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1001. Thrilling! Adventures! Fun!

cover artI have been waiting my turn in the library holds queue quite some time for The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage. It is a graphic novel by Sydney Padua. I’ve just begun it and it is so much more than I ever could have hoped for.

It is not your average graphic novel. There is as much text as there are pictures. There are footnotes. There are endnotes. The art is great and the whole thing is absolutely bonkers and laugh out loud funny.

Don’t know who Lovelace and Babbage are? Charles Babbage invented the first computer but for various reasons mostly to do with Babbage, it never got built. Ada Lovelace is the daughter of Lord Byron and the first computer programmer. Lovelace died at age thirty-six. Babbage lived to be a crotchety old man.

After writing a story about Lovelace and Babbage, Padua thought it a real shame the computer never got built and the pair didn’t get to work together for very long. So she went all wibbly wobbly timey wimey and discovered a pocket universe where Lovelace and Babbage built the computer, have thrilling adventures, and, of course, fight crime, because why not? The first adventure has to do with the person from Porlock.

As I said, I have not read much but what I have read has been pure delight and I couldn’t keep it to myself until I finished. So I am telling you about it now. Check your library. If they have the book, get yourself on the list for it. Now. Go. No dilly-dallying.

Filed under: Books, Graphic Novels, In Progress Tagged: Ada Lovelace, Charles Babbage

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1002. M-11 Visits the Stately Beat Manor Comics Pull for 6/24/15


The writers at the Stately Beat Manor just finished reading and writing about the newest supply of comics in time for the weekend (which doesn’t always happen.) Spirits were high and income was low as The Beat crew retired to our quarters late in the evening. Due to all of our recent visits of characters from comics past, we were all sure that was going to be the very first week that we had no visitors and our lives would return to normal. The very next morning, we awoke to find various Beat Staff members left all alone in the laboratory encased in our own attic. They were busy recreating M-11 (also known as Human Robot.) The Human Robot IS a dangerous wildcard and added a lot of stress to the underworked Staff Members (how do you feed a robot?) The Manor divided into subsections of staffers — those that liked M-11, and those that hated him. When the upset staffers finally decided to go confront M-11, they discovered he was nowhere to be found, and was actually waiting for them in the reading room prepared to deliver but one thing: his weekly staff picks for brand new comics.

Alex’s Picks:

We are Robin! #1


Writer: Lee Bermejo   Artist: Rob Haynes, Jorge Coronoa and Khary Randolph

Spinning out of the pages of BATMAN! The teenagers of Gotham City have adopted the ‘R’ and made it their own. A new Robin? No, HUNDREDS of new Robins! Don’t miss the start of this new series from rising star writer Lee Bermejo (JOKER, SUICIDERS), who also provides the covers!

For all of the hullaballoo about the New DC Universe, most of the series thus far are familiar concepts being dusted off the shelf and turned into new comics. We are Robin! — a title shrouded in delicious mystery is one of the strongest contenders to really add something new to the DC formula — no pressure or anything. M-11 promised me that he would give the first issue a shot after lots of convincing.

X-Men ’92 #1


Writer: Chris Sims and Chad Bowers   Artist: Scott Koblish  

Everyone’s favorite version of the X-Men from the ’90s is back! When Baron Kelly charges the Clear Mountain Project and it’s mysterious new director with ‘mutant rehabilitation,’ it’s up to the X-Men to investigate! PLUS: Free Range Sentinels?!?

M-11 loves X-Men, and his attachment to the 90’s X-Men knows few boundaries, though he doesn’t like stories that have multiple numbers in their name — M-11 declares this as a forgivable sin. With that in mind, we decided to give a shoutout to one of the most exciting new books of Secret Wars known only as: X-Men ’92. The story stars all your favorites from the old cartoon going and fighting an extremely unique opponent from a different X-TREMELY awesome era of comics.

Matt’s Pick:



Writer: Mark Waid   Artist: Greg Smallwood

The SHIELD agent you’ve been demanding – Skye, a.k.a. Quake, a.k.a. Daisy Johnson – has only one ally she can turn to: her father, Mr. Hyde! Rated T+

Though sales don’t seem to be on its side, SHIELD by Mark Waid and friends is responsible for some of the most fun I’m having reading comics in recent months. This issue, introducing “Skye” to the series, coincides perfectly with my Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD binge on Netflix. Read this if you want solid superheroics with a modern bend and impressive art from The Dream Thief’s Greg Smallwood.

Kyle’s Picks:

Superman #41

Superman 41

Writer: Gene Luen Yang    Artist: Klaus Jenson, John Romita, Jr.

The epic new storyline “TRUTH” continues with the debut of the amazing new creative team of new writer Gene Luen Yang (American Born Chinese) and continuing artists John Romita Jr. and Klaus Janson! What will happen when the big secret is revealed?

Gene Luen Yang is writing Superman. I repeat, Gene Luen Yang, multiple Eisner winner, and the cartoonist behind what I’d argue was the finest graphic novel of 2013 (Boxers & Saints) is writing freaking Superman! This is like Jaime Hernandez coming on board to write Wonder Woman, or Craig Thompson taking over Batman, it’s that kind of a monumental hire. Wednesday can’t come soon enough.

Dave’s pick:

Sons of the Devil #2


Writer: Brian Buccellato    Artist: Toni Infante

After the suspicious murder of his friend, Travis tries to move on with life. But when his girlfriend Melissa follows a clue that might lead to his birth family, they wind up in the crosshairs of a killer. Also, a look into the past and the cult of David Daly! Grounded, character-driven psychological horror.

If you missed issue one, you missed the breakout debut of Brian Buccellato‘s instant classic. Travis is a deeply disturbed enigma you’ll want to know. Murder, the occult, mystery; all the things you expect in an Image comic and more.

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1003. Writer Wednesday: Hello, Old Friend

Have you ever put a manuscript aside for a long time—I'm talking months or even years—and then gone back to it? Maybe it's to revise or edit after it was acquired by a publisher, but either way, you've had time away and all the details aren't at the forefront of your mind because you've been writing other things. For me it's like getting to see an old friend again.

This year I finished writing a book I hadn't looked at in a while (because I got busy editing other books), and it made me fall in love with the story again. Next week, I'll be diving into edits on a book that was acquired a while ago. I haven't looked at the manuscript in probably a year, and I'm really excited to go back and visit these characters. I remember having that feeling of "this is the one" when I wrote the book, and I'm hoping I still have that feeling when I get my first round edits from my amazing editor. I'll be sure to let you know. :)

Have you revisited any "old friends" lately? Was it a good experience?

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1004. Giveaway: Percy Jackson Box Set


It has been ten years since Percy Jackson found his way into the hearts of readers. To celebrate, YABC is helping to continue to spread the love!


For the next few months, we will continue to celebrate Rick Riordian and the amazing world he's shared with us over the past decade. Do you love Percy Jackson as much as we do?! Let us know in the comments below with your favorite Percy Jackson memory or share your stories with #ReadRiordan and #YABC on social media! 




So now you're probably wondering about that giveaway, right? Well, one lucky winner will receive the entire boxed set of Percy Jackson!





One winner will receive a Percy Jackson box set. Open to US addresses only. Prizing provided by Disney-Hyperion.

Entering is simple, just fill out the entry form below. 


*Click the Rafflecopter link to enter the giveaway*

a Rafflecopter giveaway



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1005. Tommy: The Gun That Changed America

Tommy: The Gun That Changed America  by Karen Blumenthal Roaring Brook Press On shelves June 30, 2015 Grades 6-12 The reviewer received an electronic galley from the publisher. Karen Blumenthal, author of Bootleg: Murder, Moonshine and the Lawless Years of Prohibition, has written another intriguing history story for teens. In Tommy: The Gun That Changed America, Blumenthal traces the history

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1006. The Rumor Leads iBooks Bestsellers List

The Rumor by Elin Hilderbrand has debuted on the iBooks bestsellers list this week at No. 5.

Apple has released its top selling books list for paid books from iBooks in the U.S. for the week ending on June 22, 2015. Grey by E. L. James is No. 1 on the list and The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins is No. 2.

