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Here’s more from Bustle: “Stine’s Fear Street series was the YA equivalent to his middle grade series Goosebumps. It was ‘sleep with the lights on’ spooky, and occasionally just skewed the right amount toward silly. (Can I direct your attention to Cat?) The series was a commercial smash, and now it has acquired a cult following from twenty- and thirtysomethings across the country.”
When I was in my teens, I kept certain memories secret, even (as best I could) from myself; otherwise, they would scald me from the inside out, boil me up in my own shame. For instance, when I was seventeen some stuff happened in a car with a stranger. I didn’t mention that stuff to anyone—and I mean not a soul—for at least ten years.
In my new novel, Rabbit Ears, I give that one awful experience in the car to my character Kaya, who is largely based on my sister, Sarah. Sarah started running away from home when she was thirteen, and ended up selling sex to survive and struggling with addiction in Vancouver’s inner city. In 1998, she disappeared. In 2002, her DNA was found on a serial murderer’s property.
In the story, Kaya doesn’t tell about what happens in that car. Unlike me, but like my sister, she is already holding bigger secrets. Those secrets—that killing silence—led me to tell Kaya’s story.
A few years ago, a woman I knew only a little bit emailed to ask if she could meet with me. She had a secret, she said, a secret about my sister.
“Yes,” I said, dreading what she might tell me.
She came to my house, a friend in tow for support, and told me that when she was a kid, Sarah was sexually abused by a neighbor. It went on for years, she said. It went on until puberty. This woman knew, because it happened to her too.
It was shocking news, horrible to learn that Sarah had suffered in that way when she was small, and that she never told us, to realize that her suffering began so much earlier than we knew. I found myself haunted by this new information, trying to take it in, to understand this new part of my sister’s experience, and her silence. Rabbit Ears arose from that haunting.
The story is fiction, but the Sarah in the story is real.
It was a joy, for me, writing my sister to life so long after her death. There’s a scene on a swing set that is drawn straight from a story a woman told me about her and Sarah. I changed its location. The little grey house where Sarah lived, at Princess and Hastings, is in the story as is the corner where she, and, in the story, Kaya, worked. When Kaya goes into Sarah’s house, she sees spilled pudding that comes straight out of my memories. And a scrawny kitten. And, outside, a glorious garden.
My book was always called Rabbit Ears because the older sister loves magic. I’ve only recently made the association between the ears and listening, paying attention. Then, while I was working on revisions, I saw an old video of my sister, and, for the first time in my life, saw that she had a Playboy Bunny tattooed on the top of her left breast. Rabbit ears. Thank you, Sarah, for your blessing!
I wanted to tell a story about a girl who went through what my sister went through, but survived, a story about a girl who broke the silence that was holding her prisoner, a story about a group of girls who paid attention, who reached out.
I believe in these possibilities for Kaya and for each one of us.
Maggie de Vries’s latest novel, Hunger Journeys, won the Sheila A. Egoff Children’s Literature Prize and was called “historical fiction at its best” by CM Magazine. She has written six other works for young readers, as well as one book for adults, Missing Sarah. A former children’s book editor and writer-in-residence for the Vancouver Public Library, she now focuses on teaching creating writing at the University of British Columbia and her own writing. She lives in Vancouver.
Debut author Skylar Dorset will discuss and sign her novel for young adults, THE GIRL WHO NEVER WAS. In Selkie’s family, you don’t celebrate birthdays. You don’t talk about birthdays. And you never, ever reveal your birth date. Until now. The instant Selkie blurts out the truth to Ben in the middle of Boston Common, her whole world shatters.
Because her life has been nothing but a lie—an elaborate enchantment meant to conceal the truth: Selkie is a half-faerie princess. And her mother wants her dead.
Doris Fisher, won the Crystal Kite Award for the Texas/Oklahoma Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators region this year for her book, ARMY CAMELS, TEXAS SHIPS OF THE DESERT. Doris will talk a little about her writing journey, so don’t miss hearing her story. Also, local writers who attended the National SCBWI Conference in Los Angeles this month will share what they learned from the many breakout sessions and keynotes.
Teen librarian Sandy Hall signs her debut YA romance novel, A LITTLE SOMETHING DIFFERENT, which was selected as the first novel to be published by Swoon Reads, a crowd-sourced teen romance imprint. This sweet romance between two college students is told from 14 different viewpoints. The creative writing teacher, the delivery guy, the local Starbucks baristas, his best friend, her roommate, and the squirrel in the park all have one thing in common—they believe that Gabe and Lea should get together.
Lea and Gabe are in the same creative writing class. They get the same pop culture references, order the same Chinese food, and hang out in the same places. Unfortunately, Lea is reserved, Gabe has issues, and despite their initial mutual crush, it looks like they are never going to work things out. But somehow even when nothing is going on, something is happening between them, and everyone can see it.
Please remember to check the website of the sponsoring bookstore or organization for the most up-to-date information on these events.
Over the weekend, dozens of authors and illustrators appeared at the Library of Congress’ 14th annual National Book Festival. Children’s books creator Bob Staake designed this year’s official poster. We’ve collected three writing tips that some of the writers shared during their panels.
Joey Pigza book series author Jack Gantos suggests that one “stay as organized as possible.” He thinks that one should keep several notebooks. This helps to categorize different thoughts because one idea might be a good fit for the beginning a story and another could work for the middle.
