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1. Keep the Conversation Going – Services and Programs for Individuals with Disabilities

Full disclosure: I am not only a Children’s Librarian who advocates for inclusive programs and services for children with varying abilities, but I am also the parent of a child with a life-limiting genetic syndrome that causes significant developmental delays.  I am motivated to a great extent by my daughter to ensure that libraries across the country have the tools and training needed to create and/or improve their offerings for people with disabilities. It is my goal to have her enjoy visiting the library as much as I did as a child.

Many libraries today are addressing the needs of children with special needs to ensure inclusion in story time programs and successful visits for materials and other resources.  Sensory story times are the most popular offerings, but even a classic story time structure with simple modifications can be offered to include children with special needs.  If you are just getting started with creating inclusive story times and need some basic information to get the ball rolling, there is a great webinar offered through Infopeople that was put together by staff from the Contra Costa County Library (CA) titled, Inclusive Library Programs for People with Intellectual Disabilities. The webinar is fully archived with access to the presentation materials including slides, handouts, and the Q & A Chat with the live participants.  This webinar includes great information on creating inclusive programming for all ages as well as a segment focusing on Inclusive Story Time.

One of the resources suggested in the webinar to help you design appropriate content and develop a better understanding and awareness of the disabilities of children in your community is to connect with parents and professionals.  Communication with parents can be twofold.  It will provide insight into what parents feel are the needed adaptations and/or accommodations for their children to participate in a library story time, as well as create a channel for promoting your inclusive programming within the community.  Parents of children with special needs seek each other out and build strong networks of their own.  Getting the word out through these networks to promote your inclusive programs will help garner the participation and support you’ll need to make your program successful.

I have found many great resources for aiding youth librarians in educating themselves on getting started with programs and services to people with special needs.  One of the common concerns among staff is having the knowledge and understanding for working with children with disabilities.  I wasn’t prepared to be the mother to a child with significant health issues and developmental delays, but the more I worked with my daughter and cared for her, the more I have learned.  This will be true of working with children with special needs in the library.  You will learn more as you do more.  You’ll be thrilled to see how happy parents and local professionals will be to help teach you what you need to know.  Below is a list of several of the online resources I have recently found that can help you prepare for creating an inclusive environment for children of all abilities.

Professional Development:

Info People Webinar (Archived from August 2013), Inclusive Library Programs for People with Intellectual Disabilities

https://infopeople.org/civicrm/event/info?reset=1&id=55

Charlotte Mecklenburg County Library (Online Learning Archive)

http://www.cmlibrary.org/Programs/Special_Needs/

Association of Specialized and Cooperative Library Agencies: Library Accessibility – What you need to know

http://www.ala.org/ascla/asclaprotools/accessibilitytipsheets

SNAILS – Special Needs and Inclusive Library Services, a professional network of librarians in Illinois working towards increasing and improving inclusive services

http://snailsgroup.blogspot.com/

Resources and Examples:

Brooklyn Public Library – The Child’s Place, Information on programs for children with and without disabilities. Also check out their pamphlet about “Universal Design”.

http://www.bklynlibrary.org/only-bpl/childs-place

Skokie (IL) Public Library Resource List; a comprehensive list of print materials for adults and children

http://www.skokielibrary.info/s_kids/kd_COI/COI_bib.pdf

Center for Early Literacy Learning, resources for adapting activities during story time

http://www.earlyliteracylearning.org/pg_tier2.php

 ***************************************

Bethany Lafferty is the Assistant Branch Manager/Youth Services Department Head at Henderson Libraries – Green Valley Branch in Henderson, Nevada.  She can be followed on Twitter with the handle @balaff1.

Please note that as a guest post, the views expressed here do not represent the official position of ALA or ALSC.

If you’d like to write a guest post for the ALSC Blog, please contact Mary Voors, ALSC Blog manager, at alscblog@gmail.com.

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2. Win a Copy of STAINED and 7 other YA books!

Enter to win a copy of STAINED and 7 other great YA books! You have 25 days more to enter.

You can win:

STAINED by Cheryl Rainfield







The Caged Graves by Dianne K Salerni







Grunge Gods and Graveyards by Kimberly G Giarratano







Thin Space by Jody Casella







The Headhunters Race by Kimberly Afe







Touching The Surface by Kimberly Sabatini







Shattered Souls by Mary Lindsey







Catherine by April Lindner







Good luck!

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3. The Awakening of Miss Prim by Natalia Sanmartin Fenollera


This statement alone is enough to make me want to read this book:   

Steaming cups of tea, freshly baked cakes, and lovely company

What about you?

SPAIN
Awakening of Miss Prim_FC_Spain

UNITED KINGDOM

Awakening of Miss Prim_FC_UK
ITALY

GERMANY
Awakening of Miss Prim_FC_Germany

FRANCE
Awakening of Miss Prim_FC_France

UNITED STATES
Awakening of Miss Prim_FC
_________________

NATALIA SANMARTIN FENOLLERA

Natalia Sanmartin Fenollera is a journalist and has spent the majority of her professional career in the field investigating economic journalism.

The Awakening of Miss Prim is her debut novel.

natalia-sanmartin-fenollera-410797987
Awakening of Miss Prim_FC

The Awakening of Miss Prim by Natalia Sanmartin Fenollera is on sale now

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4. Comic: The Book Title

This comic was inspired by a post by the anonymous Intern years ago, before she came out as her true self: Hilary T. Smith, author of WILD AWAKE (Katherine Tegen Books/HarperCollins). See my interview with Hilary. Thanks to Hilary for permission to re-post the comic.

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5. I saw a tree

After digging around some of my previous work, I found a poem that I forgot about. I still really like this one, although it could use some work. I thought it would be fitting to share as we approach my favorite time of year, fall. I live in New England, so the fall foliage such an exquisite time of year and very inspiring to write about. I don't have a title for this one and I wrote it quickly without much drafting. So, take it as you will. I hope you enjoy!


I saw a tree still carrying

the burden of leaves.
Dead hanging corpses
clinging long past the autumn foliage
had fallen in coordinated beauty.

But losing time this tree held onto
it’s past in umber paper.
Written in veins of
newborn chicks,
summer sunsets, misty mornings
and it could not accept the death season.
And it could not
move on with fellow crooked, naked limbs
mirrored beside it.

So I looked at my own burdens
latched onto weighted limbs
refusing to part with them
in beauty or shortened days.
And interchangeable parts
I realized peers in
heavy coats and woolen hats
were just as naked as the trees around them.

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6. Audio Teachings: The Errors of the Trinity: Session Nine

trinity

Click the arrow to listen.

Do you have to believe in the Trinity to be saved? The short answer is no. The Bible does not mention a “Trinity,” let alone state that one must believe in it in order to attain salvation. Furthermore, no verse in Scripture says you must believe that Jesus Christ is God in order to be saved.

1. Jesus is the son of God – NOT GOD.
2. Soul is breath life; it’s what animates you and makes you a LIVE person. You lose your soul, your breath life, when you die.
3. Holy Spirit is the gift of salvation that is bestowed upon you when you do one simple thing:

Romans 10:9
That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.

