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1. M.C. Escher inspired Tessellation

Final MetamorphosisTessellation-01

It seemed to me that if M.C. Escher had Adobe Illustrator that he could have developed his metamorphosis tessellations with a bit more ease. At least that was my initial thought. Once I got into the development of this piece I soon realized that using Illustrator really did not make the process any easier. As with all vector art, the building of the shapes and then the rendering of the shadows took a lot of time.

The effort was worth it. I now have a solid process figured out and look forward to developing more metamorphosis tessellations.

      

Related Stories

 

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2. A Twisty Path to Publication–with Dragons

This is a reblog from www.writersrumpus.com Post #5: Morris Award Finalist Blog Tour Week YALSA’s Morris Award honors the year’s best young adult novel by a debut author. The Morris Award winner for 2014 will be announced at the upcoming ALA 2015 Midwinter Meeting in Chicago. Writers’ Rumpus is honored to host a week of […]

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3. cleaning house

i'm having a WINTER sale in my shop all throughout the remainder of the season...until the first day of spring. and i know, i'll be the only one who will be sad to see my beloved winter go. *sigh*

{super bowl SNOW this weekend? yes, please! :)))}

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4. Pick of the Week for PASSION and This Week’s Topic

brightbirdforweb

Happy Friday!

We’re excited to announce this week’s topic, but first please enjoy the illustration above by Anna Marie Farmer, our Pick of the Week for last week’s topic of PASSION. Thanks to everyone else for participating. We hope it was inspiring!

You can also see a gallery of all the other entries here.

And of course, you can now participate in this week’s topic:

JAGGED

Here’s how:

Step 1: Illustrate your interpretation of the current week’s topic (always viewable on the homepage).

Step 2: Post your image onto your blog / flickr / facebook, etc.

Step 3: Come back to Illustration Friday and submit your illustration (see big “Submit your illustration” button on the homepage).

Step 4: Your illustration will then be added to the participant gallery where it will be viewable along with everyone else’s from the IF community!

Also be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter and subscribe to our weekly email newsletter to keep up with our exciting community updates!

HAPPY ILLUSTRATING!

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5. Prompt: It’s a Hard Life – Yes, I’m Being Sarcastic

Pick a random word and do Google image search on it. Check out the eleventh picture it brings up. Write about whatever that image brings to mind.

eskimo First of all, you’re probably wondering how I came up with the word “Eskimo”. Well. Kevin and I do not sleep together. He uses a sleep apnea machine and sounds like Darth Vader, I’m a fish – I flop constantly because I can never find a comfortable spot.

If we don’t sleep together, then we actually get some sleep.

We switch off between the bed in our bedroom and the futon with an air mattress in the man cave (i.e. the screen-in back porch that Kevin enclosed and made into his office). This week, it’s Kevin’s turn on the futon. So. He’s in there stripping off blankets (because I’m hot throughout the day, but for some reason, when I go to sleep, my body temperature drops and I FREEZE – hence the multiple blankets). And he laughed and said, “What are you, Eskimo?” at about the same time I was looking at this prompt …

The picture of the woman above – the first thing I think of when I look at her is, “ugh – no teeth.” The second thing I think of is “look at those wrinkles. I bet she’s really about 30.”

I’m not trying to be snarky. When I look at her face the one word that comes to mind is “rough.”

She looks like she’s had a rough life. I bet she’s had to work tooth and nail (no pun intended) for every little thing she’s ever acquired or owned in her lifetime. I imagine her to have grown children with three or four grandchildren. I can see her getting up at 4:00 in the morning to begin her day. I bet she spends the majority of her days preparing to survive her day and upcoming night. I bet she makes all of her own breads and comes up with creative ways to cook meals given her harsh environment. I’m sure she can skin a fish faster than I can skin a banana.

And I bet she’s happy. She’s content with her life because she was conditioned to live this harsh life. She has purpose. She’s never idle. There is a reason for everything she does. Sitting down is a luxury.

But laughter comes easily for her. She is respected and she is likely more healthy than 60% of lazy Americans. She has a lot to say and a lot to contribute, but she respects her husband and allows him to make the majority of decisions.

And she doesn’t resent him for it.

I compare my life to my preconceived notions of this woman’s life and I come up short. Way short. I’m lazy and spoiled compared to this woman. I take my life luxuries for granted and though I work hard, my efforts are minuscule in comparison. I can not IMAGINE living my life in such a harsh and unforgiving environment – I like my electricity and fast food restaurants. I like my conveniences and instant entertainment.

Though I can’t imagine my life like this woman’s, I’m quite certain I COULD live my life like her, if I was forced to. I wouldn’t like it, it would be incredibly hard and a huge adjustment, but I could, and would, do it if it meant making a life for myself, or my family.