It’s hot in Los Angeles. Like, super really really hot. That’s why this book is an especially welcome reprieve. A book with snow in it? Please. A book with cool blues and winter scenes? Yes.
This is Fox’s Garden.
It’s a lovely little book.
A lone fox, stark red against the white forest. A house in the distance, swirling with the colors of home and twilight. Frightened grownups chase him away. A boy cloaked in red, watching and waiting and caring.
This boy loves animals. They are in sketches, framed on his wall. They are in mobiles and stuffed friends, in bookshelves and toy chests.
This fox, followed by her brood, leaves blossoms of kindness right back for the boy. It’s a tale of sharing and growth and unlikely accomplices. No words, all heart.
And the pictures. My French is un peu rusty, but according to Princesse Camcam’s blog, these have got to be cut paper illustrations, lit and photographed. They are intricate and textured, perfect layers for this story of a fox and his friend.
Remember when we talked about complementary colors setting the tone and mood? The rich red of the fox is set apart so dramatically from the snowy scene and the stark greenhouse. It’s a mood, and it’s a strong one. It’s so pretty, too.
Keep an eye on Enchanted Lion, folks. They are in the business of making beautiful books.
Reminder: New literary agents (with this spotlight featuring Valerie Noble of Donaghy Literary Group) are golden opportunities for new writers because each one is a literary agent who is likely building his or her client list.
About Valerie: Valerie Noble is an Associate Agent at Donaghy Literary Group. While studying chemistry at California State University, Long Beach, Valerie mastered the art of doing proper research, particularly for technical writing. Her love of science and reading merged when she began penning her first novel in the midst of her studies. In true scientific fashion, Valerie researched all there was to know about publishing. She connected with agents, editors, and other writers, and interned for Jessica Sinsheimer of Sarah Jane Freymann Literary Agency.
An education is never finished and Valerie continues to cultivate relationships and hopes to use her knowledge and skills in finding fresh new voices for Donaghy Literary Group.
She is seeking: Valerie is seeking Young Adult, and New Adult — in the following areas:
• Science Fiction YA/NA
• Fantasy YA/NA
• Historical Fantasy YA/NA
• Historical Fiction YA/NA
Valerie loves YA/NA science fiction and fantasy (think Kristin Cashore and Suzanne Collins) but reads everything under the sun. For her, it’s more about the writing and less about the genre. In saying that, Valerie is generally not interested in romance or paranormal.
Submission Instructions: Electronic Submissions only. Send the query letter, 1-2 page synopsis and the first 10 pages of manuscript — all in body of email, no attachments. Send to query(at)donaghyliterary(dot)com.
It all starts today: public school, our classical homeschooling co-op, the worship school and theater classes!
So here's the quick low-down for the school year.
The two oldest are not going to school, but working. B23 continues to work a couple shifts a week at a dollar store. He's not fast at unpacking boxes, but he's faithful to arrive at work at 5 a.m.! Blondechick21 just finished a summer of nannying for an attorney she knows from church, who invited her to come work part-time at her law firm this fall. She's hoping there will be enough filing and data entry to turn into a full-time position there! She's the only one not living at home; she's staying with a couple from our church who are graciously renting their second floor to her. It's a charming space, with alcoves and swing out windows, with views of lovely gardens in the neighbor's yard. If the bathroom weren't in the basement with the spiders and other creepy crawlies, it would be perfect. ;)
B19 is going to the School of Worship--the same school that Blondechick went to last year. It was such a rich year of discipleship and mentoring for her, and it seems like B19's class is going to be another great group of students. He anticipates lots of "bro time"--13 out of the 25 students are guys! He'll be in class from 8 to 3:30 daily--a big time commitment.
B15 will begin his sophomore year at the public high school. He's excited to be in Chorale this year--the school's top choir--and in Madrigals again. He took driver's ed this summer and has his permit, but we are not sure about letting him get his license when he turns 16 in February--can't afford a sixth driver on our policy! We are hoping the two oldest can get some more hours at work and be able to start paying for their portion. Meanwhile, he has a ride to and from school with a neighbor who's a senior--a blessing that will net him several more hours of sleep a week compared to taking the bus.
Chicklet-almost-12 will be homeschooled again this year, but B9 is going to go to the local elementary school. We are in the same high school district in our new location, but it's a different elementary and middle school; the middle school has a terrible reputation, but the elementary school is outstanding, we hear. As I prayed about this year, I kept feeling a nudge from the Lord to put him there.
It wasn't an easy decision, because I am excited about our next year with our homeschooling co-op! We were a Classical Conversations community last year, but to have more flexibility with what we do, we decided to become a co-op instead. We are still using the CC curriculum, with some modifications, but we are free to adjust the schedule, teachers and class sizes as we like. I'm especially eager to tweak the grammar and writing portion that I teach to 4th - 6th graders, to make the material more engaging, to focus on grammar usage as much or more than on memory work, and to include some more enjoyable writing assignments.
B9 has friends in the co-op too, which is the main reason why he didn't want to go to school. But I have a feeling that I'm going to be pretty distracted with house projects, at least for the fall, and I'm afraid I just won't have much patience or energy to sit with him and make sure he does his work. It's very tempting to delegate that task to someone else! Also Chicklet will get more done without him around, and she needs to have a good year, being in sixth grade, her first year of middle school. On the other hand, he will have homework, and there will be school communications and deadlines to stay on top of, and lunches to make and pay for, and all those things add up to a big chunk of time also.