Salvation is of the utmost importance, so let’s be sure we understand God’s instructions, which are really quite simple. To be saved, you must confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord. What does that mean? It means that you say what the Bible clearly declares—that Jesus is the Son of God who died for your sins, was raised from the dead, and highly exalted to the right hand of God. Have you ever opened your mouth and said, “Jesus is Lord?” Why not say it right now? It’s simple: “Jesus is Lord.”

Romans 10:9 goes on to say that along with confessing that Jesus is Lord, you are to believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead. What is it to believe in your heart? It means to really believe it. Is that difficult? No, not at all. You probably believe that George Washington was the first president of the United States, even though you never saw him. In the same way, there are many, many valid reasons to believe that God raised Jesus up from the dead.

For proof, read our article, “23 Arguments for the Historical Validity of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.”

Once you have confessed with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believed in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you are saved. Salvation is very easy because God wants all men to be saved (1 Tim. 2:4), and He is offering it as a free gift. The reason it is free to you is because Jesus Christ paid the price for it with his life.

[For further study, click here]

If what you have just listened to has been a blessing to you, please consider sowing into our continued outreach of the Gospel, all over the globe.

To donate online via PayPal or any major credit card, click here. To contact the folks at Truth or Tradition, click here.

We trust you have enjoyed this free online class. God bless you!

Check out Truth or Tradition teachings on:

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Filed under: Abundant Life

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7. Which book do you wish were turned into a movie?


Over at io9, Esther Inglis-Arkell ranked ten classic YA books she wished were turned into movies.

I wasn't actually familiar with those, but it definitely got me thinking. Which book do you wish were turned into a movie?

This is a tricky, tricky choice for me. On the one hand, classics like The Great Gatsby and Moby-Dick are difficult to transition to the screen, which gives me pause about picking something too literary. On the other hand, who knew that The Godfather would have been so elevated in Francis Ford Coppola's hands?

It turns out that some of my initial choices are already in the works, including Child 44, which is currently in production, Spin by Robert Charles Wilson, which is rumored to be considered for a TV show, and Motherless Brooklyn by Jonathan Lethem, also in development.

Thus, I would have to go with The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon. What about you?

(And no, you're not allowed to answer "my own!")

Art: The Photographer Sescau by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec

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8. App of the Week: Heyday

Heyday logoApp: Heyday
Cost: Free
Platform: iOS (with Android coming soon)

Have you ever wished that you kept a journal, but not been able to find the time? Want to track everything you do without announcing it to everyone you know? If so, Heyday is the app for you. This journaling app automates the process of tracking what you do each day while keeping all of the information private.

To get started with the app, you are asked to give it access to both the media library and the location data on your device. Heyday automatically compiles this information to create an entry for each day that data is collected on your device. Photos (and videos) that are pulled into the app are automatically made into a collage.

Though the app will work without any input, you can also customize each day’s entry by adding notes, rearranging the images, or adding additional location information. If you want, you can also change which images are included in the journal and how they are arranged in the day’s collage. Fans of Instagram and similar photo apps will be happy to know that you can also add separate filters to each of the images, which allows you to display your photos to their best effect. If you are particularly happy with one day’s collage, you can also share it to Facebook, Instagram or Twitter, or send it via email or text message from within the app. Alternatively, you can also save collages to your device’s media library, making it easy to use them in other apps or simply view them outside of the app.

Heyday truly makes daily journal entries as easy as possible. As an added feature, the app offers the option to create an account, which allows Heyday to automatically sync your journal with the cloud periodically so that you have a backup if anything happens to your device. However, even if you would prefer not to create an account or share your content outside of your device, you can use all of the features. Heyday is a great option for those who want to journal in theory but never manage to in practice.

Have a suggestion for App of the Week? Let us know. And find more great Apps in the YALSA Blog’s App of the Week Archive.

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9. The Human Body: An Energy Field Connected to Other Energy Fields

Body as transmitter of information and energy

A Connection of Energy Fields

From Asian cultures we learn that the body is essentially an energy field connected directly or indirectly to all other energy fields in the universe. Because all fields are interconnected, they are capable of transferring information and energy. That means we have access to an infinite amount of information. We are all aware of how we receive and send information through the five senses of taste, touch, smell, sight and hearing.  But what about the so-called sixth sense?

Receiving and Sending Intuitive Information and Energy

Many of us are not so aware how we can send and receive information and energy through intuition in the form meditation and dreams. The intuitive images, sounds, feelings, and sensations that we pick up spontaneously or receive in dreams and meditation are identifying symbols for unique, relevant information and energy within and without us that can be used to help ourselves and others. Any of the senses can be a vehicle for an intuitive message because our bodies are wonderfully designed to transmit information through the five senses as well as the sixth sense of intuition. Just as we pick up data through touch, sight, hearing, smell and taste coming from outside us, we can register intuitive data coming from within us through those same senses.

Sending intuitive information and loving energy is very much like using our senses to send and receive information about what we see or hear except we do it in an intuitive, altered state of awareness such as meditation, deep prayer or dreams. In these states we intend to receive or to transmit information or energy, and it happens! We can intend to have dreams that will help someone else by giving deeper understanding, clues to resolution or a diagnosis of the issue. While in meditation or prayer, we can send healing energy and even information to someone through the imagination and intention.

When you think of the body as a bundle of energy in addition to it’s amazing physical capabilities, it is truly amazing.


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10. Wednesday Poetry Prompts: 276

If you haven’t yet, be sure to check out my announcement of the 2015 Poet’s Market. (Click here.)

For this week’s prompt, write a news poem. When I’m really in a creative rut, there’s one constant source of new ideas for me: the news! There are the big headlines; there’s the sports page, the comics, and the advertisements. One of my former professors (James Cummins) would have us read the “News of the Weird” for ideas. There’s always plenty happening in the world to prompt a poem.

Note of caution: Remember that news is (or should be) impartial. The poems inspired by the news need not be. That said, please be respectful of each other’s views and opinions. Even when we don’t all agree on a topic, we should still listen with open minds and hearts.

*****

Publish Your Poetry!

Learn how to get your poetry published with the latest (and greatest) edition of Poet’s Market. The 2015 Poet’s Market is filled with articles on the craft, business, and promotion of poetry, in addition to poet interviews and original poetry by contemporary poets.

Plus, the book is filled with hundreds of listings for poetry book publishers, chapbook publishers, magazines, journals, contests, grants, conferences, and more!

Click to continue.

*****

Here’s my attempt at a News Poem:

“5 Things to Start Your Day”

An American journalist
beheaded in a foreign land.

Water bottles provoked police
in demonstrations here at home.

A new Icelandic volcano
threatens to disrupt air travel.

Another patient is tested
for Ebola in the U.S.

Two cardinals and a goldfinch
have visited your bird feeder.

roberttwitterimage*****

Robert Lee Brewer is Senior Content Editor of the Writer’s Digest Writing Community and author of the poetry collection, Solving the World’s Problems (Press 53). He edits Poet’s Market, Writer’s Market, and Guide to Self-Publishing, in addition to writing a free weekly WritersMarket.com newsletter and poetry column for Writer’s Digest magazine.

A former Poet Laureate of the Blogosphere, Robert has been a featured poet at events across the country and is married to poet Tammy Foster Brewer, who helps him keep track of their five little poets. He’s written and shared more than 600 original poems on this blog over the years.