We’ve included Apple’s entire list after the jump.

iBooks U.S. Bestseller List – Paid Books 6/22/15

1. Grey by E L James – 9781101946350 – (Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group) 2. The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins – 9780698185395 – (Penguin Publishing Group) 3. Paper Towns by John Green – 9781101010938 – (Penguin Young Readers Group) 4. Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll – 9781476789651 – (Simon & Schuster) 5. The Rumor by Elin Hilderbrand – 9780316334501 – (Little, Brown and Company) 6. The President’s Shadow by Brad Meltzer – 9780446553957 – (Grand Central Publishing) 7. The Martian by Andy Weir – 9780804139038 – (Crown/Archetype) 8. Fifty Shades Darker by E L James – 9781612130590 – (Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group) 9. All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr – 9781476746609 – (Scribner) 10. Country by Danielle Steel – 9780345531025 – (Random House Publishing Group) 11. Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari – 9780698179967 – (Penguin Publishing Group) 12. The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah – 9781466850606 – (St. Martin’s Press) 13. Fifty Shades Freed by E L James – 9781612130613 – (Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group) 14. Tom Clancy Under Fire by Grant Blackwood – 9780698404861 – (Penguin Publishing Group) 15. Finders Keepers by Stephen King – 9781501100130 – (Scribner) 16. A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin – 9780553897845 – (Random House Publishing Group) 17. Fifty Shades of Grey by E L James – 9781612130293 – (Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group) 18. The A Song of Ice and Fire Series by George R. R. Martin – 9780345535535 – (Random House Publishing Group) 19. Radiant Angel by Nelson DeMille – 9781455582310 – (Grand Central Publishing) 20. In the Unlikely Event by Judy Blume – 9781101875056 – (Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group)

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1007. Evanna Lynch talks about Success and Rejection in Show Business

Evanna Lynch was one of us, a normal Harry Potter fan, when she landed her first role in the world of acting for the big screen. However, she had wanted to be an actress for a while, and went to many auditions. She talked to Jarlath Regan on his podcast (Free to download on iTunes), “An Irishman Abroad,” about facing rejection after a bad audition, and her mom’s advice–“go back to college, maybe it’s not for you.” Goss reported on the podcast episode, quoting Evanna:

‘The Harry Potter actress admitted that rejection never gets easier and her mum would often suggest she “go back to college” when she rang her after a bad audition.

“I do often have auditions where I’m like ‘ugh, what happened there? That was terrible.’ I used to always just call my mum from here, ‘what am I doing? How do I get through this?’” she said.

“It used to always be, ‘ah sure maybe go back to college, maybe it’s not for you,’ and it’s like, that’s not what you want to hear.”

While the Louth native knows her mum has her best interests at heart, she admitted it changed their relationship.

“It changes your relationship. My mum used to always be the person I would go to. Rejection doesn’t get easier,” she told An Irishman Abroad podcast.

“When you get that no, that’s the most cutting thing and you just want to go home and curl into a ball and be told ‘it’s ok’.

“I realised I wasn’t hearing what I wanted to hear. I would be inclined to believe what my parents said about me because they know me best and they have my best interests at heart.”

“But you don’t get any better by quitting. I love it, it’s what I want to do, I wont get any better if I quit and agree with my parents and take the safe option,” she said.’

Evanna’s new movie, Dynamite: A Cautionary Tale, will be released in the U.S. as Dynamite: A 60’s Love Story. In a new press release, it was announced that the independent film had been sold to Breaking Glass Pictures. The Wrap reports:

‘Breaking Glass Pictures has acquired worldwide distribution rights to the indie drama “Dynamite: A 60’s Love Story,” which stars Ian Harding(“”Pretty Little Liars”) as a heroin addict working in the illegal porn industry. Breaking Glass announced it is planning a theatrical release for Oct. 2015.

Tate Steinsiek made his feature directorial debut with “Dynamite,” which also stars Evanna Lynch (the “Harry Potter” franchise) as Bornstein’s wife, Carol Kane (“Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt”), Brendan Sexton III (“The Killing”) and Chaske Spencer (“Twilight”).

Set in New York City in 1968, the story follows Bornstein, a part-time father and full-time dope fiend working within the underground, illegal porn industry. Even in the wake of a federal investigation, Max’s bigger concern was his family.’

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1008. Painting the Produce Case

Produce Case, gouache, 5x8 inches, painted at the Hannaford, Kingston, NY
Earlier today I walked into the supermarket and was mesmerized by the produce case. 

The oranges, limes, and lemons were reflected in the big mirrors behind them, and I knew I just had to paint them right then and there.

Luckily I had my gouache supplies with me. I steered an empty shopping cart over next to the apple display. I set up the tripod sketch easel inside the cart. I chose a page with a yellow-blue casein underpainting, and got busy with the colored pencils. 

Since the gouache has no smell and is very neat and water-based, I knew I'd be OK working with it there. 

My wife took about 55 minutes to do the hunting and gathering. During that time I was nervous that someone from the store would ask me what the heck I was doing, but no one said anything to me. 

I think the uniform shirt made me look like I was on some sort of corporate assignment, and my purposeful expression kept me from looking like a complete nut.

Here's the sound environment. (Link to audio file) The store is near the train tracks and you can hear the train sounding at 00:17.

Thanks, Hannaford supermarkets for your inspiring, artistic displays.
Live streaming event tomorrow
Join me tomorrow, June 24 at 4:00 EST for a live gouache painting demo on ConcertWindow. There will be a chat window so that you can ask questions and interact.

Own the video and be part of the fun
• HD MP4 Download at Gumroad (GurneyJourney readers get 10% off all Gumroad products this week only at this link$14.95 This week only $13.45

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1009. Watch: 5 Gobelins Shorts That Pay Tribute To Women Animation Pioneers

These shorts debuted last week at the Annecy International Animated Film Festival.

0 Comments on Watch: 5 Gobelins Shorts That Pay Tribute To Women Animation Pioneers as of 6/24/2015 12:04:00 AM
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1010. Very Deep 20-Question Quiz

Peep says Hi.Hi! Now that school is out, you have time to think about very deep, important topics that your brain just couldn’t focus on while you had so much homework to finish! Well, this quiz is your chance to go deep into your own heart and soul and tell us about the real you. We want to know . . .

  1. What is your favorite season and why?
  2. Do you prefer new beginnings or old traditions?
  3. What is your favorite place and why?
  4. What is your favorite food?
  5. In general, do you enjoy school?
  6. What is one thing that is very important to you?
  7. Do you think outside the box?
  8. What is your favorite subject in school?
  9. What genres of books do you like to read and why?
  10. Are you an optimist or a pessimist?
  11. Do you like happy endings, sad endings, or open (hopeful) endings?
  12. Do you prefer peace or excitement?
  13. Do you enjoy a lot of suspense in books?
  14. Name a few of your favorite books.
  15. Name someone you admire and why.
  16. What are you excited for in the upcoming year?
  17. What is something in your life that is bothering you at the moment?
  18. What is something about other people that is bothering you at the moment?
  19. Name a couple of books that have affected you in some way.
  20. When making an important decision, do you mostly consider the past, the present, or your hopes for the future?

Leave your answers in the Comments — to just 1 question or as many questions as you want to answer!

Sonja, STACKS Staffer

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1011. A Recommendation, An Author Interruption , and a 2 ARC Giveaway!

This Book Has Been Given the Andye Stamp of Approval Emmy just wants to be in charge of her own life. She wants to stay out late, surf her favorite beach—go anywhere without her parents’ relentless worrying. But Emmy’s parents can’t seem to let her grow up—not since the day Oliver disappeared. Oliver needs a moment to figure out his heart. He’d thought, all these years, that his dad

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1012. MATT CHATS: Tyler James on the ComixTribal Magic

Independent publisher ComixTribe has been steadily growing their presence in the direct market, on Kickstarter and especially on the web. ComixTribe.com is a site that’s used not just to promote their products but also to give advice to inspiring and up-and-coming creators. I spoke to Tyler James, the publisher of ComixTribe, about building a reputation in the industry, getting sales and the publisher’s latest Kickstarter campaign for graphic novel The Standard.

How’s the experience been so far Kickstarting The Standard?

The Standard Ultimate Collection Kickstarter is going great!