Life is about surviving, not simply existing.


Filed under: Daily Prompt

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6. ZigZag Style

WFTA 2013 blue

Every year I create a poster for our local Humane Society that promotes their most important fundraising event, The Walk For The Animals. For 2013 they asked me if I would design an image that could be screen-printed onto T-Shirts. I jumped at the opportunity. Then I learned that I could only use the limited colors from the logo, no gradients, and no special effects. I love a challenge.

 

Also, I love the graphic black and white work of Rockwell Kent. With such a limited palette, he like many of his contemporaries defined form via silhouette shadows and then gave the illusion of 3-D with fine lines and zigzag shapes along the transitional edges between white and black.  

Using Rockwell Kent’s style as my inspiration, I developed a process in Adobe Illustrator that uses flat opaque color but along transitional edges I applied a zigzag pattern. From normal viewing distance, the zigzag “softens” the stark change from dark to light as our human eyes close in the gaps. Close up the zigzags add an almost woodcut feel.

How was this done?

  1. The black lines were created with the Pen Tool and then I adjusted their weights using the Variable Width Tool.
  2. The shadows and highlights were drawn on separate Layers (without zigzags).
  3. I built about four different pattern brushes from triangles.
  4. I applied a pattern brush to a portion of a shadow’s edge (only the portion transitioning from dark to light).
  5. I adjusted the pattern brush with the Variable Width Tool.
  6. I repeated steps 4 and 5 for all the shadow and highlight shapes. When all the shadows and highlights had zigzags and variable widths, I used Expand Appearance to make them permanent.
  7. I used either Unite or Merge from Pathfinder, to finalize the shapes with zigzag edges.
  8. Lastly I recolored the shapes. 

When done the final image has moved past Rockwell Kent’s style into a new derivative. I think that is how it should be. Digital art learns from the past and builds upon it, making imagery that exceeds boundaries.

Close up2 Close up 3

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7. Brave New World (1932)

Brave New World. Aldous Huxley. 1932. 268 pages. [Source: Bought]

A squat grey building of only thirty-four stories. Over the main entrance the words, Central London Hatchery and Conditioning Centre, and, in a shield, the World State's motto, COMMUNITY, IDENTITY, STABILITY. 

Did I love Brave New World? Not exactly. Am I glad I read it? Yes. Brave New World is a classic dystopian novel. The first half of the book seems more focused on world-building, on providing the reader with all the little details that make this future world so horrific. Not much happens but world-building. Readers meet a character or two, sure, but mostly description and information. The second half of the book, in my opinion, is where the characters become more developed. The basic premise: children are no longer born. No more mothers and fathers. No parenting. Children are "hatched." Sometimes several thousand at a time--all identical, I believe. Conditioning begins early in an artificial womb of sorts. Every single little thing is planned and accounted for. Nothing really left to chance. The conditioning continues through childhood. Even at night. Different classes are conditioned differently, of course.

In the second half, Bernard and Lenina go on vacation together to a reservation in New Mexico. They'll get a chance to see savages first hand. They meet two savages that interest them very much. For one is a woman who grew up civilized. (Her name is Linda). She was on vacation when something happened--she became separated from the group and was left behind. She's gone native--forced to go native. She's even had to--shudder--become a mother and raise her own child. His name is John. Though, for most of the book he is simply Savage. They tell their story to Lenina and Bernard. Bernard seeks permission to bring the two back with him. All four head back to civilization--back to London. But how well will John cope with civilization?

Brave New World is both strange and thought-provoking. Also depressing. The world-building was nicely done, I believe, but I would probably need to reread it a time or two to "catch" everything and fully appreciate it. There is plenty to 'shock' that's for sure. Some scenes are just disturbing--and are meant to be disturbing or disorienting at the very least.

I did like the second half more than the first half. It's not that the second half was less disturbing--it wasn't--but the fact that the focus was more on the characters. I can't say that I "liked" or "loved" any of the characters. I pitied John the most because he felt so out of place on the reservation and so out of place in civilization. John wasn't the only memorable character either.

I can see how Brave New World inspired other writers through the decades. Anyone who reads modern dystopian novels--there are so many I could list--should consider reading this one.