Follow him on Twitter @robertleebrewer.

*****

Find more poetry-related stuff here:

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11. Rotten Ralph's Rotten Family


When I was growing up both The Musters and The Addams Family were on TV. For me--then and now--the people I knew could be divided into two camps: Munster or Addams. I was (am) very firmly pro Addams. In fact, I confess to sneering a bit at those who preferred the less sophisticated Munsters. In the world of easy readers something similar is going on with a couple of bad cats. I'm talking about Jack Gantos's Rotten Ralph and Nick Bruel's Bad Kitty. Bad Kitty would be right at home in the Addams's macabre mansion, while Rotten Ralph would be tormenting Spot in 1313 Mockingbird Lane.

Although Rotten Ralph lacks the finesse of Bad Kitty, he's not without his charms. And in his latest outing, the bad-tempered feline returns home to visit his family to try to understand just why he's so rotten. Sarah, Rotten Ralph's put upon owner, is at the end of her rope when she can't find a catsitter willing to take on her disobedient pet. She issues an ultimatum to Ralph: "There better be some changes in the morning…or else!" In his bedroom, Ralph flips through a photo album that shows him in his younger years tormenting his feline family. The trip down memory lane inspires Ralph to return home.

Ralph's reunion is anything but sweet. With the exception of his mother, the other members of his family show their own rotten side, and by the end of his visit Ralph has an epiphany: He turned out rotten because everyone was rotten to him. A repentant Ralph returns to Sarah determined to reform. Will it last? Fans needn't worry. Ralph is sure to be his rotten self again by the next installment.

Rotten Ralph's Rotten Family
By Jack Gantos
Illustrated by Nicole Rubel
Farrar Straus Giroux, 48 pages
Published: March 2014

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12. Jarrett J. Krosoczka On Finding Inspiration in a School Cafeteria

Where do you find inspiration? For Jarrett J. Krosoczka, his imagination was sparked during a nostalgic trip back to his old school cafeteria and a chance meeting with his lunch lady Jeannie.

In a talk delivered at TED@NYC, Krosoczka shared the story of how he conceived the Lunch Lady graphic novel series and launched School Lunch Hero Day. We’ve embedded the full presentation in the video above.

Last year, Krosoczka gave a heartwarming talk at TEDx Hampshire College about how writing and art saved his life in grade school. According to the TED blog, Krosoczka prepared this particular talk in less than 4 hours.

New Career Opportunities Daily: The best jobs in media.

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13. Samples: Late August Cruisin’

This was a fun piece–Fresh OFF the drawing board! I thought this befitting for late August. : )

cruise-4up1

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14. My latest TED Talk! "Why Lunch Ladies are Heroes"




I am delighted to announce that the talk that I gave at TED@NYC has been curated to the main page of TED.com! I'm pinching myself to have made it to the main page of TED again. Please take a moment to watch, and learn about how School Lunch Hero Day was formed and the heroes that it celebrates!

Happy Back-to-School Season!

All of my very best,
Jarrett

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15. High Tea at Kensington Palace Orangery


So I come to the end of an unscheduled blog break. This summer has been about attempting to keep my financial head above water and setting up my supplies business. It has also been about sorting out my personal life and what happens next after the horrors of last year. So far it is all a bit uncertain. There have been one or two lovely highlights though.

 

Being treated to high tea at the Kensington Palace Orangery was one of them.

 

Dressed as I was in my old leather biker jacket and army boots, my old friend and I were given the most prompt and courteous of service by exquisite young waiters.



Tea was served and we genteelly dived in.




Having not seen each other in person for several years, my old friend and I had much to talk about, in-between debating which sandwich or cake to have.



The orange-scented and currant scones served with Cornish clotted cream and strawberry jam were naturally, divine.


And served on crested china.


It was all so very delightful and so very, very civilised. As my kind and generous friend observed, tea and cake put many things right. Though that theory has been sorely tested this summer.


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16. I finally have a book deal!

Guys, I've been running a little bit lately, and that's because I will have a book out in Spring 2016!

Women Heroes of the Civil War, which will be published by Chicago Review Press, will be about the women soldiers, spies, and medics who braved intense fire in the bloodiest battles in America.

I especially like the women soldiers. Can you imagine living among a whole army of men and hiding from all of them that you were a woman? A number of them made it through the war (or died in action) and were never found out.

Emma Edmonds served with the 2nd Michigan, for instance!

It's such a cool topic and I have been listening to Civil War audiobooks and digging through a pile of books and resources just to get all these hooks in my mind to hang all this new information upon. Right now I'm listening to Grant's Memoirs at work and Walt Whitman's journals in the car (he worked as a nurse in Washington D.C. during the war) and chasing down photographs and doing research.

My deadline is June 15 of next year. By that date I have to turn in a full MS with photos and permissions, maps (for the designers to work from), the stories about the 20 women I'm focusing on, as well as sources, a bibliography, and an introduction about the events leading up to the war and the part that women played in it.

Whew!

I am trying to keep my perfectionistic tendancies at bay so I can get this thing accomplished. "Imperfect action is better than perfect inaction," to quote President Truman.

Wish me luck, guys, because you can bet I'm going to need all the moral support I can get. Immoral support is also acceptable.

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17. Paula: Late August Cruisin'

This was a fun piece--Fresh OFF the drawing board! I thought this befitting for late August. : )

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18. Picture Book Techniques for Novelists

Many of the lessons learned in writing picture books are also applicable to writing novels. 

http://taralazar.com/2014/07/08/using-picture-book-techniques-in-novels-by-anna-staniszewski/

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19. Conquer the Dreaded Synopsis: Construct Your Ultimate Sales Tool – Aug. 21 Webinar With Agent Nephele Tempest

nephele_tempestA strong, compelling synopsis serves as a vital sales tool at every stage of your career. Whether you are a new writer starting to submit to agents or a multi-published author proposing a project to your editor, you need to be able to write a synopsis that meets your needs. That means not only writing an interesting synopsis that shows off your project to its best advantage, but tailoring it to suit different purposes. A synopsis written from a completed manuscript differs from one written as part of a proposal.

In this live 90-minute webinar — titled “Conquer the Dreaded Synopsis: Construct Your Ultimate Sales Tool” —  literary agent Nephele Tempest will show you how to tackle the task head on, and to generate the right synopsis for your project—and your audience. Shake off your fear and frustration and master the art of writing the synopsis. It all happens at 1 p.m., EST, Thursday, August 21, 2014, and lasts 90 minutes.

WHAT YOU’LL LEARN:

  • Break down your plot into manageable parts
  • Emphasize the most important details of your project
  • Build interest in your story while remaining concise
  • Maintain a tone consistent with your manuscript
  • Produce a synopsis for a project that is incomplete
  • Adapt the length of your synopsis depending on its intended use

INSTRUCTOR

U8059Nephele Tempest joined The Knight Agency in January, 2005, opening the Los Angeles office. She comes from a diverse publishing and finance background, having worked in the editorial department at Simon and Schuster, as a financial advisor at Dean Witter, in the marketing and communications departments of several major New York investment firms, and as a freelance writer. Her experiences in sales, marketing, and writing provide her with insights into multiple aspects of the publishing industry. Nephele belongs to the Association of Authors’ Representatives (AAR) and Romance Writers of America (RWA). She continues to actively build her client list, and is currently seeking works in the following genres: literary/commercial fiction, women’s fiction, science fiction, fantasy, single-title romance, historical fiction, young adult and middle grade fiction.