It’s a tremendous feeling to launch a Kickstarter, send an email, and then 36 hours later, get the printing for an expensive hardcover fully funded… and to do so without any major media coverage or heavy advertising.


Art by Jonathan Rector

That’s a testament to what ComixTribe has been building over the past four years and where we’re headed. And it’s validation for the extraordinary work of writer John Lees, artist Jonathan Rector, and the rest of THE STANDARD team.

This is not my first Kickstarter rodeo, rather it’s the sixth Kickstarter campaign I’ve actively managed. While the platform continues to change and evolve and add new features and wrinkles, the core of what works and what doesn’t hasn’t changed since our first successful campaign in 2012.

I hear a lot of creators talk about how stressful and nerve-wracking Kickstarters are… and they certainly can be. But I prefer to look at them like a month-long online comic book convention and an opportunity to build a deeper relationships with new and long-time fans. When you frame it like that, the stress melts away and you can have fun with it.

The Standard bears, at least on a surface level, a lot of resemblance to Mark Waid’s Thrillbent comic Insufferable. Was that a concern as you plunged into this Kickstarter campaign?

No disrespect to Mr. Waid, who is one of my favorite writers in all of comics, but when John and Jon first started working on THE STANDARD, he still had his comic book collection! So, any resemblance to Insufferable can be chalked up to coincidence and pulling from the same ideaspace that lifelong superhero fans such as Mark and John will draw on.

The fact that his has been a project long in the making is one of the things that’s so rewarding about this process.  While some people (Lees included) were shocked at how fast we were able to get THE STANDARD funded, that 36 hours was really six long years in the making.

Marvel and DC, with their double shipping and weekly series, and the direct market in general, which is built on a monthly release schedule, shape the expectations of readers to think that comics take only a few weeks to make.

And while that may be true for well-compensated professionals working for fully-staffed companies that have been around for seventy years, it’s just not feasible in the indie world.

THE STANDARD was John Lees’ very first comic book… he was literally learning how to write comics as he wrote the series.

As John says in his Kickstarter video, when he first got started on this project, he wasn’t thinking about whether he had a marketable high concept, or whether it was going to sell, or whether there were other books out there like it. At that time, he didn’t know enough about the industry to even think if he should be thinking about that stuff!

Rather, John was thinking that this might very well be the only comic he’d ever make… so why not tell the one story he wanted to tell more than anything else in the world? And why not fill it up with everything he loves about comics – heroism, horror, mystery, romance, heartbreak, innocence lost, and yes, just the right amount of superhero cheese.

Josh Fialkov (The Bunker, Echoes) was gracious enough to write the foreword for AND THEN EMILY WAS GONE, John’s break out horror series from last year. In it, he talked (lovingly) about picking up EMILY #1 and “wanting to punch John in the face” for seemingly coming out of nowhere being so damn good.

What’s great about John’s work and THE STANDARD in particular is that it’s really not trading on a super original, ironic, hip high-concept. There have been plenty of meta superhero deconstruction tales before THE STANDARD and there will be many more to come. You mentioned Insufferable, but I’d actually point to Waid’s Kingdom Come as being a little closer thematically to THE STANDARD.

But it’s not about theme or high-concept. To paraphrase True Detective, “It’s all one story, man. Light and Dark.” What’s brilliant about THE STANDARD is its execution. There’s craft and love for the medium of comics gushing out of every page.

John is going to need a bodyguard when Fialkov realizes this was the first comic John ever wrote!

So, no, to your question. We had a few concerns about launching the Kickstarter, but none of them were about the content itself. This series is rock solid.

My main concern was juggling both the Kickstarter and also at the same time promoting the direct market launch of OXYMORON: The Loveliest Nightmare, our next series launching in August.

I don’t want to ask too many questions about crowdfunding, because you cover the subject so well on ComixTribe.com, but I have to ask a couple. One is: what’s a Kickstarter that impressed you recently, and how did it impress you?

That’s a great question, and I’m always trying to study successful campaigns so I can later model things they do well on the ones I run.

Last month’s Archie Kickstarter campaign was a big story, and many people looked at that campaign scoffing at the lofty sum of $350,000 they were trying to raise for new projects as way too much money and a ridiculous, some might say “greedy”, goal.

Meanwhile, at the same time on Kickstarter,  Tim Buckley “quietly” blew past the $350K mark for a reprint of his webcomic CTRL+ALT+DEL in just a few days, later going on to raise more than $665K.

So what continues to impress me about Kickstarter is that, of all platforms available to creators – the direct market, Comixology, Amazon, conventions — Kickstarter is easily the most level playing field.

Individual creators can be more successful than 70 year old publishers on Kickstarter.

While the big numbers of some of these crazy campaigns do catch my eye, the thing I love most about the platform and what impresses me most are the guys and girls going out there and launching their first campaign and succeeding.

Guys like Bill Walko who now gets to make a quality trade collection of his great webcomic Hero Business, or Kristi McDowell whose very first comic Gamer Girl & Vixen got funded.

The numbers don’t matter. I guarantee you, Tim Buckley was no more excited (and perhaps less so) by his $666K than Kristi was about her $7K.

So, yeah, I’m impressed by people who do their homework, run great campaigns, and then fulfill them.

As a side note, the most impressive Kickstarter I’ve ever backed was John August’s Writer Emergency Pack Kickstarter… because of its massive success and because he had his act together, John was able to get rewards out to backers a few weeks after the campaign ended, months earlier than promised.  THAT was impressive, and one of the biggest tips I have for creators going to Kickstarter is under promise and over deliver.

What kinds of new lessons are you still learning with each crowdfunding campaign?

So much! The platform is ever evolving. Back in 2012, not only did you have to sell your product, but you had to sell the concept of the platform of Kickstarter itself, and educate potential backers on how it all works.  It’s nice not to have to do so much of that anymore, as Kickstarter has slipped more into the mainstream consciousness.

But there are still things I’m learning and working on.  “Cracking the code” of the “Kickstarter Deadzone”… that period in the middle of a campaign where pledges and momentum stalls after a big open and before a huge close… that’s something I’m still working on.

Another thing I’m excited about is a new podcast I’ll be debuting next month called ComixLaunch: Crowdfunding Your Comics and Graphic Novels on Kickstarter…and Beyond! I get asked about Kickstarter more than just about anything else, and the articles on Kickstarter are the most read things on ComixTribe.com.  So, I’m hoping to dive deeper with a weekly podcast laser focused on this stuff, and hopefully provide a lot of value.

Right now, more than half of all comic book Kickstarter projects fail. I know how much ink, sweat, and tears goes into creating comics and then running a campaign, so those stats are gutting to me.

But I’m very optimistic that ComixLaunch can help improve those numbers. I’ve had dozens of creators personally thank me for the Kickstarter resources I’ve posted on ComixTribe.com, and I’ll be able to go even more in-depth on the pod. Also worth noting, backers of THE STANDARD Kickstarter will be treated to an advanced listen of the first episode of the podcast.

On a practical level, is the purpose of the ComixTribe website, which features as much new content as most comics news websites, primarily to drive sales of your comics?

One of my favorite quotes is by Zig Zigler, who famously said, “You can have everything in life you want, if you will just help enough other people get what they want.” Success in business (and life) is directly correlated to the amount of value you bring to the world. So I get up every day trying to think about how I can best serve the comics community. The natural by-product of that is growth for ComixTribe. It is the epitome of a win win.

Now, when Steve Forbes (affable curmudgeon and ComixTribe Editor-In-Chief) and I first started ComixTribe on 1-1-2011, we didn’t have any comics to sell! We were both writing content for other people’s sites and decided to join forces and launch our own. We both have the heart (and in my case, the background and expensive degrees) of a teacher, and really do love helping other creators make better comics.

In fact, THE STANDARD is a true ComixTribe success story, as it was Steven Forbes who helped John Lees shape his rough concept into the polished gem it is today.  Let that be a lesson to all you new writers out there… if you want to increase the odds that your first comic book project is publishable, HIRE AN EDITOR!

After you figure out the basics of this comics game, every creator and every small publisher should devote considerable effort into picking their edges. By that I mean figuring out what makes them unique? Why should anyone give a damn?  What do they want to be known for?