Quotes:
"I don't understand anything," she said with decision, determined to preserve her incomprehension intact. "Nothing. Least of all," she continued in another tone, "why you don't take soma when you have these dreadful ideas of yours. You'd forget all about them. And instead of feeling miserable, you'd be so jolly. So jolly," she repeated and smiled..."
The world's stable now. People are happy; they get what they want, and they never want what they can't get. They're well off; they're safe; they're never ill; they're not afraid of death; they're blissfully ignorant of passion and old age; they're plagued with no mothers or fathers; they've got no wives or children, or lovers to feel strongly about; they're so conditioned that they practically can't help behaving as they ought to behave. And if anything should go wrong, there's soma.
© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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8. further explorations of second person POV

Second Person Point-of-View  (archaic)
Perhaps it is getting to be the season to consider writing fiction in second person point-of-view (POV-2).  Our last exploration of POV-2 was October, 2014, and a new article on the topic has just come out in the February issue of Writer's Chronicle, by James Chesbro, titled: "Notes to You--Second Person in Creative Nonfiction."  Chesbro's examples are taken from essay and memoir writers, but the techniques will be the same for fiction writers.  His article is sometimes a bit complex and difficult to follow, but can further an understanding of the effects in using POV-2.  

In many, perhaps most, cases, the persona or real identity of the protagonist addressed by the "you" of POV-2 is actually the narrator of the story.  For example, in the case of a memoir the person "you" addresses is often the narrator himself at some earlier age.  However, intermittently, and sometimes in the same paragraph, the "you" being addressed may be the reader.  This slipperiness might be used to good effect in conflating the tensions felt by the protagonist with those felt by the reader.  When the reader is cast in the role of "you," he or she becomes more intimately associated with the protagonist.  He or she becomes the protagonist.  

Let's look at an example given by Chesbro, from the essay, "Swimming With Canoes," by John McPhee:
The canoe rocks, slaps the lake, moves forward.  Sooner or later, you lose your balance and fall into the water, because the gunwales are slender rails and the stern deck is somewhat smaller than a pennant.  From waters deeper than you were tall, you climbed back into your canoe.  If you think that's easy, try it.
In the early part of the paragraph the narrator's "you" is self referring, in a scene that took place when he was a young boy.  The reader may be gripped by the risks and dangers faced by the boy, but can keep some distance from what is happening.  However, in the last sentence of the paragraph, Chesbro suggests a slippery switch by the author from self address to direct address of the reader:
"(which) can trick the mind of the reader into placing himself on the gunwales of the canoe and slip just as the boy character slips into these complex and elusive aspects of you. We can deduce that the conflation of direct and self address is a purposeful affect of McPhee's multi-faceted utilization of second person construction."
 Fair enough, "If you think that's easy, try it," does indeed have an effect of causing the reader to more directly imagine just what he might have done in that same incident.  

Let's move now to another example from Chesbro, a beautifully straightforward example of POV-2: "If You Should Want Flowers for Your Table (Advice to a Daughter)," a 565 word essay by Marsha McGregor. The second person construction serves here as a direct address to the narrator's daughter.  The mother's voice is part of what makes this undemanding use of second person work so well.  Ostensibly, the mother is advising her daughter on how to care for flowers, but "we can see the metaphors on conduct, morality, and how to live."  In excerpts from McGregor:
"A small garden patch to call your own is lovely, but even a sad, weed-choked spot near the highway will yield plenty...Last week I veered off the road near that custard stand you loved, parked the car on the shoulder and waded into a riotous patch of wild sweet peas, all tangled tendrils and wiry stems, reminding me of the way you looked as a child when you slept...If you pursue the wild things, love, look out for bad drivers and poison ivy.  Be careful."

Gorgeous writing.

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9. FEBRUARY UPDATE!

APPEARANCES/EVENTS! Lots to do this month.  Hope you can make it to one of these events in Los Angeles, San Francisco, or Amherst. Thursday, Feb. 5, Pasadena, CA 11 am- READING & SIGNING AT VROMAN'S BOOKSTORE   695 E. Colorado Blvd Pasadena, CA 91101 I'll spend the morning reading, answering questions, & signing books in my only LA area appearance for a while.  If you're in the area,

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10. Interesting blog posts about writing – w/e January 30th 2015



Here’s my selection of interesting (and sometimes amusing) posts about writing from the last week

:

The Hunt is On! How to Find an Agent (Janice Hardy)

http://blog.janicehardy.com/2009/10/hunt-is-on.html

Do Contest Wins Boost Sales? (Maryann Miller)

http://bloodredpencil.blogspot.com/2015/01/do-contest-wins-boost-sales.html

Red Ink In the Trenches: A Copyeditor’s Perspective (Dario Ciriello)

http://blog.janicehardy.com/2015/01/red-ink-in-trenches-copyeditors.html

Your Inner Author Nagging (Mary Keeley)

http://www.booksandsuch.com/blog/inner-author-nagging/

Is it Time to Quit Your Day Job? (Rachelle Gardner)

http://www.booksandsuch.com/blog/quit-your-day-job/

How Are You Going To Succeed As a Writer? (Cathy Yardley)

http://storyfix.com/going-succeed-writer

Characters Who Care (Mary Kole)

http://kidlit.com/2015/01/26/characters-who-care/

Working With a Cover Designer: Time-Saving Techniques (Elizabeth Spann Craig)

http://elizabethspanncraig.com/2726/working-cover-designer-time-saving-techniques/