WHO SHOULD ATTEND?

  • Writers who have no idea how to start writing a synopsis
  • Writers whose existing synopsis sounds dull and lifeless in comparison to their novel
  • Writers who cannot find a way to cut their synopsis down to an appropriate length
  • Writers who cannot get past the query stage when submitting to agents
  • Writers interested in selling work based on several opening chapters and a synopsis

HOW DOES THE CRITIQUE WORK?

All registrants are invited to submit their revised synopsis. All submitted synopses are guaranteed a written critique by literary agent Nephele Tempest. Nephele reserves the right to request to see a partial or full manuscript by e-mail following the event, if the project interests her. Instructions on how to submit your work are sent after you have purchased the webinar and officially register in Go-to-Webinar. When you have registered in GTW, you will receive a confirmation email from gotowebinar@citrixonline.com, which contains the information you need to access the live webinar AND the Critique Submission Instructions.

Sign up now!

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20. Flogometer for Karyne—are you compelled to turn the page?

Submissions Needed—just one for next week in the queue. If you’d like a fresh look at your opening chapter or prologue, please email your submission to me re the directions at the bottom of this post.


The Flogometer challenge: can you craft a first page that compels me to turn to the next page? Caveat: Please keep in mind that this is entirely subjective.

Note: all the Flogometer posts are here.

What's a first page in publishingland? In a properly formatted novel manuscript (double-spaced, 1-inch margins, 12-point type, etc.) there should be about 16 or 17 lines on the first page (first pages of chapters/prologues start about 1/3 of the way down the page). Directions for submissions are below--new: I've added a request to post the rest of the chapter.

A word about the line-editing in these posts: it’s “one-pass” editing, and I don’t try to address everything, which is why I appreciate the comments from the FtQ tribe. In a paid edit, I go through each manuscript three times.

Storytelling Checklist

Before you rip into today’s submission, consider this list of 6 vital storytelling ingredients from my book, Flogging the Quill, Crafting a Novel that Sells. While it's not a requirement that all of these elements must be on the first page, they can be, and I think you have the best chance of hooking a reader if they are.

Evaluate the submission—and your own first page—in terms of whether or not it includes each of these ingredients, and how well it executes them. The one vital ingredient not listed is professional-caliber writing because that is a must for every page, a given.

  • Story questions
  • Tension (in the reader, not just the characters)
  • Voice
  • Clarity
  • Scene-setting
  • Character

Karyne sends the first chapter of Magic Despised. The rest of the chapter is after the break.

It always started with a spell. Something simple, like a cup of ale. But her power had its limits. Every time they asked for magic, Julana knew how it would end.

“Be a dear and fetch us some stew,” Luna said.

Julana paused, arms raised to remove her apron. The blue sky teased her from the tiny window. So much for a free afternoon. It wasn't worth refusing them. When she was fourteen they killed her pet goat because she rebelled. It would take longer than three years to get over that lesson. Luna shifted on the wooden settee covered with straw pillows and narrowed her eyes. Did the pillows really aid Luna’s comfort or was her large backside cushion enough?

“Yes, Aunt Luna,” Julana said. She tied her apron back in place and made her way across the main living area to the kitchen. Luna wasn't really her aunt, but in order to keep up the facade the Klups insisted Julana practice at home.

“And Julana…” Alazer’s deep voice stopped her in her tracks. She didn’t turn to face him; she knew what he would say. “Be sure you use magic. There’s no reason for you to make us wait all night.”

Julana’s stomach dropped. “Yes, sir.” It was a test. Why did they always test her limits? They had just as much magic as she did. That never changed. And unlike her, they enjoyed using it.

Were you compelled to turn Karyne's first page? Were you compelled to turn Karyne's first page?

I do like the writing and the voice, and there is tension in the scene. Yet there’s not much in the way of story questions raised, nor a sense of jeopardy to her or consequences. The next page has a greater sense of that and, considering that in fantasy an author is often granted time to set up the world, it might have done the trick. Here’s the stuff that would be nice to see on the first page:

The stew was easy enough. She drew energy from her blood to summon water from the well. The sight of water soaring through the air made her grimace. If anyone happened to see, they would all be hanged for witchcraft.

There is a clarity issue here, though—I thought the well was outside, and it may be, so I thought this was happening there. But a little later she goes outside, so the water is coming into the kitchen from outside. That isn’t clear, and needs to be. Having it soar through the kitchen window rather than the air is all it would take.

The voice and the world are good, but, since this opening could be stronger, I’m giving it an almost. But read on, there are interesting things to come and clear and serious danger to her ahead—and you’re going to despise the “aunt” and “uncle,” bad guys through and through. Notes:

It always started with a spell. Something simple, like a cup of ale. But her power had its limits. Every time they asked for magic, Julana knew how it would end. But the reader doesn’t, so this doesn’t mean much. This is an opportunity to introduce tension and jeopardy. For example, what it this sentence ended this way: Julana knew how it would end—with her blood. Wouldn’t that crank up the tension a little?

“Be a dear and fetch us some stew,” Luna said.

Julana paused, arms raised to remove her apron. The blue sky teased her from the tiny window. So much for a free afternoon. It wasn't worth refusing them. When she was fourteen they had killed her pet goat because she rebelled. It would take longer than three years to get over that lesson. Luna shifted on the wooden settee covered with straw pillows and narrowed her eyes. Did the pillows really aid Lunas comfort or was her large backside cushion enough? A few things here. I didn’t feel that her wearing an apron contributed sufficiently to story or character. “It wasn’t worth refusing them” sounds like she’s being inconvenienced, but the following line suggests far more. Instead, how about something to the effect that it was dangerous to refuse them? I cut the description of Luna because I’d rather have a little more setting of the scene. Are they in a one-room hut? Farmhouse?

“Yes, Aunt Luna,” Julana said. She tied her apron back in place and made her way across the main living area to the kitchen. Luna wasn't really her aunt, but in order to keep up the facade the Klups insisted Julana practice at home. Don’t need the apron.

“And Julana…” Alazer’s deep voice stopped her in her tracks. She didn’t turn to face him; she knew what he would say. “Be sure you use magic. There’s no reason for you to make us wait all night.” “stopped her in her tracks” is a cliché, look for a fresh way to show it.

Julana’s stomach dropped. “Yes, sir.” It was a test. Why did they always test her limits? They had just as much magic as she did. That never changed. And unlike her, they enjoyed using it.

 

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Ray

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Flogging the Quill © 2014 Ray Rhamey, story © 2014 Karyne

 

 (continued)

Was it really worth it to the Klups? That same energy brought the water to a boil. The cupboards were well stocked with carrots and potatoes and Julana sighed in relief. Very little magic was needed.

“Where is the meat? We want venison stew,” Alazer said. He pushed away the bowl she served, his mouth twisted in a scowl. “Honestly, you can be so dense.”