Opening the ComixTribe kimono, so to speak, and being transparent about our successes, lessons learned, struggles and triumphs in the form of articles on ComixTribe.com has definitely helped distinguish us from other small comics publishers out there.

At the same time, as we’ve grown, and really expanded our titles, it’s been tough to balance serving both creators who are interested in our advice and readers who love our books.  While there is certainly some overlap between the two audiences, and our peers are also some of our biggest supporters, it is a challenge to be viewed as both an imprint and a web resource.

But my purpose in life is to educate and to entertain, so I’ll likely always have a toe in both pools.

Have you considered adding revenue streams like advertising or sponsorships?

Adding revenue streams has been a core focus of ComixTribe over the past few years, and is certainly one of my primary focuses this year.

Here’s a little infographic showing where the ComixTribe revenue comes from, and when we’ve added those streams to our business, and relatively how important those streams are to our business right now.

ComixTribe Revenue Streams 2015(1)

If we had to rely on any one of those streams, we’d be dead in the water.  The magic is in diversification.

Over the past couple months, I’ve been making a concerted effort to look for new partnerships, whether that be advertising, sponsorships, or affiliates that can bring value to our readers.

I spend at least ten minutes every day thinking of at least ten new ideas… ideas on everything from ways to sell more comics, to creators I want to work with, to things I love about my wife, to ideas for new lists of ideas… the list itself isn’t so important. The important thing is exorcising that idea muscle.

That practice is training me to see connections and solve problems more instinctively than before… granted most of the ideas I come up with are ridiculous and wrong for me. But it only takes a couple gems to make a significant difference in life and business.

So, yes, we’re adding new revenue streams and always looking for new potential partners, and you’ll see some of those come to life in the near future.

What are your other priorities?

Right now, ComixTribe’s top focus is readership growth.

That means increasing our direct connection with readers and the best way to do that is to get our books into readers’ hands.


Free Comic Book Day 2015 was a huge win for us.  We increased our reader email subscribers by about 50% thanks to the 50,000 copies of AND THEN EMILY WAS GONE #0 that were given out.

And everyone who subscribes to our list gets hooked up with the first issue of our five top titles, so that’s really our single best play to turn strangers into raving fans.

But readers aren’t enough… increasing the number of retailers carrying our books is also one of my top priorities.


Art by Alex Cormack

I’ve set a goal to double our direct market sales for our next series OXYMORON: The Loveliest Nightmare from our previous best seller.  And I’ve already committed to a print run that’s double what we printed for EMILY #1, even prior to getting our Diamond orders… so the boats have been burned, there’s no turning back, now!

Most of the comics put out by ComixTribe are about superheroes. Do you think that will change given that And Then Emily Was Gone, arguably Comixtribe’s biggest success, wasn’t?

It’s true that the first four titles we introduced to the market were all superhero books, or at least twists on the superhero genre. Joe Mulvey’s SCAM for example, is a capes books where the capes were replaced with conman capers.

But I think it’s important not to confuse where ComixTribe chose to start, with where we’re going.  Let’s remember that Image Comics, widely regarded as one of the most diverse and respected publishers today, started exclusively with superhero books.

And there’s a reason for that, right? Most creators were initially drawn to the medium by superheroes. Tracing cool panels featuring Spider-man at eight years old was my gateway into drawing my own comics.

When I first approached artist Cesar Feliciano about collaborating, I pitched him five different concepts… but he was most interested in doing THE RED TEN, a team superhero book, something he’d always dreamed of doing. (And that was the one I was hoping he’d dig as well.)

One of the great things about ComixTribe is that all the books we publish are, first and foremost, books we ourselves want to read.

And  at 36 years old, I’m still not ashamed to say I love a good superhero yarn.

That said, I haven’t greenlit a new superhero project under the ComixTribe banner in a couple years now, and would have to have my socks blown off by a pitch to do so.

The new OXYMORON series actually takes the character who debuted in THE RED TEN, and strips away any and all superhero trappings.  The high concept for the series that’s been generating a lot of buzz is asking readers to “Imagine The Joker came to a Gotham WITHOUT Batman.”  So, this series is more police procedural and cerebral horror thriller than anything else.


Art by Alex Cormack

Likewise, we’ve got EXIT GENERATION from Sam Read and Caio Oliveira, a previously self-published gem from the UK, which is an all-ages sci-fi book with a punk rock ethos coming out later this fall.


Art by Caio Oliveira

Joe Mulvey’s next series, CounterTERROR, which we are soft-launching at the 2015 Boston Comic Con, is a political thriller mashed up with a paranormal action popcorn flick.  Think “What if Jack Bauer was a Ghostbuster?” 


Art by Joe Mulvey

And I fully expect Ryan K Lindsay (Negative Space, Headspace) and Sami Kivelä’s unannounced new surf noir book to raise the bar for ComixTribe again in 2016.

We also have a couple new anthology projects I’m very excited about coming up that take us into new exciting new genres.

In short, we unabashedly love superhero comics at ComixTribe, but we’re about a lot more than spandex.  

Do you have aspirations to work with publishers other than ComixTribe?

I think most people who make comics would be lying if they told you they didn’t want the opportunity to work on the icons and make a contribution to the great comic book universes that they grew up loving.

Every creator has a Spidey story, or a Batman story, or I don’t know, a Howard the Duck tale, they’d love the opportunity to tell.

For me, it was Image Comics that really ignited my passion for creating comics, so having a book with an Image “i” on the cover has long been a goal for me. (You can listen to me fanboy gush over Erik Larsen when he was a guest on the Final Issue Podcast.)

So, sure, if given the right opportunity, I’d jump at the chance to work with legendary publishers.

But that’s not the endgame for me.

It’s an interesting time in comics.  Marvel and DC, they have great talent working for them, sure. But the absolute best talent in comics are no longer found there… or at least no longer found EXCLUSIVELY there. Millar, BKV, Staples, Kirkman, Adlard, Ottley, Brubaker, Phillips… the cream of the crop all realized that the ceiling at the Big Two was far too low for their talents.

And that’s a great thing, I think, for the industry, and for comics in general.

How do you plan on continuing to grow ComixTribe?

One reader, shop, and creator at a time.

I sold my first comic at age 14 out of my backpack in school. (9 copies sold at a $1 a piece!)

Since then, ComixTribe has managed to get more than 200,000 copies of books printed and out there into the world. (Sorry, trees!) And as crazy as that number is to me, it still means we’re just a guppy in the comics industry ocean.

Still, ComixTribe has doubled its revenue every year for the past four years.

We are poised to double again this year, as long as we continue to execute.

It’s been a long, hard road to get here… a barely profitable, low six-figure business, that reinvests 100% of profits back into itself.

But it’s still early days for us.  We’re maybe on mile two of our comics marathon.

And I see the roadmap…

I know exactly what we need to do to take ComixTribe to a somewhat profitable seven-figure business, and beyond.

(This is the part where I knock on wood… and remind myself of the danger of “best laid plans” and that I could be hit by a bus or a falling anvil at any moment.)

But it’s not rocket science. And it’s not all that complicated…

The closest thing I have to a success formula goes something like this: P + A + I + N + T = S

Passion + Action + Integrity + a Network + Talent = Success.

I firmly believe that if you have all of those ingredients, the only variable in your success is TIME.

Because the truth is, those ingredients, even when found in copious amounts, do take a while to cook.

And if you’re not currently as successful as you want to be… you may be lacking one or more of those elements, and that is where you should be putting your focus.

We need a new name for it because “The Golden Age” is taken… but these are the halcyon days for being a comic book creator.   

Over the next few years, we’re going to get a million ComixTribe comics into readers’ hands.

We’re going to continue to add tremendous value to the comic creator community, through continuing the awesome free content on ComixTribe.com, and through podcasts and other educational products and ventures.

And we’re going to work directly with at least one hundred creators, and help a bunch of them break into the direct market for the first time.

How is ComixTribe going to do all this?

Well, I’ve got a plan, but I’m nimble, and will be figuring it out as I go along.

And you can be sure I’ll be doing it transparently and in plain sight, as I’ve done from ComixTribe’s inception…

So, just watch.