I had trouble sorting out all the pros and cons, but couldn't get away from the feeling that it might just be a good thing for him to go. It will probably be more of a challenge for him than what I would be able to commit to providing this year, and I think he'll benefit from being pushed by someone other than me. A little positive peer pressure never hurt either, and he's quite social. We met his teacher and saw his classroom, and now he's pretty excited to start. We'll see how it goes!
Love by the Morning Star. Laura L. Sullivan. 2014. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 320 pages. [Source: Review copy]
I was disappointed by Laura Sullivan's Love by the Morning Star. I wanted to love it. I did. It is a novel set in English countryside in 1938-1939. It offers an upstairs/downstairs view of life. Or supposedly so. Two young women come to Starkers. One is a gold digger spy. Her father is a Nazi-sympathizer to say the least and his gang (for lack of a better word) wants her in position at this estate. She's told she'll be a maid. The other young woman is a Jewish refugee. She is actually a relation of the family who owns the estate. She's coming to Starkers to stay with her aunt and uncle. One girl is Hannah. The other girl is Anna. One will be treated well. The other won't.
In case you haven't guessed it, mistaken identity is the name of the game. These two women also happen to fall in love with the same man.
Why was I disappointed? Well. I'm not sure if it's because of the setting or the tone. I think I might have tolerated the tone--the silliness, the lightness, the double entendres, etc. if it wasn't set during such a dark time. It's hard to make light of the Nazis gaining power and destroying the lives of the Jewish people. The subject is serious and it deserves better. If it had been set twenty-five or thirty years earlier, then, perhaps it would have worked for me.
The romance. I liked the secret meetings between the hero and the heroine. There were only a handful of these scenes, but, they kept me reading.
I just have to add that I HATED one of the characters. I disliked a few more as well. But there was one that stood out above the rest as being AWFUL.
Frank Mason (1921-2009) was a painter and teacher at the Art Students League who used a shelf-like palette arrangement for his oil paints called "The Prismatic Palette." One of Mason's students, Keith Gunderson, explained it to me this way:
Prismatic Palette by Leslie Watkins
"The value scale was the essence of the shelf arrangements, with emphasis on “Orange Value” as the unifying tone of the lights. The shelves were arrayed with a string of greens made from “Parent Green”; premixed value strings of Blue, Violet, and Grey to calibrate atmospheric perspective; a shelf for pre-mixed tints for the sky; and a “Control String” of pure colors squeezed from the tube, arranged by value from light to dark."
"Modulating a color with it’s complement was often substituted by mixing grey or brown into that color... perhaps an influence of Frank’s teacher [Frank Vincent] Dumond (1865-1951) and Dumond’s teacher, [Jules Joseph] Lefebvre (1836–1911)."
I have also heard "parent green" referred to as "vegetable green," the color of transmitted light through backlit young leaves.
Landscape by Frank Vincent Dumond
Here are a couple of paintings by League instructor and link to the French tradition, Frank Vincent Dumond, showing his very sensitive approach to color.
Dumond, Christ and the Fishermen, 1891
Leslie Watkins, another Mason student, describes the prismatic palette this way:
"It clarifies several strings of colors into even steps, with the lightest or highest values descending to the lowest or darkest tones."
"The steps are based on pure colors from cadmium lemon yellow to alizarin crimson. The different strings of colors consist of grays, violets, blues and greens."
Another Art Students League teacher (and another Frank), Frank Reilly (1906-1965), also taught a value-based system of premixing palette colors, but it was different from Mason's. Reilly's lineage connects him to Gérôme, Delaroche and Boulanger.
Both systems are descendants of a common practice among painters before the 20th century to premix colors in sequences of stepped values, analogous to the keys and manuals of a pipe organ.
I'm obviously no expert on the League instructors' systems, so I welcome further insights and discussion in the comments.
Three things you will probably have heard by now about Lucy, Luc Besson's latest film and his first foray back into proper, no-holds-barred science fiction since The Fifth Element. One, that the film's success demonstrates the viability of a female-led action/SF movie, and cements Scarlett Johansson's position as the reigning queen of filmed SF (or at the very least co-reigning queen, along with
Ah, back home and time to relax. Long weeks are brutal. Is that the television you hear? Well you haven’t been home all day so you decide to check it out, thinking you left it on. As you enter the room you see the television is indeed on. And you’re already sitting there watching it. What’s going on here?
Summer 2014 behind us it’s time to move on to 2015 planning, as Wizard World has confirmed two more dates for 2015, adding Louisville, KY and Reno, NV to its 2015 and bringing the total number of planned shows to 24. Tickets are now in sale for the first seven events of 2015, which will feature such nerdlebrities as Stephen Amell (“Arrow”), Evan Peters (X-Men: Days of Future Past), Tyler Posey (“Teen Wolf”), William Shatner (“Star Trek”),The Bella Twins and Michael Rooker. Get em while they’re hot! Here’s the complete 2015 schedule — new events are noted with an *. Still no return to New York City.
January 9-11 – Wizard World New Orleans Comic Con, Ernest N. Morial Convention Center
January 23-25 – Wizard World Portland Comic Con, Oregon Convention Center
*February 6-8 – Wizard World Wisconsin Comic Con, Alliant Energy Center, Madison, Wis.
*February 13-15 – Wizard World Indianapolis Comic Con, Indianapolis Convention Center
*February 20-22 – Wizard World Cleveland Comic Con, Cleveland Convention Center
*March 6-8 – Bruce Campbell’s Horror Fest (Chicago), Donald E. Stephens Convention Center, Rosemont, Ill.
