Hermione’s books for Deathly Hallows. However, the books, too, were never even seen in the film. All they got was a sound of the books falling over in Hermione’s beaded bag. 
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They discussed how the parks were such a dream for them, because they were now able to show their work in a place where people were able to really stop and look at it. Park-goers could pick up boxes, look at advertisements on the walls of Diagon Alley, and really absorb the detail that went into everything.
The duo also discussed their favorite pieces to create, which were the Daily Prophet and The Marauders Map. The Daily Prophet is my absolute obsession, so I was busy snapping hundreds of pictures of all of the close-up images of the Daily Prophet and didn’t absorb much of what was said about it.
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As far as the Marauders Map, they really reiterated how they wanted to pump the personality of the characters who created the map into their design. It wasn’t about their personal design aesthetic, it was about bringing authenticity to the object. Moony, Wormtail, Padfoot and Prongs were crafty and intelligent, and they wanted the map to be a reflection of those qualities.
The map was drawn BY HAND based off of architectural maps that had been created for the set. The hand drawings were scanned in and developed into what you see on film. When the map was  first created, there was a small mistake on it. They had included the Room of Requirement. Someone on the team realized that the room was not supposed to appear on the map, and went back through the whole process to take the room out.
After the graphic design panel, Amy and I headed over to the other park where the Harry Potter Expo was located. After chatting with some people at the design panel, we learned there was a wall covered in Daily Prophets at the expo and we had to check it out. We went first to Diagon Alley and had lunch at the Leaky Cauldron, complete with a Dragon Scale beer, and (it is our tradition on every visit) we sat on the stoop of the Daily Prophet office and took a photo.
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We didn’t have to wait very long to get into the expo, though it was pretty crowded. We caught a glimpse of people being sorted into houses by the sorting hat on the way in. 
The expo wasn’t quite as large as we were expecting. There was a large stuffed Fluffy you could take photos with, and a large Fawkes perched from the ceiling. A giant Lego replica of Hogwarts and some other movie props were on display. A wall blank wall was available for fans to write “What Harry Potter means to you.”
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There was a booth handing out posters of the cover of the illustrated Sorcerer’s Stone, and a place to take a Quidditch themed photo. At the Pottermore booth, there was a large map of the new wizarding schools around the world. [Click to enlarge photo]
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Minalima had a booth set up as well, which was where the Daily Prophet wall was. Amy and I took about 394 photos in front of it. Mira Mina and Eduardo Lima were there signing prints they had for sale. They also had a spread of some of the movie props they had designed, such as a copy of Advanced Potion Making, a stack of Qibblers, and pamphlets on “When Muggles Attack.”
There was a cool display of school letters hanging from the ceiling and trailing on the floor, that was previously featured in their gallery exhibit last month. The graphic designer in me was overjoyed.
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There was a studio tour at the expo as well, but the line was incredibly long so Amy and I decided to skip it. And it was lucky we did, because when we left we realized the cast Q&A panel had just begun nearby. We stood towards the back of the crowd, but we still could not believe we were actually seeing the cast answer questions. We had no expectations going into the day of even catching a glimpse of them, so it was an awesome surprise.
Overall the day was amazing. There had been a lot more to do and see over the whole weekend, but we were completely happy with the little bit we got to experience. Maybe next time we’ll try and see more of the events – I highly recommend making a visit!
Chelsea took video of the Q&A that took place in the early afternoon. This cast Q&A was not live streamed, exclusive for those at the celebration. A similar cast Q&A that night was made available on live stream. In this clip the actors talk about their fears and if they have conquered them. The topic of spiders led to asking Rupert to rap, but Matt came to Rupert’s rescue with his own spider story. Apparently Matt is more afraid of spiders than Rupert, and no he definitely has not overcome that fear.

 

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1011. Outside the Gates of Eden Free E-Book of the Day

9780226313153Outside the Gates of Eden: The Dream of America from Hiroshima to Now by Peter Bacon Hales is today’s Free E-Book of the Day.

The book explores the history of America “from the atomic age to the virtual age.” The University of Chicago has the download available for free throughout the month of February. Here is more about the book from its description:

It was the age of atomic testing, duck-and-cover, sprawling suburbs, TV, rock-and-roll, rockets to the moon, and riots in the cities. It was the fevered ascendance of the new, pop, modern, and utopian. Levittown to Lucy to Dylan. It was a time of exhilaration and anxiety, of shock and malaise, of the yearning for community and the quest for identity.