MATT CHATS is a weekly interview series with a person of prominence and/or value in the comic book industry. Find its author, Matt O’Keefe, on Twitter and Tumblr. Email him with questions, comments, complaints and/or suggestions praise at matt@mattwritesstuff.com.

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1013. Get Them Hooked: Chapter Book Series for New Readers

Do you remember what it was like to finally be able to read a book with chapters (or when your child/niece/best friend’s child did so)? It’s such a big deal. HUGE. However, it’s very easy to get overwhelmed at this stage. Mercy Watson and Cam Jansen remain popular with young readers, but here are some of my more recent addition to the easy chapter book crowd:

izzy barr

(image taken from Macmillan website)

Claudia Mills’s latest chapter book series, Franklin School Friends, is a winner; one of her best, in my opinion. Each title in the Franklin School Friends series features a child with a special talent, beginning with Kelsey Green (reading), then Annika Riz (math), and lately, Izzy Barr (running). The value of each ability is celebrated without being didactic or too obvious. Simon Ellis (spelling) and Cody Harmon (pets) will join the Friends later this year.


(image taken from Simon & Schuster website)

Galaxy Zack is sheer fun for young science fiction fans. Despite the fact that Zack lives on another planet, he experiences things that every young earthling will recognize (moving to a new place, making new friends, etc).


(image taken from Lin Oliver’s website)

If the Hank Zipzer series by Henry Winkler and Lin Oliver is popular, you will definitely want to get Here’s Hank for your collection. Here’s Hank follows Hank throughout the ups and downs of second grade. While Hank appeals to many readers, struggling or reluctant readers will definitely identify with Hank.


(image taken from Scholastic website)

Shelter Pet Squad is a very new series by Cynthia Lord (the second addition will be released this fall). Featuring a group of animal-loving friends who volunteer at the animal shelter, this delightful and realistic series has already gained many fans impatient for its continuing adventures. While the tone is upbeat, more serious touches of everyday life make the storyline authentic (Suzannah lives in an apartment that forbids animals and a beloved animal is tearfully surrendered when its young owner moves overseas).

What recent series have caught your (and your patrons’) attention? Let us know in the comments!

The post Get Them Hooked: Chapter Book Series for New Readers appeared first on ALSC Blog.

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1014. Twitter Lists

Writers share their lists of people whose tweets are useful to writers.


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1015. Oz, Reimagined

Spelled by Betsy Schow Puns, fairy tales and snark, oh my! Spelled is a laugh-out-loud romp through Oz with new and unique characters and new twists on old ones. Schow has cleverly intertwined several Oz characters from The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (Dorothy, Tin Man, Scarecrow) and The Marvelous Land of Oz  (Mombi) with the classic fairy tales of Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm. She includes

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1016. Feedback Request

Dear Evilness,

You may remember a previous draft of this query, which appeared on this blog many moons ago in a more embryonic form. It's grown up more since then, and now needs its zits and strange lumps looked at with a savage editorial eye.

Wayward Collins knows the way to survive in Victorian London’s cutthroat world of ghosts and werebeasts is to stick to the shadows and not give a damn about anyone.

Wayward has no innate magic, which ranks him as a third-rate citizen in the eyes of the magickals. He lives a nomadic existence, staying neutral, and trying to teach himself magic. It’s not much, but if he can avoid trouble, Wayward will be happy. Until one night his attempts at magic backfire, killing an innocent girl. Haunted by her death and hunted by the police, Wayward becomes dogsbody to the arrogant and ruthless wizard Lord Cadogan in exchange for his protection. However, serving Cadogan involves more than folding handkerchiefs and brewing nightshade. When one of his footmen is brutally killed, Cadogan decides to solve the murder himself and drags Wayward along with him.

Instead of passing the time by spitting in Cadogan’s tea and snooping through his grimoires, Wayward becomes a reluctant accomplice in a murder investigation that stirs up nothing but trouble. The police inspector in charge badgers Wayward at every turn, certain he knows more than he’s letting on. Even if Wayward’s past crime remains a secret, he could end up accused of a murder he didn’t commit. And there are whispers of strange new magic brewing in the city, which is somehow connected to the murder—and maybe to Wayward himself.

Wayward must find a way to escape Cadogan, the police, and the magical forces at work, either by making a wild break for it and becoming a fugitive, or by staying put and seeing if he can twist his servitude to his advantage. Maybe the road to a quiet life doesn’t lead away from danger but straight towards it.

CHALK CIRCLES is a historical fantasy of 83,000 words with series potential, and will appeal to fans of Jim Butcher, Catherine Webb, and Benedict Jacka. [personalised agent blurb]. I am the Consultant Editor at Creative Authors Ltd, as well as a freelance ghostwriter.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

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1017. Newbery / Caldecott 2016: Summer Prediction Edition

The Summer Prediction edition of my Caldecott/Newbery ponderings is always a tricky beast.  If the spring edition is looking primarily at books coming out in the spring, summer, and early fall, then the summer edition is looking at almost the entire year. However, at this point I’m still relying more on buzz than the considered opinions of colleagues and friends.  Once we get to the fall edition I’ll have heard a lot of debates surrounding the books up for consideration and I’ll have a better sense of what folks feel about them.  Until then, here’s what I’ve seen this year that I think deserves a closer look.

2016 Caldecott Predictions:

Boats for Papa by Jessixa Bagley

boatsforpapaSo this is a bit of a strange inclusion on my part, but you’ll get a hint of the background on this book from this recent Seven Impossible Things profile of the book and Ms. Bagley.

Here is my thinking on the matter.  When we hand a book a Caldecott, we say we’re doing it to celebrate the art.  I understand that.  I get that.  But if we’re being honest, the books that win are the ones that really reached into our chests, grabbed our hearts, and had the gall to make them pump a little harder.  Boats for Papa has the 2015 distinction of being The Official Weeper of the Year.  Which is to say, it makes folks cry.  A lot.  And YET it is not a Love You Forever situation where the writing is clearly for adults rather than kids.  So Ms. Bagley is to be commended for the text.  The artistic style, I admit here and now, is not for me.  But when you are a children’s librarian you must let go of your own personal prejudices towards one style of art or another (if I had my way every Caldecott would go to Sebastian Meschmenmoser, regardless of citizenship or whether or not he has a book out in a given year).  And while the style of Ms. Bagley is not to my own taste, I believe that in terms of conveying the storyline, the characters, and the heart of the writing, it does a stellar job.  Still, I’d be interested to hear how other feel about it all.

Drum Dream Girl: How One Girl’s Courage Changed Music by Margarita Engle. Illustrated by Rafael Lopez


This is the book I most regretted not mentioning the last time I did a prediction post.  I’ve admired Mr. Lopez’s work for years (and honestly feel that The Cazuela That the Farm Maiden Stirred deserved far more attention than it ever received).  This book is one of those tricky little amalgamations of fact and fiction that will end up in the picture book section of the library while still managing to be CCSS aligned, to some degree.  I read it to my three-year-old and she was astonished at the idea that girls could ever be told they couldn’t do anything.  Plus it’s just so beautiful.  The art is the man’s best work.  I’d love to see this get a little attention.

Finding Winnie: The True Story of the World’s Most Famous Bear by Lindsay Mattick. Illustrated by Sophie Blackall


A straighter nonfiction title.  Sometimes I wonder if the amount of background a Caldecott committee hears about a book affects their thinking come award time.  Perhaps not.  After all, I once attended a pre-ALA Youth Media Award lunch that feted some Caldecott committee members and was showing off books like Mr. Tiger Goes Wild, The Dark, and Pinkney’s The Grasshopper and the Ants.  None of whom won a thing.  Now if you knew the background behind Ms. Blackall’s art for Finding Winnie, you’d see how meticulous her work is on the book.  Yet even without that knowledge the book is a beauty.  The endpapers.  The red sunrise with the ships sailing to England.  The shot of a man, his bear, and Stonehenge itself.  Oh, it’s a contender.

In a Village By the Sea by Muon Van. Illustrated by April Chu


Periodically debut illustrators receive Honors (and, once in a great while, awards proper).  I know I keep harping on this book but I just think what the illustrator did to complement the text is just so darn brilliant.  It rewards multiple readings.  Sure, it may be a dark horse contender, but it’s a strong one just the same.

Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Pena. Illustrated by Christian Robinson


It was a little surprising to me how many marketing dollars were placed behind this particular book.  Robinson has traipsed mighty close to award territory in the past.  With this book he may not be paying a direct homage to Ezra Jack Keats but that was certainly the flavor I detected emanating from the pages.  Even after all these months of seeing it I’m still having difficulty piecing my thoughts about it together.  All I know is that it’s worthy of discussion.

The Marvels written & illustrated by Brian Selznick


This could just as easily fit on the Newbery Prediction category but since Hugo Cabret won a Caldecott lo these many years ago, this could walk a similar line.  Separating itself into a wordless series of pictures in its first half and a text only novel in the second, it may be an even harder sell to the committee than Cabret was.  Particularly since the text both within and outside of the pictures is sometimes the only thing that gives them form and function and meaning.  But it’s rather remarkable, and committees have a way of rewarding books for that very quality.

The Moon Is Going to Addy’s House by Ida Pearle


Cut paper is a difficult art.  Again, we’ve a debut on our hands, and in judging the book one must determine how much credit to hand to the quality of the paper being used (which, as you can see, is rather luminous) and how much to the actual cuttings.  To my mind, this book is pretty much without parallel.  Just amazing.

Night World by Mordecai Gerstein


Much of the reception to this book is going to hinge on how well people react to the ways in which Gerstein has painted pre-dawn light.  One point in its favor: It contains a true moment of awe.  When the dawn arrives it’s a jaw dropper of a moment.  That’s what you want in an award winner.

Water Is Water by Miranda Paul. Illustrated by Jason Chin


One might rightly ask, why this Chin of all Chins?  After all, it’s not as though Jason hasn’t been making similarly stunning books for years.  The fact that he’s never gotten award love (at least in the Caldecott area of things) is a problem.  I find that sometimes award committees have difficulty rewarding realism that isn’t surrealism (Wiesner wins awards but James Ransome, for example, does not).  Here, Chin brings to life this infinitely simple, but incredibly clever, explanation for very young children of the water cycle in its different forms.  And he does so with his customary beauty and skill.  It’s worth considering at the very least.

The Whisper by Pamela Zagarenski


I’ve mentioned this one before with the note that I’m not usually a fan of Zagarenski’s work.  And though I’ve seen that some folks don’t enjoy the storyline quite as much as I do, I’m going to keep this one the list.  Of Zagarenski’s work (she is quite fond of floating crowns, you know), I do think this is her best.  And if her previous books have won Caldecotts then ipso facto . . .

2016 Newbery Predictions:

Caldecott predictions are generally much easier to include on lists of this sort than Newbery predictions because reading a picture book takes all of 5 minutes, max (unless we’re discussing the aforementioned The Marvels, and then God help your soul).  This year I’ve found a lot of books to love but few to seriously consider in this category.  However, there were a few exceptions:

Circus Mirandus by Cassie Beasley


Let it be known that hype makes me wary.  Exceedingly wary.  So when I walked into a Penguin preview earlier this year and found they’d decked themselves all out in a circus-themed hullabaloo my warning signals lit right up.  And sure, author Cassie Beasley was charming with her Georgian ways.  Yet she read a passage from this book that would have had a lot more impact if I’d read the book already.  So I put it off, and put it off, and all the while my fellow librarians were reading it and telling me in no uncertain terms that it was remarkable.  I finally picked it up to read it.  The verdict?  It really is lovely!  See my interview piece on Ms. Beasley about the difficulty in writing a non-creepy circus for more info.  I also recommended it at Redbook, so win a copy here if you’re curious.

Echo by Pam Munoz Ryan


I’m still pondering this one, months and months after I read it.  I think the supernatural element didn’t really need to be there since the three stories stand perfectly well on their own together.  But I can also tell you that every detail of this book has been etched into my memory.  And if you’ve any acquaintance with said memory, you’d understand why this must be a remarkable book.

Gone Crazy in Alabama by Rita Williams-Garcia


I had to do some research with my fellow librarians on this one before I could include it here.  Not because it isn’t good.  There is a vibrant undercurrent of truth running so strongly beneath this narrative that it almost hurts to read.  The relationships between the three sisters is one-of-a-kind and powerful.  In fact, if you’ve some free time in NYC on Saturday, August 1st we’re going to have a Children’s Literary Salon discussion between Jeanne Birdsall and Rita Williams-Garcia on their series and how it is to write about sisters.

At any rate, I had to determine whether or not the book stood on its own.  I’ve read the first two books, so I was in no place to judge.  So I handed it to some children’s librarians that had never read One Crazy Summer or P.S. Be Eleven.  Their verdict?  It works very well without prior knowledge of the previous books.  Which means, it’s a true literary contender.

Goodbye, Stranger by Rebecca Stead


I’m just looking forward to the Newbery/Caldecott Banquet where all they serve (once this wins the award) is cinnamon toast and vanilla milkshakes.  We’ve hashed the middle school vs. YA elements of this book before, so I’ve no particular desire to do it again here.  I will say, however, that if Stead wins it may be the first time in the history of the award that the Newbery goes to a literary agent.

Tricky Vic: The Impossibly True Story of the Man Who Sold the Eiffel Tower by Greg Pizzoli

TrickyVicActually, I debated placing this in the Caldecott category.  After all, Pizzoli did a rather remarkable job of finding a way to keep his subject anonymous but still visible from page one onward.  Yet it is the writing I think about when I consider the book.  Synthesizing a single man’s life and turning it into a child-friendly narrative is no mean feat.  Pizzoli did it with great cheer and fervor.  A nonfiction title that deserves some Newbery love.

The War that Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley


My continuing to include this book in the ranking may be due in part to affection more than anything else.  Still, I can’t help but think this has all the right elements in place.  If kids can get past the cover (a detriment to getting even my staunchest librarians to read it) they’ll be amply rewarded.

Honorable Ineligible Mentions

Every year I read a couple books that I think should win Newbery or Caldecott awards.  Yet, for one reason or another, they are ineligible.  Here are my favorite ineligible books I’ve read in 2015 thus far.

The Nest by Kenneth Oppel. Illustrated by Jon Klassen


How have I not reviewed this book yet?  To my mind it’s the strangest, most wonderful, creeeeeeeeeepy book of 2015.  If Oppel wasn’t so inconveniently Canadian we’d be having a very serious debate about this book.  By the way – apparently Canadians can serve on the Newbery committee but cannot win the award.  How is that fair?  I demand new standards, doggone it!

Pax by Sara Pennypacker. Illustrated by Jon Klassen


The bad news is that this book is ineligible for a Newbery in 2015.  The good news is that this book is eligible for a Newbery in 2016.  Once you read it you’ll be convinced of its worthiness.  That said, how is it that Jon Klassen keeps getting to illustrate all the best novels?  Did he sacrifice a cow to the book jacket gods?  Or is it just that the man has exquisite taste?  Hmm.

This Is Sadie by Sara O’Leary. Illustrated by Julie Morstad


Canadian.  Again.  Morstad has also illustrated Laurel Snyder’s Swan, which could also have been up for consideration.  I’m very pleased that folks are finally discovering Julie Morstad, by the way.  I still think her board book The Swing is just one of the best out there.

That’s all she wrote, folks!  I read most of your suggestions last time so if I missed something it may not have been accidental.  That said, I know I’ve not read everything out there.  What are your favorites thus far?


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1018. Pistol-Packin'

Oh, to go to school in Texas,
With my handgun by my side!
If professors tried to fail me,
Justice would not be denied.

I’d be such a model student,
With my pistol in my pack.
If a nut job started shooting,
I could shoot at him right back!

Why, my college would be safer
Since we’d all be packing arms,
But I guess at every airport,
We’d be setting off alarms.

Still, I wouldn’t use a holster
‘Cause all guns must be concealed,
Though before you’d blink your eye,
My .22 could be revealed.

Yes, to go to school in Texas
Would be what I’d like to try,
Just to get an education
As those bullets whiz on by! 

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1019. I made a vase. It doesn't leak.

When working with the earth and with glaze you cannot control a lot of things.

But you can control some.

I like that feeling.