“Sorry, Uncle Alazer,” Julana said. Tears pricked her eyes, but not over his reaction. She would have to make an unecessary kill. His beefy hand shot out to grab her wrist and the familiar sense of invasion swept over her. His tracking spell.

“Be back before the sun’s sleep.”

She pulled her cloak around her shoulders and grabbed her bow and quiver. A blast of cold air hit her face, but she found it refreshing. The sun defied the wind and enveloped her in its rays. In a few weeks it woud be warm enough to leave her cloak behind.

A twinge of pain flashed across her foot. Her time was limited by his spell. The Klups had been her guardians for as long as she could remember. More like her prison guards. They used their magic to control her, but they used her magic to get what they really wanted: money, power, revenge. It didn't matter they were only requesting venison stew this time. She'd seen them use her magic for unspeakable things, and she refused to be caught in their web of desire. She would never use magic by choice.

It only took moments to reach the forest's edge. The shade folded around her as she stepped between the trees. She strapped on her armguard and pulled an arrow from her quiver. With a sigh, she nocked the arrow and anchored her hand at her cheek.

She closed her eyes.

The loss of vision encouraged her other senses to take over. Crisp mountain air with fresh pine scent flooded every breath. Birds twittered and trees creaked. Warmth surged through Julana's veins as she called the creature in her mind. She hated that they trusted her. Soft footfalls crunched in the remaining snow. Tears snuck past Julana's lids and crept down her cheeks as she loosed her arrow.

The arrow met its mark. She didn't need to look to know for certain. She couldn't bear to look. Instead, she studied the fresh green foliage poking through the slush as she approached the fallen doe. She dropped to her knees and laid her cheek across its still chest.

"Forgive me," she whispered. "Today should not have been your day. There was no need. May the Stars bless you for your sacrifice."

Julana propped her bow against a tree. Her hands shook. She was reaching the limits of her magic, but she drew the power back to her heart anyway and flooded it out to her muscles. With a slight groan, she lifted the deer in her arms and carried it back to the house. With the last of her magic, she skinned, portioned, and cooked the venison. She wouldn't let the deer's sacrifice go to waste. Conflicted relief flooded through her. Her magic was drained and it would take time for her blood to draw more energy from the sun. They couldn't force her to use her magic at this point. But there were other things they could do.

"That's more like it," Alazer said. He inhaled the gamey steam but didn't bother taking a bite. He set the wooden bowl next to his cup. "I should like some entertainment with my meal."

Luna rose from her chair and made her way to the table. "I should like some new clothes," she muttered.

"Fine, whichever you'd like to do first." He waved his hand as though the generous choice should put Julana at ease.

"I've used all my magic. You know my limits," Julana said.

"Foolish girl," Luna said. "You know those aren't really your limits." Her lip curled.

Julana shuddered. This was where the test always ended.

"Hold out your hand, Julana," Alazer stood, his face passive. She tried to match it, but her eyes darted between her wrist and the knife in his hand. Her own hand was like lead as she lifted it, palm up. "Now your other hand."

She frowned and met his unrelenting gaze. He'd never asked for both before. How much blood would he need? In the past, when they took her starblood and used it to strenghten their own magic, it left her too weak to move. If they took more, would she survive? She clenched her jaw and raised her other arm. To her surprise, he placed the knife in her open hand. Uncertainty settled in her chest.

"What am I…I don't understand," she whispered.

"It's time you learned to do these things on your own," Alazer said. "It's not like we enjoy drawing your blood. It's not kind for you to make us bear the burden every time." The lie only solidified Julana's hesitation. They enjoyed it far too much.

Luna's eyes narrowed. "Our soup will be cold if you don't hurry." Greed leeched from her words.

The knife clacked against the stone floor before Julana realized she'd dropped it. She took a step back and shook her head. Alazer closed the distance between them.

"You do not say 'no' to us, girl." His voice was soft, but the hard glint of his eyes made Julana's stomach clench.

"It can't be right," she whispered. "The Stars would never ask—“

"What would you know about what the Stars would want? When is the last time you communed with one?" Luna's sneer set Julana on edge.

“Just because they don’t meet with us face to face doesn’t mean—“

“It means plenty!” Luna raised an arm and Julana flinched, but instead of being struck, the knife flew back into her hand, nicking her finger. Once they decided to use their magic, her time was short. Blood trickled into her palm and panic set in. Alazer’s grim face brightened at the sight. She wanted to drop the knife again, but instead her bloody hand tightened around the hilt of the knife against her will.

“No!” she said. She clawed at the grip with her free hand, but Alazer already channeled the magic from her blood. Within moments she would go from his puppet to a puddle of blood. “Stars release me. Stars protect me.” She muttered the words over and over. But her grip only tightened and her attempts to remove the knife put her free wrist in perfect striking distance.

The cool metal sliced her skin. Julana gasped as blood flowed down her arm and the pain hit a moment later. Alazer and Luna rushed forward, inhuman desire crossing their faces. Alazer released Julana’s hand from his control and once again the knife clattered to the ground. But it was too late. They caught her blood in their hands and squealed like children catching candy thrown from the sweet shop. Eventually they would come to their senses and collect the blood in a jar. After all, it needed to reenergize in the sun. But then it would be theirs to use, to magnify their own power. To steal, to control, to wound, to kill. Magic was a temptation that led them astray. Her knees buckled and for the hundredth time she hoped the cut was fatal. That she would never be used for their selfish gain again.

Spots danced in her vision and hope flooded her soul. They'd never taken this much blood before. With her eyes closed, the flashes were almost like Stars streaking across the night sky. The way she always envisioned them in her dreams. Something firm pressed against her wrist. “That’s enough, Alazer,” Luna’s muddled words saddened Julana, but she couldn’t remember why.

#

Julana woke with a kink in her neck and her mouth dry as cotton. She was slumped against the wall of the sitting room. Blood covered her blouse and skirt and she groaned at the sight of more on the floor. Of course they would leave her lying in the mess. Why would they put her in her loft just for her to climb back down to clean up? Especially after she’d lost so much blood. They probably thought they'd been kind. Bandages barely clung to her oozing wrist. It was a wonder the saturated scraps stopped the bleeding.

She sucked a breath in through her teeth as she rose and tested her limbs, her balance, her vision. She was weak, but capable enough to do her job by Alazer’s standards. The Klups were nowhere to be found, but if history was repeating itself, they were passed out on their bed, drunk from their success at whatever deed they deemed worthy of magic. Out of habit she tested the front door. A small shock spread through her already weak body and she held back a cry.

The disappointment that knifed through her was embarrassing. Of course he set a perimeter spell. In the six years since her magic surfaced, Alazer had only forgotten a perimeter spell once. Once. She was fourteen and just as scared of the world as she was of her guardians. Alazer woke with a moan, shouted the name Nessa, and ran out to find Julana sitting on the front step in indecision. It was the only time she’d seen true fear in his eyes. She regretted that hesitation every day of her life. And wondered about that name just as often.