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1012. After an illustration by Gerta and Alfred Haller circa 1957....



After an illustration by Gerta and Alfred Haller circa 1957. #yisforyellow #mastercopies #lisafirke #oilpastels



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1013. New Details Revealed About Harry Potter Wizarding Schools

Author J.K. Rowling has revealed new details about several wizarding schools, in a new post on pottermore.com.

For instance, the name of the North American-based school is Ilvermorny and it is likely located somewhere in the North East. Actress Evanna Lynch revealed the new details by reading from Rowling’s latest piece on Pottermore.com at a Harry Potter event held over the weekend.

“I am assured by Pottermore that more will be revealed on Ilvermorny soon,” said Lynch at the event.

The name of the Brazilian wizarding school, Castelobruxo, is also revealed in the new post. This school is guarded by Caipora, small and furry spirit-beings who come out at night. In addition, students at the Japanese wizarding school, Mahoutokoro, are given enchanted robes which grow as they age. And the African school, Uagadou, is carved out of the mountainside and is shrouded in a mist.

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1014. Review: Two rich offerings in Nobrow’s 17 x 23 series

Nobrow Press’ 17 x 23 series highlights accomplished smaller works in a pleasing package that speaks to graphic novel consumers who might not seek out short comics stories. Two recent releases are particularly success in the way they take story forms of old and present them through a modern lens, making traditional lessons applicable to […]

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1015. Marvel cancels Black Knight with issue #5

Writer Frank Tieri has confirmed that Marvel’s Black Knight will end with issue #5: Ok, bad news time, folks… I can officially talk about this now and can confirm that yeah, issue #5 of BLACK KNIGHT will indeed be our last. It sucks and there’s a lot I could say about it but in the […]

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1016. ‘Between Times’ by Ru Kuwahata and Max Porter

In this fairy tale about relativity, a cuckoo clock narrates a day where bread was sliced one second thick, lovers fell in sync and time rarely flowed at an even rate.

The post ‘Between Times’ by Ru Kuwahata and Max Porter appeared first on Cartoon Brew.

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1017. It’s a Book Birthday

last week, a new picture book i illustrated came out. (the first of 2 books i’ll have out at the... Read the rest of this post

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1018. Certain Songs #438: The Feelies – “Slipping (Into Something)”

feelies hight road Album: The Good Earth
Year: 1986

After Crazy Rhythms, The Feelies pretty much dropped off of the face of the planet. Their bassist left, and drummer Anton Fier left and eventually formed The Golden Palominos.

Meanwhile, Glen Mercer and Bill Million never stopped playing, and eventually picked up an new bassist, Brenda Sauter, and not one, but two percussionists: Stan Demenski & Dave Weckerman. Weirdly enough, the resultant album, 1986’s The Good Earth, featured less weird percussion than Crazy Rhythms, as Weckerman provided color as opposed to contrast.

Produced by Peter Buck, The Good Earth felt as pastoral as the cover — for the most part, Mercer and Million found a groove pretty early on in every song and just rode it throughout. For the most parts, they strummed their electric and acoustic guitars together and each song had just enough melodic difference to distinguish from the others.

“Slipping (Into Something)” is different. It starts slow and quiet, almost imperceptibly, and then builds measure by measure — Mercer and Million’s guitars playing off of each other — until it finds a groove.

But that groove lasts just long enough for Mercer to sing a verse, and then it all breaks down, and starts up again, back into the groove, and then breaks down again.

But this time, when it starts back up, it’s different: no words, and the groove just gets faster and faster and faster and faster, and now the guitars are both, er, shredding and the beat gets faster and faster and faster some more and the guitars get noiser and noiser, and eventually the whole thing just collapses and the song ends.

It also around this time that the Feelies appeared in Jonathan Demme’s Something Wild, — still one of the more schizophrenic films ever made — playing the band at Melanie Griffith’s high school reunion, which was one of the reasons I went and saw the film in the first place.

“Slipping (Into Something)” Performed Live in Athens, GA 1987

The Feelies performing David Bowie’s “Fame” in SOMETHING WILD

The post Certain Songs #438: The Feelies – “Slipping (Into Something)” appeared first on Booksquare.