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1020. J.K Rowling reveals new content on the Dursleys via Pottermore

J.K. Rowling has taken to Pottermore to release new content about the Dursleys in celebration of Dudley’s 35th birthday today. This was in line with the reveal of new content in Deathly Hallows chapters on the interactive reading website. Time reports:

‘Rowling gave insight into the backstory of Vernon and Petunia, including the origin of their names, both first and last, and their relationship to Harry’s parents James and Lily.’

Time also includes information on how to get to the new content:

‘In order to access the latest information on Pottermore, fans must first head to the Cupboard Under the Stairs, where the Dursleys kept Harry at number four, Privet Drive. As alohamora won’t work to unlock the new text, fans might want to look at the side table outside the cupboard first.’

Rowling comments on Petunia’s parting words to Harry:

‘Although some readers wanted more from Aunt Petunia during this farewell, I still think that I have her behave in a way that is most consistent with her thoughts and feelings throughout the previous seven books … Nobody ever seemed to expect any better from Uncle Vernon, so they were not disappointed.’

Screen Shot 2015-06-23 at 17.49.05


These are very exciting additions to Pottermore, which still continues to expand. If you don’t fancy the hunt, read in more detail about the additions in SnitchSeeker’s article here.

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1021. Interview with Kirsty Eagar, author of Raw Blue

Kirsty Eagar is the Sydney-based author of YA novels Raw Blue, Saltwater Vampires and Night Beach, plus Summer Skin, to be published early next year (!!! I am excited about this). She's won the Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for Young Adult fiction and been shortlisted for the NSW Premier’s Literary Awards, the Queensland Literary Awards, the Western Australia Premier’s Awards and a Gold Inky - which should indicate that her novels are pretty terrific. I met Kirsty Eagar at the Somerset Writers Festival in 2011, so I can confirm she is as lovely in real life as she is on the internet.

Being able to ask an author tonnes of questions about their writing process under the guise of it being for my blog - when in actual fact I'm just really curious! - is one of my favourite things about blogging (I hope you love finding out the stories behind stories as much as I do!). Luckily for me, Kirsty took the time to answer all of my very involved questions with really thoughtful, interesting answers - on writing about surfing, reading while writing, exploiting your own fear to create creepy atmosphere, the advice she'd share with herself as a beginning writer, plus more.


Steph: I really love that each of your novels are so different from one another (save for the surfing theme - I'm going to ask questions about that shortly!) - from Raw Blue being achingly realistic to Saltwater Vampires being paranormal with historical elements to Night Beach being a terrifically eerie gothic horror story. So I wonder whether you decide before you set out what genre you'll write the next book in, or whether that's something you work out as you write? Genre-wise, do you favour one over the others? 

Kirsty: Oh, that’s such a good question. I’d love to know how it works for other people. With Raw Blue and Saltwater Vampires, the genre was part of the initial seed idea. It wasn’t that clear cut for Night Beach. In the beginning, I had it pegged as more of a noir thing, more realistic. But when I decided to include art in the plot, everything changed, because I’ve always loved the Surrealists. Also, the house that Abbie’s living in is borrowed directly from real life – an old place we rented. The swaying chandeliers really happened, likewise that place had no hallway (so each room had two to three doorways) and there was a locked door downstairs. So it was probably the decision to use the house that turned the story gothic. (The house’s saving grace was that it also had a great view – blurry photo below is from the balcony at night: moon over the ocean).

On genre: I have no favourite. I found Saltwater Vampires the most demanding to write, though.

Steph: I also love that surfing is a central theme in all your novels, and that it's inextricably tied to the plot of each. How do you manage to continually write about surfing in a fresh way? What first inspired you to write about surfing, and do you think it will continue to be central to your work? 
Kirsty: Before I got published I’d written two novels that almost, but not quite, made it, and I’d given up on the whole idea of getting there. But I couldn’t let go of writing, so I decided to just write something that mattered to me. And surfing has given me all the big things in my life (writing, my husband, a home, a community, daily conversation that forces me to remove my head from my … you get the picture) so it had to be in there. In the beginning I struggled with permission, though. But then I realised that a lot of surf writing is from a male perspective, and tends to be about dominating the ocean, whereas I wanted to write about something quieter – just turning up because you love it. That realisation gave me the way in, and a point of difference.

There’s probably always more to write on it, because the hierarchy in the water is an interesting way to explore other themes, like belonging, for example. That said (she says, climbing down from her high horse) there’ll be no more surf writing for at least the next two books. It’s been good to step away from it.

Steph: In Saltwater Vampires, historical events and characters are interpreted through a supernatural lens - what drew you to writing about the Batavia? Are there any other historical events you'd like to reimagine for a novel? 
Kirsty: I think what made me want to write about it was that it was just such a good story. To this day, Mike Dash’s account of what happened, Batavia’s Graveyard, is probably my favourite work of non-fiction (his writing is brilliant).

Funny, you ask that second question … I’m related to the explorer Emily Caroline Barnett (nee Creaghe) so I’d like to look at her life either in a novel, or creative non-fiction.

Steph: Do you read while you're working on a novel? Does what you're reading vary based on what you're writing and help inspire your work? 
Kirsty: Yes and no. I oscillate between lumpy bursts of intense effort in amongst much longer periods of flat line procrastination. So I’m happy to read when I’m flat lining, but I don’t read at all when things are heating up. I’ll read books related to what I’m doing in a research sense, but I try not to cross over with other fiction. Most of the time, I read pretty widely and there’s no rhyme or reason to it. So I might read a sports biography, and then a YA, and then a horror, and then short stories … What inspires me is when you come across writing so good it smacks you in the eyeballs. It makes you realise what’s possible.

Steph: What have you learnt about writing and publishing that you'd share with yourself back when you first started writing? 
Kirsty: Just. Keep. Working. Set targets and then halve them (annual, monthly, week to week) and keep a record of your hours – it keeps you honest, gives you a feeling of accomplishment, and forces you to focus on the writing. In a business sense, don’t be afraid to ask questions and never be afraid to change things if they’re not working. I think, too, I haven’t always been very mature about handling the post publication side. I let things slide, buried my head in the sand. In terms of interacting with other writers and readers, you should know, Steph, that you have been a role model to me. I very much admire your grace, professionalism, generosity and courtesy. So that’s important, too, focus on the people who are positive.

Steph: Do you outline your novels or make things up as you go along? What's your process like, generally, from idea to finished manuscript? 
Kirsty: It tends to be pretty loose until I finally get a decent first draft down. I don’t outline formally, only because when I’m writing it changes anyway. But I do have a working idea in my head of where I might be going, and a couple of story beats I want to hit. Each chunk of new writing might contain a couple of hidden gems – like a throwaway line halfway through chapter five that you suddenly realise would work well as a scene, and not just any scene, but your opening scene! So what I call a first draft is heaps and heaps of rewrites and a lot of stops and starts. I find that excruciating, and I always tell myself it’ll be different next time, more organised, but it never is.

Steph: Night Beach is incredibly eerie and atmospheric - what were your inspirations? What advice would you give writers wanting to generate creepy atmosphere in their stories? 
Kirsty: Thank you! The art in the story was a big inspiration. I took directly from it in places – so, for example, Dorothea Tanning’s Eine Kleine Nachtmusik. Yes, there’s a point in the story where Abbie’s hair is standing on end like the dolls/girls in that painting, but what I found, the more I looked, was the sense of unease I felt actually came from that door, just so slightly ajar. I drew a lot on the idea of the shadow, too – Jungian psychology and the shadow-self, the unconscious parts of your personality that you don’t acknowledge (so, for Abbie, that might be her sexuality, or residual feelings about her parents’ divorce).

More generally, I am the person who can’t sleep without closing the wardrobe door. I take open stairs two at a time because I’m convinced a hand will suddenly close on my ankle. I haven’t watched a scary movie since I was thirteen; I find them unbearable. So it’s about exploiting your own fears as much as anything else. And my daughters, when they were little, used to come up with some genuinely creepy shit. Also, I was very tired when I wrote that book – it was written between the hours of 10pm and 2am. Being the only one in the house awake meant I could easily scare the crap out of myself!