Why an Agent’s List is Never Full (Janet Kobobel Grant)

http://www.booksandsuch.com/blog/is-an-agents-list-never-full/

How Not to Fumble Your Social Media Presence (James Scott Bell) JON’S PICK OF THE WEEK

http://killzoneauthors.blogspot.com/2015/01/how-not-to-fumble-your-social-media.html

Two Red-Flag Sentences in Publishing Contracts (Victoria Strauss)

http://accrispin.blogspot.com/2015/01/two-red-flag-sentences-in-publishing.html

If you found these useful, you may also like my personal selection of the most interesting blog posts from 2014, and last week’s list.



If you have a particular favorite among these, please let the author know (and me too, if you have time). Also, if you've a link to a great post that isn't here, feel free to share.


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11. No Stakes, No Tension

A few recent much-hyped books reminded me of the importance of story stakes. Every story has an overall story problem with stakes:


Good versus Evil.

Win versus lose.

Love versus loss.

The protagonist will gain or lose something by solving or failing to solve this overall story imbalance.

In a Mystery, if the sleuth fails to solve the crime, the criminal will be free to strike again.

In a Thriller, if the protagonist fails to stop the threat, people die or a mega-corporation takes over the world.

In a Romance, if the man loses the girl of his dreams, he will go back to feeling lonely and disconnected.

In a Fantasy, if the protagonist fails, the paranormal evil wins the day making life miserable for everyone involved.

In a Team Victory, if the coach or lead athlete fails, they suffer a loss of esteem and self-esteem.

The stakes are what make us care whether the protagonist succeeds or not and there must be repercussions if they fail.

If a main character devalues his own life, he won’t make a compelling protagonist. I hate depressive “my life is horrible why bother to live” characters.

If she does not care if she lives, why should I? If she does not think she is worth loving, why should I love her? There are people walking around in life that feel that way. They need individualized professional therapy. They will not be miraculously cured by the end of 300 pages by a love interest.

Some protagonists are driven by revenge, rage, or injustice, but it’s stronger if they believe that life is worth fighting for. That doesn’t mean he can’t be noble enough to lay down his life for his fellow man. However, the protagonist has to believe his life was worth something in the first place to give the sacrifice value.

In addition, the stakes have to be highest for the protagonist. Friends and Foes and the Antagonist should have stakes in the game, too. If you assign higher stakes to secondary characters, the story structure is unsound. The reader may find herself rooting for the protagonist to walk away from the story problem rather than solve it.

It’s like a dysfunctional friendship. Dick’s life is fine (job, relationships, etc.) and his friend, Ted, gets into a self-destructive relationship with a manipulative con artist. The situation will create ripples for Dick, but there are no stakes for Dick. It’s his friend’s life. If Ted allows himself to be used, there isn’t much Dick can do about it. Other than say, “Dude, what are you doing with this psycho chick? She is messed up. Move on.”

Unless Ted is the catalyst that brings psycho chick into Dick's world (i.e. inciting event) and psycho chick turns her attentions to Dick, Dick has no real stakes in the game other than mild inconvenience or concern for his friend. Ted is the one whose life is about to go sideways. Ted is the one with the stakes.

If a stranger approaches Jane and says, “Hey, have I got a deal for you. Unless you help me, I’m going to die.” Why should Jane care? She may be a decent person who hates to see anyone die. However, she is unlikely to risk her own life for a total stranger, worse an obnoxious stranger, unless the stranger’s death results in nuclear holocaust or the end of the world as we know it. If that is true, Jane needs this information up front. Otherwise, unless her boundaries are really, really fuzzy, she will walk away. You don't want a protagonist's boundaries to be that fuzzy!

If a stranger approaches Jane with this kind of request, she has to be the only one on the planet with the special knowledge or capability to save the world. Otherwise, the conflict isn’t personal for Jane. It’s personal for the stranger and the stranger should be the protagonist. If Jane thinks, “My life sucks and I wasn’t doing anything anyway,” that is poor motivation for solving someone else’s story problem. It’s hard to root for a protagonist so apathetic about her own life.