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1019. Support diversity in comics? You need to support the BLACK kickstarter

There's been a lot of tweeting and tumblring about the need for more diversity in comics. And now you can make comics more diverse! Here is a chance to actually support a project by African-American creators that deals frankly with racial issues from a non-white perspective. BLACK is a new kickstarter for a graphic novel written by Kwanza Osajyefo (aka Kwanza Johnson)and Tim Smith III with art by Jamal Igle with additional art by Khary Randolph. Former Vertigo editor Sarah Litt will oversee the production. The story is high concept: what if only black people could become superheroes? Let your mind wander over that.

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1020. Talking with Alexander Chee about The Queen of the Night

Screenshot 2016-02-01 17.56.41

The publication party for The Queen of the Night, the magnificent second novel by my dear friend Alexander Chee, is tomorrow night at McNally Jackson. I was stunned and so happy when he asked me to discuss the book with him there.

Alex and I became friends before I read his first book. An instant easy understanding was possible between us that might have been impossible if I’d encountered Edinburgh — which is wonderful and true and utterly its own thing — before I knew him. Over the years he has become a kind of muse for me, as well as an advisor, though I don’t think I ever put it to myself quite that until I just typed the words just now.

He says he sees our conversation tomorrow night as an extension of the many we’ve had over the years. Most of those happened in private, obviously, but I’ve written about a few of them before: On creating the feeling you want the reader to feel; After the affair (on Jean Rhys and Ford Madox Ford); and Some company for slow writers.

The Queen of the Night tour schedule is here. You can follow along with the excitement at his Twitter feed.

 

 

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1021. Hamilton

I hesitated in writing this- because what is there to say about a show that is already a hit? What is there that has not been said? I've tried to stay away, as much as possible, from all the hyperbole. I didn't listen to the cast album. I only read one review of the off-Broadway production. I wanted to find out about it for myself.

My favorite class in college, which I took my first semester because I couldn't wait any longer, was a history of American Musical Theater. We talked about landmark shows such as Showboat, Oklahoma, West Side Story and Company. If I was taking that class now (or better yet, teaching it), I would add Hamilton to that list of game changers. 

Why? It's not enough that it's a hit. 

It's easier to like a show when the lines at the box office go down the street and the tickets take a year to get... just as it is easier to like a book that already has a Caldecott or Newbery Medal on the front. Someone else has already told us that this is something extraordinary. The stamp of approval has already been given. 

What Hamiltonhas done is to bring the rhythm of popular music back to the theater. The kind of music that is playing in clubs and on the radio is now playing on Broadway. How wonderfully refreshing. Broadway, which in recent years has been criticized as elitist and apart from popular culture, is now being brought back into it.

But, Hamiltonis not all hip-hop or rap. It combines so many musical styles, often within the same song, that it is mesmerizing. It would probably be a shorter list to say which musical traditions are not in Hamilton, rather than the ones that are. And the lyrics are brilliant, incredibly tight, interwoven and multi-layered. And Hamilton is not a regular book musical, where there's a song and then a scene, and back and forth. It's an opera. There are only a few lines that are spoken without a beat or rhythm behind them. Call it a hip-hop opera if you like, but an opera it is nonetheless.

If Hamiltonreminds me of anything, it's of another landmark show that is currently playing only a few Broadway theaters away. Les Miserables. Also an opera. Also about a revolution, the difference between the rich and the poor, and breaking into the ruling class. Also based on a very, very long book. (Hamilton is based on an 800 page biography.) Also with a turntable- although Hamilton has a double one. And there are echoes of the melodies of Les Miserables sprinkled throughout Hamilton. Plus, if The Story of Tonight doesn't thematically make you think of Red and Black, then I don't know what does.

The difference between the two shows is that when I listen to Les Miserables, I always feel as if I’m hearing the same song over and over. It seems as though there is a melody that has been written to be used between major numbers, and the words change but the tune stays the same. 

Hamilton isn't like that. There are 17 songs in each act (which is unusual, because the second act is typically shorter) and each of these 34 songs are distinct, unique and complex. There are musical patterns and phrases that are repeated, but not whole songs and melodies. Compare that to when I saw Andrew Lloyd Webber's show Whistle Down the Wind during an out of town tryout. All but one song in the second act was a reprisal of a song in the first act. 