Steph: There's a lot of really challenging material (to write and to read) in your novels, and very authentic, emotionally honest characters. I think this sort of stuff can be easily mishandled, but everything is dealt with very subtly and realistically. I felt this most especially with Raw Blue. So I wonder how you go about empathising with your characters - are you the sort of writer to whom characters seem very real and drive the story themselves, or do you have to really draw them out and explore the character before being able to write them so authentically? 
Kirsty: Thank you again, Steph. Yes, they definitely feel real and, I think this is important, they also aren’t me – because you’ve got to get your own ego out of the way. Hopefully that happens during the whole write, rewrite, rewrite, feedback, rewrite, rewrite cycle! But, on the other hand, I think you’ve got to be honest. So you’re invested, you’ve risked something. That said, the characters drive it. I will sit with a scene for a long time now, and wait until my initial urge has passed and a second, better, solution arrives, generated by them. But that’s scary, because you’re always worried it won’t come. How’s that for a not very good answer to your question??? :)

Steph: Do you have a perfect reader in mind as you write? Or do you write for yourself? Does it vary from novel to novel? 
Kirsty: The eventual decision to go with one thing over another (because there always seems to be two competing ideas when I’m about to start something new) is made to please myself. But once I’m writing, it is about the reader. I don’t know who they are, though. They’re this floaty presence, holy and humbling. Real readers are the motivation to not give up on a story, because you’ve loved this world and these people and you want someone else to share it with you.

Steph: What are you working on at the moment? (Having now read all your novels, I am in that rather unpleasant state of impatiently waiting for the next book - so I hope it will be out soon!)
Kirsty: Well, that goes from me to you, too, Steph – waiting! The next one (I have to interrupt myself here to say that for a long time I thought there mightn’t be a next one, so it’s really nice to be able to say that, albeit, not very casually!) comes out early next year. It’s called Summer Skin. Despite being a beachy sounding title, as I said, there’s no surfing. It’s a uni novel, set in Brisbane (where I went to uni). It’s a bit out there, and I’m terrified.

Thank you for such astute questions Steph, and thank you very much for having me!!!

Thank you, Kirsty!

Kirsty writes a terrific blog, which is well worth checking out - one of her features, Where the magic happens, is about where writers write, to which I contributed a post, which you can read here (predictably, it features garden gnomes). I am ridiculously excited for Summer Skin - and Kirsty has a little snippet of it up on her blog.

Here's my review of Raw Blue, and more info on Night Beach and Saltwater Vampires (you'll probably see reviews for each of these here soon).

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1022. Hogwarts Houses Correspond To Real Psychological Personality Traits, New Study Finds

A new study has determined that there is a correlation between a person’s personality traits and the house in which they are sorted on Pottermore. Bustle.com reports:

In the study, which is due to be published in the journal Personality and Individual Difference, researchers looked at the sorting quiz on the official Harry Potter site Pottermore and gauged personality measures among fans who had undergone sorting. Specifically, the researchers were looking for what are referred to as the “Big Five” personality traits — extraversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, neuroticism, and openness — as well as the need to belong, the need for cognition, and the so-called Dark Triad traits. That’s a real psychological term, by the way; the Dark Triad consists of narcissism, Machiavellianism, and psychopathy.

There has been some speculation amongst fans that Pottermore’s test–which functions as a virtual sorting hat–is rigged to equally distribute members throughout the four houses. The idea is that this will make competition for the house cup more fair; however, this study helps to disprove that notion by shedding light–or perhaps casting a Lumos charm?– on just how accurate Pottermore’s algorithm seems to be.

You can read the full article about the study here.



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1023. What Can Your Client Afford to Pay? The Answer: Who Cares?

Money DollarI received such a wonderful response to last week’s post Why You Should Charge What You Like & Not Feel Bad About It. Thank you!

After doing more considering on the issue of how much writers (and other freelancers/entrepreneurs) should charge for their products and services, I have a few more thoughts I’d like to share.

1. What Can Your Prospect Afford?

To that question I say: It doesn’t matter.

Too many writers get a reach-out from a prospect asking for a price for a blog post, article, or newsletter — and then wring their hands trying to figure out how much the prospect can afford to pay.

The writers say, “I don’t want to go too low and screw myself, but I also don’t want to go too high and not get the gig!”

The thing is this: Sometimes people won’t be able to afford you — and THAT’S OKAY. There are plenty of prospects who can afford to pay what you charge.

Set your hourly rates based on what you need to earn to cover your expenses and make a good living — and when someone asks what you’ll charge for a blog post, article, or web copy, you simply figure out how many hours the project will take (pad it a little!), multiply it by your hourly rate, and propose a flat fee.

If your fee is close to what the prospect can afford, and they believe the value you provide will be worth the price, they’ll say Yes. If your fee is a little high for them, they’ll try to negotiate. But if you aren’t even in the ballpark — say you would charge $500 for an article and they were thinking more along the lines of $50 — then you say goodbye. They are not a client for you.

[Tweet This] Remember, you are under no obligation to make sure everyone who wants or needs your product or service can afford it. If that were the case, you would be charging zero.

I occasionally get an email from a writer complaining that they can’t afford one of my products, services, or classes, because, well, they’re writers, and writers don’t earn much money as a rule. (Not true!) But all I can do is charge what the thing is worth, and let the customer sort it out for themselves. I’ve had writers tell me they can’t afford a $2.99 e-book, so if I felt I needed to price everything at an amount everyone could afford, I would just be giving everything away.

And that’s no way to run a sustainable business that can serve people for years to come.

This leads to the second point, which is…

2. You’d Be Surprised What People Can Afford

I’ll bet you’ve had this experience: You ask a friend to join you to watch that new blockbuster movie, and she says she can’t afford it. But a week later, she rolls up in a brand new Mercedes and starts bragging about her ski trip.

What people can afford is entirely subjective. Often when someone says they can’t afford something, what they mean is it’s not a priority for them.

A business coach once told me that other people’s finances are none of my business. I may think, “Oh, I shouldn’t charge this much because poor so-and-so would never be able to afford it.” But you just never know. Maybe poor so-and-so just cashed in a winning lottery ticket. Maybe he inherited a gob of cash. Maybe he just got a raise.

Not only that, but charging less (or not offering a certain product to a certain person) because you think they can’t afford it infantilizes your customer. Adults are perfectly capable of determining which products can services they want and need, and how to pay for them.

Instead of getting all up in your customers’ financial grille, just charge what you need to and let HIM figure out how he’ll pay for it. You don’t know what’s going on with him financially, so it’s best to just not worry about it.

You’d be surprised at how fast people will come up with the money if they really want something.

So when you’re trying to figure out what a writing client can afford, well, just don’t. Set your prices based on how much you need to earn to hit your target income, to be compensated fairly for your skills, and to cover your overhead and expenses. If someone can’t afford your writing, that’s okay.

You’ll find there are plenty of clients out there who are HAPPY to pay your going rate.

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1024. Win the Chance to Meet Jason Isaacs and Bonnie Wright at ‘Supanova’ in Perth

Over 18, live in Western Australia, and free on 27th June?

Enter Brisbane Times’ competition to win tickets to Supanova – a VIP event in a secret location in Perth, Australia. Members of the Harry Potter cast such as Jason Isaacs (Lucius Malfoy) and Bonnie Wright (Ginny Weasley) will be there, along side many others, as Brisbane Times reports:

‘Reminisce with Brady Bunch stars Susan Olsen and Mike Lookinland, flex your Futurama knowledge with Billy West and John DiMaggio or have a pint of butterbeer with Harry Potter’s Jason Isaacs… or any other star you can find.’

The full list of stars attending is here and features many exciting names, such as Nathan Fillion (Firefly, Dr Horrible, Buffy the Vampire Slayer), the people behind Mad Max: Fury Road and so many others! Brisbane Times’ detailing of the competition are as follows:

‘If you could ask any of the Supanova guest stars (the full list is here) any question you like, what would it be?

Email your answer, along with your name, age, address and contact number to competitions@watoday.com.au. Please include the word PARTY in the subject line.

Competition closes at 4pm Thursday 25 June 2015 and terms and conditions apply.’

Definitely worth a try if you meet the entry requirements!

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1025. After the Pause

posted by Neil Gaiman
And now, the exhale. Then quiet: only birdsong and the wind in the leaves.

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