There are action hero protagonists who are given a “death” wish mentality. They have nothing left to lose: their job is gone and their wife/child is dead, etc. The plot strips them of everything they had to live for and all that is left is the desire revenge. Readers and viewers love revenge. It is a universal emotion everyone in every culture can tap into. It’s the basis for Mysteries, Thrillers, Con and Heist, even Literary stories. It’s a great excuse for huge theatrical chase scenes, explosions, and fight scenes in movies. 
In literature, revenge fueled The Count of Monte Cristo and The Man in the Iron Mask. 

For me, as a reader, it’s stronger if the protagonist still has something or someone left to live for or hopes to regain.

Even so, that is not the same as having the protagonist solve a complete stranger’s problem for them simply because she has nothing better to do and hates her own life enough she is willing to die for a stranger to rid herself of it.

Your protagonist can be flawed. Her thinking can be faulty. He can be mildly depressed or grieving, but protagonists should not be pathetic.

If the reader is rooting for your protagonist to die, you have chosen the wrong horse for your race.

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12. Upcoming Book Events for February and March 2015 Domestic & International

United States Upcoming Book Events for February and March 2015


American Library Association (ALA) Midwinter Meeting
Where: Chicago, IL
When: Jan. 30th – Feb. 3rd 2015
Web site: http://exhibitors.ala.org/

Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators
Where: NY, NY
When: Feb. 6-8, 2015
Web site: http://www.scbwi.org/2015-annual-winter-conference-in-new-york/

San Francisco Writers Conference
Where: San Francisco
When: February 12-15, 2015
Web site: https://sfwriters.org/

West Coast Writers Conference – The Big Story
Where: Van Nuys, Calif.
When: February 20-22, 2015
Web site: www.wcwriters.com/genrela/index.html

SleuthFest 2015
Where: Orlando, Fla.
When: Feb. 26–Mar. 1, 2015
Web site: http://sleuthfest.com/

International Upcoming Book Events for February and March 2015

Cairo International Book Fair, 
Where: Cairo, Egypt
When: January - February 2015
Web site: http://www.cairobookfair.org/

Kolkata Book Fair
Where: Kolkata, India
When: January 28 –February 8, 2015
Web site: http://www.kolkatabookfair.net/information15.php

Jerusalem International Book Fair,
Where: Jerusalem, Israel
When: February 8-12, 2015
Web site: http://www.jerusalembookfair.com/

Taipei International Book Exhibition (TIBE),
Where: Taipei, Taiwan
When: February 11-16, 2015
Web site: http://www.tibe.org.tw/enhtml

San Miguel Writers Conference
Where: San Miguel de Allende, Mexico
When: Feb. 11–15, 2015
Web site: sanmiguelwritersconference2014.org

New Delhi World Book Fair
Where: New Delhi, India
When: Feb. 14–22, 2015
Web site: www.newdelhiworldbookfair.gov.in/

Vilnius Book Fair
Where: Vilnius, Lithuania
When: Feb. 19–22
Web site: http://www.eventseye.com/fairs/f-vilnius-book-fair-4062-1.html

Brussels Book Fair
Where: Brussels, Belgium
When: Feb. 26- MARCH 2, 2015
Web site: flb.be/

Dublin Book Festival
Where: Dublin, Ireland
When: Mar. 4-6, 2015
Web site: http://joobili.com/dublin_book_festival_dublin_12850/

Leipzig Book Fair
Where: Leipzig, Germany
When: Mar. 12–15, 2015
Web site: www.leipziger-buchmesse.de/

Paris Book Fair (Salon du Livre)
Where: Paris, France
When: Mar. 20–23, 2015
Web site: www.salondulivreparis.com/

Bologna Children’s Book Fair
Where: Bologna, Italy
When: Mar. 30–April 2, 2015
Web site: www.bookfair.bolognafiere.it/home/878.html

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13. The One Thing Stolen Teacher Guide

Jaime Wong of Chronicle Books masterminded one heck of a wonderful teacher guide to One Thing Stolen, the new novel which yesterday received its first official review, the Kirkus. The guide is now (as of this very minute) available online, here.

With thanks to Jaime and to the designer who made this guide look so lovely — and to the programmer who made it available.

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14. How to make an M.C. Escher inspired tessellation in Illustrator

Final MetamorphosisTessellation-01So exactly how do you go about morphing (blending) in order to create a M.C. Escher inspired tessellation.  You need to know how to use the Blend Tool, Live Paint and Symbols.

Download this .pdf file to see the process I developed: MCEscher morphing in Illustrator

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15. Book Trailer Unveiled For Dear White People

A book trailer for Dear White People: A Guide to Inter-Racial Harmony in a “Post-Racial” America has been unveiled. The video embedded above has drawn more than 38,000 views on Facebook—what do you think?