*March 13-15 – Wizard World Raleigh Comic Con, Raleigh Convention Center
*April 24-26 – Wizard World Las Vegas Comic Con, Las Vegas Convention Center
May 1-3 – Wizard World Minneapolis Comic Con, Minneapolis Convention Center
May 7-10 Wizard World Philadelphia Comic Con, Pennsylvania Convention Center
May 22-24 – Wizard World St. Louis Comic Con, America’s Center
*May 28-30 – Wizard World Greenville Comic Con, TD Convention Center
*June 12-14 – Wizard World Des Moines Comic Con, Iowa Events Center
June 19-21 – Wizard World Sacramento Comic Con, Sacramento Convention Center
July 31-August 2 – Wizard World Richmond Comic Con, Greater Richmond Convention Center
August 20-23 – Wizard World Chicago Comic Con, Donald E. Stephens Convention Center
September 4-6 – Wizard World San Jose Comic Con, San Jose Convention Center
September 18-20 – Wizard World Columbus Comic Con (formerly Ohio Comic Con), Greater Columbus Convention Center
September 25-27 – Wizard World Nashville Comic Con, Music City Center
*October 2-4 – Wizard World Ft. Lauderdale Comic Con, Broward Convention Center
October 23-25 – Wizard World Tulsa Comic Con, Cox Business Center
October 29-31 – Wizard World Austin Comic Con, Austin Convention Center
November 6-8 – Wizard World Louisville Comic Con, Kentucky International Convention Center
*November 20-22 – Wizard World Reno Comic Con, Reno-Sparks Convention Center
Yesterday, my online class Awesome Art Journaling started, and I am pumped by all the enthusiastic people in there, and the awesome art they are already posting. We'll also be doing some lettering in class. It's amazing how much energy the people in class can give!
Everyone knows about Saint Patrick — the man who drove the snakes out of Ireland, defeated fierce Druids in contests of magic, and used the shamrock to explain the Christian Trinity to the pagan Irish. It’s a great story, but none of it is true. The shamrock legend came along centuries after Patrick’s death, as did the miraculous battles against the Druids. Forget about the snakes — Ireland never had any to begin with. No snakes, no shamrocks, and he wasn’t even Irish.
The real story of St. Patrick is much more interesting than the myths. What we know of Patrick’s life comes only through the chance survival of two remarkable letters which he wrote in Latin in his old age. In them, Patrick tells the story of his tumultuous life and allows us to look intimately inside the mind and soul of a man who lived over fifteen hundred years ago. We may know more biographical details about Julius Caesar or Alexander the Great, but nothing else from ancient times opens the door into the heart of a man more than Patrick’s letters. They tell the story of an amazing life of pain and suffering, self-doubt and struggle, but ultimately of faith and hope in a world which was falling apart around him.
The historical Patrick was not Irish at all, but a spoiled and rebellious young Roman citizen living a life of luxury in fifth-century Britain when he was suddenly kidnapped from his family’s estate as a teenager and sold into slavery across the sea in Ireland. For six years he endured brutal conditions as he watched over his master’s sheep on a lonely mountain in a strange land. He went to Ireland an atheist, but there heard what he believed was the voice of God. One day he escaped and risked his life to make a perilous journey across Ireland, finding passage back to Britain on a ship of reluctant pirates. His family welcomed back their long-lost son and assumed he would take up his life of privilege, but Patrick heard a different call. He returned to Ireland to bring a new way of life to a people who had once enslaved him. He constantly faced opposition, threats of violence, kidnapping, and even criticism from jealous church officials, while his Irish followers faced abuse, murder, and enslavement themselves by mercenary raiders. But through all the difficulties Patrick maintained his faith and persevered in his Irish mission.
The Ireland that Patrick lived and worked in was utterly unlike the Roman province of Britain in which he was born and raised. Dozens of petty Irish kings ruled the countryside with the help of head-hunting warriors while Druids guided their followers in a religion filled with countless gods and perhaps an occasional human sacrifice. Irish women were nothing like those Patrick knew at home. Early Ireland was not a world of perfect equality by any means, but an Irish wife could at least control her own property and divorce her husband for any number of reasons, including if he became too fat for sexual intercourse. But Irish women who were slaves faced a cruel life. Again and again in his letters, Patrick writes of his concern for the many enslaved women of Ireland who faced beatings and abuse on a daily basis.
Patrick wasn’t the first Christian to reach Ireland; he wasn’t even the first bishop. What made Patrick successful was his dogged determination and the courage to face whatever dangers lay ahead, as well as the compassion and forgiveness to work among a people who had brought nothing but pain to his life. None of this came naturally to him, however. He was a man of great insecurities who constantly wondered if he was really cut out for the task he had been given. He had missed years of education while he was enslaved in Ireland and carried a tremendous chip on his shoulder when anyone sneered, as they frequently did, at his simple, schoolboy Latin. He was also given to fits of depression, self-pity, and violent anger. Patrick was not a storybook saint, meek and mild, who wandered Ireland with a beatific smile and a life free from petty faults. He was very much a human being who constantly made mistakes and frequently failed to live up to his own Christian ideals, but he was honest enough to recognize his shortcomings and never allow defeat to rule his life.
You don’t have to be Irish to admire Patrick. His is a story of inspiration for anyone struggling through hard times public or private in a world with unknown terrors lurking around the corner. So raise a glass to the patron saint of Ireland, but remember the man behind the myth.