The Hamiltonsubject matter is incredibly intriguing as well. Here's a musical told from the point of view of an often-overlooked Founding Father. Having been fascinated with Alexander Hamilton since ninth grade American History, I was happy to see him finally get his due. But while telling the story of someone who has been marginalized, it also has a go at people such as Thomas Jefferson who are typically lionized. What an interesting change of pace. There is one historical question that the musical doesn't address, however- was Hamilton eligible to be President since he was born outside of the United States?  

The references are so far reaching and varied as to be astonishing. There's not a lot of people who can quote the Lovin' Spoonful and then the Declaration of Independence a few sentences later, as seen in the song "The Schuyler Sisters." And as it takes Broadway a little further, it also refers back to it. Gilbert and Sullivan's The Pirates of Penzance is directly quoted, as is Rodgers and Hammerstein's South Pacific. Also, Shakespeare, the Bible, Socrates, fairytales, and nursery rhymes. It's a brilliant homage to what has come before. 

I can't quite remember when I first heard the name Lin-Manuel Miranda. I feel like I've known about him for a long time. Obviously, through In the Heights and the publicity and Tonys for that. But the thing that made an impression is this video from his actual wedding which was circulating around on social media. 
This knocked me back. Here was a talented Broadway actor who had gone to the trouble of recreating one of Broadway's most famous songs, and a rather complicated one at that, at his own wedding reception. Weddings are stressful events, with lots of built-in craziness. He had clearly gone to a lot of effort while the events of the wedding were swirling around him, to find time to rehearse, with his future father-in-law, his father, with the bridesmaids and groomsmen. And managed to keep it all from the bride. And it came off brilliantly. And paid homage to Broadway. 
Who is this guy?

Then I watched the 2011 Tony Awards with the fantastic Neil Patrick Harris. What struck me the most was the closing rap at the end, which summed up all the events that had just occurred during the show. The performance by Neil Patrick Harris was incredibly impressive, but I was amazed by the writing, which had great rhyming, solid rhythm, funny jokes and heartfelt thoughts about Broadway tying it all together. And it had clearly been done on the spot. I later read that Lin-Manuel Miranda had been the one in the basement during the Tonys writing the closing number. 
Who is this guy??
A musical has three parts that have to be written: the music, the lyrics and the book. The division of labor varies depending on the creators. For Rodgers and Hammerstein musicals, for example; Richard Rodgers wrote the music and Oscar Hammerstein wrote the lyrics and the book. Stephen Sondheim writes the music and the lyrics for his shows (with the exception of his first two), and has collaborated with several different book writers during his career. Usually, there is then another composer, called an arranger, who adapts the music for different instruments in the orchestra. There are only a handful of all the creators of musical theater who have been able to write the book, music and lyrics all themselves, and have produced a hit musical in the process. Meredith Wilson (The Music Man) is one. Jonathan Larson (Rent) is another.

One of the many things that made West Side Story a landmark musical is that it required the chorus to sing, dance and act. Before then, there were two different choruses: the singing chorus and the dancing chorus. But now, performers have to be triple threats, that is they have to master three separate disciplines.

For Hamilton, Lin-Manuel Miranda has written the book. And the lyrics. And the music. And collaborated on arranging the music. Plus, he's the lead in the show. He acts. He sings. He dances. He's a septuple threat. SEVEN disciplines. I can't think of anyone in the history of musical theater who has done this before. Not even him- for In the Heights he didn't write the book or work on the arranging. 
Who is this guy?? And why is he writing like he's running out of time?

Something else impressed me about him. I've been to a lot of Broadway shows and seen a lot of stars. I've seen them race out of the theater after the show into waiting cars with police protection. Or sign a few programs of the people standing at the front and then call it a night. Not this guy. Lin-Manuel Miranda went the length of the entire line of people waiting to see him, in freezing weather, shaking hands, having conversations, and taking pictures with every single person including me and my husband. My camera jammed at exactly the wrong minute, he waited for us to fix it while everyone else was clamoring to talk to him and then took the picture himself. I imagine that he must go through the line after every show. What a mensch. 
WHO IS THIS GUY??? 

Whoever he is, he's extraordinary. There's no doubt.

As amazing as Lin-Manuel Miranda is, and it is obvious that the MacArthur Foundation made an excellent choice, this is not a one man show. The ensemble work is fantastic, with every actor and actress making memorable performances. The off-stage talent is crucial, and the collaboration of the director, designers, musical director, and choreographer comes together to make the whole show a success. A perfect example of this are King George's songs. If you only heard the cast album, you would think the songs were funny, catchy and enjoyable. To understand how truly hysterical they are, you would have to see Jonathan Groff's deadpan performance, Paul Tazewell's elaborate costume, Howell Brinkley's lights that come in at the right moment and Thomas Kail's great direction.