  She was surprised it was past the sun’s morn. This was the longest she'd been unconscious after they took her blood. How much did they use? Five shaky steps took her to their room. Two monstrous lumps rose and fell beneath the disheveled covers. She sighed. The rest of the room bore evidence of their celebration. Food and drink for an army rested on the table near the door. Jewelry fit for Cherans and silks spun for nobles spilled from the trunks that lined their walls. There was hardly space to walk around the bed because their thievery had been so complete. Bile rose in her throat at her unwilling role.

It could be hours before they rose. She shut their door and leaned back against it. Their house was surprisingly modest, but that was a front to hide their means of survival. The rest of the living space lay before her in one open room. The kitchen held food and water she desperately needed, but her stomach still hadn’t settled. The ladder to her right led up to her loft. The space was hers, but she only slept in it. The thought of climbing to her bed was exhausting. Instead she turned to the sitting area on her left.

Her feet were heavy as she made her way to the bookshelves. To a visitor they appeared to be cupboards that might hold linens or dishes. Instead they were filled with Vendaran folklore and Thlieven textbooks that her guardians collected. They'd stolen enough goods from the wealthy; there was bound to be a new book. And those were always placed immediately on their shelves for safekeeping. She flung the doors open and gazed at the precious bindings. Books were reserved for the priests and noble. And even the noble mostly collected them to show off their wealth. She ran a hand along the familiar volumes. She would never condone the actions of the Klups, but she loved the books. Familiar guilt crept beneath her skin. They took these books using her magic.

There. A tiny new book rested between Histories of Lentans and Songs for the Stars. She pulled it out and studied the Thlieven words: Maps of the Great Land. She frowned at it for a moment. She’d only heard The Great Land referenced in the History of the Stars, a book that seemed more legend than truth. She opened the book to a center page and let out a gasp.

Color like she’d never seen before bled on the pages. Drawings with exquisite detail filled every corner. And sure enough, there was a single continent pictured. One great land that was shared between all the people. Could it be true? Her mind filled with the image of eager brown eyes and a lopsided grin. Cyrus would be thrilled at this new find. She bit her lip and glanced back at the bedroom door. There was only one way to get it to him. It would take a fair amount of luck and a lot of work, but she regularly depended on both.

By the second half of the sun’s rise she'd cleaned the blood, bandaged her wound, and prepared food. She quenched her own thirst and hunger, but made sure there was plenty left for the Klups. The weariness faded with the added nourishment, and a walk in the sun would finish her recovery. She swung her cloak around the fresh blouse and skirt she’d donned and tucked the book of maps in the inside pocket. She held her breath and pushed open the bedroom door.

"Uncle?” she whispered. She prayed to the Stars that he would only wake enough to grant her request.

No response.

“Uncle Alazer?” she tried again a little louder.

A grunt from the bed made her wince. “What?”

“I wish to receive the priest’s blessing at the Stargazer.”

Another grunt.

“I would seek atonement for the blood magic.”

He sat up and squinted at her. “If you speak of our magic to the priest you know what he’ll do. And you know what Ill do.” Of course she knew. They told her on a daily basis they would kill her if she revealed their magic, unless they thought the magistrates would make it more agonizing by deeming it witchcraft.

“Yes, Uncle. I would speak of it only to the Stars.”

“The Stars aren’t even out to gaze upon right now,” he muttered. He pinched the bridge of his nose with his fat fingers. “Very well.” He waved his hand at her and she felt a slight lift in her heels as he extended her leash enough for her to gain entrance at the house of worship. Relief flooded through her veins and she rushed out the door before he could change his mind. It was a small freedom he afforded her on a regular basis. She would never understand why such a wish was granted. And she would never dare question it.

The walk to the Stargazer was a few miles. Julana didn’t mind, even in her weakened state. The longer she was in the sun, the more her health improved. There was another one in town that was closer, but Alazer preferred her to stay out of sight as much as possible. Perhaps he wouldn’t be so afraid of the public if he didn’t leave signs of their mutilation. She gave a rueful glance at her bandage. It would have been better to heal it with magic, but as usual, she couldn’t bear to use magic if she wasn’t forced to.

She couldn’t keep the smile off her face when she crested the last hill before Galden Valley’s Stargazer. Much of the valley was covered in snow, but the perimeter of the Stargazer was kept meticulously clear by the priest-in-training. The building was made of simple stones. Several small rooms were enclosed and held the rooms of the current priests and their few servants. The largest room of all was the Stargazer itself, and its roof was left wide open to give worshippers a constant view of the heavens. A man in a priest’s robe worked outside, pushing snow off the path to the front door. A shock of red hair peeked out from beneath his hood. Cyrus.

Julana broke into a run and let the slope into the valley carry her the rest of the way. The events of the prior evening still haunted her, but every step closer to the Stargazer, and Cyrus, lightened her load. Her cloak flapped behind her and the hood fell, letting her long hair spill out. She gripped the book in her hand, and remembered to pull the sleeve of her blouse over her bandaged wrist just before colliding into Cyrus’ open arms.

“The earth comes to life and teases me with fresh dirt and green sprigs.” He brushed her brown locks before stepping back to look into her eyes. It was his standard greeting ever since he decided the growth of the valley’s foliage was a reflection of the depth of her eyes. As her green eyes fluctuated, so did the trees. At first it made them laugh, but over the last month it had carried a sentimentality that made Julana uneasy. Even though they'd spent the last two years growing up together, he was still a priest-in-training. He was like a brother.

"Fire drew me in so I must quench my thirst." She tugged his hair back before taking the customary drink of water at the gate. Everyone that came to worship the stars drank the water blessed by the Chosen priests. The rare ones that actually communed with the Stars. Or so they said.

"It's good to see you, Jules," Cyrus said.

Julana smiled. “I have something for you." His amber eyes lit up and an infectious grin split his freckled face.

“You come bearing gifts? For me? What about the Stars?” he said with mock rebuke.

She punched him in the shoulder with her good hand and relinquished the book. “You can only look at it for the day.” His face was already slack from shock as he thumbed through the colorful drawings. She eased passed him and headed to the atrium of the Stargazer. Entering the place of worship was not something she took lightly. Her wound burned and itched with her guilt as she stepped over the threshold.

It was said the Stargazers on the lands of the noble had glass roofs, to keep out the elements. But Julana couldn’t help wondering if that hindered the nobles' worship. How could they see through a pile of snow? Or sense the Stars' presence? Fresh air kissed her lips and soft sounds of the valley’s creatures met her ears. These were the things that would please the Stars. Their creations.

The sun neared its peak, which meant there were no Stars out to worship. But Julana still knelt to pray. She uttered words of confession and shame. A green stem grew from the dirt floor by her knees and Julana held her breath. Had it been there when she entered? It was too early for much growth, but within the Stargazer's atrium, anything could happen. She bit her lip and glanced around. With her in the Stargazer, anything could happen. She closed her eyes in frustration and resumed her prayers.

She was twelve when she first made a flower grow. She'd thought it was such a fun coincidence that she wished for a daisy and then found one growing by her foot. Luna's eyes took on a greedy glint when she asked for Julana to wish for another. And another. They told her she had magic, and the magic resided in her starblood.

Now, Julana peeked between her lashes and saw yellow petals unfolding. She squeezed her eyes shut. It was all supposed to be legend. She'd read of the Vendaran creatures that were half-human, half-stars in their books, but everyone else spoke of them as folklore. Everything had changed that day. It was the only day the Klups willingly answered her questions about magic.