Headline image credit: Oxalis acetosella. Photo by Erik Fitzpatrick. CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.
I meant to post my September 2014 desktop calendar yesterday but it was my 3rd son's 9th birthday, so as you can imagine we were busy celebrating. HAPPY BIRTHDAY, Little Man! Today is also the first day of school for my 4 kiddos- a day filled with a mix of hope, nervousness and excitement all rolled into one, for the kids and myself.
I am gearing up for a wonderful whirlwind of activity coming up in the next few months. I am working away on the final art for the latest picture book I am currently illustrating(see more on that below); on Sept. 21 I will be attending Toronto's Word On The Street Festival, signing copies of Skink on the Brink with Lisa Dalrymple at the Fitzhenry & Whiteside booth; I am prepping to attend the SCBWI CANEAST conference in October in Ottawa(such a great line-up of speakers!) where Lisa and myself will be receiving our Crystal Kite Award for Skink on the Brink; and in November, Lisa and myself, and a great group of Canadian authors and illustrators, will be travelling to Grenada and St. Lucia with the One World Schoolhouse Foundation to take part in their 2nd annual Rainforest of Reading Festival, for which Skink on the Brink is also nominated. So many exciting things on the horizon!
This month's desktop calendar features some sample art I mocked up for my editor( thank-you for giving me the thumbs-up to share this, Cheryl!). These little gerbil critters and I have really gotten to know each other over the past few months as I sketched them- I am quite smitten. I am pleased to introduce you to Little Gerbil and Grandpa Gerbil, two of the myriad of adorable gerbils from the newest picture book I am currently illustrating with Fitzhenry &Whiteside entitled, Gerbil, Uncurled, written by Alison Hughes, due to the shelves this coming Spring.
To download this desktop calendar please select the screen resolution from the list above, then right click and "Save to desktop".
A young woman, while discussing comics, pointed out to me that I was "quite spoilt for choice" I think she was probably right!
I have a lot of comic scans on disc -French, Spanish, German, Japanese, Russian, Chinese -lots of Chinese manhua!- and more. And my physical collection is just as varied: French, German, Nederlands, Belgian, Italian, Finnish, Russian, Chinese, Japanese, Australian, New Zealand, Czech, Slovakian, Hungarian...quite a lot and please do not get me started on the books stolen over the years!
English language...lots! I know I mentioned Australia and New Zealand above but I was referring to country of origin, not language. American comics, of course and the bulk I have on disc are Golden Age because, apart from the Centaur black and white collection I did, I don't think anyone else publishes collections from the long gone companies? And Silver Age. Yes, quite a few and I really want to get complete runs of certain series such as The Sub-Mariner (and I am almost there) that I really like. Obscure 1960s publishers...yes. Even obscure 1970s-1990s publishers!
Modern era, well, certainly not Marvel or DC and to be honest not much gets me excited these days.
Independent comics and books -far more than "a few"! As for Small Press I do have non-UK collections but my collection from 1970s-1990s constitute two huge piles that I've just catalogued and now need to store safely.
Like my music -everything from Classical to Punk and German Schlager, Italo Pop/Disco, French and so on- I do like a variety.
Now you can probably guess why so many people/researchers as well as companies contact me as what they like to term "a knowledgeable authority on international comics" -boosting the ego before the tag line of "We can't pay you..." HAH! I put an end to that.
In the United States or even Europe I'd probably be getting steady paid work -maybe even editing books for a company- but the UK? Nothing. People have made Wikipedia entries on me under British comics and the British Small Press....they seemed shocked that those entries are removed within a day or two. Perhaps I ought to have gone the brown-nose route or even continuously just published "pot-boiler" books on comics using the work of others free of charge as "examples". Hmm?
At least in US and European data bases -Lambiek et al- I have recognition.
I am open to paying work offers you know!
And I do so love the 'joke' emails such as "Did you come to the Melksham Comic Con?" (amongst others) because they want to see your photos, blog posts and reviews of the events. I trash these messages. "Why, Terry?" Well: (1) I was NEVER invited. (2) I never "won" a table there as a trader and (3) these people only contact me when THEY want something. Everything else it's silence or "**** off. We can't publicise your books or mention you! Just give US publicity!"
Meandering post for a meandering Tuesday....now I need to go chase the sparrowhawk off!
Starting in three weeks, I will be on tour in the US and UK.
Here are the dates!
Tues, Sept 23
New York Public Library, Jefferson Market Branch
425 Ave of the Americas
New York, NY 10011 For this special launch event, I will be joined by Libba Bray, Maureen Johnson, David Levithan, and Robin Wasserman! Books will be on sale here, as at all events.
Tues, Oct 21
1378 Lincoln Ave
San Jose, CA 95129
Wed, October 22, 2014
7:00PM Books Inc. Opera Plaza
601 Van Ness St
San Francisco, CA 94102 This is a special ticketed event, where I’ll be giving loads of writing advice. Price includes a copy of the book. Fifteen percent of proceeds go to NaNoWriMo!
The Loft asked me for a blog post about diversity in kidlit:
“It’s so easy as an adult to fall into rigid and boring habits of mind about what young people “need” from us—as if all we had to offer was medicine—but a great thing about teaching a class for teens about fisticuffs and fornication is that conventional notions of what young people today “need” are pretty much out the window from the start. This was a class about wanting…”
You like playing video games? I like playing video games. You like computer programming? I love computer programming.