This project was inspired by the 2014 crowdfunded film which shares the same title. Justin Simien, the director and screenwriter behind the movie, wrote the book and Ian O’Phelan created the illustrations.

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16. Rod McKuen, 'King of Kitsch', dies aged 81

One of my favourites. Sad news again -bbc news Online

Rod McKuen  
 
 
 
McKuen reached the peak of his popularity in the late '60s and '70s
Populist poet and prolific songwriter Rod McKuen has died at the age of 81.


Known as the 'King of Kitsch', he died in Los Angeles of respiratory arrest after suffering from pneumonia.

A Grammy winner and double Oscar nominee, McKuen worked with a string of household names including Frank Sinatra and Barbra Streisand.

His best-known song was arguably Seasons in the Sun, a number one hit in the US for Terry Jacks. He later wrote for Madonna's Ray of Light album.

The artist was co-credited on Madonna's track Drowned World/Substitute for Love, which borrowed from McKuen's Why I Follow the Tigers.


Seasons in the Sun - like another of his compositions, If You Go Away - was an English-language reworking of a song by McKuen's idol, French artist Jacques Brel.


"It was like winning the Nobel and the Lottery on the same afternoon”
Rod McKuen on working with Frank Sinatra
 
McKuen earned two Oscar nominations, one for the song Jean, from 1969 film The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, and another for the song score of 1970 Peanuts movie A Boy Named Charlie Brown.

He clinched his only Grammy, for best spoken word recording, for his Lonesome Cities album, one of nine albums to chart between 1968 and 1971.

Of his collaboration with Sinatra - on the album A Man Alone - he wrote, in 1999: "You can imagine how excited I was when Frank Sinatra asked me to write an original album for him.

"What could possibly be nicer, more flattering and challenging than being commissioned by the world's most inventive and popular singer to write and compose something, let alone a whole album.

"It was like winning the Nobel and the Lottery on the same afternoon. Scintillating and scary."
The album included one of McKuen's most popular hits, Love's Been Good to Me.

Dolly Parton, Chet Baker, Glen Campbell and Dusty Springfield are among many artists to have recorded his material.
Rod McKuen  
McKuen's song compositions were used in major film and TV productions, including The Borrowers and Cheers
 
 
In the US at least, though, he remains best known for his poetry. He published 30 volumes in all, including the best-selling Listen to the Warm.

Born in California in 1933, McKuen ran away from home at 11 to escape an abusive stepfather. He worked as a stuntman, cowboy and DJ before settling in San Francisco, where he began writing poetry.
The St James Encyclopedia of Popular Culture describes McKuen as having been, at his height, "the unofficial poet laureate of America".

In an article in 2008, the Guardian claimed he was the world's most widely-read poet. "It was in that crossover between lyrics and poetry that he flourished," wrote Ben Myers.

"He went from appearing on poetry bills with Kerouac and Ginsberg to being a far greater seller of poetry than either."

"I think it's a reaction people are having against so much insanity in the world," McKuen once said of how his poetry was embraced.

"I mean, people are really all we've got. You know it sounds kind of corny, and I suppose it's a cliche, but it's really true; that's just the way it is."

Time to end on one of my favourite tracks from Rod.....

Tempus fugit

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17. Crooked Man


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18. Ruff Life Visits East Midlands Retail Outlet

Hi

We are so excited.  On Sunday we get to do our biggest show so far; B R Tracey will be there to sign your copy of It's a Ruff Life. We also have some other wonderful Ruff Life merchandise that you can buy.

L & N have been really busy building our first Ruff Life app game - it's really cool with lots of images of ME and Max. You'll be able to try it out and then download it yourself for FREE.

We're also running a FREE book competition for the next few shows; win a signed copy of Diamond in the Ruff.

Come and visit us on 1st February at the East Midlands Designer Outlet Retail Park and join in the fun.

iBella & Max

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19. Should Writers Be More Open About Their Income?

Writing books may be one’s most important work in life, but it is not always the easiest way to pay the bills.

Even successful writers often have to come up with other ways to support themselves. In a piece for Salon, author and essayist Ann Bauer argues that writers should be more up front about this fact. She reveals that she is able to have a career writing because of her husband’s “sponsorship.” Here is an excerpt from her piece:

In my opinion, we do an enormous \"let them eat cake\" disservice to our community when we obfuscate the circumstances that help us write, publish and in some way succeed. I can’t claim the wealth of the first author (not even close); nor do I have the connections of the second. I don’t have their fame either. But I do have a huge advantage over the writer who is living paycheck to paycheck, or lonely and isolated, or dealing with a medical condition, or working a full-time job.