"The sun energizes your blood and your blood's energy supplies whatever you will it to," Alazer had said. It was limited, but they watched her as if one day it wouldn't be. As if one day she would unlock the key to controlling it.

That was also the first day they took her blood.

"Just a smidge to enhance our own magic," Luna assured her. Suddenly the consistent high yield from their crops, and the unending supply of money made sense. All those years they'd been using magic to meet their needs. Julana had squirmed under the weight of the discovery. The deception. She cried as they bottled her blood, but she'd been too overwhelmed to resist. The next morning she discovered they used the power to seek revenge on a merchant they claimed cheated them. Most of his belongings filled their room and his oldest child was dead.         

The horror of it washed over her anew in the atrium and fears of the dark spirits left her cold. In the last year she'd read more of the histories and texts thanks to Cyrus' work at teaching her Thlieven. The blood magic invited the presence of dark spirits, and Julana feared it was too late for her to make amends with the Stars for the use of her blood.

Without warning, the image of Cyrus’ lifeless body floating just out of reach danced across her vision. She paused in her prayers, eyes open wide. The recurring nightmare plagued her. For over a week she'd had the same dream. But why would she think of it now? It meant nothing.

The daisy was in full bloom at her elbow. She continued to pray, her lips moving even faster.

The sun was well past its peak before she rose again. Her cheeks were stiff with tear stains and her heart felt lighter with the forgiveness she sought. Cyrus would never disturb her worship, but he would be desperate to discuss his findings. She rushed back out to the grounds.

“Where in Rystahn did you get this?” he asked, his voice filled with awe.

“Where else?” she muttered. Cyrus knew her guardians had questionable means of income, but he also knew better than to ask for details. And as long as he was in the dark about her magic, he was safe. “What have you learned?” She turned the question back to him to avoid discussing her guardians. He could go on for hours about Vendaran history and the legends all priests valued. Although she’d never met one quite as obsessed as Cyrus.

“These maps…” he shook his head. “They’re just…”

She laughed. “Find your tongue, Cyrus.”

“They show the Great Land before the Divide. Before the barriers were put in place.”

She sobered a bit. She had assumed as much, but it was hard to believe. “Could they just be someone’s guess?” she asked.

“I don’t think so.” He sat on a bench and opened the book. She hid her arm behind her cloak and peered over his shoulder. “These markings are consistent with the original Songs for the Stars.” He pointed at symbols bordering the same map she’d studied earlier.

“That’s impossible,” she said. That would place the text’s origins before the Divide, which wasn’t even a certain historical event. According to the folklore in the Klups’ books, the humans used to live in the Great Land, among the fabled Vendarans, Lentans, Giants, and Littles. The Stars grew concerned over the wars and treachery, so they separated the people. The Great Land itself was divided into portions for each group, and barriers were set in place for their protection. Hardly anyone believed in such stories, but the magic running in Julana’s blood was proof that Vendarans existed. So despite her resistance, she was forced to believe. Cyrus’ knee bounced with excitement beneath his robes. He needed no proof. He’d been a believer long before she knew him, and things like this only whet the appetite of his curiosity.

“Why do you have no faith? You come here to worship, but when there is evidence right before your eyes, you scoff.” His words were gentle, but it was an ongoing debate. She supposed the side of him that trained to be a priest couldn’t resist.

She sighed. “I don’t know. I wish I had your faith.”

He turned to face her, his boyish grin lightening the mood. “But then you wouldn’t bring me such fascinating books, because we would rely only on our hope. I like having the best of both worlds.” He studied her a moment longer and she grew uncomfortable with his scrutiny. “You look tired,” he said.

She gave a laugh. “That’s never the right thing to say to a girl. You might as well say I look ugly.” She didn’t meet his gaze as she sat next to him.

He didn’t laugh back. “Brother Keef said his offer still stands.”

Julana played with the cuff of her sleeve. “I haven’t forgotten it,” she said. “I’m just not sure it’s possible.”

Cyrus snorted. “What does that mean? You come of age in two weeks, you enter the service as a priestess. What’s not possible?” His words should have brought her hope, but a deep sadness coated her insides. She didn't know what the Klups had planned after she came of age, but it wouldn't include letting her out of their grasp.

“It’s hard to explain.” She cringed, knowing he’d be insulted.

“Fine! Don’t even bother trying.” He stood and ran a hand through his hair. His hood fell back but he didn’t seem to notice. “Forgive me, Julana. I shouldn't raise my voice."

She stifled a laugh. Even after he completed his training she was certain he would be a loud and opinionated priest.

He paced and his hands twisted in agitation. "You realize that we’re trying to help you? That maybe this is the Stars answer to your prayers? You don’t tell me what the Klups do to you, but you come here with such sorrow in your eyes, and I’ve heard you pray for escape.”

Julana stilled. What else had he heard in her prayers?

“You come here day in and day out. It’s a natural suggestion for a woman with such devotion and no marriage prospects.” His face turned red. He glanced over his shoulder and this time Julana couldn't hold back her smile. Brother Keef was forever warning Cyrus to tame his tongue.

“No need to worry. I’m the only one who heard your shocking statement. How do you know I don’t have any marriage prospects? It’s quite possible my guardians have already made some arrangement. They’re under no obligation to give me warning.”

Cyrus paused, brow furrowed and lips turned down. “That would never be good news for you. Not if they made the arrangement.” His voice was soft. It took her a moment to realize he was afraid for her. He’d met the Klups a handful of times and saw the way they treated her in public. It took nearly a week for him to calm down after each occurrence. She couldn’t imagine how he would react if he knew the depth of their abuse. 

“Well I’m not worried. They like having a personal slave too much to sell me off to a rich, lonely, old man.” She gave a light laugh and ran her fingers through her hair. Cyrus froze at the same instant Julana glimpsed bright red in the corner of her eye. Her bandage.

She moved to cover it, but he was there in an instant and she was too slow. “What is this?” Cyrus ground out each word, his grasp firm but gentle on her arm.

“It’s nothing. I just—“ the words caught in her throat as he removed the dressing. There was no way to explain away such a deliberate cut. She should have used magic to heal and hide it.

“Another accident?” His eyes burned with anger. “Don’t lie to me, Jules!” His whispered words made her flinch. She focused on the front of his robes. The drab brown was considered a sign of his choice to take a humble position, despite the fact that priests were among the elite. It always brought out the warmth in the eyes she was so carefully avoiding.

“I can’t speak of it,” she finally whispered back. She was tired of lying to him about her injuries, and this time she wasn’t able to hide the severity. His fists were clenched as she clumsily rewrapped the wound and hid it beneath her cuff.

“Brother Keef gave me another option for you,” Cyrus said. His normally playful voice was strained. “He said I could marry you.”

Julana’s eyes flew to his. “What? You’re a priest!”

Cyrus rushed on, as though afraid he wouldn’t have time to explain it all. “It doesn’t matter. He showed me records of priests that were married. It’s fallen out of practice, but there’s no sin in it. The Stars relish companionship, so they would not deny it of their servants, even if we have made it our own strange custom to avoid it. There were even records of priests that had married priestesses. You would only be two years behind me in your training. It would be a good match.”