Oh, and I love books, so I decided to write a video game for my newest book, TUT: THE STORY OF MY IMMORTAL LIFE (Starscape/Tor, September 16, 2014)! And because I have kids of my own and see how much they love to learn about computer programming, I used the platform SCRATCH to write the game.
In case you've never heard of SCRATCH, it is an amazing platform used in a lot of schools to teach computer programming. Kids from all over the world use SCRATCH to write games and share them with others.
If you are a SCRATCH user and you want to follow me on SCRATCH, my userid is triciajh.
Things you can do with the TUT: THE STORY OF MY IMMORTAL LIFE video game: * Play the game! * Change the game! Remix the game on the SCRATCH website. * Make your own! Write your own video game using SCRATCH based on TUT: THE STORY OF MY IMMORTAL LIFE. * Write your own video game using SCRATCH based on *any* book you love. * Spread the love! Tell your friends, parents, librarians, and teachers about it.
We start with the Tinker and Pauly-Rabbit hanging out in a wasteland, encountering streams of fictional refugees, streaming from The Wave.
Then we switch to a detective in Australia, who partners up with Danny--the reader from the last issue in Tommy Taylor and the War of Words--to infiltrate the Tommy Taylor cult. Tom and Richie then go hide out and deal with some very real ghosts in Tom’s past.
This is a good “must set up next plot point” volume, but nothing spectacular. EXCEPT that it introduces us to Danny and Didge (the detective), and they are awesome and great additions. (Also, let’s give a shout to Didge, who’s Aboriginal and dyslexic. Turns out dyslexia is a pretty great defense against Pullman’s freaky fiction hand! Also, she’s generally awesome and literally kicks a lot of ass.)
Book Provided by... my local library
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Just checking the Top 10 CBO posting for today up to 15:20 hrs, BST. And it looks like this:
5 Mar 2014
2. 我会推荐什么漫画书？(looking at Silver Age The Avengers comic)
13 Apr 2014
3. As More Boots Go In...
1 Sep 2014, 4 comments
4. Cinebook The 9th Art: Alone 2 - The Master of Knives
8 Aug 2014
5. I KNOW You Are Out There.....
1 Sep 2014, 5 comments
6. Cinebook The 9th Art: The Scorpion 8 - In the Name Of The Father
8 Aug 2014
7. Dr Strange....UK Counterparts in Comics?
31 Aug 2014, 2 comments
8. I Have A "Few" Comics
2 Sep 2014
9. A Line Drawn.....
31 May 2014
10. Green Skies
12 Dec 2013
It seems that people visiting CBO, the majority from China but also from many other parts of the world…hmm, let’s see the countries in order for today –most hits first:
The UK, my home country, is always fourth or fifth in the list though the number of hits is still very high.China –BLESS YOU!- sustain CBO.The United States is always in second place –come on, USA: push those hits!France, Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands (nowhere to be seen today!) are also usually in the top ten –ditto Russia and Ukraine.
Now, looking at the countries in order for this month:
I enjoy this sort of breakdown work occasionally. Just like the old days.
But you may ask why, with 1,583,458 visits in total in total to CBO and well over 709,000 views on Google+ (I suspect the folk there do not want to travel off site and so read all the CBO goodies from there) there is an absolute drought of advertising requests?Not the dubious “We want to put links in line with your site on the site” (but NEVER any details of what or how much) and certainly not what I have to call the absolute con of “Payment for each click of an ad”.
Let me explain, firstly you have absolutely NO SAY in what the ads are –if you try to check them out you lose any money for “breaching the rules” –seriously. No. When I saw how many clicks ads placed on CBO had gotten I thought “Whoopee!”No, again. I ‘earned’ 0.7 cents. That’s, what, 2p in the UK.Also, Project Wonderful. Advertisers getting LOTS of hits via CBO ads but not willing to pay more than 1 cent (US) per day.After three months I had ‘earned’ 0.10 pence (3c US).
It is a major con used to convince bloggers they can earn money.Madebymarket.com deals with this issue:
“On average anywhere from 1-10% of your visitors might click on an ad, so just to be safe assume some low number like 1%. To calculate how much your ads are worth, you can take the cost per click and multiply it by the number of clicks you can expect to get based on your traffic. So, if you have 100 page views and a click through rate of 1%, you will get 1 click on average. If your CPC (cost per click) is $1, then you might make $1 per 100 page views. The same formula is used to determine CPM, which is the cost per 1,000 ad views. In the case of the above estimate, you are looking at a CPM of $10.
Now, given an average CPM, it becomes pretty obvious how traffic impacts how much money you can make with Google AdSense. At $10 CPM, you need 10,000 pageviews to make $100. Next time you see a picture of someone holding up an AdSense check, think about how much traffic they needed to make that money. For many people, it is not possible to get that much traffic.”
And that is the point.Who, coming to CBO sees an ad and thinks “Wow! A new line in lingerie!”Or “Wow, really? I needn’t suffer baldness or loss of hair?”Ads are, supposedly, tailored to your site.I even made sure that I defined the ads I wanted on my site based on the audience: comics, graphics novels, animation, movie and so on. Yeah, they weren’t having that. And, since I am against gambling….well. So, I never bother trying to make money from the existing Adsense or Project Wonderful.It’s a waste of space –except for the companies involved.