Even the marketing and publicity in Hamilton is notable. The primary logo is black- which means our eye is drawn to a lack of color. The color is completely contained in the gold background. Hamilton stands on the top of an iconic star from the American flag, which is missing its fifth point. Hamilton's body creates not only the star's final point, but also the letter A, his first initial. The images of Hamilton are everywhere. Not just on the marquee like most shows, but on the walls of the theater and the stage door. All over Penn Station. Inescapable, convincing us that Hamilton is the show to see. 

If I could say anything to the people involved with Hamilton, or to someone who has won a Newbery or Caldecott Medal or otherwise achieved great success, it would be this. Try, as hard as you can, not to be encumbered by past success. Success can be just as paralyzing as failure. They don't all have to be life-changing hits. Just keep doing work that you're proud of. That's all anyone can ask. 

I hope you get a chance to see it. Do not throw away your shot. 

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1022. Squirrel!

I have managed for two entire weeks to not add a book to my library requests. I would have made it past today too but the book gods sent me a message and I am not one to mess around when they are trying to get my attention.

It seems their message has a duel intent, good books and for me to come to terms with squirrels.

The first message came last week with an article at the Guardian of top 10 squirrels in literature. Who knew there were so many books with squirrels in them? While the description of the squirrel in Nabokov’s Pnin sounded amusing, the demon squirrel in Small Game by John Blades seemed more realistic. I saved the list because, you know, it could be amusing to read a few of the books at some point in time.

I went on my merry way until today when it came to my attention that The Portable Veblen by Elizabeth McKenzie contains an “an intimate tête-à-tête with a very charismatic squirrel.” I checked my library and of course they have it and of course there is a line for it. I hesitated for about a second before I put myself on the list. I am number 82 so it will arrive sooner that I want it to but not as soon as I expect.

While I was thinking of squirrels I checked to see if there was another volume of Squirrel Girl and there is! In volume 2 she faces off against Ratatoskr, the Norse god of squirrels! So of course I had to request that too! I am number 26 in line for it.

In the meantime other books in my library queue are moving up faster than I expected but it’s all cool. I finished Fates and Furies and should have something to say about it tomorrow. I am working my way through Sorcerer to the Crown and Between the World and Me is moving right along as well. That means I will be ready for the squirrels whenever they should arrive! And, I have followed the directive of the book gods so all will be well.


Filed under: Books, In Progress

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1023. Awww Mondays

Every Monday, Sandee of Comedy Plus  hosts, "Awww Mondays", a fun meme where all you have to do is post a picture that makes you say, "Awww" It's a great way to begin a new week and meet new friends.

So, be sure to join us by posting your own "Awww Mondays" photo and adding your link to Sandee's post on Comedy Plus. 

Oh, and here's the link to the Awww Mondays code  which is also listed on Comedy Plus along with a fabulous photo. Just paste the code under your post.

The following picture is my contribution:








Have a happy day and thank you for visiting A Nice Place In The Sun.  

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1024. Nerdist and Inkshares Launch ‘Space Opera’ Book Contest

Sci-fi and fantasy site Nerdist is teaming up with crowd-driven publishing platform Inkshares for the second year in a row for six book publishing contests.
This year Nerdist and Geek & Sundry are running these publishing contests over the next year in order to build out their imprint with new science fiction and fantasy works. Each contest will seek books with a specific theme. The theme of the first contest is “Space Opera”. Here are more details from the contest page:
The rules will be the same as previous contests. We’re looking for the top three books in terms of unique-reader pre-order counts within the specified time period. For this contest, that means any pre-order placed between February 1, 2016, and March 15, 2016. All three winners will be published by Inkshares even if they haven’t reached their pre-order goal. One (or more) will be selected by Nerdist or Geek & Sundry to be in their collection on Inkshares.

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1025. ‘Kung Fu Panda 3’ Opens #1 in Both U.S. and China

DreamWorks opens the 2016 animal cartoon slugfest with a global hit.

The post ‘Kung Fu Panda 3’ Opens #1 in Both U.S. and China appeared first on Cartoon Brew.

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