“Even if all that were true, I would not ask it of you,” Julana said. He would die at the hands of the Klups, by the magic of her blood if she made any attempt to follow through on his suggestion.

“Well then it’s a good thing the man traditionally does the asking.” His eyes danced with mirth. How could he be so blissfully ignorant? She sighed. How could she keep him that way, forever?

“Cyrus, you don’t love me.”

“Of course I love you!” His brows furrowed.

“Not the way a man should love a woman.” Her face heated. She never expected to have this discussion with her only friend. And favorite priest.

“It's true we're better friends than lovers, Jules, but it could grow. At least it could for me.” He placed a hand under her chin, as though testing a more intimate proximity. She felt like a deer before her flying arrows.

“And what if it’s not enough?” she whispered. Marriage would not hold her guardians at bay. This discussion was pointless. But Cyrus took her words the wrong way.

“If it doesn’t grow the way I anticipate, then we maintain a marriage of companionship. A priest and priestess that serve the Stars for life under the same roof.”

She shook her head, choking back a sob. His kindness tore her in two, and the secrets she kept threatened to spill over. Why hadn’t Brother Keef minded his own business?

His hands moved to her upper arms, his grip more urgent than usual. “Can we at least seek out the Stars before you dismiss such a suggestion? We have several days before you're of age to marry without your guardians' consent.” He was hurt.

“It’s not the thought of being with you that deters me,” Julana said. That wasn’t entirely true. She loved him like a brother, and treating him any other way wouldn’t feel right. But the real concern was the Klups.

“Then what is it?”

“They would kill you,” she whispered. Her heart quickened. She’d never spoken of the lengths they would go or the depths of her fears.

“All the more reason we should seek out the Stars.” He pulled her into the atrium and they knelt in the center. After their discussion, Julana found herself uncomfortable. They’d prayed together before, but not often. Cyrus spoke with ease, beseeching the Stars for wisdom, guidance, and protection. Her heart broke over his sincerity, and the knowledge of the extent he was willing to go for her safety. Perhaps he really did love her.

He paused in his prayer, offering her the chance to speak. She opened her mouth, but couldn’t find the right words. Doubt plagued her like it never had before. Surely the Stars were there and cared for her. But she wanted answers. She was tired of praying to the Stars without any real hope of hearing back from them. “Show me,” she whispered. “Please just show me what to do.”

Light flashed in the room and she and Cyrus rose in shock. Julana's heart pounded and her eyes attempted to adjust. Cyrus placed himself in front of her as the golden figure of a woman materialized before them. The rest of the room dimmed in her presence, or perhaps she drew the light into her magnificent glow. It hurt Julana's eyes to look, but the pain couldn't draw her gaze away. They were communing with a Star.

 

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21. Poetry Friday - A review of On the Wing

Douglas Florian is a poet and artist who has created poetry picture books that explore a wide variety of subjects. Over the years I have greatly enjoyed reading these books, and it is interesting to see how he applies his considerable talent to take on a new topic that interests him.

Douglas Florian
Poetry Picture Book
For ages 6 to 8
Harcourt, 1996, 978-0152023669
Birds truly are remarkable animals. They come in a dazzling array of colors, live on every continent, and make their homes in all kinds of places. In this wonderful picture book Douglas Florian pairs short poems with his artwork to give readers a true celebration of birds.
   Over the millennia birds have evolved to suit many kinds of environments. Some birds, like the egret, sail on water and then rest on the beach making it seem as if there is a “feathered hat” lying on the sand. Dippers love to dip and dive in waterfalls. They are so aquatic that one wonders if they would be happy to “trade / Their oily wings for flippers.” They are such good swimmers that it is possible that the little birds might “think that they are fish.”
   Birds come in all shapes and sizes. The spoonbill is tall and thin with a beak that does indeed look like a long-handled spoon. In his poem about this rather odd looking species, Douglas Florian wonders if the spoonbill uses its bill “for stirring tea” or does it “use it as a scoop / For eating peas and drinking soup.”
   The stork has a bill that is perfectly suited for the environment it lives in. Wading through shallow water, the bird uses it rapier like bill to stab frogs and other creatures. Woodpeckers also have beaks that are perfectly adapted so that they can get to their chosen food - insects that live in wood and sap that runs through wood. Not only are these beaks perfect for creating holes, but woodpeckers also use them to communicate.
   With clever touches of humor and insightful descriptions, this collection of poems will give young readers a colorful picture of twenty-one bird speci

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22. I'm back! And ready to write!

I've spent the last 18 months working on one of the most difficult and most rewarding things in my life. Just last week I completed my MBA in project management from Norwich University. I was hoping that I'd somehow be able to fit writing in between work and school, but I quickly discovered I had no energy left by the end of the day to devote to my novel without sacrificing some quality as well.

I've missed having time devoted to my writing and escaping into the world of the Great Oak. So not only do I feel relief at having survived the past 18 months, but also I'm exulted to have the time I need to get back into Book Two.

On another note, I have a short story that I've been working on sending out to various contest. Also, a screenplay I started many years ago that I thought had been lost forever was finally recovered! Thanks to my brother-in-law, I have my lost screenplay back and I'm looking forward to completing that as well.

Here's to no more studying and more sci-fi/fantasy! I've had more than enough reality than I can handle!

Thank you for being so patient with me and my hectic life. I wish you all well and hope to be sharing some work with everyone, including the reveal of my Book Two title!

Lots of love,

Celeste Simone

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23. New York City…


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24. words

It seems like a good time to practice my handlettering.  It's an ongoing project, but here's a peek at one design I made in full color.
 
 
Maybe a bit of a goodbye to summer.

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25. Oliver and the Seawigs (2014)

Oliver and the Seawigs. Philip Reeve. Illustrated by Sarah McIntyre. 2014. Random House. 208 pages. [Source: Review copy]

I didn't not like it. I could easily say I liked it well enough. But you know how there are certain books that you read and get excited about and just can't wait to talk about? This wasn't that kind of book for me. While there was not one thing about the book that I didn't like, I just didn't find myself loving it. I don't know why readers feel, in some ways, obligated to love everything they read.

I liked the opening paragraphs. "Oliver Crisp was only ten years old, but they had been a busy and exciting ten years, because Oliver's mother and father were explorers. They had met on top of Mount Everest. They had been married at the Lost Temple of Amon Hotep, and had spent their honeymoon searching for the elephants' graveyard. And when young Oliver was born, they simply bought themselves a back carrier and an off-road baby carriage and went right on exploring." See. It starts off cute and promising. And it doesn't disappoint. You know from the start what kind of book this will be. And you get just that.

I liked the characters. I liked Oliver Crisp. I liked the wandering albatross, Mr. Culpeper. I liked the near-sighted mermaid, Iris. I liked the island, Cliff. I liked how they met and became friends. You can certainly see this is a unique story.

I liked the pacing. It is a nice, imaginative adventure story starring unique characters.

I like the illustrations. I like the layout. Many kids, like Lewis Carroll's fictional Alice, do look for stories with plenty of pictures! It's a sign of it not being horribly dull. If you share Alice's opinion on books that is.

© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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