Also, I’ve stopped trying to fathom out WHY so many people visit CBO.The stats seem to suggest a lot look at posts a year or more old as well as the new postings.It is a big site so not unusual.But it means CBO postings (including Google+) have hit around 2 million.Last month alone CBO views totalled almost 58,000.
I do accept bribes for good reviews, t-shirts (large please), DVDs to review, comic related toys and other merchandise.In fact, since I’ve never been offered a bribe I think we can scratch that one.
So, it pays –publicity wise- to send review books and other stuff to CBO!Whether Small or Independent press or bigger companies whatever arrives is 100% guaranteed to be reviewed because I do not just select what I want to review! Stay tuned.
Like most first conversations and bad first drafts, my (WD’s Managing Editor Adrienne Crezo) interview with Ransom Riggs begins with a discussion about the weather. And not just any weather, either, but peculiar versions of standard precipitation: dust storms, cloudbursts, thundersnow and tornadoes. Of course, Riggs is experiencing none of those phenomena as he sits in the warmth of the never-ending summer of Los Angeles. “I hate to tell you what it’s like here right now,” he says. “No, I don’t. It’s gorgeous. Just perfect.”
That kind of easygoing humor is familiar to Riggs’ fans. Readers of his New York Times bestselling young adult novel Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children and its sequel, Hollow City, convene on Twitter (@ransomriggs) and Instagram (instagram.com/ransomriggs) to follow the seemingly unshakable optimism of a guy who really enjoys what he does. Life is uncomplicated for Riggs, as is his approach to work and writing. “[I never] set out to be a writer,” he tells me. “I took a fiction class [in college], but … I just thought, That’d be a fun thing to do for a semester, not, This is my future.”
Whatever dreams Riggs may have had about his future, he couldn’t have predicted the wild success of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, a tale of time travel and magic set against the eerie backdrop of unnerving black-and-white photos of levitating girls and creepy twin clowns. Before Peculiar Children’s release in 2011, the film rights had already been snapped up by 20th Century Fox, and the movie, directed by none other than Tim Burton, is slated for release in summer 2015. Hollow City, second of the three planned Peculiar Children books, was released in January 2014. And in the midst of all this, Riggs also released Talking Pictures, a coffee-table book of found photographs, in 2012.
It’s easy to see why Riggs is enjoying the ride, but what appears to have happened overnight actually evolved over many years. It started with a love of film and photography, which led him to collecting old secondhand photographs. In 2009, Riggs was encouraged by an editor at Quirk Books to use the found pictures as the basis of a novel. At the time, Riggs was writing daily for mentalfloss.com, a popular general-interest trivia website, editing and filming short documentaries, and shooting photo essays as he traveled. He laughs to himself as he recalls his initial reaction to the conversation: “OK, Quirk. No one’s going to read that. Let me go back to blogging.”
Luckily, Riggs decided to take the editor’s advice. He compiled his found photos and wound a weird, twisting tale around them—and, in return, an eager YA audience turned the Peculiar Children series into an unlikely hit. Here, Riggs talks about his writing and social media habits, why he doesn’t follow rules, and why it’s important to take time off.
Your photo collection plays a huge role in the Peculiar Children books. Can you tell us how you started collecting people’s castoff snapshots?
I was at this swap meet in Pasadena [in 2009] called the Rose Bowl. I knew people sold old photographs, sort of in the corner of my mind, but I was never very interested in them … because they all looked like junk. But then I found a booth at this particular swap meet that was operated by a fellow named Leonard, who had clearly gone through many, many, many bins of photos and chosen his favorite 200 and put them in little plastic sleeves. I started looking at them and I [thought], Wow, there’s something really special here. This guy has the eye of a curator, and every [photo] is like a little piece of lost, orphaned folk art. That’s really cool! As someone who grew up loving photography in every way I could, I would have loved to have had a photo collection of my own, but I couldn’t afford to buy prints. … So I thought, Here is a way I could start my own little museum of photographs.You get to be your own curator; you’re rescuing them from the trash and saying, “I decide this is art, and I’m going to keep it.”
It occurred to me, as I collected more and more, that my taste in these photos ran in very specific directions. One was a sort of Edward Gorey-esque Victorian creepiness, and the other was photos with writing on them. I always felt like these were completely anonymous photos. … If they’ve written a little bit on the picture, especially if it’s more than just a label, if it’s a thought or a feeling or something revelatory, there’s a window into this lost world that suddenly has context where it did not before. That’s interesting.
Do you collect photos now solely for book material, or is it still a thing you just enjoy doing?
It’s still partly just a hobby. Maybe one day they’ll find their way into something I do, but maybe not. I just like owning them.
I started without anything in particular in mind to do with [the photos]; I just sort of wanted to have them. … And they’re not all creepy. There are so many I have that I love that are just sort of evocative in some simple way—the look on someone’s face, or a cool angle or interesting subject or something. I have a lot that I don’t even necessarily know that I’ll use—they don’t fit in the Peculiar Children books and they don’t fit in [Talking Pictures]. I just like them.
In Peculiar Children and its sequel, Hollow City, your protagonist, Jacob, has some pretty interesting magical powers, but he’s also a teenager with all the typical teenager woes. You’ve called Jacob your “fantasy self.” How much of you is in Jacob, really?
You’d have to be a literary critic or a psychiatrist to pick the writer out of his work. Every fictional story goes through this sort of blender process where you take some real experience … you know what’s real or true when you put it into the blender with fiction, and then it gets all mixed up with something that didn’t really happen, but there’s still a little of you in there. I think the writer is in there no matter what you do. You can’t really remove yourself from it.