Should writers be more open about where their money comes from? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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20. How to Excavate the Treasure of a Deep Conversation

by Sally Matheny
How to Excavate a Deep Conversation


Is there someone you love, but haven’t ever had a conversation with that scratched below the surface? 

Some people open up and their core beliefs abundantly flow out. Others keep their spiritual thoughts in the vault.






Many Christians become distressed about their aging parents. Their love runs deep and they don’t like seeing their parents suffer. Yet, many times, we realize it’s the pain of not having had deeper conversations with them and now time is running short.

Or perhaps other family relationships are merely cordial formalities. You long for something more but conversations seem awkward.

People who go forty, fifty, or sixty years not talking about their relationship with Jesus Christ camouflage the entrance of beautiful and precious relationships. It’s imperative you prune back whatever is stifling these important talks so you can excavate the treasures.

Most likely, the root cause is fear.

Fear of:
Giving misinformation
Being misunderstood
Lack of experience
Inadequate words
Being judged
Rejection

We must remind ourselves we serve a God who casts out fear. Who enables and empowers us to do difficult things.

If we long to have a deep and thriving relationship with family members then we must dig deeper in our conversations. How do we begin excavating after years of neglecting spiritual topics? 

The talking terrain may be plush with love, but difficult to dig beneath the surface. For others, talking grounds may have hardened or been covered in Astroturf.  

Some talking terrains are difficult to dig beneath the surface.


Gather Your Tools
Before you attempt to turn untilled soil, gather your tools.
You’ll need a powerful machete of prayer. Ask God to help you cut through any obstacles with which the enemy tries to entangle you.

Tote along a shovel strengthened with courage and discernment. Ask God for opportunities to break into conversations of the soul. Pray for strength for the task. Seek wisdom for word choice and timing.

Remember the tiny brush of gentleness. Once you penetrate the surface, it’s essential you use tenderness as you dust away the layers.

Start Small
You can start small, but start somewhere. Begin with snippets of blessings. During your next conversation, share a specific experience of how God has blessed you that day. Mention God’s name and be sure to give him the glory—not “luck”.

If necessary, begin by writing a letter, forwarding a devotional, or treating them to a faith-based movie. Think of ways to soften the soil for initiating a conversation.

Sweat and Tears
As you sweat through difficult situations in your own life, share how God is helping you through them. Confess your own inadequacies in understanding it all but, tell why you still cling to Christ, trusting him with all things.
Even through tears of sorrow, tell about the glimmers of joy and hope you still see.

Persevere
Recall with your loved one memories of times when exhaustion set in, mentally, physically, or emotionally.  Reveal your struggles. But also share why you persevered. What prize has God set before you that is worth enduring the trials of this world?

Tell them how you see God working through the struggles to strengthen you and prepare you for something better. Can you imagine your life without God in control? Share that.

Discovering the Treasure
Even though it seems the best route, it’s often difficult to unearth the treasure of a deeper relationship with your relative, if you use a bulldozer of sermons. While sermons have their place, they’re not conducive for two-way interactions.
Intentional, thoughtful, and gentle conversations are worth every effort. 

Regardless of the results you receive, don’t give up. Fear not. Maintain or upgrade your tools. Trust God to continue working through you.

Deep conversations take time and work. However, the more often you have them, the easier they become to initiate. And once you experience the richness of a deeper relationship, you’ll strive to keep that treasure ever flowing.

Who will you engage with a rich conversation today?

Engage in rich conversations







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21.

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22. Writers and the Bottle

Why are people so interested in drunk writers? Recently I was sent a very interesting nonfiction book, The Trip to Echo Spring: On Writers and Drinking, by Olivia Laing, for a review. I couldn't review it. It's an anecdotal study of several American writers, including John Berryman, Tennessee Williams, John Cheever, and Raymond Carver (all [...]

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23. Face-Lift 1247


Guess the Plot

Dragon Bait

1. Sluggish creatures! How can we get human women to hump us again? We must lose weight and offer ourselves as exotic dancers in bowties. We'll rule as the world's sexiest monsters!

2. In this hard-hitting expose of Chinese restaurant menus, journalist Kaley Higgenbothams unravels the secret of General Tsao's chicken. Also, fried rice.

3. With his hypnotic eyes (transplanted from a dragon), and his velvet top hat, Uncle Joe hunts down and kills Red "traitors" in 1950s America. The daughter of one of his innocent victims seeks revenge, but first she'll have to get past the dragons protecting Uncle Joe's TV station.

4. Lorelei kept pestering her older brother and his friends to let her join their knight-in-shining-armor game, but when the young girl finds herself tied to a stake and sees an actual dragon swooping toward her, she wonders if she shouldn't have stuck with playing house.



Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

It’s a 1950s where dragons rule the skies and the nearly-human Dragonlord rules the Americas. [Also, a 1950s where America doesn't have an air force of lethal fighter jets.] The Dragonlord’s carefully chosen Draconem hunt down and eliminate Red traitors. The Draconem used to be human until their eyes were cut out and replaced with the mesmerizing eyes of young dragons. [I heard they've experimented with transplanting pig hearts into people, but I didn't realize those people would then be described as "used to be human."] [Is "used to be human" (draconem) the same as "nearly human" (Dragonlord)?] Leading the charge is the Dragonlord’s favored Draconem, Uncle Joe.
With his hypnotic eyes, his crushed velvet top hat, and his pointy white beard, Uncle Joe has the nation’s devotion. And its fear.

Catherine Pearce is stunned when Uncle Joe announces her dad is a traitor on national television. She sprints home, only to pull her dad’s lifeless body from their burning home. Cat knows her dad was innocent. It was his unsanctioned science experiments that made him a danger to the Dragonlord’s power, not his loyalties. [The Dragonlord was being paranoid. Dad's experiments transplanting dragon mouths onto dogs would never have led to an army of fire-breathing poodles.]

Cat’s mother leaves Cat with her wealthy yet aloof Great-Aunt Ro in a misguided effort to protect Cat. Bullying and loneliness fuel Cat’s desire for revenge against Uncle Joe, and his television station is right in her hometown. Sure, it’s surrounded by dragons, and whenever Uncle Joe looks into your eyes, you have to obey him, but Cat’s pretty sure she can figure out some way around that. [X-Ray specs.] She’s got her Dad’s old notes, her own burning hatred, and her Aunt Ro’s influence at her disposal.

DRAGON BAIT is an upper MG Fantasy complete at 63,000 words. As per your guidelines, I have included [whatever the guidelines say] below. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,


Notes

If, as seems likely, this is meant to be analogous to 1950s US history, I'm not sure middle graders will get that.

Examining the analogy (for our foreign readers), the 1950s was the period of "McCarthyism," when Senator Joe McCarthy led a movement of "red baiting" (which consists of accusing people of being communist, socialist, anarchist... ). In your book, it's the 1950s, and Uncle Joe is out to get Red traitors. The title suggests that maybe dragons are replacing communists, but it turns out the "enemy" is still "Reds," while the dragons are on Joe's side.

So here's how to change the book:

Instead of 1950s USA, set it someplace innocuous, like maybe a farm. Dragons fly around minding their own business. Some of them help the farmers (like Superman does, except with fire breath instead of heat vision). Jo-rah (a giant hog who resembles Godzilla) wants to shoot down all the red dragons because he thinks they're all menaces (actually, they're no worse than the purple and green dragons), just because there are lots of red dragons in the faraway land called Stollen.

My point being that in Animal Farm, the setting and all the characters represent some entity.

Of course, I could be way off. Maybe what you're going for is not allegory, but alternate history. A novel that explores what McCarthyism would have been like if dragons really existed.

In any case, I think we need to get to Catherine a lot sooner. Obviously you don't want to end the query by saying: Also, dragons. But if you start by introducing your world, drop the Dragonlord and draconems and just let us know dragons exist and a mesmerizing TV personality named Uncle Joe rules the country through fear. Then on to Catherine.

Or start with paragraph 2, slipping in important facts about the world (like that there are dragons) whenever you get the chance.

You might want to include what dad's unsanctioned experiments were all about so we know he wasn't a mad scientist experimenting on human children, and thus even worse than Uncle Joe.


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24. Family Dynamics

On the surface, things are fine;
Smiles are filled with teeth,
But you never really know
What's roiling underneath.

Sometimes tiny fissures form
Releasing and revealing
Resentments tucked away that you
Believed were long past healing.

Moving forward there's a choice - 
To deal or to pretend,
But talking is the only way
That there's a chance to mend.

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25. Angry Birds Maker to Publish YA Novels

Finnish app maker Rovio, the company behind Angry Birds, is getting into book publishing with a series of YA novels.

The company has signed author Mintie Das and will publish her novel The Sinking World later on this year. The novel is part of a series of YA books set to come out called Storm Sisters. The book follows  action-filled adventures on the high seas disguised as ‘girl pirates’ in the late 18th century. A second novel titled The Frozen Seas is set to follow. Here is more from the publisher’s site:

After the tragic events of what has become known as the Day of Destruction – a day when they were intended to die along with their families – Charlie, Sadie, Liu, Raquel and Ingela sail the high seas all alone. In the 1780s, in a world filled with pirates, hurricanes and disbelievers, that’s not an easy task. What’s more important: Survival or truth?

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