Did you set out to be a novelist or did you have other plans?
No, I wanted to make movies. When I was a kid I wanted to be a novelist … but then around the eighth grade I discovered movies and I became completely obsessed and lost myself in this dream of making movies. My friends and I had a video camera, and we would make movies all the time.
I knew I wanted to go to film school, but I also knew I wanted to learn things first. I wanted to learn about the important ideas and read the great books, so I went to Kenyon [College], but always with the understanding that I would go to film school afterward.
[I] was chasing the white pony of having a film career [and] doing whatever I could do: making short films and editing things and freelance writing. The writing thing came about completely by accident. … I never really wanted [it], or looked for it. I feel like the opposite might be true, instead, where if I’d tried really hard to be a writer, maybe someone would’ve [asked], “Do you want to be a filmmaker instead?” And I would’ve [said], “OK”—the theory of inverse effort.
I think [filmmaking] was a way for me to get into novel writing, which is not something I might have done on my own. Now that I’m doing it, I find that with each Peculiar Children book I have to work harder to include photos. The story has all this momentum of its own now.
Will that momentum carry the Peculiar Children series beyond the three books you have planned?
This story that I’m telling now will conclude in book three, but I think I’ll leave the door open to that world. I’m going to do something else next, but I will probably come back and write more [books for the series] one day.
Do you follow any specific writing rules?
I always distrust overly specific writing advice. I don’t agree with it, necessarily. When you’re thinking about what to write or how to write something, it’s too easy to make a lot of arbitrary rules for yourself. I think the difficult thing with learning how to write is not learning the style or rules, but figuring out what story you want to tell.
I spent a lot of time telling the wrong stories, especially when … I was in college or when I was a kid trying to imitate C.S. Lewis or Stephen King. I never understood why my writing didn’t take off. I would think, Well, the sentences are correct, and the characters are talking and everything looks right, and it seems like a story. I did exactly what [they] told me to do, but there’s no blood in it and I don’t know why. It’s something you have to learn, how to tell the right stories for you, and it’s this completely ineffable thing.
What about schedules? Do you wake up some days and think, I’m not going to write; I’m not going to edit. Do you take days off?
Oh, all the time! Sometimes I say, “Today, I’m going to clean my house and go to the movies.” Or, “Today, [my wife] Tahereh and I are going to ride our bikes and go and eat too much Persian food.” That happens a lot. That’s a lot of our days, actually.
I spent the last three months plotting book three [of the Peculiar Children series]. So just in the last couple of days I’ve transitioned into writing actual sentences on pages of the book, and now that I have that momentum, I do want to write every day—at least a little, just to keep the thread. A lot, preferably, but between books I’ll go months and months without writing. It’s exhausting. I’m just like, “I can’t.”
That’s a long break between projects! It’s a wonder that you fall back into the groove at all. Is writer’s block ever a problem for you?
I don’t really believe in that whole “wait for the muse to strike” thing. I’m more of a “sit your ass in a chair and start typing” guy. … People treat writer’s block like it’s this kind of mythical, mystical ailment. It’s actually a very specific problem, and that is that something is wrong with your story, or wrong with your scene, and you’re trying to do something that is not motivated by your characters. If your writer’s block is so complete that you don’t even know where to start, it’s probably that you’re not spending enough time at the keyboard. It’s all part of the process.
I also think that writer’s block comes from judging yourself too much, and [thinking], I only wrote one sentence today! I’m terrible!
How do you keep yourself in a chair and working when you’re so active on social media?
I find myself retreating from social media when I need to work. I realize that I’m becoming too dependent on talking to everyone on Twitter. It’s too distracting. I’m constantly reaching for it, like a drug or something.
You can spend a whole day clicking and scrolling and feeling like you’ve gotten something done—Oh man, that was a really funny tweet—but then at the end of the day you’re like, I did nothing. All day, I’ve done nothing at all. I have nothing to show for it. Except that funny tweet, of course.
So you live in Los Angeles with your wife, bestselling YA author Tahereh Mafi. And you two work together. Do you share a desk?
Yes. It’s a very long desk, very wide. So there’s space enough for our things and our laptops and all our books, and we put on our noise-canceling headphones and [work]. That’s the thing about being married to another writer—we know all of the ways in which the other person is weird and quirky, because all writers are a little weird and quirky. So we [know we] need our quiet, broody time, but then we need to run around and go have fun when writing time is over—when work is over—because we’ve been kind of cooped up inside of our own brains all day. It works. Somehow it works.
You share a lot of your social media time with Tahereh, too, which your fans seem to love. But it seems as if it could become overwhelming at a certain point. Do you ever try to hold back?
I think we’re pretty knee-deep in it all, we read a lot of it. And it’s largely positive, which I think is pretty rare. I’ve been waiting for negative weirdness to start to surface, but it hasn’t yet.
I wouldn’t keep posting pictures of Tahereh on Instagram if people didn’t keep going, “Yay! Give us more,” you know? I feel like we both have been waiting for the Internet to collectively be like, “OK, gag me, it’s enough already!” But, bafflingly, it hasn’t happened yet, so we just keep going.
How about some parting advice for writers?
Just unclench, live your life and spend less time berating yourself. Anxiety and stress are the enemies of creativity.
*********************************************************************************************************************** Adrienne Crezo is the managing editor of WD. She lives, works and writes in Ohio. Follow her on Twitter @a_crezo.